Like any publicity obsessed blogger, I often take a detour through my stats page to see the amount of reads I get in a given day, views from around the world, and links I get to other sites.
My mock drafts have been viewed by team-centric message boards and blogs, my opinions on controversial topics (Like Ben Wetzler-gate) have been analyzed, and recently, college football fans have debated whether or not a prized quarterback recruit will go play there or opt to be a baseball player.
The intent of this article is not a massive ego stroke, believe me, I love the attention, but I’m not a whore for it. No, rather, it’s answering the question, would said athlete, Allen High School shortstop and quarterback Kyler Murray, consider turning pro or enroll at Texas A&M.
Kyler Murray is perhaps one of the greatest beneficiaries of Lamarckism due to both his father’s and uncle’s athletic abilities. Although undersized as a quarterback, he’s made himself into one of the most sought after recruits in college football history, eventually deciding to sign with Texas A&M. In baseball, he’s considered a raw talent with a very high ceiling, a speedster with some hitting ability, and the talent to play shortstop.
Murray’s also a trailblazer in the fact that he played in the Under Armour showcases for both baseball and football, a feat that had never happened before.
Kyler Murray is no doubt one of the more interesting athletic recruits in the nation. Not only that, but he also has major leverage thanks to his uncle Calvin being a sports agent.
But that doesn’t address the question: Where will Kyler go?
To answer this question, one has to look at the past five years, where at least one major dual sport athlete was drafted out of high school.
To begin this half-decade journey, one only needs to look at current Dodgers prospect and former LSU quarterback commit Zach Lee.
Lee was the original Kyler Murray, a top prep multisport athlete considered a tough sign due to a commitment to play for Louisiana State’s baseball and football teams. In his senior year, the McKinney High School product posted NFL-style numbers, and was named the offensive player for the year in his district. It was safe to say that in order for him to sign, a team had to be willing to pay big for him to drop his commitment.
Concerns about his signability dropped him from an early first round pick to a late pick, even in mocks. In fact, some mocks took him out of the first round entirely.
Finally, on draft day, Lee was taken 28th overall by the Dodgers, and signed with a hefty $5.25 Million bonus at the deadline.
Since being drafted, Lee has been moving at a typical pace for a prep player, and expects to be in the majors by this spring. He most recently finished in AAA Albuquerque, going 7-13 with a 5-44 ERA, extreme numbers even by PCL standards.
Bubba Starling and Archie Bradley only increased awareness of the highly valued dual sport prep athlete.
Starling was a star quarterback and outfielder for Gardner-Edgerton High School in Kansas. Considered arguably one of the best athletes in memory, he had both pro baseball scouts and University of Nebraska football and baseball fans salivating. Starling was a no-doubt first rounder in baseball, mainly because he was a five tool player, rare for a high schooler.
Archie Bradley was also a highly touted two sport star from Broken Arrow High School. Considered one of the top prep athletes in Oklahoma history, Bradley was named one of ESPN RISE’s Elite 11 quarterbacks, in a class that included Teddy Bridgewater, Everett Golson, and Cody Kessler, among others. He had a commitment to the University of Oklahoma as a two sport star as well.
Both Starling and Bradley ended up being top ten selections, with Starling going to the Royals fifth overall, and Bradley going to the Diamondbacks seventh overall. Because of their leverage as potential college athletes, they were able to sign big contracts with bigger bonuses, incidentally, this would be the second to last year that bonuses went unregulated. Since then, Bradley had become arguably one of the top pitching prospects with the Diamondbacks, with a major league debut projected at 2015. Starling’s development has been more protracted, having just finished his last season in Wilmington, the high-A affiliate of the Royals.
In 2012, Hueytown High School quarterback/pitcher/outfielder Jameis Winston was a highly touted dual sport athlete. A top talent, Winston supposedly would have been a high draft pick had he not been so intent on playing football at Florida State. The Texas Rangers would draft Winston in the 15th round, and in an attempt to get him to sign on, offered to let him play football at Florida State. Winston refused, and has since become one of the top quarterback prospects in the NFL draft, and a former third team All-American utility baseball player.
Of course, Winston hasn’t ruled out professional baseball either, and has considered a baseball and football career, like Bo Jackson, another former Heisman winner.
Before Kyler Murray, however, Texas A&M fans had to look forward to Kohl Stewart as Johnny Manziel’s replacement. Stewart was a highly rated two sport star who was set to play both sports. There were questions about his health, however, as he was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes. This however did not deter the Twins, who took him fourth overall. Stewart signed rather quickly, with a signing bonus set at $4.5 million and in his first two seasons, has made it to Low-A Cedar Rapids, a good pace for a prep pitcher
Lee’s Summit High School outfielder Monte Harrison was an immensely talented wide receiver as well and was considered a tough sign from the beginning. His strong commitment to play football and baseball for Nebraska dropped him to the second round. The Milwaukee Brewers drafted him, and he signed quickly, however. Harrison had a so-so year to start his career, but is one of the Brewers’ top prospects already given the strength of the Brewers’ system.
Even if a prep baseball player isn’t a dual sport athlete, teams will often look for ways to ensure a commitment to them as opposed to a college. Look at the Chicago Cubs last season. In order to get highly rated prep pitcher Carson Sands, the Cubs spent their first three picks on high floor college talent, catchers Kyle Schwarber from Indiana and Mark Zagunis from Virginia Tech, and pitcher Jake Stinnett from Maryland. Knowing full well they could sign their first three picks for less money, they treated Sands as their first round pick and signed him for about the amount of a late first rounder.
It’s a tough pill to swallow for football fans, but in the business of sports, money rules everything. Draft a player high and offer him the moon, while still being within the limits of the bonus pool, and a player will sign. It doesn’t matter if the player could be the best quarterback in university history, the player will go where the money is. Unless Kyler Murray explicitly tells teams not to draft him because he wants to play football in college, ensuring that he drops to a day 2 or 3 pick, you can bet there is going to be at least one team willing to pay whatever amount is necessary to get him on their team as the shortstop of the future.
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.