Perhaps no player in the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft has a higher ceiling than pitcher Brady Aiken. The Houston Astros certainly believe he has what it takes to reach his fullest potential as they selected him with the No. 1 overall pick on Thursday.
There are plenty of unknowns surrounding Aiken since he is still in high school, but scouts must love what they do know about him already.
Jim Callis of MLB.com provides financial details of the signing:
The San Diego native has ideal size at 6'4" and 205 pounds as well as plus velocity. The fact that he is left-handed certainly doesn't hurt either, as teams are constantly looking for southpaw aces.
In what many view as a stacked draft class, Baseball America tabbed Aiken as the top overall prospect, according to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
@BaseballAmerica 's new Top 500: 1. LHP Brady Aiken 2. RHP Tyler Kolek 3. LHP Carlos Rodon 4. C Alex Jackson 5. LHP Kyle Freeland— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) May 22, 2014
It is tougher to predict how Aiken's high school stats might project to the minors and ultimately the majors compared to a collegiate pitcher like NC State's Carlos Rodon. With that said, Aiken's numbers are something to behold.
Per MaxPreps.com, Aiken has 18 wins and a 1.09 ERA during his time at Cathedral Catholic High School along with 260 strikeouts in 160.2 innings pitched. Hitters average just .151 against him.
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Although Rodon was tabbed as the No. 1 prospect in the class since last season due to his excellence and consistency at NC State, Aiken seemed to change some minds. According to Jim Callis of MLB.com, an anonymous senior scouting official in the National League believed that at least half of MLB favored Aiken over Rodon leading up to the draft.
"I'd probably take Aiken No. 1, and I think if you asked 30 teams, 15-to-20 would say Aiken," the scout said. "He has taken a real step up. He's more consistent, he has a good body, good arm action, three plus pitches at times."
Aiken clearly has a lot of developing left to do since he has never faced a high level of competition, but all the tools that organizations look for in an elite pitcher are present.
According to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, an anonymous scouting director waxed poetic about Aiken's skill set and even speculated that he was already so good that contract negotiations might not be easy for the club that would eventually select him.
Aiken's a strike-thrower with a big body, a good delivery and plus pitches. What else would you want?. He's an athlete on the mound, too, who just happens to be blessed with a big body. ... He's the whole package, and he may be better than (the other top pitching prospects), anyway. He might be too good to cut a deal now.
It usually takes at least a few years for high school pitchers to make the jump to the majors, so the quality of this selection will largely be a mystery for quite some time. Bringing Aiken along will require patience, but good things come to those who wait.
Aiken has already been compared to Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (as seen in the video above) due to the fact that they're both left-handed and have similar builds. If Aiken comes anywhere close to reaching that level, then he will be well worth this high pick.
He now has massive expectations to deal with, though, which probably wasn't the case in high school. The manner in which Aiken deals with that pressure will help determine whether he succeeds or fails as a professional.
Based on everything that he has shown so far, it's tough to bet against the big lefty.
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