June 2, 2014
Scouting the Draft
2014 Draft: Right-Handers to Know
Drafting organizations could select nothing but right-handed arms from the final third of the first round all the way through the supplemental-first without reaching, meaning there will be lots of value available in the second, and even third, rounds, though some of those arms will likely require overslot bonuses if they slip too far. The ripples will continue down through rounds four and five, where we should see a number of solid college arms and overslot high schoolers sprinkled throughout the 60 or so picks.
Top Players to Know
Aaron Nola | RHP | Louisiana State
Nola has carved his way through 109 innings over 15 starts this spring, notching 127 strikeouts to just 26 walks in the process. At 6-foot-1, 175 pounds he lacks the classic MLB starter’s build, but the stuff is plenty imposing and the production this spring is difficult to quibble with. The fastball is a lively low-90s offering that can reach 96 mph with lots of dance thanks to a low-three quarters slot. He can spot it to the quadrants without issue.
His best secondary is a plus change that mirrors the heavy action on his fastball and comes with good deception. His breaker is a sharp slider that comes on a very tough angle, especially for same-side bats given the release point. He’s comfortable throwing all of his pitches to both sides of the plate and can use any pitch in any count. Nola is a refined arm who could settle in as a solid mid-rotation arm in short order. He could come off the board as high as the top five picks, and in any event should be popped in the first half of the first round.
Touki Toussaint | RHP | Coral Springs Christian (Coral Springs, FL) | Commit: Vanderbilt
It’s tough to match Toussaint’s upside, with a relatively low-mileage arm that will already flash two potential plus-plus offerings in his fastball and curve, and a projectable frame that offers the promise of added strength. While his changeup flashed promise last summer thanks to interesting cut action, it has taken a huge step forward this spring, with Toussaint able to more regularly throw it with purpose. The Vandy commit will still lapse into bouts of wildness, but seems to have begun to pin down a velo band in which he can operate effectively.
The fastball at present sits in the low 90s but can be dialed up to the mid-90s with regularity, and has reached as high as 97 mph in the past. His mid-70s curve is an absolute hammer, and may be the best breaking ball in the class at final development. There is developmental risk here, as Toussaint has yet to put his control woes behind him, but the upside is that of a true no. 1 starter with two plus-plus offerings in his fastball and curve and a third plus offering in his change piece. He could come off the board in the top 10 picks and should be popped in any event before the 20th pick rolls around.
Jeff Hoffman | RHP | East Carolina
Prior to his Tommy John surgery, Hoffman had a strong case for top overall draft prospect in the class, featuring a heavy mid- to upper-90s fastball, a plus mid- to upper-80s changeup with good arm-side fade, and a plus to plus-plus curve with big depth and good snap, coming in the 77 to 81 mph range and proficient at slowing down bats and changing hitters’ eye level.
Hoffman went through stretches this spring where his execution was not consistent, and as a result the stuff could flatten out. Provided he comes back from surgery to regain his feel, he should be able to tighten up this aspect of his game; his athleticism and mechanics should facilitate implementation of pro instruction. It’s a big, pro body that is going to develop into a true workhorse body, helping to drive the top-shelf arm speed and elite stuff. Hoffman should get first round attention without question, and would make a potential steal in the mid- to late-first. He could come off the board as high as the top half of the round.
Tyler Kolek | RHP | Shepherd (Shepherd, TX) | Commit: Texas Christian
Kolek is powerfully built and utilizes steady and efficient mechanics to help generate big torque and power through his legs and core. The result is elite fastball velocity that sites in the mid- to upper-90s and can break triple digits. The pure velocity is among the best ever at the prep ranks, and could be a true “80” pitch with command refinement.
The TCU commit’s slider is his second-best offering, flashing plus with regularity but playing well below that thanks to below-average control of the offering and inconsistent execution. Kolek doesn’t have much use for upper-80s changeup at present, with the pitch serves little purpose against overmatched high school bats, so the pitch will likely be a developmental focus at the next level. On many days Kolek is a one-pitch pitcher, but that one pitch is impressive enough to get him selected in the top 10 picks, and perhaps as high as the top five overall to a team that sees the slider and changeup emerging as major-league offerings.
Grant Holmes | RHP | Conway (Conway, SC) | Commit: Florida
Holmes impressed for the bulk of last summer before fading some down the stretch and re-emerging in the fall once again flashish premium stuff. He took the mound in the spring and showcased further development with his stuff, including increased fastball velocity. He showed upper-90s peak velocity early in the spring before going on to sit comfortably in the 93 to 95 mph range throughout his high school season, climbing regularly to 97 mph and holding velocity through the late innings. His breaking ball is low-80s power curve with good depth, and he is effective with the offering both in the zone and as a chase pitch. His change could be a third above-average offering with further focus, already flashing average with solid feel.
Holmes is undersized for a power arm, and the frame doesn’t have room to hang more weight. That means Holmes’s physical growth is going to come in the form of tightening his physique and improving flexibility and looseness. The motion comes with effort, but the effort doesn’t generally impact consistency or control. It’s a true power profile worthy of top five overall consideration and he is almost certain to come off the board at some point in the first half of the first round.
Sean Reid-Foley | RHP | Sandalwood (Jacksonville, FL) | Commit: Florida State
The FSU commit has an easy arm and low-maintenance mechanics that should thrill drafting orgs that focus on malleable arms capable of tweaking their motion and picking up new offerings. Reid-Foley currently works off of a low-90s fastball that will reach 95 mph without sacrificing command, and he can spot the pitch to both sides of the plate with regularity. His best secondary is a hard low-80s slider with late break and deception, and the changeup already shows promise with good arm speed and tumble.
Reid-Foley shows comfort across his arsenal, and has an advanced feel for sequencing that allows the stuff to play up across the board. His curve was a solid offering when utilized last summer (he did not throw the pitch much this spring), and could rejoin the stable of weapons at some point down the line. Reid-Foley enjoyed a highly successful spring and looks the part of a sturdy future mid-rotation arm. He will get looks as early as the top 10 overall and would be good value in the second half of the first round.
Tyler Beede | RHP | Vanderbilt
Beede struggled mightily with control through his first two years at Vandy, as well as last summer with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. In his first few starts of 2014, up through a marquee March 14 matchup with Aaron Nola, Beede showed improved control, limiting his walks, but he still struggled to command his stuff in the zone. Shortly after the Nola matchup he lapsed back into control issues and proceeded to complete a volatile junior spring that included spans of brilliance and spans where he looked the part of a future relief arm.
The pure stuff is undeniable, with a fastball that sits 91 to 94, topping around 96, and a low-80s power curve with plus potential. He can manipulate his low-80s changeup, showing straight dip and cutting action depending on the situation, giving him a third potential above-average offering. Beede finished strong, with his final pre-draft start this past weekend in regionals, where he waltzed through an overmatched Xavier team, striking out 14 over eight innings while allowing just four hits and, more importantly, two walks. This last start may have earned Beede some money, as evaluators were reminded of the immense upside at play, and it may help some orgs overlook the inconsistencies that have defined the profile over the last three seasons. He could go as early as the mid-first round to a team buying in, but also has the potential to slip down into the supplemental round if teams can’t get past the big control questions.
Luis Ortiz | RHP | Sanger (Sanger, CA) | Commit: Fresno State
Ortiz suffered a scare earlier this spring, missing some time with forearm tightness, but the Fresno State commit appears to have returned without issue, running his fastball back up to the mid-90s and showing the same hard breaking low-80s slider he possessed prior to his missed time. Both the fastball and the slider project as plus offerings and are capable of missing bats in and out of the zone. Ortiz will also mix in a promising change piece and a nascent curve.
You never like to hear “forearm tightness” in a draft arm, and Ortiz’s draft stock will likely come down to how teams feel about that missed time and any medicals they review. It’s a good body with a track record of performance and potential impact stuff. On talent, Ortiz could fit comfortably in the first round and it would be a surprise to see him drop past the supplemental round.
Nick Burdi | RHP | Louisville
Burdi is the smart bet to be the first 2014 draft talent to reach the majors, already showing a fastball-slider combo capable of retiring major-league hitters right now. His heater will reach triple-digits and regularly works in the mid- to upper-90s, though he can sometimes see a drop-off in velocity when throwing on back-to-back nights. The slider is an upper-80s wipeout pitch that can break 90 mph and is brutal on same-side arms. Though he doesn’t often use it, the changeup flashes plus, as well, though it’s clearly his third best pitch, including from an execution standpoint.
Burdi has worked hard to improve his control and command, and at present it’s a 45 on the 20/80 scouting scale. He became the all-time saves leader for Louisville this spring, and should be tackling the late innings for his drafting organization in short order. Ultimately his major-league debut will likely hinge on how many additional innings he logs with Louisville. He could go as early as the mid-first round and shouldn't last past the first 30 picks.
Spencer Adams | RHP | White County (Cleveland, GA) | Commit: Georgia
It is easy to fall in love with Adams’ projectable frame and top-shelf athleticism, each of which point to a potential jump in stuff in the near future. At present the fastball can register into the mid-90s, and he generally works in the 90 to 93 mph range with good life. He boasts two distinct breaking balls, with the slider ahead of the curve, and his changeup is a forth potential average or better major-league offering with further refinement.
Adams can struggle at times to hit his release and, as is common with tall limby prep arms, he can struggle to hit all of his checkpoints. Given his athleticism, these issues should sort themselves out as the body fills in and he devotes more time specifically to baseball. Adams makes sense as early as the mid-first round, and could be good value anywhere in the top 40 picks.
Erick Fedde | RHP | UNLV
The second high profile collegiate arm to suffer the ill fate of Tommy John surgery, Fedde’s pre-surgery slider was one of the best breaking balls in the draft, showing big depth and late bite. He matches arm slot and trajectory with the fastball, making it a difficult pitch to pick up and adding to its effectiveness. The fastball is heavy, sitting low-90s and climbing up to the 94/95 mph range with ease. His change plays and should be an average or better offering down the line.
Fedde has projection in his frame, which is important because while he can hold his velocity into the late innings he can struggle to maintain his mechanics and arm slot, which can negatively affect his release and execution. Fedde will need to get stronger, and of course has to deal with rehab post-TJ, but the upside is a mid-rotation arm, and perhaps a bit more if there’s another bump in velo to come with the added strength. His draft stock is a bit of a wild card considering his health, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him off the board as early as the mid-first, or as late as the second round.
Michael Kopech | RHP | Mt. Pleasant (Mt. Pleasant, TX) | Commit: Arizona
The University of Arizona commit has a classic pitcher’s body with long legs and a broad upper half out of a 6-foot-3, 190 pound frame. It’s an athletic build that should add good strength over the coming years, making him a candidate for a bump in stuff along the way. The fastball is lively, sitting in the upper 80s to low 90s and reaching as high as 98 mph this spring. His slider can be a plus pitch at times, and he also shows feel for a curve and changeup.
The mechanics come with deception, but they can also be difficult to repeat, including a heavy shoulder turn and long arm action on the back side. This results in inconsistencies in command and execution, including fluctuations in velocity from start to start, and even from inning to inning at times. He’s one of the highest upside arms in the draft class, but it comes with some developmental risk, as well. He fits well anywhere from the back of the first to the supplemental-first round.
Nick Howard | RHP | Virginia
Howard has shined as the closer for top ranked Virginia, most notably seeing a bump in his fastball velocity in shorter stints (93 to 95, up to 97 in relief compared to 90 to 92, up to 94 as a starter). He spots the pitch well and saw a bump in in-zone effectiveness with the offering this spring, and an increase in velocity in relief helped it play up in the zone. The slider is a hard mid-80s breaker with tilt that will flash plus, and the changeup gives him a third usable pitch.
There is a vocal contingent that would like to see Howard returned to a starting role, though that shift carries with it the likelihood of a slight step down in stuff. Most likely his drafting org will allow him to start off in a rotation in order to log innings and increase his opportunity to refine his pitches with more reps. He fits well in the first 50 picks or so and could come off the board as early as the late first round.
Mitch Keller | RHP | Xavier (Cedar Rapids, IA) | Commit: North Carolina
Keller had as much helium as any arm this spring, as his fastball jumped up to the 90 to 94 mph range, spotting well with life. His mid-70s curve is a potential plus offering with sharp break and 12-to-6 action, and he shows feel for the offering both in the zone and as a bury pitch. His mid-80s change has the makings of an average offering, but is inconsistent at present.
It’s a low-mileage arm that works easy producing plus stuff, and the body is high-waisted—helping him to get good extension—and well put together, helping him maintain his stuff even after turning over the order. He could be in play as early as the late or supplemental-first round and projects easily as a top 75 overall pick.
Joey Gatto | RHP | St. Augustine Prep (Richland, NJ) | Commit: North Carolina
Gatto is another cold weather arm who could entice teams looking for prep pitchers that haven’t been chewed up by year-round throwing. The body is a pro body already, with additional room to add strength. His fastball currently sits in the 90 to 92 mph range, touching 94, but the arm is quick and easy and could see a bump in velo as the body continues to mature.
He’ll show an above-average low-70s curve with downer action, as well as feel for an changeup in its early developmental stages. Gatto has the present stuff and projection to warrant first round selection, and could be good value if he manages to slip to the second.
Cameron Varga| RHP | Cincinnati Hills (Cincinnati, OH) | Commit: North Carolina
Varga missed time last summer due to bicep tendenitis, but returned to action this spring showing the same loud stuff that had scouts buzzing during the first half of the scouting circuit. His fastball works up into the 93/94 mph range early on, and more in the 88 to 91 mph range as he turns the lineups over. His curve works in the 78 to 82 mph range with sharp break and depth, and he’ll also show a low-80s change with some fade.
The missed time is a red flag for some, and could affect when he comes off the board, considering the plethora of arms from which to choose. Varga will turn 20 later this summer, and would be draft eligible again in 2016 as a sophomore should he elect to take his game to Chapel Hill. The profile fits comfortably in the top 75 picks.
Weaver is a fastball-changeup arm with plus command when everything is working. He has stumbled through a number of starts this year, and has also shown a below-average breaking ball fairly regularly, leaving some to wonder if there’s enough spin in his wrist to ever get the pitch to major-league average. He is precise enough with his heater and change piece to help mitigate the lack of a solid breaking ball, but he could use something to help change hitters’ eye level.
In a typical draft Weaver would be an easy mid- to late-first round arm, and he still might come off the board in that range. But the overall depth, and particularly on the pitching side, could push him further down the board than the profile deserves, making him a potential value play once the supplemental round rolls around. While slender in build, he doesn’t project to add much additional muscle due to a thin frame.
JB Bukauskas | RHP | Stone Bridge (Ashburn, VA) | Commit: North Carolina
An underclass arm that positioned himself to graduate early in order to join the Tar Heels a season early, Bukauskas came out firing mid- to upper-90s bullets this spring, causing scouts to flock to Ashburn to try and get as many looks as possible at one of the newest additions to the draft class. An undersized righty, Bukauskas gets to his power via a strong lower half and core, and a lot of effort, casting some question as to whether he’ll be able to hold up to a long professional season.
His slider is a second potential above-average offering, and he will have to spend time developing a workable off-speed pitch. Scouts’ limited history with Bukauskas, along with his diminutive size and high-effort mechanics likely present enough risk to keep the UNC commit from coming off the board prior to the back of the first round, but he could be in play anywhere from there through the third round.
Keith Weisenberg | RHP | Osceola (Largo, FL) | Commit: Stanford
In spite of a rumored strong commitment to Stanford, Weisenberg’s stuff has been good enough over the past 12 months to keep scouts in regular attendance at his starts, in hopes a high-enough bonus will convince him to eschew his time in Palo Alto to start his pro career. The fastball is effective in the 90 to 93 mph range and has climbed as high as 95 over the last few months. His slider flashes plus at present, and should earn solid plus grades on the regular once he refines his execution and command. The changeup comes with deception and works well down in the zone with late action.
Already in possession of an impressive arsenal, Weisenberg boasts a projectable build out of a 6-foot-4, 185 pound frame. He could see another bump in stuff over the coming years, making him an intriguing upside play with a solid foundation already in place. He fits in the first three rounds, with signability likely to determine his ultimate point of selection.
Chris Oliver | RHP | Arkansas
Projected Slot: Round 1 to Round 3, as high as supplemental-first
Oliver shows a projectable frame, getting good extension, and the perception of some extra fastball giddy-up, care of his high waist and long arms. The heater works regularly into the mid-90s, though he has seen some fluctuation in velocity over the course of his conference schedule. The slider comes with tilt, flashing sharp break, and he shows a high level of comfort with the pitch. His changeup is flat and firm, and he too often leaves it up in the zone.
The profile has mid-rotation upside, but he’s a ways away from realizing it thanks to his lack of a dependable third offering and some fluctuations in velocity, particularly in the late innings. He could find a home in the supplemental-first round, especially to a team looking to balance upside prep picks with some collegiate representation, and it would be surprising to find him on the board beyond the first 75 picks.
Dylan Cease | RHP | Milton (Milton, GA) | Commit: Vanderbilt
Cease had the misfortune of running into elbow issues this spring, clouding his draft stock. Further complicating the matter is the presence of a Vanderbilt commitment that has evaluators questioning how easy a sign Cease will be. Prior to his elbow issue, Cease would regularly work in the 94 to 96 mph range, showing confidence on both sides of the dish and working well to the quadrants. His mid-70s curve is a second potential plus offering, flashing its promise throughout the summer circuit. He also shows good feel for his changeup, which could be a third above-average major-league offering.
On pure stuff, Cease is a top two round arm, but it’s tough to get a sense of where his value lies given the elbow. He seems like a fit in the top three rounds, but there are enough questions surrounding his signability and health that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see teams steer clear until the later rounds.
Gerrett Fulenchek | RHP | Howe (Howe, TX) | Commit: Dallas Baptist
Scouts did not have the benefit of the summer circuit with Fulenchek, whose coming-out party didn’t occur until October’s WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Florida, as part of the Texas Scout Team Yankees. The projectable righty features a low-90s fastball with heavy life and an upper-velo range that spans to 94/95 mph. He keeps the ball down and has improved his overall command over the last six months.
His best secondary is a slider that will flash good bite and tilted trajectory, showing potential as a future plus offering. The changeup is still in its nascent stages, and was not much used this spring due to the overmatched nature of his high school competition. It will be a developmental focus for the Dallas Baptist commit, with evaluators generally agreeing in its potential as at least a fringe average offering. Fulenchek could go as high as the supplemental-first round, and fits comfortably in the first 100 seletions.
Michael Cederoth | RHP | San Diego State
Cederoth owns some of the best velocity in the class, capable of topping 100 miles per hour while sitting comfortably in the mid- to upper-90s. His best secondary is a hard mid-80s slider with solid late bite, and he’s capable of mixing in a fringy curve and changeup, as well, though he has had less use for the offerings since shifting full time to the pen, where he served as San Diego State’s closer and where he figures to find a home as a pro.
Cederoth’s large frame and high-effort delivery can cause inconsistencies in execution and poor command, though the hope is he will find enough of each to handle high-leverage late-inning situations for his drafting org. While those concerns could keep him out of day one, the upside is enough to entice a drafting org to roll the dice on him somewhere in the first 40 picks.
Jake Stinnett (RHP, Maryland)
Stinnett wowed this spring in ACC play thanks to a plus fastball-slider combo and aggressive demeanor on the mound. Stinnett has worked to simplify his mechanics, though he still throws with a lot of effort for a starter. He has the size to weather a long pro season, and shows no issue maintaining his plus velocity late into games, regularly topping 95 mph after turning over lineups.
His best secondary is a hard low- to mid-80s slider that he relies heavily upon, and he wields the pitch with confidence and solid command. His low-80s changeup is well behind the other two offerings, but could be serviceable in time as he improves his command of the pitch and his release. Stinnett is a senior sign, leaving him without much negotiating leverage and adding to his draft stock. He fits as a back-end arm, perhaps as much as a mid-rotation producer if the changeup comes along, with a fallback as a late-inning arm with power stuff. He could come off the board as early as the late first round on a pre-draft deal, but fits better somewhere in the supplemental-first to second range.
Scott Blewett | RHP | Baker (Baldwinsville, NY) | Commit: St. John’s
Blewett has a projectable 6-foot-6, 210 pound frame which he uses well to create solid downhill plane on a low- to mid-90s fastball. His velocity was inconsistent this spring, topping out around 96 mph, but often slipping down into the upper 80s as his starts progressed. His best secondary is a solid-average curve that operates best in the mid-70s, and shows potential as an above-average offering in time.
Blewett’s changeup is still a work in progress, but should be at least serviceable in the long term, giving him the requisite three-pitch mix to stick in a rotation. Blewett has fired fewer rounds with his right arm thanks to the cold weather in upstate New York, which appeals to some clubs even as it means a little more development will be required on the back end. He has mid-rotation upside and could come off the board as early as the end of day one, fitting comfortably in the top 100 picks or so.
Jack Flaherty | RHP/3B | Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, CA) | Commit: North Carolina
Flaherty began the spring as an infield prospect, but over the course of the high school season won scouts over as a command righty featuring four future average or better major -eague offerings and easy and free mechanics that could portend a bump in stuff as he continues down his developmental path. Flaherty’s fastball lives mostly in the upper 80s, climbing as a high as 92 mph regularly, and he works it well across the zone.
His 78 to 80 mph slider and 71 to 73 mph curve show distinct shape, with each projecting as potential average or better pitches with more refinement, and he shows surprising feel for a low-80s changeup with fade and late drop. Flaherty has an opportunity to play both ways at North Carolina, but the team willing to invest now will get a nice developmental package on the mound with a fallback as a slick-defending third baseman who shows some raw pop. He could be a target anywhere in the top 100 picks, or could slip some as a later over-slot target.
Cobi Johnson | RHP | JW Mitchell (Holiday, FL) | Commit: Florida State
Johnson hasn’t enjoyed the loudest spring, but the Florida State commit continues to entice evaluators with a highly projectable build and the makings of two above-average offerings in his fastball and curve, and a third offering that is at least average in his changeup. The heater worked primarily in the upper 80s this summer and comes with heavy sinking action. He is a good candidate to see a jump in velo as he continues to mature, putting him in a final velo band somewhere in the low 90s and perhaps as high as 94 to 95 mph.
The curve is a hard upper-70s breaker that too should see improvements in velocity over time, likely to settle in as a low-80s downer with hard break. The changeup is a solid average offering with some deception and an eight to 10 mph velo delta off the fastball. Johnson has a pro body, pro bloodlines (his father was an early-round selection back in the mid-80s, reaching the majors), and good feel for a three-pitch mix. He’s an upside play who could come off the board as early as day one, and fits will in the opening rounds of day two.
Blake Bivens (RHP, George Washington (Danville, VA)) | Commit: Liberty
Jordan Brink (RHP, Fresno State)
Ryan Castellani (RHP, Brophy Prep (Phoenix, AZ)) | Commit: Arizona State
Garrett Cave (RHP, South Sumter (Bushnell, FL)) | Commit: Florida International
Patrick Connaughton (RHP, Notre Dame)
Sam Coonrod (RHP, Southern Illinois)
Jake Cosart | (RHP, Seminole State)
John Curtiss (RHP, Texas)
Austin DeCarr (RHP, Salisbury Prep (Salisbury, MA)) | Commit: Clemson
Chris Ellis (RHP, Mississippi)
Jake Godfrey (RHP, Providence Catholic (New Lenox, IL)) | Commit: Louisiana State
Dan Gossett (RHP, Clemson)
Brett Graves (RHP, Missouri)
Grant Hockin (RHP, Damien (La Verne, CA)) | Commit: UCLA
Tanner Houck (RHP, Collinsville (Collinsville, IL)) | Commit: Missouri
Brent Jones (RHP, Cornell)
Zech Lemond (RHP, Rice)
Daniel Mengden (RHP, Texas A&M)
Bryce Montes de Oca (RHP, Lawrence (Lawrence, KS)) | Commit: Missouri
James Norwood (RHP, St. Louis)
Adam Ravenelle (RHP, Vanderbilt)
Jake Reed (RHP, Oregon)
Jeremy Rhoads (RHP, Illinois State)
Wyatt Strahan (RHP, Southern California)
Trey Supak (RHP, La Grange (La Grange, TX)) | Commit: Houston
Spencer Turnbull (RHP, Alabama)
AJ Vanegas (RHP, Stanford)
Nick J. Faleris is a practicing structured finance attorney and Sports Industry team member in the Milwaukee office of Foley & Lardner LLP. The views he expresses in Baseball Prospectus are his own, and not necessarily those of the law firm.