Draft | Story | 6/5/2014

Aiken goes No. 1

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Southern California high school left-handed pitcher Brady Aiken, the starting pitcher for the West Team at last August’s Perfect Game All-American Classic in his home city of San Diego, on Thursday was selected by the Houston Astros with the No. 1 overall pick of the first round in the Major League Baseball June Amateur First-Year Player Draft.

A UCLA signee, Aiken
is the first left-handed high school pitcher selected No. 1 overall in 24 years, when the New York Yankees took left-hander Brien Taylor out of East Carteret High School in Beaufort, N.C., in 1991. The only other prep lefty to ever be selected first overall was 1970s sensation David Clyde, who was scooped up by the Texas Rangers out of Westchester High School in Houston in 1973.

Aiken – a 6-foot-4, 210-pound, 17-year-old from Cardiff by the Sea in San Diego County, and a recent graduate of Cathedral Catholic High School –
became the 133rd PG All-American Classic alumnus to be selected in the first round of the MLB amateur draft.

Just minutes after Aiken was made the No. 1 overall pick, the Miami Marlins made hard-throwing Shepherd, Texas, right-hander Tyler Kolek the No. 2 pick in the draft. Kolek was a West Team teammate of Aiken's at the PG All-American Classic -- he first roared onto the scene at the 2013 PG National Showcase -- and the Texas Christian signee has delivered his fastball at 100-plus miles-per-hour over the past 12 months.

Aiken is the seventh PG All-American Classic alumnus to be selected first overall in the last 11 years, joining Matt Bush (2004), Justin Upton (2005), Tim Beckham (2008), Bryce Harper (2010), Gerrit Cole (2011) and Carlos Correa (2012). Aiken also attended the Perfect Game National Showcase (2013), as did Upton (2004), Beckham (2007), Cole (2007), Correa (2011) and 2013 overall No. 1 pick Mark Appel (2008).

Aiken was not in attendance when out-going MLB commissioner Bud Selig announced his name from the MLB Network’s Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J., early Thursday night, but seven other 2013 Perfect Game All-American Classic/PG National Showcase alumni were there: shortstops Michael Chavis, Jacob Gatewood and Nicholas Gordon; outfielders Monte Harrison and Derek Hill; right-hander Grant Holmes and left-hander Kodi Medeiros.

Aiken got the starting nod for the West Team at the PG All-American Classic ahead of other first-round hopefuls like Medeiros and Kolek, and remembers the assignment with a special enthusiasm.

That was definitely one of the highlights of my life,” he told Perfect Game during a telephone interview in late April. “Just getting picked to play in that game is a complete honor, and then getting the start in my hometown in front of a bunch of family and friends meant a whole lot to me.

It was really cool and I appreciate Perfect Game for everything they’ve done. Getting chosen for that game was an honor and getting to pitch in that game was an honor; it was a great experience.”

For much of this draft season there was very little consensus among draft experts on who the Astros would take with the first pick – the third straight year they’ve had the No. 1 pick – but Aiken’s stock began to rise early into his senior high school season. He showed a dramatic increase in velocity on his fastball, which reached 97 miles-per-hour this spring after topping out at 93 mph last fall.

He told PG a strict September to December offseason training regimen and a roughly 12-week stretch in which he did not pick up a baseball attributed to the increase in velocity.

We were focusing on hips, core and all lower body,” Aiken said. “We worked on basically that for three or four months, strictly trying to get bigger and stronger … and it’s paying off right now; it’s been a big help. Honestly, I think it’s just maturity and strength; I really haven’t done anything different with my mechanics.

I’m just trying to focus a little more on tuning my mechanics up, getting them a little better, but I’m not making any major changes. I think what’s helped my velocity has been the (added) strength and everything I’ve done in the offseason.”

Aiken is enjoying a terrific senior season at Cathedral Catholic. With his team still alive in the CIF San Diego Section Division I playoffs early this week, Aiken stood 7-0 with a 1.06 ERA, while allowing 27 hits, striking out 111 and walking 15 in 59 2/3 innings. Opposing batters are hitting .127 against him with a .189 on-base percentage.

In total, 16 Perfect Game All-Americans were selected in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft. Fifteen of those players attended the 2013 Classic: Aiken (Astros); Kolek (Marlins); Nick Gordon (Twins); Alex Jackson (Mariners); Kodi Medeiros (Brewers); Touki Toussaint (Diamondbacks); Grant Holmes (Dodgers); Derek Hill (Tigers); Michael Chavis (Red Sox); Foster Griffin (Royals); Luis Ortiz (Rangers); Justus Sheffield (Indians); Braxton Davidson (Braves); Michael Kopech (Red Sox); Jack Flaherty (Cardinals); Chase Vallot (Royals); Jacob Gatewood (Brewers).

Tyler Beede (Giants) attended the Classic in 2010. Since the game's inception in 2003, 148 Perfect Game All-Americans have been selected in the first round of the draft.

Nine more All-Americans were selected in the second round, putting the Day 1 totals from this year's draft at 25. Eight of these players participated in the Classic in 2013: Sean Reid Foley (Blue Jays); Monte Harrison (Brewers); Michael Gettys (Padres); Joe Gatto (Angels); Ti'Quan Forbes (Rangers), Cameron Varga (Rays); Marcus Wilson (Diamondbacks); Gareth Morgan (Mariners).

Like Beede, Andrew Suarez (Nationals) attended the Classic in 2010.

On the second day of the draft (rounds 3-10) five more PG All-Americans were selected: Dylan Davis (3rd round/Giants); Jakson Reetz (3rd round/Nationals); Daniel Mengden (4th round/Astros); Dylan Cease (6th round/Cubs); Stone Garrett (8th round/Marlins).

Cease and Garrett joined Reetz, the game's MVP, for the 2013 edition last year, while Davis and Mengden both participated in the 2010 Classic.

Twenty more PG All-Americans were selected on the third day of the draft, pushing the three day total to 50. Fifteen of these players participated in the 2013 Classic: Justin Bellinger (11th round/Cardinals); Bryce Montes de Oca (14th round/White Sox); Mac Marshall (21st round/Astros); Darius Day (23rd round/Rangers); Reese Cooley (26th round/Indians); Keaton McKinney (28th round/Mets); David Peterson (28th round/Red Sox); Brandon Murray (30th round/Phillies); Devin Smeltzer (33rd round/padres); Cobi Johnson (35th round/Padres); D.J. Peters (36th round/Cubs); Carl Chester (38th round/Brewers); Benito Santiago (38th round/Giants); Jon Littell (39th round/Nationals); Bryce Carter (40th round/Padres).

A.J. Vanegas (11th round/Dodgers) and Karsten Whitson (11th round/Red Sox) participated in the 2009 Classic, Matthew Crownover (21st round/Giants) and Tucker Simpson (39th round/Orioles) did so in 2011 while Joey Martarano (22nd round/Cubs) attended in 2012.

Of the 74 players taken on Day 1 of the MLB Draft, 65 of them (88 percent) had previously attended a Perfect Game event, including all 40 of the players drafted straight out of high school.

Aiken's performance from the 2013 Perfect Game All-American Classic

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