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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And now for the final part of MinorLeagueMadhouse’s 2014 mock draft.
21. Rays: Dylan Cease, LHP, Milton High School, Georgia
The Rays do not have a shortage of prep arms, that’s for certain, but given the weak corner infield talent in the draft, which is something the Rays system could use, it’d be better for them to stick to something they know how to develop. Dylan Cease is a fastball pitcher with other options, but they need to be smoothed out. For instance, his curveball is clocked at 70 MPH, which is a couple ticks faster than an average curveball. Cease is deceptive, his body doesn’t look like it can take the rigors of pitching, so Cease has a sort of natural deception when he throws. However, like TCU’s Brandon Finnegan, he is conscious of his delivery, but because he’s young, he does have time to determine if he’ll be a better starter or reliever.
22. Indians: Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU
Every year, a highly rated college pitcher takes a tumble. Two years ago, it was Mark Appel, last year, Arkansas’ Ryne Stanek and Indiana State’s Sean Manaea, and this year, it could be Aaron Nola. Avoiding the possible reasons why he could fall, Nola’s game isn’t reliant on strength, but rather, craft. His command is superb, and his pitching arsenal is very effective. However, his big knock is that he doesn’t really have a standout pitch. Now, in the high school ranks, that would work, as the development of a high school pitcher allows for the selection of a dominant pitch, but in Nola’s case, because of his potential accelerated development, he doesn’t have as much time. Still in comparison to Indians top young pitcher Trevor Bauer, who does rely on strength, Nola does seem to have durability on his side.
23. Dodgers: Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State
The Dodgers system is stronger than you think, despite the big free agency and trade splurges over the past two years. But there’s still the question of who will take over for Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier when they go? Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig are good bets, but the third outfield spot remains unclear. Enter Michael Conforto. Conforto may not have Pederson’s baseball pedigree, or Puig’s range, but he does have the athletic pedigree. Conforto’s father was a linebacker for Penn State, and his mother was a gold medalist in synchronized swimming in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Conforto does have power that matches Matt Kemp’s pre-injury potential, and he could fit in the 3 or 4 spot in the Dodger lineup. Conforto does have a natural swing as well, which is good for a power hitter. If Conforto can improve his defense, expect his stock to rise, as Sporting News feels that he could be the top college hitter in 2014.
24. Tigers: Nick Burdi, RHP, Louisville
Detroit has an affinity for flame throwing relievers, see Joel Zumaya, Jose Valverde and Bruce Rondon for reference), but they still can’t seem to get a quality closer. Nick Burdi may be the answer. Consistently clocked in the high 90’s with the potential to reach triple digits, Burdi’s ceiling is as a closer. What Burdi does lack, however, is a good tertiary pitch behind his fastball/slider combination. Sure, he’s working on a change up, but it’s still in the development stages as of the beginning of the college baseball season. Still, Burdi has the potential to be an Aroldis Chapman-type closer if he can hone the lesser parts of his game.
25. Pirates: Matt Chapman, 3B/RHP, Cal State Fullerton
There are two ways that this pick can go. If Chapman isn’t used on the mound at all this year, he’ll make a solid infield prospect, however, if he is used on the mound more, scouts may see him the same way they saw former Fullerton teammate Michael Lorenzen. Matt Chapman has been used his entire college career as an infielder, but in summer leagues, especially Team USA, he was tried on the mound as a closer, and surprised people with his fastball. Chapman does have a strong arm and is a top defender, which should give him a few gold gloves, but his hitting needs to improve if he wants to succeed at the Major League level.
26. Athletics: Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville
The A’s are weak in terms of southpaw prospects. Although Billy Beane has shifted away from the moneyball philosophy of drafting collegiate talent in the past two years, Kyle Freeland may have enough upside for Beane to take a look at him. Like Sean Manaea last year, Freeland started getting attention while pitching for Hyannis of the Cape Cod League. His fastball does have movement on it which causes batters to overcompensate, and his slider often takes on the personality of a cutter. His body does have an effect on his mechanics, and scouts are wary of him being in the rotation, but in all likelihood, his effort to compensate could provide him with some leeway on certain evaluators. Freeland’s stock can only rise more if he can figure out how to pitch to win at Evansville.
27. Braves: Monte Harrison, OF, Lee’s Summit West High School, Missouri
If there were any prospect that could be judged as a hard sign, it would be Missouri prep product Monte Harrison. Harrison has plenty of tools, he’s a great hitter, an even better fielder, not to mention he has a strong commitment to the University of Nebraska for baseball and football (as a wide receiver). Given Atlanta’s track record with high school outfielders, (see Jeff Francoueur and Jason Heyward), they could be one of the teams that would be willing to incur penalties and future pick forfeiture so that they can get this young man signed. The big flaw in his game, however, is his patience. If he can curb his strikeout numbers, he could rise to a top 15 pick riding on his athleticism alone.
28. Red Sox: JD Davis, 1B/RHP, Cal State Fullerton
NC State isn’t the only school with two potential first round talents. JD Davis’ right handed power as a first baseman and fastball as a pitcher could intrigue Boston to go after a second straight two way player after Trey Ball. Davis is kind of like Mike Napoli, but he’s young and doesn’t have the durability issues the former has. He has an excellent fielding arm, and already has a feel for wood bats, as evidenced by his second place finish in the Cape Cod League Home Run Derby. Davis could rise through the minors quickly and when Napoli is eventually named a designated hitter, could take his spot.
29. Cardinals: Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Waikeka High School, Hawaii
Kodi Medeiros is an enigma. His small stature, lack of control on his secondary pitches, and windup, not to mention he’s in uncharted territory as a prep player from Hawaii should have teams backing away, but the Cardinals could actually use a prep lefty like him for their rotation down the road. Medeiros’ biggest redeeming quality is his fastball, which while normally a low 90’s offering, can go up to the mid 90’s on occasion. Although his command is an issue, the movement on his secondary pitches has led to him acquiring the strikeout pitcher label. Medeiros would have some familiarity if he was drafted by the Cardinals, as he was teammates with second baseman Kolten Wong’s brother Kean, an infielder in the Rays organization.
The order of the compensatory picks has not been released, and until they are, this will serve as the conclusion of the 2014 mock draft. Stay tuned for version two, which will be released by the start of the College World Series.
All-Star Sunday is only 16 days away. What is considered the precursor to the big game consists of the All-Star Legends and Celebrity softball game and the Futures game. While we still do not know which celebrities will be playing, we were treated to the 2013 futures game rosters.
As you can see, the rosters are a little different from last time. Now, there’s no Jurickson Profar, Zack Wheeler, Dylan Bundy, basically, those who have reached the majors are all off the list. Still, there are some interesting names to look for.
Today, we look at part of the roster for Team USA.
Team USA’s staff consists of plenty of high school arms. Among them are Phillies top prospect Jesse Biddle, Diamondbacks top prospect Archie Bradley, Giants top prospect Kyle Crick, Rays 2011 top draft pick Taylor Guerrieri, Mariners top prospect Taijuan Walker, and the most interesting USA pitcher, Noah Syndergaard, acquired by the Mets in the Dickey deal in the offseason. Syndergaard is interesting in the fact that he blazed through Port St. Lucie en route to a well-deserved promotion to Double-A Binghamton. Syndergaard is turning heads, and may be considered the real top prospect in the Dickey deal, as Travis d’Arnaud has been sidelined with a broken foot since April. It is widely believed, and in some ways, hoped, that Syndergaard will start, although in all likelihood, Walker may get the ball, as he is the only pitcher in Triple-A.
In the catcher/infield department, the two big standouts are Padres backstop Austin Hedges and Addison Russell of the A’s. Hedges, who needed a lot of money in order to break his college commitment, tore through the Midwest league, and is now playing for the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm, where he has done similar work in the California League. Addison Russell was the first pick in Billy Beane’s Anti-moneyball philosophy era, and he’s proven to be one wise choice. Having dazzled in his pro debut last season. Russell is now playing for the Stockton Ports, where he faces Hedges. Russell will not see any major league action for a while, but when he does come up, expect the label #1 prospect in baseball to come with him.
In the outfield, the two notable names to look out for are Twins prospect Byron Buxton and Reds prospect Billy Hamilton. Buxton was the number two pick in the 2012 draft and while he started out slowly, he’s really turned himself around this season, and has already made it to the Fort Myers Miracle in the Florida State League. On the other hand, Hamilton is a name that has been on the radar for quite some time. Last year, Hamilton broke the minor league record for most stolen bases in a season, and although he has yet to be promoted, given the future of the Reds outfield, expect him to suit up in either August or September.
This year, Major League baseball has decided to add a little fun to the game, by having the people choose the final representative. a la the final vote in the MLB all-star game. There are five candidates to choose from.
Tyler Austin, outfielder, Yankees
All you need to know about Austin is that he’s a converted catcher, and has been the most hyped Yankees prospect since Robinson Cano.
Nick Castellanos, outfield, Tigers.
Castellanos caught national attention when he was named MVP of last year’s game. A return appearance would be welcome, although if Castellanos is promoted, he will no longer be eligible.
Garin Cecchini, Third baseman, Red Sox
Cecchini is probably the most hyped Red Sox prospect not named Xander Bogaerts. He is currently leading the minors in batting average, and may be the clear favorite for the final spot.
Courtney Hawkins, outfield, White Sox
Hawkins currently stands as the White Sox best prospect, and his athleticism and tools certainly have put him on the map. He has made a quick jump to the Carolina League, and would be a darkhorse for the final spot.
Brandon Nimmo, Outfield, Mets
Nimmo is the ultimate underdog here. Not only is he at the lowest level among the Final Vote prospects, but he was drafted out of Wyoming, a state that does not sponsor baseball. Nimmo is toolsy with speed, and he can hit. He can make the final roster based on hometown popularity, though.
To conclude this post, there is a poll, which will ask who you want for the final spot for Team USA.
(Update: Brandon Nimmo is currently leading in the real poll with 39% of the vote. Trailing him with 23% is Garin Cecchini, followed by Castellanos at 20% while Austin and Hawkins bring up the rear at 9%)
Up next: the World Team profile.
Day One of the Draft is in the books and what an event it was. While not as entertaining as the NFL draft, it certainly had its highlights. From the attendees getting picked, to hearing Clint Frazier sing (something I never want to hear again), to Nick Ciuffo wiggling his ears, to the awkward moment when Ian Clarkin was taken by the Yankees despite the fact that he and his father both hate the team and were very happy when they lost the 2001 World Series, all in all, it was an interesting night. Now, we focus on the winners and losers of the draft:
Winners: Most Teams that had more than one first round choice in the draft.
Most teams that had two or more (in the case of the Yankees) first round draft choices used them on big name talent. The Pirates used their two picks on the consensus top hitter in the draft, and the top catcher in Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire. The Cardinals used their picks to bolster their pitching, specifically their southpaws, with Gonzaga’s Marco Gonzales and Garden State prepster Rob Kaminsky. And the Yankees have begun their transition to the future with the selections of third baseman Eric Jagielo of Notre Dame, expected to take over for Alex Rodriguez, Aaron Judge, the freakishly large and athletic outfielder from Fresno State, and California prepster Ian Clarkin, who apparently had to quickly change his fan allegiance after saying he hated the Yankees. All in all, very solid names came to those who picked more than once. However…
Loser: Texas Rangers
Billy McKinney, a home state product and the second best prep corner infielder, was available at pick 23. The Rangers bypassed him, going for Oral Roberts starter Alex Gonzalez. Jon Denney, the third best prep catcher, was available at pick 30, and the Rangers went with Travis Demerritte, who wasn’t even close to being the best available prep shortstop after JP Crawford was picked. Two stupid decisions in one night. Must be a sign of things to come. The Rangers have generally had good picks in recent years, opting for prep talent which could contribute down the line, but this time, they overvalued their two picks. Will it come back to bite them? Possibly, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Winner: Mark Appel and the Houston Astros
Apparently waiting an extra year did help Appel in his quest to go first overall. The Astros, who bypassed him a year ago for prep shortstop Carlos Correa, decided that he was ready the second time around, and picked him first overall. Appel, a Houston native and soon-to-be Stanford alum, was considered, along with Oklahoma ace Jonathan Gray and San Diego infielder Kris Bryant, to be a top pick. Because of his college experience, he should be fast tracked to the major leagues.
Loser: Jon Denney
You know how ESPN focuses on football players waiting to be drafted by showing shots of them in the green room, like they did with Aaron Rodgers, Brady Quinn, and Geno Smith? If they were covering the MLB draft, you can bet that one of the things they’d show more than anything else would be Jon Denney, waiting in the dugout while the names came and went. Denney, who was originally considered the top prep catcher, had a senior slump which dropped his stock. Nobody expected him to fall out of the second round, but unfortunately, he did. What’s worse for Denney is that the remainder of the draft will be done by conference call, instead of live television, No draft hat for him with the team logo on the side, no jersey, no putting his name on the board, no picture with Bud Selig, and no interview with the MLB network “on field” reporter. Sad. However, there are several options for him. He could sign with the team that does draft him, and likely he will be picked in the third round, he could go to a junior college program and resubmit his name for the draft next year, or he could go to college and rise his stock in time for the 2016 draft.
Winner: Billy McKinney
Billy McKinney is a Texan, but his allegiance lies in Oakland. Before the draft, he was asked if he was a Rangers fan, however, he said “No no, I’m an A’s fan” The A’s must have heard this and tabbed him to be their first baseman of the future. With two consecutive high schoolers chosen in the first round, Billy Beane is departing from his moneyball drafting strategy of high floor collegians in favor of high ceiling prepsters. McKinney and 2012 first rounder Addison Russell will be probably the most hyped prep players in Oakland since Todd Van Poppel and Ariel Prieto, but hopefully they won’t fizzle like the other two did.
Loser: Moneyball drafting
Billy Beane went 11 years between drafting prep players in the first round. Starting in 2002 and ending in 2011, the A’s selected collegians in the first round. Some panned out, like Nick Swisher, Jemile Weeks, and Huston Street. Others failed, like Jeremy Brown, John McCurdy, and Corey Brown. It seems that Beane has outgrown this phase, and ventured back into the prep drafting phase. With choices like Addison Russell and Billy McKinney, it has shown that Oakland is ready to ditch the drafting system that made them famous. That doesn’t mean that Moneyball is dead entirely, as Oakland still goes for cheap talent that can get them wins.
Winner: Nick Ciuffo’s ears
When Tampa Bay took their catcher of the future, we all learned that he has an interesting fact about him: He can wiggle his ears. When he was chosen, we got to see first hand, his talent. Although not as awesome as Courtney Hawkins doing a backflip in a suit, Ciuffo wiggling his ears like a mischevious leprechaun certainly was a highlight of the night.
Loser: Clint Frazier’s pipes.
There should be a rule that states that unless athletes have good singing voices, they should avoid singing entirely. Clint Frazier didn’t get the memo, and “graced” the viewers with his half-dead rendition of a certain Taylor Swift song that I absolutely refuse to name. Stick to baseball, Clint.
Winner: Colorado Rockies
Jonathan Gray’s positive Adderall test may have hurt his draft stock, but he still fell into the welcoming arms of the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies, who have yet to produce a true franchise pitcher, may have finally found their star. A workhorse with a 102 mile per hour fastball, Gray projects to be the ace of the Rockies staff for years to come.
Loser: San Francisco Giants
Either the Giants are really smart, or really stupid, because their first round pick were not even remotely close to the MLB top 100 prospects. Christian Arroyo, a shortstop, the position which they are set with. With Brandon Crawford in the majors and 2011 first rounder Joe Panik at AA, it made absolutely no sense for them to go after Arroyo. Similarly, the Giants could have picked a catcher in the hopes that when Buster Posey does inevitably have to move to first base, he would be ready to take over. Jon Denney was available. Instead, they bypassed him twice in favor of Arroyo and Ryder Jones, a prep third baseman. If Denney is still available by the time the Giants pick next, then they should seriously consider taking him.
Winner: Harold Reynolds
Harold Reynolds is the consummate professional analyst at the 2013 draft, and is starting to draw comparisons to Mel Kiper in terms of his experience. Reynolds, a former baseball player and fourth round draft pick, has the most insight into the situation, as he’s actually been there and done it. Reynolds will be the face of the MLB draft for years to come.
Loser: Pedro Astacio
I dont’ know which was more painful to watch/hear: Clint Frazier “singing” or Pedro Astacio coming up to the podium to announce who the Rockies picked. Either way, it was awful. Astacio mumbled through his words, couldn’t get the names of the schools correct, and just stumbled in more ways that you can imagine. Even Bud Selig’s annual “with the X pick in the 2000 draft” was more bearable this year. Bring back Garrett Atkins.
Coming up: Draft Grades, steals, and busts.