Arizona makes Upton top pick

Posted: Wednesday, June 08, 2005

NEW YORK — Justin Upton was simply too good for the Arizona Diamondbacks to pass up.

Despite having a few talented shortstops already in their minor league system, the Diamondbacks added another when they made the Virginia high school star the top pick in the baseball draft Tuesday.

''I think everybody saw the same thing,'' general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. told The Associated Press. ''They saw an extremely gifted athlete. That understandably catches your eye. And when you're around him, and around his family, you get the feeling that these people have their values together.''

Upton and his brother B.J., the second pick in 2002 by Tampa Bay, are the highest-drafted siblings. They weren't the only family with big news on draft day.

Roger Clemens' son, Koby, a third baseman from Memorial High School in Houston, was taken by his father's Astros in the eighth round. The sons of former major leaguers John Mayberry, Carney Lansford, Garth Iorg, Ivan DeJesus and Bryan Harvey were among those selected on the draft's first day.

Upton, the Virginia player of the year who batted .519 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs in just 54 plate appearances, joins the recently signed Stephen Drew, Arizona's top pick last year, and Sergio Santos as top Diamondbacks prospects at shortstop. Upton, 17, was mainly a shortstop at Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake, Va., but also played third base and the outfield.

''We drafted him as a shortstop,'' Garagiola said. ''Those kinds of things tend to sort themselves out later on.''

Upton got the news at his high school, surrounded by about 100 family members, friends and teammates.

''It was crazy when they picked me,'' Upton said. ''Everybody had their reaction, and it was just a good time.''

It was Arizona's first No. 1 overall draft selection. The Diamondbacks' previous highest pick was No. 4 in 1999, when they took another high school shortstop, Corey Myers.

Arizona had also considered a trio of college right-handers: Wichita State's Mike Pelfrey, Craig Hansen of St. John's and Tennessee's Luke Hochevar — all represented by Scott Boras. All three slid to lower slots than originally expected.

The 6-foot-7 Pelfrey, a two-time Missouri Valley Conference pitcher of the year, went to the New York Mets at No. 9. Hansen, one of college baseball's most dominant closers, was taken by Boston with the 26th pick. Hochevar, a Golden Spikes Award finalist, wasn't drafted until the supplemental round when the Los Angeles Dodgers took him at No. 40.

Kansas City selected Nebraska third baseman Alex Gordon with the second pick, the team's highest ever. Undrafted out of high school, the two-time Big 12 player of year is hitting .382 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs for the Huskers.

''It's exciting to be the No. 2 pick with all of these great players,'' Gordon said. ''It's definitely a good feeling to know that you're up there among the best.''

Southern California catcher Jeff Clement went No. 3 to Seattle. The left-handed slugger, who set the national high school career home run record, ranks third behind Mark McGwire and Geoff Jenkins on USC's career homers list. He hopes to play soon at the Mariners' Safeco Field.

''Definitely, most of my power is to the pull side,'' Clement said. ''I know how Safeco plays. ... I think it's going to be a good fit for my kind of hitting.''

Washington took University of Virginia third baseman Ryan Zimmerman with the fourth pick, and already agreed to contract terms with him. Zimmerman said the contract could be signed as early as Wednesday.

''It's a perfect fit and all year long they've been interested,'' said Zimmerman, whose parents live in the Tidewater region of Virginia, about four hours from Washington. ''It's almost too perfect to be true.''

The Nationals will send Zimmerman, described as a future Gold Glover, directly to Double-A Harrisburg.

''Whether it's the Brooks Robinsons or Scott Rolens or Ken Caminitis, there are not a lot of really special third basemen who ever get to play in the major leagues,'' general manager Jim Bowden said. ''This player is one of those players.''

Miami third baseman Ryan Braun was selected fifth by Milwaukee; Toronto then took Cal State Fullerton lefty Ricky Romero, the Big West pitcher of the year; and Long Beach State shortstop Troy Tulowitzki went seventh to Colorado.

Tampa Bay then took former Rice right-hander Wade Townsend, who was drafted last year by Baltimore — also with the eighth pick. Contract negotiations broke down and Baltimore lost its rights to Townsend once he attended classes.

After the Mets took Pelfrey, Detroit chose North Carolina high school outfielder Cameron Maybin to round out the top 10.

Florida had three first-round picks, and selected 6-7 righty Chris Volstad, a local product, at No. 16; Texas high school left-hander Aaron Thompson at No. 22; and McNeese State righty Jacob Marceaux with the 29th selection.

Boston had six of the first 57 picks, including Oregon State outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury at No. 23 and Hansen at No. 26. St. Louis, which also had two first-round picks, took Alabama high school outfielder Colby Rasmus with the 28th selection and Georgia Tech shortstop Tyler Greene at No. 30.

AP sports writers Bob Baum, Hank Kurz Jr., Mel Reisner, Tim Korte and Joseph White, and Associated Press writers Chuck Brown and Sue Lindsey contributed to this report.

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