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.
Here’s part 2 of MinorLeagueMadhouse’s Mock Draft.
11. Blue Jays: Kyle Schwarber, C, Indiana
Before the 2013 season started, Toronto had two really good catching prospects and a somewhat decent veteran. Now, they have… Josh Thole, Mike Nickeas, and one prospect whose value has taken a tumble. Kyle Schwarber, who helped Indiana make the College World Series last year, is like Toronto’s former big prize catcher, JP Arencibia, except he’s not just a power guy who strikes out a lot. Schwarber’s game is more balanced on the offensive side. However, for his hitting ability, he’s not a plus defender. If he’s to stay behind the plate, his defense will need some fine tuning, or he’ll become another Piazza.
12. Brewers: Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford
Every once in a while, the state of Connecticut produces a quality collegiate talent. Two years ago, it was George Springer and Matt Barnes, this year, it’s Sean Newcomb. Coming out of the same school that produced Jeff Bagwell will do wonders for his reputation, but as for himself, what endears him to scouts is his fastball and his ability as a strikeout pitcher. Newcomb has other pitches which he can get batters out with, but what he needs is a consistent delivery. Still, in a system that’s starved for southpaws, Newcomb may be Milwaukee’s next big lefty hurler.
13. Padres: Nick Gordon, SS/RHP, Olympia High School, Florida
One of the benefits of drafting a two way player out of high school is that there’s more time for that player to develop, so if in one area they fail, they will develop in another. Gordon, who has a baseball pedigree thanks to his father, former reliever Tom Gordon, and brother, Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon, has his brother’s speed and arm, and his father’s fastball and curveball. Still, scouts see his value as a shortstop more. Although the Padres have tried to stay away from prep hitters as of late thanks to the failures of Donavan Tate and Matt Bush, Gordon’s pedigree and adaptability may be too good to pass up.
14. Giants: Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco
The Giants already have one home state product waiting in the wings to take his spot in the outfield, why not go for another one that’s right in their backyard? Zimmer, the brother of Royals pitcher Kyle Zimmer, can hit and throw, and while he’s not as fast as Gary Brown is, he has the ability to play as a 3 or 5 hitter in the Giants lineup. Although the Giants have locked up Hunter Pence for five years, my gut tells me that they are going to regret it, and will want a younger guy patrolling the vast outfield of AT&T Park.
15. Angels: Luis Ortiz, RHP, Sanger High School, California
The Angels system is arguably the biggest joke in baseball right now. With no one in the top 100 and the top prospect in their system likely making the majors soon, it’s time to restock once again. While there are so many options for the Angels to pick, if they want to strengthen their system, they’ll opt for a high school talent. Luis Ortiz is a NorCal product who has a fastball that he can throw with ease. When he’s not using his fastball, his slider also works as a Major League offering. Ortiz has a body fit for pitching, so development isn’t that much of an issue, but what does need improvement is his control. Still, if the Angels want a bona fide prospect to rebuild their system, Ortiz is that guy.
16. Diamondbacks: Braxton Davidson, OF, TC Roberson High School, North Carolina
Braxton Davidson is probably one of the better all around prep players in this year’s draft. His offensive game is definitely the most polished, and his arm and fielding ability make him an asset for teams that play in bigger parks. While he doesn’t have the speed to play center, his arm makes him a near lock to play one of the corner spots, left field especially comes to mind. Davidson’s power isn’t as big as Paul Goldschmidt’s, but in the Arizona lineup, he definitely looks to be a #3 hitter at best.
17. Orioles: Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State
“But the Orioles already have a catcher locked up for the long term!” Yes, but given the life expectancy of a catcher’s knees, in all likelihood, if they do draft Pentecost and he rises through the system at the normal rate, Matt Wieters will probably be a designated hitter. Moving along from that, Pentecost isn’t as flashy as draft mate Kyle Schwarber, but his game is balanced in areas. He was once a highly touted prospect three years ago, and would have been a Texas Ranger, but an injury and a strong commitment to Kennesaw State kept him from going pro. In a draft class that is ripe with small school talent. Pentecost is a hot commodity. He’ll certainly be worth the pick for a team looking for a future catcher.
18. Royals: Derek Fisher, OF Virginia
The Royals are the model of developing prospects, but the prospects that have been highlighted over the past few years are starting to graduate to the Majors. In developing the next crop of quality prospects. Kansas City should go after a good Alex Gordon-type hitter. Derek Fisher is one of the bigger names from a bigger school. The Cavaliers outfielder may have started show in Charlottesville, but a strong summer league has propelled him to the top of a lot of preseason watch lists. Fisher’s biggest weakness, however, is his fielding ability, and if he can’t improve it, he may end up being what Billy Butler became: a young Designated Hitter.
19. Nationals: Brandon Finnegan, LHP, TCU
Although the Nationals have been building up on pitchers as of late, another one, particularly a lefty, wouldn’t hurt. Brandon Finnegan had a rough year last year, but as Gerrit Cole could probably tell you, a poor record isn’t usually indicative of one’s draft position. Finnegan has a fastball that’s worth a second look, as well as a solid slider. He’s short for a starter, but as a bullpen guy, particularly a closer, Finnegan may be one of the best options out there. What he needs to improve upon is his consciousness of his delivery, which could be used as a tell, which may have caused him to have a bad year. Still, the Nationals would be smart to look at him.
20. Reds: Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway High School, South Carolina
There’s a stigma that seems to go against heavy pitchers, maybe because of health concerns, but for whatever reason, they still manage to carve out solid careers. Case and point, C.C. Sabathia and Bartolo Colon. Grant Holmes is nothing different. A big pitcher (6’2″ and 190 pounds, although those numbers are supposedly more generous than indicated), Holmes gets people out with a zippy fastball. He does have a couple of secondary pitches, including a curveball with an identity crisis (fast like a slider, but moves like a curve), and a developmental change up. Holmes’ baseball pedigree is not as well known as Nick Gordon’s, but it’s there, as his brother was a two time national champion at South Carolina. Holmes could join the two prep prospects that the Reds already have drafted in Robert Stephenson and Nick Travieso, and they’d make a solid portion of a typical big league rotation.
There’s part two. Stay tuned for Part three, coming sometime this week.