2014 MLB Mock Draft: Mike Rosenbaum's Final 1st-Round Picks
With the 2014 MLB Rule 4 draft set to commence Thursday night, it’s time to take one final stab at predicting how the first round will unfold.
For the third consecutive year, the Houston Astros have the No. 1 pick and will drastically impact how the first round unfolds. In 2012, they decided to cut a well-below-slot deal with 17-year-old Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa. As a result, the organization was able to sign all of its key, early-round selections.
Although this year’s crop of talent may be weaker compared to previous drafts, it’s loaded at the top with impact pitchers in Brady Aiken, Carlos Rodon, Tyler Kolek, Aaron Nola, Sean Newcomb and Kyle Freeland, who all have the potential to come off the board in the first 10 slots.
But which player will the Astros select with the No. 1 pick?
Here’s a look at my final mock draft of the year.
1. Houston Astros
The Pick: Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS (Calif.)
There’s been nothing so far to suggest that the Astros aren’t all-in on taking Brady Aiken first overall, though Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle notes that the team is still considering Carlos Rodon, Aaron Nola, Tyler Kolek, Alex Jackson and Nick Gordon.
The Astros seemingly will only pass on Aiken if they’re able to reach an agreement on a below-slot deal with one of the five other players, which in turn would allow the organization to spend its $13.36 million bonus pool more liberally on subsequent picks.
In that scenario the team would presumably target one of the prep hitters, likely Gordon, who has already been rumored, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, to be discussing a deal. However, the rumor, which has died down as of late, could just be the Astros attempting to drive down Aiken and/or Jackson’s price tag.
2. Miami Marlins
The Pick: Carlos Rodon, LHP, North Carolina State
If the Astros take Aiken at No. 1, then the Marlins will have to decide between Rodon, Jackson and Kolek. Jackson has the highest ceiling among hitters in the class, and the latest rumor, according to John Arguello of Chicago Now via Twitter, is that he and the Marlins have an agreement in place at this spot.
That being said, there also has been speculation that Miami might target Rodon for his Cuban-American heritage and ties to the Miami area. However, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald contends that the team won’t select Rodon solely for that reason.
In my opinion, the prospects of a future rotation comprised of Jose Fernandez, Rodon, Andrew Heaney, Nate Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez will ultimately sway the Marlins into passing on Jackson in favor of Rodon.
3. Chicago White Sox
The Pick: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd HS (Texas)
The White Sox obviously will grab either Aiken or Rodon should one of them reach this spot, but if that doesn’t happen, the team is prepared to grab right-hander Tyler Kolek, whom Chicago has been high on since the beginning.
Assistant scouting director Nick Hostetler said the following about the flame-throwing Texas prep, via MLB.com:
I don't know if we've ever seen anything like it, and there's no database for it," said Hostetler. "You can't find a body comparison. He's one-of-a-kind. The upside is unlimited. People say Nolan Ryan or Roger Clemens. He might be better. His stuff is electric. To walk away from a high school game and say, "Wow," very rarely does that happen. But he's a wow type of guy.
4. Chicago Cubs
The Pick: Aaron Nola, RHP, Louisiana State
The injury to Jeff Hoffman really hurt the Cubs, as they’ll now be forced to wait and see if any of the Big Three pitchers fall in their lap with the fourth pick. Though that could still happen in theory—especially if the Astros cut a deal with a prep hitter, or the Marlins select Jackson over Rodon—the Cubs are said to have interest in college players such as outfielder Michael Conforto, right-hander Aaron Nola and catcher Max Pentecost, the latter of whom was recently seen in person by Theo Epstein.
However, Jon Heyman also tweeted on Wednesday that the Cubs “could target” Indiana catcher/first baseman Kyle Schwarber, who is flying up draft boards.
While all four of those players could be options at No. 4, I still think the dearth of impact arms in the Cubs system makes the team more inclined to draft Nola in the first round.
5. Minnesota Twins
The Pick: Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS (Fla.)
ESPN’s Keith Law noted on Buster Olney’s Baseball Tonight podcast that the Twins are targeting either Nick Gordon or Aaron Nola with the No. 5 pick. However, it’s highly doubtful they’ll force Nola up the board if Gordon, the top prep shortstop in this year’s class, is still available.
6. Seattle Mariners
The Pick: Alex Jackson, C/OF, Rancho Bernardo HS (Calif.)
The Mariners have coveted Alex Jackson all spring, according to Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com, but they’ll have no choice but to wait and see which player falls to them at No. 6. If Jackson comes off the board in the first five picks, then they’ll presumably target players such as Hoffman, Conforto or Nola.
7. Philadelphia Phillies
The Pick: Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford
Newcomb has as much helium as any player heading into the draft, but so far it’s been difficult to gauge the level of interest in the Hartford left-hander. While Aaron Nola is a much better fit for the Phillies at this slot, Newcomb would be an excellent alternative if the former is unavailable.
8. Colorado Rockies
The Pick: Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville
Denver native Kyle Freeland has been linked to the Rockies from the start, and the team’s success this season has only furthered the belief that they’ll take him at No. 8. If he’s already off the board, the Rockies would presumably shift their focus to players such as Conforto, Pentecost or Newcomb.
9. Toronto Blue Jays
The Pick: Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State
Turner isn’t viewed as one of the premier position players in this year’s draft class, but the fact that he’s a true shortstop with plus speed—in a class that’s very thin on projectable bats—means he’s a prime candidate to be overdrafted in the first round.
In this case, the Mets and Blue Jays are believed to be most interested in Turner’s services, per John Manuel of Baseball America. Therefore, it make sense for the Blue Jays to draft him at this slot, even if it’s only to block him from going to the Mets with the No. 10 pick.
10. New York Mets
The Pick: Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State
ESPN’s Keith Law (subscription required) and MLB.com’s Jim Callis both believe that the Cubs will take Conforto at No. 4 if Aiken, Rodon and Kolek come off the board as expected in the first three picks. However, with rumors of the Cubs also looking at Kyle Schwarber at that spot, there’s at least a slight chance Conforto falls to the Mets at No. 10. I imagine the Mets would also consider Trea Turner here if he doesn’t go the Blue Jays.
11. Toronto Blue Jays
The Pick: Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina
Hoffman is the mother of all wild cards in this year’s class, as he was widely considered to be a top-five pick before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery last month. Despite his unfortunate injury, the right-hander’s tremendous upside is undeniable and worthy of a top-10 overall selection. The Blue Jays seemingly are in the best position to get him, as they could always select him two slots earlier with the No. 9 pick.
*This is a compensation pick for failing to sign 2013 first-rounder Phil Bickford.
12. Milwaukee Brewers
The Pick: Kyle Schwarber, C/1B, Indiana
The Brewers could go in a number of directions with the No. 12 pick, as they’ll have a slew of college players to choose from regardless of how the previous 11 picks play out. If Newcomb, Freeland and Hoffman are all off the board here, then I’d expect them to shift their focus toward college hitters, with Schwarber, Zimmer and Pentecost representing their top targets.
13. San Diego Padres
The Pick: Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State
The Padres don’t need to draft a catcher with their first pick—especially with Austin Hedges roughly a year away from the major leagues—but I think it’ll be hard for them to pass on Pentecost’s impressive bat if he makes it this far down the board. Plus, having a surplus of projectable depth behind the plate is an enviable “problem” for any organization.
14. San Francisco Giants
The Pick: Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco
The Giants system is loaded with arms but thin on projectable position players, even after the team selected a pair of prep infielders with its first two picks last year. Therefore, I think the Giants will grab the best college hitter still on the board right here, whether it's Schwarber, Conforto or, in this case, Zimmer, the hometown favorite out of the University of San Francisco.
15. Los Angeles Angels
The Pick: Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Texas Christian
Finnegan is one of several wild-card pitching prospects in this year’s class, as teams were already concerned about the undersized left-hander’s durability before he missed time this spring with shoulder stiffness. However, given the caliber of his stuff and track record of missing bats, it’s difficult to envision him making it outside the top 15 picks.
16. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Pick: Michael Chavis, 3B/2B, Sprayberry HS (Ga.)
After going heavy on pitching in the 2013 draft, the Diamondbacks would be wise to target one of the more advanced hitters in this year’s class, either from the high school or college ranks. Zimmer and Schwarber would be no-brainers if either player is still on the board, but I can also see them taking prep infielder Michael Chavis at this slot.
17. Kansas City Royals
The Pick: Touki Toussaint, RHP, Coral Springs Christian Academy (Fla.)
The Royals are expected to target pitching in this year’s draft, according to the team’s assistant general manager-player personnel J.J. Picollo, via MLB.com, and I think they’d be thrilled to see Toussaint, one of the class’ premier prep arms, still on the board at No. 17. That being said, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of them grabbing an athletic, toolsy player at this slot, with Bradley Zimmer representing an ideal target if he’s still available, as well as prep outfielders Derek Hill and Monte Harrison.
18. Washington Nationals
The Pick: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
The Nationals drafted an injured Lucas Giolito with the No. 16 pick in the 2012 draft and could try to pull off something similar this year with either Jeff Hoffman or Erick Fedde, should either player make it this far. However, after Beede’s dominant performance in the NCAA regionals, I could also see the Nats taking a gamble on the ever-frustrating Vanderbilt right-hander.
19. Cincinnati Reds
The Pick: Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway HS (S.C.)
Holmes is one of several high-ceiling prep right-handers with the potential to come off the board in the top half of the first round, but concerns about his physical projection and long-term durability could cause him to drop to the Reds at No. 19—which would be a steal if he comes anywhere close to reaching his front-of-the-rotation potential.
20. Tampa Bay Rays
The Pick: Derek Hill, OF, Elk Grove HS (Calif.)
Hill’s athleticism and overall potential on both sides of the ball could have him off the board anywhere within the previous six or seven slots. However, he’s exactly the type of player the Rays usually covet early in the draft, so I’d be surprised if he makes it past them at No. 20.
21. Cleveland Indians
The Pick: Luis Ortiz, RHP, Sanger HS (Calif.)
Ortiz enters the draft with some helium despite missing most of the spring with right forearm tightness. As one of the higher-upside arms in this year’s class, there’s a chance he won’t be available this late into the first round, but if he is, expect the Tribe to grab him with the first of their four Day 1 picks. If he’s off the board, Grant Holmes and Sean Reid-Foley are both excellent alternatives at this slot.
22. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Pick: Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Sandalwood HS (Fla.)
It’s no secret that the Dodgers love to draft hard-throwing, high-upside pitchers, and they should have several options with the No. 22 pick this year, including Reid-Foley, Virginia’s Nick Howard, Luis Ortiz and Grant Holmes.
23. Detroit Tigers
The Pick: Nick Burdi, RHP, Louisville
The Tigers popped reliever Corey Knebel with their first pick in last year’s draft, and he’s already in the major leagues. Burdi has even more potential as a late-inning weapon and could potentially be working out of the team’s big league bullpen by season’s end.
24. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pick: Monte Harrison, OF, Lee's Summit West HS (Mo.)
The Pirates potentially could grab a power arm that falls to them here, such as Tyler Beede or Grant Holmes, but that’s seemingly less and less likely as the draft nears. Harrison could be drafted by a team somewhere in the previous 10 slots, but I think the Pirates go after him here if he’s still on the board and lure him away from his dual-sport commitment to Nebraska with an above-slot bonus.
25. Oakland Athletics
The Pick: Ti'Quan Forbes, SS, Columbia HS (Miss.)
Forbes could potentially come off the board anywhere in the previous five picks, but considering both the quantity and quality of arms in this year’s class, it’s doubtful that a team will force him up the board unnecessarily. However, the A’s are said to be interested in Forbes, per Baseball America, and the No. 25 slot will likely be their only opportunity to draft him.
26. Boston Red Sox
The Pick: Erick Fedde, RHP, UNLV
Fedde, who will miss the next year recovering from his recent Tommy John surgery, is one of the draft’s biggest wild cards, as a team that believes he’ll return to his 2014 spring form once fully healthy could potentially grab him within the first 20 picks. With two picks at Nos. 26 and 33, I expect the Red Sox to be creative and target at least one high-upside player who, for whatever reason, has fallen to the back end of the first round.
27. St. Louis Cardinals
The Pick: Alex Blandino, 3B/2B, Stanford
After doubling up on pitchers last year with their first two picks, the Cardinals are likely to grab at least one college bat on Day 1 of the draft. Blandino is a bit under-the-radar coming out of Stanford—a school known for ruining projectable hitters—but his bat is legit and a good fit in their system. Plus, the success of 2012 first-rounder Stephen Piscotty suggests the Cardinals aren’t concerned about the stigma tied to Stanford hitters.
Comp Round A (Nos. 28-34)
28. Kansas City Royals (Compensation for loss of free agent Ervin Santana)
The Pick: Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Waiakea HS (Hawaii)
Medeiros to the Royals at No. 28 has been a popular pick within the industry for a while now, and the organization only furthered the belief that it will grab the Hawaiian left-hander by inviting him for a predraft visit on Monday. If he doesn’t make it to them, the Royals could target other high-upside high school prospects such as Michael Gettys, Jacob Gatewood, Monte Harrison and Spencer Adams.
29. Cincinnati Reds (Compensation for loss of free agent Shin-Soo Choo)
The Pick: Jacob Gatewood, SS/3B, Clovis HS (Calif.)
The void at shortstop in the Reds system isn’t going to solve itself, and while they traditionally have targeted power arms and college bats, I could see them deviating from that trend this year to go all-in on a player such as Jacob Gatewood. The California prep isn’t a lock to stay at shortstop, and he’ll likely be a work in progress at the dish for several years, but his enormous upside should at least warrant consideration at this slot.
30. Texas Rangers (Compensation for loss of free agent Nelson Cruz)
The Pick: Michael Gettys, OF, Gainesville HS (Ga.)
With pick No. 30 in the draft, the Rangers are once again in a position to grab an athletic, high-risk/reward prospect from the prep ranks. They’ll have to wait to see who’s still on the board at this point, but they could have several intriguing options in Gettys—who arguably has the highest ceiling in the class—as well as Jacob Gatewood and Ti’Quan Forbes.
31. Cleveland Indians (Compensation for loss of free agent Ubaldo Jimenez)
The Pick: Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Wichita State
If the Indians go for upside at No. 21—as they absolutely should—the switch-hitting Gillaspie would be a solid high-floor play at No. 31, given the lack of impact corner bats in their system. A.J. Reed could also be an option at this slot, and the same goes for Virginia standouts Derek Fisher and Mike Papi.
32. Atlanta Braves (Compensation for loss of free agent Brian McCann)
The Pick: Spencer Adams, RHP, White County HS (Ga.)
The Braves are known for targeting high-upside pitchers from the Southeast, and this year should be no different. The only question is who will still be available when they make their first selection at No. 32. Adams is a best-case scenario for them here, with Foster Griffin, Cameron Varga and Michael Kopech representing next-in-line options if he’s already off the board.
33. Boston Red Sox (Compensation for loss of free agent Jacoby Ellsbury)
The Pick: Derek Fisher, OF, Virginia
If the Red Sox select a pitcher with their first pick as I predict, then they should be able to grab one of the more advanced college hitters still on board, with Derek Fisher, Casey Gillaspie, Mike Papi and A.J. Reed representing potential options.
34. St. Louis Cardinals (Compensation for loss of free agent Carlos Beltran)
The Pick: Foster Griffin, LHP, First Academy HS (Fla.)
With four of the first 71 picks in the draft, the Cardinals will once again have the opportunity to be creative with their spending despite having to draft at the end of the first round. As has been the case in previous years, the organization will likely target a mixture of college and prep prospects with its early picks but will have to wait and see how the entire first round plays out before employing a specific strategy.
If the left-hander Griffin is unavailable, I could see the Cardinals targeting prep right-handers Spencer Adams or Cameron Varga with this pick.
Comp Balance Round A (Nos. 35-41)
35. Colorado Rockies
The Pick: Braxton Davidson, 1B/OF, T.C. Roberson HS (N.C.)
The Rockies should be in good position to grab a power hitter here—assuming they grab a college pitcher at No. 8 overall. Prep standout Braxton Davidson represents a possible option, as does Kentucky’s A.J. Reed.
36. Miami Marlins (Compensation for failure to sign 2013 supplemental first-rounder Matt Krook)
The Pick: Forrest Wall, 2B, Orangewood Christian HS (Fla.)
Wall continues to generate significant interest from teams that are drafting at the back of the first round, as he represents a unique prospect in this year’s class due to his plus speed and strong left-handed hit-tool projection as a second baseman. There’s also a good chance he doesn’t make it this far down the board, in which case the Marlins could target other prep players such as Chase Vallot, Jack Flaherty or Alex Verdugo.
37. Houston Astros (Pick obtained from Orioles in trade)
The Pick: Chase Vallot, C, St. Thomas More HS (La.)
Vallot seems to be a good fit for the Astros at this spot if they don’t draft Alex Jackson at 1-1, as the organization is thin on projectable catchers in the minor leagues. Furthermore, they might be able to offer the prep backstop additional bonus money should they ultimately cut a deal with their first pick.
38. Cleveland Indians
The Pick: Matt Imhof, LHP, Cal Poly
The Indians are expected to target either high-upside arms or college bats with their first two picks, which could allow them to be both creative and aggressive with their pick here. Imhof, 20, is an intriguing option when you consider the team’s lack of left-handed pitching in the minors, and he’s also one of the youngest college pitchers in the class.
39. Pittsburgh Pirates (Pick obtained from Marlins in trade)
The Pick: Michael Kopech, RHP, Mount Pleasant HS (Texas)
Depending on what the Pirates do with the No. 24 pick, the team might explore signing high-upside prep arms such as Kopech or Scott Blewett with their second pick. Plus, after gaining addition pool money thanks to a recent trade with the Marlins, they could potentially offer him an over-slot bonus to seal the deal.
40. Kansas City Royals
The Pick: Luke Weaver, RHP, Florida State
Weaver has some late helium headed into the draft, and the right-hander could be a bargain for a team such as the Royals, who have multiple first-round picks, at this slot.
41. Milwaukee Brewers
The Pick: A.J. Reed, 1B, Kentucky
As previously mentioned when breaking down their options with the No. 14 pick, the Brewers will have an opportunity to add some much-needed power to their system this year by targeting some of the better college hitters. They might not pursue Reed, who led all Division I hitters in home runs this season, if they ultimately land Schwarber or Conforto with their first pick. At the same time, I think it would be hard for them to pass on the potential value in Reed’s enormous left-handed power this late in the draft.