Teams are currently jockeying for position in the standings as the lengthy baseball season progresses, but the focus will shift toward the 2014 MLB first-year player draft on June 5.
The best collegiate and high school players in the nation will be up for grabs as teams look to build for the future. It often takes several years before a team knows what it truly has in a prospect, but the draft provides a great deal of hope for downtrodden franchises.
Perhaps more so than any other draft, the MLB's version is an inexact science. With so many players to evaluate and so many rounds to take under consideration, it is easy for some guys to slip through the cracks.
As teams attempt to hit the jackpot rather than bust, here is a full first-round mock draft for the 2014 MLB draft along with a closer look at some of the top prospects available.
MLB Mock Draft 2014
|1||Houston Astros||Carlos Rodon||P|
|2||Miami Marlins||Brady Aiken||P|
|3||Chicago White Sox||Tyler Kolek||P|
|4||Chicago Cubs||Alex Jackson||C|
|5||Minnesota Twins||Nick Gordon||SS|
|6||Seattle Mariners||Michael Conforto||OF|
|7||Philadelphia Phillies||Kyle Freeland||P|
|8||Colorado Rockies||Tyler Beede||P|
|9||Toronto Blue Jays||Trea Turner||SS|
|10||New York Mets||Bradley Zimmer||OF|
|11||Toronto Blue Jays||Grant Holmes||P|
|12||Milwaukee Brewers||Sean Newcomb||P|
|13||San Diego Padres||Kyle Schwarber||1B|
|14||San Francisco Giants||Max Pentecost||C|
|15||Los Angeles Angels||Aaron Nola||P|
|16||Arizona Diamondbacks||Touki Toussaint||P|
|17||Kansas City Royals||Jacob Gatewood||3B|
|18||Washington Nationals||Jeff Hoffman||P|
|19||Cincinnati Reds||Brandon Finnegan||P|
|20||Tampa Bay Rays||A.J. Reed||1B|
|21||Cleveland Indians||Luis Ortiz||P|
|22||Los Angeles Dodgers||Erick Fedde||P|
|23||Detroit Tigers||Monte Harrison||OF|
|24||Pittsburgh Pirates||Derek Hill||OF|
|25||Oakland Athletics||Casey Gillaspie||1B|
|26||Boston Red Sox||Braxton Davidson||OF|
|27||St. Louis Cardinals||Spencer Adams||P|
Mike Chiari's mock draft
Top Prospects to Watch
Left-handed pitcher Carlos Rodon has enjoyed a spectacular career at NC State, and it could very well culminate in him being selected No. 1 overall by the Houston Astros. Rodon has been pegged as the likely top pick ever since last year. Although he definitely has some company near the top, Rodon may still have the upper hand.
According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, Rodon is still viewed by many as the Astros' top target at No. 1:
3 execs suggest nc st. lhp carlos rodon still likely No. 1 pick in mlb draft. hs lhp aiken, hs rhp kolek other contenders.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) May 13, 2014
Rodon didn't have an ideal 2014 season by any means, but he didn't necessarily hurt his stock either. Rodon's 6-7 record looks ugly on paper; however, it is an indictment of his run support more than anything else. Rodon's peripherals were still spectacular, as he posted a 2.01 ERA and struck out well over a batter per inning.
Also, Rodon's status as a lefty helps him stand out above the rest. He isn't exactly a fireballer, but he is a crafty pitcher who knows how to mix speeds and keep hitters off balance. He would be a great complement to Houston's 2013 first-round pick, pitcher Mark Appel, and he could potentially help give the Astros a one-two punch that will dominate the league for years to come.
If Rodon doesn't go first overall, then it is entirely possible he will be usurped by Brady Aiken out of Cathedral Catholic High School in Georgia. Like Rodon, Aiken is a southpaw. He isn't as polished as Rodon, but he is about as complete as a pitcher can be without collegiate experience.
Who will be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 MLB draft?
Aiken is a much harder thrower than Rodon, and he certainly appears to have a higher ceiling as well. Rodon may be ready for the big leagues more quickly than Aiken, but it won't be shocking if Rodon ultimately develops into a mid-rotation starter while Aiken becomes an ace.
That is the risk-reward game teams play when it comes to high school prospects, as it is difficult to project how they will progress over the years.
One person who believes the Astros will refrain from playing it safe at No. 1 is ESPN's Keith Law, who has Houston taking Aiken, per Bodie DeSilva of 247Sports:
ESPN’s Keith Law has Brady Aiken (Cathedral Catholic) and Alex Jackson (RB) going 1st and 2nd overall in his most recent MLB Mock Draft...— Bodie DeSilva (@SDPreps) May 15, 2014
The Astros have such a deep farm system that they may be inclined to roll the dice. If they opt for Rodon instead, though, Aiken seems like a virtual lock to go to the Miami Marlins at No. 2 or the Chicago White Sox at No. 3.
Although Rodon and Aiken are the names that have been mentioned most often regarding the No. 1 pick, pitcher Tyler Kolek is somewhat of a dark horse for the honor. The 6'5" righty has ideal size and all the makings of a workhorse starter at the next level. He is so talented that he has drawn some lofty comparisons.
According to John Manuel of Baseball America, Kolek's velocity is reminiscent of that of Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan:
My look at Tyler Kolek, who multiple scouts called the hardest-throwing draft-eligible amateur since Nolan Ryan ($). http://t.co/129z1jxTp8”— John Manuel (@johnmanuelba) May 12, 2014
It just so happens that Ryan is an Astros legend and a current adviser for the organization, so that could give Kolek some momentum in terms of ascending to the top pick. Ryan was complimentary of Kolek's performance in a Texas high school game in early May, as was Astros manager Bo Porter, per Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle:
It's plus velocity. And actually he did a tremendous job with his breaking ball. Obviously he's a big kid, great arm speed. His breaking ball comes out of the same slot. ... A lot of times when you see things happen on the baseball field and teammates make errors and the ball gets kind of kicked around a little bit, I love his composure. I love the way he continued to pick up his teammates, running over and backing up the bases amid a lot of adverse things that are going on, which tells you a lot about the kid.
Porter's glowing endorsement doesn't necessarily mean the Astros will take Kolek, but one can only assume he is at least being considered. Although a hitter such as catcher Alex Jackson or shortstop Nick Gordon could potentially crack the top three in this draft, it seems likely that a trio of arms will come off the board first.
Whether he lands in Houston, Miami or Chicago, Kolek will be viewed as a possible superstar in the making when he is ultimately selected.
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