For the first time in the history of the conference, three BIG EAST players were selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft held on Monday night. Connecticut junior outfielder George Springer was taken 11th overall by the Houston Astros, while junior teammate Matt Barnes was picked 19th overall by the Boston Red Sox. St. John’s junior shortstop Joe Panik was taken 29th overall by the San Francisco Giants.
Springer and Barnes became the first pair of BIG EAST teammates to be selected in the first round of the MLB Draft since 1989 when Seton Hall’s Maurice (Mo) Vaughn and Kevin Morton also accomplished the feat.
Springer was the 2011 BIG EAST Player of the Year after ranking in the top in the top five of nearly every offensive category in the BIG EAST. He led the league with 76 runs batted in, was second in the circuit with 12 home runs and was sixth with a .350 batting average. He was fourth in the league in slugging (.628) and led the league in total bases (144). His power numbers aside, Springer also had a BIG EAST-leading 31 stolen bases and eight sacrifice flies. After being taken 11th overall, Springer is the highest selection in the history of the Huskies and is tied for the second-highest selection in the history of the conference. Only Seton Hall’s Jason Grilli was taken higher when he was selected fourth overall in 1997. West Virginia’s Chris Enochs also was taken 11th in the 1997 draft. Springer is the 21st first-round pick in the history of the conference.
Barnes, the 2011 BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year, led the league in ERA (1.70), opposing batting average (.177), strikeouts (111) and wins (11). The junior tied the conference record with eight wins in BIG EAST play. He went 8-1 with a 1.18 ERA in conference games. Barnes notched an 11-3 record in the regular season, threw three complete-game shutouts and walked just 26 batters in 105 innings. The junior is the 22nd first-round pick in BIG EAST history.
An All-BIG EAST First Team selection, Panik is the first St. John’s player to be taken in the first round since Craig Hansen in 2005. Panik led the conference with a .398 batting average, while also ranking first in runs scored (60) and on-base percentage (.509). The junior had 183 assists while committing just 14 errors on 283 total chances at shortstop.