Toronto Blue Jays’ Brett Lawrie (right) donated an autographed jersey as an auction prize in support of Langley Child Development Centre and Langley Big Brothers Big Sisters in 2013. (Black Press file photo)

Looking back at Canadians picked in first round of MLB drafts

British Columbians include Adam Loewen, Brett Lawrie, James Paxton, and Jeff Francis

The MLB draft begins Monday night and a couple of Canadian players will likely be selected over the first and second rounds.

Here’s a look at how some of Canada’s other first-round picks have fared in their careers:

ADAM LOEWEN, 2002

Loewen was selected fourth overall by the Baltimore Orioles and maintains the distinction of being the highest Canadian-born player ever selected in the MLB draft (Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon, who was born in Texas to Canadian parents, went second overall in 2010). Loewen was drafted as a pitcher but converted to an outfielder over a seven-year span that saw him toiling in the minor leagues. The Surrey, B.C., native attempted another comeback — heading back to the mound in 2015 — but couldn’t get much going to keep himself on a big-league roster. Loewen last pitched in the majors in 2016, appearing in eight games (six innings) for Arizona and allowing 10 earned runs. The 34-year-old is in triple-A with Texas this season.

JEFF FRANCIS, 2002

The left-hander from North Delta, B.C., was selected ninth overall by the Colorado Rockies and made his MLB debut in 2004. He finished sixth in NL rookie of the year voting the following season, going 14-12 with a 5.68 earned-run average and striking out 128 through 183 2/3 innings. Francis’ best year was 2007, when he won 17 games and pitched 215 1/3 innings. He started three playoff games for the Rockies that year — with wins in Game 1 of the NLDS and NLCS and a loss in Game 1 of the World Series, which the Red Sox won in four straight. Francis spent parts of 11 seasons in the major leagues, including a 22-inning stint with Toronto in 2015. He retired in December of that year.

READ MORE: Retired pitcher Jeff Francis meets hometown players

BRETT LAWRIE, 2008

Lawrie was selected 16th overall by Milwaukee out of Brookswood Secondary School in Langley, B.C., and spent two seasons in the Brewers’ minor-league system before being traded to Toronto in 2011. The energetic third baseman made his MLB debut with the Blue Jays that season as a 21-year-old and quickly became a fan favourite in part because of his Canadian roots. Lawrie was traded to Oakland in 2014 in the deal that sent all-star Josh Donaldson to Toronto. He was traded once more the following off-season, landing with the Chicago White Sox, but they released him ahead of the 2017 campaign. Lawrie remains without an MLB contract.

READ MORE: Langley’s Brett Lawrie living the dream

JAMES PAXTON, 2009

Paxton was originally picked by the Blue Jays out of the University of Kentucky in the first round of the 2009 draft, but the two sides couldn’t come to terms on a signing bonus and the left-hander from Ladner, B.C., chose to return to Kentucky for his senior year. One problem, though. Then Blue Jays president Paul Beeston had let it slip that Paxton had used an agent during the negotiations, throwing his NCAA eligibility into question. Paxton wasn’t able to return to the Wildcats and instead pitched a season in an independent league in Texas before Seattle selected him in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. Paxton made history last month when he threw a no-hitter against the Blue Jays in Toronto, becoming only the second Canadian to pitch a no-hitter in MLB history and the first to do it since 1945. Paxton is 4-1 with a 3.13 ERA for the Mariners this season.

READ MORE: B.C. coaches say they knew James Paxton’s work ethic would be rewarded

JOSH NAYLOR, 2015

Naylor was selected 12th overall by the Miami Marlins, making him Canada’s top pick of the 2015 draft. The burly first baseman was traded to the Padres in 2016 and is ranked 14th on their prospect list. The 20-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., has a brother who’s draft eligible this year — 18-year-old Noah Naylor, a catcher and third baseman who’s ranked No. 1 among Canadians heading into the first round. Josh Naylor is batting .313 with nine homers and 45 runs batted in over 53 games with double-A San Antonio.

MIKE SOROKA, 2015

Soroka was the second Canadian picked in the first round of the 2015 draft, going 28th overall to the Atlanta Braves. The Calgary right-hander made his MLB debut this season and is 1-1 with a 3.68 ERA over three starts. Soroka had an impressive first outing for the Braves, going six innings and allowing just one run while striking out five in Atlanta’s 3-2 win over the Mets on May 1. The 20-year-old is currently on the 10-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain.

CAL QUANTRILL, 2016

The son of former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Paul Quantrill, Cal was the top Canadian selected in the 2016 draft when he went eighth overall to the San Diego Padres. Also a pitcher, the right-hander from Port Hope, Ont., was highly regarded following his three years at Stanford, even after missing the entire 2016 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. The 23-year-old is in double-A this season where he’s 3-3 with a 4.66 earned-run average through 11 starts. He’s walked 23 batters and struck out 53 over 58 innings. Quantrill is ranked as San Diego’s fourth-best prospect.

Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press

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