The words out of Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s mouth were sweet music to Georgia Southern baseball fans Monday night.
"With the 28th pick in the first round of the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft, the Milwaukee Brewers select Victor Roache from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia," Selig announced at 10:01 p.m. during the draft, which was televised on MLB Network and streamed online at MLB.com.
Roache is the fifth baseball player in GSU’s history to be drafted in the first round. He is the first Eagle to be selected in the opening round since Joey Hamilton was chosen eighth overall by the San Diego Padres in 1991. Roache is the highest selection in Southern Conference history, surpassing The Citadel’s Asher Wojciechowski, who was drafted 41st overall in 2010.
Roache, who was at his home in Ypsilanti, Mich., when he was drafted, was interviewed by MLB Network analysts 15 minutes later via video conference call.
"I found out like literally 2 minutes before it happened," Roache told MLB Network analysts during the live interview. "I actually was in the other room talking with my mom because I actually thought it was going to be Boston (with the 31st pick) but I heard my name get called in the other room and everybody went crazy so that’s how I found out."
Roache, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound junior right fielder, led the NCAA with 30 home runs in 2011, a SoCon record. He entered the 2012 season as a consensus preseason All-American but suffered a broken left wrist while diving for a ball six games into the season and missed the rest of the season.
Roache had surgery March 1 at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Ala., that required six screws and a metal plate to be inserted into his wrist. He is rehabilitating from the injury.
"I’m feeling good. I’ve been going to rehab," Roache told MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds during the interview Monday night. "It’s starting to feel better. I’m looking to get back in the (batting) cage and fully swinging in three or four weeks or so."
Before the 2012 season began, Baseball America projected Roache to be the ninth player drafted. His injury caused his draft stock to fall.
If Roache can make a healthy return and produce the way he did as a sophomore in 2011, many people believe he will be successful at the next level. MLB Network analyst Jonathan Mayo said Roache could end up being a draft steal for the Brewers.
"This is a guy who, coming into the year, was thought of as a top-half-of-the-first-round pick with the dearth of really good college bats. Some people said maybe even a top 10 if he puts up the same kind of power numbers," MLB Network analyst Jonathan Mayo said during the broadcast. "If you’re going back to last year, what he’s done in summer ball (Cape Cod League), and you believe that he’s going to be fine, this is a huge steal for them."
MLB Network analyst John Hart agreed with Mayo’s assessment of Roache.
"When you’re looking at power bats, college-oriented, I agree with Jonathan," Hart said during the broadcast. "It’s hard to see this guy slipping that late in the draft with the success that he had.
"Again, when you’re talking about wrists with hitters, you’re going to have to check the medicals. You’re going to have to make sure what it is that you have, but at the end of it they got a right-handed power bat. Probably going to move to left field. Athletic. And loves to play."
As of 11 p.m., Roache was the only GSU player to be drafted. Pitcher Chris Beck and shortstop Eric Phillips are widely considered to be players who will be selected when the draft continues today and Wednesday.
Appling's Buxton taken 2nd overall
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins have had their eyes on Byron Buxton for months. No better highlight came from tracking this super-fast high school center fielder than a Georgia state playoff game three weeks ago.
"He scored from second base on a sacrifice fly to right field," Twins scouting director Deron Johnson said.
Buxton just put his head down and never stopped running.
"I had never seen that before," Johnson said. "The right fielder was shocked, and he just kind of panicked and threw the ball into second."
That speed is the main reason why the Twins took Buxton, from Appling County High School in the tiny town of Baxter, with the second pick in the amateur draft on Monday night.
Houston chose Carlos Correa first, a high school shortstop from Puerto Rico. Stanford right-hander Mark Appel was widely predicted to be taken by his hometown Astros, but even when they passed on him the pitching-poor Twins didn't blink. Buxton was their preference all along, said Johnson, who saw the 18-year-old play in person six times and had lunch with him twice.
The top-ranked prep prospect by Baseball America magazine, Buxton helped lead his team to the Georgia Class 2A state championship this spring.
Noell Barnidge may be reached at (912) 489-9408.