As difficult as it is to predict how baseball prospects will translate and develop over time, the 2014 MLB first-year player draft appears to be a stacked one in terms of pure talent.
Whether or not that talent becomes something more remains to be seen, but there are plenty of intriguing prospects worth keeping an eye on. The MLB draft is an inexact science since there are so many players and rounds involved, and that is part of what makes it such an interesting process.
With the 2014 draft now on the horizon, here is a full first-round mock draft along with a closer look at some of the prospects who will help mold the perception of the draft for years to come.
MLB Mock Draft
|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
Prospects to Watch
Oregon State has boasted one of the top programs in college baseball for quite some time, and there is no question that outfielder Michael Conforto has been the biggest key to the Beavers' success in recent years. Conforto is a career .350 hitter who has reached base nearly half the time. Because of that, it comes as no surprise that he is considered one of the top offensive players in the entire draft.
Although Conforto's power has dropped off a bit over the course of his collegiate career from 13 home runs to 11 and now just seven, but he continues to be a major run producer. In fact, Conforto broke Oregon State's all-time record for career RBI this season, according to Stephen Nelson of KEZI 9:
The first round doesn't appear to be littered with outfield talent, so that alone should boost Conforto's stock. He'll mostly have to contend with some of the elite pitching prospects in this draft, but he figures to land somewhere in the top 10 regardless.
Conforto's power development will be something worth watching since that may be the one knock against him right now, but he is such an excellent pure hitter that it is tough to envision him failing at the next level.
Evansville starting pitcher Kyle Freeland may not quite be in the elite group with Carlos Rodon, Brady Aiken and Tyler Kolek right now, but it isn't outside the realm of possibility that he could be better than all of them in the big leagues. Freeland wasn't even in the conversation in terms of first-round picks this year, but he has improved by leaps and bounds.
The skilled lefty had a combined record of 8-13 in his first two seasons with the Aces and a combined ERA well over 4.00. Seemingly out of nowhere, however, Freeland has become a dominant starter. As seen in this graphic courtesy of the Missouri Valley Conference's official Twitter account, Freeland ranked at or near the top in every pitching category this season:
Freeland's 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings jump off the page, but the fact that he walked just nine batters in nearly 95 innings and boasted a 0.88 WHIP are what make him particularly intriguing. That type of control is tough to come by, especially in the form of young pitchers.
It seems likely that Freeland could land anywhere between No. 4 and No. 8 in this draft, although it isn't outside the realm of possibility that he could usurp one of the top three pitchers. The way teams feel about Freeland will unquestionably have a major impact on how the first round unfolds.
Starting pitcher Carlos Rodon has received much of the draft hype as far as NC State is concerned, but shortstop Trea Turner is a surefire first-rounder as well. Turner has had a great career with the Wolfpack with a .341 batting average all around and an impressive 111 steals to boot.
Which MLB draft prospect intrigues you most?
There is no doubt that Turner's blazing speed is what will catch the eye of most scouts, but he is also a solid defensive shortstop, which is always in demand. Despite Turner's consistent production, it seems as though he has been surpassed by Nick Gordon as the draft's No. 1 player at the position.
According to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, an anonymous scout believes there is concern regarding Turner's ability to be a quality hitter in the big leagues:
It's a scary bat. He has an elite tool with his speed and he can play shortstop, he'll stay there. But he might be a bottom-of-the-order bat with little pop. Will he bat first or will he bat eighth? He has a long swing and needs strength. He has good discipline and makes contact, but there's no pop.
Perhaps that is why Turner's stock has taken a bit of a hit, per MLB.com's Jim Callis:
With that said, he is still among the best position players in this draft, so it is tough to envision him dropping too far. His base-stealing ability should make him a serviceable player like Everth Cabrera, Alcides Escobar or Jonathan Villar at worst, so there may not be much downside to using a first-round pick on him.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter