The first two rounds of the 2014 MLB first-year player draft are complete, but there are still valuable prospects to be had for the remainder of the long process.
Pro baseball's front offices will be working tirelessly through Friday to try to add promising pieces that can hopefully contribute to their future. It's difficult to see the impact of these picks right away, as it takes even the highest draft choices time to develop and hit the big league diamond.
Here is an overview of the 10 best players still on the board after the first day. In the spirit of how three pitchers went in the top-three overall picks, the more detailed analysis will focus on a select few hurlers with considerable upside.
|1||Dylan Davis, RF||Oregon State|
|2||Michael Cederoth, RHP||San Diego State|
|3||Trace Loehr, SS||Rex Putnam High School (Oregon)|
|4||Zech Lemond, RHP||Rice|
|5||Gavin LaValley, 1B||Carl Albert High School (Oklahoma)|
|6||Carson Sands, LHP||North Florida Christian High School (Florida)|
|7||Joshua Morgan, SS||Orange Lutheran High School (California)|
|8||Devon Fisher, C||Western Branch High School (Virginia)|
|9||Greg Allen, CF||San Diego State|
|10||Jeren Kendall, CF||Holmen High School (Wisconsin)|
Rankings are opinionated
Michael Cederoth, RHP, San Diego State
A right-handed pitcher who can bring the heat in a big way, Cederoth has an imposing physicality to his game.
The younger J.B. Bukauskas, who is a North Carolina commit, would have been the top pitcher remaining, with his ability to hit in the triple digits on the radar gun at the age of 17. However, Bukauskas is firm in his decision to attend school in Chapel Hill, per MLB.com.
At 6'6" and 220 pounds, the Aztec standout Cederoth is also more polished in terms of his command and doesn't take as much effort to rip it to the plate. There are four passable pitches in his arsenal—a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. All of those have flashed nicely and could vault Cederoth into the big leagues depending on how quickly he develops them.
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Logan Lowery highlighted Cederoth's value in closing out games for the Aztecs this season:
Junior closer Michael Cederoth has 20 of San Diego State’s 22 saves on the year.— loganlowery (@loganlowery) May 30, 2014
Cederoth discussed how moving to the bullpen worked out best for him, per Kirk Kenney of UTSanDiego.com:
I love the role, honestly. It’s something I know I can succeed in and give my team the best chance at winning games. I’m available every game and my job is to get three outs, or a little more, every time I go in. So the intensity and hype is a lot more than a starting position, but it’s what I love and what I’m excited about being a part of.
Seeing a flamethrower in Washington Nationals star Stephen Strasburg before him will likely create higher expectations for Cederoth. But it should also be a source of inspiration as he chases his MLB dream.
Some organization will feel fortunate to grab Cederoth on Day 3 given his uncanny natural arm talent. Whether he becomes as much of a priority in the earlier rounds remains to be seen because he has a lot of work to do on his secondary pitches.
Zech Lemond, RHP, Rice
Lemond is like Cederoth in that he can slam the door in the clutch. He registered 14 saves as a sophomore before stepping up as a starter and more of a middle reliever in 2014. This past year saw him post a 4-1 record in 15 appearances (five starts) with a peerless 1.34 ERA.
Signs of improvement have been evident in Lemond's play in each of his three seasons at Rice, so he will seek to keep that momentum going for whichever team drafts him Friday. There was some concern about an arm injury that kept Lemond out for several weeks in the middle of this last season, but he came back to pitch strongly down the stretch.
PerfectGame.org's Kendall Rogers provided his analysis in observing Lemon's impressive velocity on both his fastball and breaking ball recently:
All the tools are there for Lemond to thrive in the MLB within the next few years. What's encouraging is that he was put through every pitching situation based on what the Owls asked him to do. Health was an issue, but he embraced whatever role Rice placed him in.
This is a testament to the intangibles Lemond should bring to the clubhouse. Based on his willingness to adjust his game, Lemond should eventually figure out what his niche is to get to the MLB level. Based on his prowess as a closer, he should get a look rather early on in the third round.
Carson Sands, LHP, North Florida Christian High School (Florida)
What stands out most about Sands is his ability to deceive hitters with his release point. That's to say, even at this early stage of his career, Sands has sound mechanics and a consistent delivery that keeps batters guessing.
The fact that Sands is so steady in his routine on the bump gives him some of the best command among any of the high school pitching prospects in this class. He won't blow teams away with his fastball just yet, but Sands makes up for it with his precocious, well-rounded skill set.
Baseball Prospectus' Nick J. Faleris has Sands ranked as his No. 2 pitcher on his board entering Day 2 of the draft:
End of day 1, my board reads Jakson Reetz, Keith Weisenberg, Carson Sands, JJ Schwarz, and Dylan Davis. #MLBDraft— Nick J. Faleris (@NickJFaleris) June 6, 2014
Who is the best Day 2 pitcher?
At 6'3" and 205 pounds already, there is even more room for Sands to grow and add velocity to his heater. Although he's committed to Florida State, someone could pry him away and lead him to the pros early with a sweet enough offer.
There is a degree of uncertainty, though, with regard to pulling away college commits. Although financial incentive can be an enticing sell, there is also risk for both parties. The young player is making such a big decision so early, while the franchise is banking on the long-range project panning out.
Thus, even though Sands may be rated higher on draft boards than the likes of Cederoth and Lemond, they are likely to go higher on Friday since they've had tangible collegiate production. With such a myriad of talent to choose from, any of these three pitchers can be passed over. This trio figures to translate well to the big leagues eventually if what they've done to date is any sign of what's to come.