With MLB’s draft pick signing deadline set for 5:00 today, there are obviously several high holdouts that have yet to ink deals. In total, in the first two rounds, competitive balance picks included, there are 7 picks who remain unsigned. Considering the measures taken to limit bonus pool money, the fact that only three first round picks are unsigned indicates that something clearly is working here. Whats even more surprising is the fact that there are no high school first round picks who haven’t signed. But I digress.
This article will focus on the remaining unsigned first and competitive balance round picks in the draft. There are four of them. Without further delay, here they are.
1. Dansby Swanson, SS, Diamondbacks.
The first overall pick becomes the second straight pick to hold off signing at the deadline. But unlike Brady Aiken last season, whose UCL wiped out any chance of him receiving a top level bonus, Swanson is perfectly healthy, and has no incentive to return to school.
Why he will sign:
As the first overall pick, Swanson is perfectly capable of commanding the $8,616,900 recommended bonus that is the league recommendation. The Diamondbacks have a large enough pool to afford the deal, and considering the fact that all but one of their first 10 picks signed for at-slot deals, and their only other remaining major commitment is 12th rounder Wesley Rodriguez, it seems that the best way to say it is that all that needs to be done is figure out how much money they want to commit to him.
As of now, the top bonus in the draft belongs to #2 pick Alex Bregman, who topped out with $5.9 million. If all goes well in Swanson’s camp, and given the fact that the negotiations between them and the D-Backs camp have been more about evaluating his market, I could see Arizona following their trend and signing him at slot. Should Rodriguez who may elect to recover from Tommy John surgery in college choose not to sign, the D-Backs could afford to sweeten the pot by offering him even more. However, the verdict is this. Swanson will sign, and based on the positive lines of communication, he’ll be rewarded handsomely.
24. Walker Buehler, RHP, Dodgers
The first of two remaining unsigned Dodgers, Buehler was a solid starter and piece of the 2014 NCAA champions and 2015 NCAA runners up. Buehler at one point was considered the best of the three Vanderbilt products taken in the first round, but slipped all the way to the 24th pick.
Why he will sign.
This one comes down to two major factors: Who do the Dodgers want to commit their remaining pool money to, and how much can they afford to? In addition to Buehler, the Dodgers do have another first round pick and a 6th rounder who have yet to sign, but the chances that they sign all three are incredibly slim. Buehler had a decent season this year, even if he had to take a 2 and a half week break to rest during the season.
The Dodgers ideally would want to sign Buehler because he would further add to the arsenal of future arms set to take over the Dodger rotation in the coming years. Given that Buehler is a college pitcher, there would be a chance for him to come up as early as late 2016 or early 2017.
Buehler would be the Dodgers’ best chance to sign, and if it means that they have to commit what remaining bonus money under the 5% threshold they have to sign him, then they should, and should let go of their remaining picks.
35, Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Dodgers
Kyle Funkhouser at one point in the draft was considered the top righthanded pitching prospect in the draft, but a down junior season dropped his stock, and he tumbled all the way down to the 35th pick.
Why he won’t sign:
The way I look at this, Kyle Funkhouser has leverage that former potential top pick Michael Matuella didn’t have. A bad junior season? Fine, go back to school, see if you can rebound, and hope to enter next year’s top pick conversation. Matuella didn’t have that same leverage because of his Tommy John surgery and back issues, which would have prevented him from pitching at all in his senior year.
Funkhouser knows that he’s worth more that whatever the Dodgers can offer him, and given the fact that they spent their top picks on college pitchers, he likely views himself as the odd man out.
Admittedly, the risks of returning to school for a senior season are big. What if Funkhouser doesn’t improve? What if he’s only able to slightly raise his stock from last season? Since compensation for losing a first round draft pick began, only one player who didn’t sign was a collegian, and that was Stanford’s Mark Appel in 2012. Granted, Appel was able to move from being selected by the Pirates at 8th overall to the Astros at first overall, but his decision to return doesn’t indicate a trend.
The only way I see Funkhouser choose to sign is if the Dodgers elect to not sign Edwin Rios, their sixth rounder. If they do that, they could try and split the remaining threshold bonus pool money they have in the hopes of getting both Buehler and Funkhouser. Knowing full well that the Dodgers don’t want to be the first team to lose a draft pick for exceeding their pool, the chances of that happening are pretty slim. In all likelihood, it will come down choosing between Buehler and Funkhouser, and signs indicate Buehler is their first choice.
40. Nathan Kirby, LHP: Brewers
Nathan Kirby was a preseason favorite to be a top pick in the draft, but an ineffective junior season towards the end dropped his stock and pushed him to the CB round, where the Brewers snatched him.
Why he will sign:
An article on the Daily Progress’ UVA sports blog indicates that Kirby has decided to wait until just before the deadline to sign. For Kirby, going pro would be the best decision. The Cavaliers will be fine without him, especially with the emergence of Connor Jones as a staff ace. Plus, as a UVA product, Kirby has a chance to go through the minor league system quickly. The Brewers could use the remainder of the minor league season to shut down Kirby and wait until next season, when he will be fully healthy and ready to go.
Considering the Brewers have made no effort to sign their gamble picks, Justin Hooper, Donny Everett and John India, they could definitely allocate the money they have left towards a higher bonus for Kirby.
The 2015 MLB Draft Order has officially been set, thanks to the San Diego Padres electing to sign James Shields. With their forfeiture of the 13th overall pick, the start of the college baseball season, and of course, pitchers and catchers reporting for Major League Baseball’s Spring Training, it seems appropriate to do yet another mock draft.
You all know how this works by now, the selections are done based on organizational (as in top 20 prospects) need, the draft will be split up so as to not have this take all day, after the draft is complete, I’ll release the full results, etc. etc. etc.
So without further delay, here are the first seven picks for the 2014 MLB Mock Draft
1. Arizona Diamondbacks
Like the center in basketball, the quarterback in football, and the goalie in hockey, shortstop is often considered one of the most important positions. While one is mainly valued for his defensive abilities, a shortstop that can hit is considered a major boon, and for the Diamondbacks, who have the likes of Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings piloting the position now, it couldn’t be a better time for them to have the number one pick.
Brendan Rodgers of Lake Mary High School is arguably the best prep player in the country. I’ve used the term HAPS, or Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop to describe players like him, prep shortstops with advanced tools and the ability to go through a minor league system quickly. His bat alone could have him in the majors in three years, and his defense while currently decent enough to allow him to stay at his current position, will only improve with time in the minors.
Rodgers would be the perfect complement to Paul Goldschmidt and Yasmany Tomas, who would be 31 and 27, respectively. Having three potent bats with power potential would certainly allow Arizona to complement what is likely going to be a solid up-and-coming rotation, allowing them to compete in the NL West.
2. Houston Astros
The Astros have managed to build a system that many teams would kill to have, especially with the high floor college talent they’ve acquired in the past draft. While they have a solid foundation of righthanded pitching, thanks in part to Mark Appel and Lance McCullers, their lack of a future impact left-handed pitcher is what holds the team from having a solid system.
Virginia’s Nathan Kirby may not have the upside that 2014 draft pick Brady Aiken had, but he also doesn’t have the history that Aiken has with the Astros. This isn’t to say that Kirby is your prototypical safe pick, rather, he has the potential to be a staff anchor. In his opening start, Kirby only allowed three hits in seven innings of work against East Carolina, which is one of the American Athletic Conference’s toughest teams.
Kirby has a solid three pitch mix, a fastball, slider, and changeup which will only get better due to his commitment to filling out his frame during the summer. He has solid command, and will play the zone in order
The Astros would also benefit from drafting Kirby, as his old college teammate, Derek Fisher, is already in their system, and building upon that preexisting chemistry will do them a world of good in developing confidence in their starter.
3. Colorado Rockies
I mentioned it in my last mock, but I think it bears repeating: By developing their own starters instead of buying them, the Colorado Rockies will have an advantage that no NL club has: pitchers who are used to throwing in the thin air of Denver. And it doesn’t matter if the pitcher is left or right-handed, the idea is that in developing their own arms, they form a pitching staff that allows them to compete in the NL West. Having Jon Gray, Eddie Butler and Kyle Freeland starting the staff is good, but what they need is another bona fide arm.
The past five years have been kind to teams who have had the number three pick in the draft, and 2015 will be no exception. Brady Aiken’s decision to forgo his UCLA commitment has catapulted him to the top of what is already a vaunted arms class, and significantly improves the talent level of a limited left-handed class.
Whether or not he does have an issue with his throwing arm will be negligible, given his upside as a pitcher. His fastball-curveball-changeup combination are incredibly advanced for his age, and his build is similar to that of top right-handed pitching prospect Kyle Funkhouser.
Aiken will complement fellow southpaw Kyle Freeland quite well, and will allow the Rockies to develop variety in their rotation with Gray and Butler as righthanded starters.
4. Texas Rangers
You can make as many jokes as you like about the state of the Rangers rotation, because currently, aside from Yu Darvish, there is little upside. Sure, getting Anthony Ranaudo from Boston may offer some hope, and Chi Chi Gonzalez could turn out to be a better draft choice then I thought, but truth be told, even if the Rangers had a lineup of players that possessed Joey Gallo’s attributes, it still wouldn’t make up for the fact that the rotation will need to be fixed in the future.
Sometimes the stars align, however, and an advanced college arm will fall into your lap. Louisville ace Kyle Funkhouser is that arm. While I had a feeling that he could be one of the best arms in the draft, but was wary of whether or not his ability and potential demand for a big contract could drop him a few picks, his 12 strikeout performance against Alabama State is pretty much him saying to me, “Give me some credit and put me in the top 5 already!”
Funkhouser certainly deserves credit where it’s due, as he was Team USA’s top prospect last summer, but what really makes him attractive to teams is his pitch arsenal, which currently would grade as league average, but has the potential to improve to ace levels.
While Alabama State isn’t exactly a baseball powerhouse, should Funkhouser continue pitching the way he does even if he drops his strikeout totals, there’s no doubt he could be in conversation to be the top pick.
5. Houston Astros
Legacy prospects are as much of a gamble as any other prospects. Some turn out to be as good, if not better than their fathers, while others fail in that regard. There’s no doubt that Delino Deshields could have been a solid prospect, but the Astros organization was running out of patience and understandably, with plenty of talent and few 40 man roster spots open, left him unprotected for the Texas Rangers to take. Of course, Deshields was known mainly for his speed; Houston’s hypothetical pick here has more dimension to his game.
Daz Cameron, of Eagles Landing Christian Academy, is the son of Mike Cameron, who was probably one of the most underrated players of his generation. Cameron the younger, at one point was viewed as a top pick, but a drop off in his junior year has him somewhere between top ten and top fifteen. However, Cameron’s current ability affords him the opportunity of improving his draft stock.
A solid contact hitter now, he has the potential to add power to his swing, and while he has average speed for the basepaths, he does have the ability to cover his position well enough to compensate defensively.
Cameron is a prodigy, however, as he is part of the very exclusive club of players who have played in the All-American Game twice His talent will be hard to ignore, and it wouldn’t surprise me if, should he improve, the Astros end up taking him second overall.
6. Minnesota Twins
Minnesota’s future will be bright for as long as Byron Buxton continues to prove he is a top prospect, and the Twins will have a solid staff to look forward to with the impending arrivals of Alex Meyer, Kohl Stewart and Nick Burdi. However, how do you repopulate the system? Who becomes the next top pitching prospect?
Kolby Allard of San Clemente High School has taken a meteoric rise from where I originally slotted him, 16th, to where he stands now, as a top ten prospect with the potential to be top five. He has similar attributes to Brady Aiken, but the stigma of his height drops his value.
What he lacks in height, Allard compensates for in the ability to pitch in big games; he made it out of the summer as USA Baseball’s top prep pitcher.
Pairing him up with Kohl Stewart will do nothing but good, as two young and lively arms anchoring the Twins rotation will give them a solid future hold in the AL Central.
7. Boston Red Sox
Rarely does a team have a plethora of Major League ready left-handed pitching like the Boston Red Sox. Guys like Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Edwin Escobar and Brian Johnson make up 2/5 of their top ten prospects. However, the point here is that these pitchers are practically Major League ready, and when they graduate, Boston’s system will need to adjust. Given the amount of prep options, it’s entirely possible that the Red Sox opt to go for a long term project in the hopes of replenishing their pitching stores.
Cathedral High School righty Ashe Russell has seen his draft position rise, mainly because he has that much growth potential. Even though Indiana is starting to develop a reputation as a northern prospect pipeline, it’s still in its developing stages, and as a result, Russell has plenty of potential to grow. A two pitch man now with a solid fastball and up-and-coming slider, Russell does have a changeup, but it probably will suit him better once the talent level adjusts.
Russell does have the build to be a pitcher, but he’s still raw, and should he be taken by Boston, he probably will start out as a reliever and be developed into a spot starter or closer. Still, his potential is too great to pass on, and Boston has developed some solid pitchers as of late.
To satiate the draft heads around baseball (and don’t think I don’t know that there are any, I’m looking at you Reddit, Indians Baseball Insider SoxTalk, DC Prospect Report and You Gotta Like These Kids), I have decided to release a new mock draft once every other month. Admittedly, I also need to update my draft order as three of the picks I already made would not be possible now thanks to Nelson Cruz, Russell Martin and Michael Cuddyer signing with the Mariners, Blue Jays and Mets. respectively.
So let’s go over a few rules. Again, the idea here is that best player available is a joke, so I’m going by either organizational need (as in depth in the top 20 prospects) or general manager tendencies. Of course, if neither of those parameters lead to a clear first round pick, THEN we go to best player available.
So, without further delay, here is the December edition of the 2014 MLB mock draft, part 1. This covers picks 1-7. The mock will be split into four parts, each released one week after another.
1. Arizona Diamondbacks:
Ten years ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks were in the same position they are now, looking for somebody to be the face of their franchise-in-transition. And they actually did that with Justin Upton. Ten years later, and they’re in the same position once again.
The D-Backs have been more inclined to draft pitchers, netting guys like Trevor Bauer (since traded to the Indians), Archie Bradley, Braden Shipley, and Touki Toussaint in three of the past four drafts.
Although the hitting class can be considered arguably the weakest this year, and the Diamondbacks clearly have established options in Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed, perhaps the best bet is for them to go with Lake Mary High School Shortstop Brendan Rodgers.
Rodgers becomes the latest HAPS (Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop), and possibly the first since Carlos Correa to be drafted first overall. He has an advanced feel for his tools despite his youth. MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo feels that his biggest asset is his bat, because he can generate power without trying too hard. Though versatile, and potentially able to move to other positions, his fielding ability will allow him to stay where he is.
If Rodgers is as advanced as he is, then he too could potentially make it to the Majors quickly, just like Upton did back in 2007, a full two years after being drafted.
2. Houston Astros:
Looking at the big picture, i.e, Houston’s last three drafts, it becomes clearer and clearer that the administration likes to save money in the draft. In 2012, they opted for Carlos Correa over Mark Appel, a move which initially was a head scratcher, since Correa didn’t appear to be a consensus top pick, but seems to have paid off, aside from Correa’s season ending injury last year. In 2013, they took senior Mark Appel, a smart move given the fact that Appel likely would have had little to no leverage after being picked, having exhausted his college eligibility. However, in 2014, the Astros made a mistake, exposing their draft strategy when they drafted Brady Aiken, offered him a mutually agreed-upon bonus, retracted the offer and then intentionally lowballed him and borderline blackmailed him by leaking a physical which revealed a supposed arm issue. Aiken didn’t take the bait, and Houston was left empty handed.
A year later, the Astros are still looking for a franchise left handed pitcher, and possibly also a cost effective one. Enter University of Virginia pitcher Nathan Kirby. Kirby is one of the more interesting prospects, having only become UVA’s latest ace a year ago. Kirby has a solid three pitch offering, a low to mid 90’s fastball with good movement, a great slider, and a potentially devistating changeup. Kirby also has big game experience, having pitched in the 2014 College World Series, and value, having been named the top prospect in the New England Collegiate Baseball league the year before, and winning the league championship with the Keene Swamp Bats.
Kirby will be an interesting and more experienced alternative to Aiken, especially in a weak LHP draft class.
3. Colorado Rockies:
Probably the second biggest question a Rockies fan may have after “Will we ever compete again” is “Who will become the new face of the Rockies Franchise when Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are gone?”
While the Rockies may not find Tulo’s replacement at shortstop in this year’s draft, they could find his replacement as a hitter.
Eagles Landing Christian Academy outfielder Daz Cameron, son of Mike Cameron, the former Major League All-Star, was, at one time, considered the top prospect in this year’s draft, however his stock took a bit of a tumble this past season due to a junior slump.
Cameron’s potential shouldn’t be overlooked for his stats however, considering he has a very high ceiling. Having been selected to the Under Armour All America Classic as both a sophomore and a junior, a rare feat, he has physical tools which, if developed properly, can lead to him becoming a legitimately well-rounded hitter.
Cameron doesn’t have his dad’s leadoff ability, but could potentially make it as a #5 hitter in an average lineup. In the thin air of Colorado, he could be a #3 hitter.
4. Texas Rangers:
The Texas Rangers are in line to be a strong hitting team, with slugger Joey Gallo looking like a potential MVP threat each and every year, but the team lacks a solid rotation. What once was Cliff Lee, CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland has since been dismantled with only Yu Darvish as an optimism point, and what happens when he, like countless other Japanese phenom hurlers, is figured out?
The Rangers need to build their rotation from the ground up, and the first piece of the puzzle, should he be available, must be Brady Aiken.
Aiken’s potential as a starter is great, and despite the controversial physical that he got from the Astros, there has been no evidence that it affected him, as he had a great senior season. With a mid 90’s fastball, and an advanced feel for his pitches, Aiken is one of the most promising pitching prospects in this draft. His current scouting grades are consistent with those of a college pitcher, and unless he decides to not go to school or the elbow issue in the physical does prove to be a concern, don’t be surprised if he goes in the top 5, or even the top pick in the draft.
5. Houston Astros:
In the draft, there are no restrictions as to how many of a certain position you can draft, especially in the early rounds. And of course, there is that old, and possibly beaten-into-the-ground adage that “You can never have enough pitching” But I digress. The Astros have a strong group of right-handed pitchers coming up in the near future, with Mark Appel, Mike Foltynewicz, and Lance McCullers, but their left handed pitching prospects begin at Josh Hader, who was ranked as the #10 prospect for the Astros at the end of the 2014 season.
The Astros hypothetically took Nathan Kirby second overall to start the draft, could they conceivably double dip and grab another lefty?
San Clemente High School pitcher Kolby Allard has done nothing but shoot up draft boards. In my first mock, I had him as a first round pick, and now, he has the potential to be a top five choice. Allard is smaller than your average pitcher in terms of height, but what he lacks in stature, he makes up for in game experience, winning MVP honors at the Perfect Game Classic and being a part of Team USA.
Allard’s pitching repertoire differs from Brady Aiken in a slightly slower fastball, a curveball, and a purely developmental changeup, but he has top notch command on his pitches. Allard has the durability to stay as a starter as well, and could be a nice mid rotation piece.
6. Minnesota Twins:
The past two drafts showed that the Twins are willing to look at high upside, if somewhat risky prospects, especially after the Levi Michael debacle of 2011. Kohl Stewart was arguably the best prep arm of the 2013 class, despite being diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes and having a very strong commitment to Texas A&M. The year after that, the Twins took Nick Gordon, who was arguably the best two-way player in the draft, leaving them the healthy problem of finding his best position. But enough about the past, who do they take now?
There is a lot of healthy debate as to whether Duke University right handed pitcher Michael Matuella is the top prospect of this year’s class. He’s got one of the best fastballs in college, if not the entire class of 2015, and two excellent secondary offerings. Matuella also is deceptive, his height also masks his pitch deliveries.
So if he’s one of the top prospects in the draft, why is he falling to outside the top 5?
Matuella does have an injury history with his back, which cut short his first year of summer ball, and completely wiped out his second. Though his condition is treatable, if he continues to work in small sample sizes, don’t be surprised if he falls out of the top three, much like Jeff Hoffman did last year after his Tommy John surgery.
Injury history aside, Matuella does profile as an ace, and should he overcome his initial problems, he could be a very good investment in a relatively new market, Duke baseball.
7. Boston Red Sox:
The Red Sox have been great developers of collegiate middle infield talent for years. From Nomar Garciaparra to Dustin Pedroia to Deven Marrero (who has yet to make the big leagues, but is close), the Sox will likely never have to resort to buying a shortstop or a second baseman for a while.
That being said, the Red Sox are eventually going to have to look for a Pedroia replacement, and could find their answer at Vanderbilt. Dansby Swanson may be a shortstop right now, but his natural position is at second base. A contact hitter who led the NCAA in doubles, Swanson could profile as a 2 or 6 hitter in the Red Sox lineup.
Swanson is a proven winner, having been named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player last season.
If Swanson can showcase some versatility, there is a possibility that he could raise his stock even further. Don’t be surprised if mock drafts in the spring have him as a possible top five selection.