GCU shortstop Jacob Wilson makes history, highlights talent in draft from Arizona

Grand Canyon infielder Jacob Wilson made history as the first Lopes player to be selected in the first round of the MLB Draft. (Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

PHOENIX – As one of seven players to attend baseball’s amateur draft in Seattle, Grand Canyon University shortstop Jacob Wilson was on pace to make history.

That’s exactly what he did Sunday when the Oakland Athletics selected him sixth overall, making him the first GCU player ever chosen in the first round of the MLB Draft.

“It’s a dream come true at the end of the day. … It’s pretty special,” Wilson said.

It was a special night for players from other Arizona schools as Wilson wasn’t the only one selected in the first two rounds. Arizona outfielder Chase Davis went 21st overall to the St. Louis Cardinals, and Arizona State infielder Luke Keaschall will be trading in sun for snow as the 49th pick going to the Minnesota Twins.

But Wilson’s selection was most notable for its historical significance. He spent three years at GCU, helping the Lopes to three consecutive regular-season Western Athletic Conference titles and back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, the first two in school history. Wilson also broke the school record for batting average in a season, hitting .411 his junior year.

Davis also had a standout junior year, for the Wildcats, as he hit .362 and brought power from the left side of the plate, hitting 21 home runs in 2023. These stats did not go unnoticed by the Pac-12 as he also received All-Conference honors.

“I am excited about everything…ready to raise the sky, raise the limit and take the bar to the next level…and just have a great journey with this game of baseball,” Davis told MLB Network.

As the draft progressed into the second round, the Twins made Keaschall the newest member of their organization. In his lone season for the Sun Devils, Keaschall hit .353, second-best on the team, and led the way with 18 home runs.

Apart from the draftees who went to college in Arizona, a player quite familiar with the state was selected by the Diamondbacks at No. 12.

In his junior season at Stanford, Tommy Troy hit .394 with 17 home runs, and he helped lead the Cardinal to a Pac-12 title in 2023 and a trip to the College World Series.

“I grew up playing in a bunch of tournaments in Arizona,” Troy said. “I would always love going to Diamondbacks games and watching them play, and they’re obviously having an awesome season this year. I really love the program and I’m so excited to be a part of it.”

While Troy was enjoying his time watching the Diamondbacks play, the feeling was reciprocated by the Diamondbacks, who have been watching Troy play for a long time.

“A player we are really excited about,” said Ian Rebhan, the Diamondbacks’ director of amateur scouting. He’s actually a player we’ve scouted back to high school. … We think he’s a shortstop, we are really excited about the bat … he profiles really well as a hit-and-power, defending up-the-middle player.”

Following their selection of Troy, the Diamondbacks opted for another quality hitter in the second round, choosing third baseman Gino Groover out of N.C. State with pick 48. Groover was third team All-ACC and led the Wolfpack in hits and home runs.

“Just a guy that does a lot of really good things at the plate,” Rebhan said. “Again, a ton of bat conviction from our group, and we do think he’s a third baseman, and I think you are getting someone who’s really going to control the zone, not swing and miss and hit for some power.”

With the Diamondbacks’ final pick on day one of the draft, they went away from offense and selected a talented left-handed arm out of Clemson, Caden Grice, at No. 64 overall. In his junior season, Grice threw 78 innings, posting an impressive 101 strikeouts and holding opponents to a .196 batting average.

“We think he’s got the mix, the strike-throwing ability, the feel,” Rebhan said. “The size, all of those boxes that check to be a really good left-handed pitcher in the big leagues.”

This 2023 draft will conclude Tuesday after 20 rounds but this class of players is already making teams excited for what the future might hold.

“It was a really talented class,” Rebhan said. “And I think everyone talked about the depth. …. Coming in, we were really excited about the class and then it’s always a good feeling when you walk out of there today with the three players we got, we’re really excited about it.”

John Kuziej jawn koo-zie (he/him)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

John Kuziej expects to graduate in December 2023 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. Kuziej is from Minnesota, where he has worked as a play-by-play announcer for the Duluth Huskies and Burnsville High School.