2014 MLB Draft Results: Biggest Winners and Losers from Day 2
The 2014 Major League Baseball draft got off to an interesting start Thursday, but the bigger picture for all 30 teams became clear on Day 2. This is the day we see those top high school players who wanted big money fall well below where their talent suggests, though it's also an important time to find quality depth for the system.
Every club has a plan and agenda that it wants to meet by the end of Day 2, because the third day (Rounds 11-40) is basically about filling out rosters for rookie/short-season teams and taking college seniors who will sign for virtually nothing.
Strategy is key to success in the draft, though it can also bury a team that doesn't play the game as well as others. While there's plenty of time to decide which players are the crown jewels of the class, here are the teams, players and moves that stood out most, for better and worse, on Day 2 of the MLB draft.
Winner: Toronto Blue Jays
Building off the momentum they had with three picks Thursday, including two of the first 11, the Tornoto Blue Jays shot for ceiling and tools in Rounds 3-5.
Nick Wells (third round) is a projection left-hander at 6'5" and 180 pounds with low-90s velocity already. Combine that with a solid-to-average curveball and the ability to add more muscle in the future, and he has a huge ceiling.
Matt Morgan (fourth round) was the second catcher taken by Toronto in the draft, after Max Pentecost went in the first round. The former doesn't have the same ceiling because his bat isn't as polished, but he has athleticism and arm strength to project as a solid backstop.
Lane Thomas (fifth round) is a toolsy outfielder with plus raw power and bat speed. He's grown into his frame at 6'1" and 210 pounds, so there's always the risk that what you see now is largely what you get. But the offensive potential is very good, especially considering where the Jays got him.
Loser: Houston Astros
After starting so well on Day 1 with Brady Aiken, Derek Fisher and A.J. Reed, the Houston Astros seemed to go on autopilot for most of Day 2. They did get an exciting young arm in Jacob Nix (fifth round), but they went after mostly college guys with little or no projection.
J.D. Davis (third round) started the day and is a good selection thanks to his above-average power potential, but he's a first baseman, where his bat has to be at a high level for him to project as any kind of big leaguer.
They grabbed mostly college arms who are likely to sign on the cheap, which seems to suggest that those top three players are going to eat a lot of Houston's bonus money. Getting the best player in the draft, along with two polished college bats, isn't bad, but the Astros had the potential to do so much more.
Winner: Chicago Cubs Get Their Pitching
Unlike the Astros, who put all their eggs in Day 1, the Chicago Cubs finally showed their hand on Day 2. They were expected to go after high-ceiling pitching that slipped, either due to financial demands or injuries, but they hit it harder than anyone could have anticipated.
In Rounds 4-6, the Cubs went after upside with left-hander Carson Sands, left-hander Justin Steele and right-hander Dylan Cease. All three have athleticism and can touch the mid-90s with the ability to spin a solid breaking ball already.
Steele is small at 6'1" and may not profile in the rotation, but the stuff is there for a quality starter. Cease has battled elbow problems this season that caused him to fall and could lead to surgery.
The Cubs are aware of that, which is why they took two players on Day 1 (Kyle Schwarber and Jake Stinnett) who are likely to sign under slot and allow the team to play around. They can go to Cease, tell him that they are going to give him the best medical care possible (since it's in their best interest, as well as his) and hope he takes a deal on their terms.
Well played, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
Loser: High School Pitchers with Big Contract Demands
This isn't entirely fair since a pitcher like Jacob Bukauskas didn't necessarily have big demands, just a strong desire to attend North Carolina, but you can't convince me that if a team popped him in the second or third round and offered a seven-figure bonus the 17-year-old wouldn't take it.
While there are always players that fall down draft boards, either due to financial demands or a college commitment, this year seemed especially hard on high school pitchers. Going over MLB.com's best available list after Friday, the top six names are all prep arms (Bukauskas, Keith Weisenberg, Mac Marshall, Bryce Montes de Oca, Cobi Johnson, Keaton McKinney).
There were injury concerns with some of these players. Montes de Oca had Tommy John surgery in 2013 and was just starting to work his way back, so teams didn't really get enough looks at him to decide how comfortable they should be.
This is also an indication of just how teams are approaching the draft now that they only have so much money to spend. In the past, even if a player had a big contract demand, a team would have tried taking him in the first 10 rounds, hoping to strike a deal.
Now, teams are just completely avoiding these players until Day 3, when there's absolutely no chance they will sign.
Winner: College Seniors
While the high school arms are still sitting on the board, college seniors were dropping like flies on Day 2. In fact, a total of 67 fourth-year college players have already been taken in the draft.
This is another product of the slotting system and spending cap. Teams know that they can grab college seniors, who have no leverage, in these early rounds and sign them cheaply to allocate financial resources at more pressing areas.
The Cubs drafted Jake Stinnett in the second round knowing that they could strike a deal with him while being able to negotiate deals with Sands, Steele and Cease that will at least give them a shot to sign all three.
For perspective on how much the number of college seniors drafted has changed, Allan Simpson of PerfectGame.org noted in 2011, the last year of the previous collective bargaining agreement, that only 23 seniors were drafted in 50 rounds.
They may not be the sexiest players available, but college seniors have become a saving grace to teams on Day 2 of the draft.
Loser: Minnesota Twins' Draft Strategy
When the Minnesota Twins popped Nick Gordon with the fifth pick Thursday, it seemed like the start of something big for a team that already has one of the best farm systems in baseball. Then they drafted Louisville's Nick Burdi, a fast-moving reliever, in the second round.
That seemed like a move designed to save money and give the Twins someone they could use right away, so it was justifiable in some respects. Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of the head-scratching moves.
Minnesota started Friday by drafting hard-throwing Michael Cederoth, who is a reliever with a violent delivery and below-average command, in the third round. The Twins just kept taking bullpen guys after that, like Sam Clay (fourth round) and Jake Reed (fifth round).
I'm all for teams trying to build a bullpen on the cheap, but you don't use four straight picks in Rounds 2-5 in a draft where the strength is starting pitching.
Winner: Washington Nationals
This is an extension of what the Washington Nationals did on Day 1 by grabbing UNLV right-hander Erick Fedde with the No. 18 selection. The Nationals grabbed, in my opinion, the best high school catcher in the draft, Jakson Reetz, with their first pick Friday.
Reetz is an athletic 18-year-old who moves well behind the plate. He also has the most upside among catchers offensively. There's above-average raw power and bat speed to work with, as long as the approach develops as expected.
"Very excited," Nationals vice president of scouting operations Kris Kline said, via MLB.com's Daniel Popper. "This is a high school catcher that we love. He's got a really good feel to hit. You're looking at an offensive catcher at the big league level down the road."
Robbie Dickey (fourth round) is a good buy-low option out of Blinn College. He has the size and power stuff to profile as a starting pitcher. The mechanics are problematic with a short-arm delivery that doesn't allow him to use his 6'3" frame to drive the fastball and get snap on the off-speed stuff, but coaching can get him on the right track.
The Nationals even found one of the best college seniors in the seventh round, D.K. Carey. He's more tools than polish, so the probability isn't very good, but there's power and speed to work with in center field.
Loser: Injured High School Arms
This follows along the same lines as the high school pitchers who were asking for a lot of money, but two names specifically came to mind: Dylan Cease and Bryce Montes de Oca.
Montes de Oca has yet to hear his name called because teams have no idea how to evaluate him post-surgery. It also doesn't help that he's 6'7" and 265 pounds as an 18-year-old, meaning his body could get even worse the older he gets.
Cease had the talent to go in the top two rounds, but elbow issues left him in a state of flux. Suppose he would have gone in the area originally expected, somewhere in Round 2. That would have guaranteed him somewhere between $1 million and $1.35 million (picks 42-56), according to the slot value, via Baseball America.
Instead, while the Cubs can offer Cease an appealing deal, it will be on their terms because he doesn't have as much leverage as the typical high school pitcher due to his elbow problems. They manipulated the draft to get what they want, while he's forced to decide if he trusts his arm enough to try rebuilding his stock for 2017.
Winner: University of Virginia
When the college baseball season started, the University of Virginia was the overwhelming favorite to win a national championship. The Cavaliers had built a deep, solid roster of veterans who performed well in college, but lacked the impact potential for professional baseball.
Even though they didn't produce a top-10 pick in this draft, the Cavaliers had three Day 1 picks (Nick Howard, Derek Fisher, Mike Papi). They didn't have as many players taken Friday, with Brandon Downes (seventh round, Kansas City) and Branden Cogswell (seventh round, Oakland) being the only two, but five total players is two more than SEC powerhouse and baseball hotbed Vanderbilt.
On top of that, Virginia is still on track for a berth in the College World Series with a matchup against Maryland in the Super Regional set to begin Saturday. It's already been a good weekend, one that has the potential to be great, for coach Brian O'Connor's crew.
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