*Publisher’s note: You can also find this article on my blogging colleague Steven Inman’s Mets-centric blog www.Brokemets.com. I highly recommend reading it, especially if you are a Mets fan. My heartiest congratulations to Steven for graduating from St. John’s University.
With a week remaining before the 2014 MLB Draft kicks off, the Mets have a very big decision to make. Armed with the tenth pick, which was protected from being lost to a team that let go of a big money free agent, the Mets have myriad options for their next big prospect.
Before going into who the Mets should take, let’s take a look at the first round strategy of GM Sandy Alderson.
Ever since Alderson took over as the Mets’ GM, he’s opted to take high ceiling talent out of high school; in fact, of the five first round picks he’s had (this includes the compensatory picks he’s gotten from losing Pedro Feliciano and Jose Reyes), only one, catcher Kevin Plawecki of Purdue University, came out of college. The players he’s taken in the first (and compensatory) rounds are as follows:
2013: Dominic Smith, first baseman, Serra High School, Los Angeles, CA.
Smith, who was viewed as one of the top hitters in his class, was valued for his stroke as well as his fielding ability. He’s been compared to Adrian Gonzalez, and in a particularly weak year for first base prospects in MLB, he’s ranked second, although he’s made strides to justify that ranking after a slow start in Low-A Savannah. Given the team’s unsurprising trade of former top pick Ike Davis and commitment to Lucas Duda (who will be 31 or 32 by the time Smith makes his MLB debut) it’s almost a certainty that Smith will be playing first base at Citi Field in the latter half of the 2010’s.
2012: Gavin Cecchini, Shortstop, Alfred M. Barbe High School, Lake Charles, LA
Cecchini is a big time hit or miss prospect who was taken for his value as a defensive star. Although he’s had a slow start to his career due to injury, the fact that he’s only 20 years old serves as a reminder that high school talent often takes more time to develop, meaning he could conceivably be held in the minors until 2017, much like Smith. Cecchini seems to be destined to make up half of a double play combo with one of two top international prospects: Dilson Herrera, who was acquired in the Marlon Byrd trade, or Amed Rosario. Whomever is the odd man out in that group is either going to be traded or coerced into playing third base. Should Cecchini lose out on the shortstop battle, he could be tried out as a third baseman, in fact, his older brother Garin is a top third base prospect for the Boston Red Sox.
Kevin Plawecki, Catcher, Purdue University
When Kevin Plawecki was drafted, one of the big things that stood out about him was the fact that he’s a guy who constantly gets on base. A guy who also rarely strikes out, Plawecki reminds some Mets people of Daniel Murphy, except he’s slower and plays a more challenging position. As I’ve made mention before, teams are starting to understand the importance of carrying two starting level catchers on the big league club, and Plawecki with Travis d’Arnaud could actually prove to be a solid combination. Should the Mets opt to deal him, he may have some value for a team that could use a starting catcher, as evidenced by the Mets’ discussions during the offseason between the Diamondbacks.
2011: Brandon Nimmo: Outfield, Cheyenne East High School, Cheyenne, WY
Alderson’s first pick as a Mets GM is either going to be one of the biggest gem finds or a major novelty gone bad. Nimmo, who gained fame for not playing high school ball (Wyoming doesn’t sanction baseball as a sport in interscholastic competition), was valued for his athletic upside. Nimmo has overcome a predictably slow start in the minors and is currently tearing the cover off the ball in High A St. Lucie, enough to land him in the top 100 prospect list at the final spot. Should he continue that pace, expect him to make a return appearance to the Futures Game in Minnesota.
Michael Fulmer, Pitcher, Deer Creek High School, Deer Creek, OK
Fulmer is the only pitcher that Alderson has drafted in the first round, and for good reason. 2011 was a great year for Oklahoma prep pitchers, and Fulmer has followed Dylan Bundy and Archie Bradley’s success pattern. Although he suffered a setback from his development after injuring his leg, he should be with the major league club by 2017, likely as a long reliever/spot starter.
Sandy Alderson’s strategy deviated from his predecessor, Omar Minaya, who drafted low ceiling/high floor talent. Although most of Minaya’s choices were destined to be average (or in the case of 2007 and 2008 first rounders Nate Vineyard, Reese Havens and Brad Holt, marred with injury and unfulfilled promise) Minaya does have the claim to fame that his final first round pick, Matt Harvey, is one of the best young pitchers in baseball.
Moving on, the question remains: Who should Alderson select with the tenth overall pick?
Generally, given the amount of time prospects take to develop, coupled with the choice between high school, JUCO and college talent, general managers go with the Best Player Available. Although Alderson didn’t necessarily need a first baseman, and many experts thought he would have gone after a college outfielder like Fresno State’s Aaron Judge, Smith was the best player available.
If we went by the best player available based on Baseball America and MLB.com’s top 200 and 100 prospect lists, then the Mets would have two different choices: Baseball America’s #10 player in their top 200 is LSU ace Aaron Nola, who’s bounced up and down the draft board, going as low as the 20’s and as high as top ten. MLB.com has University of San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer as their ten pick. Zimmer has stayed pretty consistent, getting picked in the top 15 in most mocks.
Looking at the Mets’ top 20 prospects, which is what I use as a basis for my mock drafts, it’s clear that once Noah Syndergaard makes his big league debut, the Mets will not have a legitimate top ten right handed pitching prospect. With Rafael Montero and Jake deGrom likely up for good, and Syndergaard coming up, Alderson, unless he invests his pick in a bona fide arm, will not have a top pitching prospect to advance through the system and excite and distract the fan base. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the options that Alderson has:
First, let’s get one thing abundantly clear: Carlos Rodon will not fall out of the top three. Despite his struggles this year at NC State, Rodon’s still got an impressive resumé, as well as covetable attributes that will make him a top pick. The same goes for Brady Aiken, the prep star from Cathedral Catholic. His stock has risen to the point where he’s in the conversation to be the top pick as well. That, and they are also left-handed pitchers. Tyler Kolek, the consensus top right handed pitching prospect, will also not fall out of the top five.
Let’s take a look at the pitchers that are in range, and that’s 5th best player to 15th best player on Baseball America’s and MLB.com’s lists:
Jeff Hoffman, East Carolina (6)
Erick Fedde, UNLV (8)
Aaron Nola, LSU (10)
Touki Toussaint, Coral Springs Christian High School, Florida (13)
Tyler Beede, Vanderbilt (15)
And now MLB.com’s list:
Grant Holmes, Conway High School, South Carolina (12)
In my two mock drafts, I had the Mets taking a right handed pitcher for the reason stated above: They will need to add a right handed pitching stud in order to balance out their top ten prospects. In the first mock, I picked Touki Toussaint: a high school arm whose raw talent, coupled with his loose arm could make him a deadly young pitcher with #2 starter potential. However, given Alderson’s Moneyball background, which actively discourages the drafting of prep arms in the first round, the chances of Toussaint wearing a Mets jersey seem slim.
In the second mock, I had the Mets taking Tyler Beede. Beede is a familiar name, as he was a first round pick three years ago by the Toronto Blue Jays. However, Beede decided against going pro and went to play for Vanderbilt. Beede’s game is great, but some mechanical fine tuning could make it better. He’s been consistently challenging both Nola and Rodon as the top college pitcher this year, and his Golden Spikes nomination last year indicates he has high level pro potential.
If I were Alderson, I’d want a battle tested pitcher, a pitcher that has faced top flight competition. Right off the bat, that eliminates Toussaint and Grant Holmes, a big pitcher from Conway High School. Because high school baseball talent is relative to the state that it’s played in, even if Toussaint and Holmes were among the best talents that year, keep in mind they were facing typical prep talent. Not every South Carolina and Florida prepster is going to play division one ball in college, and even if they did, they wouldn’t all play in the power conferences like the SEC or the ACC.
The second aspect of a battle tested pitcher is the college conference they play in. The Mountain West and Conference USA, once upon a time, were college hotbeds, but now they’re essentially a tick below the real power conferences. Sure, pitchers like Hoffman and Fedde may get the opportunity to play a power conference team here and there, but ultimately, unless it was consistent, it’s a waste of time for Alderson to even think about Fedde and Hoffman.
This leaves it to two pitchers: Nola, and Beede.
Nola, the ace at LSU, is a pitcher who, while he isn’t going to blow you away with any special pitch, has great command and control of his offerings. He won’t be an ace at the major league level, but his dependability will be an asset to any team that needs a pitcher who can go deep into innings.
Beede, on the other hand, is an anti-Nola. His fastball is his best major league offering, going from the low to mid 90’s, and his ceiling is a front-end starter, possibly as high as #2. What Beede lacks in his game is pitch consistency. While Beede does have devastating offerings, like his fastball, curve and change up, they are only effective if he can consistently locate the strike zone.
So who should Sandy pick if it comes down to Nola and Beede?
In a perfect world, Nola will fall to the tenth spot where Alderson can nab him. His consistency and even strength in his offerings mean that either he’s going to be an above average hurler with little to no need to tinker, or, if there is room for improvement, establish a dominant pitch or make each pitch better. Nola’s mechanics are excellent and he is battle tested against the highest possible level of competition in college baseball. It seems that Nola is one of the very few high ceiling/high floor talents, and although Alderson isn’t the type of general manager who goes for safe picks, getting that combination will pay off rather quickly.
With Baseball America releasing their top 200 player list earlier today, it’s time to finally release the second — and final mock draft of the year, especially with two weeks to go before the draft. This mock will just look at the first round and compensatory selections, no competitive balance picks, no second round. Although the general strategy is to go with best player available, let’s assume that the best player available is also a team’s top need. So without further delay, here is the 2014 MLB mock draft.
1. Houston: Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State
(Original selection: Rodon)
Houston lacks a dominant top ten left-handed pitching prospect in their system, and in the prospect rankings, there are three top arms. However, two of the three, Brady Aiken and Kyle Freeland, are untested against power competition, and generally untested arms are riskier investments than proven college arms. Even though Rodon has struggled this season, I doubt that the Astros, unless they were looking at another prospect all along, are going to deviate from an already-established plan. Despite Jonathan Gray’s rising stock last year, the team opted to go for the consensus top prospect at the beginning of the year, Mark Appel. Rodon has more experience and polish than Freeland and Aiken, and he will undoubtedly fit in what is already seen as a deadly future rotation.
2. Miami: Alex Jackson, C, Rancho Bernardo HS, California
(Original selection: Tyler Kolek)
Alex Jackson may be one of the more power hitters in this class, and the Marlins may be one of those teams who could find themselves in need a high level catcher in the future. Kyle Skipworth, the team’s first round pick in 2008, has just started as a major leaguer, but all signs point to him being a bust. Jackson’s arm and bat will ensure him a shot at a position which requires more athleticism, so if he decides that catching isn’t in the future, then he does have some projectability as an corner infielder or outfielder.
3. Chicago White Sox: Brady Aiken, LHP Cathedral Catholic HS, California
(Original selection: Alex Jackson)
Brady Aiken was a top 5 pick in my initial draft, and if it weren’t for the stigma that is attached to high school arms, he’s probably hit the top spot, but top three isn’t bad, especially for a team lacking a dynamic pitching prospect like Chicago. Really, it could go either way between him and Tyler Kolek, but Aiken does have the benefit of having actually played the previous season while Kolek was hurt. Having Aiken and possibly Sale in the same rotation will be a boon for the Southsiders.
4. Chicago Cubs: Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville
(Original selection: Jeff Hoffman)
The Cubs have spent that last few drafts upgrading their position players, so now must be the time for a pitching upgrade. Like their crosstown rivals, they are especially deficient when it comes to left-handed pitching. Kyle Freeland’s stock has done nothing but rise this year, and it is a theoretical possibility he could be a top five pick given how the picks may fall. The only knock on him is his propensity to try too hard when he pitches, which could lead to arm injuries, but tweaking his delivery shouldn’t be that much of a problem.
5. Minnesota: Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS, Florida
(Original selection: Brady Aiken)
Even though the Twins would benefit from grabbing another outfield prospect to take some load off of Byron Buxton, the general consensus among Twins fans is that they need a shortstop given the failure at the position and from their last shortstop draft pick, Levi Michael, and the best outfield prospect available is a reach at 10. I talked about Gordon a lot in my previous mock draft and my Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop article, and since then, he’s risen from the #3 shortstop in the class of 2014 to the #1. Gordon’s best assets are his legs and his arm, and if he can improve his hitting, he’ll definitely be a better shortstop than his brother Dee.
6. Seattle: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd HS, Texas
(Original selection: Trea Turner)
Here’s the first really big fall of the draft, as Tyler Kolek, who was viewed by many at the beginning of the season as the top high school prospect, could potentially fall to here. Seattle could add him to their growing list of arms, especially if Taijuan Walker or another high level pitching prospect ends up leaving in a trade. Kolek’s fastball is explosive and he has healed fully from his injury, which means that he should be ready for the transition to pro baseball.
7. Philadelphia: Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco
(Original selection: Michael Gettys)
Philadelphia may be one of the few teams that is in a bad situation here, as the fallout from Wetzler-gate has destroyed trust between the team and some major college programs. Still, the Phillies need to develop a true outfielder, and unfortunately the best prep outfielder in the top 100 is at best a top 30 pick. Bradley Zimmer may be a bit of a reach, but he’s still got top ten talent, and would certainly be a solid addition to the Philadelphia outfield. His arm is solid, and he will make it as a low order slap hitter. Part of the reason why he’s so attractive is his pedigree, his brother Kyle was the fifth overall pick in 2012 by Kansas City.
8. Colorado: Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU
(Original selection: Jacob Gatewood)
If there was ever a prospect I would happy to be wrong about, it’s Aaron Nola. Initially, I said that Nola’s dependence on finesse instead of strength was going to affect his stock, potentially triggering a fall to a team like the Indians, but given Nola’s dominant spring, it’s safe to say barring any surprises or Scott Boras-type contract demands, Nola has cemented his position as a top ten arm. Given also the fact that he pitches in the same conference as college baseball’s third best big name arm in Tyler Beede, he’s really accelerated his stock even further, and Colorado could use another big name college arm to draw crowds.
9. Toronto: Trea Turner, SS NC State
(Original selection: Tyler Beede)
While it may seem odd drafting a college shortstop while there’s a particularly good one playing in the majors, Toronto could afford to upgrade by going for a younger model, especially with Jose Reyes about to turn 31. Turner has Reyes’ speed and glove, but needs to develop his hitting if he wants to be a top of the lineup threat. Having him and top prospect DJ Davis in a future lineup together just screams terror on the base paths, and would usher in an era of inside baseball which would allow Toronto to compete with the other AL East clubs.
10. New York Mets: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
(Original selection: Touki Toussaint)
Sandy Alderson prides himself on getting at least one good pitching prospect in the team’s farm system, as evidenced by Matt Harvey (2011-12), Zack Wheeler (2012-13) and Noah Syndergaard (2013-14). With Syndergaard likely coming up next month, and Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom already making their impressions, Alderson is in serious need of a new pitcher to develop. Beede, who I honestly think is better than Rodon, if not also Nola, does have the ability to be a number two starter in a major league rotation like the Mets. He will need to fine tune his command, but otherwise, he could be the next big arm that Met fans get excited about.
11. Toronto: Kyle Schwarber, C, Indiana
(Original Selection: Schwarber)
Like the NFL and running backs, in baseball, it’s always a good idea to keep at least two solid catchers on a team. Catchers are not the most durable players in baseball, and in all likelihood, one will presumably move to an infield position that doesn’t require constant stress on the knees. Schwarber is a big man at 230 pounds, and his presence behind the dish will certainly prevent plenty of runs. He’s a solid hitter as well who projects to be a mid to low level part of a major league lineup. Having him and AJ Jimenez behind the plate will be quite the boon for the Blue Jays, who would greatly benefit from their presence.
Here’s part 2 of MinorLeagueMadhouse’s Mock Draft.
11. Blue Jays: Kyle Schwarber, C, Indiana
Before the 2013 season started, Toronto had two really good catching prospects and a somewhat decent veteran. Now, they have… Josh Thole, Mike Nickeas, and one prospect whose value has taken a tumble. Kyle Schwarber, who helped Indiana make the College World Series last year, is like Toronto’s former big prize catcher, JP Arencibia, except he’s not just a power guy who strikes out a lot. Schwarber’s game is more balanced on the offensive side. However, for his hitting ability, he’s not a plus defender. If he’s to stay behind the plate, his defense will need some fine tuning, or he’ll become another Piazza.
12. Brewers: Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford
Every once in a while, the state of Connecticut produces a quality collegiate talent. Two years ago, it was George Springer and Matt Barnes, this year, it’s Sean Newcomb. Coming out of the same school that produced Jeff Bagwell will do wonders for his reputation, but as for himself, what endears him to scouts is his fastball and his ability as a strikeout pitcher. Newcomb has other pitches which he can get batters out with, but what he needs is a consistent delivery. Still, in a system that’s starved for southpaws, Newcomb may be Milwaukee’s next big lefty hurler.
13. Padres: Nick Gordon, SS/RHP, Olympia High School, Florida
One of the benefits of drafting a two way player out of high school is that there’s more time for that player to develop, so if in one area they fail, they will develop in another. Gordon, who has a baseball pedigree thanks to his father, former reliever Tom Gordon, and brother, Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon, has his brother’s speed and arm, and his father’s fastball and curveball. Still, scouts see his value as a shortstop more. Although the Padres have tried to stay away from prep hitters as of late thanks to the failures of Donavan Tate and Matt Bush, Gordon’s pedigree and adaptability may be too good to pass up.
14. Giants: Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco
The Giants already have one home state product waiting in the wings to take his spot in the outfield, why not go for another one that’s right in their backyard? Zimmer, the brother of Royals pitcher Kyle Zimmer, can hit and throw, and while he’s not as fast as Gary Brown is, he has the ability to play as a 3 or 5 hitter in the Giants lineup. Although the Giants have locked up Hunter Pence for five years, my gut tells me that they are going to regret it, and will want a younger guy patrolling the vast outfield of AT&T Park.
15. Angels: Luis Ortiz, RHP, Sanger High School, California
The Angels system is arguably the biggest joke in baseball right now. With no one in the top 100 and the top prospect in their system likely making the majors soon, it’s time to restock once again. While there are so many options for the Angels to pick, if they want to strengthen their system, they’ll opt for a high school talent. Luis Ortiz is a NorCal product who has a fastball that he can throw with ease. When he’s not using his fastball, his slider also works as a Major League offering. Ortiz has a body fit for pitching, so development isn’t that much of an issue, but what does need improvement is his control. Still, if the Angels want a bona fide prospect to rebuild their system, Ortiz is that guy.
16. Diamondbacks: Braxton Davidson, OF, TC Roberson High School, North Carolina
Braxton Davidson is probably one of the better all around prep players in this year’s draft. His offensive game is definitely the most polished, and his arm and fielding ability make him an asset for teams that play in bigger parks. While he doesn’t have the speed to play center, his arm makes him a near lock to play one of the corner spots, left field especially comes to mind. Davidson’s power isn’t as big as Paul Goldschmidt’s, but in the Arizona lineup, he definitely looks to be a #3 hitter at best.
17. Orioles: Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State
“But the Orioles already have a catcher locked up for the long term!” Yes, but given the life expectancy of a catcher’s knees, in all likelihood, if they do draft Pentecost and he rises through the system at the normal rate, Matt Wieters will probably be a designated hitter. Moving along from that, Pentecost isn’t as flashy as draft mate Kyle Schwarber, but his game is balanced in areas. He was once a highly touted prospect three years ago, and would have been a Texas Ranger, but an injury and a strong commitment to Kennesaw State kept him from going pro. In a draft class that is ripe with small school talent. Pentecost is a hot commodity. He’ll certainly be worth the pick for a team looking for a future catcher.
18. Royals: Derek Fisher, OF Virginia
The Royals are the model of developing prospects, but the prospects that have been highlighted over the past few years are starting to graduate to the Majors. In developing the next crop of quality prospects. Kansas City should go after a good Alex Gordon-type hitter. Derek Fisher is one of the bigger names from a bigger school. The Cavaliers outfielder may have started show in Charlottesville, but a strong summer league has propelled him to the top of a lot of preseason watch lists. Fisher’s biggest weakness, however, is his fielding ability, and if he can’t improve it, he may end up being what Billy Butler became: a young Designated Hitter.
19. Nationals: Brandon Finnegan, LHP, TCU
Although the Nationals have been building up on pitchers as of late, another one, particularly a lefty, wouldn’t hurt. Brandon Finnegan had a rough year last year, but as Gerrit Cole could probably tell you, a poor record isn’t usually indicative of one’s draft position. Finnegan has a fastball that’s worth a second look, as well as a solid slider. He’s short for a starter, but as a bullpen guy, particularly a closer, Finnegan may be one of the best options out there. What he needs to improve upon is his consciousness of his delivery, which could be used as a tell, which may have caused him to have a bad year. Still, the Nationals would be smart to look at him.
20. Reds: Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway High School, South Carolina
There’s a stigma that seems to go against heavy pitchers, maybe because of health concerns, but for whatever reason, they still manage to carve out solid careers. Case and point, C.C. Sabathia and Bartolo Colon. Grant Holmes is nothing different. A big pitcher (6’2″ and 190 pounds, although those numbers are supposedly more generous than indicated), Holmes gets people out with a zippy fastball. He does have a couple of secondary pitches, including a curveball with an identity crisis (fast like a slider, but moves like a curve), and a developmental change up. Holmes’ baseball pedigree is not as well known as Nick Gordon’s, but it’s there, as his brother was a two time national champion at South Carolina. Holmes could join the two prep prospects that the Reds already have drafted in Robert Stephenson and Nick Travieso, and they’d make a solid portion of a typical big league rotation.
There’s part two. Stay tuned for Part three, coming sometime this week.