The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
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LSU's Daniel Cabrera could be next first-round draft pick from Metro New Orleans

Major League Baseball will hold its 66th annual amateur draft on June 10-11. First-round selections naturally get the most attention, as each major-league organization picks their top prospect from the abundant population of draft-eligible high school and college players. The New Orleans area has provided several first-round draft picks over the years, most notably Will Clark, who was the second overall pick of the 1985 June draft by the San Francisco Giants.


This year’s draft process will be drastically different from the preceding 65 in that player selections will be made in only five rounds. Last year the draft consisted of 40 rounds and in other previous years there have been as many as 60 rounds. Once the fifth round is completed, all remaining amateurs can potentially sign with any team for the same $20,000 bonus.

Daniel Cabrera, who spent part of his prep career at John Curtis Christian High School and played collegiately at LSU, has an outside chance to be a late first-round pick this year. ranks him 38th in their list of top draft candidates, while Baseball America projects him as the 41st top prospect in the draft. Cabrera was previously drafted out of high school by the San Diego Padres in the 26th round of the 2017 MLB Draft, but chose to sign with LSU.


Cabrera played his first three high school seasons at John Curtis, where he was named the Outstanding Player in the New Orleans Metro Area in 2015 and 2016. He earned 2017 first-team All-State recognition, batting .510 with 25 RBIs in his senior season at Parkview Baptist High School in Baton Rouge. The left-handed hitting outfielder has been a three-year starter and leader for LSU. He earned Freshman All-America honors in 2018.

Here’s a rundown of past first-round selections of players who played high school baseball in Metro New Orleans. The players’ draft year and team are indicated in parenthesis.


Mike Miley (1971, Cincinnati Reds; 1974, California Angels). Miley was one of those rare amateurs that has been a first-round pick twice, first out of high school and later during college. He was a two-sport star at East Jefferson High School in Metairie and earned a scholarship to LSU. LSU sports followers would most likely remember “Miracle Mike” as the starting quarterback for a Charlie McClendon-coached football team. As a junior in 1973, Miley quarterbacked the Tigers to a 9-2 record, when they won nine consecutive games before losing to Alabama and Tulane. LSU finished the season ranked 13th in the final AP poll.


However, it turned bout baseball was Miley’s calling, as he was also the starting shortstop for the Tigers baseball team. He had been an All-SEC selection in his freshman year in 1972.  In his junior season in 1974, he was named to The Sporting News All-American team, which led to his becoming the Number 1 selection (10th overall pick) of the California Angels in the June 1974 amateur draft. He decided to forgo his senior year at LSU by signing with the Angels. He made his major-league debut with them in 1975, but his life was cut short when he was killed in an automobile accident in 1977 at age 23.


Frank Wills (1980, Kansas City Royals). Wills played all three major sports at De La Salle High School. His baseball coach, Jerry Burrage, called the hard-throwing pitcher one of the top athletes in the high school’s history. Burrage had known Wills since his playground days and figured correctly he would become a special athlete one day. Their baseball team won the Louisiana state 4A championship in 1977, as Wills garnered All-State honors.


Wills signed a scholarship offer with Tulane to play football and baseball. He was the Green Wave’s punter for three seasons.  In his junior season in 1980, he compiled a 5-3 record and 2.81 ERA, averaging 10.5 strikeouts per game. An All-Metro Conference player, he was also named to The Sporting News College Baseball All-American Team. Wills was the 16th overall pick of the 1980 draft and played in the majors from 1983 to 1991 with the Royals, Mariners, Indians, and Blue Jays.  His major-league career record was 22-26 record with a 5.06 ERA.


Will Clark (1985, San Francisco Giants). Clark broke Rusty Staub’s home run record as a junior at Jesuit High School. In his senior season, he batted .560 but didn’t qualify for the city batting title because opposing pitchers walked him an average of three times per game. The first baseman passed on an opportunity to sign a pro contract with the Kansas City Royals, who drafted him out of high school in the fourth round in 1982. Instead, he attended Mississippi State, where he earned All-SEC honors in his sophomore and junior seasons. He led a talented 1984 USA Olympic Team in hitting when they captured the silver medal. Clark was the Golden Spikes Award winner in 1985, as college baseball’s best player.


Clark was the second overall pick of the 1985 MLB Draft by the San Francisco Giants. The sweet-swinging left-hander made his major-league debut in 1986, smacking a home run off Nolan Ryan in his first major-league at-bat. He went on to a fifteen-year career with the Giants, Rangers, Orioles, and Cardinals, accumulating a career slash line of 303/.384/.497. He was voted in the top five for the National League MVP Award in four seasons.


Jason Fitzgerald (1997, Cleveland Indians). Fitzgerald wasn’t heavily recruited out of Holy Cross High School, where he was a four-year letterman. Yet he leveraged his scholarship at Tulane to eventually become an All-American outfielder. In his junior season, he hit .387 with 20 home runs, 79 RBIs, 16 doubles, and four triples, while stealing 21 bases to lead the Green Wave to the Conference USA regular season championship. He was named to Baseball America’s All-American third team in 1997.


He was the 41st overall pick of the Cleveland Indians in the 1997 MLB Draft. He was what the pros called a “five-tool” player and was known for his defensive play. His pro career got sidelined in 1999 with Tommy John surgery. He wound up playing in the minors from 1997 to 2003 with the Indians and Braves organizations, followed by two seasons in the independent leagues.


Jeff Winchester (1998, Colorado Rockies). Formerly called the “best player ever to wear a Rummel uniform” by his coach Frank Cazeaux, Winchester is among the top catchers to ever come from the New Orleans area. An All-Stater as a junior, he posted a slash line of .481/.596/.926, with 12 home runs in 35 games, as Rummel captured the Louisiana State 5A title. In his senior season in 1998, he was the city’s All-Metro MVP and Gatorade’s Louisiana Player of the Year.


Although Winchester had signed a baseball scholarship with LSU, he chose professional baseball after being chosen as the overall 40th pick of the 1998 MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies. He went on to play for the Rockies, Brewers, and Reds organizations from 1998 to 2006.


Mike Fontenot (2001, Baltimore Orioles). Fontenot was a four-year letterman at Salmen High School in Slidell, selected to multiple All-State and All-Metro teams. He was the Metro New Orleans MVP in his senior season in 1999. He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 21st round but opted to accept a scholarship with LSU. The second baseman made an immediate impact at LSU setting a freshman record with 17 home runs on his way to earning The Sporting News National Freshman of the Year honors. He played on LSU’s 2000 National Championship team. 


Fontenot was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles as the 19th overall pick of the 2001 MLB Draft. He was Baltimore’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2003, leading the farm system with .325 batting average.  He was a member of the San Francisco Giants’ 2010 World Series championship team. He played in seven major league seasons during 2005 to 2012 for the Cubs, Giants, and Phillies, posting a career slash line of .265/.332/.401.


Thomas Diamond (2004, Texas Rangers). Diamond was a three-year letter winner at Rummel, making All-District and All-State teams in his senior season. He once struck out 20 batters in a seven-inning game. He was selected by Tampa Bay in the 38th round out of high school in 2001 but chose to attend the University of New Orleans.


In three seasons with the Privateers, Diamond had 26 starts in 52 games. He was 6-4 with a 2.38 ERA in his junior season, earning him Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year in 2004. The Texas Rangers selected him as the tenth overall pick of the 2004 MLB Draft. He played seven minor-league seasons in the Rangers, Cubs, and Twins organizations. His only major-league season occurred with the Cubs in 2010, when he posted a 1-3 record and 6.83 ERA. 


Beau Jones (2005, Atlanta Braves). After going 8-0 in his junior season at Destrehan High School, Jones followed with a record of 11-3 and 1.03 ERA in 2005. He was the Times-Picayune’s Large School Player of the Year in the metro New Orleans area.  A Class 5A All-State selection, he was also named Mr. Baseball by the Louisiana Sports Writer’s Association, an award given to the state’s top high school baseball player.

Jones passed on the opportunity to play for LSU after being selected as the 41st overall pick by the Atlanta Braves in the 2005 MLB Draft, reportedly signing for a bonus in the million-dollar range. The left-hander was a high-strikeout pitcher who eventually moved into a reliever role. He played in the minors from 2005 to 2012 in the Braves, Rangers, A’s, and Marlins organizations. He was involved in the 2007 blockbuster major-league trade that sent all-star Mark Teixeira from Texas to Atlanta. Jones pitched for the hometown New Orleans Zephyrs in 2012 before retiring from baseball.

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