While there were some surprises in the order, the overall size of Gwinnett County’s class in the 2014 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft did meet expectations.
Counting three players from Georgia Gwinnett College, a dozen players with ties to the county were chosen during Saturday’s final day of selections to join former Buford and current Georgia Tech pitcher Sam Clay, who was chosen by the Minnesota Twins on Friday.
Saturday’s group brings the overall total to 13, making it the largest single class on record.
Leading the way was Belmont University infielder Greg Brody, who was taken by the San Francisco Giants in the 11th round.
He became the first of three Mill Creek graduates currently playing college baseball to be selected on the day, later joined by Georgia Tech pitcher Matt Grimes (18th round, Baltimore Orioles) and Georgia Southern hurler Eric Alonzo (40th round, Los Angeles Angels).
But as happy as all of Gwinnett’s draftees must have been to get a call on Saturday, it’s doubtful any were as happy — and relieved — as Montrell Marshall.
Despite being forced to sit out the entire season while recovering from a stress fracture in his back, the recently graduated South Gwinnett infielder and Auburn signee was chosen in the 12th round by the Cincinnati Reds.
“It’s a big sigh of relief,” said Marshall, who was a first-team All-County selection by the Daily Post after hitting .358 with seven home runs, 29 RBIs, and 22 runs scored as a junior last year. “Not being able to play this year probably hurt a lot. Scouts had nothing on me this spring, so it was a big risk, and I thank the Reds for taking the risk. I’m continuing my rehab and getting better.”
While Marshall is on his way back from an injury, Grimes already made it back from Tommy John surgery to pitch this spring at Tech, and went 5-3 with a 4.39 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings.
His selection by the Orloles marks the third time he’s been taken in the MLB Draft, following a fourth-round selection by the Chicago White Sox out of high school in the 2010 draft and in the 31st round by the Philadelphia Phillies a year ago despite missing all of last season.
The 6-foot-6, 208-pound right-hander still has another year of eligibility left to pitch for the Yellow Jackets if he chooses not to sign with Baltimore, which would make him eligible to be drafted a fourth time next year, though he says he is keeping his options open.
“It’s coming full circle, but I kind of feel older after being drafted three times,” the 2010 Daily Post Pitcher of the Year joked. “If I decide to sign, I’ll be excited to be a Baltimore Oriole. If not, I’ll be just as excited to be a Yellow Jacket again.
“Whether I sign or not, hopefully I can blossom into (the kind of pitcher) I’m capable of being. I’ve put in a lot of hard work and had some ups and downs, but towards the end of the season, I started to have a better feel for my pitches.”
Grimes was also the third of four Tech pitchers selected, this year, three of which hail from Gwinnett.
Joining Grimes and Clay is right-hander Josh Heddinger, who went to the Detroit Tigers in the 14th round after going 4-5 with a 3.94 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 84 1/3 innings as the Jackets’ Friday starter this year.
“I’m happy,” the 2011 Daily Post Pitcher of the Year from Buford said. “It was a little nerve-racking between (Friday) and (Saturday), but it’s right about where I thought it would be.”
That wasn’t the case for Parkview’s duo of Mac Marshall and Isiah Gilliam, who both projected to be among the top 125 picks, but were not chosen the first two days of the draft.
That changed for both Saturday as Marshall, this year’s Daily Post Pitcher of the Year, was taken in the 21st round by the Houston Astros, while Gilliam, a first-team All-County selection as a first baseman/outfielder, went to the Chicago Cubs in the 23rd round.
Other Gwinnett high school grads selected Saturday included recently graduated GAC pitcher/infielder Justin Lewis, who was taken by the San Diego Padres in the 19th round, and recent North Gwinnett grad Tucker Baca, who went to the Braves in the 32nd round.
Also selected were the first three draftees in the brief history of the program at Georgia Gwinnett College, which played in the NAIA World Series last month.
John Fidanza earned the distinction of being the first Grizzlies player selected when the Arizona Diamondbacks chose him in the 23rd round, while teammate Zeke McGranahan went exactly one pick later to Baltimore and Tyler Carpenter went to the Los Angeles Angels in the 25th round.