Two players with South Florida ties were selected in the upper half of the first round in Thursday night’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Carlos Rodon, a left-hander who was born in Miami, was selected third by the Chicago White Sox. Touki Toussaint, a right-hander from Coral Springs Christian, was taken 16th by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
No other South Florida-connected players were selected in the first round.
Two local players were selected in the second round. FIU catcher Aramis Garcia went at pick No. 52 to the San Francisco Giants, and University of Miami left-hander Andrew Suarez was selected at No. 57 by the Washington Nationals.
Rodon, who moved to North Carolina at age 9, is a junior at North Carolina State. But he is expected to skip his senior season in exchange for a signing bonus in the range of $5.7 million. Out of high school, he was drafted and turned down a signing bonus of $500,000, which now looks like a smart decision.
Rodon’s selection marked the first time the White Sox had a top-five pick since 1990, when they took another pitcher with Miami roots — Alex Fernandez.
However, some scouts said Rodon’s fastball lost some velocity in his junior season, slipping at times to the 89-92-mph range.
“Rodon was at his best last summer playing with Team USA,” said John Manuel, a writer for Baseball America. “He showed a 92- to 96-[mph] fastball that he commanded on both sides of the plate, a solid-to-average changeup and a wipeout slider.
“If he can get back to that Carlos Rodon, then the White Sox got a steal. He may have the most advanced breaking ball [slider] in the draft, and he may have the quickest route to the majors.”
Rodon, a thickly built 6-3, 235-pounder, has been been compared to Tampa Bay Rays All-Star David Price.
But John Hart, the former general manager of the Cleveland Indians, went one step further when talking about Toussaint, comparing him to Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.
“With long arms, the way he gets through the ball and the way he falls off the mound, there are some similarities there,” Hart said.
Toussaint, 17, is slotted to get a signing bonus of about $2.3 million. But the 6-2, 195-pounder whose fastball touches 97 mph has some leverage and could opt to play college baseball for Vanderbilt.
Jonathan Mayo of MLB Network disagreed with the scouting report that classifies Toussaint’s fastball as his best pitch.
“His fastball is pretty good, but, to me, he has the best breaking ball in this draft class,” Mayo said. “I know Rodon has that slider, but [Toussaint’s] curveball is ridiculous. The only thing he hasn’t done is command it perfectly. That’s been the one issue with him. I think eventually he will have average control.”
Mayo also liked what Toussaint showed when he played outfield at Coral Springs Christian.
“He’s very athletic on the mound,” Mayo said. “He’s going to learn to repeat his delivery more. He made huge strides over the course of this year in terms of his command and control, and I think it’s a sign that there is more to come.”
• Three local players were selected in the second round. FIU catcher Aramis Garcia went at pick No. 52 to the San Francisco Giants, University of Miami left-hander Andrew Garcia was selected at No. 57 by the Washington Nationals, and American High right-hander Ronnie Williams was picked 68th by the St. Louis Cardinals.