Of the United States' four major professional sports, Major League Baseball's draft is the most difficult to assess. By a significant margin.
Starting with the obvious: There were 1,204 players taken over the three-day draft. That number alone is enough to fill all 30 teams' 40-man rosters—with four players left to spare. As evidenced by its own strangeness, MLB essentially admits every June that its prospect evaluation tools are still very much a work in progress.
I mean...the San Diego Padres took Johnny Manziel in the 28th round. When we get to the point where teams are selecting players with a 0.00 percent chance of ever playing for their franchise and are hopping on an easy headline, perhaps that's a pretty good indication that the draft should have been over a while ago.
Or not. Mostly because the idea of Johnny Padre is mildly amusing.
Even the players teams take with designs of them being on their ballclub aren't guaranteed a spot. A study from Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated noted that a majority of first-round picks eventually make the bigs, but by no means is it the virtual certainty of the NFL or NBA. With at least two or three years of minor league ball needed to prep these young players in most cases, the risk for injury or skill attrition is inherently high.
No sport drafts more on potential than baseball does.
This is all to note that there are no failures or successes on draft night. We'll need a half-decade to sort this all out. Not even something like team needs—fungible commodities that vary year-to-year—should even be factored into the equation. Too much can change.
What can be assessed for these teams is value—and the perception of how they did uncovering players who might have slipped through the cracks. With that in mind, let's check in on all 30 teams and see how they did.
|2014 MLB Draft Grades|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||RHP Touki Toussaint, LHP Cody Reed||B+|
|Atlanta Braves||OF Braxton Davidson, RHP Garrett Fulenchek, RHP Max Povse||B+|
|Baltimore Orioles||LHP Brian Gonzalez, RHP Pat Connaughton||B|
|Boston Red Sox||SS Michael Chavis, RHP Michael Kopech||B+|
|Chicago Cubs||C Kyle Schwarber, RHP Jake Stinnett, C Mark Zagunis||B+|
|Chicago White Sox||LHP Carlos Rodon, RHP Spencer Adams, LHP Jace Fry||B|
|Cincinnati Reds||RHP Nick Howard, SS Alex Blandino, 3B Taylor Sparks||B|
|Cleveland Indians||OF Bradley Zimmer, LHP Justus Sheffield, OF Mike Papi, RHP Grant Hockin||A-|
|Colorado Rockies||LHP Kyle Freeland, 2B Forrest Wall||B+|
|Detroit Tigers||OF Derek Hill, RHP Spencer Turnbull||B|
|Houston Astros||LHP Brady Aiken, OF Derek Fisher, 1B A.J. Reed||B+|
|Kansas City Royals||LHP Brandon Finnegan, LHP Foster Griffin, C Chase Vallot, RHP Scott Blewett||B|
|Los Angeles Angels||LHP Sean Newcomb, RHP Joe Gatto, RHP Chris Ellis||B|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||RHP Grant Holmes, OF Alex Verdugo||A-|
|Miami Marlins||RHP Tyler Kolek, C Blake Anderson, SS Justin Twine||B|
|Milwaukee Brewers||LHP Kodi Medeiros, SS Jacob Gatewood, OF Monte Harrison, RHP Cy Sneed||B+|
|Minnesota Twins||SS Nick Gordon, RHP Nick Burdi, RHP Michael Cederoth||B|
|New York Mets||OF Michael Conforto, SS Milton Ramos||B+|
|New York Yankees||LHP Jacob Lindgren, RHP Austin DeCarr||B|
|Oakland Athletics||3B Matt Chapman, RHP Daniel Gossett||B|
|Philadelphia Phillies||RHP Aaron Nola, LHP Matt Imhof||B|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||SS Cole Tucker, OF Connor Joe, RHP Mitch Keller||B+|
|San Diego Padres||SS Trea Turner, OF Michael Gettys, RHP Zech Lemond||B|
|San Francisco Giants||RHP Tyler Beede, C Aramis Garcia||B+|
|Seattle Mariners||OF Alex Jackson, OF Gareth Morgan, CF Austin Cousino||B|
|St. Louis Cardinals||RHP Luke Weaver, RHP Jack Flaherty, RHP Ronnie Williams||B|
|Tampa Bay Rays||1B Casey Gillaspie, RHP Cameron Varga, RHP Brent Honeywell||B|
|Texas Rangers||RHP Luis Ortiz, SS Tiquan Forbes, SS Joshua Morgan||B+|
|Toronto Blue Jays||RHP Jeff Hoffman, C Max Pentecost, RHP Sean Reid-Foley, LHP Nick Wells||A-|
|Washington Nationals||RHP Erick Fedde, LHP Andrew Suarez, C Jakson Reetz||A-|
Drafts Of Note
It typically helps a team's grade when it can load up on early picks. Even in a flawed system like the MLB draft, guys drafted higher are, on average, more likely to make a big league impact. With four picks on Thursday night alone, Cleveland bolstered a largely mediocre farm system.
First-round pick Bradley Zimmer was a steal at No. 21. While he doesn't have quite the upside of some players taken before him, he's a high-floor talent who will be up in the bigs within the next two or three years if the Indians want to push him.
Zimmer, listed at 6'5" and 205 pounds, is already a very good contact hitter whose frame has more room for bulk. Even if he's never a 30-home run masher, Zimmer seems destined to be an above-average starting outfielder—especially if he moves away from center.
Chris Antonetti's predilection toward instant-impact guys was clear with his pick of Virginia outfielder Mike Papi at No. 38 overall. Papi, like Zimmer, doesn't have the unlimited upside of some of his competitors but is ready to compete right away. He'll hit for average and OK power, though it will be interesting to see how he's developed.
Juxtaposing the high-floor bats with potential elite arms like Justus Sheffield and Grant Hockin was a nice touch. Sheffield might be a huge steal if his velocity continues to develop. If not, he might wind up getting hit pretty hard at the next level; being a natural pitcher only matters if you have the stuff to back it up.
Taking a chance on Bobby Bradley in the third round was also a nice touch. The LSU recruit has elite power upside; getting him to sign is another question entirely.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Your draft grade for the Dodgers depends a great deal on how you reward aggression. I believe in doing whatever is needed to get the players you want, so the natural inclination here is to praise L.A.'s high-upside choices.
First-round pick Grant Holmes is an excellent high school arm the Dodgers nearly sprinted to the podium to draft. Holmes was the No. 6 overall player on ESPN's Keith Law's final big board (subscription required), making him a borderline pilfering at No. 22. The Dodgers will have to go well above their slot to sign Holmes—the Conway HS (South Carolina) prospect's representation will be pulling out Law and many other expert rankings in negotiations—but the upside here is unfathomable.
Plus, it's not like the Dodgers are hurting for money nowadays.
Taking Alex Verdugo in the second round was an intriguing selection. Verdugo can play outfield or pitch, and the organization will have plenty of time to allow the prep star to figure out what suits him best. It's really hard to tell what his upside is until he has time to specialize in a meaningful way.
The most curious pick for me was John Richy in the third round. Perhaps it was a cost-cutting move to save on slotting fees, but Richy was not considered a top-100 prospect by any major publications. He had a very good season at UNLV, posting a 3.20 ERA and striking out 113 batters in 121 innings. It's hard to criticize the selection too harshly given that he's a back-rotation starter if he develops, yet the reach left me a little lukewarm.
Otherwise? Two thumbs up for the aggression.
Toronto Blue Jays
Quality over quantity is typically a good motto for any walk of life. When you can get quality and quantity, though, it's probably best to check in on both options.
The Jays did just that this weekend, turning in for what my money was this year's best draft. They had a competitive advantage with an extra first-round pick due to the failed signing of Phil Bickford and took advantage by landing Max Pentecost, the draft's best catcher. Pentecost is one of those do-everything talents that can sometimes slip through the cracks and will be a big league player if he can stick at catcher.
Toronto took Pentecost two picks after rolling the dice on Eastern Carolina's Jeff Hoffman. Hoffman might have challenged for the No. 1 overall pick had he been fully healthy this season. Instead, a blown-out elbow and Tommy John surgery has everyone nervous about his future. Hoffman projected as a top-of-the-rotation talent, equipped with a mid-90s fastball and buckling curve that may be the best off-speed pitch in this class.
Using the No. 9 overall selection on someone who won't play for a year is a risk. But, at this point, who is anyone to judge a pitcher who undergoes Tommy John surgery?
After taking two signable college kids in the first round, Alex Anthopoulos dove straight into the high school pool. Sean Reid-Foley and Nick Wells are two high-quality arms who may have been drafted sooner if teams were 100 percent sure they'd be able to lock them down. Catcher Matt Morgan and especially outfielder Thomas Lane are projectable young hitters who could really develop into something special if the organization is patient.
Try to hold back your surprise: The Nationals selected a pitcher with a history of arm injuries. NEVER would have expected that one.
Like Hoffman, UNLV righty Erick Fedde was a potential top-10 pick before needing Tommy John surgery. Fedde finally began realizing his full potential in 2014, going 8-2 with a 1.76 ERA and striking out 82 batters in 76.2 innings. He won't develop into an elite strikeout arm as a pro—this was the first season he averaged better than a strikeout per inning—but has a solid mid-90s fastball and a slider that he can throw for strikes.
Second-round pick Andrew Suarez has never faced Tommy John surgery. Just a labrum tear that cost him his freshman season. The Miami lefty has been healthy each of the last two seasons and came flying back up draft boards as his stuff rebounded. Landing two starters who project well as major league talents is a win in and of itself. Should Fedde and Suarez develop as expected, they should be fine complements to Stephen Strasburg's prime.
Washington did well for itself with high-upside talents in catcher Jakson Reetz and right-handed pitcher Robbie Dickey. Reetz is a signability gamble in the third round; the Nats will have to go above slot to avoid him attending Nebraska. Dickey is an interesting fireballer who may wind up in the bullpen. The Nats have to contend with the lure of Texas State for the junior college righty.
As for the later rounds, taking Miami's D.K. Carey is a strong gamble in the seventh round. Carey is more of an athlete than a baseball player at this point, but that's not always a bad thing. He could turn into a nice all-around player if the team develops him correctly.
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