SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) — Shortstop is the hot spot in this year's Major League Baseball draft.
Vanderbilt's Dansby Swanson, Florida high school star Brendan Rodgers and LSU's Alex Bregman are contenders to go No. 1 overall to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night. All three are expected to be selected within the top five picks — if not the first three — so they won't have to wait long to hear their names announced by new Commissioner Rob Manfred at the draft's site at MLB Network's studios.
Swanson and Bregman are both finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given to college baseball's top player, while Rodgers has been tabbed as the best high school hitter available — and, by some, the top overall prospect in the draft.
The Diamondbacks are picking No. 1 overall for the first time since 2005, when they took then-shortstop Justin Upton, who developed into an All-Star outfielder. Illinois fireballing left-hander Tyler Jay, righty Carson Fulmer of Vanderbilt and Georgia high school catcher Tyler Stephenson are also in the mix for the top pick, but the Diamondbacks could swing for some draft history.
Swanson or Bregman could become the first college shortstop to go first since Brown University's Bill Almon in 1974. Only once have the first two picks been shortstops: 1982, when Shawon Dunston (Cubs) and Augie Schmidt (Blue Jays) led off the draft.
Here are some other things to know about the draft, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary:
WHEN? WHERE?: Starts Monday at 7 p.m. EDT and continues for 40 rounds over three days, with the first two rounds broadcast live from MLB Network. Rounds 3-10 will be held Tuesday and rounds 11-40 Wednesday — both days via team conference calls. Teams pick in reverse order of finish from the overall standings from last season. Also, trades are not allowed, as is common in other sports.
GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY: Major League Baseball's first June draft occurred in 1965, when the Kansas City Athletics selected Arizona State outfielder Rick Monday with the No. 1 pick. Johnny Bench, Nolan Ryan, Graig Nettles, Sal Bando, Gene Tenace, Joe Coleman and Tom Seaver (who didn't sign) were among the big-name players taken that year. The draft has evolved immensely since those days, when many players found out who selected them by telegram. While it lacks the hype of the NFL and NBA drafts, baseball's version has become increasingly popular by broadcasting the first few rounds live since 2007.
MANFRED'S DEBUT: This year's event marks the first for the new commissioner, who took over for the retired Bud Selig in January. Manfred will take the stage to announce the names of each of the team's first-round draft picks, and will shake hands and pose for pictures with the players in attendance.
SHOWING UP: Four prospects are expected to be at the draft site, including Rodgers, Pennsylvania high school right-hander Mike Nikorak, Indiana high school righty Ashe Russell and New York high school outfielder Garrett Whitley. All four are expected to be first-rounders.
WHO ELSE IS THERE? Each of baseball's 30 teams has a former player and/or current member of its front office representing them at the draft. Among those scheduled to attend are Hall of Famers Andre Dawson (Marlins), Reggie Jackson (Yankees), Tommy Lasorda (Dodgers), Mike Schmidt (Phillies) and Tony Perez (Marlins). Ken Griffey Jr., the No. 1 overall pick in 1987, and B.J. Surhoff, the top selection in 1985, are also among those expected to attend.
TOP PROSPECTS: In addition to the three shortstops and Jay, Fulmer and Stephenson, other players likely to be selected early include: Georgia high school outfielder Daz Cameron, son of former All-Star Mike Cameron; Florida high school outfielder Kyle Tucker, brother of Astros outfielder Preston Tucker; Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi; Missouri State righty Jon Harris; and UC Santa Barbara right-hander Dillon Tate.
DANDY VANDY: With Swanson, Fulmer and right-hander Walker Buehler all expected to be picked early, Vanderbilt could join Rice as the only college to have three players taken in the first half of the draft. Rice had pitchers Philip Humber, Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend selected in the first eight picks in 2004. Either way, the defending College World Series champion Commodores will likely become just the fifth college program to have three players chosen in the opening round.
ACTIVE ASTROS: Houston, which had the No. 1 pick in the last three drafts, has the second overall selection this year as compensation for not being able to sign pitcher Brady Aiken last year. Aiken has re-entered the draft, but is coming off Tommy John surgery. The Astros will also have the No. 5 overall pick, making them the first team in draft history to pick twice in the first five spots