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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The first 14 picks have been revealed for MinorLeagueMadhouse’s 2015 MLB Mock Draft; what happens with the next seven?
15. Atlanta Braves
The Braves dismantled their outfield, with the exception of BJ Upton, this winter, sending Justin Upton to the Padres and Jason Heyward to the Cardinals. When a team decides to take apart an area that could be considered well-established, it’s clear that something has gone wrong. Even the current Braves outfield leaves a lot to be desired, which brings me to whom they should draft.
DJ Stewart is Florida State’s top outfielder, a tank of a man, who, although he saw his stock drop somewhat due to a poor summer, scouts feel that it’s nothing to worry about.
Though he looks the part of a slugger, Stewart needs some fine tuning to actually be a true power hitter, as his stance and swing prevents him from making powerful contact.Although it looks like a reach now, Stewart’s potential, plus the opportunity in his junior year, will definitely springboard him into the top 15, especially in a weak collegiate hitter’s market.
Not only that, but Chipper Jones would potentially endorse the move, especially given the fact that Stewart went to Jones’ prep alma mater.
16. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers are probably the last place you’d look these days for a homegrown pitcher, but the emergence of Tyler Thornburg and Jimmy Nelson as potential All-Star starters has allowed the team to stop being averse to drafting high pitching. Heck, they took a chance on Devin Williams and Kodi Medeiros the past two years, maybe it’s time to go for a bigger fish after having slow success with the once thought to be deadly combination of Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley. In this year’s strong collegiate pitching class, the Brewers have plenty of options, even if they’re mainly right-handed starters.
Take Vanderbilt starter Carson Fulmer for instance. The latest in a long line of intriguing Vanderbilt prospects, Fulmer can throw mid 90’s heat with regularity, and has solid secondary and tertiary offerings to give him dimension. What Fulmer needs work on is his control, and his delivery needs to be less… severe.
Although scouts will constantly knock pitchers who lack height, Fulmer’s experience with the Commodores and Team USA, both premier levels of competition, have shown that it is just a number, and given Marcus Stroman’s successful debut this season, Fulmer can only help that opinion change further.
17. New York Yankees
When it comes to the Yankees, especially in the draft, they usually go for players that either have major name recognition or are just plain good. Need proof? In 2008, the team drafted Gerrit Cole, who three years later would become the top pick in the 2011 draft, and another two years later, the ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates staff. In 2011, they drafted Dante Bichette Jr, the former little league star and son of Rockies legend Dante Bichette. In 2012, they drafted Rob Refsnyder, that year’s College World Series Most Outstanding Player, and in 2013, they took Ian Clarkin, who has emerged as one of the best young starters of the 2013 class.
2015 might as well be known as the year of the famous retreads, as both Brady Aiken and Phil Bickford, a former CSU Fullerton Titan, now a member of the College of Southern Nevada, highlight this year’s class. Bickford’s got the fame, as the only member of the 2013 first round draft class not to sign, he’s since dominated the summer league circuit after a meh freshman year at Fullerton. After being voted the Cape’s best prospect, Bickford left Fullerton, deciding that 2016 was too long of a wait for him.
Bickford’s fastball is the main reason why he’s such an appealing project, a mid 90’s offering with plenty of life, he can play the strike zone to his advantage. His slider has also become a solid pitch, and while he does need development on his third, a change, he could become a solid 3 pitch starter. Bickford is definitely more than a name though, and he’ll be worth watching when he plays his final season in college, or to be more precise, junior college.
18. Cleveland Indians
I find it incredibly hard to believe that the Cleveland Indians are that bad at developing starting pitchers, especially out of college. What are they, anti-moneyball? While they have had success with developing pitchers that they have gotten elsewhere, see Corey Kluber as the major example, the fact that the Indians have failed to make a homegrown pitcher blossom since CC Sabathia is baffling. Maybe there is hope that Kyle Crockett will buck the trend, but that’s another story.
There’s a caveat to developing small school pitchers, that the athlete will be on a major learning curve, that they haven’t exactly faced prime competition, but really, if it’s that hard, then why draft small school pitchers in the first place? Of course, pitchers like Division II star and Cal Poly Pomona ace Cody Ponce would really be at a major disadvantage.
Ponce worked his way through two seasons of California Collegiate Athletic Association baseball to make it to the Cape League this past summer, and while there, scouts got a taste of why Ponce is special.
While he is a work in progress, Ponce does offer more pitches than your average hurler, and a strong fastball can be improved even more if Ponce can give it more life. Ponce’s appeal though is his ability to keep the ball in the park, and while Progressive Field is no Yankee Stadium, and the CCAA is no SEC, the ability to keep the ball in the park is going to help Ponce more than hurt him regardless of competition or home stadium.
Ponce will be a work in progress, but if the Indians pitching coaches can somehow turn a Stetson product into a Cy Young winner, it wouldn’t hurt to see what they could do with a Division II star.
19. San Francisco Giants
I am of the belief that a team often needs to stretch out of their comfort zone when it comes to drafting and developing prospects. And while I did catch a little flak for saying the Giants should go for a prep outfielder when there were plenty of pitchers, which is their forté, my belief is that the Giants will need to build in other areas in order to stay competitive.
A third baseman can be replaced by the next man up, in this case, Matt Duffy, but when you lose two big power guys in one offseason, in a weak free agent class, then maybe it’s time to start looking at future homegrowns.
I’ve been pretty high on Miami 1B/3B David Thompson for a while. He’s a prodigy, the first Hurricane hitter to ever make his debut as a cleanup man, and a constant All-America threat. While his sophomore campaign was cut short due to life saving surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, he showed that he hadn’t lost a step when he played in the Cape that summer. Thompson is a student of the game, he was able to reinvent his swing after his injury, and he really adjusted to the learning curve in summer ball.
Health will be an issue, but if Thompson is able to get back to his freshman potential, then he’ll definitely be a late first round pick.
20. Pittsburgh Pirates
Every so often, there’s a team that has such a dearth of talent in their system that you wish they would just not have a first round pick. In this case, it’s the Pirates. The Pirates are strong in this year’s draft’s areas of strength, outfield, and right-handed pitcher, which means that BPA is the best way to go.
The BPA for the Pirates would be Brother Rice High School outfielder Nick Plummer, A lefty, Plummer is valuable because he has advanced power for his age. Plummer also has a good baseball IQ, taking “reach” pitches and aiming for the gaps.
Plummer is no Andrew McCutchen, nor is he Austin Meadows, but he could find value in a lineup as a 6 hitter. It’ll be interesting to see if he can improve his stock in the coming season.
21. Oakland Athletics
I could use the refrain from Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler as my intro for the Oakland A’s, as they pretty much gambled their bright future, that is, Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, etc. for a shot at the World Series which ultimately failed, leading to a Marlins type fire sale for prospects whom I wouldn’t even recognize.
It was clear that when the A’s ditched Moneyball, they really got some major talent, but sometimes, familiarity with an old system may be the best option. In fact, familiarity as a whole is often the best way of going at things during a rebuild.
Meet University of the Pacific outfielder Gio Brusa. In perhaps the weakest hitting class of any draft, Brusa stands out by being a switch hitting slugger. Although he’s only recently reclaimed his hitting ability in summer ball that led to a failed 5 round courtship by Boston in 2012, Brusa’s potential could lead to him hitting 3rd in a major league lineup.
Brusa is a more well-rounded athlete as he has solid running and fielding ability to complement his hitting. He also has the added appeal of being an in state and somewhat local product; University of the Pacific is based in Stockton, home of the Ports, the A’s California League club.
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.
It’s time for Round 2 of the Top 100 Prospects: This time, the focus is on the AL West. Instead of individual profiles this time, I’ll concentrate the prospects into one paragraph on how each prospect fits into his team.
Top 100 Prospects:
8. SS Carlos Correa (2012 R1)
17. P Mark Appel (2013 R1)
21. OF George Springer (2011 R1)
50. 1B Jonathan Singleton (2009 R8, Acquired from PHI in Hunter Pence Trade)
52. P Lance McCullers (2012 R1C)
54. P Mike Foltynewicz (2010 R1)
66. OF Delino DeShields (2010 R1)
The Astros are a terrible team now, but the future is bright for them. To begin, this team has been preparing for the future by drafting high ceiling talent. What started last year with Jarred Cosart will likely continue this year with the anticipated debut of Mark Appel. Appel, the first overall pick from Stanford University comes with a major league fastball and two solid secondary pitches. Given the track record for first overall picks from big time colleges, (Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg come to mind), Appel should be in the majors by August or September. Until the draft comes around, the next big Astros pitching prospect is Lance McCullers. McCullers was viewed at one time to be the top pick in the 2012 draft, until the Astros decided to go with Carlos Correa (more on him later) However, McCullers, who is the son of the former Padres and Yankees pitcher, fell to the compensatory round, where Houston eagerly snatched him up. McCullers had a decent first full season in Quad Cities, with 117 strikeouts, but given his age and the time it usually takes for high school arms to develop, McCullers probably won’t see the Majors until 2016 at the earliest. Lastly, there’s Mike Foltynewicz. Folty, who was the second first rounder the Astros had in 2010, has one of the best fastballs in the minors, but beyond that, his offerings are average and his control is below average. Houston has used him in both the rotation and the bullpen, and given the speed of his fastball, he looks to be more like an Aroldis Chapman-ish closer. He will likely see plenty of time in AAA before making his big league debut, and if the Astros are smart, they’ll concentrate his use to small doses. In the position player department, the Astros are pretty set in terms of speed. Two former first round picks, George Springer and Delino DeShields are considered to be two of the fastest runners in the top 100. Springer is practically Majors ready, especially after ringing up AAA pitching with 37 home runs this past year, while DeShields is still stuck in A ball at Lancaster. Both however were futures game prospects last year and impressed plenty with their play, and will likely make up 2/3 of the Astros outfield in the future. Carlos Correa may not be as fast as Springer or DeShields, but he can hit. Viewed by many as a surprise first overall pick, especially with the likes of Byron Buxton and Appel on the board, Correa has really impressed so far in his minor league career, hitting at a .320 clip with 144 hits at Quad Cities. His defense is okay, given his strong arm yet weaker fielding capability, but time in the minors should give him some chance to develop. Finally, there’s Jonathan Singleton. Singleton, the other prize in the Pence trade (Cosart was the first) has had a very long minor league career. There is potential still, but drug problems have continually offset his major league career. Singleton will be under the microscope this year, especially given the failure of Brett Wallace as the Astros future at first base. If he can stay clean and hit the way that scouts have gushed over him for the past few years, the first base job will be his. All in all, the Astros have what many consider to be a top farm system, rivaled only by Boston and Chicago. It should be interesting to see if the homegrowns help contribute to the Astros’ ascendance back into the Major League elite.
Los Angeles Angels
No Prospects in Top 100
Top 100 Prospect:
12. SS Addison Russell (2012 R1)
Oakland has only one prospect in the top 100 this year, and he may be the most talked about prospect that isn’t already under the microscope. Addison Russell was the first high school draft pick taken in the first round by general manager Billy Beane since 2001, when they selected Jeremy Bonderman. Russell represents a departure from the Moneyball drafting strategy of taking low ceiling/high floor collegiate players in the first round. But how is he paying off on Beane’s gamble? After an aggressive development which had him starting at High A Stockton (A full level above where he should have been) he surprised many by hitting a respectable .275/17/60. He had 118 hits, but his strikeout numbers were high, just two less than his hit total. Russell impressed enough to be selected to Team USA’s Futures roster, then followed it up with a short call up to AAA Sacramento, completely bypassing Double-A. I expect Russell to begin play at Double-A this year with a quick rise to AAA by mid June. If he continues to play the way he has, there is a good chance that he’ll be making his Major League debut especially early. Russell has plenty of good tools. His hitting is possibly his best asset, but he’ll need to cut down on his K rate if he wants to make any real impact in the higher levels. Still, the first pick in the post-moneyball strategy era is definitely looking like a wise pick.
Top 100 Prospects:
6. P Taijuan Walker (2010 1C)
88. 1B DJ Peterson (2013 R1)
Seattle has some great young pitchers coming up soon, but only one made this year’s preseason Top 100 list, Taijuan Walker. Walker, who has been the gem of Seattle’s minor league system for the past couple years, has had nothing but success in the minors. Last year, he jumped through Double and Triple A, made an appearance in the Futures Game, and made his Major League debut. Walker may be one of the best prospects in the Mariners system, but there is talk that he may be an expendable asset, especially since the team has looked at a possible deal to Tampa Bay for David Price. What the Mariners would be losing if they traded Walker, however is big. To begin, his fastball is a Major League offering, and his off speed pitches, while still developing into reliable weapons, are solid experiments. Second, his age indicates that he could be pitching in the majors for a long time. Third, his price and arbitration clock are set for a good five to six years away, so team control would be easy for Seattle to keep him. In short, Walker, the former shortstop turned potential ace, is someone to watch this year. DJ Peterson was one of the few picks I got right in my mock draft last year. A power hitting third baseman out of New Mexico, Peterson was a defensive liability at his original position and ended up being moved to first base. At Everett and Clinton, Peterson showed why he was a first round pick by hitting well for average with some pop. Peterson should advance quickly in the minors, and given Seattle’s failure to get a solid hitting first baseman (see Justin Smoak, Mike Morse and Mike Carp for reference), Peterson’s major league time will be spent under the microscope. It will be interesting to see how he handles the next level of play though.
Top 100 Prospects:
39. C Jorge Alfaro (IFA 2010)
59. 2B Rougned Odor (IFA 2011)
72. OF Michael Choice (2010 R1, Acquired from OAK for OF Craig Gentry)
76. SS Luis Sardinas (IFA 2009)
92. 3B Joey Gallo (2012 R1C)
If you thought Houston’s system was stacked, wait until you see their rival’s. Texas’ system may not be as pitching talented as some of the other systems, but what they lack in arms, they make up for with bats and gloves. To start, let’s go behind the plate. Jorge Alfaro is one of the best international catchers in the game, even better than Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt. While Alfaro is young, he is quite advanced for his age. He has a cannon for an arm, and is a very gritty defender. Alfaro compensated for an injury plagued 2012 with a fine 2013, which cause him to go through three levels of play. Alfaro is a throwback to the primarily defensive catcher, which is fine, but if he really wants to make it to Arlington, he’d better start working on his bat. As if the Rangers’ infield wasn’t crowded enough with last year’s number 1 overall prospect in Jurickson Profar and perennial All-Star Elvis Andrus, two more young international middle infielders will likely be coming up soon. Luis Sardinas and Rougned Odor. Both have good arms, and are decent hitters, but Odor has more power and Sardinas more speed. Given the Rangers’ constant need for pitching, I doubt that either will see themselves in a Rangers uniform, likely one or both will be shipped in a deal to a team that’s looking for a middle infielder. However, they should make the trade quickly, as both finished their seasons in the Texas League and are likely to be in AAA before long. Joey Gallo has power, that’s a given, what he lacks is the hitting skill that goes with it. In essence, he reminds me of Ike Davis or Adam Dunn, only smaller. Still, Gallo would thrive in the dry heat of Dallas, as balls tend to carry farther in that park. Gallo showed why he was a first round pick last year by smashing 38 home runs for the Hickory Crawdads, an impressive feat given the more humid air of the Carolina League, but as his low batting average and high strikeout rate continue to hamper his ability, so should his development be slowed down until he can go beyond one dimension. Lastly, there’s the lone majors-ready player on this list: Michael Choice. Choice played his college ball a mere 9 minutes away from Globe Life Park in Arlington, but was drafted by the Oakland A’s. After toiling for almost three seasons in the minors, Choice impressed enough to make a September call-up. From the stats, we can see that Choice thrives as a #2 or #6 hitter, and while he does have some power, don’t let it fool you. Choice will likely be given every chance to replace Gentry, the man he was traded for, in the Ranger lineup. It will be interesting to see how he makes his situation.
So that’s the AL West. Stay tuned for next week’s installment of the top 100 prospects by division.