While the MLB draft normally doesn't draw as much attention in the sports community as both the NBA and NFL drafts, its importance can't be overstated for teams on the rise.
A full selection process much longer than the seven rounds of the NFL draft or 60 picks in the NBA draft will take place, but the first round is still tremendously crucial. With names like Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and Sonny Gray already torching the MLB from the 2011 draft class, hopes are high that this year's crop will do the same.
Those who have followed this year's class know it is especially deep with pitching. There's a potential for four pitchers to go in the top five with names like Carlos Rodon and Brady Aiken vying for the top spot on nearly every list.
With the draft just hours away, here's a look at the prospects that will no doubt be stars in the MLB just years down the road.
Carlos Rodon, LHP, N.C. State
Things didn't quite work out for Rodon's team on the season after making it to the College World Series in 2013, but the southpaw continued his dominance over college hitters.
Some might question his consistency after finishing with a losing record at 6-7 this season, but his statistics beg to differ. Finishing with a 2.01 ERA, three complete games and a 117-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio, Rodon put together a season that would make Brian Kenny proud.
Last summer, Rodon worked with Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco, who was serving as Team USA's pitching coach, on both a curveball and changeup. TCU and USA Baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle spoke with me about Rodon's improvement and made a lofty comparison to a Cy Young Award winner:
(Rodon) and coach Bianco spent time on that this summer, really similar to (David) Price and I in the summer of 2006. That’s the closest comparison because the fastball and slider are so firm. … (Price) didn’t have the overhand breaking ball that Carlos throws.
There are a lot of stakeholders in Carlos Rodon. And there should be.
Those stakeholders, whether they work for the Houston Astros, Miami Marlins or Chicago White Sox, will certainly be happy with the 6’3”, 234-pound left-hander. Regardless of which pitching staff he joins, Rodon will make a dynamic stablemate with Mark Appel, Jose Fernandez or Chris Sale.
Alex Jackson, C/OF, Rancho Bernardo High School
The big question right now for Alex Jackson is what position he'll play.
Much like Bryce Harper during the 2010 MLB draft, it won't matter much. No, that's not to say that Jackson will be Harper coming out of high school, but his bat projects well behind the plate or in the outfield.
John Manuel of Baseball America makes the case for why Jackson might wind up with the Marlins:
One Marlins source insists owner Jeffrey Loria will not step in and dictate that the club select Rodon, a Cuban-American who was born in Miami, if he is available at No. 2 overall. Industry sources continue to point toward San Diego prep catcher Alex Jackson, even if they think he’ll have to move from behind the plate.
Just imagine that for a second: Alex Jackson in the same outfield as Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton. With a roster that could see Colin Moran eventually make it to the pros, there is plenty of potential for pop all over that lineup.
What Jackson brings to the MLB is a power bat that could result in 30-plus home runs a year while hitting around .260-.280. Putting that bat in any lineup would be a game-changer for a team at the top of the draft.
Trea Turner, SS, N.C. State
Questions about Trea Turner's power are simply unfounded.
Sure, his speed is always going to be the highlight for Turner. But to say that bat speed and pop aren't facets of Turner's game is absurd.
Which player in the draft will be the best pro?
Players like Michael Conforto and Bradley Zimmer are both touted for their bats after hitting just seven home runs this season—one less than Turner. Though his speed is certainly the biggest asset, he has the pop in his bat and a consistent approach that will translate well to the big leagues.
Given the fact that Turner also has unreal abilities as a shortstop, his defense will also provide good enough reasoning to earn him an early promotion. Once he finally arrives, the rest of the MLB will be on watch as Turner continues to prove he can be a great MLB player for the future of any franchise.
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