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News - Politics

Teams atop MLB draft get to choose a prospect, then decide if he pitches or plays the field

The Minnesota Twins hold the first pick on Monday night, and have two choices to make; select Hunter Greene or Brendan McKay (or someone else), and decide where he'll play.

High school pitcher/shorstop Hunter Greene, left, talks with Los Angeles shortstop Corey Seager before a game between the Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies in April. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

For the teams holding the first few picks in tonight’s Major League Baseball amateur draft, there is an added — and highly intriguing — layer of decision-making to be done, beyond the standard selecting of players. This year, two of the top prospects in the draft are two-way phenoms who could eventually wind up as either pitchers or position players — but despite rampant speculation, probably not both.

The Minnesota Twins, the losingest team of 2016, hold the first choice, and among their possible selections are Los Angeles prep right-hander/shortstop Hunter Greene and University of Louisville lefty/first baseman Brendan McKay. Whether the Twins select one of them, or perhaps Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright, both Greene and McKay are expected to be taken within the first few picks.

The Twins last held the first overall pick in 2001, when they took catcher Joe Mauer. This year, the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres hold the second and third overall picks.

The Washington Nationals have the 25th overall pick in the first round, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., with later rounds taking place Tuesday and Wednesday.

Scouts are divided as to whether Greene and McKay project as pitchers or position players, but historically hitters are safer picks, with a much greater chance of panning out in the long term. Both Greene and McKay have expressed interes t in remaining two-way players as professionals, but many in the game are skeptical that it can be done, given the demands required of both pitchers and hitters.

During a workout on Friday with the Twins, Greene reportedly touched 100 mph on the mound and hit four home runs in batting practice. If he’s taken first — and if you think of him as a pitcher — Greene would be the first prep right-hander taken with the first overall pick. Previously, three high school lefties have gone first: David Clyde in 1973, Brien Taylor in 1991 and Brady Aiken in 2014.

Louisville pitcher/first baseman Brendan McKay. (Timothy D. Easley/AP)

McKay, Baseball America’s national player of the year, pitched Louisville to the College World Series on Saturday, allowing two earned runs over 6 2/3 innings against Kentucky and setting a school record for career strikeouts, with 385. Though he went hitless at the plate, he is batting .343/.464/.657 for the season with 17 homers and 56 RBI.

Wright, the Vanderbilt right-hander, is considered by many to be the most polished pitcher in the draft, and the Twins are also believed to be considering him with the top pick. Wright, a junior, was the losing pitcher Saturday as the Commodores lost to Oregon State in their NCAA super-regional.

MLB draft
When: Begins 7 p.m. Monday, goes through Wednesday
Watch: MLB Network for Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A; others, via MLB.com.
Top prospects: Baseball America top 500 | MLB.com top 200

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