The Houston Astros’ 41st selection in the MLB first-year player’s draft Monday night was years in the making for a player long used to the spotlight.
Jesuit High School pitcher Lance McCullers, taken in the supplemental first round, received his first scholarship offers, from Notre Dame and Vanderbilt, before he entered high school. And as the son of a former major-league player, he’s long been used to scrutiny.
“It’s ironic that I was picked the same place as my dad,” said McCullers of Lance Sr., also drafted 41st in 1982, by the Philadelphia Phillies. “We’ll see how negotiations go.”
McCullers, ranked the 13th-best prospect by Baseball America heading into the draft, finished his high school career on a high note, winning the Gatorade National Player of the Year award just last week.
On the field, he was 13-0 and surrendered just two earned runs in 77.1 innings for a 0.18 ERA. He faced 310 batters as a senior and struck out 140 (45 percent). To end his year, McCullers threw 136 pitches for the win in the Class 6A region finals before turning around and throwing 93 more over six scoreless innings in the state semifinals.
Duke pitcher Marcus Stroman, ranked No. 12, was the last prospect ranked ahead of McCullers to hear his name called Monday, and he went No. 22 to the Toronto Blue Jays.
McCullers, a University of Florida commit who is advised be the Boras Corporation, was seen as a tough player to sign heading into the draft.
“He’s seen as having a high price tag and extremely strong commitment to Florida,” ESPN’s Keith Law said recently.
Boras’ other top client, Stanford pitcher Mark Appel, was the consensus No. 1 pick but fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates at No. 8.
The first high school player from Florida taken Monday was outfielder Albert Almora of Hialeah Gardens Mater Academy Charter. The Chicago Cubs took Almora, a Miami commit who made six appearances for USA Baseball — tying him with former Gatorade Player of the Year A.J. Hinch for the most ever — with the sixth pick, which has a slotted bonus of $3.25 million.
The first right-handed high school pitcher taken was Southwest Ranches Archbishop McCarthy’s Nick Travieso, a reliever until his senior year. He went No. 14 to the Cincinnati Reds.
“Obviously Lance is disappointed and probably deserved to go higher,” Jesuit coach Richie Warren said. “His goal is to play pro baseball. The goal is not to go first round, it’s to get what is fair value and go somewhere that gives you the best chance to make it to the majors. If he’s able to do so at 41, then he’ll do that.”
The Astros, who took Puerto Rico Baseball Academy shortstop Carlos Correa with the first overall pick, have the second-largest bonus pool ($11.2 million for its 11 picks in the first 10 rounds) of any MLB team.
The slotted bonus for the 41st pick is $1,258,700, though if Houston saves money with other picks, McCullers could be offered more. (Correa was projected to go no higher than No. 7, and the difference in slotted bonus between the first and seventh pick is $4.2 million.)
If McCullers does not sign with the Astros by the July 13 deadline, he will head to Florida for at least three years.
Tampa Bay area high school first-round draft picks since 1965
Rich Puig, 2B, Hillsborough (14th, Mets)
Lenny Faedo, SS, Jefferson (16th, Twins)
Vance Lovelace, P, Hillsborough (16th, Cubs)
Dwight Gooden, P, Hillsborough (5th, Mets)
Rich Monteleone, P, Tampa Catholic (20th, Tigers)
Stan Boderick, OF, Robinson (27th, Cubs)*
Gary Sheffield, SS, Hillsborough (6th, Brewers)
Chris Myers, P, Plant (7th, Orioles)
Kiki Jones, P, Hillsborough (15th, Dodgers)
Carl Everett, OF, Hillsborough (10th, Yankees)
Jeff D'Amico, P, Northeast (23rd, Brewers)
Sam Marsonek, P, Jesuit (24th, Rangers)
Geoff Goetz, P, Jesuit (6th, Mets)
Jason Romano, 3B, Hillsborough (39th, Rangers)*
T.J. Tucker, P, River Ridge (47th, Expos)*
Boof Bonser, P, Gibbs (21st, Giants)
Derek Thompson, P, Land O’ Lakes (37th, Indians)*
Casey Kotchman, 1B, Seminole (13th, Angels)
Bryan Bass, SS, Seminole (31st, Orioles)*
Denard Span, OF, Tampa Catholic (20th, Twins)
Ryan Harvey, OF, Dunedin (6th, Cubs)
Lastings Milledge, OF, Lakewood Ranch/Northside Christian (12th, Mets)
Steve Evarts, P, Robinson (43rd, Braves)*
Michael Burgess, OF, Hillsborough (49th, Nationals)*
Jose Fernandez, P, Alonso (14th, Marlins)
*-- Supplemental pick