MLB teams take nine Gwinnett products in Day 2

Photo by Jason Braverman

Photo by Jason Braverman

Tuesday's second day of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft was a busy one for several players with Gwinnett ties -- one of the busiest for the county ever.

A total of nine recent graduates or former graduates of Gwinnett high schools were taken Tuesday.

Combined with the two players taken Monday, the nine-player class of 2011 matches Gwinnett's largest ever from 10 years ago.

And with rounds 31-50 rounding out the draft today beginning at noon, there's a chance this year's class could grow further to historic proportions.

As was the case when locals Zach Cone (Parkview/Georgia) and Grayson Garvin (Wesleyan/Vanderbilt) were selected in Compensatory Round A late Monday, Tuesday's area draft results got off to an earlier start than anticipated.

Recent Buford graduate Jake Burnette was the first local player selected on the day, taken with the first pick of the seventh round -- pick No. 212 overall -- by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The 6-foot-5, 180-pound right-hander, who went 8-0 with a save, a 1.72 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 57 innings in helping the Wolves to the Class AA state championship, expected a call Tuesday, but perhaps not as high.

That could make his decision on whether to sign with the Pirates organization or head to Georgia Tech, where he and Buford teammate Josh Heddinger are scheduled to attend beginning in the fall, a little tougher.

"It's definitely going to be a tough decision," Burnette said. "I thought I'd go a little lower. I'll just have to talk with my parents and talk with (representatives from the Pirates) and sit down and just look through everything."

While Burnette was the first of Gwinnett's current high school senior class to be selected, he wasn't alone for long.

Danny Lockhart, from recently crowned Class A champion Hebron Christian, was taken with the 309th pick in Round 10 by the Chicago Cubs.

Lockhart, a Kennesaw State signee who led all Gwinnett hitters this year with a .548 average to go along with 13 home runs, 48 RBIs and 24 stolen bases, also faces a tough decision like Burnette.

However, he also has the advantage of being able to consult with his father, Keith Lockhart, who had a 10-year major league career with the Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Royals and San Diego Padres.

"I can't put into words what that means," the younger Lockhart said. "A lot of players don't know how to deal with it. But to grow up around (Major League Baseball) and having someone so close to you who went through (the draft), it gives you an idea what to expect."

Three rounds after selecting Lockhart, the Cubs then dipped into Gwinnett's talent pool again by taking Brookwood outfielder Trey Martin with the 399th pick in the 13th round.

Two more players with Brookwood ties -- former Broncos catcher and now North Georgia backstop Troy Snitker (Atlanta Braves, 19th round) and current Bronco infielder Nick Moore (Boston Red Sox, 30th round) -- were also taken Tuesday.

Also selected on Tuesday were former Wesleyan and now Florida State outfielder James Ramsey (Minnesota Twins, 22nd round) and former Collins Hill and Mercer pitcher Justice French (Cincinnati Reds, 25th round).

The draft got off to a roaring start for Gwinnett on Monday when Cone (37th pick, Texas Rangers) and Garvin (59th pick, Tampa Bay Rays) got their calls earlier than they were projected to. In Garvin's case, his season is still ongoing, with Vanderbilt set to play host to Oregon State in an NCAA Super Regional series this weekend in Nashville.

And the 2008 Daily Post Pitcher of the Year, who was originally drafted in the 45th round by the Houston Astros three years ago, said Tuesday that while being selected was big for his career, he won't let it become a distraction.

"When you play for the scouts and the draft, you don't play your best," said Garvin, who is 13-1 with a 2.37 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 1021/3 innings for the Commodores this season. "This year, I'm focused on our team and taking my mind off the draft."