Royce Lewis of San Juan Capistrano JSerra is the surprise top pick in the MLB draft

For weeks, pundits had debated. Would the Minnesota Twins select Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High pitcher and shortstop Hunter Greene with the first overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft Monday? Or maybe Brendan McKay, Louisville’s two-way player?

Earlier in the day, California’s next-highest rated prospect, Royce Lewis, from San Juan Capistrano JSerra, talked to Greene on the phone to wish him luck.

And then the draft began. Commissioner Rob Manfred stepped to the podium. And the answer was … Lewis, actually.

In a surprise selection, Lewis, a shortstop, went No. 1 overall to the Twins. Greene didn’t have to wait long. He was selected second by the Cincinnati Reds. It was the first time two players from the Southland had been taken with the first two picks since the MLB draft began in 1965.

“It just says that Southern Orange County and California is back, baby,” Lewis said.

The two had never played against each other in high school but had become friends playing for the USA 18-under national team. And they joined a draft class that, to Lewis’ delight, had 10 players from the Southland selected in the first two rounds.

UC Irvine second baseman Keston Hiura was selected ninth overall by the the Milwaukee Brewers and Huntington Beach first baseman Nick Pratto was chosen 14th by the Kansas City Royals.

Greene could end up being the jewel of the draft, what some consider a generational talent. Sports Illustrated put him on the cover. Rick Ingalls, a Southern California area scout for the Reds, told The Times recently that Greene “compares favorably” to other shortstops he has scouted, including Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

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The scouting evaluations “were like no other reports that I’d seen,” Brewers general manager David Stearns said.

The only question would be what position he would play. He was a five-tool shortstop and a right-hander whose fastball touched triple digits.