Tagged: Houston Astros

2015 MLB Mock Draft: April Edition

1. Arizona Diamondbacks: Brendan Rodgers, SS Lake Mary HS, Florida

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The one constant in an ever changing landscape of potential number one picks, Brendan Rodgers has the ability to be one of the best Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstops in the history of the draft. Blessed with a solid arm and an excellent bat, Rodgers is a player who could run through Arizona’s system in three years rather than the standard five for prep prospects. His leadership at the prep level will also translate well to the pro game. I project him as a potential 2-4 hitter in the Arizona lineup, likely ahead of Paul Goldschmidt.

2. Houston Astros: Dansby Swanson, SS/2B Vanderbilt

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It’s hard to imagine that Dansby is only seven months older than Astros super prospect Carlos Correa, but the dates never lie. The former College World Series Most Outstanding Player has the bat to be a solid middle of the order producer. Defensively, Swanson profiles higher as a second baseman, which works out a lot better for him, as he and Correa could form a potentially lethal future double play tandem, assuming Jose Altuve isn’t blocking him.

3. Colorado Rockies: Carson Fulmer, RHP Vanderbilt

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Size isn’t everything, at least that’s what Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer would like you to believe. After seeing a similarly sized Marcus Stroman succeed as a starter for the Toronto Blue Jays, Fulmer has done everything possible to justify the possibility of being the first pitcher off the board. Yes, his delivery is awkward, and he does show a lot of effort when pitching, but Fulmer’s sinking action is deadly, and something the Rockies would love to add (based on their previous forays into collegiate pitching) Fulmer also has one of the best fastballs in the class, and should he not work out as a starter, he’d be a more than impressive closer.

4. Texas Rangers: Dillon Tate, RHP California-Santa Barbara

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The Rangers were fortuitous enough to have a bad season right around now, especially considering the rise of certain collegiate pitchers to take the place of others. Among those pitchers is UCSB’s Dillon Tate, a young man who has a blazing fastball. While most of his college work has been in relief, Tate’s transition to the starting rotation has been nothing short of amazing, to the point where he’s been considered a top three, even the top pick in the draft. Tate’s versatility as a pitcher will help upgrade a woeful corps that has had to rely on the likes of Logan Verrett, Anthony Ranaudo, and Ross Detwiler for stability, no offense to them. His presence will almost immediately help a rotation in search of protection for their ace, Yu Darvish.

5. Houston Astros: Kyle Tucker, OF Gulf Coast HS, Florida

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The younger brother of Astros farmhand Preston Tucker, Kyle has one of the best pure swings in this year’s class. While he does need some work in the defensive department, his above average speed will definitely ensure that he’s at least a 6 hitter in the big leagues. Psychologically, Tucker’s supposed devil-may-care attitude may push some teams away, but on the flip side of the coin, he’s blessed with the confidence and poise that should help him mentally adjust to the rigors of professional ball

6. Minnesota Twins: Ian Happ, 2B/OF Cincinnati

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Positional versatility is a valuable asset, and for Cincinnati’s Ian Happ, it may be his biggest ally before the draft. Happ has played first base, second base, shortstop, third base and outfield, and while his current projection is in the corner, his swiss army knife capability, coupled with his solid bat could make him even more valuable than he is now. While the Twins do seem to have their infield determined for the future, figuring out who plays alongside Byron Buxton and Oswaldo Arcia could be solved easily with this selection.

7. Boston Red Sox: Alex Bregman, SS LSU

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Four years ago, the Red Sox used their second first round selection on a young New Mexico prep catcher named Blake Swihart. Swihart has since become the Sox’s top positional prospect. This year, they could have the opportunity of a lifetime if Swihart’s friend Alex Bregman is still on the board with the 7th pick. Bregman has an unorthodox approach to defense that many in the scouting industry feel will warrant a position change to second base. Admittedly, I see this as a possibility, with Bregman potentially inheriting Dustin Pedroia’s job when he can’t play the position. Bregman’s bat is also approaching its freshman levels; he has adjusted well to the new flat seam baseballs.

8. Chicago White Sox: Tyler Jay, LHP Illinois

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There’s nothing more fun than seeing a team draft a home state product, and while Urbana-Champaign is a hike from Chicago, I’m certain that both Chicago teams have had their eyes on the Illini southpaw. Jay’s ceiling isn’t high, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t belong here, as he does have the makings of at least a dominant, if small reliever, thanks in part to his deceptive fastball.

9. Chicago Cubs: Kyle Funkhouser, RHP Louisville

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While missing out on Jonathan Gray was pardonable, given the consolation prize was Kris Bryant, missing out on pitchers like Aaron Nola and Kyle Freeland in favor of Kyle Schwarber was definitely not a popular move with the fans. This year, the Cubs are going to have to use their pick on a pitcher, given the state of their offensive prospects, it seems the most obvious way to go. Kyle Funkhouser may look like the safest pick at the end of the day, but truthfully, he does have the potential to be a top half starter, provided he tinkers with his control. He is a workhorse as well, a trait that many a team would desire.

10. Philadelphia Phillies: Cornelius Randolph, 3B Griffin HS, Georgia

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A draft isn’t a draft without teams reaching for players, otherwise, what fun would there be? Cornelius Randolph is a reach, but his potential as a power hitting replacement for Ryan Howard in the distant future may be enticing enough for the Phillies to go after him. Randolph comes from the same high school as former first overall pick Tim Beckham, and judging by his ability, he could conceivably be the school’s second first rounder. Griffin best fits as a third baseman, which could mean that Maikel Franco would have to move across the diamond, not that that would be much of an issue. Griffin could conceivably also play second base or the outfield, meaning that wherever he goes, he would definitely be an upgrade over whomever leaves.

11. Cincinnati Reds: Nathan Kirby, LHP Virginia

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Nathan Kirby is one of my favorites, and I do have a list of favorites in this draft, but unfortunately, his performance as of late has dropped him from an unquestionable top five to a potential top 15. While he still has the velocity and the mechanics that would make him a solid starter, there’s concern that Kirby has gotten too predictable, and could possibly drop more unless he has a turnaround in the last two months of the season. Still, he has the ceiling to be a number two pitcher in a staff, and for the Reds, who may be remodeling their rotation in the coming years, Kirby may be one excellent young mainstay.

12. Miami Marlins: Kevin Newman, SS Arizona

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Stock often rises as a result of visibility, and there is no better evidence from an offensive perspective than Kevin Newman stealing home against Rice back in February. Newman’s gutsiness, or as I referred to it in a tweet, his balls of steal, definitely set the stage for him to climb up in the rankings. While Newman is probably a slap hitter at best, his defensive ability and his legs are considered valuable assets, and in a year or two, he could replace Dee Gordon as the starting second baseman. Newman’s a solid hitter for average, he won the batting title twice in summer ball, so expect him to play a key role in the top of any lineup.

13. Tampa Bay Rays: Kolby Allard, LHP San Clemente HS, California

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Three of the next five picks in this draft are what I would deem high risk-high reward. At one point, they would have been top ten picks, but injuries have dropped their stock to the point where other teams just as easily can pick them up. First up is Allard, who at one point was considered the top prep pitcher in the class. While he still is the first one off the board in this mock, going 13th overall is probably indicative of how unpredictable this year’s prep pitching class is. Allard still has the height, the liveliness, and the workhorse ability as a starter, but back trouble has knocked him out of commission. Of course, he still has some time to raise his stock back to preseason levels, and should he impress, he could definitely jump back into the top ten.

14. Atlanta Braves: Daz Cameron, OF Eagles Landing Christian Academy, Georgia

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I probably forgot to mention this with Cornelius Randolph, but I can definitely say it now. Georgia is a hotbed for prep baseball talent. Since 2007, there has been at least one first round pick from a Georgia high school. This year’s top prospect is arguably its most famous. Daz Cameron may be playing a weaker schedule this year, and his junior year may have been a down year, but his potential as a five tool player, despite what he has now shouldn’t be that concerning, especially if the right team moulds him into a Jason Hayward type star.

15. Milwaukee Brewers: Brady Aiken, LHP IMG Academy

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Brady Aiken will likely be the biggest risk of the draft, and whether or not teams are willing to take him especially after the findings on his physical turned out to be legitimate, it could potentially spell a lot of trouble for the young man in the future. I could see the Brewers, who have yet to find the next Ben Sheets, potentially taking a look at him, especially given their recent forays into high ceiling prep arms. Even though he’ll likely be on the shelf until next March, and will be limited for the next year, the potential for him to bounce back from this major setback, especially since he’s only 19 years old, would be worth the year of waiting.

16. New York Yankees: Kyler Murray, SS Allen HS, Texas

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Kyler Murray is a celebrity draft pick, in the sense that his presence on this board will definitely cause a lot of controversy. Yes, he’s also the consensus top high school quarterback recruit, and yes, he’s committed to Texas A&M, where he’s expected to step into the long vacated shoes of Johnny Manziel, bur given the history of dual sport athletes who have been taken high in the MLB draft, it’s likely that Murray, who reminds me of Everth Cabrera with a higher ceiling, could sign with the Yankees for the right price. Assuming the Didi Gregorius experiment doesn’t work out as planned, it’s safe to assume the Yankees will want to look for their next homegrown shortstop star.

17. Cleveland Indians: Michael Matuella, RHP Duke

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Two years ago, it was Ryne Stanek and Sean Manaea. Last year, it was Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde. This year, it’s Brady Aiken and Michael Matuella. Long plagued with health issues related to a back problem, Matuella’s potential to throw a major league fastball has been his longstanding support, and even with Tommy John surgery, I’d be surprised if he falls completely out of the first round. Certainly, he is going to fall out of the top ten, which is where I had him before, but a team looking to strengthen their rotation would definitely be inclined to overlook the health problems in the hopes that they can get him back in working order. And just imagine the quartet of Cory Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Michael Matuella. That would instantly upgrade the team’s rotation from scary to dangerous.

18. San Francisco Giants: DJ Stewart, OF Florida State

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Drafting for need is a rare thing in the MLB draft, but in the case of the Giants, the team needs power. DJ Stewart looks like a power hitter, and he has the capability to be one, but like any young power hitter, he needs consistency. Considering the successful developments of guys like Brandon Belt and Crawford into top hitters, making DJ Stewart into a consistent power hitter shouldn’t be a major challenge for the Giants.

19. Pittsburgh Pirates: Justin Hooper, LHP De La Salle HS

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Justin Hooper is probably the biggest enigma of the draft. He’s got the height and the tools to be a frontline starter, but the consistency and the signability are the biggest issues. Considering Pittsburgh’s history with overpaying for quality talent, it wouldn’t surprise me if they really make Hooper an offer he can’t refuse. Having Hooper in the same staff as Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow, Nick Kingham and Jameson Taillon is what elevates the Pirates from contenders to champion picks.

20. Oakland A’s: Walker Buehler, RHP Vanderbilt

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The A’s may have a glut of pitching now, but knowing how unpredictable their GM is, it’s possible that that pitching could be gone soon. In this case, it’s time to go with safe pick number 2, Walker Buehler has the stuff to be a solid number two, and despite the fact that he’s not your typical starter build, he’s managed to hold his own for the past three seasons. If Buehler can put away the durability concerns, he could jump back into the top 15.

21. Kansas City Royals: Beau Burrows, RHP Weatherford HS, Texas

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Consistency is a wonderful thing to have if you’re a prep pitcher, and if you’re consistently throwing mid 90’s heat, that’s even better. Admittedly, I’ve not been as high on Burrows as I should have been, but seeing the reports on him, I could conceivably see him making an impact on a rotation by 2020. Burrows’ mechanics however are what drop him, as he has a bit of a kink in his torso which has some concerned is a tell. The Royals would still do well to draft and develop him into the young arm they’ve been looking for for years.

22. Detroit Tigers: Mike Nikorak, RHP Stroudsburg HS, Pennsylvania

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He has the body, the speed, and the mechanics to be a starter in the majors. What he lacks is a track record, which is why he’s fallen to pick 22 in this mock. Unknown until last year, Nikorak’s saving grace was an excellent junior season which put him on the map. The Tigers could possibly use him as a successful transition from Justin Verlander. Nikorak however could be a tough sign, since he has a strong commitment to Alabama, but the opportunity to play for the Tigers could sway him a bit.

23. St. Louis Cardinals: Chris Betts, C Wilson HS, California

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Did you know that Yadier Molina is going to be 33 years old this year? And that he’s been catching for 11 seasons? The Cardinals would have incredible foresight if they start looking for Yadier’s heir now, especially given the weakness of this year’s catching class. However, Chris Betts does stand out, especially considering his hose for an arm and the fact that he’s a left-handed power hitter. Betts also has a more athletic body this year, which bodes well for his chances to stay behind the plate. He’ll likely be ready for the Majors by the time Molina is 37, by then he’ll likely have retired.

24. Los Angeles Dodgers: Trent Clark, OF Richland HS, Texas

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Having a guy who consistently hits and hits is a major plus, especially if that player is a prep athlete. Trent Clark has yet to show if he’s more contact or power oriented, and his defense puts him in a corner outfield, but to have him in a Dodgers outfield that consists of Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson is enough to make any Dodger fan excited. Clark could conceivably be the next pre-slump Andre Ethier,

25. Baltimore Orioles: Richie Martin, SS Florida

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Richie Martin’s defense is what makes him such an attractive asset, and while he had some initial difficulties as a hitter, it’s started to come around for him. The Orioles would be smart to tab him as their successor for JJ Hardy.

26. Los Angeles Angels: Phil Bickford, RHP College of Southern Nevada

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Phil Bickford’s decision to leave Cal State Fullerton may have rubbed some teams the wrong way, but he has shown that he can be a dominant pitcher when possible. If he could show some consistency, then he’d be much higher on the list, but his pure stuff keeps him at least at the tail end of the first round of the draft. The Angels were nine minutes away from him when he was in college, so they must have gotten good enough info on him. I could see Bickford and Sean Newcomb forming a dominant 1-2 punch for the Angels.

Compensatory Picks:

27. Colorado Rockies: Nick Plummer, OF Brother Rice HS

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Plummer’s speed would definitely complement David Dahl’s power. Having players with similar attributes to Tulo and CarGo will ease the transition.

28. Atlanta Braves: Chris Shaw, 1B, Boston College

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The Braves will soon figure out that power hitting is key. Shaw’s season may have been less than stellar, but the potential to replace Gattis’ power could have the Braves taking a long hard look.

29. Toronto Blue Jays: Demi Orimoloye, OF St. Matthew’s HS, Ontario

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Orimoloye is a tank. A potential five tool Canadian star, he could find himself playing for his home province team should his stock stay where it is now.

30. New York Yankees: Garrett Whitley, OF Niskayuna HS

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Whitley’s defense and speed make him an already decent centerfielder, his bat makes him Niskayuna’s first legitimate MLB prospect. Expect his home state Yankees to be looking hard at him.

31. San Francisco Giants: David Thompson, 1B/3B Miami

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I have been high on Thompson since I saw his Cape League tape, and my faith has been rewarded as he’s hit 10 home runs so far this year. The Giants could completely revamp their power hitting with Thompson behind DJ Stewart in the batting order

32. Pittsburgh Pirates: Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B Concordia Lutheran HS, Texas

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Charlie’s boy has the bat and the arm to stay at third base. He’d be a solid successor to Alvarez, who’ll likely be at first when Ke’Bryan comes up.

33. Kansas City Royals: Gio Brusa, OF Pacific

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Though he hasn’t broken out the way he was expected to, Brusa has the hitting ability and the power to be a long term DH, potentially taking over for Kendrys Morales when he’s done.

34. Detroit Tigers: Tyler Stephenson, C Kennesaw Mountain HS, Georgia

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A guy who’s considered a prep version of Matt Wieters could definitely find himself playing for a team in need of an answer when Alex Avila finally leaves.

35. Los Angeles Dodgers: James Kaprielian, RHP UCLA

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Kaprielian would likely be an arm our of the bullpen for the Dodgers, but once properly developed, his fastball and curveball would make him a solid closer.

36. Baltimore Orioles: Alonzo Jones, 2B/OF Columbus HS, Georgia

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His speed makes him a candidate to play outfield in the future, but what really matters is his ability to be the leadoff hitter that the Orioles can use to add dimension to their future offense.

 

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The Little Guys: Analyzing the 2014 Rule 5 Class

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Picture this: You’re recruited for a month long internship with a top company, and should you succeed at that internship, the company will offer you a job. However, at the end of the internship, you find out you didn’t make the cut. However, another top company happened to notice you, and offers you a full time position there, no questions asked.

Admittedly, while not the best way, this is still a good way to describe what happened to Texas Rangers pitcher Logan Verrett. A former Mets draft pick and projected fringe major leaguer, Verrett was given the opportunity for a fresh start when he was plucked out of their system by the Baltimore Orioles in the Rule 5 Draft. Verrett had a decent spring, but given the lack of space on the Orioles’ roster, especially in the relief corps, the team tried to keep him by sneaking him through the waiver wire. The Rangers, who have been dealing with several injuries this spring, pounced, and flew him out to Arlington where he was given the opportunity to pitch against his old team, the Mets, in an exhibition tuneup.

The Rule 5 Draft is mutually beneficial for teams and players. On the players side, it allows certain prospects who have languished in the minor leagues for years to showcase their stuff for teams who need, and are looking for cheap talent. On the teams’ side, it’s a very cheap way to try out a player who may or may not have major league potential. Should the player succeed, he has the opportunity to stay on the roster, provided it’s for a full year. Should he not, the team offers the player back to his old team for half the money it cost to draft him.

The Rule 5 Draft has been especially beneficial for teams looking for relief help, as it has yielded plenty of decent pitchers; among the more recent examples, Josh Fields, who went from being a failed first round pick in the Red Sox system to being a key member of the Astros bullpen, and TJ McFarland, an Indians minor leaguer who went to the Orioles and became a solid reliever/starter hybrid.

This year’s class, while it’s still a bit early to make determinations, has the best shot of being one of the more valuable Rule 5 classes in the draft’s history. Usually during Spring Training, about half of the picks made are returned to their original teams, but as of today, only one, Astros pitcher Jandel Gustave has been returned, while all those left still have shots at, or have already made the major league roster.

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Oscar Hernandez was all but given a shot at being Arizona’s backup catcher as the team opted not to upgrade the position following the Miguel Montero trade. With Tuffy Gosewisch expected to start until top prospect Peter O’Brien was ready, Hernandez seemed primed for the important role of backup catcher. However, Hernandez injured his wrist while batting back in early march, and underwent surgery. He is currently in his third week of recovery; usually this type of surgery takes up to 5 weeks to recover. While his roster status is murky, his competition for the backup spot doesn’t seem to offer much concern as to whether or not he will stay, or be returned to Tampa Bay. Gerald Laird may have experience, but a 36 year old catcher isn’t exactly reassuring for long term security, and Blake Lalli is a more expensive Hernandez. Expect the Diamondbacks to make a decision on him soon.

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Mark Canha represents a departure of the fundamental aspect of Moneyball, getting-on-base, however, in terms of cheap talent, he fits the bill. A power hitting first baseman with a frustrating propensity to strike out (Think of a younger and cheaper Mark Reynolds), he has been viewed as a platoon player with former Mets slugger Ike Davis. Canha had a solid spring, leading the team in home runs, and his power has been seen as crucial in coping with the loss of Josh Donaldson. He will be used primarily against left-handed pitchers, but his splits in the minors allow him to be the first man off the bench when facing right handed pitching. Given the faith the A’s have placed in their youth, it’s highly unlikely that Canha returns to Miami, from where he was plucked by Colorado,

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While first round picks and top prospects are often given higher visibility than other minor leaguers, it doesn’t always mean that they’re immune to being expendable, and no better example comes to mind than Delino DeShields. The former Astros first round pick took an exceptionally long time to adjust to the minor leagues after being drafted, and jumped on and off of the Top 100 Prospect list. Just when it seemed like he had finally come into his own, however, the Astros had strengthened their system and he found himself expendable. With the Rangers, DeShields has the opportunity to be a fourth outfielder and a late inning speed boost. Given the Rangers’ constant problems with injuries, it wouldn’t be a surprise if DeShields does find some regular playing time during the season.

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If you’re a Rule 5 Pick, and you somehow make it on the Orioles roster, chances are you will likely stick. Given the team’s recent success with Darren O’Day and TJ McFarland, Jason Garcia is likely breathing a sigh of relief, and thanking his lucky stars that he was kept while Logan Verrett was claimed. He’s the typical Rule 5 guy, a pitcher who may present some value in the bullpen. If he can make himself noticed, he may not have to worry about being returned to Boston.

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J.R. Graham is a former top prospect trying to reinvent himself after dealing with an injury that nearly ended his career. The former top 100 prospect is considered to still have some degree of value as a reliever, and is expected to enter high pressure situations to prove his worth. Graham was one of the few Rule 5 picks to gain exposure from the national media during camp, as his stirrups led to a fascinating human interest story from Fox Sports. Given the Twins’ lack of a viable live arm in the bullpen, odds are Graham will not have to come back to Atlanta.

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Taylor Featherston is probably the most underrated pick in this year’s class. A guy who didn’t make much buzz during the spring, he still somehow impressed the Angels brass enough to make the team as a backup infielder. Given the importance of backup shortstops, Featherston is likely going to serve primarily as a defensive sub off the bench. While the Angels have a glut of middle infield depth in Johnny Giavotella, Grant Green and Josh Rutledge, Featherston’s positional versatility should give the Angels more incentive to keep him rather than return him to the Rockies.

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Teams that are in rebuild mode often use their Rule 5 pick on positional players. The Marlins successfully gambled their 2005 pick and turned it into Dan Uggla, while the White Sox got value in catcher Adrian Nieto last year. This year, the Phillies are giving Odubel Herrera the opportunity to play the outfield while they play the rebuild game. Herrera has speed and a lively bat, and his glove makes him a valuable centerfielder. In fact, his play in centerfield effectively moved Ben Revere to left field. Herrera’s spring, not to mention his ability has led one sports page to dub him the next Shane Victorino, who was, incidentally, a Rule 5 pick of the Phillies in 2005. Because of the value that Herrera offers, he could conceivably stay in Philadelphia, rather than go back to the clog that is the Rangers’ middle infield depth.

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Although not as visible as Verrett, Andrew McKirahan is filling a similar role to his fellow Rule 5er. Bullpen inconsistency and injuries essentially forced the Braves to claim the former Cubs prospect on waivers and use him. This isn’t to make McKirahan’s addition sound like a bad move, rather, it’s good for him, as he has a guaranteed spot, at least until Josh Outman returns from the disabled list. McKirahan has value as a lefthandedhanded long reliever, and his spring has been decent; in fact he threw a perfect inning in his Braves debut. He and Luis Avilan will make up the left-handed portion of the Braves bullpen, which is a good idea to give him some experience as the Braves rebuild.

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Sean Gilmartin follows a similar narrative to Josh Fields: a former first round pick ends up being traded to another team, and then toils in the minors there, only to be picked by another team in the Rule 5 draft. Once a consensus All-American, he found himself thrust into one of the oddest bullpen competitions in spring. Gilmartin was considered the “best man” in a competition where the best ERA was below 6, and though he settled down and lowered his ERA, the Mets went out and acquired two left-handed relievers, likely to put less pressure on him. With the Mets opting to go with an unconventional, and somewhat confusing 8 man bullpen, Gilmartin has the chance to prove that he’s not just a warm body. As a former starter, his value will be in long relief. Even if Alex Torres has some consistency issues, Gilmartin is still on a shorter leash, and he will need to replicate his latter half of spring if he wants to avoid returning to Minnesota.

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Daniel Winkler may be one of the biggest enigmas of this year’s class. A right-hander with plenty of talent, he was struck by the Tommy John bug last year, and is expected to miss time while he recovers. Injuries are usually the big complicator for Rule 5 picks, so the amount of days that Winkler gets with the Braves will likely not be enough to exhaust his rule 5 status until 2016. Don’t be surprised if he possibly gets returned to Colorado.

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David Rollins is the biggest wild card of the group. While he does have value as a left-handed reliever, he unfortunately shot himself in the foot by testing positive for PEDs, leading to an 80 game suspension, the first time this has happened. The Mariners have not said whether they will return him to the Astros, but don’t hold out hope that he will stay.

We’ve already covered Logan Verrett, so no need to go back there.

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The only Rule 5 pick who has prior major league experience, Andy Oliver had an advantage over some of his contemporaries, and as the injuries hit, his chances seemed better and better. However, it seems as if Oliver may not have a spot on the team, despite making Bleacher Report’s All Spring Training Team. Oliver was placed on waivers, and even if he clears, the Phillies would have to offer Oliver back to the Pittsburgh Pirates or make a deal involving him, before they could option him to the minors.

Of course, making the roster and surviving the season are two completely different things, so those who have made the the cut still have the challenge of staying on the major league roster.  So long as a player stays on the active roster for 90 days, he will lost his Rule 5 status, and a team can proceed however they wish with their player.

Will we be seeing another Uggla, Victorino, or Johan Santana from this group? Time will tell.

2015 MLB Mock Draft: Pitchers and Catchers Edition, Part 1

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

 

2015 MLB Mock Draft 2.0: Part 4 of 4

It’s time for the last quartile of the second MinorLeagueMadhouse 2015 MLB Mock Draft. Nothing has changed in the draft order since then, making this mock still somewhat relevant, but again, there’s still work to be done, especially with James Shields and Max Scherzer still on the market. Anyway, here comes the next batch of picks.

22. Kansas City Royals

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Everyone loves a good human interest angle, and in sports, when that human interest angle is a good side note for a really good player, then not only are there good results on the field, but the publicity is great as well. The Royals may not need any human interest angles for the foreseeable future, especially after all the stories from their AL championship season, but they could use another injection of youth, especially into their pitching.

After selecting Brandon Finnegan, their quick-to-the-Majors bullpen arm from TCU, they may want to double dip, going after his teammate, Riley Ferrell. And yes, I know I mocked him here last time for precisely the same reason.

Ferrell may have one of the best fastballs in the class, a mid to high 90’s offering with minimal contact. Although he’s been used more out of the bullpen since he started pitching for the Frogs, Ferrell’s fastball and secondary pitch, a slider, have made it impossible for the coaching staff to not move him into the rotation.

Ferrell’s weaknesses as a starter are his strengths as a closer, a developing third pitch, a rough delivery, and a lack of height, and while two of the three can be fixed, unless Ferrell is absolutely dominant as a starter, his ceiling at the major league level is most certainly a closer role in a major league bullpen. For Kansas City, finding the perfect future complement to Greg Holland would further strengthen what is seen as a solid rotation in a tight division.

23. Detroit Tigers

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College seniors are a double edged sword when it comes to Major League Baseball. On the one hand, they have the leadership and the skills that allow them to kickstart their careers in an advanced minor league level, but on the other, their clock ticks faster than a college junior. It isn’t often that a college senior is drafted in the first round; the most recent exception was Mark Appel, the number one pick of the Houston Astros back in 2013. While Appel has taken his collective lumps at the minor league level, he should be ready to pitch in the majors as early as late 2015, especially if he continues to rebound from his disastrous 2014 start.

This little detour was made possible thanks to 2014’s elephant in the room, University of Miami pitcher Andrew Suarez. Considered by many to be one of the more majors-ready pitchers, especially as a starter, Suarez is still a potential first round pick, despite his decision to stay another year in school.

Injury history aside, the former Blue Jays and Nationals pick is advanced enough to have confidence in his pitches. a low to mid 90’s fastball,  and a good arsenal of secondary pitches that are accentuated by above average command.

Suarez may be somewhat of a reach, but should he have a season that justifies a high selection in the draft, I don’t think any team will care that he’s a senior.

24. St. Louis Cardinals

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Back in 2012, when the Cardinals took James Ramsey ahead of such guys as Rickie Shaffer and Victor Roache, I blasted the team for going with a too-safe selection. Two years later, after running through the system faster than Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible III, Ramsey was the centerpiece of the Justin Masterson trade. Lesson learned, never underestimate the Cardinals scouting department.

Ramsey wasn’t the only loss for the Cardinals this past year, Oscar Taveras was tragically killed in a car accident, leaving Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk as the future of the Cardinals outfield, if you don’t include Jason Heyward.

I hate using BPA as the reasoning for a selection, but in a class that’s weak in the Cardinals organizational positions of need, BPA may be the best option, in this case, it’s Richland High School outfielder Trent Clark.

Clark isn’t a power hitter, not that he needs to be, rather, he profiles as a 2 or 6 hitter in a lineup. His best weapons are his contact and his speed. In a way, he reminds me of Brandon Nimmo, a guy who had similar tools in his senior year. The difference between Clark and Nimmo is that Clark has more opportunities for visibility, as he actually plays high school ball.

Clark’s biggest weakness is his arm, and while there is some belief that he can play a big league center field, he might provide more value in left.

Clark’s development may be somewhat protracted, but if he is drafted by the Cardinals, he’ll have the opportunity to be the next high level prospect going through their system.

25. Los Angeles Dodgers

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Every sports generation has their defined superstar, and every draft has their fair share of prospects who are supposed to be the next version of said star. This generation will be headlined by such stars as Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Trout, and Clayton Kershaw, and while it may be somewhat early to call someone the “Next Stanton” or the “Next Kershaw,” in some cases, it’s justified. Canada, for instance has what many believe is the “Next Giancarlo Stanton”, and I swear, I’ve heard those words attached to this kid before.

St. Matthew’s (Ontario) High School outfielder Demi Orimoloye may not have a name like an athlete, but he does have the body and the athletic attributes which have made him incredibly attractive to teams. Late to baseball on account of a switch from football, the Nigerian born Orimoloye has a frame similar to Minnesota Twins prospect Miguel Sano. Orimoloye has undeniable power, there’s footage of him hitting a 400 foot home run in a showcase game on Youtube, not to mention solid speed and a strong arm.

Orimoloye may have the tools, but his late start means his abilities are raw. Should he continue to impress the way he did for Team Canada and the showcase circuit, there’s no doubt he will be a highly sought after commodity.

26. Baltimore Orioles

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JJ Hardy will go down as one of the more underrated shortstops of all time, and when his career is finished, the Orioles will have him to thank for building a strong defensive foundation on the left side of their infield. Having just signed a five year deal at the age of 32, it wouldn’t surprise me if midway through that contract, he begins to decline. So who would the Orioles groom as Hardy’s successor?

Richie Martin, the University of Florida shortstop, is a late bloomer in the hitting department, but defensively, he’s a college version of Hardy, provided he doesn’t try too hard. Having spent the first two years of his college career learning to regain his hitting stroke, he finally found it in the Cape, playing for Bourne this past summer.

Martin’s high defense and low hitting reminds me of 2012 draft pick Deven Marrero, a similar product at the time, who since then has somewhat regained his hitting stroke as he’s progressed through the Red Sox system.

The key to Martin’s stock rising is how he can handle SEC pitching in his junior year. Should he be able to hit the way he did up in Bourne, then there’s a good possibility he could actually go higher than Baltimore.

27. Washington Nationals

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In baseball, teams don’t usually draft pitchers high for them to be relievers, unless they have the stuff that justifies a future in the big league bullpen. Granted, there are exceptions, see Gregg Olsen and Nick Burdi as examples. Drafting and developing a future closer is often viewed as unnecessary and a waste of resources, especially in the age of the free agent closer. Then again, if there’s a lively left handed college arm that projects to the bullpen, sometimes the best thing to do is to grab it.

Illinois southpaw Tyler Jay may be from nearly uncharted territory, but that hasn’t stopped him from impressing at the collegiate level. During the summer, while pitching for Team USA, Jay managed to allow no runs in almost 17 innings of work.Jay’s best pitch is his fastball, an offering that ranges from low to mid 90’s, with an occasional touch at 97. He also uses a solid curve and is developing a changeup. Jay isn’t an effort pitcher, he uses his athleticism to throw.

While Jay does have the ability to pitch in a rotation, he’ll likely succeed more as a relief pitcher.

Update: Washington is expected to sign Max Scherzer, effectively forfeiting this pick and putting Tyler Jay back in the draft pool. 

27. Los Angeles Angels

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In today’s successful major league system, it’s almost a requirement that teams carry two catchers. One catcher is a defensive presence, usually a bottom of the order bat but an outstanding glove. He’s not going to win a game with an impressive hitting display, but he’ll keep the pitcher in check. The other catcher is a more offensive presence. He may have good defense, but it’s not Gold Glove material. He’s a middle of the order presence, usually there to provide key hits and keep the inning alive.

The Angels have set the groundwork for their future catching corps by acquiring their defensive presence, Carlos Perez from the Astros. Perez will have a good four or five years to work with current catcher Chris Iannetta before this year’s top catcher rises through the ranks.

Wilson High School’s Chris Betts may not be as defensively strong as Perez, and he may be one of the slowest hitters in this year’s class, but he makes up for his deficiencies with a solid power stroke and good arm strength.

Betts may be a slow runner, but he has had the capability to stretch singles into doubles with his power. This was especially evident during the summer.

Betts is also a local product, being half an hour away from Anaheim, so the Angels probably have gotten a good look at him through the past year. It’ll be interesting to see if they opt for the local product.

———-

 

And so there is the first round of the second mock draft.   Stay tuned for updates, especially with the last two QO free agents looking to sign.

 

 

2014 MLB Mock Draft 2.0, part 1

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

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(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

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(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

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(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

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(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

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(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

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(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

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(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

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(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

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(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

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(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

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(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.

 

 

 

Who Is This Year’s Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop?

 

For the past four years, there has been one common occurrence in the MLB draft: That occurrence is the Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop (or HAPS, for short). The common characteristics is that the shortstop in question is (obviously) a high schooler, has the potential to make the majors in three years instead of the traditional four or five years, is a top prospect usually by the end of his first year or the middle of his second, and garners a lot of praise from opposing scouts.

The past four years of HAPS are as follows:

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2013: JP Crawford, Phillies

While it’s still too early to be determined, Crawford had been highly visible throughout his high school career, and when he was drafted, it was to a team that was looking to replace a legendary shortstop with a newer model. Crawford’s first minor league season saw him completely own the Gulf Coast League and skip entirely over short ball in favor of the more advanced Low A. Crawford also ended the season as the #4 prospect in Philly’s system, behind only Roman Quinn, a fellow prep shortstop drafted in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft, as well as 3B Maikel Franco and P Jesse Biddle, who have made the 2014 top 100 list on MLB.com. Even though Crawford effectively was a HAPS by default, as last year’s middle infield class was very weak, Crawford has at least proven that he is still a very solid lock to follow the progression that fellow HAPS have gone through.

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2012: Carlos Correa, Astros, and Addison Russell, Athletics.

Thanks to what could have been regarded as one of the best prep shortstop draft classes in baseball history, 2012 had not one, but two HAPS propects. Carlos Correa, who was the first overall pick, drew some attention at the end of his debut year, but in his second year, he justified why he was a first overall pick. After having a monster season for the Quad Cities River Bandits, Correa was rewarded by being voted in to the 2013 Futures game World Roster, as well as being named the Astros’ top prospect by the end of the season. At the start of the 2014 season Correa was named the top prospect in the Astros’ system again, ahead of such players as Mark Appel, Jonathan Singleton, and Lance McCullers, and was also named the #8 prospect in all of baseball.

Russell, who I’ve consistently noted was the catalyst for the death of Moneyball drafting in Oakland, has done nothing but impress in his first two years. Named the best prospect in Oakland’s system immediately after the 2012 season, Russell again went on a tear at Single-A Stockton, and was also selected for the Futures game as a member of Team USA. Russell ended the season in AAA Sacramento, completely jumping over AA, and although he obviously had issues handling the rapid increase in competition level, the prevailing theory is that Russell could be in the majors by the end of the 2014 season.

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2011: Francisco Lindor, Indians

The Indians have repeatedly stated that they do not intend to rush Lindor to the major leagues, to which I call bull. Lindor has been nothing short of amazing ever since he stepped on the field. At the end of the 2012 season, his first full season in minor league ball, Lindor had established himself as a #1 shortstop prospect, the #1 Indians prospect, and the #13 prospect in baseball. This included an invite to the Futures game in Kansas City, where he played for the World Team. Lindor followed up his great 2012 with an even better 2013 where he went through two levels of ball, topping out in Double-A, and once again being invited to the Futures Game in New York. He once again ended the season as the top shortstop prospect, the top Indians prospect, but increased his overall prospect ranking to #5. At the beginning of this season, Lindor has already established himself as a top ten prospect yet again, however, he dropped his shortstop ranking to #4, perfectly reasonable given his competition was Xander Bogaerts, Correa, and Javier Baez, who has started to put himself in the HAPS conversation, especially after showing a dominant power swing in Spring Training. The reason why Baez isn’t in it right now is that while he’s advanced at the same rate as Lindor, he hasn’t had Lindor’s wow factor. Still, if Baez can be as consistently impressive as Lindor has been, he could put himself in the HAPS conversation.

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2010: Manny Machado, Orioles

The man who started it all, Machado blazed through the minors, made his major league debut a mere two years after being drafted, and made his first All-star team in 2013. While Machado’s best season ended on a sour note after he broke his leg, he has definitely entered his name into the elite infielder category. I know that Machado technically is a third baseman now, but in truth I’m grading him as a shortstop because of his A-Rod like conversion to third. And to continue, Machado was a shortstop when he was drafted, and only played a few games at third base in the minors, in Double-A Bowie, which incidentally was his last minor league stop before he made his debut. Will Machado ever move back to shortstop? Maybe, maybe not, but regardless, Machado is still one of the best young players right now.

The 2014 draft isn’t until June, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for early speculation. In what is considered yet another meh prep middle infield class, there are only two definitive first round prep shortstop talents, one of which has equal value as a pitcher. The two shortstops in question are Clovis High School’s Jacob Gatewood, and Olympia High School’s Nick Gordon.

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Gatewood, like Crawford before him, has had eyes on him since last year. A well rounded guy with an emphasis on power who draws comparisons to Troy Tulowitzki and Starlin Castro, Gatewood, barring a bad senior season has the projectability to be a top ten pick, and could raise his stock to top five, maybe even top three if he continues to play at the level he has. In my initial mock, I had him going to Colorado as a potential replacement for Troy Tulowitzski, whom I feel will leave Colorado before 2020. In the thin air of Colorado, Gatewood would thrive despite the humidor baseballs, and he would have the potential to be a Machado-like talent.

Gordon has a baseball pedigree thanks to his father and brother, Tom and Dee. He has project ability as both a pitcher and a shortstop, but scouts have said that Gordon will stick to shortstop. While not as dominant at Gatewood, Gordon is still a top 20 prospect who could actually outperform his brother. I had Gordon going to San Diego. In theory, if Everth Cabrera can’t get back to his pre-Biogenesis self, it’s a possibility that the Padres will try and look for a replacement in the coming years. Gordon would benefit from the expansive park in San Diego, as he thrives on being a slap hitter with speed, much like Cabrera was.

Between Gatewood and Gordon, my belief  is that the former makes the best case for the HAPS of 2014. He certainly has made a name for himself starting last year, and he has a legitimate shot to become one of the best shortstops in the post-Jeter and Rollins shortstop era. His power is not to be ignored, and if he signs early and tears it up in rookie or short ball, he could find himself in the top 100, maybe even top 25 very early in his career.

2014 MLB Mock Draft: Spring Training Edition, part 1 of 3.

As much as I wanted to wait until all the free agents with draft compensation signed, I feel that it’s time to make the first mock draft of the year for MinorLeagueMadhouse. While picks are usually done as either Best Player Available, Easiest To Sign, or General Manager’s Draft Philosophy, I’ve decided to go by need in the minors. To be more precise, which position in the top 20 is the weakest, or, if there is a clear cut pick, or if the general manager has a philosophy that they have publicly disclosed (like Jeff Luhnow of the Astros or Sandy Alderson of the Mets,) So without further delay, here is the first mock draft of the year for Minor League Madhouse.

1. Astros: Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State

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Carlos Rodon is the consensus number 1 pick in the draft right now, and nothing short of a Rick Ankiel-type meltdown will change that. The Astros have a strong enough pitching presence in the minor leagues right now, but Luhnow will be hard pressed to give up on the potential that Rodon has. With a major league caliber slider and fastball, as well as a preference to strike out hitters. Rodon, who helped NC State make the College World Series last year, is definitely going to fit in what could be the best future rotation in the league.

2. Marlins: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd High School, Texas

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The Marlins have reaped the benefits of one high school arm that they drafted, why not go for another that looks Major League ready? Kolek is arguably one of the best prep arms in this year’s class. He has a fastball that is better than some collegiate pitchers, in addition to a well rounded arsenal of secondary pitches. Kolek’s only knock is is command and control, which is common for flame throwing prep arms, not to mention he’s behind on his development thanks to an injury he suffered in his sophomore year, but in showcases, he’s looked like the genuine article, and would be a perfect developmental athlete, as he can only get better.

3. White Sox: Alex Jackson, C, Rancho Bernardo High School, California

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Last year, I pointed out that Chicago’s weakest position in the minors was catcher. And they did have the opportunity to grab a catcher early with Nick Ciuffo and Jon Denney on the board. However, they whiffed on both. Now, they have a golden goose in Alex Jackson, who comes from the same high school as Cole Hamels. Jackson is a well rounded high school catcher, although he does need improvement in commanding a game. He has plus power, decent speed, basically, he has the chance to be one of the better prep catchers in the last few draft classes. If Jackson fails behind the plate though, he could make it as an outfielder, where his arm would be his best strength.

4. Cubs, Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina

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The Cubs have bolstered their position player ranks in the past few drafts, now it’s time to go back to pitching. Hoffman, who pitches for a smaller school in East Carolina, is tall and gangly, but pitches like he’s in prime athletic shape. Hoffman’s fastball is something to behold, and his curveball is almost at the same level. He controls the ball well, but he will need to work on his finesse if he wants to be a high end starter.

5. Twins: Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic High School, California

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You can never have enough pitching, especially when it comes to lefties. Brady Aiken is a bit of a reach for the Twins, but given that they don’t have a top ten left handed pitching prospect at the time of this writing, it may be a good idea, both position wise and money wise, to go after him. This isn’t to diminish Aiken’s skill set, the young Southern California hurler is definitely even and well rounded in his skill set. He’s a jack of all trades pitcher, with no set primary pitch, which is good, as it serves as a reminder to the better days of Johan Santana. Aiken’s athleticism is also a plus, although now that his future has been set as a pitcher, he should focus primarily on that. Still, Aiken and 2013 pick Kohl Stewart would headline a young, and powerful pitching class should the Twins decided to pick him.

6. Mariners: Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State

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The Mariners don’t seem to have a problem with a specific position, what they need, however, is speed. NC State shortstop Trea Turner is the answer to that problem. Turner has major league legs, and while his hitting is developmental right now, he is somewhat respectable in that category. Turner is still fully transitioning from third base to shortstop, which is fine, but if he wants to advance a few levels, he will need to improve on his fielding. Still, Turner profiles as a #1 or #9 hitter in an American League lineup, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for him.

7. Phillies: Michael Gettys, OF, Gainesville High School, Georgia

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Byron Buxton was the star of the 2012 draft class and Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier were the stars of the 2013 prep class, now, Michael Gettys becomes the next high level hitter from the state of Georgia. Gettys’ game is focused now on his legs and his arm, but his hitting, when properly developed, could make him into the next prep hitting star. Given Ryan Howard likely will retire when Gettys comes around, and there really isn’t a power presence to back him up yet, it would be a good idea for the Phillies to capitalize on the Georgia Prep slugger trend.

8. Rockies: Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis High School, California

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We got an early peek at Jacob Gatewood last year at Citi Field’s high school home run derby, and he certainly put on a show, but besides that, Gatewood is a well polished athlete who despite his body, has the potential to be one of the better hitting shortstops in history. Tall and lanky, he does have the potential to lead the league in home runs, especially in the thin air of Denver. Given the injury history and likelihood that Troy Tulowitzki may not finish his mega contract extension, taking Gatewood would be a wise insurance policy for the Rockies. He and 2012 first rounder David Dahl could make a lethal power combination for years to come.

9. Blue Jays: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt

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Surprised that Toronto would try again? You shouldn’t be. Beede was drafted by the Blue Jays out of high school as a first rounder in 2011, but he turned down the money to honor his college commitment. Three years later, Beede has emerged as one of the best pitchers in the SEC and after a historic campaign with the Commodores, brought himself into the Golden Spikes conversation. Beede’s offerings, particularly his fastball, are devastating to hitters, but what he needs improvement on is his control. Beede has the chance to continue the legacy of excellent Vandebilt pitchers started with David Price and continued with Sonny Gray this past year. If he can improve his control, he should be in the majors by late 2015-early 2016.

10. Mets: Touki Toussaint, Pitcher, Coral Springs High School, Florida

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If what Keith Law speculates from his interview with Sandy Alderson is true, then Alderson must be talking about Touki Toussaint. Here’s a guy who has come out of nowhere, established himself as a truly different pitcher who, with some help, can control and even expand the strike zone with his fastball and major league curve. Touki has the potential to make an impact in any rotation, and his curve should allow him to strike out plenty of batters, provide catchers are able to handle it. The only knock on him is his lack of experience; Toussaint did only start playing his sophomore year of high school, and his international background; while he is from the Caribbean, Haiti isn’t exactly a baseball hotbed. Still, his arm is very loose and worth looking at, and having it in the same rotation as Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey would be scary.

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So this is part one. Stay tuned part 2, which is due to come out some time next week.