The 2014 MLB draft is almost here, and while players will emerge from the later rounds, all eyes will be on which players will go where in the first round.
This year's draft begins on Thursday with the first three rounds. For the third straight year, the Houston Astros will have the No. 1 overall pick, and they'll have to decide between a number of exciting pitchers or a couple of positional players.
Before the draft begins, let's take a look at a complete first-round mock draft based on the long-term needs of teams.
1. Houston Astros: Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS (Calif.)
As the Astros continue to slowly rebuild, they'll have an opportunity to bring in another talented pitcher with the No. 1 overall pick. While only 17 years old, Brady Aiken is this year's top-rated prospect by many scouts, and it's not hard to see why. With a strong fastball and a plus curve, Aiken might not need a ton of time in the minors before the Astros call him up.
2. Miami Marlins: Carlos Rodon, LHP, N.C. State
With one left-handed pitcher gone, the Miami Marlins will be tempted to add the other talented lefty with the No. 2 pick. The Marlins have a couple of options, but as Jon Heyman from CBS Sports points out, pairing Carlos Rodon, a Miami product, with Jose Fernandez would give the team an exciting one-two combo in the near future.
3. Chicago White Sox: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd HS (Texas)
The Chicago White Sox desperately need more pitching talent in their farm system, and they can get a talented high school prospect in Tyler Kolek here. At 6'5'' and 230 pounds, Kolek isn't a terrific athlete and isn't a polished product, but he has huge upside and the potential to be a legitimate starter in the big leagues.
4. Chicago Cubs: Aaron Nola, RHP, Louisiana State
With their farm system loaded with positional players, the Chicago Cubs might take a chance and reach for the next available pitcher with the top three prospects already off the board. Aaron Nola is the next best pitcher available, and while his mechanics are a little unconventional, he has terrific command to go along with a solid repertoire of pitches.
5. Minnesota Twins: Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS (Fla.)
The Minnesota Twins need an answer at shortstop, and they'll find one with Nick Gordon. As the best shortstop in the draft, Gordon has a strong arm and terrific range on defense along with quick bat speed and above-average strength at the plate.
6. Seattle Mariners: Alex Jackson, C, Rancho Bernando HS (Calif.)
If he doesn't go to the Astros or Marlins, Alex Jackson may very well slide out of the top five. If that happens, the Seattle Mariners probably won't hesitate to take him. Jackson has plenty of power and a quick bat that will give the Mariners a solid offensive option.
7. Philadelphia Phillies: Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville
A deceptive lefty, Kyle Freeland won't rely upon velocity to work his way to the majors. Instead, Freeland will focus on command and movement, especially with his nasty slider which should have major league players whiffing in the next few years.
8. Colorado Rockies: Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford
Hartford's Sean Newcomb continues to climb up draft boards, and the Colorado Rockies may be the team to pull the trigger on him. Newcomb isn't just a great athlete, he has a smooth delivery and can be a workhorse if his team needs him to. MLB teams love guys who can carry the load when needed, so Newcomb might not have to wait long before being called up.
9. Toronto Blue Jays: Trea Turner, SS, N.C. State
Jose Reyes is already 30 years old, and while it's still a ways down the road, the Toronto Blue Jays might want to find his eventual replacement now rather than later. Trea Turner isn't going to have the kind of power Reyes once had, but he's a great defender and arguably one of the best baserunners in this class.
10. New York Mets: Touki Toussaint, RHP, Coral Springs Christian Academy (Fla.)
One of the bigger high-risk, high-reward prospects in this draft, Touki Toussaint might be worth the risk given his upside. With an upper-90s fastball and a developing curveball that's shown flashes of being a devastating pitch, Toussaint looks like he could be a deadly pitcher one day if he can develop in the New York Mets farm system.
11. Toronto Blue Jays: Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina
Tommy John surgery might have Jeff Hoffman falling a bit further than he would like, but the young right-handed pitcher understands that. Still, according to Tyler Kepner from the New York Times, Hoffman plans on using that as motivation, saying:
The competitor in me makes it hard for me to see, maybe, a bunch of guys get picked ahead of me — guys that I know aren’t better than me, some guys out of high school that don’t really understand the game of baseball yet. It’s going to be tough if I fall a little further. But everything happens for a reason, and whatever team takes the so-called risk and drafts me is going to get the best player in the draft.
Some teams will be worried about his arm, but Hoffman's power could make him a steal if he's completely healthy after returning from surgery.
12. Milwaukee Brewers: Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway HS (S.C.)
A less-than-ideal frame at 6'2" and 190 pounds might limit Grant Holmes' ceiling, but with excellent command and a ridiculous curveball, Holmes will still have a future in baseball. Don't expect him to ever become an ace, but he'll have the potential to get into the starting rotation for the Milwaukee Brewers one day.
13. San Diego Padres: Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State
The San Diego Padres need some extra bats for the future, and Michael Conforto can be that prospect. While he's limited as to what position he can play given his mediocre speed and arm strength, he's an exciting power hitter who can work the strike zone and wait for his pitch.
14. San Francisco Giants: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
This may be a risky pick this early for the San Francisco Giants, but Tyler Beede's upside might just be worth it. He's been an inconsistent prospect, but he has college experience and a solid fastball that could help him as he continues to work on the rest of his game.
15. Los Angeles Angels: Kyle Schwarber, C/1B, Indiana
Albert Pujols isn't going to play forever, but even if he's still around by the time Kyle Schwarber is ready to get called up, the young player from Indiana could play either at catcher or designated hitter. Schwarber has a ton of power, but he's not very athletic and projects best at first base, where he could be the eventual replacement for Pujols.
16. Arizona Diamondbacks: Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco
The Arizona Diamondbacks have struggled to develop MLB players through their farm system recently, but that could change with Bradley Zimmer. He's an all-around solid prospect with a strong arm and has proven that he can drive balls into the outfield with plus power as a center fielder.
17. Kansas City Royals: Derek Hill, OF, Elk Grove HS (Calif.)
If he's here, the Kansas City Royals will be tempted to bring in Derek Hill. He's still a developing prospect coming out of high school who will need to work on hitting, but he's one of the more solid defensive outfielders in this draft class with a strong arm and the athleticism to make big plays.
18. Washington Nationals: Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Texas Christian
The Washington Nationals won't hesitate to add another solid pitcher to their farm system, and Brandon Finnegan looks like a legitimate option. He has a mid-90s fastball that has some nice late movement and a slider that's shown up in flashes. He'll need to work on command, but if he fixes that to go along with his ability to change speeds, he'll be making plenty of batters miss.
19. Cincinnati Reds: Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Sandalwood HS (Fla.)
He's not the flashiest prospect, but Sean Reid-Foley looks like an overall solid pitcher. He has a solid fastball that can reach the mid-90s along with a slider and curveball that have potential. He's not going to blow anyone away down the road, but he could become a solid pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds rotation.
20. Tampa Bay Rays: Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Wichita State
One thing the Tampa Bay Rays lack in their farm system is power, but that could change if they brought in Casey Gillaspie. He's shown plenty of power this season with 15 home runs and a .682 slugging percentage, but he's also a disciplined hitter with just 28 strikeouts in 59 games.
21. Cleveland Indians: Erick Fedde, RHP, UNLV
Much like Hoffman, Erick Fedde's draft stock has dropped because of Tommy John surgery. However, if he comes back at 100 percent, he'll be a steal for the Cleveland Indians. He has a fastball that can move around along with a developing slider, but he'll need to work on his inconsistent release if he wants to become a long-term starter in Cleveland.
22. Los Angeles Dodgers: Spencer Adams, RHP, White County HS (Ga.)
Spencer Adams has plenty of potential coming out of high school thanks to his ideal 6'4", 180-pound frame that he could fill out while with the Dodgers. He's still developing his off-speed pitches, but his consistent mechanics and a solid fastball will help him as he develops.
23. Detroit Tigers: Nick Burdi, RHP, Louisville
It's no secret that the Detroit Tigers love to draft pitchers who can throw hard. Fortunately for them, Nick Burdi is still available here, and while he probably won't ever start in the majors, he'll likely be a deadly reliever. With a fastball that can touch 100 mph and a 6'4'' frame, Burdi could be ready to come into Detroit's bullpen as early as a few months from now.
24. Pittsburgh Pirates: Jacob Gatewood, SS/3B, Clovis HS (Calif.)
One of the more intriguing high school prospects in this draft has to be Jacob Gatewood. He has tremendous raw power and could be a solid defender at third base, but he has a very questionable hit tool that could kill his chances of reaching the majors. It's a big risk, but if it works out, the Pittsburgh Pirates would have an awesome power threat in their infield.
25. Oakland Athletics: Monte Harrison, OF, Lee's Summit West HS (Mo.)
The Oakland Athletics could use a flashy outfielder in their farm system. Monte Harrison is a great athlete who has an offer to play wide receiver at Nebraska, but if he turns it down, he'll be an athletic outfielder who can cover a ton of ground. He'll still need to work on hitting, but he has natural ability at the plate and the potential to be an exciting center fielder.
26. Boston Red Sox: Foster Griffin, LHP, The First Academy (Fla.)
An intriguing pitcher at 6'5'', Foster Griffin could add some bulk to his frame and velocity to his low-90s fastball. He already possesses some solid off-speed pitches, and with some time in the farm system he could learn to utilize them, along with a solid fastball, to keep hitters guessing.
27. St. Louis Cardinals: Luis Ortiz, RHP, Sanger HS (Calif.)
Luis Ortiz is another interesting high school pitcher, but unlike Griffin, he's already added the bulk he needs at 6'3" and 220 pounds. He has a plus fastball that isn't the fastest but has enough movement along with a sharp slider and smooth mechanics to help him quickly move up the farm system.