2014 MLB Draft Prospects: Ranking the 10 Best at Every Position
That silence you feel is coming from every Major League Baseball scouting department, as farm directors and talent evaluators have put their pen to the paper to fill out their 2014 draft boards.
Like any draft, the MLB version has undergone several drastic changes this spring.
The top overall player coming into the year, Carlos Rodon, seemed like a lock to be the Houston Astros' pick, but he may slide out of the top three. Brady Aiken, a high school left-hander, is drawing early comparisons to Clayton Kershaw. There's a Texan named Tyler Kolek threatening to make history as the first high school right-hander to go No. 1 overall.
There have also been a number of injuries and poor performances that have shaken up the first round, but it adds to the drama of what will happen on June 5. No one knows what to expect, especially after the first three or four picks get announced by Bud Selig.
We have been studying the tapes and scouting reports all spring to help you make sense of things. A few notes about the list.
First, players are ranked based on the position they project to play, not where they are now. All of the best high school players are shortstops now, but only a small fraction of them have the body or arm to stay there.
Second, middle infielders have been combined to form one group because there are so few second basemen at the high school and college level. Second basemen aren't born, but come about because they aren't good enough to play shortstop or third base.
With those caveats out of the way, here's our comprehensive ranking of the top 10 players at each position in the 2014 MLB draft.
No. 1 Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS (California)
Brady Aiken has been drawing rave reviews from scouts this spring, even earning lofty Clayton Kershaw comparisons for his low-90s fastball, plus curveball, above-average command and 6'4" frame.
No. 2 Carlos Rodon, LHP, N.C. State
Carlos Rodon entered the year as the top overall player on the board, but an inconsistent spring for the N.C. State left-hander has dropped him a little bit. He hasn't shown the same velocity (low-90s fastball) or consistency with the slider that he had last year.
He's still a lefty who throws in the low 90s with a slider that still flashes plus-plus, so Rodon isn't going to fall out of the top five unless his arm falls off (knock on wood).
No. 3 Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd HS (Texas)
Tyler Kolek is a big 6'7" Texan who could make history as the first high school right-handed pitcher to be taken first overall if the Astros like his 100 mph fastball. He's not as polished as Aiken, lacking consistency with the secondary stuff and being more of a thrower than a pitcher, but the ceiling is high.
No. 4 Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford
Lefties who are 6'4", 240 pounds with a mid-90s fastball and flashes of a plus slider don't usually last long in the draft. Sean Newcomb is going to be a top 10-15 pick, but fringe control and below-average command are big question marks.
No. 5 Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway HS (South Carolina)
Grant Holmes is up and down in his starts, but he has a lot more positives than negatives and won't wait long before his name gets called. He can touch triple digits early in games, sits in the low-to-mid 90s late in games and has a hammer curveball. The right-hander doesn't offer much physical projection, so what you see is basically what you'll get.
No. 6 Touki Toussaint, RHP, Coral Springs Christian Academy HS (Florida)
Touki Toussaint is a less polished version of Tyler Kolek, who himself isn't all that polished. The Florida right-hander has a huge fastball and above-average curveball. He also fixed some mechanical flaws to look more like a pitcher instead of just throwing the ball as hard as he can with reckless abandon.
No. 7 Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU
A polarizing draft prospect, Aaron Nola doesn't have traditional starter mechanics. He comes from a very low arm slot, virtually sidearm, that limits his ability to stay on top of the fastball and curveball.
But when he's on, Nola flashes three above-average pitches capable of getting MLB hitters out and above-average command. He's not going to need a lot of development time and has the upside of a No. 3 starter.
No. 8 Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
Never one of my favorite pitching prospects, Tyler Beede's lack of consistency from start to start is disconcerting for a mid first-round pick. When you are 6'4", 215 pounds with a mid-90s fastball, above-average changeup and have success in the SEC, some team is going to bet big on you.
No. 9 Luis Ortiz, RHP, Sanger HS (California)
Unlike other pitchers this year who have pitched then got hurt, Luis Ortiz started the spring on the shelf with a forearm strain. The 6'3", 220-pounder is now playing in games, pumping mid-90s fastballs and flashing two above-average off-speed pitches.
No. 10 Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina
Hoffman remains in the top 10 pitchers because his stuff (mid-90s fastball, 12-6 plus curveball) projected so well before elbow problems resulted in Tommy John surgery. A team with multiple first-round picks could pop him in the 20-30 range.
Notable Omission: Erick Fedde, RHP, UNLV
Fedde would rank somewhere in the 11-15 range, if the list went that deep. Like Hoffman, he is on the shelf due to Tommy John surgery. He's got a low-90s fastball with life and an above-average slider to go along with his above-average command. There's a No. 2-3 starter in there if everything returns to its old state.
No. 1 Alex Jackson, Rancho Bernardo HS (California)
Alex Jackson's plus power from the right side gives him exponentially more value as a catcher than a corner outfielder, even though the bat and arm project well for right field. He may move off the position to expedite his path to the big leagues, similar to what the Washington Nationals did with Bryce Harper.
(No, that's not saying Jackson is going to be Harper in the big leagues.)
No. 2 Max Pentecost, Kennesaw State
Max Pentecost is the only sure thing to stay behind the plate among first-round backstops. He's got a good short swing to the ball, limiting his power projection but making enough contact to project as a good hitter for average.
No. 3 Jakson Reetz, Norris HS (Nebraska)
Jakson Reetz is the best pure high school catcher. He doesn't have Jackson's upside with the bat but doesn't face questions about where he will play and could slide into the compensation round.
No. 4 Chase Vallot, St. Thomas More (Louisiana)
A sleeper first-round candidate, Chase Vallot is light-years away from projecting as an average defensive catcher. He's got plenty of arm for the position, but he lacks refinement, receiving and blocking skills. There's plus raw power and fast hands to project for average in due time.
No. 5 Grayson Greiner, South Carolina
There's nothing sexy about Grayson Greiner's game. He doesn't have much bat speed, only fringe raw power, an adequate approach and above-average arm strength, but the arm plays up because of a quick release. The South Carolina product moves well behind the plate and is one of the more polished defenders in this class.
No. 6 Aramis Garcia, Florida International
Like Greiner, Aramis Garcia isn't going to win any skills contests. He's just a solid catching prospect who will go in the top three rounds. He's got solid offensive skills with an above-average approach, a good swing and fringe power. His defense is fringe-average with average arm strength and solid receiving skills.
No. 7 Evan Skoug, Libertyville HS (Illinois)
The one name to watch in the back half of this group is Evan Skoug. He's not a refined defender and probably never will be with limited athleticism and average arm strength, but his raw power trails only Jackson and Vallot among catchers.
No. 8 JJ Schwarz, Palm Beach Gardens HS (Florida)
An offensive-minded catcher, JJ Schwarz is improving behind the plate but still doesn't have consistent receiving skills and struggles blocking balls. On the plus side, his raw power gives him a chance to be an average regular.
No. 9 Bryce Carter, Cascia Hall HS (Oklahoma)
Bryce Carter's got one of the best power swings among high school catchers. He's got plenty of bat speed and loft to generate backspin. There's solid-average arm strength and athleticism in a 6'1" frame that should fill out in the coming years.
No. 10 Mark Zagunis, Virginia Tech
Few catchers are safer than Mark Zagunis, with above-average raw power and advanced approach. He's got average defensive tools across the board, with the best being a strong, accurate throwing arm.
No. 1 Kyle Schwarber, Indiana
Weighing in at 240 pounds, Kyle Schwarber looks every bit the power-hitting first baseman he's going to get drafted as. There's plus-plus raw power in his swing and a mature approach that helps just average bat speed play up.
No. 2 A.J. Reed, Kentucky
A.J. Reed is a monster human being at 6'4", 245 pounds. He isn't as polished in the batter's box as Schwarber but has just as much raw power and is going to get on base. His biggest issue is consistency barreling the ball to tap into that pop.
No. 3 Casey Gillaspie, Wichita State
Unlike the first two names on the list, Gillaspie is a pure hitter with above-average power. He's got one of the best eyes at the plate and excellent plate coverage. He's a below-average athlete but has good size for a 240-pound man.
No. 4 Sam Travis, Indiana
With Schwarber catching at Indiana, it's allowed Sam Travis to prove his worth as a first baseman to MLB scouts. The package isn't exciting, but it's good enough to get him drafted in the first three rounds as a college hitter with above-average bat speed and approach. The lack of power is a concern given his position.
No. 5 Kevin Cron, TCU
The brother of Angels first baseman C.J. Cron, Kevin has a similar profile with plus-plus raw power that struggles to play in games due to a below-average approach. Cron struggles against off-speed stuff and tries to pull everything, along with possessing only modest bat speed. He also has no defensive value due to limited athleticism, leaving open the possibility of a DH-only role.
No. 6 Mike Papi, Virginia
If Mike Papi could stay in the outfield, he'd be a better prospect in this draft. Unfortunately, limited athleticism, speed and range suggest that first base is his future role. The bat doesn't profile great for the position, but there's excellent plate discipline and rotation through the zone to drive the ball.
No. 7 Rhys Hoskins, Sacramento State
Rhys Hoskins is a player whose raw tools look better than the stats suggest. He's got good bat speed, plus raw power and patience at the plate, but he's hitting a mundane .283/.342/.404 with just three home runs in 53 games. The transition from BBCOR bats to wood isn't going to help the power show up.
No. 8 Skyler Ewing, Rice
Skyler Ewing's breakout season (.316/.386/.469) is going to result in a fairly high Day 2 selection. He's doing so many things better, including tracking pitches and making louder contact, that it's hard to believe this is the same hitter who struggled to hit .220 last year. He's got more finish to the swing, generating above-average power that will be his calling card.
No. 9 Chris Marconcini, Duke
Chris Marconcini has done a masterful job of rebuilding his draft stock after a torn ACL ended his 2012 season. Last year he slugged .537 with eight home runs, and he has 23 extra-base hits so far this season. His power projects well to the next level and should get him drafted in the top 10 rounds.
No. 10 Gavin LaValley, Carl Albert HS (Oklahoma)
The first and only high school first baseman in the top 10, Gavin LaValley has plus raw power but is already 6'3", 230 pounds at the age of 18. If he gets bigger, you are looking at Dan Vogelbach without the light-tower raw power. That's not an ideal comparison for teams looking to draft the Oklahoma prep star.
No. 1 Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS (Florida)
Not a physically imposing player at 6'1", 170 pounds, Nick Gordon has surprising pop thanks to strength in his hands and wrists. He also has plus defensive tools, including range, arm strength and hands. He should be the first middle infielder off the board.
No. 2 Trea Turner, SS, NC State
If Trea Turner had any power in his bat, he'd be a lock for the top five. He's listed at the same height and one pound heavier than Gordon, despite being three years older, but he possesses no hand/wrist strength to drive the ball. He's a plus runner with above-average defense but isn't a star prospect.
No. 3 Ti'Quan Forbes, SS, Columbia HS (Mississippi)
A bigger shortstop (6'4", 175 pounds), Forbes runs well and has above-average range at shortstop. He's also got more natural strength than Gordon and Turner, though the swing tends to fall apart thanks to dropping the back shoulder. As long as the defense stays at its current level, he won't need much offense to be an average regular.
No. 4 Alex Blandino, 2B, Stanford
A third baseman in college, Alex Blandino profiles best as a second baseman in pro ball. He's got average range and a fringe-average arm, but he also brings that Stanford approach (bat-to-ball skills, patient approach) and underrated raw power to the next level.
No. 5 Cole Tucker, SS, Mountain Pointe HS (Arizona)
There's no standout tool for Cole Tucker; just a lot of average or above-average ones across the board. He doesn't have elite arm strength but makes up for it with a quick release. His speed is solid, but he makes a lot of plays with instincts and positioning. The Arizona product is a switch-hitter with a lot of moving parts that slow down his swing, limiting contact, but he's got enough bat speed to hit velocity when he does connect.
No. 6 Brian Anderson, 2B, Arkansas
If Anderson had more over-the-fence power, he'd be a lock for the first round. Instead, because his swing is flat and projects for a lot of doubles/line drives, the Arkansas product will find himself being coveted early on Day 2. He's got tremendous bat speed, excellent pitch recognition skills and knows how to wait on the ball. His arm is good enough for the outfield, but the bat profiles better at second base.
No. 7 Matt Chapman, SS, Cal State Fullerton
An underrated athlete in this draft, Matt Chapman has range to both sides with plenty of arm strength to make all the throws. He's also got some pop in the swing, though it's more doubles with low hand position and good plate coverage.
No. 8 Greg Deichmann, 2B, Brother Martin HS (Louisiana)
There's a divide about where Greg Deichmann will play in pro ball. Shortstop isn't out of the question. His above-average instincts helps his limited range play up. He's got the arm to play third base, but the bat profiles better at second base. He's got a short, quick swing with doubles power, though the bat path isn't consistent.
No. 9 Forrest Wall, 2B, Orangewood Christian HS (Florida)
Forrest Wall is a rare exception to the rule that high school second basemen don't get drafted high. He's one of the most gifted middle infielders in this class, with a great left-handed swing and powerful hands to drive the ball into the gap. He's a plus runner with developing range that will get better when he gets comfortable with the position.
No. 10 Milton Ramos, SS, Florida Christian HS (Florida)
There's not a better defensive shortstop in this class than Milton Ramos, who has elite range and plus arm strength. If he could hit, he'd be one of more high-profile players in this class. He doesn't stay back through his swing and has a massive load with a high leg kick. He also lowers his hands, which looks awkward. However, the glove is so good that he could carve out an MLB career as a utility infielder.
No. 1 Jacob Gatewood, Clovis HS (California)
Jacob Gatewood puts on an impressive batting practice, showing plus-plus raw power and bat speed for days. He won the Under Armour All-American Game Home Run Derby last year. He's not polished at all, showing poor plate discipline and no pitch recognition. The ceiling is extremely high, but the bust potential is also extreme.
No. 2 Michael Chavis, Sprayberry HS (Georgia)
Unlike Gatewood, Michael Chavis doesn't have a standout tool but is so solid at everything that it'd be an upset if he didn't carve out an MLB career. He's got above-average bat speed with doubles power, and he complements the offense nicely with solid lateral movement and plus arm strength.
No. 3 Taylor Sparks, UC Irvine
If Taylor Sparks develops an approach, he will be the best third baseman in this class. He's an aggressive hacker who shows plus raw power with enough bat speed to hit the ball in any quadrant of the zone. He's also adept at hitting the ball to right field when he wants to. The UC Irvine star will make contact, but making sure it's solid is the biggest question.
No. 4 Sean Bouchard, Cathedral Catholic HS (California)
A teammate of Brady Aiken, Sean Bouchard is an excellent athlete with plus bat speed, foot speed and arm strength. He's going to outgrow shortstop at 6'3", 190 pounds already but has the power projection to profile well at third. The swing is short through the zone with enough loft at the end to generate backspin.
No. 5 Bobby Bradley, Harrison Central HS (Mississippi)
If there's a current prospect Bobby Bradley reminds me of, it's Texas' Joey Gallo. Bradley obviously doesn't have Gallo's power—who does?—but when it comes to issues making contact, they are the same. There's a heavy uppercut through the zone that generates a lot of raw power but doesn't lead to much contact and will cause problems against velocity.
No. 6 Joey Pankake, South Carolina
In addition to having the best name ever, Joey Pankake has turned in his best and most consistent offensive season (.312/.402/.437) thanks to better contact rates. He's not a big power guy but should hit plenty of doubles with 12-15 homers. The defense is fringe-average due to limited athleticism, so the hit tool has to develop for an MLB career.
No. 7 Austin Byler, Nevada
A left-handed hitter with plus raw power, Austin Byler has to prove he's got the athleticism and hands to stick at third base. He's not great at the hot corner but should turn into a fringe-average glove with above-average offensive production.
No. 8 Josh Morgan, Orange Lutheran HS (California)
Undersized at 5'11", Morgan fits the third baseman profile thanks to average raw power and a sturdy lower half. His hands are soft and the release is quick to help the average arm play up. He's very short and quick to the ball, spraying line drives all over the field and keeping his weight back.
No. 9 Austin Slater, Stanford
An all-bat prospect, Austin Slater has a good right-handed power swing, particularly to the pull side, and controls the strike zone well. He's not going to win any Gold Gloves at third base, but he has enough arm and lateral quickness to be a fringe-average defender.
No. 10 Joe Gillette, Scotts Valley HS (California)
A tremendous athlete who runs well, Joe Gillette has a solid offensive ceiling with a good swing from the right side. He's got a big load and weight transfer, starting out front rocking back and uncorking his swing, with a lot of bat speed and some elevation at the end. He's awkward at third base right now, but he has enough arm strength and athleticism to profile as an average glove.
No. 1 Bradley Zimmer, San Francisco
A tremendous athlete who profiles as an above-average center fielder at the next level, Bradley Zimmer has torn the cover off the ball this season (.373/.462/.581) and has the bat speed, power and patience to profile as someone who can hit for average and power.
No. 2 Michael Conforto, Oregon State
As a corner outfielder, Michael Conforto has to hit a lot to be a star in MLB. While he may never reach those heights, there is promise with the bat to see an average regular. The Oregon State star has excellent hand speed and hip rotation to generate plus power to go along with a patient approach. He won't add much defensively, but he should hold his own hidden in left field.
No. 3 Braxton Davidson, TC Roberson HS (North Carolina)
Braxton Davidson certainly looks the part of an offensive-minded corner outfielder with a great swing and above-average raw power. He's shown the ability to control the strike zone and barrel good pitchers' pitches. He doesn't always take the best swings and look awkward in the outfield at times.
No. 4 Derek Hill, Elk Grove HS (California)
Speaking of great swings, Derek Hill has one of the best in the class. He's quick through the zone and hits the ball to all fields, but the lack of loft at the end limits the power potential. He's a true center fielder with plus speed and range, as well as average arm strength, so the upside is that of a quality leadoff hitter, but the pitch recognition and approach have to improve dramatically.
No. 5 Monte Harrison, Lee's Summit West HS (Missouri)
One of the best pure athletes in the draft, Monte Harrison has a scholarship to play wide receiver at Nebraska. He's a better baseball prospect, albeit unrefined, with excellent speed (shocking for a WR), range in center field and plus arm strength. His offense isn't nearly as impressive yet, as the swing is a mess with no drive through the zone to show off plus raw power. There's plus bat speed there to see an average hitter down the road, but it's a long way away.
No. 6 Derek Fisher, Virginia
An offense-only college hitter, Derek Fisher has improved his standing since being a seventh-round pick by Texas in 2011. His hips are the key to generating plus power, and the approach is so good that he will hit for high averages. If the Virginia standout could play even average defense, he'd be a star.
No. 7 Dylan Davis, Oregon State
Dylan Davis shows exceptional athleticism in the field and on the mound. He's able to get out front of anything, driving it to the gap and showing plus raw power. His ability to read pitchers shows up during every at-bat, so he should have no problems getting on base. The glove is solid-average with range, speed and plus-plus arm strength to profile in right field.
No. 8 Marcus Wilson, Junipero Serra HS (California)
There's a lot of projection in Marcus Wilson's 6'3", 170-pound frame. He's an excellent athlete loaded with tools, including solid-average raw power and plus speed, that should get better as he fills out his frame in the future.
No. 9 Brandon Downes, Virginia
Brandon Downes is an under-the-radar prospect in this draft because there are outfielders with more exciting tools. He's a player with five average to above-average tools across the board, even with some length to the swing, but he should have no problem turning into an MLB regular.
No. 10 Jeren Kendall, Holman HS (Wisconsin)
A slight 5'11", 165 pounds, Jeren Kendall doesn't exactly stand out in a crowd. What he lacks in size is more than made up for in raw talent with a short, quick swing and line-drive power that will get better down the road. He's got plus speed and arm strength with the range to play center field, which is where his offense profiles best.
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