Rather than play summer baseball last year, Todd stocked the shelves at Walmart to earn enough money to cover his expenses at Auburn. By Opening Day, Todd had won a starting job in center. By the end of the spring, he'd blossomed into the Tigers' surprise star, collecting All-SEC Second Team and All-Defensive Team honors.
• Angels draft power bat 10th overall
On Tuesday, the Angels validated Todd's rising stock, taking him with their sixth-round pick, 175th overall, in the 2017 MLB Draft.
"One of the best stories I've had since I've been a coach," Auburn coach Butch Thompson said in a phone interview. "He just had to earn his way for everything. Jonah's had to chip in to try to create his own world, and that's what's so neat about seeing his name called today."
Todd batted .376 with 13 doubles, five triples, no home runs and 37 RBIs as the Tigers' leadoff hitter this season. A native of Birmingham, Ala., Todd played elite defense in center field and "can get to first base in four seconds," according to Thompson. Though he has limited power, Todd can hit to all fields and has a feel for the strike zone and for contact.
"That was a fun one," Angels amateur scouting director Matt Swanson said. "Lot of passion in the room for him, from the scouts and from a lot of our analysts. Playing in a major conference and being as successful as he has, it was a player we were really, really excited to bring into the organization at that point."
Tuesday's selection marks a remarkable climb for Todd, who was an obscure junior college prospect one year ago. Marion head coach Matt Downs recognized Todd's talent back then, but few others did.
"We called a lot of teams all over the state of Alabama and tried to tell them he's a really good player," Downs said. "Most teams didn't listen. But we had a good friend down at Auburn that did listen to us and said, 'You know what, if you believe he's that good, we'll give him a chance.' And the rest is history."
Todd was initially viewed as outfield depth at Auburn, but he impressed the coaching staff with his tools and gradually rose through the program's depth chart, eventually securing his starting spot in center field.
"I nicknamed him Joe Dirt right out the gate," Thompson said. "He plays so hard. He's always dirty, he's always diving. Every time a strike is called on him, he is totally against the umpire. It just drives him crazy. He's got a high motor. He's extremely intense. But he's a great competitor and an all around ballplayer."
Swanson said he's looking forward to seeing Todd's unlikely trajectory continue with the Angels.
"Honestly, I love kids like that," he said. "I think there is something to be said for the kid who is under the radar and makes the most of his opportunity and grinds his way into becoming a high pick. It's all the credit in the world to him."