LOS ANGELES – Matt Holliday heard from agent Scott Boras that his son was about to be picked first in baseball's amateur draft, and the 2007 batting champion didn't let on.
“That was kind of cool," Jackson Holliday said later. “He’s like, 'All right, you’re just going to find out.' That was really, really neat, and something I’ll probably never forget.”
Jackson watched on television about 30 seconds later Sunday when baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that Baltimore chose the 18-year-old shortstop first overall.
The only other son of a major leaguer to be a top pick was Ken Griffey Jr. in 1987.
Druw Jones, the son of All-Star Andruw Jones, had been projected first, but the 18-year-old outfielder went to Arizona with the second selection.
“It’s like a video game, honestly,” Holliday said. "Like every video game you play, you’re the first pick."
Texas used the third pick on Kumar Rocker, a 6-foot-5 right-hander who failed to sign with the New York Mets after being selected 10th overall last year. Rocker will be reunited with Rangers minor league pitcher Jack Leiter, his teammate on Vanderbilt’s 2019 NCAA baseball championship team. Texas chose Leiter with the No. 2 pick last year.
MLB said this draft marked the first in which four of the first five picks were Black.
Family matters in this year's draft. Justin Crawford, a son of four-time All-Star Carl Crawford, was taken by Philadelphia at No. 17. Daniel Susac, a University of Arizona catcher who is a brother of former big leaguer Andrew Susac, was picked 19th by Oakland.
Holliday and Jones, both represented by Boras, have agreements for signing bonuses in excess of $8 million, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deals have not been announced.
Boras was on the phone with Matt Holliday while a member of his staff spoke to Druw Jones.
“A tough decision,” Orioles general manager Mike Elias said. “I would liken it to deciding what to order at a five-star restaurant.”
Holliday, a left-handed hitter from Stillwater High in Oklahoma, is 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds — quite a bit smaller than his 6-foot-4, 240-pound father. He hit .685 and with 89 hits in 41 games and broke a national record for hits in a high school season that had been held by J.T. Realmuto.
His dad was a seven-time All-Star in a big league career from 2004-18, including 2009-16 with the Cardinals. Holliday earned the 2007 NL batting title.
“I remember being in the clubhouse ever since he got to St Louis,” Jackson said. “So I feel like it’s definitely an advantage and I’ve gotten to see what it takes to get to the major leagues and how players, even when they’re at the top of their game, how hard they still work to maintain it."
Jackson will head to the minors instead of attending Oklahoma State, where the baseball team is coached by his uncle Josh, Matt's older brother.
“I’m about as prepared as you can be to take on this lifestyle,” Jackson said.
Jones is a 6-foot-3 18-year-old from Wesleyan High in Peachtree Corners, Georgia. He hit .570 with 13 homers, 39 RBIs, 72 runs, 33 walks and 32 stolen bases this year. He also went 10-1 as a pitcher, though he is projected as an outfielder.
His father was a five-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner.
“We're probably almost exactly the same,” Druw said. “I try and make it my own game and be able to pursue and keep my career going and not really worry about what he did back in past but to be able have my own name and play my own way."
With his father away from home playing ball during much of his youth, Druw learned to hit from his mom's father, J.D. Derick. Ahead of the draft, Druw was met with chants of “Over-rated!” from about 75 fans when Wesleyan played at Decatur High on May 3. In his third at-bat, Druw homered off Brady Jones, who committed to attend Georgia State.
“It was one of those moments that you’ll remember forever,” Druw said. “I enjoyed that moment, but I'll probably never have that moment again.”
Rocker, a 22-year-old from Georgia, failed to sign last year after the Mets became concerned over his physical. He had shoulder surgery last September and pitched this year for the independent Frontier League's Tri-City ValleyCats as a showcase ahead of the draft.
“We're extremely comfortable with the medical review that our team has done, our medical team,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said.
Rocker was 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA in five starts at Tri-City.
“My talent speaks for itself,” Rocker said.
Baltimore had five of the top 81 picks as the big league team has rebounded after five straight losing seasons. The Orioles recovered from an 8-16 start to enter the All-Star break at 46-46, just 3 1/2 games back of a wild-card berth.
“They’re heading in the right direction and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Holliday said.
Pittsburgh used the fourth pick on second baseman Termarr Johnson of Mays High in Georgia, a product of baseball's Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities program. The top pick present for the broadcast, Johnson said the Pirates were getting “the best player in the draft.”
Washington used the fifth selection on outfielder Elijah Green from the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
In contrast to other sports, baseball draft picks take time to reach the majors. Catcher Adley Rutschman, taken by the Orioles with the top overall pick three years ago, made his debut this May 21 and is hitting .222 with five homers and 16 RBIs.
Los Angeles Angels pitcher Chase Silseth was the first of last year’s selections to reach the majors. Taken in the 11th round and 321st overall, he debuted this May 13.
The first 80 picks were scheduled for Sunday, when the draft was held outdoors for the first time at LA Live, its second year taking place in conjunction with the All-Star Game. The draft resumes with the start of the third round on Monday and 616 players in all are to be selected.
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