The MLB's 2014 First-Year Player Draft begins on June 5, and with the complete order set it is worth delving into what may transpire, particularly at the outset of the three-day ordeal.
As was forecast by many before the start of this season, the Houston Astros are struggling in last place in the NL Central after having baseball's worst record in 2013. A reprieve arrives through the draft, though, as the franchise has the No. 1 overall pick.
Some other organizations will be seeking a jolt by dipping into the premium pitching talent atop this draft, but it may take significant time before they reap the rewards of their respective investments.
It takes time to build a viable roster in baseball—perhaps more than any other sport—since small-market teams don't have the luxury of a massive payroll such as the New York Yankees or other more prominent clubs. That's why front offices have to be on their toes for all 40 rounds in an effort to develop young players in-house who can eventually help the team compete for World Series titles years down the road.
Here is a look at the complete order for this year's draft, followed by predictions as to what may happen toward the beginning of what should be a compelling showcase:
|Round 1 Pick||Team|
|3||Chicago White Sox|
|9||Toronto Blue Jays|
|10||New York Mets|
|11||Toronto Blue Jays (Phil Bickford - unsigned)|
|13||San Diego Padres|
|14||San Francisco Giants|
|15||Los Angeles Angels|
|17||Kansas City Royals|
|20||Tampa Bay Rays|
|22||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|26||Boston Red Sox|
|27||St. Louis Cardinals|
|Compensatory Round A||Team|
|28||Kansas City Royals|
|33||Boston Red Sox|
|34||St. Louis Cardinals|
|Competitive Balance Round A||Team|
|36||Miami Marlins (Matt Krook - unsigned)|
|37||Houston Astros (from the Orioles)|
|40||Kansas City Royals|
|Round 2 Pick||Team|
|44||Chicago White Sox|
|49||Toronto Blue Jays|
|51||San Diego Padres|
|52||San Francisco Giants|
|53||Los Angeles Angels|
|55||New York Yankees|
|56||Kansas City Royals|
|60||Tampa Bay Rays|
|62||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|67||Boston Red Sox|
|68||St. Louis Cardinals|
|Competitive Balance Round B||Team|
|69||Arizona Diamondbacks (from the Padres)|
|71||St. Louis Cardinals|
|72||Tampa Bay Rays|
|Round 3 Pick||Team|
|77||Chicago White Sox|
|83||Toronto Blue Jays|
|84||New York Mets|
|86||San Diego Padres|
|87||San Francisco Giants|
|88||Los Angeles Angels|
|91||New York Yankees|
|92||Kansas City Royals|
|96||Tampa Bay Rays|
|98||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|103||Boston Red Sox|
|104||St. Louis Cardinals|
|105||Miami Marlins (Ben DeLuzio - unsigned)|
|Rounds 4-40 Order (Pick)||Team|
|3||Chicago White Sox|
|9||Toronto Blue Jays|
|10||New York Mets|
|12||San Diego Padres|
|13||San Francisco Giants|
|14||Los Angeles Angels|
|17||New York Yankees|
|18||Kansas City Royals|
|22||Tampa Bay Rays|
|24||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|29||Boston Red Sox|
|30||St. Louis Cardinals|
Predictions for Top Picks
1. Houston Astros: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd High School (Texas)
The three-quarter delivery flamethrower is a sound long-term choice for the Astros, who are still years away from becoming a surefire contender. Taking a local product, grooming him and readying him for a jump to the MLB is a decision the fanbase can embrace.
Kolek may be raw in terms of his command, but he has all the upside to be a franchise-changing force on the mound for what's currently a woeful staff. MaxPreps.com's Kevin Askeland reported that Kolek started his season without giving up a hit in 15 innings while striking out 35 batters.
Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle recently tweeted some interesting news regarding Kolek's impending meeting with the Astros:
Tyler Kolek, who will attend but not pitch @ June 2 invitation-only workout, is only candidate for 1st pick who will attend Astros workout.— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) May 22, 2014
Despite being so early in his development, he already stands 6'5" and weighs 230 pounds, clocking in as high as 100 mph on the radar gun. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports feels that Kolek belongs in the race for the No. 1 pick:
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
Kolek's arm talent is rare, as the young man can flat out rip it and the ball explodes off his arm to the plate in a hurry. Houston would be hard pressed to pass on him, especially since he already has a strong curveball that provides a stark contrast to his heater.
If he can learn under the tutelage of legendary pitcher and Astros executive advisor Nolan Ryan, there's no question Kolek could shine in the Lone Star State.
2. Miami Marlins: Carlos Rodon, LHP, North Carolina State
A decent start to the 2014 MLB season has the Marlins sitting pretty in the second draft slot, unlike most clubs toward the top of the order. While that could afford them the luxury of investing in a prospect who won't make an immediate impact, they are also closer to contending than initially expected.
Among the top pitchers, Rodon is the soundest option in terms of those who can come into the big leagues the soonest and be effective. The N.C. State junior southpaw has proven to be durable in his time in Raleigh, even if his results haven't been quite as spectacular as anticipated at times.
Nevertheless, he was good enough to join elite company as a three-time all-conference selection in the ACC, per Scout.com:
At 6'3" and 235 pounds, there is no question that Rodon is ready for the rigors of pitching in the MLB. His devastating slider provides a wonderful complement to his strong fastball, and the rest of Rodon's off-speed stuff is still an intriguing work in progress.
Miami ranks near the top of the league in most major offensive categories, hovering around the top five in runs, batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. Adding an arm like Rodon to the mix would bring a boost that could pay dividends as early as the 2015 season.
3. Chicago White Sox: Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic High School (California)
Even before Aiken embarked on what has been a dominant final season at Cathedral Catholic, he led Team USA to the World Cup this last December. That type of leadership and precocious ability on an international stage suggests Aiken may be readier for the highest professional level sooner than later.
Another high school senior who's committed to play at UCLA, Aiken can become a star in the majors thanks to his well-rounded arsenal of pitches. If the White Sox want a strong blend of consistency and potential, Aiken would be an excellent choice.
Aiken is picking up steam as the potential No. 1 overall pick, drawing massive praise from Mike Carney of A1 Performance Group:
Who will be 1st overall I think Brady Aiken honestly he is way more impressive and has the potential to be a superstar hope the Astros do it— Mike Carney (@MiggyBallGame7) May 26, 2014
MLB.com's Jim Callis also makes a convincing case for Aiken to go even higher than third to Chicago. Callis cites Aiken's spring numbers (43.2 IP, 6-0, 80 K, 0.80 ERA) along with a senior National League scouting official's testimony.
"I'd probably take Aiken No. 1, and I think if you asked 30 teams, 15-20 would say Aiken," said the official. "He has taken a real step up. He's more consistent, he has a good body, good arm action, three plus pitches at times."
Who should be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 MLB draft?
If the White Sox are fortunate enough to grab Aiken should he fall this far, they will have to be thrilled since the youngster could eventually help a club that ranks dead last in ERA and WHIP.
Considering the caliber of arms at the top of this draft, neither of the three teams in the top spots can err too much with their choices. Taking a gamble on a pitcher is always a bit dangerous, because it can become a bit of a micromanaging game to protect them from needing something severe like Tommy John surgery.
Presuming the draft shakes out as predicted, though, Kolek would join last year's top choice (Mark Appel) as another Astros pitcher who could combine to turn around Houston's fortunes in as few as two or three seasons. That notion alone is enough to justify taking Kolek, but his home-state ties don't hurt his chances of being off the board first.
The Marlins and White Sox are both in better positions to thrive in 2015, but they may be getting the better candidates to play in the MLB early in Rodon and Aiken.
One has to wonder how long Rodon's arm can last given his heavy collegiate workload, yet he's proven up to the task so far. Aiken's potential arrival in the Windy City would help address a glaring need in Chicago's organization, and it would also provide the opportunity to someday learn from staff ace Chris Sale.