The Arizona Diamondbacks surprised all of baseball by taking home-grown shortstop Corey Myers with their top pick, the fourth overall, in the draft Wednesday.
Then the D-backs had another surprise, at least to Montanans: Scouting director Don Mitchell indicated Myers is ticketed to play for the new Missoula Osprey.
Myers, fresh out of Desert Vista High School in Tempe, stands to land a bonus of $3 million as a top-five pick by signing with the Diamondbacks. As a rule, the Arizona club has sent older players to the Pioneer League and kept high school draftees and first-year foreign players in the more closely controlled environs of the Arizona League in Tucson.
Scouts have criticized Myers' range, and some project him at third base, first base or catcher. But Mitchell said Myers, who turns 19 on Saturday, will be brought along as a shortstop.
"Who knows what the future holds?" Mitchell said. "I mean, (third baseman) Matt Williams was a shortstop at UNLV, and, of course, Jay Bell. Right now, Corey Myers is playing shortstop for us in Missoula."
Few projected Myers as a No. 1 pick. In its list of the top 100 prospects, Baseball America ranked him No. 100 and 14th among shortstops.
But increased interest after Myers broke seven Arizona prep hitting records and a workout late last month in the Diamondbacks' Bank One Ballpark in which Myers swatted a number of batting-practice home runs apparently convinced the team to take him with its highest draft pick yet.
"We asked ourselves a question," general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said. "If we let him drop to 31st (Arizona's second pick), how are we going to feel when we get down to 27th or 28th and we hear his name called?' The answer was, 'Not every good.' "
Myers has potential. As a senior he had 22 home runs, scored 70 runs and drove in 81 - all single-season records for an Arizona prep player - while batting .560 and leading Desert Vista to the state Class 5A title.
"It's a dream come true," the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Myers said. "Baseball is baseball to me, and every team has a uniform. Any team that gave me a chance to play, I'd put on their uniform.
"It happened to be the Diamondbacks, and that's where I live, and it's great for everyone."
The Diamondbacks chose 30th in drafting their two previous first-round choices - left-hander Nick Bierbrodt in 1996 and outfielder Jack Cust in 1997. Last year, Arizona didn't have a selection until the third round, when it picked outfielder Darryl Conyer. Both Cust and Conyer played for Lethbridge in the Pioneer League last year. Lethbridge owners, headed by Mike Ellis, moved the franchise to Missoula over the winter. Conyer too is expected to play here this summer.
Arizona received the extra choice and another one between the second and third rounds (71st) for losing center fielder Devon White to the Dodgers. The team chose right-hander Casey Daigle of Sulphur (La.) High School with its first supplemental pick and right-hander Jeremy Ward of Long Beach State with the second.
About half the Missoula Osprey team is expected to come from the draft, which continues through up to 50 rounds Thursday. The Osprey arrive in town June 8 and begin a week-long mini-camp the next day.
Thursday - 6/3/99