2014 Perfect Game MLB Draft Preview Content

This piece was originally published at Perfect Game on May 21.

May 21 is really too soon for a meaningful mock draft, as prospects are still playing, teams haven’t for the most part sat down for their pre-draft organizational meetings and pre-draft workouts are still just on the drawing board. We won’t even mention signability and the ever looming and inevitable specter of pre-draft deals being cut before June 5.

But the draft chatter meter is definitely been turned up in frequency and volume (plus the Perfect Game showcase circuit gets underway in earnest this weekend, taking away time to get too deep into draft gossip), so we’ll give it a shot.

Two things have become very obvious this spring.

The first is that this is a very deep draft, driven by the high school pitching class and a group of high ceiling but unpolished high school athletes. There are plenty of players whose names will be discussed in the 15-20 area who might not get even get selected in the first round depending on the taste and patterns of the teams in the bottom third of the first round. Teams with multiple selections, such as the Reds at Nos. 19 and 29 or the Red Sox at Nos. 26 and 33 or the Cardinals at Nos. 27 and 34, find themselves making decisions based on the question “Is this guy going to be there when our next pick comes around?” even more than ever.

The second and most riding factor that is defining the draft right now is simply this: The top of the draft is all messed up.

Consider the following factors.

  • The pre-season presumptive No. 1 pick, North Carolina State lefthander Carlos Rodon, has morphed into mystery No. 1, with spring-long inconsistency and raw stuff.

  • Fast-rising East Carolina righthander Jeff Hoffman was injured and underwent TJ surgery just as it looked like he was making a push for No. 1. Fellow top 10 righty Erick Fedde suffered the same fate shortly afterwards.

  • Sources say that teams at the top of the draft are talking themselves out of Texas high school righthander Tyler Kolek, perhaps the hardest throwing prep pitcher ever, due to concerns about his delivery, strike throwing ability and secondary pitches, and that his floor is now the seventh pick. This could well be a smoke-screen, however.

  • The consensus top high school bat, San Diego’s Alex Jackson, doesn’t have a defined future position.

  • The consensus top high school pitcher, fellow San Diego resident Brady Aiken, was throwing 89-91 mph nine months ago

  • A completely new name has surfaced as a potential sleeper for the Astros No. 1 pick, Evansville southpaw Kyle Freeland, according to scouting sources. Freeland wasn’t even on many pre-season first round lists.

The best summary of the top 10 picks at the moment is probably to say that the three “safest” picks are probably Aiken, Florida high school shortstop Nick Gordon and Louisiana State righthander Aaron Nola. After that, well, there is still plenty of work to do before June 5, just not that much time.

Slot value listed in parenthesis after the pick/team

1. HOUSTON ASTROS ($7,922,100)
BRADY AIKEN – LHP – Cathedral Catholic (Calif.) HS

This is the Astros' third consecutive try to map out a top of the draft strategy. Their 2012 strategy looks to be an “A” effort, with their 2013 strategy, on very early impressions, less so. I would expect the Astros to look for under slot potential and play different players off one another for their two additional picks in the top 42. That works best with a quality high school talent that is not a Scott Boras client.

2. Miami marlins ($6,821,800)
ALEX JACKSON – C/OF – Rancho Bernardo (Calif.) HS

The Marlins aren’t tied to any drafting strategy except the best high-ceiling athlete available. Alex Jackson has been getting intensive attention from the Astros recently and from other teams drafting in the top five as well. The future position doesn’t matter if the bat is impactful as it's believed to be.

3. chicago white sox ($5,721,500)
TYLER KOLEK – RHP – Shepherd (Texas) HS

The White Sox have entered a new era where high-ceiling high school players take a more prominent spot on their draft board. Tyler Kolek may be creating second thoughts among some teams, but part of the reason for that is that he is such a unique talent. Really, how many 6-foot-5, 250-pound high school pitchers come along regularly touching triple digits?

4. CHICAGO CUBS ($4,621,200)

The Cubs are in the organizational mindset to swing for the fences as their fan base starts to get restless. At the beginning of the year they probably weren’t thinking too hard and long about Carlos Rodon but it is certainly a potential reality now. In the back of their heads they have to be thinking about the potential correlation between Rodon now and Mark Appel after his junior year at Stanford, though.

5. MINNESOTA TWINS ($3,851,000)
NICK GORDON – SS – Olympia (Fla.) HS

The Twins are showing plenty of patience in building their prospect base with young high ceiling players such as Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Kohl Stewart. A college pitcher such as a Aaron Nola or Kyle Freeland could mix right in age-wise with that core, but the Twins already have a good thing going for the future and should stay on track.

6. seattle mariners ($3,575,900)
JEFF HOFFMAN – RHP – East Carolina

Early mock drafts seem to have Jeff Hoffman going to the Blue Jays at one of their two picks at 9 and 11, which certainly makes sense. But a few short weeks ago Hoffman was looking like a no. 1 overall pick, and the reality is that he won’t lose too much development time over the next 12 months while rehabbing after April surgery. There is risk here but there is the potential for serious reward as well.

7. philadelphia phillies ($3,300,900)
KYLE FREELAND – LHP – University of Evansville

The Phillies love the young high-ceiling athlete, which makes players like Touki Toussaint and Jacob Gatewood look intriguing here, even if it might be a bit early for that duo. But this isn’t the year or the draft slot for that. If there is a Cliff Lee look-alike sitting right there for you, why not pick him?

8. colorado rockies ($3,190,800)
AARON NOLA – RHP – Louisiana State

If you had to design a starting pitcher to succeed at Coors Field he’d probably throw like Aaron Nola. He has outstanding command, an outstanding feel for pitching, a plus fastball as well as a plus/plus changeup with limited reliance on a breaking ball. It plays to all the things that the Rockies' home park is notorious for. Of course, teams above the Rockies will be looking at Nola hard as well, since his combination of tools and skills works well everywhere.

9. TORONTO BLUE JAYS ($3,080,800)
BRAD ZIMMER – OF – University of San Francisco

Toronto has failed to sign two first round high school pitchers in the past three years, Tyler Beede in 2011 and Phil Bickford last June, and it looks like they’ve whiffed on a couple of other early round high school arms. They also picked pitching in the first nine rounds last year. It would seem that plan isn’t working as well as hoped for, and their stock-piling of pitching could lead to them taking arguably the most polished bat available.

10. NEW YORK METS ($2,970,800)
TOUKI TOUSSAINT – RHP – Coral Springs Christian Academy (Fla.)

The Mets' drafts the past few years have been neither risk averse nor immune to some surprises, so anything can happen here. With Touki Toussaint you could get Dwight Gooden version two or someone who spends two years in rookie ball walking a batter an inning. The reward is too great to pass if his three present plus pitches click enough in the strike zone.

SEAN NEWCOMB – LHP – University of Hartford

Injuries (Hoffman, Feede), uncertainties (Brandon Finnegan) and reality (not re-drafting Beede) have left the college pitching market a bit more bare than expected here. The Northeast’s Sean Newcomb has flown under the radar a bit, but his stuff is definitely top of the first round worthy.

12. MILWAUKEE BREWERS ($2,805,700)

The Brewers' prospect cupboard is essentially bare and they have especially struggled to develop the many high round college pitching prospects they’ve invested in over the past four to five years. Time to go another direction with the most “sure-thing” college bat in the class.

13. SAN DIEGO PADRES ($2,723,300)
KYLE SCHWARBER – C/1B – University of Indiana

San Diego has built up an enviably deep system of top-level pitching prospects, but sooner or later you have to score some runs, especially in a ball park that minimizes that aspect of the game.

14. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS ($2,613,200)

The Giants' continued run of excellence has been built on prioritizing the development of pitching from within and relying on General Manager Brian Sabean’s ability to find offensive value on the major-league marketplace. There is no reason to question or change that strategy.

15. LOS ANGELES ANGELS ($2,475,600)
TYLER BEEDE – RHP – Vanderbilt

The Angels haven’t had a first round pick since 2011 (C.J. Cron) and have a minor league system where an advanced player will move quickly. Something hard to identify is missing from start to start with Vanderbilt’s Tyler Beede, but what isn’t missing are three plus pitches and top of the rotation potential that could be great value in the middle of the first round.

MICHAEL CHAVIS – IF – Sprayberry (Ga.) HS

The Diamondbacks' draft tendency the past few years has been strongly towards either college pitching or high school position talent. Georgia high schooler Michael Chavis doesn’t have the high end athletic tools that a Jacob Gatewood or Monte Harrison might have, but he has a big bat and plays the game the way the Diamondbacks value.

17. KANSAS CITY ROYALS ($2,200,600)

Just a year ago there was chatter about how North Carolina State could have the first two players selected in the 2014 draft in left-hander Carlos Rodon and shortstop Trea Turner. There is no doubt that Turner’s stock has fallen, but he really hasn’t had a bad spring at all, hitting .318-8-28 with 22 extra base hits, 36 walks and 24 stolen bases while making only nine errors. If Turner falls this far, the Royals, who have always struggled to develop middle infielders, could have a steal.

SEAN REID-FOLEY – RHP – Sandalwood (Fla.) HS

The deep high school pitching class will come increasingly into play for many teams from this place in the draft onward. Florida’s Sean Reid-Foley has been the definition of consistency all spring and has separated himself from the rest of the high school right-handers remaining based on that and his plus fastball/slider combination.

19. CINCINNATI REDS ($2,090,500)
MAX PENTECOST – C – Kennesaw State

The Reds would also have been in hard on Reid-Foley if the Nationals hadn’t just grabbed him, but they have an attractive backup plan in the top true catcher in the draft, given future position uncertainties of Alex Jackson and Kyle Schwarber, in Kennesaw State’s Max Pentecost. Pentecost is a polished and talented defender and could go even higher as scouts dream about his power continuing to develop in pro ball.

20. TAMPA BAY RAYS ($2,035,500)
CASEY GILLASPIE – 1B – Wichita State

The Rays have been playing the shell game at first base for years with a series of reclamation projects such as Carlos Pena, Casey Kotchman, and James Loney, albeit a successful shell game in some years. It’s time for that to end with the underrated switch-hitting Casey Gillaspie.

21. CLEVELAND INDIANS ($2,008,100)
BRANDON FINNEGAN – LHP – Texas Christian

The college pitching demographic seems to be unusually filled with wild cards, but the biggest now may be lefty Brandon Finnegan. He would represent a tremendous value to the Indians if he checked out healthy before the draft and fell to this area, but if he checks out healthy and throws well in the post-season he is unlikely to fall this far.

22. LOS ANGELES DODGERS $1,980,500)

One can only imagine what the free-spending Dodgers would do without the present draft compensation system in place. That being said, they are in a position to stretch out in a risk and investment sense if not in a financial sense. Right-hander Erick Fedde may not have been quite at the Jeff Hoffman level of prospect status when he went down with his own TJ surgery, but he was strongly looking like a top-10 pick. That would be great value for the Dodgers.

23. DETROIT TIGERS ($1,953,100)
NICK BURDI – RHP – University of Louisville

The Tigers have drafted almost exclusively for college pitching the past two years, so one could think that either that’s what they do, or they’re full of that commodity and should move on. However, there is a college pitcher that is perfectly suited for their organizational thought and win-now mentality in Nick Burdi.

24. PITTSBURGH PIRATES ($1,925,500)
A.J. REED – 1B/LHP – University of Kentucky

The Pirates are sitting on the fence between present competitiveness and weaning along a very talented and high ceiling farm system, highlighted by the Gregory Polanco situation in Triple-A. Adding another shorter term piece to the puzzle might be the direction to go, especially in an area the Pirates are short in.

25. OAKLAND ATHLETICS ($1,898,000)
MICHAEL GETTYS – OF – Gainesville (Ga.) HS

Times change in the scouting/draft game and the A’s are no longer the bastion of conservative college drafts, just as the Braves no longer farm the Southeast for high school prospects. High school athletes litter the board at this point, so who do you choose from among Jacob Gatewood, Michael Gettys, Monte Harrison, Marcus Wilson, and Derek Hill?

26. BOSTON RED SOX ($1,870,500)
MONTE HARRISON – OF – Lee's Summit West (Mo.) HS

Boston’s drafts have been all over the board demographically the past few years with little discernable pattern. Just like with the A’s, however, there are too many good high school athletes on the board to pass on at this point, none better than Missouri three-sport standout Monte Harrison.

27. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS ($1,843,000)
KODI MEDEIROS – LHP – Waiakea (Hawaii) HS

After the Cardinals drafted three of the most polished lefties in the country last year in Marco Gonzalez, Robert Kaminsky, and Ian McKinney, and have seen all three excel in their first year professionally, you just know this is going to try to continue that trend with Medeiros. The Cardinals know how to draft, and develop, pitching.

JACOB GATEWOOD – SS – Clovis (Calif.) HS

The Royals went with their shortstop of the future with their first pick in North Carolina State’s Trea Turner. They’re going to double up with high school shortstop Jacob Gatewood with their next pick, although if Gatewood hits to his ceiling it won’t really matter what position he plays.

29. cincinnati reds (FOR shin-soo choo – $1,788,000)
FOSTER GRIFFIN – LHP – The First Academy (Fla.) HS

Foster Griffin’s draft stock skyrocketed early in the spring when he was topping out at 94-95 mph, and it seemed unlikely that an athletic 6-foot-5, 190-pound projectable southpaw would go this late in the first round. But Griffin has backed off a bit on his velocity while maintaining his pitchability and solid three-pitch mix, although teams know it’s just a matter of time and strength before the velocity stays around for good.

NICK HOWARD – RHP – University of Virginia

The Rangers' supply of young position talent all over the field is unparalleled in baseball today, so it seems that a few pitching heavy drafts would be appropriate. Virginia’s Nick Howard represents something of a risk in that he hasn’t pitched as a starter this year, but his athleticism, pitches and history indicate that he may have been drafted at least 10-15 spots higher if he hadn’t served as the closer on the loaded Virginia pitching staff.

BRAXTON DAVIDSON – OF/1B – T.C. Roberson (N.C.) HS

Power is a huge commodity at the Major League level and college power hitters quickly gravitate toward the top of their draft classes. If Braxton Davidson did make it to North Carolina one can only imagine how his combination of power and hitting ability would rise to near the top of the 2017 draft. It would be a great value to grab that talent at the 31st slot out of high school.

LUKE WEAVER – RHP – Florida State

At the rate the Braves are going through pitching already this spring, this might look like an immediate need draft. However, if Luke Weaver had thrown this spring like he did as a sophomore and over the summer for Team USA, he would have be long gone by this point in this draft.

JAKE STINNETT – RHP – University of Maryland

The Red Sox like to pocket some money for later rounds more than just about any other team in the draft. Fortunately for them there is a college senior whose talent and performance warrants selection at this spot and should enable them to save the dollars to make an impact down their draft list.

MARCUS WILSON – OF – J. Serra (Calif.) HS

Remember when the Cardinals were the prototypical Astroturf built team that always had a deep supply of speedy outfielders instead of a group of mashers? That era is unlikely to come back, but that doesn’t mean that the Cardinals couldn’t use a talent like Marcus Wilson, a Dexter Fowler-like player with perhaps a higher athletic ceiling.

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The Blue Jays have been roughly 75% high school for high round picks since Alex Anthopoulos took over, and you have them taking two low-upside college players at 9 and 11.

Are you hearing things no one else is?
Further to that point: Andy Burns in the 11th round of 2011 received a 250,000 dollar signing bonus. That's the most money this front office has ever given to a college position player in their 4 drafts. I just don't see how Zimmer would even be in consideration for Toronto.
Will the Pirates develop Reed as a hitter or a pitcher?