With the 2014 MLB draft just one day away, multiple teams at the top of the board are teeming with anticipation.
While it doesn't garner as much attention as the NFL or NBA drafts, the opening round of the MLB draft can make or break a team. Every MLB team needs the draft for one of two things: to build for the future or to trade for assets.
After another horrendous year for the Houston Astros, Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs, they once again all sit near the top of the draft. Other teams like the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins have somewhat righted the ship with better records this season, but will add another potential star in the top five.
As for the actual prospects, this year's draft is loaded with talent at both the high school and college levels. Names like Carlos Rodon, Trea Turner, Brady Aiken and Nick Gordon might not be familiar now, but every baseball fan will be crying for their call-up in the next several years.
Before the selection process gets underway on Thursday night, here's a look at the top storylines for the 2014 MLB Draft.
Who Will Go No. 1 to the Astros?
Analysts are split on this decision, but it still appears to be Rodon's spot to lose.
The N.C. State left-hander has been sensational throughout his college career, but has also garnered some criticism this season over his inconsistency. Having been in attendance for several of his games, I can tell you it was more a case of young players making mistakes around him than poor pitching performances.
Rodon finished the season with a 6-7 record, but still had a 2.01 ERA, 117 strikeouts and just under 100 innings pitched. One thing Rodon worked on before the season started was adding a curveball and changeup to his repertoire, as he explained to me earlier in the season:
At first it didn’t help because you’re trying new stuff out and wondering, 'Am I ever going to feel this pitch?'. And eventually those pitches came to me. Obviously I’m still working on them, but it helps with confidence. ... Adding it to the repertoire is obviously going to help.
... It’s not always like riding a bike, sometimes you’ll lose those pitches. But I can wake up at four in the morning and throw the slider for a strike.
While players like Aiken and Tyler Kolek have emerged from the high school ranks to threaten Rodon at the No. 1 spot, he still sits at the top. His team may have fallen well short of expectations this season, but look for Rodon's name to still be called by the Astros, adding him to Mark Appel from last year's draft.
Where Will Alex Jackson Play at the Next Level?
Other players are currently worrying about what team they'll land with at the next level, but Alex Jackson simply wants to know where he'll be slotted by an MLB team.
His status in the draft has fluctuated throughout the draft process, but the consensus is that he's a lock for the top 10 and most likely a top-five prospect. John Manuel of Baseball America explains why he should go No. 2 to the Marlins:
Ownership would jump on Rodon if the Marlins get the chance, even if he’s not the first choice of their scouting department. Prep arms Aiken and right-hander Tyler Kolek, as well as Jackson, are said to top their board.
Several scouting directors have said they believe Jackson’s likely position switch would drive him down the board, but he also has the draft’s best bat. He has the most usable power in the class as well as one of its best hit tools, and he has enough experience in the outfield to move quickly.
During the 2010 draft, a similar story emerged about a player by the name of Bryce Harper. He had a sensational arm as a catcher, but scouts didn't want to see him get worn down at the position and ultimately slotted him as an outfielder.
Let's just say that decision worked out.
While no one is saying that Jackson will come in and set the world on fire like Harper did in his first season, his position change looks likely. Darren Wolfson of KSTP in Minneapolis provides another possible landing spot:
If any team knows about moving a catcher to play other position, it's the Twins. And with yet another power bat on their radar, Jackson might just make a perfect fit if he falls to that slot in the draft.
The Top College Player (Not Named Carlos Rodon) Is...
When it comes to the college ranks, Rodon is the consensus No. 1. But behind him it gets a bit murky.
Players like Michael Conforto, Tyler Beede and Bradley Zimmer all have potential to become future stars, but Turner has been consistent throughout his college career.
If you like speed—and who doesn't?—here's a look at Turner's ability to beat out a routine play:
Sure, the knock is that he lacks power in his swing, but it's there when he needs it. In fact, last year in the College World Series, he belted a shot that would have gone out in nearly any MLB park, but fell short at the new TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.
Given his skill set and his ability to change any game purely based on his speed, Turner will shine at the minor league level and immediately make an impact for an MLB team in the coming years.
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