2014 MLB Mock Draft: Latest 1st-Round Projections One Month from Draft Day
With just one month to go before the 2014 Major League Baseball draft, there are a lot of adjectives that can be used to describe this year's class. However, none is more appropriate than "interesting."
There's no doubt that there is more raw talent in this draft than there has been in the previous two drafts, but there are so many ways in which things can go right or wrong, making it extremely difficult to classify anyone at any level.
Of course, so much volatility also makes things more interesting. Teams are going to be doing a lot more work than usual over the next four weeks in order to make sure the player they are getting is worth both a first-round selection and the money they will give up to sign him.
But enough vague talk about what this class can be; it's time to examine my prediction regarding how the first round will shake out. However, keep in mind that there is a lot left to be sorted out, and things can change drastically by the time June 5 rolls around.
1. Houston Astros: Carlos Rodon, LHP, North Carolina State
There may not be a worse position to be in than to be considered the consensus No. 1 pick before the season starts, because every little thing that you do will get scrutinized. N.C. State left-hander Carlos Rodon had all the pressure in the world on his shoulders when the year began.
Unfortunately, Rodon wasn't able to match the hype. His stuff looked weaker, with a fastball that was registering around 90-93 mph instead of the 92-95 mph that it was reaching in 2013. Also, his slider looked like a solid-average pitch instead of the plus-plus monster it was for Team USA last year.
The baseball season is long, though, so Rodon had time to right himself, and he's done so masterfully. The southpaw has pitched brilliantly of late, with 23 strikeouts over 15.2 innings in his last two starts. ESPN's Christopher Crawford noted (subscription required) that Rodon threw "several sliders that would grade 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale" against Georgia Tech on April 27.
Houston has a tough decision to make, but given where Rodon was at before the season and where he's been in recent starts, his upside is too great to pass up.
2. Miami Marlins: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd HS (Texas)
If you are just looking for utter dominance from your draftees, it's hard to top what Tyler Kolek has done to Texas high school hitters this season. The big right-hander has a 0.45 ERA and 100/6 K/BB in 46.1 innings.
That wouldn't be as impressive to MLB scouts if Kolek didn't also feature a fastball that hits 100 mph and a curveball that flashes plus. He's also a monster at 6'5", 230 pounds, and he knows how to use that size to his advantage, driving the fastball down in the zone.
Kolek is still more of a thrower than a pitcher, and he doesn't have the arm slot (three-quarters) to have great command. But with his power stuff, he won't need to be have flawless pitch placement in order to miss bats.
Miami faces a tough choice between Kolek and left-hander Brady Aiken here, but the Marlins can't go wrong either way.
3. Chicago White Sox: Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS (Calif.)
There are potentially four elite pitchers in this draft class, so even with names like Rodon and Kolek off the board already, the Chicago White Sox could still be adding a future ace here.
Brady Aiken is the player generating all the buzz this spring. He's a 6'3", 210-pound left-hander with a running fastball that ranges from 92-96 mph to pair along with a plus curveball. If that sounds familiar, it should, because this young man is already being compared to Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw was also considered to be one of the draft's top prospects when he was selected by the Dodgers at No. 7 overall in 2006. Aiken has light years to go before touching Kerrshaw in terms of performance, but it's amazing to think that he possess that kind of upside.
The White Sox have done a much better job in recent years of going after upside in the draft's early rounds. Aiken would be the crown jewel of the team's system in a very short time.
4. Chicago Cubs: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
Here's where things start to get a little messy. In an ideal world, the Chicago Cubs would be able to choose between whichever of the big-four prospects (Rodon, Kolek, Aiken and Jeff Hoffman) fell in their lap.
Unfortunately, due to arm soreness, Hoffman has been limited recently. He has also been more hittable than you would expect a top draft prospect to be, allowing 53 hits with a 72/20 K/BB in 67.1 innings this season.
This opens the door for Vanderbilt right-hander Tyler Beede to move into the No. 4 spot. He doesn't have Hoffman's upside, if all things are equal, but the Vanderbilt right-hander has three above-average-or-better pitches.
Beede's problem has always been repeating his mechanics and throwing quality strikes. That has dissipated a bit this season, though, as he has the best strikeout rate (9.77) and K/BB (76/26) of his college career.
5. Minnesota Twins: Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS (Fla.)
The first position player of the 2014 draft class will go off the board to Minnesota at No. 5 overall. Hitters in this year's draft have fallen on hard times during the season, but Nick Gordon has been one of the lone bright spots.
Gordon has an excellent baseball pedigree, as he is the son of former major league pitcher Tom Gordon. He isn't an imposing physical presence at 170 pounds, but he has above-average power thanks to above-average bat speed and wrist acceleration.
Combine that offensive upside with Gordon's plus range, speed and elite arm strength, and the Twins will be adding the best pure shortstop prospect in this year's class to an already-loaded system.
6. Seattle Mariners: Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco
Based on raw tools, Bradley Zimmer reminds me a lot of San Diego Padres' 2013 first-rounder Hunter Renfroe. He's not as refined as the typical college junior going this high in the draft, but he has the bat speed to project for plus power and a solid approach to getting on base.
Like Renfroe, Zimmer has some swing and miss to his game, and his power tends to play down because his swing is more line-drive oriented. He's got above-average speed, though his arm and range suggest a move to right field is in his future. His bat will play in a corner spot at the next level with some refinement.
7. Philadelphia Phillies: Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway HS (S.C.)
The Phillies could be looking at a bargain with Grant Holmes. He's an athletic right-hander at 6'2", 190 pounds, and he gets big velocity from a smooth, compact delivery that utilizes a strong lower half and good arm speed.
Holmes' fastball can touch 97-98 mph with some run and more command than a high schooler usually has. He also spins a power curveball that flashes plus potential with good shape and hard snap as it crosses the plate. He has the potential to become a No. 2 starter if his changeup develops in professional pitch.
8. Colorado Rockies: Jeff Hoffman RHP, East Carolina
Once thought to be in the mix with Carlos Rodon to become the the No. 1 pick, Jeff Hoffman's 2014 season has been a disappointment so far. As previously mentioned, he's currently sidelined with an arm issue, and even before that he wasn't showing the same 97 mph fastball that he did last year.
Unless the injury is said to be serious, though, it's hard to see Hoffman sliding past Colorado. The Rockies have to draft a specific type of pitcher for their ballpark, and the 6'4", 185-pound right-hander can spin a plus fastball-curveball combination.
9. Toronto Blue Jays: Touki Toussaint, RHP, Coral Springs Christian Academy (Fla.)
One of the best parts about the MLB draft is being able to recognize trends that teams have displayed in recent seasons, especially in the early rounds, and then noticing which prospects fit into these patterns.
A team like Toronto isn't going to deviate from its model, which centers on selecting hard-throwing high-school right-handers. In this class, not a lot of pitchers throw harder than Touki Toussaint. He can touch 97 mph, spin a plus curveball and has a projectable 6'2", 185-pound frame.
The downside is that Toussaint is all thrower. He's a good athlete who doesn't know how to repeat his delivery from pitch to pitch, which leads to all sorts of command problems. But a 17-year-old with this kind of arm doesn't usually last long on the board.
10. New York Mets: Alex Jackson, C, Rancho Bernardo HS (Calif.)
A star on the showcase circuit last year, Alex Jackson hasn't been as impressive this spring. He's always had problems against velocity, but an easy swing, good approach and plus raw power from the right side are all things pro coaches can work with.
A good athlete at 6'1" and 215 pounds, Jackson has the arm and body to be a catcher at the next level. He's not refined behind the plate, as he lacks receiving skills and proper footwork, so a move to third base or the outfield could be in order. His bat will play at either spot, but the value he could present behind the plate would enormous.
11. Toronto Blue Jays: Dylan Cease, RHP, Milton HS (Ga.)
After receiving this compensatory pick for failing to sign Phil Bickford last year, Toronto will go back to its roots by drafting a right-handed pitcher who has touched 97 mph with good athleticism.
Dylan Cease is one of the great unknowns in this class. He's been battling elbow soreness, which hasn't allowed him to pitch much this year. But if teams are comfortable with his medicals, he could sneak into the top 10.
12. Milwaukee Brewers: Luis Ortiz, RHP, Sanger HS (Calif.)
A 6'3", 220-pound right-hander, Luis Ortiz has an excellent repertoire which features three above-average-or-better pitches. He also has a simple delivery that he is learning to repeat and a three-quarters arm slot that gets some run on his fastball.
Lacking the physical projection usually found in a high schooler taken this high, Ortiz makes up for it with a mature feel for pitching that could make him a fast mover through the system.
13. San Diego Padres: Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State
Trea Turner is the most divisive college player in this draft. He's got a limited offensive ceiling due to a slight 170-pound frame, and he also has a poor approach and little ability to drive the ball.
On the plus side, Turner is a plus-plus runner who can create extra-base hits with his legs, and he also has great range at shortstop. His arm is above average, and his glove is average, so if a team thinks he can hit enough to play the position in the big leagues, he will go off the board quickly.
14. San Francisco Giants: Luke Weaver, RHP, Florida State
In a farm system already loaded with right-handed pitchers, the San Francisco Giants will add another one in the form of Luke Weaver.
Florida State's right-hander has some physical projection left at 170 pounds and produces plus-plus velocity thanks to a lighting-fast arm. Weaver also has a plus changeup that plays up thanks to the deception in his arm speed. His breaking ball needs work, but it flashes above average enough to project that it will become a quality third pitch.
15. Los Angeles Angels: Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford
Sean Newcomb is a big-bodied left-hander at 6'5", 240 pounds who throws a solid three-pitch mix. The fastball is his best weapon with plenty of movement and low- to mid-90s velocity on it. He's also got a swing-and-miss pitch with the slider that shows hard late tilt.
Command is a sticking point for Newcomb, who can throw strikes but often leaves fat pitches over the plate, but the upside of the fastball-slider combination and flashes of an average changeup at least give him mid-rotation starter potential.
16. Arizona Diamondbacks: Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State
Assuming Alex Jackson doesn't stick behind the plate, Max Pentecost is the best catching prospect in this draft. He's not loaded with elite tools across the board, but he does everything well. He has a good approach, fringe-average power, solid speed, above-average arm strength and solid athleticism.
Pentecost is going to be a high-floor player in pro ball, as he lacks the ceiling of other players but demonstrates such refinement across the board that he should at least be an average everyday catcher.
17. Kansas City Royals: Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis HS (Calif.)
Watching Jacob Gatewood win the home run derby at last year's Under Armour All-American Game was a treat, but it was clear in the actual game itself that he had work to do against premium velocity.
That concern hasn't gone away this spring, which is why he's still on the board at No. 17, but teams are going to see a 6'2", 210-pound 18-year-old with plus-plus raw power and believe they can maximize his potential. He generates plus bat speed with a quick stroke through the zone and fast wrists to drive the ball when he connects.
Shortstop isn't Gatewood's long-term position, because he's already big with average range and will add more bulk in the future, but his offensive tools will play at third base.
18. Washington Nationals: Cameron Varga, RHP, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (Ohio)
The Washington Nationals, much like Toronto, love taking power right-handers in the first round. Cameron Varga has a strong powerful frame already at 6'3", 205 pounds with a low-90s fastball and deceptive delivery that allows the pitch to play up.
Varga's curveball lacks consistent shape, but it has the break and velocity to project as a plus pitch in the future. He's a great athlete with the simple mechanics to repeat his delivery, and he also possesses a changeup that flashes average.
19. Cincinnati Reds: Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State
One of the best college bats available, Michael Conforto is going to get to the big leagues on the strength of his offense. He's not much of a defensive player, as he has limited range and an average arm that is only fit for left field.
Conforto does have a long swing with a big load and leg kick, but he is able to offset it against better velocity thanks to plus bat speed and raw power. He's going to have his share of strikeouts and is aggressive at the plate, so it's going to take some refinement to project a .280 average in the big leagues.
20. Tampa Bay Rays: Braxton Davidson, OF, Roberson HS (N.C.)
Braxton Davidson has some of the best raw power in this class. He came into the national consciousness last June by hitting a home run that is reported to have traveled 500 feet.
He's got a gorgeous, powerful left-handed swing with the bat speed to hit a lot of bombs in the future, and he also has a good approach at the plate with solid pitch recognition skills. There's no defensive value with Davidson, save for a plus throwing arm, but teams don't care what you do in the field as long as you can hit.
21. Cleveland Indians: Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville
Cleveland's old M.O. used to be drafting safe, high-floor college arms. The team has gotten away from that in recent years—as evidenced by the selections of Francisco Lindor (2011) and Clint Frazier (2013)—but they will go back to their old ways here.
Kyle Freeland will be a nice addition to the farm system. He's a 6'4", 185-pound left-hander who pounds the strike zone with a low-90s sinking fastball, a hard slider with excellent tilt and shape and an average changeup that plays up thanks to deceptive arm action.
22. Los Angeles Dodgers: Scott Blewett, RHP, Baker HS (N.Y.)
Scott Blewett already looks the part of a workhorse starter at 6'6", 210 pounds, but he has enough room on his body to add more muscle. He's been inconsistent so far this spring, as he has not been holding velocity deep into games, but he has been flashing three average-or-better pitches.
The right-hander's best weapon is a fastball that flashes plus with low-90s velocity and is always down in the zone because of the plane his arm angle creates. His off-speed stuff comes and goes, but his curveball shows good shape from time to time.
23. Detroit Tigers: Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Sandalwood HS (Fla.)
The Tigers don't care about refinement in their draft picks, especially if they are a hard-throwing right-hander. They drafted Jonathon Crawford out of Florida last year based on that criteria, and Sean Reid-Foley fits into a similar mold.
The biggest difference is that Reid-Foley is young enough to have upside as a starter. He's got natural run on a low-90s fastball and shows two solid-to-average off-speed pitches in his curveball and changeup.
24. Pittsburgh Pirates: Kyle Schwarber, C/1B, Indiana
There's nothing sexy about Kyle Schwarber's game. He's a big, lumbering college catcher who doesn't have the athleticism or arm for the position in pro ball, which should result in him moving to first base.
His bat has massive potential thanks to Schwarber's bat speed, powerful swing and mature approach. He's got plus-plus raw power that should play close to that level in games and knows how to work counts.
The swing is long with a big load that could cause problems against velocity on the inner half, but his bat speed is so good that the Indiana product can muscle balls to the outfield.
25. Oakland Athletics: Derek Fisher, OF, Virginia
Derek Fisher would be a lock for the first round if not for a broken hamate bone that he suffered in March. That's the kind of injury that will ruin a season, because when he does return, it can hinder his swing and limit the ability to hit for power.
The Virginia outfielder has tremendous offensive upside assuming everything heals properly. He's got a short, quick swing and excellent path through the zone to generate plus raw power. There's some inconsistencies with the swing mechanics, such as how he dips his shoulder, but he has enough potential to warrant a late first-round selection.
26. Boston Red Sox: Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU
Aaron Nola is hard to place. The LSU right-hander has done nothing but dominate in college baseball's best conference. He led the SEC in strikeouts last year (122) and had a 1.57 ERA in 126 innings.
The package is less impressive than the stats. Nola has a unique delivery with a low three-quarters arm slot that is usually found in relief specialists at the highest level. He commands all of his above-average pitches so well despite the mechanics, and he generates a ton of movement on a low-90s fastball. He has the potential to become a No. 3 starter in the future.
27. St. Louis Cardinals: Brandon Finnegan, LHP, TCU
Brandon Finnegan doesn't look the part of an MLB starting pitcher at 5'11", 185 pounds, but the TCU right-hander makes the most of his limited size with elite arm speed that generates mid-90s velocity on his fastball.
His slider and changeup flash above-average potential, though neither one is consistent right now. Finnegan is always going to live on the edge because his fastball lacks plane and there's effort in the delivery, but his arm action and potential for three pitches gives him a chance to develop into a quality mid-rotation starter.
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