CINCINNATI — Our area was at the center of Major League Baseball Draft buzz last year as former Madeira standout Andrew Benintendi went No. 7 overall to the Boston Red Sox and University of Cincinnati star Ian Happ was taken two picks later by the Chicago Cubs. While few area players are likely to be selected in this year's draft on June 9-11, the Cincinnati area is obviously rich in its baseball draft tradition, whether through college or high school programs.
Let’s take a look at nine players who created significant buzz out of local high schools before being selected in the first round of past drafts. The draft started in 1965, so this list highlights the most ballyhooed picks from the area high school talent pool from that point forward and not necessarily the greatest MLB careers.
1. Ken Griffey Jr. – The Kid will be inducted into Cooperstown July 24 and received the highest Hall of Fame voting percentage at 99.3 percent. The 13-time All-Star played from 1989 to 2010 and hit 630 home runs and won 10 Gold Gloves as an outfielder. He was selected No. 1 overall by the Seattle Mariners in the 1987 draft. He was the Gatorade Ohio Player of the Year in 1987. He was a two-year standout for the Crusaders under longtime coach Mike Cameron. Griffey still holds the school record for career batting average (.478).
2. Mark Lewis – As the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s career hits leader (222), the Hamilton product was selected No. 2 in the 1988 draft. The infielder won the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award in 1988. He played in the majors from 1991 to 2001. He is best remembered with the Reds for his pinch-hit grand slam against the Dodgers in the 1995 National League Division Series. He is now an assistant Hamilton baseball coach.
3. Barry Larkin – The Hall of Fame shortstop was an honor student and athletic star at Moeller and enrolled at the University of Michigan with the idea of playing baseball and football. After earning a spot on the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team, Larkin was taken by the Reds with the fourth overall pick in the 1985 draft. He hit .353 and scored three runs in Cincinnati’s sweep of Oakland in the 1990 World Series. He played 19 seasons with the Reds and had a .295 career average to go along with 2,340 hits. He won three Gold Gloves and nine Silver Slugger awards.
4. Kyle Schwarber – The Chicago Cubs sensation burst onto the scene at Wrigley in 2015 with a memorable postseason and became the franchise’s all-time postseason home run leader just months after winning the Futures Game MVP honors at Great American Ball Park in July. The Middletown product was drafted by Chicago as the fourth pick in the 2014 draft out of Indiana University. The catcher had surgery to repair full tears in his ACL and LCL in his left knee and is expected to miss the remainder of the 2016 season.
5. Daryl Boston – The Woodward product was selected seventh overall by the Chicago White Sox in the first round of the 1981 draft. The outfielder played 11 years in the majors including the White Sox, Mets, Rockies and Yankees.
6. Richard Dotson – The Anderson product was selected seventh overall by the California Angels in the 1977 draft. The pitcher had a 12-year big-league career that included the White Sox, Yankees and Royals. He won 111 games including a career-best 22-7 with a 3.23 ERA in 1983 – the same year he pitched in the American League Championship. He was an All-Star in 1984.
7. Andrew Benintendi – The former Madeira standout is second on the OHSAA career hits list (213) and won numerous state and national honors his senior season. The outfielder was originally selected by the Reds in the 31st round of the 2013 draft but opted to attend the University of Arkansas. He was selected seventh by the Red Sox in the 2015 draft. He was recently promoted to Double-A Portland.
8. Leon Durham – The Woodward product was selected 15th overall by the Cardinals in the 1976 draft. Nicknamed Bill, he had a 10-year major league career and hit .277 with 147 home runs and 530 RBI. He was an All-Star with the Cubs in 1982 and 1983. He was inducted into the Cincinnati Public Schools Athletic Hall of Fame earlier this spring.
9. Pat Tabler – The McNicholas product was selected 16th overall by the Yankees in the 1976 draft. Born in Hamilton, Tabler played in the majors from 1981 to 1992. He hit .326 with the Indians in 1986. He hit a career-best 11 home runs, 34 doubles and 86 RBI in ’87. He won a World Series with the Blue Jays in 1992 – his final season in the majors. Tabler was also known for his knack of getting hits with the bases loaded. He batted .489 in 88 bases-loaded at-bats in his career, according to Baseball-reference.com.
Other noteworthy area picks (not all directly taken straight from high school):
- Todd Benzinger (New Richmond, fourth round in 1981)
- Barry Bonnell (Milford, first pick in 1975 January Secondary amateur draft)
- Buddy Bell (Moeller, 16th round in 1969)
- David Bell (Moeller, seventh round in 1990)
- Mike Bell (Moeller, 30th overall in 1993)
- Andrew Brackman (Moeller, 30th overall in 2007)
- Aaron Cook (Hamilton, second round in 1997)
- Drew Denson (Purcell Marian, 19th overall in 1984)
- Bill Doran (Mount Healthy, sixth round in 1979)
- Leo Foster (Holmes, second round in 1969)
- Adam Hyzdu (Moeller, 15th overall in 1990)
- Lance Johnson (Princeton, sixth round in 1984)
- Roger McDowell (Colerain, third round in 1982)
- Scott Munninghoff (Purcell Marian, 22nd overall in 1977)
- Tim Naehring (La Salle, eighth round in 1988)
- Ron Oester (Withrow, ninth round in 1974)
- Dave Parker (Courter Tech, 14th round in 1970)
- Tuffy Rhodes (Western Hills, third round in 1986)
- Jeff Russell (Wyoming, fifth round in 1979)
- Tony Scott (Withrow, 71st round in 1969)
- Ricky Stone (Hamilton, fourth round in 1994)
- Bill Wegman (Oak Hills, fifth round in 1981)
- Chris Welsh (St. Xavier, 21st round in 1977)
- Kevin Youkilis (Sycamore, eighth round in 2001)