Drew Burress In Good Company As College Freshman First-Team All-American


Image credit: (Photo courtesy of Georgia Tech)

Baseball America has selected college All-American teams in each season since it launched in 1981, missing only 2020 because the pandemic truncated the season. In 42 seasons of All-American teams, a total of 24 freshmen have earned first-team honors. The list includes 10 position players, 12 pitchers and a pair of two-way players.

The list now also includes Georgia Tech freshman outfielder Drew Burress.

The 19-year-old Burress ranked second in the ACC to Wake Forest’s Nick Kurtz with a .512 on-base percentage. His 25 home runs trailed only Florida State’s James Tibbs III and North Carolina’s Vance Honeycutt for the conference lead.

Tibbs and Kurtz are fellow first-team All-Americans. Along with Honeycutt, they are 21-year-old juniors poised to be first-round picks this year. History suggests that Burress has a great chance to join them as a first-round pick when he is draft-eligible in 2026.

Let’s take a closer look at all the players who’ve earned BA college All-American first-team honors:

All-American Freshman Hitters

1983OFRafael PalmeiroMississippi State.4062346995187812
19863BRobin VenturaOklahoma State.46924110711321969
1990OFJeffrey HammondsStanford.3553018310774448
19963BPat BurrellMiami.484192769323648
20063BPedro AlvarezVanderbilt.329240707922647
2010OFJeremy BaltzSt. John’s.396240649524856
20113BColin MoranNorth Carolina.33524846839712
2013SSAlex BregmanLouisiana State.3692825910465216
2016OFSeth BeerClemson.369203577518701
2024OFDrew BurressGeorgia Tech.381218738325678

Burress’ 25 home runs are the most among first-team freshman hitters. This is doubly impressive because he has one of the lowest at-bat totals in the sample. His Yellow Jackets bowed out in regionals this year.

More notable is the track record of this group. Every player but St. John’s outfielder Jeremy Baltz went on to become a first-round pick. Pat Burrell was drafted No. 1 overall in 1998. Pedro Alvarez (2008) and Alex Bregman (2015) went second overall in their drafts. Jeffery Hammonds was drafted fourth overall in 1992.

Rafael Palmeiro and Robin Ventura both had lengthy MLB careers, with multiple all-star bids, Gold Gloves and at least one top 10 MVP finish.

All-American Freshman Pitchers

1981PKendall CarterArizona State1912.861101142540
1984PGreg SwindellTexas1422.051328943117
1988PKirk DressendorferTexas1522.2613610336134
1989PAlex FernandezMiami1522.011489836177
1994PR.A. DickeyTennessee1523.001471293987
1995PKyle PetersonStanford1412.9614312935112
2012SPCarlos RodonN.C. State901.571157141135
2013SPThomas EshelmanCal State Fullerton1231.4811686383
2013SPAndrew MooreOregon State1421.79131932872
2015SPAlex LangeLouisiana State1201.971148746131
2021SPJack LeiterVanderbilt1142.131104845179
2021RPLandon SimsMississippi State501.44562915100

For freshmen pitchers who made the All-American first team, the outcomes are decidedly less favorable.

Not only are injuries a more prominent factor for pitchers, but it is challenging for freshmen to ascend to prominent weekend starter roles that would win them the prestige necessary to make an overall All-American team.

Still, more than half of freshman pitchers who made the overall All-American team went on to become first-round picks. Greg Swindell (1986) and Jack Leiter (2021) were No. 2 overall picks. Carlos Rodon went third overall in 2014. Alex Fernandez went fourth overall in 1990 after transferring to Miami Dade JC.

R.A. Dickey (1996), Kyle Peterson (1997) and Alex Lange (2017) also were first-round picks, while Kirk Dresssendorfer (1990) and Landon Sims (2022) were compensatory picks after the first round.

All-American Freshman Two-Way Players

2015UTBrendan McKayLouisville.30821132654344
2021UTPaul SkenesAir Force.410188497711430
2015UTBrendan McKayLouisville931.77975334117
2021UTPaul SkenesAir Force112.702720930

Paul Skenes made the All-American first team as an Air Force freshman. His listed position is utility, which is how BA rewards the top two-way player in the nation, while listing both his hitting and pitching statistics.

Skenes went on to earn first-team status in 2022 and 2023 as well, making him just the fifth player in history to make three BA All-America first teams. Robin Ventura, Brandon McKay and Greg Swindell also accomplished the feat. Catcher Jason Varitek also made three All-America first teams, but his sequence began as a sophomore and finished as a senior.

One of the amazing things about Skenes is that he was better known as a hitter when he was a college freshman. On the mound, he served as closer for Air Force in 2021 before moving to the rotation in 2022. But he did not become the future ace he is today until transferring to LSU in 2023.

The Pirates drafted Skenes first overall in 2023 and he made his big league debut less than a year later on May 11, 2024. He did not take an at-bat as a college junior and has not hit as a professional.

Brendan McKay is probably the best two-way player in college history. He was a frontline pitcher and middle-order first baseman for all three seasons at Louisville.

McKay’s power didn’t fully blossom until his junior year, but his batting potential was promising enough for the Rays to draft him fourth overall in 2017 and develop him as a two-way player.

This season, McKay is on the comeback trail from yet another arm injury, but he reached the major leagues in 2019, when he made 13 pitching appearances and two at DH, including one start. A series of injuries—including shoulder surgery and Tommy John surgery— has limited his work since then.

But one thing is clear: Both Skenes and McKay, the only two freshman two-way players to make the All-America first team, were viewed as premium draft talents as juniors.

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