Major League Baseball announced on Wednesday that five players have confirmed they will attend the Draft broadcast on Monday at MLB Network. Four are high schoolers, and at least three of the five players could be selected in the first half of the first round.
The quartet of prepsters are shortstop Carlos Correa of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, shortstop Gavin Cecchini of Barbe High School in Louisiana, outfielder Courtney Hawkins of Carroll High in Texas and catcher Clint Coulter of Union High in Washington state. The first three are mentioned prominently in conversations about the top 15 or so picks, and Coulter shouldn't be too far behind them. All four are in the top 50 of MLB.com's Draft Top 100 prospects rankings.
So is Andrew Heaney, the lone college player who will be attending. The Oklahoma State southpaw was named the Big 12 Conference Pitcher of the Year and was one of the hottest arms on the college scene as the season wore on. Once thought to be a solid first-round candidate, he's worked his way into top-10 pick consideration and will most certainly be gone in the top half of the round.
Coverage of the opening round and Compensation Round A will be aired by MLB Network and streamed live on MLB.com on Monday night at 7 p.m. ET. Rounds 2-40 will also be streamed live on MLB.com on June 5-6.
MLB.com's coverage, sponsored by CenturyLink, will include Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
"My reaction when I got the invitation was that it was awesome," Cecchini said. "I think every person wants to go to New York, one of the best cities you can go to. Not only do you get to go to New York, you go to MLB Network, and you get to meet all these Hall of Famers and stars. They have been there and done what you want to do. This is fulfilling a dream you always had as a kid.
"I talked it over with my family. It was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up."
Hawkins was equally as eager to attend -- he's even missing his high school graduation to do so -- but he wasn't always sure he'd be asked. He feared the time had passed for him to get MLB's version of Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket.
"I see [the Draft] on TV; we've always talked about it," Hawkins said. "But I hadn't gotten a call. I thought they had already invited everybody. A week later, my dad gets a call from [MLB operations executive] Chuck Fox. When I got home, to hear that voicemail that I was officially invited to the MLB Draft, I honestly had tears coming from my eyes."
Hawkins plans to be accompanied by his mother, father, brother and summer baseball coach.
"Major League Baseball, they're not going to invite somebody who's not going to be taken in a good position," he said. "They're inviting me off of who they talked to, what they've seen and heard. I figure if I got that invite, I'm going to jump on it. It was either sit at home and watch it or go there and be part of a once-in-a-lifetime thing, being right there, saying you were at the Major League Baseball Draft. We talked about it and we jumped on it."
It's not like these players will be among strangers. In today's age of showcases and international opportunities, most top prospects have run into each other a time or two in the years leading up to their Draft season. So it will be a reunion of sorts.
Cecchini and Hawkins played together at the Area Code Games last summer. Cecchini played against Coulter at the Under Armour All-America Game last August in Chicago and against Correa in Cartagena, Colombia, in November when he was on Team USA and Correa was on the Puerto Rican team at the 18-and-under Pan Am Championships.
"You've been going to showcases and you come across the best players in the country," Cecchini said. "You get to meet all these guys, you have a friendship with them that will last a lifetime.
"We'll get to enjoy what's about to happen. It's going to change our lives. I can't wait for it. It's going to be a great experience."