2014 MLB Mock Draft: Full 1st-Round Predictions
The biggest prospect week of the year is finally upon us, as the 2014 Major League Baseball draft takes place Thursday, covering the first two rounds. It's always a long process to arrive at this point, but all those months of work will pay off for all 30 teams by the end of Saturday.
For the third consecutive season, Houston will kick the draft off. Its last two No. 1 overall picks, Carlos Correa (2012) and Mark Appel (2013), have helped ignite one of the best farm systems in baseball.
Even though it will struggle to match the volume of impact from the 2011 draft, which figures to be one of the best ever, this year's class is deep with many projected starters likely to be found on Day 2.
The overwhelming strength of the class is on the mound, especially with college pitchers, but there are a number of position players with enormous ceilings who could take off with the right coaching.
Drafts are the best and most efficient way for franchises to build their future, so our latest mock will help paint a picture of where teams are looking to go. Here's the latest look at the first-round projections for this year's draft.
1. Houston Astros Select LHP Brady Aiken
The Astros, while not exactly setting the world on fire, look much better at the MLB level this season with the addition of George Springer from Triple-A and have more firepower on the way.
This draft should put the final bow on phase one of general manager Jeff Luhnow's full-scale rebuilding effort, so it only makes sense for the franchise to add the best player available.
California high school left-hander Brady Aiken has all the makings of a stud and might not need as much time as a typical 17-year-old because of his polish and pitchability. He's already a grown man at 6'3", 210 pounds, and has room to get a little bigger.
The stuff is fantastic with a low- to mid-90s fastball that has some wiggle, plus curveball and above-average changeup. His mechanics are crisp and smooth, and he stays on top of the ball to make use of that height to drive the ball on a downhill plane.
2. Miami Marlins Select C/OF Alex Jackson
The Miami Marlins are an enigma in the days leading up to the draft, as they have been for virtually their entire existence. They have gone conservative in recent years, drafting college players, but aren't afraid to bet on high-risk talent (Jose Fernandez, Christian Yelich).
Alex Jackson may not be given the opportunity to catch in professional baseball because teams will want his offense to move faster than the rigors of that position allow, but his bat speed is the best in the high school class, and there's plenty of raw power to project 20-plus homers in the future.
The name to keep an eye on in this spot is N.C. State left-hander Carlos Rodon. As CBS Sports' Jon Heyman noted, the Marlins like the idea of adding a Cuban-American to the franchise (see: Fernandez in 2011).
3. Chicago White Sox Select LHP Carlos Rodon
Even though he's not the No. 1 pick, like everyone expected when the season started, Carlos Rodon won't wait long before hearing his name called Thursday. He's a left-hander who can touch 97 with one of the best sliders in the draft.
Consistency from start to start hasn't been a strength for Rodon this season, which is why there's more debate at the top of the draft than ever, but you don't find 6'3", 235-pound southpaws with this kind of stuff very often. The White Sox should be thrilled if he falls in their laps.
4. Chicago Cubs Select RHP Tyler Kolek
This is a dream scenario for the Chicago Cubs, who are in a spot where they need to add a high-ceiling pitcher to their position-player-heavy farm system but may not have the opportunity to get good value if the Marlins end up taking either Tyler Kolek or Rodon after Aiken goes No. 1.
Kolek is a massive project who will need a lot of time, but the upside is huge. He's the epitome of a Texas high school pitcher at 6'5" and 230 pounds with a plus-plus fastball that touches triple digits.
There are significant red flags that have to be corrected for Kolek to reach his ceiling. He's not a great athlete, and repeating his delivery is a challenge. The breaking stuff comes and goes, but he flashes plus at times. The changeup is below-average right now, and he has little feel for it.
The arm action works, and he can get away with being less than fine because everything has power, but throwing strikes is going to be critical.
5. Minnesota Twins Select SS Nick Gordon
It's been a tough start to the season for Minnesota's loaded farm system. Miguel Sano is out for the year, Byron Buxton has played in just five games due to an injury and Eddie Rosario was suspended for the first 50 games of the year.
Drafting Nick Gordon, while not taking away the sting of losing Sano and Buxton, is going to quiet a lot of fears. He's the best pure shortstop prospect in this draft with plus range to both sides, elite arm strength and plus speed.
Despite being just 6'1" and 170 pounds, Gordon has surprising power in his swing with excellent bat speed and wrist strength. He's got a good eye at the plate and will hit plenty to become a star at the MLB level.
6. Seattle Mariners Select LHP Sean Newcomb
The Seattle Mariners have stayed at the college ranks in the first round each of the last three years, so don't expect anything different in 2014. It also helps when a pitcher such as Sean Newcomb is waiting for you when the time comes to make a pick.
The Hartford left-hander has generated some helium in the weeks leading up to the draft, thanks to a low- to mid-90s fastball, above-average slider that flashes plus and tremendous pitchability. He's also got one of the most effortless deliveries you will ever see, looking almost lackadaisical, but generating good heat and wiggle on the fastball.
7. Philadelphia Phillies Select RHP Aaron Nola
Putting Aaron Nola here doesn't really seem to fit the Philadelphia Phillies' traditional draft strategy of high-risk, high-reward athletes, but ESPN's Keith Law (Insider subscription required) noted in his first mock draft that some in the organization are pushing to take a player who can move quickly to help the current MLB roster compete while it still can.
Whether you buy the Phillies as serious contenders or not in the next two years, Nola is hardly an unworthy selection. He's dominated the best baseball conference in the country the last two years, throws a low-90s fastball with movement, has a plus changeup and above-average slider, and commands everything.
Nola's arm action is unusual for a starting pitcher, coming from virtually the side of his body, but he repeats his mechanics and knows how to attack hitters on both sides of the plate.
8. Colorado Rockies Select LHP Kyle Freeland
If the Colorado Rockies are going to draft a pitcher in the first round, it's going to be someone from college. Since the failed Tyler Matzek selection in 2009, they haven't taken a prep arm with their first pick.
Kyle Freeland isn't going to win any velocity contests, though he does touch 94-95 mph, understands how to pitch and controls a deep arsenal very well. He's a 6'4" left-hander with a deceptive three-quarter arm angle, movement and a knockout slider.
One thing that concerns me about a pitcher such as Freeland in Coors Field is he's so reliant on that movement to succeed, but will it be there in thin air?
9. Toronto Blue Jays Select RHP Touki Toussaint
The Toronto Blue Jays' farm system is in a state of flux right now, thanks to all the trades made last year, which appear to be paying dividends this season. Most of their top prospects are in the lower levels with a long way to go before we see what they can really become.
However, if there's one thing we know about the Blue Jays, it's that they are never going to play conservative in the draft. The scouting department loves high-risk, high-ceiling talent, which makes Touki Toussaint the perfect pick for them.
Toussaint has a huge fastball that touches the upper-90s and flashes a curveball that will leave grown men in tears. He's improved his delivery, staying more on line to the plate and hitting the strike zone more often, and he's a good athlete still learning to repeat his mechanics.
10. New York Mets Select OF Michael Conforto
The New York Mets have shifted their philosophy in recent years, drafting higher-ceiling talent starting with Brandon Nimmo in 2011. It would be a shift to see them go back to the college ranks.
Oregon State's Michael Conforto certainly doesn't possess the same type of ceiling as someone like Gavin Cecchini (2012) or Dominic Smith (2013), but he's about as safe a bet as there is in this class to succeed at the highest level.
Conforto has some of the best playable power, not just raw pop, among college position players because of his ability to hit and control the strike zone. He's limited to left field due to below-average speed and arm strength, but the bat is good enough to carry him at a position that demands it.
11. Toronto Blue Jays Select RHP Grant Holmes
Compensation pick for failing to sign 2013 first-round pick Phil Bickford
If the Blue Jays decide to play things safe and just go after a player they know will sign for cheap, it wouldn't be a shock to see a college player come off the board at No. 11 (Trea Turner?).
Since that's not the way they usually operate, it only makes sense to go back to the high-school pitching well. Grant Holmes is a guy who doesn't have much physical projection left at 6'2", 190 pounds, but he has some of the best command among prep pitchers, touches the mid-90s with his fastball and has an absolute hammer for a curveball.
12. Milwaukee Brewers Select C Max Pentecost
Given the current state of their farm system, which is dreadful, the Milwaukee Brewers may opt to go for someone with a higher probability to play in the big leagues than shoot for ceiling.
Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost certainly isn't a bad pick at No. 12. He's got all the defensive chops to stay behind the plate at the highest level. He projects as an average hitter with a disciplined eye and some power with solid bat speed.
It's not a glamorous profile, especially when compared to some of the names still on the board, but catchers who can hit and have some power usually don't last this long.
13. San Diego Padres Select SS Trea Turner
The San Diego Padres are all over the map when it comes to draft strategy, with a nearly identical split between high school and college players since 2009. If we simply apply the best-player-available label, Trea Turner probably isn't the selection.
However, Turner is going to go high in the first round because of his ability to play shortstop. He's a huge risk with the bat because of below-average bat speed and a slight frame that prevents him from really driving the ball, but the glove plays at one of the most important positions on the diamond. Sometimes that's all you need.
14. San Francisco Giants Select RHP Sean Reid-Foley
The San Francisco Giants, whose system is already loaded with right-handed pitching, get another big arm in the form of Florida high school standout Sean Reid-Foley. He's not a projectable 18-year-old at 6'2" and 210 pounds, but the ability to command the fastball and flash two above-average off-speed pitches makes up for it.
Reid-Foley doesn't bring the flash like, say, Tyler Kolek, but if you were to put these two on the same mound in five years, I would bet Reid-Foley is pitching at a higher level because of his polish and repeatable mechanics.
15. Los Angeles Angels Select 1B Kyle Schwarber
Picking in the first round for the first time since 2011, the Los Angeles Angels have a mountain to climb if they want to have even a mediocre farm system. They haven't had the picks to supplement their losses/graduations, and on the occasions when they are picking, the talent isn't exciting.
Kyle Schwarber isn't exactly a franchise savior, but he'd be as good as any player in the system before taking an at-bat in the minors. He's got the best raw power of any college player in the class with above-average bat speed and a strong approach.
The Indiana University star isn't going to stay behind the plate in pro ball and will likely end up at first base, but the bat profiles well over there.
16. Arizona Diamondbacks Select OF Bradley Zimmer
Considering the Arizona Diamondbacks' track record of success, or lack thereof, adding talent at the MLB level in recent years, you almost feel bad for the next prospect who will join the ranks.
On the plus side, San Francisco's Bradley Zimmer will ignite a system that needs some upside from position players. He's a great athlete, one of the best in the class, and is a physical young man at 6'5", 205 pounds.
Zimmer has a solid all-around set of tools, projecting as average or better in all five categories. He's a true center fielder with plus arm strength and plus raw power that doesn't always show up due to some length in his swing.
17. Kansas City Royals Select OF Derek Fisher
Considering how much effort the Kansas City Royals have spent on adding pitching to their farm system in recent years (Kyle Zimmer, Sean Manaea), it wouldn't be a surprise to see them go after another arm in this spot.
However, Kansas City's lack of offensive punch this season could be enough to convince the front office that adding a power bat is also a priority.
Virginia's Derek Fisher isn't a slam dunk to reach his ceiling as a 25-homer corner outfielder because his power hasn't really translated to games (17 homers in three college seasons), but he has a smooth swing from the left side and gets through the zone in a hurry to start driving balls.
18. Washington Nationals Select RHP Jeff Hoffman
If there's one thing we know about the Washington Nationals, it's that they won't shy away from taking a pitcher with an enormous ceiling because of injury concerns. They stole Lucas Giolito two years ago when he wound up needing Tommy John surgery shortly after signing his deal with the team.
East Carolina's Jeff Hoffman was a top-three talent in this draft class before his elbow broke down, leading to Tommy John surgery in early May. There's no way to know for sure if the stuff will come back to its pre-injury levels, but the surgery has been so successful in recent years that an aggressive team can take him hoping to get a great bargain.
19. Cincinnati Reds Select OF Derek Hill
The Cincinnati Reds always bet on tools and upside in the draft, so it's no surprise to see them go the high-school route in the first round this year.
Derek Hill is the kind of raw athlete who will either become a big league staple or flame out upon reaching Double-A, with no middle ground. He has elite speed as one of the fastest runners in the draft and is capable of being a dominant base stealer and elite center fielder.
Betting on someone whose best tool is speed is dangerous, but Hill isn't a slouch with the bat. He's more of a leadoff-type hitter with marginal power due to a 175-pound frame, but he's got bat speed, a line drive/contact-oriented swing and the wheels to beat out a lot of infield hits.
Think of Hill as Billy Hamilton with less speed (because no one runs that fast) and more natural strength to drive the ball into gaps.
20. Tampa Bay Rays Select 1B Casey Gillaspie
The Tampa Bay Rays really need to hit on a draft pick soon because their recent classes have been underwhelming, to say the least. Matt Moore was the last notable big leaguer they groomed from the bottom up, graduating in 2011.
They don't often zero in on one area, high school or college, so they are wide-open at this spot. One thing the Rays don't have much of in the minors is power. Wichita State first baseman Casey Gillaspie is a switch-hitter with good pop from both sides of the plate, though it's easier from the left side.
Working in Gillaspie's favor is that he's more than just a power bat. He's not a good athlete and has no speed to speak of, but his eye at the plate is tremendous. The Shockers star posted a 58-to-28 walk-to-strikeout ratio this season, in addition to hitting .389/.520/.682.
21. Cleveland Indians Select OF Monte Harrison
Brad Grant, the Indians' Director of Amateur Scouting, had this to say about the team finalizing its plan for this coming draft, per Jordan Bastian and Alec Shirkey of MLB.com:
We have 800 total players on the board this year, and our area scouts will come in starting on Monday and we'll put the second half of the board together. We spent the majority of the last five days with our cross-checkers in town to go through the top 150 players, really put those guys under the microscope. Our attention will really start to turn to that secondary board starting Monday.
After spending years drafting the kind of low-ceiling, safe college players who would get knocked around against advanced competition, the Cleveland Indians have shifted their philosophy in recent years by drafting upside in the first round (Francisco Lindor in 2011 and Clint Frazier in 2013).
If that trend continues in 2014, Monte Harrison is the kind of rare athlete who can lead a farm system into the future. The Missouri high school star has a commitment to play wide receiver at Nebraska, so it's not surprising that he has tremendous running speed and covers a ton of ground in center field.
Harrison will slide down the first round because of questions about his bat. The focus on two sports means he's missed precious at-bats, so his approach and pitch recognition are lacking. He's got bat speed, good hip rotation and wrist strength, though he doesn't make good use of his strong lower half in the swing. There's plus raw power in the bat just waiting to come out with the right development.
22. Los Angeles Dodgers Select RHP Spencer Adams
The Los Angeles Dodgers have used their first draft pick on pitching 11 times since 2000; seven of those have been right-handed arms. Barring a reversal of philosophy or an unexpected fall for a position player, expect that trend to continue.
Spencer Adams is one of the more projectable prep pitchers with first-round ability. He's listed at 6'4" and 180 pounds with plenty of room to fill out his frame, meaning an extra mile or two per hour on his low-90s fastball wouldn't be out of the question.
The Georgia star is an incredible athlete, easily repeating his simple mechanics and peppering the zone with fastballs. His off-speed stuff is still coming along, but the slider flashes plus, and there's good fade to his changeup.
23. Detroit Tigers Select RHP Nick Burdi
There's nothing mysterious or sexy about what the Detroit Tigers do in the draft. They want pitchers who are tall and throw really hard.
With a roster that's built to win right now, Louisville's Nick Burdi makes too much sense for the Tigers not to take. He's strictly a reliever, thanks to a violent delivery and lack of a third pitch, but his plus-plus fastball touches triple digits, and his wipeout slider profiles well in high-leverage situations.
The Tigers can draft Burdi, sign him right away, give him a month or two in the minors and plug him into their bullpen for the stretch run. They need arms to get outs, with Joe Nathan blowing saves and the team ranking 26th in relievers ERA.
24. Pittsburgh Pirates Select RHP Luis Ortiz
The Pittsburgh Pirates have built one of the best and deepest farm systems in baseball by taking big swings in the draft. Luis Ortiz can be the next in a long line of high school arms drafted by the franchise to become a star.
He's virtually done filling out physically at 6'3", 220 pounds, and missed time earlier this season with a forearm strain, so there's some risk attached, besides the usual stuff you get from an 18-year-old.
Ortiz's peak stuff is excellent and plays up, thanks to some deception in the delivery. The fastball is already plus with low-90s velocity and some movement. The slider has sharp tilt and lives at the back foot of left-handed hitters. His mechanics are virtually spotless, as he gets good push off the rubber and extension out front.
25. Oakland Athletics Select 3B Michael Chavis
The Oakland A's shocked a lot of people two years ago by drafting Addison Russell in the first round. It was the first time since 2001 the team went with a high school player that early, a trend that continued with the selection of Billy McKinney last year.
Assuming nothing has changed, Georgia prep star Michael Chavis is the best value still on the board. He has all the makings of an above-average big league third baseman with arm strength, agility, lateral quickness and footwork.
Chavis' bat is solid with a short, compact swing that allows him to make a lot of contact. He's not going to hit a lot of balls over the fence, but he has the natural strength and hip rotation to be a 15- to 20-homer player at his peak.
26. Boston Red Sox Select RHP Erick Fedde
The Boston Red Sox own the 26th and 33rd picks, so expect them to get creative with one of the two. UNLV right-hander Erick Fedde was a top-10 talent earlier in the season before Tommy John surgery ended his campaign prematurely.
Fedde isn't as safe a bet to return to form as Jeff Hoffman due to his slight 6'4", 180-pound frame, but if he does, the stuff projects well in the middle of a rotation. He has some mechanical flaws, notably an inconsistent release point, that have to be fixed in pro ball.
The stuff is good when Fedde stays on top of the ball, with a fastball that has excellent run and a slider that flashes plus with hard tilt as it crosses the plate.
27. St. Louis Cardinals Select RHP Luke Weaver
The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the best development teams in baseball, having reached the point where virtually anyone they select is expected to be a star. That's a lot of pressure to put on young players, but it's not unwarranted when you look at Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Adams and Shelby Miller just last year.
Luke Weaver is a player the Cardinals have to know very well, having taken James Ramsey out of Florida State in the first round two years ago. The right-hander only appeared in 16 games that season with a 5.93 ERA, but he also posted 40 strikeouts in 41 innings as a freshman.
Now, as a full-time starter, Weaver has a plus fastball-changeup combination and excellent deceptive arm speed to generate swings and misses. He's just 6'2" and 170 pounds, so a role in the bullpen isn't out of the question. But there's no reason to put him there before he proves incapable of handling a starting role.
Texas Rangers Select 3B Jacob Gatewood
30th overall pick (forfeited first-round pick for signing Shin-Soo Choo)
Few teams bet on tools more than the Texas Rangers, whether it is in the draft or international free agency. They have invested millions of dollars and years of development to groom names such as Jurickson Profar, Luis Sardinas, Jorge Alfaro and Rougned Odor.
In this draft, few position players can match the ceiling offered by Clovis High School star Jacob Gatewood. He's got tremendous bat speed, natural wrist strength and plus-plus raw power, the kind rarely found in a high school player.
Unfortunately, Gatewood's ability to get the hit tool playing against high school pitching hasn't always been there. He swings and misses a lot for someone with his ability and will get eaten alive by lower-level pitching. His floor is about 10 stories underneath the lowest level in a skyscraper.
If there's any team on Day 1 that believes it can maximize Gatewood's value, it will be the Rangers.
Atlanta Braves Select OF Michael Gettys
32nd overall pick (forfeited first-round pick for signing Ervin Santana)
The Atlanta Braves look for at least one of two things in the draft: signability and the Georgia factor. The former is most important to the team, especially since the Braves are looking to save money anywhere they can, but the latter has always played a key role in the way they operate.
Georgia is an excellent baseball state, so it's not like the Braves are mining for gold in a well loaded with coal. Michael Gettys is a premium athlete who could end up going late in the first round, but questions about his hit tool should make him available for Atlanta.
Gettys' speed and arm strength are his two best weapons, making him a natural fit in center field, and there's plenty of bat speed and raw power to project a lot of home runs in the future. The key to his success will be developing a hit tool that allows him to make contact, as he struggles to read off-speed pitches and drive good fastballs.
New York Yankees Select RHP Keith Weisenberg
55th overall pick (forfeited first-round pick for signing Brian McCann)
New York's farm system needs a lot of work, which is one big reason the team dipped into the free-agent well last offseason. It's not going to be helped out by the fact the club doesn't have a pick until the middle of the second round.
Predicting the draft is difficult enough, but when you're talking about the 55th selection, all bets are off. One intriguing name with a strong chance to be on the board is Florida prep right-hander Keith Weisenberg.
Weisenberg is a very good athlete with a sturdy 6'4", 185-pound frame and some room to fill out. His fastball projects as plus with low-90s velocity and some wiggle. The slider and changeup also flash average at times, so the ingredients are there for him to become a solid mid-rotation arm.
Baltimore Orioles Select C Grayson Greiner
90th overall pick (forfeited first- and second-round picks for signing Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz)
If trying to think of who will be available at No. 55 is impossible, the Baltimore Orioles, picking 35 spots later, are just hoping there is a player on the board with legitimate MLB potential.
One name that's grown on me as the season has gone on is South Carolina catcher Grayson Greiner. He's gotten better as a hitter, boasting a career-best slash line of .311/.389/.486 this year with eight home runs.
Despite being 6'5", Greiner projects well as a catcher in the big leagues. He's got a long way to go to get out of his crouch, but the arm strength is plus with good footwork and above-average receiving skills.
If Greiner's ability with the bat proves to be a sign of things to come, he should carve out a long career in the big leagues.
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