To satiate the draft heads around baseball (and don’t think I don’t know that there are any, I’m looking at you Reddit, Indians Baseball Insider SoxTalk, DC Prospect Report and You Gotta Like These Kids), I have decided to release a new mock draft once every other month. Admittedly, I also need to update my draft order as three of the picks I already made would not be possible now thanks to Nelson Cruz, Russell Martin and Michael Cuddyer signing with the Mariners, Blue Jays and Mets. respectively.
So let’s go over a few rules. Again, the idea here is that best player available is a joke, so I’m going by either organizational need (as in depth in the top 20 prospects) or general manager tendencies. Of course, if neither of those parameters lead to a clear first round pick, THEN we go to best player available.
So, without further delay, here is the December edition of the 2014 MLB mock draft, part 1. This covers picks 1-7. The mock will be split into four parts, each released one week after another.
1. Arizona Diamondbacks:
Ten years ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks were in the same position they are now, looking for somebody to be the face of their franchise-in-transition. And they actually did that with Justin Upton. Ten years later, and they’re in the same position once again.
The D-Backs have been more inclined to draft pitchers, netting guys like Trevor Bauer (since traded to the Indians), Archie Bradley, Braden Shipley, and Touki Toussaint in three of the past four drafts.
Although the hitting class can be considered arguably the weakest this year, and the Diamondbacks clearly have established options in Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed, perhaps the best bet is for them to go with Lake Mary High School Shortstop Brendan Rodgers.
Rodgers becomes the latest HAPS (Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop), and possibly the first since Carlos Correa to be drafted first overall. He has an advanced feel for his tools despite his youth. MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo feels that his biggest asset is his bat, because he can generate power without trying too hard. Though versatile, and potentially able to move to other positions, his fielding ability will allow him to stay where he is.
If Rodgers is as advanced as he is, then he too could potentially make it to the Majors quickly, just like Upton did back in 2007, a full two years after being drafted.
2. Houston Astros:
Looking at the big picture, i.e, Houston’s last three drafts, it becomes clearer and clearer that the administration likes to save money in the draft. In 2012, they opted for Carlos Correa over Mark Appel, a move which initially was a head scratcher, since Correa didn’t appear to be a consensus top pick, but seems to have paid off, aside from Correa’s season ending injury last year. In 2013, they took senior Mark Appel, a smart move given the fact that Appel likely would have had little to no leverage after being picked, having exhausted his college eligibility. However, in 2014, the Astros made a mistake, exposing their draft strategy when they drafted Brady Aiken, offered him a mutually agreed-upon bonus, retracted the offer and then intentionally lowballed him and borderline blackmailed him by leaking a physical which revealed a supposed arm issue. Aiken didn’t take the bait, and Houston was left empty handed.
A year later, the Astros are still looking for a franchise left handed pitcher, and possibly also a cost effective one. Enter University of Virginia pitcher Nathan Kirby. Kirby is one of the more interesting prospects, having only become UVA’s latest ace a year ago. Kirby has a solid three pitch offering, a low to mid 90’s fastball with good movement, a great slider, and a potentially devistating changeup. Kirby also has big game experience, having pitched in the 2014 College World Series, and value, having been named the top prospect in the New England Collegiate Baseball league the year before, and winning the league championship with the Keene Swamp Bats.
Kirby will be an interesting and more experienced alternative to Aiken, especially in a weak LHP draft class.
3. Colorado Rockies:
Probably the second biggest question a Rockies fan may have after “Will we ever compete again” is “Who will become the new face of the Rockies Franchise when Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are gone?”
While the Rockies may not find Tulo’s replacement at shortstop in this year’s draft, they could find his replacement as a hitter.
Eagles Landing Christian Academy outfielder Daz Cameron, son of Mike Cameron, the former Major League All-Star, was, at one time, considered the top prospect in this year’s draft, however his stock took a bit of a tumble this past season due to a junior slump.
Cameron’s potential shouldn’t be overlooked for his stats however, considering he has a very high ceiling. Having been selected to the Under Armour All America Classic as both a sophomore and a junior, a rare feat, he has physical tools which, if developed properly, can lead to him becoming a legitimately well-rounded hitter.
Cameron doesn’t have his dad’s leadoff ability, but could potentially make it as a #5 hitter in an average lineup. In the thin air of Colorado, he could be a #3 hitter.
4. Texas Rangers:
The Texas Rangers are in line to be a strong hitting team, with slugger Joey Gallo looking like a potential MVP threat each and every year, but the team lacks a solid rotation. What once was Cliff Lee, CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland has since been dismantled with only Yu Darvish as an optimism point, and what happens when he, like countless other Japanese phenom hurlers, is figured out?
The Rangers need to build their rotation from the ground up, and the first piece of the puzzle, should he be available, must be Brady Aiken.
Aiken’s potential as a starter is great, and despite the controversial physical that he got from the Astros, there has been no evidence that it affected him, as he had a great senior season. With a mid 90’s fastball, and an advanced feel for his pitches, Aiken is one of the most promising pitching prospects in this draft. His current scouting grades are consistent with those of a college pitcher, and unless he decides to not go to school or the elbow issue in the physical does prove to be a concern, don’t be surprised if he goes in the top 5, or even the top pick in the draft.
5. Houston Astros:
In the draft, there are no restrictions as to how many of a certain position you can draft, especially in the early rounds. And of course, there is that old, and possibly beaten-into-the-ground adage that “You can never have enough pitching” But I digress. The Astros have a strong group of right-handed pitchers coming up in the near future, with Mark Appel, Mike Foltynewicz, and Lance McCullers, but their left handed pitching prospects begin at Josh Hader, who was ranked as the #10 prospect for the Astros at the end of the 2014 season.
The Astros hypothetically took Nathan Kirby second overall to start the draft, could they conceivably double dip and grab another lefty?
San Clemente High School pitcher Kolby Allard has done nothing but shoot up draft boards. In my first mock, I had him as a first round pick, and now, he has the potential to be a top five choice. Allard is smaller than your average pitcher in terms of height, but what he lacks in stature, he makes up for in game experience, winning MVP honors at the Perfect Game Classic and being a part of Team USA.
Allard’s pitching repertoire differs from Brady Aiken in a slightly slower fastball, a curveball, and a purely developmental changeup, but he has top notch command on his pitches. Allard has the durability to stay as a starter as well, and could be a nice mid rotation piece.
6. Minnesota Twins:
The past two drafts showed that the Twins are willing to look at high upside, if somewhat risky prospects, especially after the Levi Michael debacle of 2011. Kohl Stewart was arguably the best prep arm of the 2013 class, despite being diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes and having a very strong commitment to Texas A&M. The year after that, the Twins took Nick Gordon, who was arguably the best two-way player in the draft, leaving them the healthy problem of finding his best position. But enough about the past, who do they take now?
There is a lot of healthy debate as to whether Duke University right handed pitcher Michael Matuella is the top prospect of this year’s class. He’s got one of the best fastballs in college, if not the entire class of 2015, and two excellent secondary offerings. Matuella also is deceptive, his height also masks his pitch deliveries.
So if he’s one of the top prospects in the draft, why is he falling to outside the top 5?
Matuella does have an injury history with his back, which cut short his first year of summer ball, and completely wiped out his second. Though his condition is treatable, if he continues to work in small sample sizes, don’t be surprised if he falls out of the top three, much like Jeff Hoffman did last year after his Tommy John surgery.
Injury history aside, Matuella does profile as an ace, and should he overcome his initial problems, he could be a very good investment in a relatively new market, Duke baseball.
7. Boston Red Sox:
The Red Sox have been great developers of collegiate middle infield talent for years. From Nomar Garciaparra to Dustin Pedroia to Deven Marrero (who has yet to make the big leagues, but is close), the Sox will likely never have to resort to buying a shortstop or a second baseman for a while.
That being said, the Red Sox are eventually going to have to look for a Pedroia replacement, and could find their answer at Vanderbilt. Dansby Swanson may be a shortstop right now, but his natural position is at second base. A contact hitter who led the NCAA in doubles, Swanson could profile as a 2 or 6 hitter in the Red Sox lineup.
Swanson is a proven winner, having been named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player last season.
If Swanson can showcase some versatility, there is a possibility that he could raise his stock even further. Don’t be surprised if mock drafts in the spring have him as a possible top five selection.