The 2015 MLB Draft Order has officially been set, thanks to the San Diego Padres electing to sign James Shields. With their forfeiture of the 13th overall pick, the start of the college baseball season, and of course, pitchers and catchers reporting for Major League Baseball’s Spring Training, it seems appropriate to do yet another mock draft.
You all know how this works by now, the selections are done based on organizational (as in top 20 prospects) need, the draft will be split up so as to not have this take all day, after the draft is complete, I’ll release the full results, etc. etc. etc.
So without further delay, here are the first seven picks for the 2014 MLB Mock Draft
1. Arizona Diamondbacks
Like the center in basketball, the quarterback in football, and the goalie in hockey, shortstop is often considered one of the most important positions. While one is mainly valued for his defensive abilities, a shortstop that can hit is considered a major boon, and for the Diamondbacks, who have the likes of Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings piloting the position now, it couldn’t be a better time for them to have the number one pick.
Brendan Rodgers of Lake Mary High School is arguably the best prep player in the country. I’ve used the term HAPS, or Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop to describe players like him, prep shortstops with advanced tools and the ability to go through a minor league system quickly. His bat alone could have him in the majors in three years, and his defense while currently decent enough to allow him to stay at his current position, will only improve with time in the minors.
Rodgers would be the perfect complement to Paul Goldschmidt and Yasmany Tomas, who would be 31 and 27, respectively. Having three potent bats with power potential would certainly allow Arizona to complement what is likely going to be a solid up-and-coming rotation, allowing them to compete in the NL West.
2. Houston Astros
The Astros have managed to build a system that many teams would kill to have, especially with the high floor college talent they’ve acquired in the past draft. While they have a solid foundation of righthanded pitching, thanks in part to Mark Appel and Lance McCullers, their lack of a future impact left-handed pitcher is what holds the team from having a solid system.
Virginia’s Nathan Kirby may not have the upside that 2014 draft pick Brady Aiken had, but he also doesn’t have the history that Aiken has with the Astros. This isn’t to say that Kirby is your prototypical safe pick, rather, he has the potential to be a staff anchor. In his opening start, Kirby only allowed three hits in seven innings of work against East Carolina, which is one of the American Athletic Conference’s toughest teams.
Kirby has a solid three pitch mix, a fastball, slider, and changeup which will only get better due to his commitment to filling out his frame during the summer. He has solid command, and will play the zone in order
The Astros would also benefit from drafting Kirby, as his old college teammate, Derek Fisher, is already in their system, and building upon that preexisting chemistry will do them a world of good in developing confidence in their starter.
3. Colorado Rockies
I mentioned it in my last mock, but I think it bears repeating: By developing their own starters instead of buying them, the Colorado Rockies will have an advantage that no NL club has: pitchers who are used to throwing in the thin air of Denver. And it doesn’t matter if the pitcher is left or right-handed, the idea is that in developing their own arms, they form a pitching staff that allows them to compete in the NL West. Having Jon Gray, Eddie Butler and Kyle Freeland starting the staff is good, but what they need is another bona fide arm.
The past five years have been kind to teams who have had the number three pick in the draft, and 2015 will be no exception. Brady Aiken’s decision to forgo his UCLA commitment has catapulted him to the top of what is already a vaunted arms class, and significantly improves the talent level of a limited left-handed class.
Whether or not he does have an issue with his throwing arm will be negligible, given his upside as a pitcher. His fastball-curveball-changeup combination are incredibly advanced for his age, and his build is similar to that of top right-handed pitching prospect Kyle Funkhouser.
Aiken will complement fellow southpaw Kyle Freeland quite well, and will allow the Rockies to develop variety in their rotation with Gray and Butler as righthanded starters.
4. Texas Rangers
You can make as many jokes as you like about the state of the Rangers rotation, because currently, aside from Yu Darvish, there is little upside. Sure, getting Anthony Ranaudo from Boston may offer some hope, and Chi Chi Gonzalez could turn out to be a better draft choice then I thought, but truth be told, even if the Rangers had a lineup of players that possessed Joey Gallo’s attributes, it still wouldn’t make up for the fact that the rotation will need to be fixed in the future.
Sometimes the stars align, however, and an advanced college arm will fall into your lap. Louisville ace Kyle Funkhouser is that arm. While I had a feeling that he could be one of the best arms in the draft, but was wary of whether or not his ability and potential demand for a big contract could drop him a few picks, his 12 strikeout performance against Alabama State is pretty much him saying to me, “Give me some credit and put me in the top 5 already!”
Funkhouser certainly deserves credit where it’s due, as he was Team USA’s top prospect last summer, but what really makes him attractive to teams is his pitch arsenal, which currently would grade as league average, but has the potential to improve to ace levels.
While Alabama State isn’t exactly a baseball powerhouse, should Funkhouser continue pitching the way he does even if he drops his strikeout totals, there’s no doubt he could be in conversation to be the top pick.
5. Houston Astros
Legacy prospects are as much of a gamble as any other prospects. Some turn out to be as good, if not better than their fathers, while others fail in that regard. There’s no doubt that Delino Deshields could have been a solid prospect, but the Astros organization was running out of patience and understandably, with plenty of talent and few 40 man roster spots open, left him unprotected for the Texas Rangers to take. Of course, Deshields was known mainly for his speed; Houston’s hypothetical pick here has more dimension to his game.
Daz Cameron, of Eagles Landing Christian Academy, is the son of Mike Cameron, who was probably one of the most underrated players of his generation. Cameron the younger, at one point was viewed as a top pick, but a drop off in his junior year has him somewhere between top ten and top fifteen. However, Cameron’s current ability affords him the opportunity of improving his draft stock.
A solid contact hitter now, he has the potential to add power to his swing, and while he has average speed for the basepaths, he does have the ability to cover his position well enough to compensate defensively.
Cameron is a prodigy, however, as he is part of the very exclusive club of players who have played in the All-American Game twice His talent will be hard to ignore, and it wouldn’t surprise me if, should he improve, the Astros end up taking him second overall.
6. Minnesota Twins
Minnesota’s future will be bright for as long as Byron Buxton continues to prove he is a top prospect, and the Twins will have a solid staff to look forward to with the impending arrivals of Alex Meyer, Kohl Stewart and Nick Burdi. However, how do you repopulate the system? Who becomes the next top pitching prospect?
Kolby Allard of San Clemente High School has taken a meteoric rise from where I originally slotted him, 16th, to where he stands now, as a top ten prospect with the potential to be top five. He has similar attributes to Brady Aiken, but the stigma of his height drops his value.
What he lacks in height, Allard compensates for in the ability to pitch in big games; he made it out of the summer as USA Baseball’s top prep pitcher.
Pairing him up with Kohl Stewart will do nothing but good, as two young and lively arms anchoring the Twins rotation will give them a solid future hold in the AL Central.
7. Boston Red Sox
Rarely does a team have a plethora of Major League ready left-handed pitching like the Boston Red Sox. Guys like Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Edwin Escobar and Brian Johnson make up 2/5 of their top ten prospects. However, the point here is that these pitchers are practically Major League ready, and when they graduate, Boston’s system will need to adjust. Given the amount of prep options, it’s entirely possible that the Red Sox opt to go for a long term project in the hopes of replenishing their pitching stores.
Cathedral High School righty Ashe Russell has seen his draft position rise, mainly because he has that much growth potential. Even though Indiana is starting to develop a reputation as a northern prospect pipeline, it’s still in its developing stages, and as a result, Russell has plenty of potential to grow. A two pitch man now with a solid fastball and up-and-coming slider, Russell does have a changeup, but it probably will suit him better once the talent level adjusts.
Russell does have the build to be a pitcher, but he’s still raw, and should he be taken by Boston, he probably will start out as a reliever and be developed into a spot starter or closer. Still, his potential is too great to pass on, and Boston has developed some solid pitchers as of late.
Day One of the Draft is in the books and what an event it was. While not as entertaining as the NFL draft, it certainly had its highlights. From the attendees getting picked, to hearing Clint Frazier sing (something I never want to hear again), to Nick Ciuffo wiggling his ears, to the awkward moment when Ian Clarkin was taken by the Yankees despite the fact that he and his father both hate the team and were very happy when they lost the 2001 World Series, all in all, it was an interesting night. Now, we focus on the winners and losers of the draft:
Winners: Most Teams that had more than one first round choice in the draft.
Most teams that had two or more (in the case of the Yankees) first round draft choices used them on big name talent. The Pirates used their two picks on the consensus top hitter in the draft, and the top catcher in Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire. The Cardinals used their picks to bolster their pitching, specifically their southpaws, with Gonzaga’s Marco Gonzales and Garden State prepster Rob Kaminsky. And the Yankees have begun their transition to the future with the selections of third baseman Eric Jagielo of Notre Dame, expected to take over for Alex Rodriguez, Aaron Judge, the freakishly large and athletic outfielder from Fresno State, and California prepster Ian Clarkin, who apparently had to quickly change his fan allegiance after saying he hated the Yankees. All in all, very solid names came to those who picked more than once. However…
Loser: Texas Rangers
Billy McKinney, a home state product and the second best prep corner infielder, was available at pick 23. The Rangers bypassed him, going for Oral Roberts starter Alex Gonzalez. Jon Denney, the third best prep catcher, was available at pick 30, and the Rangers went with Travis Demerritte, who wasn’t even close to being the best available prep shortstop after JP Crawford was picked. Two stupid decisions in one night. Must be a sign of things to come. The Rangers have generally had good picks in recent years, opting for prep talent which could contribute down the line, but this time, they overvalued their two picks. Will it come back to bite them? Possibly, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Winner: Mark Appel and the Houston Astros
Apparently waiting an extra year did help Appel in his quest to go first overall. The Astros, who bypassed him a year ago for prep shortstop Carlos Correa, decided that he was ready the second time around, and picked him first overall. Appel, a Houston native and soon-to-be Stanford alum, was considered, along with Oklahoma ace Jonathan Gray and San Diego infielder Kris Bryant, to be a top pick. Because of his college experience, he should be fast tracked to the major leagues.
Loser: Jon Denney
You know how ESPN focuses on football players waiting to be drafted by showing shots of them in the green room, like they did with Aaron Rodgers, Brady Quinn, and Geno Smith? If they were covering the MLB draft, you can bet that one of the things they’d show more than anything else would be Jon Denney, waiting in the dugout while the names came and went. Denney, who was originally considered the top prep catcher, had a senior slump which dropped his stock. Nobody expected him to fall out of the second round, but unfortunately, he did. What’s worse for Denney is that the remainder of the draft will be done by conference call, instead of live television, No draft hat for him with the team logo on the side, no jersey, no putting his name on the board, no picture with Bud Selig, and no interview with the MLB network “on field” reporter. Sad. However, there are several options for him. He could sign with the team that does draft him, and likely he will be picked in the third round, he could go to a junior college program and resubmit his name for the draft next year, or he could go to college and rise his stock in time for the 2016 draft.
Winner: Billy McKinney
Billy McKinney is a Texan, but his allegiance lies in Oakland. Before the draft, he was asked if he was a Rangers fan, however, he said “No no, I’m an A’s fan” The A’s must have heard this and tabbed him to be their first baseman of the future. With two consecutive high schoolers chosen in the first round, Billy Beane is departing from his moneyball drafting strategy of high floor collegians in favor of high ceiling prepsters. McKinney and 2012 first rounder Addison Russell will be probably the most hyped prep players in Oakland since Todd Van Poppel and Ariel Prieto, but hopefully they won’t fizzle like the other two did.
Loser: Moneyball drafting
Billy Beane went 11 years between drafting prep players in the first round. Starting in 2002 and ending in 2011, the A’s selected collegians in the first round. Some panned out, like Nick Swisher, Jemile Weeks, and Huston Street. Others failed, like Jeremy Brown, John McCurdy, and Corey Brown. It seems that Beane has outgrown this phase, and ventured back into the prep drafting phase. With choices like Addison Russell and Billy McKinney, it has shown that Oakland is ready to ditch the drafting system that made them famous. That doesn’t mean that Moneyball is dead entirely, as Oakland still goes for cheap talent that can get them wins.
Winner: Nick Ciuffo’s ears
When Tampa Bay took their catcher of the future, we all learned that he has an interesting fact about him: He can wiggle his ears. When he was chosen, we got to see first hand, his talent. Although not as awesome as Courtney Hawkins doing a backflip in a suit, Ciuffo wiggling his ears like a mischevious leprechaun certainly was a highlight of the night.
Loser: Clint Frazier’s pipes.
There should be a rule that states that unless athletes have good singing voices, they should avoid singing entirely. Clint Frazier didn’t get the memo, and “graced” the viewers with his half-dead rendition of a certain Taylor Swift song that I absolutely refuse to name. Stick to baseball, Clint.
Winner: Colorado Rockies
Jonathan Gray’s positive Adderall test may have hurt his draft stock, but he still fell into the welcoming arms of the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies, who have yet to produce a true franchise pitcher, may have finally found their star. A workhorse with a 102 mile per hour fastball, Gray projects to be the ace of the Rockies staff for years to come.
Loser: San Francisco Giants
Either the Giants are really smart, or really stupid, because their first round pick were not even remotely close to the MLB top 100 prospects. Christian Arroyo, a shortstop, the position which they are set with. With Brandon Crawford in the majors and 2011 first rounder Joe Panik at AA, it made absolutely no sense for them to go after Arroyo. Similarly, the Giants could have picked a catcher in the hopes that when Buster Posey does inevitably have to move to first base, he would be ready to take over. Jon Denney was available. Instead, they bypassed him twice in favor of Arroyo and Ryder Jones, a prep third baseman. If Denney is still available by the time the Giants pick next, then they should seriously consider taking him.
Winner: Harold Reynolds
Harold Reynolds is the consummate professional analyst at the 2013 draft, and is starting to draw comparisons to Mel Kiper in terms of his experience. Reynolds, a former baseball player and fourth round draft pick, has the most insight into the situation, as he’s actually been there and done it. Reynolds will be the face of the MLB draft for years to come.
Loser: Pedro Astacio
I dont’ know which was more painful to watch/hear: Clint Frazier “singing” or Pedro Astacio coming up to the podium to announce who the Rockies picked. Either way, it was awful. Astacio mumbled through his words, couldn’t get the names of the schools correct, and just stumbled in more ways that you can imagine. Even Bud Selig’s annual “with the X pick in the 2000 draft” was more bearable this year. Bring back Garrett Atkins.
Coming up: Draft Grades, steals, and busts.