If you’re like me, you eagerly wait for the MLB draft the same way that a kid would wait for the last day of school. Then again, you’re probably not me, Heck, you probably didn’t realize the MLB Draft was a thing unless you have a subscription to Baseball America, read MLB Pipeline, or read Minor League Madhouse (Yeah, I know, self-plug, haha.) It’s kind of disappointing, really. How is it that everyone knows about the NFL Draft and the NBA Draft, but the MLB Draft is pretty much the equivalent of the chess club? Well maybe it’s because there are a couple issues that prevent the draft from getting the visibility it deserves.
First of all, the MLB Draft is the only draft that takes place during the season as opposed to the offseason. You know why the NFL Draft has so much coverage? Because it is the most exciting event for fans until the season starts. The same thing goes for the NBA Draft. Sure you have free agency, but you also have the NBA draft. The fact that the MLB draft coincides with the season, heck, it even goes on while games are being played, makes it one of the most overlooked drafts in pro sports.
Another problem is that the players that are available to be picked don’t have the same athletic profile as an NFL or an NBA prospect. People know these names because they see them on ESPN or the other sports networks all the time. I can guarantee you Dansby Swanson made it on ESPN about a third of the time that Jameis Winston or Karl Towns did. And it gets even worse if you are a high schooler because of the fact that the majority of high school games are not televised by national networks. If you want to see Jason Groome pitch so you can see the future, check YouTube or make a trip down to Barnegat, New Jersey, because the chances you see him on national TV right now are almost none.
The third problem is that whereas NFL, NBA, and in some cases, NHL talent have a good shot at making the jump to the pros immediately, in baseball, it’s rare to see that happen. Because it can take an average of three years to see a first round pick make the majors, the interest is not there unless the fans are made aware of the hotshot prospect. Sure, JP Crawford is supposed to be the next Jimmy Rollins in Philadelphia, but let me ask you, Phillies fans, how many times have you seen Crawford play live? And no, the Futures game does not count. Additionally, there is the chance that a first round pick does not make the majors, making the MLB Draft one of the biggest risks involving amateur talent. In the 50 years the draft has been held, no class has had every first rounder make the majors.
While there is no way to guarantee the success of the draft, there is always a way to drum up more interest in the event itself. So how exactly is that done? Well, here are some ideas that could get the ball rolling.
1. Televise more college and high school games on MLB Network and other channels.
If you want to get people interested in prospects, the best way to do so is to give the prospects more visibility. Sure, ESPNU will televise a college game every now and again, and the regional networks will do as well, but they play to a niche audience. And when ESPN, ESPN 2 and ESPN U do cover college baseball regularly, it’s usually after players are drafted, when the NCAA tournament is going on. By getting more networks involved before the fact, especially the national networks and the sports networks, there should be at least a slight bump in interest. Play it like college football does and have college baseball games on in the morning and afternoon on CBS and ABC. Show highlights on SportsCenter, and not just the occasional Top 10 Play, make sure that baseball fans know the future of baseball. Heck, if possible, drum up interest early by showing summer league games on ESPN 2. The possibilities are endless.
As far as high school, perhaps there should be more games available to stream online. If MLB.com were to offer a service to allow fans to watch games that high level prospects pitch in, then you can guarantee fans will watch it. Reading about high school prospects is the equivalent of hearing a folk legend, people rarely get to see what these players are unless there is video footage. By highlighting the top prep players in each draft class through a stream, fans will be able to see what guys like Riley Pint or Jason Groome or Blake Rutherford actually are.
Come to think of it, if ESPN and MLB Network both decided to air the MLB draft, I’m sure there would be a major viewership spike.
Watching games may be a fun way to see the talent that does come up, but there’s more to evaluating players than seeing them perform, which brings me to my next point…
2. Create an MLB Scouting Combine.
Believe it or not, this was proposed as an idea last year in the wake of the Brady Aiken saga, and it may be the only time that prep and college players get to be evaluated side by side. The idea that players can have certain measurable categories that can be evaluated against other players in the same vacuum allows for a more open approach to scouting. Additionally, if medical tests are included, teams are not left in the dark about records, and open communication between players, agents, and teams is encouraged. The other fun in it would be seeing who would be the “workout warriors” of the combine, which players would see their stock rise enough to jump them into the first round. Sure, players do see their stock rise during their seasons, but it’s not as fun to watch as seeing Aaron Donald completely defy expectations.
Now there is a certain timing issue that may lead to the question of when the combine could be scheduled, and with the MLB Draft already competing with the NCAA Tournament and the MLB season. This brings up my next point…
3. Move the draft (and possible combine) to the end of June/early July.
College coaches’ biggest complaint about the MLB draft is that it’s scheduled during the tournament, meaning that players could get distracted by all the hype that comes with being selected. Sure, it’s nice to have a celebration with your teammates like Dansby Swanson and Walker Buehler did last year, but to be honest, wouldn’t it be better to have the draft right after the College World Series? With all the distraction behind them, players can focus on the future, and teams will be able to gather more information on the players as they go through the College World Series.
Of course, one of the main issues with this is that a month of negotiating time for contracts would be cut, and considering the fact that there are over 1200 players chosen in the draft, and teams do try and sign each player, there would have to be some quick negotiations done in order to get all players in a draft class accounted for. Considering teams want to get players in the system as soon as possible, it’s reasonable that they possibly just send their draft picks to extended spring training, and then if they feel they are ready, add them to a low level part of the organization.
Now how about the actual draft? How do we make more people watch it?
1. Give the draft its own day.
Now when I say the draft, I mean the rounds that are televised. No, we don’t need to do 40 rounds in one sitting.
Part of the problem with the way the draft is scheduled is that nobody really sees it, what with the competition being baseball games. By having there be a day off, you can bet more people would consider tuning in to watch the draft. In fact, encourage people to watch the draft by printing it on team schedules. In fact, promote it heavily, after all, this is the future of baseball that people should be seeing.
2. Invite fans to see it live.
Part of the reason why the NFL, NBA, and NHL drafts are so successful is because they encourage fans to attend the draft in person. And that’s why you see so many hardcore fans dressed up in their team colors, cheering for their team’s picks. The MLB draft, on the other hand, is almost like that exclusive party that very few people are invited to. It’s just the draft attendees and their families, the MLB Network personalities, the team representatives, the Commissioner, and maybe a few special guests. If you want to promote the future, don’t make it a stuffy cocktail party, make it an open experience. I’m sure there are plenty of fans that would give anything to sit in the left field seats at Studio 42 to watch players walk on stage and receive the jersey and handshake from Rob Manfred.
In fact, why restrict the location to Studio 42? Why not move the draft to a ballroom and set it up like Studio 42? Or even better? Have the draft at an actual MLB Ballpark, like Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, Wrigley Field or Fenway Park? If the NBA can have their draft at the Barclays Center every year, and the NHL can move their draft to whatever NHL Arena it is in every year, why restrict the MLB Draft to Secaucus, New Jersey? And speaking of invites…
3. Invite more college players.
This one is admittedly tricky and relies on a few scenarios to break the right way, but in my opinion, the MLB draft would get even more viewership if more college players were able to attend. Ever since the draft has been televised, very few college players have been able to attend. To prove my point, here are all the players that have attended the MLB draft in person since it started being televised in 2007:
2007: Josh Vitters (HS), Philippe Aumont (HS), Ross Detweiler (HS)
2008: Aaron Hicks (HS)
2009: Mike Trout (HS)
2011: Larry Greene (HS)
2012: Carlos Correa (HS), Andrew Heaney (NCAA), Gavin Cecchini (HS), Courtney Hawkins (HS), Clint Coulter (HS)
2013: Clint Frazier (HS), Dominic Smith (HS), Tim Anderson (JUCO), Nick Ciuffo (HS), Billy McKinney (HS), JP Crawford (HS), Aaron Judge (NCAA), Ian Clarkin (HS), Jon Denney (HS)
2014: Nick Gordon (HS), Michael Chavis (HS), Jake Gatewood (HS), Monte Harrison (HS), Derek Hill (HS), Grant Holmes (HS), Kodi Medeiros (HS)
2015: Brendan Rodgers (HS), Ashe Russell (HS), Garrett Whitley (HS), Mike Nikorak (HS)
So out of 31 players that have attended, two have come out of college, or a little over six percent. Now of course, there is a logical reason, considering the fact that the draft and the NCAA tournament conflict with each other, and the best chance to be at the draft is if your team does not qualify for the tournament. So going back to those factors that break, in the best case scenario, what could happen is that if the draft is moved, more collegians could be invited. In the worst case, that is, the draft isn’t moved, the collegians from the smaller schools, like Kyle Lewis or Matt Crohan, would get the invite.
If more collegians are invited, there is a possibility that more fans will be willing to watch, as these are the players that have the best chance to be seen. The question is which collegians would be able to come?
4. Let teams trade picks.
The MLB draft is the only draft of the Big 4 sports leagues that doesn’t allow trading of draft picks. Well, technically they do, but the picks that can be traded are only competitive balance lottery picks. The lack of trading means there’s almost no reason to be excited for the draft, especially if a team has no first round pick at all. And in some cases, it can be a real disadvantage. A team with a terrible minor league system who is this close to contention would greatly benefit if they were allowed to trade draft picks, and the draft would be even more interesting if, say, the Yankees were allowed to trade up.
While only a couple trades have been made with CB picks involved, the opportunity to expand that to, say, maybe the first 5 rounds of draft picks would make for a more interesting show. Imagine if a team is willing to offer a major league caliber star prospect in exchange for a high pick, or if teams trade picks in order to move up or down. Instead of just waiting for players to be picked, it would be a lot more fun to watch.
While these changes aren’t going to come around that quickly, if at all, it still should send a message. The future of baseball is just as important as the past and present. If the draft is given the exposure that it should get, then more fans will be willing to watch it and see what the future holds for their team.
With MLB’s draft pick signing deadline set for 5:00 today, there are obviously several high holdouts that have yet to ink deals. In total, in the first two rounds, competitive balance picks included, there are 7 picks who remain unsigned. Considering the measures taken to limit bonus pool money, the fact that only three first round picks are unsigned indicates that something clearly is working here. Whats even more surprising is the fact that there are no high school first round picks who haven’t signed. But I digress.
This article will focus on the remaining unsigned first and competitive balance round picks in the draft. There are four of them. Without further delay, here they are.
1. Dansby Swanson, SS, Diamondbacks.
The first overall pick becomes the second straight pick to hold off signing at the deadline. But unlike Brady Aiken last season, whose UCL wiped out any chance of him receiving a top level bonus, Swanson is perfectly healthy, and has no incentive to return to school.
Why he will sign:
As the first overall pick, Swanson is perfectly capable of commanding the $8,616,900 recommended bonus that is the league recommendation. The Diamondbacks have a large enough pool to afford the deal, and considering the fact that all but one of their first 10 picks signed for at-slot deals, and their only other remaining major commitment is 12th rounder Wesley Rodriguez, it seems that the best way to say it is that all that needs to be done is figure out how much money they want to commit to him.
As of now, the top bonus in the draft belongs to #2 pick Alex Bregman, who topped out with $5.9 million. If all goes well in Swanson’s camp, and given the fact that the negotiations between them and the D-Backs camp have been more about evaluating his market, I could see Arizona following their trend and signing him at slot. Should Rodriguez who may elect to recover from Tommy John surgery in college choose not to sign, the D-Backs could afford to sweeten the pot by offering him even more. However, the verdict is this. Swanson will sign, and based on the positive lines of communication, he’ll be rewarded handsomely.
24. Walker Buehler, RHP, Dodgers
The first of two remaining unsigned Dodgers, Buehler was a solid starter and piece of the 2014 NCAA champions and 2015 NCAA runners up. Buehler at one point was considered the best of the three Vanderbilt products taken in the first round, but slipped all the way to the 24th pick.
Why he will sign.
This one comes down to two major factors: Who do the Dodgers want to commit their remaining pool money to, and how much can they afford to? In addition to Buehler, the Dodgers do have another first round pick and a 6th rounder who have yet to sign, but the chances that they sign all three are incredibly slim. Buehler had a decent season this year, even if he had to take a 2 and a half week break to rest during the season.
The Dodgers ideally would want to sign Buehler because he would further add to the arsenal of future arms set to take over the Dodger rotation in the coming years. Given that Buehler is a college pitcher, there would be a chance for him to come up as early as late 2016 or early 2017.
Buehler would be the Dodgers’ best chance to sign, and if it means that they have to commit what remaining bonus money under the 5% threshold they have to sign him, then they should, and should let go of their remaining picks.
35, Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Dodgers
Kyle Funkhouser at one point in the draft was considered the top righthanded pitching prospect in the draft, but a down junior season dropped his stock, and he tumbled all the way down to the 35th pick.
Why he won’t sign:
The way I look at this, Kyle Funkhouser has leverage that former potential top pick Michael Matuella didn’t have. A bad junior season? Fine, go back to school, see if you can rebound, and hope to enter next year’s top pick conversation. Matuella didn’t have that same leverage because of his Tommy John surgery and back issues, which would have prevented him from pitching at all in his senior year.
Funkhouser knows that he’s worth more that whatever the Dodgers can offer him, and given the fact that they spent their top picks on college pitchers, he likely views himself as the odd man out.
Admittedly, the risks of returning to school for a senior season are big. What if Funkhouser doesn’t improve? What if he’s only able to slightly raise his stock from last season? Since compensation for losing a first round draft pick began, only one player who didn’t sign was a collegian, and that was Stanford’s Mark Appel in 2012. Granted, Appel was able to move from being selected by the Pirates at 8th overall to the Astros at first overall, but his decision to return doesn’t indicate a trend.
The only way I see Funkhouser choose to sign is if the Dodgers elect to not sign Edwin Rios, their sixth rounder. If they do that, they could try and split the remaining threshold bonus pool money they have in the hopes of getting both Buehler and Funkhouser. Knowing full well that the Dodgers don’t want to be the first team to lose a draft pick for exceeding their pool, the chances of that happening are pretty slim. In all likelihood, it will come down choosing between Buehler and Funkhouser, and signs indicate Buehler is their first choice.
40. Nathan Kirby, LHP: Brewers
Nathan Kirby was a preseason favorite to be a top pick in the draft, but an ineffective junior season towards the end dropped his stock and pushed him to the CB round, where the Brewers snatched him.
Why he will sign:
An article on the Daily Progress’ UVA sports blog indicates that Kirby has decided to wait until just before the deadline to sign. For Kirby, going pro would be the best decision. The Cavaliers will be fine without him, especially with the emergence of Connor Jones as a staff ace. Plus, as a UVA product, Kirby has a chance to go through the minor league system quickly. The Brewers could use the remainder of the minor league season to shut down Kirby and wait until next season, when he will be fully healthy and ready to go.
Considering the Brewers have made no effort to sign their gamble picks, Justin Hooper, Donny Everett and John India, they could definitely allocate the money they have left towards a higher bonus for Kirby.
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.
The first 14 picks have been revealed for MinorLeagueMadhouse’s 2015 MLB Mock Draft; what happens with the next seven?
15. Atlanta Braves
The Braves dismantled their outfield, with the exception of BJ Upton, this winter, sending Justin Upton to the Padres and Jason Heyward to the Cardinals. When a team decides to take apart an area that could be considered well-established, it’s clear that something has gone wrong. Even the current Braves outfield leaves a lot to be desired, which brings me to whom they should draft.
DJ Stewart is Florida State’s top outfielder, a tank of a man, who, although he saw his stock drop somewhat due to a poor summer, scouts feel that it’s nothing to worry about.
Though he looks the part of a slugger, Stewart needs some fine tuning to actually be a true power hitter, as his stance and swing prevents him from making powerful contact.Although it looks like a reach now, Stewart’s potential, plus the opportunity in his junior year, will definitely springboard him into the top 15, especially in a weak collegiate hitter’s market.
Not only that, but Chipper Jones would potentially endorse the move, especially given the fact that Stewart went to Jones’ prep alma mater.
16. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers are probably the last place you’d look these days for a homegrown pitcher, but the emergence of Tyler Thornburg and Jimmy Nelson as potential All-Star starters has allowed the team to stop being averse to drafting high pitching. Heck, they took a chance on Devin Williams and Kodi Medeiros the past two years, maybe it’s time to go for a bigger fish after having slow success with the once thought to be deadly combination of Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley. In this year’s strong collegiate pitching class, the Brewers have plenty of options, even if they’re mainly right-handed starters.
Take Vanderbilt starter Carson Fulmer for instance. The latest in a long line of intriguing Vanderbilt prospects, Fulmer can throw mid 90’s heat with regularity, and has solid secondary and tertiary offerings to give him dimension. What Fulmer needs work on is his control, and his delivery needs to be less… severe.
Although scouts will constantly knock pitchers who lack height, Fulmer’s experience with the Commodores and Team USA, both premier levels of competition, have shown that it is just a number, and given Marcus Stroman’s successful debut this season, Fulmer can only help that opinion change further.
17. New York Yankees
When it comes to the Yankees, especially in the draft, they usually go for players that either have major name recognition or are just plain good. Need proof? In 2008, the team drafted Gerrit Cole, who three years later would become the top pick in the 2011 draft, and another two years later, the ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates staff. In 2011, they drafted Dante Bichette Jr, the former little league star and son of Rockies legend Dante Bichette. In 2012, they drafted Rob Refsnyder, that year’s College World Series Most Outstanding Player, and in 2013, they took Ian Clarkin, who has emerged as one of the best young starters of the 2013 class.
2015 might as well be known as the year of the famous retreads, as both Brady Aiken and Phil Bickford, a former CSU Fullerton Titan, now a member of the College of Southern Nevada, highlight this year’s class. Bickford’s got the fame, as the only member of the 2013 first round draft class not to sign, he’s since dominated the summer league circuit after a meh freshman year at Fullerton. After being voted the Cape’s best prospect, Bickford left Fullerton, deciding that 2016 was too long of a wait for him.
Bickford’s fastball is the main reason why he’s such an appealing project, a mid 90’s offering with plenty of life, he can play the strike zone to his advantage. His slider has also become a solid pitch, and while he does need development on his third, a change, he could become a solid 3 pitch starter. Bickford is definitely more than a name though, and he’ll be worth watching when he plays his final season in college, or to be more precise, junior college.
18. Cleveland Indians
I find it incredibly hard to believe that the Cleveland Indians are that bad at developing starting pitchers, especially out of college. What are they, anti-moneyball? While they have had success with developing pitchers that they have gotten elsewhere, see Corey Kluber as the major example, the fact that the Indians have failed to make a homegrown pitcher blossom since CC Sabathia is baffling. Maybe there is hope that Kyle Crockett will buck the trend, but that’s another story.
There’s a caveat to developing small school pitchers, that the athlete will be on a major learning curve, that they haven’t exactly faced prime competition, but really, if it’s that hard, then why draft small school pitchers in the first place? Of course, pitchers like Division II star and Cal Poly Pomona ace Cody Ponce would really be at a major disadvantage.
Ponce worked his way through two seasons of California Collegiate Athletic Association baseball to make it to the Cape League this past summer, and while there, scouts got a taste of why Ponce is special.
While he is a work in progress, Ponce does offer more pitches than your average hurler, and a strong fastball can be improved even more if Ponce can give it more life. Ponce’s appeal though is his ability to keep the ball in the park, and while Progressive Field is no Yankee Stadium, and the CCAA is no SEC, the ability to keep the ball in the park is going to help Ponce more than hurt him regardless of competition or home stadium.
Ponce will be a work in progress, but if the Indians pitching coaches can somehow turn a Stetson product into a Cy Young winner, it wouldn’t hurt to see what they could do with a Division II star.
19. San Francisco Giants
I am of the belief that a team often needs to stretch out of their comfort zone when it comes to drafting and developing prospects. And while I did catch a little flak for saying the Giants should go for a prep outfielder when there were plenty of pitchers, which is their forté, my belief is that the Giants will need to build in other areas in order to stay competitive.
A third baseman can be replaced by the next man up, in this case, Matt Duffy, but when you lose two big power guys in one offseason, in a weak free agent class, then maybe it’s time to start looking at future homegrowns.
I’ve been pretty high on Miami 1B/3B David Thompson for a while. He’s a prodigy, the first Hurricane hitter to ever make his debut as a cleanup man, and a constant All-America threat. While his sophomore campaign was cut short due to life saving surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, he showed that he hadn’t lost a step when he played in the Cape that summer. Thompson is a student of the game, he was able to reinvent his swing after his injury, and he really adjusted to the learning curve in summer ball.
Health will be an issue, but if Thompson is able to get back to his freshman potential, then he’ll definitely be a late first round pick.
20. Pittsburgh Pirates
Every so often, there’s a team that has such a dearth of talent in their system that you wish they would just not have a first round pick. In this case, it’s the Pirates. The Pirates are strong in this year’s draft’s areas of strength, outfield, and right-handed pitcher, which means that BPA is the best way to go.
The BPA for the Pirates would be Brother Rice High School outfielder Nick Plummer, A lefty, Plummer is valuable because he has advanced power for his age. Plummer also has a good baseball IQ, taking “reach” pitches and aiming for the gaps.
Plummer is no Andrew McCutchen, nor is he Austin Meadows, but he could find value in a lineup as a 6 hitter. It’ll be interesting to see if he can improve his stock in the coming season.
21. Oakland Athletics
I could use the refrain from Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler as my intro for the Oakland A’s, as they pretty much gambled their bright future, that is, Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, etc. for a shot at the World Series which ultimately failed, leading to a Marlins type fire sale for prospects whom I wouldn’t even recognize.
It was clear that when the A’s ditched Moneyball, they really got some major talent, but sometimes, familiarity with an old system may be the best option. In fact, familiarity as a whole is often the best way of going at things during a rebuild.
Meet University of the Pacific outfielder Gio Brusa. In perhaps the weakest hitting class of any draft, Brusa stands out by being a switch hitting slugger. Although he’s only recently reclaimed his hitting ability in summer ball that led to a failed 5 round courtship by Boston in 2012, Brusa’s potential could lead to him hitting 3rd in a major league lineup.
Brusa is a more well-rounded athlete as he has solid running and fielding ability to complement his hitting. He also has the added appeal of being an in state and somewhat local product; University of the Pacific is based in Stockton, home of the Ports, the A’s California League club.
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.
*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.