Unlike NBA rookies selected out of high school — players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwight Howard — baseball players drafted in the first round face a long journey to realize their dream of playing in the majors.
Four Oklahoma pitchers have been drafted out of high school in the first round in the past two years. Three selected last year are in Class A, three steps shy of the majors. The other, selected last month, hasn't thrown a pitch in pro baseball.
Several former first-round picks talked with The Oklahoman about the challenges of grinding through the minors year after year.
Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas was the second player selected in the 2007 draft. Four years later, he reached the majors.
“The first thing is you have to get used to playing every day for six or seven months,” Moustakas said. “You go from being 18, living at home, to living in a town you maybe never even heard of, living in hotels. It's growing up.”
High school pitchers like the Oklahoma foursome — Dylan Bundy (Orioles), Archie Bradley (Diamondbacks), Michael Fulmer (Mets) and Ty Hensley (Yankees) — are the greatest risk-reward dynamic in all of sport.
Over two decades — from 1981 through 2000 — major league teams selected 102 high school pitchers in the first round, not including supplemental first-round picks like Fulmer.
Only 15 percent of those 102 pitchers won 20 or more games during their careers for the team that drafted them.
Forty-three percent (44 pitchers) never reached the majors.
Bundy, an Owasso native who is considered to be one of the top high school pitchers drafted in the past decade, was chosen by the Orioles with the fourth pick in the 2011 draft. White Sox right-hander Gavin Floyd also was the fourth overall pick 11 years ago.
“One big key is how you handle adversity, because in baseball it's inevitable,” Floyd said. “I knew I had the talent. But there are mental challenges. That's one of the biggest hurdles you face, whether you can handle adversity.”
Bundy has faced little adversity so far. He was so dominant at low-A Delmarva the Orioles promoted him after he didn't allow an earned run in 30 innings.
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