First round of MLB draft has strong North Carolina flavor

Two state high school stars were selected in the first six picks Monday while three UNC juniors also had their names called in the opening round

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
UNC's J.B. Bukauskas fires a pitch against Davidson during last week's NCAA tournament regional in Chapel Hill. The junior right-handed was drafted by the Houston Astros on Monday

The first round of the Major League Baseball draft took on a distinct North Carolina flavor Monday, with two in-state high school stars selected in the first six picks and three UNC juniors hearing their names called.Left-handed pitcher MacKenzie Gore, who was recently named Gatorade National Player of the Year after leading Whiteville to its third Class 1A state championship in four years, was taken by the San Diego Padres with the third overall pick.Three teams later, the Oakland Athletics made outfielder Austin Beck of North Davidson High their first round selection at No. 6.Gore went 11-0 with a miniscule 0.19 earned run average and 158 strikeouts in 74.1 innings for the Wolfpack this season. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound southpaw has a fastball that has been clocked as high as 96 MPH to go along with three other plus-quality pitches.He is the third player from Whiteville taken in the first round of the draft, joining fellow pitcher Tommy Green in 1985 (14th overall by the Atlanta Braves) and outfielder Patrick Lennon in 1986 (eighth overall by the Seattle Mariners).”It’s overwhelming right this minute,” Gore said during conference call shortly after his selection. “I’m just enjoying it.”Beck is a talented right-handed slugger who rebounded from a knee injury that kept him out of the summer showcase circuit last year to hit .590 with 12 home runs during his senior season. He finished his high school career with 23 long balls in 103 games, to go along with a .457 average.While the early selections of Gore and Beck served as an affirmation of the quality of high school baseball in the state this year, their good fortune is destined to be a major blow to the recruiting classes of the local colleges that signed them.Gore is committed to East Carolina signee while Beck was headed to UNC.Considering that the No. 3 slot carries an estimated signing bonus of $6.7 million and the No. 6 selection is valued at $5.3 million, it’s unlikely either will set foot on their respective campuses in order to begin their professional careers this summer.”I committed (to UNC) as a freshman,” Beck told “But it’s always been my dream to get drafted real high and play for a spot on the 40-man roster.”Coach Mike Fox’s Tar Heels will also lose three current players with the first-round selections of pitcher J.B. Bukauskas, shortstop Logan Warmoth and center fielder Brian Miller.Bukauskas, the ACC’s Pitcher of the Year after going 9-1 with a 2.53 ERA for the Tar Heels this season, was taken by the Houston Astros at No. 15. Warmoth, who hit .336 with 10 homers, went to the Toronto Blue Jays at No. 22 while Miller was the final pick in the first round at No. 36 to the Miami Marlins. Miller led UNC in hitting this season at .343 and in stolen bases with 24.”I think when you have the stuff and the skills, it doesn’t matter what size you are,” Astros assistant general manager Mike Elias said of Bukauskas’ 6-foot frame. “I think that’s been proven over and over. And he’s plenty big. But it’s all about for us the results and the stuff coming of your hand.”Wake Forest got into the act early in the second round with both center fielder Stuart Fairchild and first baseman Gavin Sheets being selected. Fairchild was taken by the Cincinnati Reds with the 38th overall pick while Sheets, whose father Larry played in the Major Leagues, went to the Chicago White Sox at No. 49.Two picks later, NC State had its first player drafted when Joe Dunand, the nephew of Alex Rodriguez, was chosen by the Miami Marlins. Dunand, a Miami native, finished his junior campaign with a team-leading 18 homers and 51 RBI while being tabbed as a second team All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.After the first two rounds on Monday, the draft will continue with rounds 3-10 on Tuesday before concluding on Wednesday with rounds 11-40.