June 11, 2014
Scouting the Draft
2014 Draft Favorites By Round
During my Draft Wrap Chat here at Baseball Prospectus, a reader asked me for my favorite draft picks by round. I thought that was a fun question, but wanted to answer in a manner that offered a little more explanation for my selections. That's what you see below---my favorite picks for the first ten rounds (with the first and second rounds, which were larger in scope, broken down into two sections each). Hope you have as much fun reading as I did putting it together!
Round 1 (picks 1-20)
What's to like? I had Toussaint as the fourth most valuable prospect in the draft class ($4.25 MM), so getting him after 15 others had already been selected is a coup. The early goings could be rocky as he smoothens the mechanics and works on staying more consistent in his execution, but to my mind this is a top five pick had in the mid-first round and likely for a lot less than $4.6 MM (slot allotment for the fourth pick in the draft). The Diamondbacks may not be enjoying the best season at the major league level right now, but seeing Toussaint (along with a number of other potential high impact plays by Arizona in this daft) should put a smile on the faces of D-Back fans looking for a silver lining this season. Toussaint comes with developmental risk, but could also be the most valuable pitcher in the entire class when all is said and done. Not bad at 1:16. Not bad at all.
Round 1 to Comp Round A (picks 21-41)
What's to like? As was the case with Toussaint, Davidson offered the best "value" in this cross-section of picks, entering draft day with a $2.7 MM value on my board and finding a home with the Braves at 32nd overall (slot allotment $1.7 MM). There's spring performance risk, but he checks the boxes on swing, raw tools, and track record (having shown well throughout the showcase circuit against top high school competition). To my mind this is the pick, along side the Touki Toussaint pick, stands out as having the potential to cause evaluators two years from now to look back and ask, "How did they get HIM that late on Day One?" Davidson is not without his warts, but the upside is one of the few true plus hit/plus power bats in the draft class, and that is not an easy profile to locate in today's amateur game. A team could have defensibly selected Davidson twenty slots earlier, but as fortune would have it the UNC commit was waiting for them when their turn rolled around. They did well to make sure he slid no further.
Round 2 (picks 42-58)
What's to like? I was flummoxed as to why Reid-Foley fell as far as he did the first day of the draft, and was even more so confused when I learned that the biggest concern was down velocity in his final showing before the draft. Reid-Foley was one of the most consistent performers at the prep ranks over the last twelve months, and prior to that final outing this spring was being linked to teams as high as the mid-first round. Some teams have concerns with the arm action, while others point out his athleticism and the likelihood that the arm could be easily cleaned-up with a few small mechanical tweaks that could improve his timing. After balancing ceiling and floor with Jeff Hoffman and Max Pentecost, respectively, in their first two picks, the Blue Jays snatched up a third potential top 15 talent in the draft class with pick number three. There were other high upside arms available, and even arms that will likely cost less in the way of up-front investment, but no one that has the combination of performance track record and well-rounded present arsenal of Reid-Foley. It was aggressive, but responsibly so, and that's exactly how you want to spend your picks when you are fortunate enough to hold more high leverage opportunities than other drafting orgs.
Round 2 to Comp Round B (picks 59-74)
What's to like? There were a lot of directions the Rangers could have gone with this pick, including upside prep arms (Mitch Keller; Trey Supak), advanced college bat (Sam Travis), or performance college arm (Jace Fry; Zech Lemond). Instead, they took one of the youngest and most projectable players in the class in Forbes---a talent who's profile is broad enough so as to offer potential anywhere from a future power hitting, slick fielding third baseman to a high average, sure-handed shortstop. It's an upside pick at an up-the-middle position and will serve as another high-ceilinged addition to a system brimming with potential impact in the low minors. The development may be non-linear, and the track record for Mississippi prep products is less than stellar on the whole, but make no mistake this is a profile that could have (should have?) garnered first round consideration, and Texas found it twenty-some picks after the first round concluded.
What's to like? Reetz gets the nod for me here due to value (I had him as a $1.75 MM guy), even though he is highly likely to cost the Nationals a fair amount more than the $567,000 they are allocated at the 93rd overall slot. Outside of the big upside out of the athletic catcher with present strength in his wrists and a loud bat, it was nice to see Washington make an aggressive move even after popping Tommy John recipient Erick Fedde with their first pick (who also might require overslot consideration). The Nats provided some buffer with their second round pick (Andrew Suarez), who should bring at least a slight slot savings, and this is exactly the type of move you see an org make when they are working to fully leverage their opportunities in the draft. Great aggressive play.
What's to like? Often times the prep "helium" arm comes with a number of red flags, including sudden velocity spike, rapid change in body size or composition, and/or mechanical tweaks that include new actions for the muscular/skeletal structure to "learn and endure". Sands serves as an exception, with his helium resulting from a reasonable velocity climb resulting from non-excessive maturation and growth and accompanied by similar clean mechanics and arm action utilized last summer when he graded out as fringe or average across the board. It's exactly the type of development you hope to see out of a high school arm during his senior year, and the fact that the Cubs were able to grab him at the start of the fourth round is impressive. He'll likely require a substantial overslot bonus to keep him away from hometown FSU, where he could easily develop into a first round talent by 2017, but the name of the draft game is "utilize your leverage points", with Sands representative of both the Cubs' deep pool of funds this year and their position drafting towards the beginning of each round.
What's to like? There were five prep signings I really liked in this round, but ultimately settled on Nix as my favorite for this exercise thanks to present velocity, projectability, and the aforementioned "good" growth in stuff. Nix didn't rely on a big five mph spike in his fastball to entice the Astros into selecting him here. He showed positive indicators of future growth last summer and followed it up with tangible steps this spring that showed progress towards his high upside projection. There has been a nice step forward in present velocity as well as the ability to hold velocity a little deeper into starts. The body remains projectable, but at present still offers physicality---enough so that you are comfortable he'll be able to step in and handle a first-year pro workload in the Astros' piggyback system. Considering the depth in the Astros' aggregate pool allotment, it was also a relief to see an overslot grab here after four relatively safe and signable collegians were popped following their first overall selection of prep lefty Brady Aiken. Time will tell whether Houston's profile focus at the college ranks will pay off; regardless of whether or not it does it is nice to see them blend those preferences with some traditional upside high school talent.
What's to like? The Rangers went upside early, and are not an org known to shy away from weighted risk for the right reward. Trevino offers a balance to that star gazing, representing an interesting offensive profile and defensive versatility that gives the selection a number of fallback points and, accordingly, relative safety considering the investment. He was announced as a third baseman, indicating the Rangers are buying the bat here and hoping Trevino will, with reps and instruction, tease out the 50/50 hit/power upside he flashed this spring. If the bat falls short of acceptable production at the hot corner, there is a foundation for the Oral Roberts standout to focus his efforts behind the plate, where he could be molded into a solid back-up option with adequate defense and a little pop. He fits as solid value in the sixth round, and it will be interesting to see how he progresses once in the system.
What's to like? Downes had one of the best single games of any draftee this spring, homering twice off of first rounder (and then 1:1 hopeful) Jeff Hoffman during the opening game of the second weekend series of the season. The rest of the year did not go as well for Downes, with the Wahoo center fielder struggling through conference play and as of today triple slashing .233/.336/.381. There are swing quirks to clean-up (as noted here) but it is still a profile that offers solid defense in center field with above-average raw pop good athleticism. In the seventh round, this doesn't have to be a home run to provide value, and given the fact Downes could be a major league contributor off the strength of his glove, arm, and occasional in-game pop (assuming future struggles), the floor here seems to be impressively high for there being 213 names called before him. There's always a chance Downes considers returning to Charlottesville to up his value next year, but even then he'd be entering the 2015 draft with no leverage and having lost a year of developmental time in the pro game. Even if it costs a little over slot, I imagine the Royals will get their man here. If he proves capable of making some adjustments early in his minor league progression, it could pay dividends for the Royals in the near future.
What's to like? Even after flexing some of their aggregate pool allotment strength with earlier picks, the Marlins did not slow down in the later single digit rounds, with Garrett offering an extreme risk/reward proposition at this point in the draft. The fact that Garrett slipped as far as he did indicates there is at least a perception that it will cost some money to keep him from honoring his commitment to Rice, and that potentially large sum of money is a significant investment considering the unrefined nature of his game. There are questions about contact, questions about future positional profile and whether the athleticism will trump the potential regressing mobility as his thick frame continues to add muscle, but also the potential for a solid defensive corner outfielder with power in the barrel. If the Marlins have correctly gauged their draft finances this could be an interesting acquisition so late into day two. While the odds are generally stacked against profiles of this type, the payoff of a contributing major leaguer is enough to warrant a little extra money on the front-end, if for no other reason than the system affords teams with the largest draft allotment pools the opportunity to take these risks. It's always good to see a team working to fully leverage their advantages, and the Marlins' selection of Garrett is an example of just that.
What's to like? There is no real reason for a defender of Pantoja's caliber to fall this deep into the draft, even with the expectation he will require a little over slot coming off the board at 278th overall. You buy the glove, confident you have an up-the-middle defender, and work to get the body stronger so that the bat has a chance to play well enough as to not negate the defensive contributions. It's possible Pantoja spends a full year in the complex, and progresses no quicker than a level every one to one and a half years, depending on if and when the body matures to the point he is capable of holding his own in the box. Who cares? At minimum the glove will have a positive impact on the arms playing alongside Pantojas, and even if the bat falls well short of an everyday big league contributor, you still have an outside shot at an up-and-down guy that can spend time on the 25 man roster as needed to plug holes. It isn't the sexiest pick of the draft, but it's a solid investment rooted in a high defensive floor at a valuable position.
What's to like? #Mort