2014 MLB Draft Results: Biggest Winners and Losers of Day 1
Day 1 of the 2014 Major League Baseball draft is officially in the books, and with it came shocks, surprises and some baffling moves.
Unlike other sports, where there's often clarity to what teams are thinking ahead of time, there's no real predictability to the MLB draft because so much of it isn't done to fill needs. Teams aren't going to put their first-round pick on the big league roster right away, unless it's a reliever who doesn't add any substantial long-term value.
Combine the usual uncertainty surrounding the MLB draft with the volatility of this class, especially at the top, and naturally a lot of things happened that no one saw coming beforehand. Now that it's over, we can take time to examine what teams were thinking and why they went the directions they did.
In an effort to make sense of everything that happened on Day 1 of the draft, we are going to talk winners and losers from the first two rounds. Time will be the ultimate judge of this, but that doesn't mean it's too early to talk about what the raw talent was telling us about these players.
Here are the teams and players who should be either smiling wide or scratching their heads following the first two rounds of the 2014 MLB draft.
Winner: Tommy John Surgery
There was a time, not that long ago, when Tommy John surgery was a kiss of death for draft prospects. With the procedure producing better results across the board, even giving some guys more arm strength on occasion, it seems to have no effect on what teams want to do.
Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde were two top-10 talents who had the procedure in May, leaving their status for the draft up in the air. As it turns out, both guys went in the first round with Hoffman still going in the top 10 to Toronto at No. 9. Fedde was Washington's first-round pick at No. 18.
That's a lot of risk for the teams to take on, but the raw talent for both pitchers makes it easy to understand why they made this particular decision. For Fedde and Hoffman, barring any surprises in the negotiations, they are still going to get multimillion dollar signing bonuses based on where they were picked. Everyone wins, even when Tommy John strikes.
Loser: Corner College Bats
It doesn't take a lot to see that baseball has become a game for athletes, which has changed the way teams draft. No longer is it enough to be a polished college hitter to be a first-round pick; you have to provide value on defense or be so good with the bat that defensive limitations don't matter.
A number of top-tier college bats, like Virginia's Mike Papi and Derek Fisher, didn't go in the top 35 picks because they are going to end up in left field or first base. These players still have value, but it's getting diminished with each passing year because athleticism is more exciting to develop.
Winner: High School Pitchers
The strength of this draft before things started was clearly on the mound, but it was made abundantly clear very early on just how much teams valued prep pitching.
The top prep pitcher in the draft, Brady Aiken, even came into the draft wanting to be the No. 1 pick. As he told MLB Network (h/t Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today), "I sat down with my adviser and my trainer and my parents and I really had the goal that I wanted to be the best player in the country."
Well, Aiken's dream came true, making him the first H.S. pitcher taken atop the draft since Brien Taylor in 1991.
Aiken and Tyler Kolek went 1-2 to Houston and Miami, respectively. After a brief dry spell, Kodi Medeiros (Milwaukee), Touki Toussaint (Arizona), Grant Holmes (Los Angeles), Foster Griffin (Kansas City), Luis Ortiz (Texas), Justus Sheffield (Cleveland), Michael Kopech (Boston) and Jack Flaherty (St. Louis) brought things home for the high school arms.
There were also 10 college pitchers taken in Round 1, but the volume of prep arms to teams that usually avoid those players early (Cleveland, Kansas City, Milwaukee) says that clubs are feeling more comfortable drafting arms without the kinds of wear and tear that you see in colleges.
The ability to control an arm before it's been used and, in some cases, abused is going to be appealing to teams who can trust their doctors to do what is necessary if/when a young pitcher starts to feel pain somewhere.
Loser(s): Jacob Gatewood and Sean Reid-Foley
Two of the top prep stars in this class, Jacob Gatewood and Sean Reid-Foley, entered the draft with legitimate first-round expectations. Gatewood was falling at the wrong time due to questions about his ability to make contact, but the huge raw power figured to make him appealing.
Reid-Foley faced none of the questions that Gatewood did. He has the kind of polish, pitchability and average-or-better pitches to move quickly for a high school arm.
Both players had a long wait on Thursday with Gatewood being taken by Milwaukee at No. 41 and Reid-Foley going to Toronto at No. 49. Both players are in a position to get very good signing bonuses based on their slot—just over $1 million each, according to Baseball America—but these were two top-20 talents whose fall cost them at least $500,000 based on where they were drafted.
If you project as a catcher in Major League Baseball, the draft is like heaven for you. There were five catchers taken in the first 52 picks, more than any other position except shortstop and outfield.
What made catchers bigger winners than those two spots is the way teams valued them. The jury remains out on whether Kyle Schwarber (pictured), a surprise pick to the Cubs at No. 4, can remain behind the plate.
Max Pentecost was the only sure-fire first-round catching talent in this draft, yet Blake Anderson, Chase Vallot and Aramis Garcia all went well before anyone would have predicted because of their ability to stick behind the plate.
No position is more difficult to fill on the field than catcher, so you are going to get teams that reach for anyone who looks like he can do the job at even an adequate level.
Loser: Chicago Cubs
The Cubs were hanging out in no man's land with the No. 4 pick. They probably would have loved to take Jeff Hoffman, but they didn't want to risk a pick that high on an injured pitcher. Brady Aiken, Tyler Kolek and Carlos Rodon were the top three picks, so the team had to get creative.
Kyle Schwarber, who has the best power among college hitters, became the fallback plan. He seemed like someone the Cubs could use to sign under slot and then allocate funds for a pitcher who fell into the second round.
Instead, the Cubs drafted Maryland senior Jake Stinnett. He has a live arm and the arsenal to start, but he doesn't have an easy delivery, and his command is fringe-average. Unless the team has big plans for Day 2, Stinnett is hardly the pitcher you want to get excited about.
In addition, it doesn't appear as though Schwarber can stay behind the plate as he climbs toward the MLB level, as ESPN's Keith Law noted.
Even with the problems they've had adding impact starting pitching, though, it's hard to feel too bad for the Cubs when Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara and Albert Almora are at the top of their prospect list.
Winner(s): Lower-Tier Farm Systems
No matter what order you put them in, the Tigers, Brewers and Angels have the three worst farm systems in Major League Baseball right now. One draft doesn't necessarily change everything, but it is a chance to at least become more interesting.
The Brewers picked first among these three clubs and shot for ceiling with hard-throwing left-hander Kodi Medeiros. They followed that up by adding talented-but-raw prep stars Jacob Gatewood and Monte Harrison.
The Angels went for a high probability arm in Sean Newcomb before going after upside with Joe Gatto in Round 2. The Tigers grabbed one of the draft's best athletes in Derek Hill before resorting to their old tricks with a hard-throwing right-hander in Spencer Turnbull.
It's clear the Brewers added the most talent among the three teams, but the Angels and Tigers added at least one valuable piece that they can build around. These are still dreadful systems overall, though they're better now.
Loser: Oakland Athletics
There was a time when the Oakland Athletics were as predictable as any team in the draft. They wanted college players who would move quickly, even if their ceiling wasn't very high. That seemed to change in 2012 with Addison Russell and continued last year with Billy McKinney.
This year, with names like Michael Chavis, Spencer Adams, Braxton Davidson and Justus Sheffield still on the board, Billy Beane's club opted to take Matt Chapman. The Cal State Fullerton star has big raw power but doesn't make the kind of contact to show it off.
Following Chapman to Oakland is Clemson right-hander Daniel Gossett, a 6'1" pitcher who had shoulder problems earlier this year and projects as a reliever in pro ball. This is a farm system built around one player (Russell) and a lot of question marks in the lower levels, so this was a chance to stockpile some quality upside. That didn't happen.
Winner: Cleveland Indians
After having just one pick in the first two rounds last season, the Cleveland Indians had a golden opportunity to stockpile their farm system with four of the first 61 picks. The club's shift to more toolsy athletes played well with the crop of talent available in this class.
Outfielder Bradley Zimmer was a top 10-15 talent on potential who dropped to the Indians at No. 21. He's an incredible athlete with speed, a plus hit tool and above-average raw power. As long as he can stick in center field, there's big upside here.
That pick was followed up by two brilliant moves. Justus Sheffield is a lefty who gets knocked for his size despite having tremendous arm speed and a bulldog-type mentality on the mound with a plus fastball-curveball combination.
Virginia's Mike Papi suffers from being a first baseman, but he can really hit. Even if the power never comes along, he should be able to hit for average and get on base to project as an average regular.
The Indians lack high-probability talent in their farm system, so getting players like Zimmer and Sheffield will go a long way toward redeeming this group.
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