Three other former local players also taken in 2021 draft
The 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft took place July 11–13, in conjunction with the 2021 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which were both held in Denver. The draft assigned amateur baseball players to MLB teams with the order being set based on the reverse order of the 2020 MLB season standings. In addition, compensation picks were distributed for players who did not sign from the 2020 MLB Draft and for teams who lost qualifying free agents. In 2020, MLB and the MLBPA reached a deal that included the option to halve the draft to 20 rounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, who had the worst record of the 2020 season, selected Henry Davis with the first overall pick in the draft. As punishment for their role in the sign stealing scandal, the Houston Astros forfeited both their first- and second-round picks in the draft.
In total, 612 college and high school players were drafted, including three local players from the Temecula Valley: Andy Thomas, a 2016 graduate of Murrieta Mesa high school, who went to play at Baylor University, was selected in round 5 to the Seattle Mariners as the 144th pick; Carson Seymour, a 2017 graduate of Great Oak High School, who played at Dartmouth and Kansas State, went in round 6 to the New York Mets as the 172nd pick; Tyler Hardman, a 2017 graduate from Temescal Canyon High School, who went to play at Oklahoma, went in round 5 to the Yankees as the 153rd overall pick; and Andre Granillo, a 2018 graduate of West Valley High School, who went on to play for UC Riverside, was taken in the 14th round by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Southern California has always been slated as one of the top spots in the nation for baseball talent and that was evident once again during the 2021 MLB Draft.
Thomas, a Baylor baseball fifth-year senior catcher, was a career .327 hitter, earning All-American status (Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Third Team, ABCA/Rawlings Third Team) for the first time in his career following an outstanding 2021 campaign in which he hit a career-best .337 with a team-leading 11 home runs and 60 RBI. The Murrieta native was also named a Buster Posey National Collegiate Catcher of the Year finalist, in addition to garnering ABCA/Rawlings All-Central Region First-Team honors. Not only did Thomas become the 145th Bear to be drafted all-time, but he is the first-ever alumni from Murrieta Mesa High School to ever be drafted by a Major League Baseball team.
“I am very blessed to be taken by such an amazing organization,” Thomas, who wrapped up his Baylor career with 216 hits, 124 runs scored, 19 home runs and 141 RBI in 184 games played for the Bears, said. “It has been such an amazing journey and I can’t wait to play at this level!”
Murrieta Mesa Athletic Director John Broussard has this to say. “Andy being the first major league draft pick comes as no surprise. He has been a trailblazer since the day I met him. My first year at Mesa we took on that ‘first-ever mantra.’ Being a new school, we were engulfed with trying to find our identity. Our baseball team kicked the door wide-open in that regard by winning our first-ever Southwestern League title, as well as our first-ever CIF Southern Section title. Our head coach at the time, Bryn Wade, led the charge in the dugout, but Andy was the unquestioned leader on the field. He never shied away from a new challenge, and he has an entire school and community cheering him on as his story feels like it is our story. He’s our hometown kid and we’re so proud of him.”
Former Murrieta Mesa head coach Bryn Wade said, “Seattle has a big leaguer. Andy’s road to the fifth round has been exactly what it has needed to be. On this journey, Andy had every opportunity to doubt himself, but instead he chose to prove himself. Andy is so smart. I almost feel like he has the ability to manage in the big leagues right now. I have watched nearly every game available of Andy’s, using them to teach my own sons how to handle their own baseball journeys. My daughter is probably Andy’s biggest fan, though. She watches too and screamed ‘congrats Andy!’ when I told her the news. The whole family is excited for him. He is our own superstar. We all look up to him and wish him great success.”
So, where do players that get drafted go from here? Once Major League Baseball has concluded its amateur player draft teams, players will begin the process of signing bonuses and minor league contracts. The teams that selected these players have sole negotiating rights to them and must submit a written minor league contract to them within 15 days of their selection. Failure to do so terminates their negotiating rights and the player will be a free agent and on the open market for contract negotiations. Players will begin an often-lengthy journey through small town America toward what they hope will be a career in the MLB.
“After watching Andy patiently carve his way through the Big XII for four-plus years, I am most happy that Seattle saw his worth and drafted him as high as they did,” Wade said. “That tells me that they have plans for him in the big leagues really soon. Usually, seniors are drafted much later or signed as free agents. Andy, without the leverage to go play another college year, used the best leverage he had, who he is as a baseball player, teammate, and individual to authentically earn his right to dream. I have really only given Andy one bit of advice because I believe it is the most important: The dream of playing Major League Baseball is only realized by about a thousand players in the world at a time. And every single one of those players is a single doubt away from waking themselves from this dream. Doubt, if not reformed, will eat away at a player’s progress. To dream this dream for as long as he can, Andy will have to work toward the Hall of Fame. Perhaps that is ridiculous to many, but Andy gets it and he’s smart enough and humble enough to get there.”
Wade also went on to say, “of course, being drafted, making an opening day roster, making an All-star game, securing a long-term contract, etc. are important moments in this dream, but they cannot be the end. They cannot cause him to wake up too quickly. Too many players who were in Andy’s position at one time end up saying, ‘I was drafted,’ ‘I used to play,’ ‘I played in triple A,’ or ‘I had a cup of coffee in the big leagues.’ So, my advice to Andy is to stay sleeping. Work so hard that it would be impossible for you to wake up. Strive to be the best, ever, and your doubt will be consumed by your dream.”
Over 80% of players drafted in the first round make it to the major leagues. After that, the odds are less than 50%. Players selected in the draft will receive a signing bonus. For most players, it is the only significant amount of compensation that they will receive for a few years, so the signing bonus is important to drafted players. Under the terms of the latest collective bargaining agreement between team owners and players, each draft slot is assigned a “slot recommendation,” which usually dictates the signing bonus that the player will receive. Often, it will also determine whether a player opts to chase his baseball dream or accept a college scholarship.
“Whatever happens for these guys from here on out is icing on the cake,” Broussard said. “Their win is a win for our communities. I just hope they enjoy the ride and cherish each moment, especially our boy Andy, because we know to get where he is at means he caught lightning in a bottle. But hey, that kid has proven he can catch anything.”
JP Raineri can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.