By all accounts, the Santa Clarita Valley has a rich history in the MLB First-Year Player draft both in quantity and quality. Sixty SCV products have been selected just since 2009. In the valley’s history, four players have gone in the first round. Two have been picked No. 3 overall. The 2017 class likely won’t break any records in terms of numbers. But it does have an opportunity to set itself apart when it comes to the top of the draft. Stevenson Ranch resident Hunter Greene and Valencia High graduate Keston Hiura are projected to go in the first-round when the draft begins Monday, with Greene a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick. It would mark the first time in valley history that two local players were picked in the first round in the same year. In 1977, Hart grad Tad Venger went to the Reds with pick No. 24.
The Royals took Hart’s Mike Montgomery with the 36th pick in 2008. Saugus High grad Roger Salkeld went No. 3 in 1989 to the Mariners; Hart grad and UCLA star Trevor Bauer went No. 3 to the Diamondbacks in 2011. Greene – a recent Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks graduate, clocked as high as 102 miles per hour on a radar gun – can raise the bar if the Minnesota Twins take him at No. 1, or the Cincinnati Reds at No. 2. If it’s the Twins, Greene would become the first high school right-handed pitcher ever taken first overall. Hiura will be the next local off the board. Whether that’s in the mid or late first round, it’s hard to tell because of an elbow injury that forced him to only hit for UC Irvine this season as a junior. But hit he did. The 2014 Valencia grad led all NCAA Division 1 players in batting with a .442 average, earning Baseball America first-team All-American and Big West Conference Player of the Year honors along the way. Baseball America lists him as the No. 14 prospect overall and No. 3 from Southern California. Valencia also has ties to the No. 141 overall prospect on BA’s list in University of Arizona outfielder Jared Oliva, a junior who hit .321 with four home runs and 54 RBIs this season. Fellow Valencia grads Chase Farrell and Ben Fariss are ranked Nos. 436 and 490, respectively, by Baseball America. That would put them in the 15th and 16th rounds. Fariss, a UC Santa Barbara signee and 2017 grad, is one of SCV’s best two-way players, excelling on the mound and in the outfield.
Farrell is the reigning Foothill League Pitcher of the Year. If he doesn’t sign with an MLB club, he’ll follow West Ranch High graduate Jake Bird to UCLA. Bird, though, might not be there. BA ranks him No. 266 overall after a junior season in which he went 5-5 with a 2.75 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings. “His fastball is between 90 and 92 (MPH),” said West Ranch coach Casey Burrill. “Pro guys like that his fastball has some movement, a little sink and tail to it.” Burrill believes West Ranch grad and Arizona senior JC Cloney has an opportunity to go, too. The lefty posted a 3.11 ERA and 7-2 record this year for the Wildcats after tossing a complete-game four-hitter at the 2016 College World Series. The Master’s University advanced to the NAIA World Series this year for the second time in a row. Two of the burly bats in the middle of the Mustang order could hear their names next week. Junior catcher Jonah Jarrard hit .406 with 13 home runs and 52 RBIs for TMU this season, while senior utility man Michael Sexton hit .394 with 17 homers and 64 runs batted in. Sexton, picked in the 38th round by the Mariners out of high school, has big league potential, said TMU coach Monte Brooks. “He has big-league pop, and he can play multiple positions on the infield,” Brooks said. “He’s a left-handed hitter with a cannon of an arm.” Another potential draftee coming off postseason success is Cal Lutheran junior Max Weinstein. The Canyon High grad led the Kingsmen with 84 hits on their way to an NCAA Division 3 national title. Meanwhile at College of the Canyons, the Cougars have three potential draftees: outfielder Cole Kleszcz (a Valencia grad), pitcher Justin Dehn and catcher Anthony Lepre (Valencia grad). Kleszcz led the state in home runs this season with 18. He’s the No. 134 ranked prospect from Southern California, according to BA. Another Valencia grad, Colton Burns, is the No. 42 prospect from SoCal, according to BA. Burns, a junior infielder at UC Santa Barbara, hit .308 this season with three home runs and 16 RBIs after transferring from COC. “Those two for sure (will be drafted). I would think so,” said Valencia coach Mike Killinger of Burns and Oliva. Of course, nothing is for sure in the ever-unpredictable MLB draft. Hart grad and UCLA redshirt sophomore Nick Valaika’s status, however, is more unpredictable than most. A wrist injury ended his 2017 season in March, according to Hart coach Jim Ozella. However, the Indians coach liked what he saw from Valaika at a workout Wednesday at Hart. “He looks good, really healthy. Teams are interested,” Ozella said. “He’s excited. The situation will dictate whether he signs or not. He’s very interested in going out and playing.” Valaika has had three brothers drafted: Chris in 2006; Matt in 2009 and 2010; and Pat in 2013. Ozella added that Aaron Hamilton, a Hart grad and University of Northern Colorado pitcher, could be selected. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Aaron Hamilton,” Ozella said. It will be interesting to see what happens with all of them. Rounds one through two are Monday. Rounds 3-10 are Tuesday. And rounds 11-40 are Wednesday. Round 1 and the Competitive Balance Round A will be broadcast live on MLB Network at 4 p.m. Monday.