FIU coach Mervyl Melendez’s dream of having center fielder Heliot Ramos in center field is almost surely over.
Ramos, an FIU recruit who played his high school ball in Puerto Rico, was the 19th pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, which began on Monday.
The San Francisco Giants drafted Ramos, who was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 1 player in his country and No. 30 among all draft prospects. Ramos will likely sign a contract with the Giants, bypassing FIU.
“Heliot puts on a show when he’s on a baseball field,” Melendez said. “He is a big-time hitter with speed.”
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Ramos, who won’t turn 18 until September, is a 6-1, 190-pound right-handed hitter with raw power to all fields.
The analysts on MLB Network on Monday night raved that Ramos might have more raw tools than anyone else in the draft, citing “tales of a 500-foot homer,” a cannon arm and enough speed to steal 30 bases per year as a pro.
About 90 minutes following the Ramos pick, the Kansas City Royals selected Westminster Christian’s MJ Melendez in the second round. Melendez, a catcher, had committed to play college baseball for his father Mervyl at FIU. MJ Melendez is this draft’s No. 2-rated catcher. Melendez is ranked No. 52 overall in a draft that Baseball America says lacks great depth at his position.
Ramos aside, though, it was not a stellar first round for South Florida players.
One year after former American Heritage and University of Miami catcher Zach Collins was the 10th pick in the 2016 draft, no local baseball player was selected among the top 30 picks.
The 2017 draft, which continued late Monday night through 75 picks, will contain 40 rounds and roughly 1,200 players by the time the selections stop on Wednesday.
But here is why the first round is so important: As MLB Network’s Peter Gammons pointed out, 19 of the 50 players who were major-league All-Stars last year were first-rounders.
Monsignor Pace shortstop Jeter Downs, a UM recruit, went to the Cincinnati Reds with a competitive balance pick (No. 32 overall).
American Heritage shortstop of Mark Vientos, who is a Miami Hurricanes recruit, went to the New York Mets in the second round (No. 59 overall).
Mervyl Melendez laughed when asked who was more nervous, him or his son.
“I’m trying not to think about it,” said Melendez, who talked to the Miami Herald just 90 minutes before the start of the draft. “But it’s probably me.
“MJ grabbed a ball and a glove at age 2, and he immediately simulated a catcher’s position. He was born to be a catcher I guess.”
Melendez is not only nervous about his son but also about several FIU recruits and a couple of Panthers players.
FIU has three other recruits who are ranked among Baseball America’s top 500 prospects: left-hander Logan Allen (No. 143); right-hander Christian Santana of American Heritage (264); and outfielder Andres Santana of Doral (411).