May 7, 2014
Draft Ten Pack
Whom Would You Draft?
We’re a month from the MLB First Year Player Draft (June 5–7), and it’s time to narrow our focus to those names who will play a prominent role on draft day. This week’s entry in the Draft Ten Pack put ten BP and Perfect Game prospect-team members in decision-making roles. The rules of this “mock” were simple: pick the player you would pick if you were calling the shots for your assigned team. These selections were not made with organizational preference in mind, or with a nod toward any real-world hints about which targets these organizations have begun to zero in on.
Taking a prep player is often associated with high risk for plenty of reasons: the lack of usable analytics available; unpolished, unrefined players; and a longer development path, which allows for more to go wrong. However, Aiken has shown he is the complete package, making me comfortable selecting him with the no. 1 overall pick. Aiken shows two plus or better offerings in his fastball and breaking ball, with a changeup not far behind on any given outing. The fastball now sits at 92, touching 97. The 76-78 mph curveball is a present plus offering that will flash plus-plus. The 82 mph changeup is solid-average, flashing plus at times. Aiken has also started to throw a mid-80s cutter, but it is seldom used at present. This all comes from an athletic, 6-foot-4 southpaw with a plus command profile, a clean delivery and the frame to add more weight.
Tyler Kolek has 100 mph velocity, a hard breaking ball, a huge frame, and a youth spent working on his family farm (sometimes at the expense of attending major tournaments). This is not to say Tyler Kolek is the next Jose Fernandez, but the ceiling is similar and the Marlins have an outline of how to develop this sort of prospect. It’s impressive to see a high school arm touch 95. Kolek sits 95 and above. When the breaking ball is right it comes in between 78-82 mph with sharp break and tilt. His command is decent, but he is prone to miss arm side thanks to a bit a of a closed stride and inconsistent timing. There isn’t a hitter worthy of going this high in this year’s draft and no pitcher can match Kolek’s ceiling as a potential no. 1 starter. At worst Kolek projects as an electric back-end bullpen arm. At best, Kolek and Fernandez are going toe to toe with Harvey and Syndergaard in the near future for the best 1-2 punch in the NL East, if not the majors.
It's not difficult to explain this pick. Rodon is a big, strong kid with frontline stuff. Further, there’s no projection required. He's physically mature with present MLB stuff. Despite an inconsistent start to 2014, Rodon also has a more proven history of performance on the whole than the other available choices. The "good" Rodon has returned of late, recently striking out 15 Georgia Tech batters and once again showcasing his top tier stuff. I strongly considered Jeff Hoffman as well. It's splitting hairs to choose between the two, and Hoffman might have more electric raw stuff. But Hoffman was recently shut down with arm/elbow soreness and that clinched it for me.
Arguably the top all-around arm in the class, Hoffman’s combination of size, plus athleticism, plus arsenal and feel for craft has pushed him up draft boards this spring, with several scouts putting a 1:1 label on the 21-year-old righty. While a few other arms in the class might offer more sex appeal—be it because of the suggestive nature of their elite fastballs (Kolek) or the sought-after hand with which they throw (Aiken/Rodon), Hoffman is perhaps the safest bet to bump his head on his tool-based ceiling. With a double-plus fastball that routinely works in the 94-96 range, touching as high as 98, backed up by a plus curveball with big action from an 11-to-5 shape and a hard, fading changeup in the mid-upper 80s, it’s not like Hoffman’s stuff is of the soft and subtle variety; rather, his raw stuff suggests a future as a no. 2 starter. But it’s the total package that makes Hoffman a legitimate frontline candidate, a profile that starts with size and stuff but finds game application through his pitchability and poise. Despite several enticing names still on the board at the no. 4 pick, grabbing Hoffman is a no-brainer that will start to pay off at the major-league level at some point during the 2015 season.
Holmes doesn’t have Kolek’s size or Aiken’s projectability and left-handedness, but the raw stuff can stand comfortably with that of the two prep arms taken first and second overall. The Florida commit has racked up a long list of impressive showings in front of scores of evaluators over the past 12 months, with the 2014 high school season bringing with it an impressive uptick in later-inning velocity and overall consistency. Holmes will generally sit in the low 90s, flirt with 94 and 95, and has let it hang out as high as 97 and 98 in short stints (albeit with a little loss in life and command). The breaking ball is a hard low-80s slider that comes with deception and late swerve, and he’ll loosen the reins for an upper-70s slurvier change-of-pace pitch. The changeup is at times too firm, but when he turns it over well he can break off a low-80s arm-side fader that will flash above-average to plus. There isn’t projection in the body, but there doesn’t have to be considering the quality of his “now” arsenal and his ability to attack to zone.
It would come as a bit of a surprise if Toussaint were to actually go this high come June given the significant gap between his present ability and long-term upside. But in a class deep in high-end pitching prospects, Toussaint has arguably the highest ceiling of the impressive group. His fastball frequently sits in the mid-90s and can reach the upper 90s on occasion. He shows the ability to impart vicious spin on his curveball, which with refinement has legitimate out-pitch potential at the highest level. He developed a quality splitter in the past year, which gives him a potential long-term arsenal with three plus pitches. The knock on Toussaint has long been his lack of present command, as he has become known almost as well for his bouts of wildness as for his electric stuff. But Toussaint's impressive athleticism, recent control improvements, and limited baseball experience (he picked up the sport as a freshman) all suggest that he might still learn to harness his electric arsenal. This is an extremely high-risk/high-reward proposition for this draft spot, but with the prospects who combine upside and certainty already off the board, my focus in this spot turns to high-upside prospects.
It's not too common for the top prep bat in a draft to fall to the seventh pick, but here we are. The loftiness of Jackson's value certainly hinges on whether he can stay behind the plate long term, but even if you take that out of the equation we're still talking about a likely mid-first round pick anyway based on his bat and his athleticism. The right-handed power is his calling card, as it projects between plus and plus-plus, but with a potentially above-average hit tool it's not the only attraction. If he stays behind the plate (where he does flash a plus arm), he could be an offensive catcher who makes multiple All-Star appearances. Stardom is still possible in right field, but the bat would have to more or less max out. It's only fitting that he goes to the Phillies in this mock, as the last time they took a kid out of Rancho Bernardo High School it worked out very well—that would be their $153 million man, Cole Hamels.
The Rockies are set at shortstop for the foreseeable future, so some might be questioning the selection of a shortstop out of high school with the eighth pick in the draft. Drafting for need is rarely advised—talent procures talent, plain and simple, and I’m for selecting the player who has the highest upside no matter the position. Gordon is exactly that player. It was a pleasant surprise he fell this far considering the fine combination of defensive ability at shortstop, bat-to-ball skills, improving strength, and well-above-average bloodlines. The hit tool, and specifically his swing mechanics, have been questioned by some pundits, but recent reports have him simplifying and creating a more compact path to the baseball. If that’s the case, Gordon could be a plus-hit, plus-defensive shortstop with enough strength to keep the pitcher honest. That could be a monster player, and certainly a player worthy of a top-10 selection in 2014.
Other Players Considered: None
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound righty has a prototypical athletic, lean pitcher build. He’s no stranger to the team selecting in this spot, as the Blue Jays drafted him in 2011 with the 21st overall pick. Beede was often enigmatic his first two years at Vanderbilt, but has started to show signs of putting it together in 2014, even in light of the control issues that have resurfaced recently. His success hinges on the command profile, as the stuff is certainly that of a middle-of-the-rotation stalwart. Beede’s fastball sits in the 92-94 range with plane and life, and can bump it up to 96 when needed. The command of the fastball comes and goes, and still presents an obstacle to success at the major-league level. Beede’s changeup remains his primary off-speed offering, typically in the low 80s with arm-side fade and feel, and generates swings and misses. His curveball remains inconsistent, grading fringe-average to plus depending on the night. All in all, Beede doesn't have an ace ceiling, but there is plenty of upside to warrant selection at this spot.
Nola is considered one of the most consistent college arms—he’s currently striking out 10.7 batters per nine with a 1.57 ERA—and at pick 10 this should be considered a steal. Nola has the makings of an advanced college arm who could move through the system quickly. A strong candidate for National Pitcher of the Year, Nola features a fastball that sits in the low 90s from a low 3/4 arm slot. The arm slot allows his changeup in the mid-80s to produce big arm-side sink and his high-70s power curveball to produce the depth of a swing-and-miss pitch.