Astros Make Nevin No. 1 Selection of Draft : Baseball: The Cal State Fullerton third baseman is one of six Southland players picked during the first round.
Third baseman Phil Nevin of Cal State Fullerton was selected by the Houston Astros as the top pick in baseball’s amateur draft Monday.
Nevin, 21, Baseball America’s college player of the year, is batting .398 with 21 homers and 81 runs batted in for Fullerton, which will play Florida State today in the College World Series at Omaha.
Only first-round selections were released to the public. The succeeding rounds, to be held through Wednesday, will be announced later this month.
Nevin was the first of six Southern California players selected during the first round. Joining him were Pete Janicki of UCLA, by the Angels; Derek Wallace of Pepperdine, by the Chicago Cubs; Benji Grigsby of San Diego State, by the Oakland Athletics; Jason Kendall of Torrance High, by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and former Culver City High standout Todd Steverson of Arizona State by the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Dodgers took catcher Ryan Luzinski of Holy Cross High in Delran, N.J., their first pick and 32nd selection overall. Luzinski, the son of former major leaguer Greg Luzinski, was taken with a pick that the Dodgers were awarded for losing free agent Eddie Murray.
The Dodgers did not have a first-round pick for a second consecutive year because they signed free-agent pitcher Tom Candiotti last winter.
At 6 feet 2 and 220 pounds, Luzinski was projected as a first-round pick earlier this year but has experienced weight problems. He recently signed a letter of intent to play baseball at the University of Miami.
Astro General Manager Bill Wood is optimistic about Nevin’s future.
“We believe (Nevin) will be on a fast track to playing in Houston,” Wood said. “His credentials are excellent, both as a pure hitter and one with power. And in the field, he is very capable of becoming an outstanding major league third baseman.”
Nevin, who reportedly agreed to a $675,000 signing bonus, hopes to be signed before Olympic tryouts June 8.
“I’m very excited to be an Astro and very excited to play in the dome,” he said. “I guess it’s a little weight off my shoulders, but I was prepared for this.”
Nevin was drafted coming out of high school in 1989 by the Dodgers during the third round but turned down a $100,000 offer and decided to attend Fullerton, where he also was a punter and kicker on the football team.
“Quite honestly, I wanted to sign out of high school, but my parents wanted me to go college,” he said. “And, right now I am thanking them.”
Janicki, Nevin’s high school teammate at Placentia El Dorado, was the eighth selection of the draft. The UCLA right-hander, who was 8-4 this season with a 3.84 earned-run average and 133 strikeouts in 131 innings, was the third pitcher selected.
“I’ve always been an Angel fan,” Janicki said. “I lived right up the street and I’d always come out to see the team play.”
Janicki does not see a problem signing with the Angels.
“I know the Angels are an honest club,” he said. “I’ve heard good things about them. I’m looking forward to the negotiations. They should be a piece of cake. I’m not looking for anything outrageous. There’s guys out there asking $1 million. Whatever fits between the seventh player and the ninth player.”
In the 11th position, the Cubs took Pepperdine’s Wallace, who was the fourth pitcher selected. Wallace was 2-2 with a 4.08 earned-run average and 47 strikeouts in 51 innings before the College World Series.
The first local high school player, and first catcher, selected was Kendall, who was the 23rd selection, by Pittsburgh.
“I was shocked, but I was more excited than anything in getting drafted that high,” said Kendall, who signed to play baseball at San Diego State. “Now, it’s decision-making time for me.”
Jeffrey Hammonds, a Stanford outfielder who many thought was the top available player, was taken by the Baltimore Orioles with the fourth pick. Hammonds hit .377 with six home runs, 33 RBIs and 30 steals for the Cardinal this season. . . . The 39th pick overall was shortstop Dave Landaker of Simi Valley Royal High, who was taken by Houston. First baseman Dan Melendez of Pepperdine was selected by the Dodgers as the 49th pick and catcher Bobby Hughes of USC was the 50th player selected, by Milwaukee.
The Colorado Rockies, making their first draft pick, took University of Florida right-hander John Burke, who was drafted by Houston last year but chose not to sign. Then the Florida Marlins took Miami catcher Charles Johnson.
Times staff writers Mike DiGiovanna, Bill Plaschke and Helene Elliott, and special correspondent Gary Klein contributed to this story.
Local players selected and players selected by local teams in the first round of the major league baseball draft (the Dodgers and Padres did not have first-round picks):
Team Player Pos. School 1. Houston Phil Nevin 3B Cal State Fullerton 8. Angels Pete Janicki RHP UCLA 11. Chicago Cubs Derek Wallace RHP Pepperdine 20. Oakland Benji Grigsby RHP San Diego State 23. Pittsburgh Jason Kendall C Torrance High 25. Toronto Todd Steverson CF Arizona State