Four former Bi-City high school standouts were taken in the Major League Baseball draft Wednesday.
Justin Ellison (Hardaway) was taken by the Atlanta Braves in the 12th round (No. 360 overall). Josh Lester (Columbus) was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 13th round (No. 400). Rock Rucker (Russell County) was drafted in the 20th round by the Cincinnati Reds (No. 595). Al Jones (Columbus High) was taken by the Chicago Cubs in the 36th round (No. 1,073).
Ellison, 20, played center field and right field for Western Oklahoma State, a junior college in Altus, Okla. Ellison had signed to play at Oklahoma State, but he said Wednesday that he is likely to sign with the Braves.
“I am leaning toward signing. I am ready to get started on my pro career,” Ellison said.
Ellison said he had an idea he would get drafted Wednesday.
“I had an idea, but you never know with the draft. But I kind of knew,” he said. “I have been talking with the Braves for awhile now. They had been scouting me since early in the season. I went to work out for them in Atlanta May 31-June 2. They were telling me good things about the draft.
“I was a Braves fan growing up; it is such a blessing to be picked by the hometown team. I grew up watching them. My favorite player was Jason Heyward.”
Lester, 21, hit .280 this past season as Missouri’s third baseman. The rising senior led the team with a slugging percentage (.436), RBIs (42) and home runs (7).
His 42 RBIs are the most for Missouri since 2012. He he also a 14-game hitting streak.
Lester moved to third base this season after playing shortstop last season.
In 2013, he was named to the All-SEC freshman team.
At Columbus High, he was a member of three straight state championship teams. He was also a member of the 2006 Northern Little League team that won the Little League world championship. He was drafted in the 30th round of the 2012 draft by the Cleveland Indians, but he decided to attend Missouri instead.
Lester is the son of Jimmy Lester, the Pittsburgh Pirates national scouting supervisor.
Lester, who has the option of returning to Missouri for his senior season, could not be reached for comment.
Rucker, who signed with Auburn out of high school, transferred and played last season at Auburn-Montgomery. He appeared in six games, all as a reliever. The left-hander finished 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA. He faced 20 batters and recorded 10 strikeouts.
Rucker transferred from Redan High to Russell County to play his senior season for coach Tony Rasmus. He helped the Warriors to a 41-12 record by hitting .382 with eight homers and 41 RBIs. On the mound, he was 7-0 with a 0.76 ERA.
Rucker said he would sign with the Reds.
Jones, who was ranked one of the top 100 players in the draft, said he had a chance to be drafted significantly higher, but he turned it down to attend Vanderbilt.
“I chose to pursue both academics and athletics at Vanderbilt,” Jones said. “ Based on the track record of the school and how they develop players and students, I felt like this was the best decision for me and my family.”