MLB Draft: Canadian baseball history made on day one of draft
By Adam Morissette
OTTAWA - Not one, not two, but three Canadians were taken on day one of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft including two members of the Junior National Team program who went in the first round.
Junior players Josh Naylor (Marlins, 12th overall) went in Round 1 and Mike Soroka (Braves, 28th overall) was taken in Compensation Round, while Jeff Degano went in the second round (Yankees, 57th overall) out of Indiana State University.
The output rivals the 2007 draft when Canadians Phillippe Aumont (11th), Kyle Lotzkar (53rd) and Trystan Magnuson (56th) were among the top 60 players selected.
Naylor, a first baseman, made history, as he became the highest drafted Canadian position player ever after the Miami Marlins used the 12th overall selection on the Mississauga, native.
“The moment that I heard my name was a moment that I’ll never forget. I’m just happy that the Marlins picked me and that I got to live the experience with my family.”
Naylor’s selection bested the previous high for a Canadian position player that was set by Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC) in 2008 after the Milwaukee Brewers took him 16th overall. He is also the highest player drafted out of the Junior National Team program since Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.) went 11th overall to the Seattle Mariners in 2007.
The 17 year-old Naylor also joins an exclusive list of Junior National Team alumni (Scott Thorman, Adam Loewen, Kellin Deglan, Aumont and Lawrie) to be taken in the first round of the draft while a member of the program and becomes the fourth highest Canadian-born player ever to be taken in the draft behind only Loewen (fourth overall to Baltimore in ’02), Jeff Francis (ninth overall to Colorado in ’02) and Aumont (11th overall to Seattle in ’07).
Naylor has been a member of Baseball Canada’s Junior National Team since 2012 when he helped Canada to silver medal performance at the IBAF 18U World Cup in Seoul, South Korea as a 15 year-old. Since then he’s played in a second 18U World Cup (2013) and last summer helped Canada win a bronze medal at the COPABE 18U Pan American Championship in La Paz, Mex.
“The Junior National Team program is one of the main reasons why I’m at where I am today as a player,” he said. “The experiences I’ve had playing baseball around the world while representing my country is something that I will never forget.”
Mike Soroka became the second Canadian taken in the first round when the Atlanta Braves used the 28th overall selection - their second of the night, to draft the right-handed pitcher.
The Calgary native shared the moment with members of his family and was happy to hear his name called in the first round.
“I’m honoured that the Braves selected me and it’s also very special to be one of the top Canadians taken in the draft,” he said. “I have worked very hard throughout my career and I’m excited for what the future holds.”
Soroka joined the Junior National Team program in the fall of 2013 and instantly became a central figure on the team’s pitching staff. Like Naylor, he helped Canada win a bronze medal at the 2014 COPABE 18U Pan American Championship and last month threw 13 scoreless innings as the Junior National Team went 8-4 on a tour through the Dominican Summer League.
Soroka was quick to praise the Junior National Team program along with its coaching staff for aiding in his development.
“The Junior National Team program has played a huge role in my development as a baseball player and is one of the main reasons I’m at where I am today as a player,” he said.
“I’d like to thank Baseball Canada, Coach (Greg) Hamilton and the coaching staff, specifically pitching coaches Chris Reitsma and Mike Johnson, for providing me with these tremendous experiences over the past two years. Without the opportunities I have been afforded by Baseball Canada, I would have been able to accomplish what I have been able to so far. The JNT experiences have prepared me for what I will face going forward. I am very grateful.”
Soroka joins Loewen and Aumont as pitchers who have been selected in the first round of the MLB Draft as members of the Junior National Team program.
Added Junior National Team head coach and director of national Teams with Baseball Canada, Greg Hamilton:
“On behalf of Baseball Canada and the Junior National Team program, I’d like to congratulate Josh and Mike on these tremendous accomplishments.
“We are extremely happy for both players and their families. It’s a deserving accomplishment for two exceptional talents.”
The third Canadian taken on day one of the draft was Surrey, BC native Jeff Degano who the New York Yankees selected in the second round, 57th overall out of Indiana State University.
Degano is coming off a junior season at Indiana State where he went 8-3 with a 2.36 ERA in 15 starts on the mound. The left-hander struck out 128 batters in 99 innings pitched.
Day two of the MLB First-Year player draft gets underway tomorrow at 1 pm EST with rounds 3-through-10, while the third and final day of the draft will take place on Wednesday with rounds 11 to 40 beginning at 1 pm ET.