Sentimental picks are special as MLB draft winds down
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The MLB Draft, like an MLB game, has a lot of empty space to fill.

A total of 1,214 picks were made in 40 rounds over three days earlier this week, but not all of those selections are created equally.

There are plenty of late-round favors to family, friends, and team staffers, but also some rare opportunities for teams to show their heart.

The Toronto Blue Jays did that with their 40th-round pick, 1,196th overall, on Wednesday evening, selecting shortstop Drew LaBounty from the University of South Alabama.

LaBounty was worthy of draft consideration entering 2018. He was a 5-foot-6 spark plug in South Alabama’s lineup coming off a 2017 season with more walks (50) than strikeouts (32) and a .301 average.

Then, in an instant, it all ended. LaBounty foul-tipped a ball off his own eye in early February, a career-ending issue that's required multiple surgeries.

"You can't put into words how big a loss it is when you lose a guy like that,” South Alabama coach Mark Calvi told “You're heartbroken that he didn't get a chance to play his last year. You'd be heartbroken for anybody, but especially him because of how much he loves this team and this program. He meant the world to us, on and off the field."

Blue Jays area scout Don Norris, who covers Alabama, had seen plenty of LaBounty on and off the field. Toronto made the call in the 40th round, and while LaBounty’s playing career may be over, he goes out as an MLB draftee.

All in the family

No team knows Major League bloodlines like the Blue Jays. From Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette to Cavan Biggio and Kacy Clemens, the Blue Jays have stockpiled sons of former stars.

They went back to the well in the second round of the 2018 draft, selecting outfielder Griffin Conine, son of 17-year MLB veteran Jeff Conine. The pick was based on merit, but when Griffin was first drafted - in round 31 of the 2015 draft coming out of college - it was a classic family nod.

That year, the Marlins who selected a young Conine. His father, of course, is "Mr. Marlin." Jeff Conine played eight seasons for the Marlins, and he was an executive with the team at the time Griffin was drafted.

These legacy picks aren’t rare, especially when a notable last name is involved. If there’s a “Jr.” on the end? Even better.

The New York Yankees drafted Mariano Rivera Jr. in the 29th round in 2014. Later in that same draft, the Detroit Tigers selected Magglio Ordonez Jr. in the 38th round.

The Houston Astros drafted Conor Biggio, the son of Craig Biggio and brother of Blue Jays prospect Cavan Biggio, in the 34th round in 2015. The next round, the Astros drafted Kody Clemens, son of Roger and brother of Blue Jays prospect Kacy, who was selected again by the Tigers this week coming out of college.

The Angels took Jonah Dipoto, the son of their own GM, in the 38th round of the 2015 draft. This year, the Royals selected Mike Picollo, the son of their vice president and assistant GM, in the 33rd round.

The 2011 draft was another big one for front-office nepotism as the Angels, Blue Jays, and A’s all drafted the sons of their own managers: Mike Scioscia, John Farrell, and Bob Geren.

Speaking of managers, in 2017, the Nationals selected Darren Baker, son of Dusty Baker, in the 27th round. That's the same Darren Baker who, in the 2002 World Series, was scooped up by J.T. Snow as he crossed home:

Each draft is stocked with dozens of second-generation picks tied to a player, GM, or scout. Some of those picks are made with confidence, and some are made with a wink across the table in the draft room.

No favor turned out better than one between Tommy Lasorda and an old friend. Lasorda’s pal Vince had a draft-eligible son in 1988 generating next to zero interest as a first baseman at Miami Dade College.

Lasorda pulled some strings, got the kid a tryout, decided that he was a catcher, and convinced his scouting director to select him in the 62nd round.

Then 28 years later, Mike Piazza entered the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Symbolic selections

Much like Toronto’s selection of LaBounty in the 40th round, most years have a special moment in the draft where a past or present member of the baseball community is honored.

Last year, the Rangers honored scout Jose Felomina - who had died of cancer - by selecting one of his former youth players, Edmond Americaan, in the 34th round. Americaann played for Felomina as a 13- and 14-year-old in Curacao.

Back in 2011, the Rangers picked Johnathan Taylor in the 33rd round. Taylor had been paralyzed from the chest down after breaking his neck in an on-field collision with Zach Cone, who Texas had selected in the first round.

In 2013, the Diamondbacks chose Arizona State’s Cory Hahn, a player from their own backyard. The outfielder was a top prospect in high school, but he became paralyzed from the chest down after an incident sliding into second base in just his third college game.

Arizona drafted Hahn in round 34 to honor the jersey number he wore.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

Sentimental picks are special as MLB draft winds down
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