As if evaluating the NBA or NFL drafts wasn't difficult enough, the MLB draft takes that difficulty one step further.
Almost every player selected in the first round of the 2014 draft is at least two years away from hitting the major leagues and another year or two on top of that away from becoming a regular starter.
During that time, so much can go wrong or right in a player's development.
The Kansas City Royals looked like they had their future all but sewn up a few years ago with young stars like Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Luke Hochevar coming through the system. Fast-forward to the present, and the Royals remain on the outside looking in on the playoff picture.
Meanwhile, Mike Trout—the 25th overall pick in the 2009 draft—is one of the best players in Major League Baseball. David Wright was the 38th overall pick in 2001.
Grading each first-round pick in the MLB draft is a golden opportunity to look like a fool in a few years, but that's not going to stop anybody from doing it, myself included.
|Arizona Diamondbacks||(16) Touki Toussaint, RHP||A||Prep pitchers are always risky, but Toussaint has a great curveball. Could blossom into a star.|
|Atlanta Braves||(32) Braxton Davidson, OF||B+||Great raw power. Getting him near end of first round is steal for Braves.|
|Boston Red Sox||(26) Michael Chavis, SS; (33) Michael Kopech, RHP||A||Chavis was a steal. Really good hitter who can defend his position. Kopech has odd mechanics, but the stuff is there to become a solid starter.|
|Chicago Cubs||(4) Kyle Schwarber, C/OF||B||Reached a bit for Schwarber, but he gives Cubs another power bat, which is always a good thing.|
|Chicago White Sox||(3) Carlos Rodon, LHP||A+||Best overall pitcher in the draft. Surprised he fell here. Tremendous value for White Sox.|
|Cincinnati Reds||(19) Nick Howard, RHP; (29) Alex Blandino, SS||B||Howard is a reach, as he will likely become a reliever in majors. Blandino doesn't do any one thing really well but productive in a lot of areas.|
|Cleveland Indians||(21) Bradley Zimmer, OF; (31) Justus Sheffield, LHP||A||Zimmer is a great pick. Possesses a ton of tools, but may not hit for power. Sheffield has a low ceiling but should grow into above-average player.|
|Colorado Rockies||(8) Kyle Freeland||B+||Freeland doesn't have otherworldly stuff but knows how to get guys out. Colorado's building a strong rotation.|
|Detroit Tigers||(23) Derek Hill, OF||A-||One of best defenders in the draft. Even if his bat doesn't come along, this will be a solid pick for the Tigers.|
|Houston Astros||(1) Brady Aiken||A||Not much needs to be said here. Aiken's got a ton of potential but does carry some risk as a prep pitcher.|
|Kansas City Royals||(17) Brandon Finnegan, LHP; (28) Foster Griffin, LHP||B+||Both picks were solid for the Royals, but they've had trouble developing pitching, especially of the left-handed variety.|
|Los Angeles Angels||(15) Sean Newcomb, LHP||B+||Newcomb has really good stuff and could rack up the strikeouts. Control can be a bit erratic at times, though.|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||(22) Grant Holmes, RHP||A+||Great pick for the Dodgers. Holmes has the stuff to be a top-end starter in the majors.|
|Miami Marlins||(2) Tyler Kolek, RHP||A-||Bit of a surprise that this wasn't Rodon, but Kolek is well worth a No. 2 overall selection. Big, strong right-hander.|
|Milwaukee Brewers||(12) Kodi Medeiros, LHP||A-||Medeiros might not become an ace, but his fastball and slider could grow into a great combination.|
|Minnesota Twins||(5) Nick Gordon, SS||A+||Rich get richer. Twins have a great minor-league system, which got even better with the addition of Gordon.|
|New York Mets||(10) Michael Conforto, OF||A-||Doesn't defend well but more than makes up for it with his bat.|
|New York Yankees||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Oakland Athletics||(25) Matt Chapman, 3B||B-||Not a sexy pick, but can't doubt A's too much. Chapman does have impressive power.|
|Philadelphia Phillies||(7) Aaron Nola, RHP||B+||Nola won't become an ace of the staff, but he could arguably step into an MLB rotation now and be No. 4 or 5 starter.|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||(24) Cole Tucker, SS||C||Biggest reach of first round. Does give Pirates a SS and some flexibility financially in later rounds.|
|San Diego Padres||(13) Trea Turner, SS||B||Solid defender who will hit for average. Will be productive SS for a long time.|
|San Francisco Giants||(14) Tyler Beede, RHP||A-||Needs to improve command but has stuff to grow into top-end starter.|
|Seattle Mariners||(6) Alex Jackson, C/OF||A||Should stick in OF. One of the best hitters in the draft.|
|St. Louis Cardinals||(27) Luke Weaver, RHP; (34) Jack Flaherty, RHP||B+||Signability concerns with Flaherty, but if Cardinals land him, he's a great pick.|
|Tampa Bay Rays||(20) Casey Gillaspie, 1B||A||Always nice to add a talented switch-hitter. Gives Rays kind of offense they desperately need in their system.|
|Texas Rangers||(30) Luis Ortiz, RHP||A||Great pick this late into first round. Ortiz could grow into No. 1 or No. 2 starter.|
|Toronto Blue Jays||(9) Jeff Hoffman, RHP; (11) Max Pentecost, C||A+||Each pick is solid on its own but together gives Blue Jays great first round. Hoffman could be steal of the round.|
|Washington Nationals||(18) Erick Fedde, RHP||B+||Nats have had success with Lucas Giolito, so Tommy John surgery shouldn't be big worry.|
Picks via MLB.com
Best Value Picks
No. 3 Chicago White Sox: Carlos Rodon
It's difficult to have the third overall pick and still manage to walk away with a steal, but the Chicago White Sox did just that after Carlos Rodon fell to them in the first round.
Rodon's stock did tumble during his junior season, but that doesn't cloud his massive potential.
At his best, the North Carolina State star could become a David Price-level left-hander. He has a strong fastball complemented by an above-average cutter and even better slider.
Baseball America's Ben Badler drew the comparison to Francisco Liriano:
See a lot of Francisco Liriano in Carlos Rodon. Devastating at times with his fastball and 70 slider, frustrating at others with command.— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) June 5, 2014
There's no question that Rodon's control can be spotty at times, and he did throw a lot of innings for the Wolfpack.
At No. 3, though, he was a no-brainer for the White Sox and could grow into a Cy Young Award winner.
No. 9 Toronto Blue Jays: Jeff Hoffman
The Tommy John surgery undoubtedly makes Jeff Hoffman a risk. However, plenty of pitchers have had the operation and come back just as good as, if not better than, they were before they left.
As Bleacher Report injury expert Will Carroll pointed out, though, the Toronto Blue Jays' track record when it comes to keeping pitchers healthy isn't that encouraging:
Jeff Hoffman had Tommy John surgery and goes 9 to a team that can't keep pitchers healthy. What could go wrong?— Will Carroll (@injuryexpert) June 6, 2014
Hoffman, at his best, is as good as any other collegiate starting pitcher in this draft, Rodon included. He could grow into a No. 1 starter if everything goes right with his recovery.
The East Carolina star possesses an overpowering fastball, a curveball that could become a dominant pitch and a good enough slider to keep hitters honest.
Toronto gambled massively that Hoffman will be unaffected by his health problems, but the gamble should pay off in spades.
No. 21 Cleveland Indians: Bradley Zimmer
Last year, the Cleveland Indians added Clint Frazier in the first round. This year, they added yet another talented outfielder in Bradley Zimmer.
Even if Zimmer doesn't improve his power all that much, he will help the Indians in so many other areas. The University of San Francisco star is a solid hitter with above-average speed who can field his position. Should Zimmer fail to cut it in center field, he has the arm to step into either corner outfield position.
In the past, the Indians built a reputation for taking lower-ceiling college stars with their first-rounders. While to a certain extent that's true of Zimmer, he has a much higher ceiling than Trevor Crowe or Tyler Naquin did when they were drafted.
No. 22 Los Angeles Dodgers: Grant Holmes
At 6'2" and 200 pounds, Grant Holmes doesn't have the look of a power thrower, but his fastball can top out at 96 miles per hour. Combine that with one of this year's best prep curveballs, and you've got a massive steal at No. 22.
"We feel fortunate to have gotten a player of Grant's magnitude at pick 22," said Logan White, vice president of amateur scouting for the Los Angeles Dodgers, per L.A.'s official site. "He's a mature, young and strong-bodied pitcher who throws hard and has a great breaking ball, but what separates him is he is a fierce competitor."
ESPN's Jim Bowden was also a big fan of the pick:
How did GrantHolmes drop all the way down to #Dodgers?Another classic Logan White influenced pick w3 pitches knowshowto pitch great make-up— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) June 6, 2014
This late into the first round, the most a team can usually hope for is a middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. Holmes, however, has the look of a No. 1 or No. 2 starter. He may lack the upside of Brady Aiken or Tyler Kolek, but he was one of the best prep stars in the draft.
No. 30 Texas Rangers: Luis Ortiz
While the Texas Rangers can only watch on as Nelson Cruz tears apart the American League, they may have gotten the last laugh in the end. As compensation for losing Cruz to the Baltimore Orioles, they received the No. 30 pick, which they used on Luis Ortiz.
Taking prep pitchers is always risky, but to have one with Ortiz's ceiling fall into your lap in the compensatory stage is about as good as it gets.
His fastball can top out in the 96-97 mile-per-hour range, and his slider could turn into a massive weapon, per Baseball America's Clint Longenecker:
RHP Luis Ortiz has been strong down the stretch, offers easy velocity and a plus slider— Clint Longenecker (@Clint_BA) June 6, 2014
Ortiz could potentially grow into a No. 1 or No. 2 starter. Of course, he's still very raw at this stage, but if the Rangers handle his development well, they'll have one of the biggest steals in the first round.