By Rubin E. Grant
Caden Lemons dreamed of playing baseball in the big leagues when he was a young boy. As he got older, his dream turned into a goal. Now, that goal is closer to becoming reality.
Lemons, a 6-foot-6-inch, 175-pound fireballing right-hander from Vestavia Hills High School, was expected to be taken anywhere from the first to the third round in the Major League Baseball Draft that began Monday.
“I’ve heard that I could go in the first three picks of each team, anywhere from 30-50 or 30-60,” Lemons said. “It all depends.”
Lemons is enjoying being a highly regarded prospect.
“I’ve been having a lot of fun with it, traveling across the country and meeting a lot of new guys, some from college and some from high school,” he said.
Lemons traveled to workout camps in Dallas, Chicago and San Diego during the week before the draft. While in Chicago, he attended a Cubs-Miami Marlins game at Wrigley Field.
He also has thrown for the San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers.
Vestavia Hills coach Jamie Harris raves about Lemons’ pitching talent, especially his fastball.
“He has a really good arm,” Harris said. “With that 6-foot-6 frame, he’s cutting it loose. He stays consistently at 91-94 mph with his fastball and he even reached 97 or 98 a few times. His breaking ball can be good, his slider can be good and his changeup is already good.
“He also has good make-up and is real competitive. He works his butt off.”
This spring, Lemons fashioned a 6-1 record with a 1.35 earned run average and recorded 69 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings. He threw five shutouts and a no-hitter while helping the Rebels reach the Class 7A semifinals in the Alabama High School Athletic Association playoffs, and he was named to the All-OTMJ team.
“He had better numbers last year when he was 6-0 with a 0.29 ERA,” Harris said. “He allowed only two earned runs in 40 innings. He had a great couple of years. He’s going to be nearly impossible to replace.”
Lemons cherished his time playing baseball for the Rebels.
“I had an awesome high school career. I’ll remember it for the rest of my life, every game we played,” Lemons said. “This season didn’t end the way we wanted, but we lived in the moment. Last year, we had all the talent in the world and got to be ranked No. 1 in the nation, but we didn’t come through in the moment we needed.”
Lemons is ready for his next challenge, whether it’s in college or the minor league system of a major league team. He signed a baseball scholarship with Ole Miss after committing to the Southeastern Conference school following his sophomore year.
“That’s where I felt the most comfortable,” Lemons said, adding he formed a good relationship with Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco and assistant coach Carl Lafferty.
His girlfriend, Hannah Claire Hamric, also is going to Ole Miss to study dance, but she didn’t influence his decision.
“We weren’t even talking when I committed,” he said.
If Lemons doesn’t receive the kind of signing bonus and contract he wants from a major league ballclub, he would have no qualms about heading to Oxford, Mississippi.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Lemons said. “SEC baseball is about as good as it can get. Depending on where I am drafted, a team could either go under slot or over slot to sign me. I’m going to do whatever is best for me.”