Tagged: Pittsburgh Pirates

2015 MLB Mock Draft 2.0: BONUS Compensatory Picks

I have decided to add on the last ten picks for the compensatory picks, mainly because I’m on track to break my monthly views record set back in June of 2013. So as a bit of a “thank you” to those of you who have taken the time to read this site, here are the last ten picks of the 2015 mock draft. A side note: Although James Shields has not been signed yet, the mock draft will be done based on the assumption that he will be signed before June.

28. Colorado Rockies

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(First Selection: Daz Cameron, OF, Eagles Landing Christian Academy)

You can’t teach pitching to established major league arms, which presents a problem for the Colorado Rockies. In their atmospheric conditions, humidor or no humidor, the best plan for success is to develop starters and teach them how to pitch in Denver. The Rockies seem to have this figured out as they have a trio of impressive future starters coming through the ranks: Jon Gray, who projects to be an ace, Eddie Butler, a solid second arm, and Kyle Freeland, a pitcher who, as a Colorado native, may already have figured out the nuances of pitching in thin air.

Alex Young of TCU would be an interesting fourth arm. While he doesn’t have teammate Riley Ferrell’s fastball, or Brandon Finnegan’s tools, he does have the feel that allows him to be a more versatile pitcher. Like Ferrell, Young has more experience in the bullpen, but he also has worked in the rotation, and could make a seamless transition during his junior year.

Young’s best asset is his pitch movement, his curve and slider are considered his best weapons, and while he’s reticent to use his changeup, proper development of said pitch, which already has some movement, will allow him to become a four pitch starter.

29. Atlanta Braves

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(First Selection: DJ Stewart, OF, Florida State)

And you thought the Miami Marlins were the king of fire sales.

The Atlanta Braves have all but openly stated that they are building their future after the 2014 fiasco. Having unloaded much of their hitting corps, including their top power source in Evan Gattis, the Braves may want to look at developing another power bat at another position, And while previous selection DJ Stewart looks like a power hitter, he still needs to learn how to be one.

The selection I have in mind for the Braves here is smaller than Gattis, but certainly could match him in terms of power. Chris Shaw an outfielder for Boston College, is likely going to play first base professionally, as that’s his original position.

Much like Florida’s Richie Martin, Shaw needed a year to figure out how to hit collegiately, and when he finally did, he made an impression. After going deep 6 times last season, Shaw feasted on Cape Cod pitching, adding another 9 blasts, good for the league lead. He’s a left handed power hitter, a valuable commodity to have in a major league lineup, and he makes a conscious effort to correct his swing if he gets aggressive.

Shaw’s not a fast runner, and there’s still a question as to why he was in the outfield during his sophomore season, but these concerns can be covered up by his defensive ability as a first baseman. He’d be a solid part of the Braves future lineup, and someone who could help fans forget Gattis in the future.

30. Toronto Blue Jays

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Toronto is often at a disadvantage when it comes to the draft, as their home stadium is less then ideal when it comes to position players. The turf has been known to be a deal breaker for many an athlete, and the Jays have lost many talented players because no one wants to play there. Last season, they lucked out when they nabbed Jeff Hoffman and Max Pentecost, two high level players from college. Hoffman was coming off Tommy John surgery, and Pentecost was coming off an outstanding summer ball and junior season.

The Jays are going to look for a homegrown post-Jose Reyes plan, as two seasons on turf have worn him down, and I estimate he’s good for maybe five more seasons before there are more obvious problems. In this case, the best option is the defensively versatile John Aiello from Germantown Academy.

Aiello is a third baseman primarily, but he’s also capable as a shortstop. His power swing is better utilized when he’s hitting right-handed. Aiello also has the benefit of playing in a northern high school, which allows him to adapt to the cold of Toronto.

If developed as a shortstop properly, Aiello figures to be a 5 hitter in the Jays lineup. Again, the turf issue may cut his career by a couple years, but he may be one of the more underrated prep stars in the draft.

31. New York Yankees

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(First Selection: Phil Bickford, RHP, College of Southern Nevada)

The Yankees need to realize that the perfect balance for a winning team is a mix of developed and bought talent, and while they certainly have the bought part down, they do need to develop another few bats for when their high profile acquisitions do finally wear down. Brett Gardner has been a solid start, but there needs to be more.

Sometimes, when it comes to scouting players, especially for teams like the Yankees, there’s some value in looking in their own backyard. Look at the crosstown rival Mets and their developing prospect Steven Matz, or the Toronto Blue Jays and their prospect Dalton Pompey.

It would be a pretty expansive backyard for the Yankees, as Niskayuna High School outfielder Garrett Whitley is almost 3 hours away from Yankee Stadium, but his talent is undeniable, and with the potential to be the first MLB draft pick in the school’s history, he’s really making a solid case for a first round pick. 

In a way, Whitley is like Gardner, but with more pop. He’s got value in the 9 or 2 spot of a lineup based on his speed, and he has the defensive capability and the arm that allows him to play centerfield for a major league team. The fact that he’s used to playing in the cold weather that comes with the territory of upstate New York makes him even more attractive.

32. San Francisco Giants

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(First Selection: David Thompson, 3B, Miami)

I’d be remiss to not point out the state of the Giants outfield in the future, as both Gregor Blanco and Hunter Pence will be 32 by the end of the 2015 season. While Gary Brown may be part of the future of the Giants outfield, am I supposed to believe that Nori Aoki and Juan Perez will be part of the long term future?

The Giants have many outfield options, both prep and collegiate in the compensatory round, but none offer quite the ceiling like North Carolina’s Skye Bolt. Similar in story to LSU shortstop Alex Bregman, Bolt started his college career quite nicely, showing signs of both power and speed, a rare combination. He slashed ACC pitching, hit 6 home runs, and showed solid patience at the plate.

Bolt regressed slightly this past season, but he still has the potential to be a big time hitter in a major league lineup. The fact that he is a switch hitter will help his value even further. Should he play like he did his freshman year, he could be considered a dark horse top 15 pick.

33. Pittsburgh Pirates

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(First Selection: Nick Plummer, OF, Brother Rice High School)

Gerrit Cole is certainly going to be a solid right-handed rotation arm for years to come, and while the rest of the Pirates homegrown arms, Glasnow, Taillon, and Kingham will come in due time, they will also all be right-handed, and there’s a certain predictability about that which makes drafting a left-handed pitcher that much more important.

Tyler Jay, the Illinois southpaw, was originally mocked to the Nationals, but it’s become all but official that Max Scherzer will sign with the team, forcing them to lose their first round pick, which puts Jay back in the draft pool. I put him here for the exact same reasons. You can find them, albeit with strikethrough text, in my previous post.

34. Kansas City Royals

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(First Selection: Riley Ferrell, LHP, TCU)

Note: Keep in mind, this pick isn’t official yet, but in all likelihood, will happen. Whether or not the team who signs James Shields is one of the ten worst teams or one of the 19 other teams who stand to lose a draft pick, is yet to be seen.

One of the major proponents of the build, not buy, philosophy, the Royals finally saw their long term plan come to fruition by becoming the 2014 AL champions Thanks to a nucleus of well-developed talent, Kansas City could be a legitimate dark horse threat in the AL for years. And to continue that sustained success, the Royals should look to develop more parts. Losing Nori Aoki and Billy Butler, both a key hitter and a key runner, is going to be difficult, and the Royals would love to have a guy who can at least try to replicate both.

Gulf Coast High School outfielder Kyle Tucker may not be as fast as Aoki, and he may not be as powerful as Butler, but if developed properly, he could be an adequate replacement for both of them in about four or five years. The brother of Preston Tucker, an Astros farmhand, Tucker is one of the more gifted hitters in his class. Although he’s somewhat lanky, he still is an excellent hitter, his swing is one of the best, if more unorthodox, in prep ball. Tucker is defensively capable, but while he is a centerfielder now, expect him to move to right field when he turns pro, as he has an arm more suited for the corner positions.

35. Detroit Tigers

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(First Selection: Andrew Suarez, LHP, Miami)

We all knew that Max Scherzer was never going to stay in Detroit, and in all likelihood, neither will David Price. A contingency plan had been in place with Jonathan Crawford and Kevin Ziomek, but Crawford left by way of the Alfredo Simon trade. I know it sounds like I’m talking about replacing Scherzer and Price immediately, but I could not be any further from that sentiment. Rather. it may be time to develop another set of arms for Detroit for the future.

I still think the Tigers should opt for Andrew Suarez, but maybe I should flip him and their hypothetical second selection, Stroudsburg right-hander Mike Nikorak. A classic case of value in a northern prep arm, Nikorak has excellent tools, including a fastball which ranges from low to high 90’s.  Well built, Nikorak really brought attention to himself during the showcase season, when scouts gushed on his pure stuff.

Nikorak is an athlete, having played quarterback in high school, but his focus is strictly on baseball now. Development of his secondary pitches is key for him to establish a reputation as a solid starter, and given Detroit’s handling of pitching these days, Nikorak wouldn’t have much to worry about.

36. Los Angeles Dodgers

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(First Selection: Demi Orimoloye, OF, St. Matthew’s School)

It can’t be expressed how important a bullpen is in Major League baseball. There’s a difference between letting a starter sit because the manager is confident that a reliever can keep the momentum, and forcing said starter to pitch longer because the particular relief corps is weak. And while the Dodgers have one of the best rotations in baseball, not to mention some decent relief pitching from Paco Rodriguez and Kenley Jansen, it wouldn’t hurt to add another solid arm to that mix.

Like AJ Reed (who ended up being drafted as a hitter), Alex Meyer and James Paxton before him, Kentucky pitcher Kyle Cody is considered a high talent. Cody has the ideal pitcher’s body at 6’7″ and 245 pounds, and he uses it as an emphasizer for his mid 90’s fastball. Cody has the potential to work his fastball into the triple digits, should he be used exclusively out of the bullpen, but there will be teams who want to try him in the back end of a major league rotation. Should the Dodgers take him, I see him more of a former than a latter.

37. Baltimore Orioles

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(First Selection: Richie Martin, SS, Florida)

Oriole Park at Camden Yards isn’t exactly the most ideal place for a speedster, but that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be one in the Orioles future lineup. While it’s ideal to have a fast slugger in a lineup, sometimes a guy whose primary weapons are his legs may be the perfect solution to adding a degree of dimension to a lineup that’s more power oriented.

Clemson speedster Steven Duggar is considered the fastest collegian, perhaps even the fastest first round prospect this year, depending on if you’re in Kyler Murray’s boat. Duggar’s primary weapon may be speed, but he is fleshed out enough that he can be more than a singles hitter, even if he has shown limited potential on the power front.

Duggar is also a decent defensive player. While situated in a corner spot right now, scouts believe he has the potential to play center field. However, in a park like Camden Yards, perhaps the corner would be the best spot for him.

Duggar would be the perfect future complement to Chris Davis and Adam Jones, and his speed will ad another dimension to the Orioles offense and  will allow them to continue their stronghold of the AL East for years .

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And that is the final part of the 2015 Mock Draft. Stay tuned, as the next one will likely be released in time for MLB.com’s top 100 prospects and team top 20 prospects lists.

The Curious Case of Barret Loux and Hayden Simpson

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The 2010 MLB Draft has the chance to go down as one of the best in recent memory. So far, 12 players from the first and comp rounds have made their major league debuts, four of which were named All-Stars. In addition, it’s likely that many of the high schoolers from this year’s first and comp class, including Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon, Phillies pitcher Jesse Biddle, Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez, and Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard, as well as Angels outfielder Kaleb Cowart, Marlins third baseman Zack Cox, and Angels second baseman Taylor Lindsey may all make their major league debuts this year.

But the one name that sticks out from that class didn’t even sign with his team. And no, he didn’t end up being redrafted, but he did go on a fast track through the minors ending up at AAA last year for the Iowa Cubs. That player is former Texas A&M pitcher Barret Loux.

Two years before Michael Wacha put Texas A&M baseball on the map, Barret Loux was the big name for the Aggies. A big pitcher at 6’5″ and 230 pounds, armed with a fastball, slider, curve, and changeup, Loux put up excellent numbers for the Aggies, including leading the team in strikeouts twice, as well as being a nominee for the Golden Spikes award. He wasn’t as well regarded as his former teammate however, and was envisioned as a late first round pick. However, the Arizona Diamondbacks decided that he was worth the 6th overall draft choice (keep in mind, this was before the hard slot money system was put into place) and picked him ahead of such names as Matt Harvey and Chris Sale.

Arizona did have a deal in place for him, but a failed physical due to a labrum tear derailed it. As a consequence, the Diamondbacks never signed him, and he became a free agent. In November of that year, Loux and the Texas Rangers came to an agreement on a contract. It was Loux’s situation which led to some of the revamping of the draft rules, including mandatory physicals for prospects before the draft, and free agency for those who failed them.

Loux spent two seasons in the Rangers minor league system, playing for A level Myrtle Beach in 2011 and AA Frisco in 2012. In both those seasons, he struck out at least 100 batters, had ERAs under 3.81, and at Frisco, won all but one of his decisions.

However, Loux’s time with Texas came to an end as the Texas Rangers, having made a deal with the Chicago Cubs for Geovany Soto, were forced to give him up when the player originally send in the deal, pitcher Jake Brigham, was found to have an injury history not dissimilar to Loux’s. Loux was traded for Brigham, and started the season at AAA Iowa. While his stats were not as impressive as they were in Texas, he failed to post 100 strikeouts for the first time since his sophomore season at A&M, and he had a sub .500 win-loss record, as well as an ERA over 4, Loux still has managed to somewhat resurrect his prospect status.

While he was not ranked in the top 20 of the Cubs end of 2013 list, the fact that he has managed to jump three levels, without appearing in any of the A sub levels should indicate that he will have a fair shot at making the big league roster.

It may come out that Arizona should have kept him barring the injury concerns, especially if Loux manages to impress this spring and plays as a dark horse rotation candidate. In addition, it could help show that the Cubs didn’t exactly fail in that aspect of the draft.

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In that same draft, the Cubs took a right handed pitcher out of Division II Southern Arkansas University, Hayden Simpson with the 16th overall pick. Simpson who was viewed by many to be a questionable pick from the beginning, struggled in his three years in the Cubs’ system.

Perhaps it was the fact that he never was the same after coming down with a case of Mono, or perhaps it was the hype that was so unjustly heaped upon him, but Simpson, who was known for being an aggressive pitcher, never amounted to what he was pegged to be. He never advanced past High-A Daytona, and as of the end of 2013, was pitching for the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League.

If Barret Loux can prove that he is Major League ready, then in all likelihood, the Cubs will look favorably on the college arms of the 2014 draft class; a commodity that the Cubs are in serious need of. Loux, along with the other major league ready Cubs prospects could help bring Chicago back to dominance.

 

 

The Case of Ben Wetzler vs. the Phillies and the NCAA

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The NCAA is often criticized for its Draconian measures against student athletes who try and prepare for a professional career, as well as its nonstandard punishments for apparent rules violations, see University of Oklahoma’s “Pastagate” as an example of such ludicrousness. But the case of Oregon State pitcher Ben Wetzler, who was turned in by the Philadelphia Phillies for hiring a financial advisor and ultimately electing to return for his senior season at Oregon State University, this has to be one of the most absurd, if not the most absurd case of the NCAA going on its “As you go” rules policy.

For those who are uninformed, Wetzler was a 5th round draft choice of the Phillies. Had he signed with them, he would have earned a $400,000 signing bonus. Obviously, Wetzler felt that he wasn’t ready, and wanted to be sure he was making the right choice, so he hired a financial advisor. When it became apparent that it would be better if he stayed in school, he did. In a plot that draws loose similarities to the 2006 Academy Award winning foreign film Das Leben Der Anderen, the Phillies, likely upset at having been jilted by the young starter, reported that Wetzler had hired an agent for the negotiations. The NCAA came down on this, and suspended Wetzler “indefinitely”. Incidentally, Wetzler wasn’t the only player that the Phillies tried to blackball, as Washington State outfielder and first baseman Jason Monda  was also reported, yet was cleared by the Cougars and the NCAA to play this year.

What’s even more remarkable is that this is the first time that this has happened. Never before has a player been reported by a major league team. Granted, a player has been suspended and his eligibility has been revoked before, see Aaron Crow, Luke Hochevar, and James Paxton, but the teams that drafted them, the Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Toronto Blue Jays never did report them.

This is undoubtedly low on Philadelphia’s part. A player should not be stabbed behind the back like that just because they chose to return to school, money or otherwise. It unfairly disqualifies a player, and ruins a team’s reputation. Agents who represent collegiate talent are now likely going to advise their clients to avoid signing with Philadelphia because of this. Similarly, the NCAA should be ashamed. There have been far worse examples of the same thing happening. Mark Appel for instance.

Appel, who had been chosen by the Pirates with the 8th overall pick out of Stanford, elected to return to school under the advice of Scott Boras, who wanted first overall pick money for his client. Incidentally, Appel also wanted to return because he wasn’t a first overall pick. A year later, Appel, who wasn’t suspended by the NCAA because the Pirates didn’t rat him out despite his being a more blatant transgression of the rules, was drafted first overall by the Astros. It amazes me that something this blatant wasn’t addressed, yet a fifth round pick deciding to return to school was. It’s hypocritical.

It’s likely that the Phillies will have a very severely damaged reputation now that Wetzler has decided to hire an attorney. This attorney is the same attorney that dealt with Houston based college football booster Willie Lyles. in the case of Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk. The fallout likely could mean that the Phillies would be banned from drafting Oregon State, or by extension, Pac-12 baseball players. This would be a big loss, especially considering one of Philadelphia’s alleged biggest targets could be Oregon State star Michael Conforto.

It wouldn’t be the first time that a team was banned from recruiting certain players. The Baltimore Orioles cannot attend Korea Baseball Association* sponsored baseball camps in South Korea after signing then-high-school pitcher Kim-Seong Min before he graduated.

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*Recently signed Orioles pitcher Suk-Min Yoon is a product of the Korea Baseball Organization, which governs the professional leagues in South Korea. The Orioles are allowed to attend KBO games and sign KBO players.

Could Wetzler have a legitimate case against the NCAA and the Phillies by extension? It’s possible. This is the first time that such an incident has happened, and usually the ruling in the first case will set a precent. If the Appel case can be cited, it is likely that Wetzler could have his suspension overturned, thus allowing him the opportunity to pitch his senior season.  For now, we will wait and see what happens.

 

Was Ubaldo Jimenez worth forfeiting the 17th overall pick?

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Ubaldo Jimenez became the next player with draft compensation to leave free agent purgatory, signing a multiyear deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Jimenez, who rejected a qualifying offer from his old team, the Cleveland Indians, cost the Orioles not only the money, but also the 17th overall pick in the draft.

Ever since the new free agent draft compensation rules have come into effect last year, it seems as if teams are intentionally lowballing these players so that they can get the draft pick. We saw how bad it was last year with Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse, who waited until the middle of Spring Training to sign with teams. And ultimately, those teams forfeited draft picks.

Bourn went from Atlanta to Cleveland, who used the pick that they obtained in the deal to draft Oklahoma State starter Jason Hursh, Cleveland, however, didn’t lose their first round pick, as they had a top ten draft pick. Incidentally, the Bourn case drew a lot of controversy, as the New York Mets who had the 11th pick, which wasn’t protected, wanted to sign him, but felt that they would be unfairly losing a draft pick because the Pittsburgh Pirates had gotten a top ten pick for allowing Mark Appel to return to Stanford for his senior season, pushing the Mets one spot out of the top ten. Cleveland ended up signing Bourn, but instead of losing a first rounder to the Braves, they lost a second rounder.

Lohse was signed by the Brewers, who forfeited their first round draft choice. The Cardinals used that pick to select Rob Kaminsky, a New Jersey prep pitcher.

Going back to Jimenez and the free agents that remain, the common theme for these remaining free agents is the draft pick. Ervin Santana, Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, and Kendrys Morales haven’t gotten offers because teams are afraid to lose a pick for them. It’s essentially a simpler form of restricted free agency.

There is no doubt that these players do deserve deals. Santana resurrected his career in Kansas City, Cruz, pre-Biogenesis was viewed as a deadly middle-of-the-order bat. Drew could hit and adequately defend, and helped Boston win a championship, and Morales resurrected his career in Seattle after a couple years of injury trouble in Anaheim.

But herein lies the problem, it’s not just the draft pick, it’s the money and the risky investment too.

Santana is demanding ace money after reestablishing himself in KANSAS CITY. Kansas City is in no way a place to brag about reestablishing yourself, even if the Royals did manage to get out of the cellar thanks in part to a bizarro season by the White Sox and another really bad season by the Twins.

The problem with Cruz is that nobody knows if he’ll be as good after being caught in the Biogenesis probe. Maybe he’ll be another Ryan Braun, maybe he becomes Melky Cabrera. Either way, it’s a big risk for a PED user.

The problem with Drew is that 2013 could have been a fluke year for him. Drew was protected by a lineup that seemed to envelop his deficiencies, couple that with the fact that he’s getting into the “wrong side of 30” territory. While this is okay for maybe an outfielder or a first baseman, a “wrong side of 30” middle infielder is a bit of a problem, especially on the defensive side of things.

And of course, there’s Morales. While he did have a respectable offensive season, there are still concerns about his health and defensive ability. People are more inclined to take a look at him as a designated hitter than as a first baseman. Had Morales not gotten hurt, in all likelihood, he would be one of the first players off the board instead of the last.

But going back to Ubaldo. Was the deal worth it?

Jimenez is certainly long removed from his days of dominance in Denver. In Cleveland, he really was just a mid rotation starter, nothing special, basically the baseball equivalent of a one hit wonder. Baltimore however knew that in order to compete in the AL East again, which once again was strengthened by yet another Yankee spending spree, as well as the continuing growth of the other four teams in the division, they needed to add pitching. Getting Jimenez meant the forfeiture of a draft pick, but they went through with it anyway.

Was it worth it though?

From a money perspective, no. Jimenez was not worth that type of money or amount of years. From the pick perspective, certainly.

17th overall picks in the MLB Draft haven’t traditionally fared well. To provide an example of how they fared in the past ten years:

2013-2010: Tim Anderson, White Sox, DJ Davis, Blue Jays, CJ Cron, Angels, and Josh Sale, Rays. While Anderson and Davis are a long way from determining if they’re good or not, Cron may or may not need another year in the minors, and Sale has been nothing short of a bust.

2009: AJ Pollock of the Diamondbacks has managed to put himself in the Arizona lineup. A leadoff hitter, Pollock may stand as the best bet to break the bad 17th overall pick

2008: David Cooper, who was projected to be the next big slugging first baseman/DH, was a major disappointment in Toronto. Basically a AAAA player, he recently signed a deal with the Indians.

2007: Blake Beaven is another one of those forgettable rotation pieces. His biggest claim to fame was being included in the Cliff Lee deal which sent the former ace to the Texas Rangers for their 2011 World Series run.

2006: Matt Antonelli was supposed to be one of the big middle infield talents for the Padres, almost what Stephen Drew would have been had he not been injured. However failure to be consistent coupled with lack of opportunity led his only major league experience to be a September call up. Afterwards, he bounced around other teams’ minor league systems, but failed to latch on and retired last summer.

2005: CJ Henry was the first of Derek Jeter’s potential successors, but he just couldn’t hit. He was packaged in a deal for the late Cory Lidle and Bobby Abreu for the Yankees’ 2006 postseason run, but failed further to establish himself in Philadelphia. He quit baseball and played basketball for the University of Kansas with his more famous brother, Xavier, who now plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. Henry’s back to playing baseball now, albeit it’s independent ball in Evansville, Illinois.

2004: Scott Elbert was drafted by the Dodgers as a pitcher. Injuries derailed his effectiveness and turned him into a two pitch reliever. While he’s not the best reliever on the Dodgers, he is an okay option out of the bullpen.

So in a sense it probably was a somewhat good idea. Losing the pick means that another team, the Royals, will be saddled with the bad pick, while the Orioles will maybe get immediate contribution from Jimenez.

2014 MLB Mock Draft: Spring Training Edition (Part 3 of 3)

And now for the final part of MinorLeagueMadhouse’s 2014 mock draft.

21. Rays: Dylan Cease, LHP, Milton High School, Georgia

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

Draft Grades: NL Central

After taking a two post break from draft grading, it’s time to grade the next division in terms of the draft picks. Remember, the top pick will be highlighted, along with four other intriguing prospects. Let’s get going.

Chicago Cubs: 

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First Pick: Kris Bryant, 3B, San Diego (2)

Other Notable Picks:

Rob Zastryzny, Pitcher, Missouri (41)

Jacob Hennemann, OF, Brigham Young (75)

Tyler Skulina, Pitcher, Kent State (108)

Jeremy Martinez, Catcher, Mater Dei High School, California (1098)

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Chicago surprised a lot of people when they bypassed possibly the best college pitcher in an age in favor of the top hitter, Kris Bryant. Bryant, who led several NCAA hitting categories, helped transform the Toreros from an also-known, to a powerhouse. Bryant profiles as a corner infielder, and given the hitters that the Cubs have taken recently, like Javier Baez and Albert Almora, we could be seeing a bright future for the Cubs, at least offensively.

The Cubs nabbed two potential rotation pieces in Rob Zastryzny and Tyler SkulinaZastryzny is the latest in a long line of Missouri pitchers who have starting potential, while Skulina, who was instrumental in bringing Kent State to the College World Series, has ace or at least second starter potential. Skulina is actually the second Kent State ace to be drafted in three years, following the example of Andrew Chafin, who was chosen by Arizona in the 2011 draft.

You’ve heard of draft eligible sophomores? Say hello to one of the rare draft eligible freshmen. Jacob Hennemann is a Brigham Young outfielder who spent two years on a LDS mission. Henneman is an athlete, having also played on the Cougar football team. He’ll be an interesting project prospect if he signs, and could find himself as a solid fourth outfielder at the very least.

Jeremy Martinez  was an original first round (Or Competitive Balance) pick for me, but he dropped all the way to Day 3. Nonetheless, Martinez, who models his game after Albert Pujols, may be a tough sign, as he has a strong commitment to USC. If he is somehow convinced, Martinez could become one of the better hitting catchers that baseball has to offer, but if he commits, expect him to be a first rounder by 2016.

Chicago’s draft was interesting in the fact that not only did they grab the best college bat, but they picked up some solid pitching help. If the Cubs are planning on building from the ground, up, their past three drafts have shown that there is potential for this team to break the Curse.

Grade: A

Cincinnati Reds

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First Pick: Phillip Ervin, OF, Samford (27)

Other Notable Picks

Michael Lorenzen, OF/P, Cal State Fullerton (38)

Mark Armstrong, Pitcher, Clarence High School, New York (104)

Cory Thompson, SS/P, Mauldin High School, South Carolina (165)

Willie Abreu, OF, Mater Academy, Florida (435)

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Cincinnati must be planning on going back to playing old-school baseball, because Phil Ervin’s greatest asset, like top prospect Billy Hamilton, is his speed. Ervin profiles as a corner guy, but is a legitimate base stealing threat, and a potential complement to Hamilton in a still potent Reds lineup. The only question mark with Ervin is his size, as he’s smaller than the average outfielder.

Though he was announced as a pitcher, Cal State Fullerton’s Michael Lorenzen is more of an outfielder. He has the speed and the range to play center field, and has drawn comparisons to one Ryan Braun. Lorenzen can pitch, but as a reliever, as he served as the closer for the Titans. With Aroldis Chapman staying as the closer and Jonathan Broxton setting him up, it’s highly likely that Lorenzen will be joining Ervin and Hamilton in the outfield.

Stigmas in the MLB draft are common, in fact, one of the bigger ones is against baseball players from the Northeast. Cincy must have deliberately chosen to buck that trend, as their choice of Buffalo prep pitcher Mark Armstrong  hints at a potential bright spot. Thompson, who is an impressive athlete, has a basic array of pitches which he crafts to his advantage. Playing in the frigid Buffalo Climate may also give him an advantage especially in the earlier months.

Cory Thompson draws comparisons to Casey Kelly and 2013 draftee Trey Ball because of the unique situation that he’s in. He has no set position, yet he is equally strong as a pitcher and a shortstop. Given the Reds depth at the middle infield, Thompson may have his choice cut out for him as a pitcher.

One of the late round prospects that intrigues me the most is Mater Academy outfielder Willie Abreu. A former teammate of 2012 first round pick Albert Almora, Abreu has Almora’s power hitting capability. Abreu may be one of those late round gems who defies the odds and makes the majors, but if he does, considering the state of the Reds’ outfield, now and in the future, he may have to star on another team.

Overall, Cincinnati upgraded areas that they didn’t really need to upgrade, but the people they chose certainly have big name potential. It will be interesting to see how the team handles Lorenzen, and it will also be interesting to see how they adjust their lineup with two speedsters coming in the future.

Grade: B-

Milwaukee Brewers: 

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First Pick: Devin Williams: Pitcher, Hazelwood West High School, Missouri (54)

Other Notable Picks:

Tucker Neuhaus, Shortstop, Wharton High School, Florida (72)

Taylor Williams, Pitcher, Kent State (122)

Josh Uhen, Pitcher, Wisconsin-Milwaukee (152)

David Denson. 1B, South Hills High School, California (452)

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The Brewers used their first pick on prep pitcher Devin WilliamsWilliams, a pitcher from Hazelwood West High School, Williams used his upside to merit being taken in the second round, and outside of good speed on a fastball, he is a developmental pitcher at best right now. Williams has a toolbox, but the tools in it need fine tuning if he wants to be a potential Brewers starter. Expect him to be in the minors a good long time before he is ready.

Tucker Neuhaus had a rough year, with a burst eardrum, and a death in the family, but apparently that didn’t pull him down too far, as he managed to get plenty of attention. Neuhaus is a toolsy hitter with a good amount of contact and power. Though he is a shortstop now, expect him to move to third as he should fit better at that position. Neuhaus could be another well-developed starter who could impress a good amount of people.

The Brewers managed to get a good handful of high ceiling college relievers in the early portion of the draft, but none stand out like Kent State’s Taylor Williams and Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Josh Uhen. Williams, who like Tyler Skulina pitched for the 2012 College World Series team, may not be cut out to be a starter considering the fact that he’s less than six feet. Williams has a delivery that could serve him well coming out of a bullpen. Uhen, on the other hand, came off of Tommy John surgery and showed no signs of adaptational struggling. Uhen can throw in the high 90’s, and could be a future closer for the Brewers if he impresses in the minors.

Prince Fielder may be long gone, but the Brewers may just have the cheap(er) replacement they need for him a fear years down the road. David Denson has the power to be a cleanup hitter, after all, he did hit a 500 foot home run in Miami in a power showcase, so one can possibly guess that Denson may find himself at the heart of any lineup in the future. I say that it may be cheaper to sign Denson, but he may still require a decent sum of money for him to avoid going to the University of Hawaii.

Normally, if a team does not have a first round pick, you can’t find a lot of good reasons to praise their draft, but the Brewers did manage to pull together a string of decent picks. Nonetheless, losing your first round pick to sign Kyle Lohse is inexcusable, and drops the Brewers a few points.

Grade: C+

Pittsburgh Pirates:

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First Picks: Austin Meadows, OF, Grayson High School, Georgia, and Reese McGuire, Catcher, Kentwood High School (9, 13)

Other Notable Picks:

Blake Taylor, Pitcher, Dana Hills High School, California (51)

JaCoby Jones, OF, LSU (87)

Buddy Borden, Pitcher, UNLV (209)

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The Pirates are no stranger to picking big names in the draft. While history has shown that they favor collegians, the occasional big name high schooler can be too important to pass up, and in this case, the Pirates snatched two of the biggest names. Austin Meadows was considered the first of the two big Georgia prep stars, along with close friend Clint Frazier. He’s a high ceiling outfielder with raw country power, and he is a rare high school 5 tool guy. Meadows may be one of the best prep outfielders in any draft class, and in such a weak draft like this one, it wouldn’t be impossible for him to be considered the best bat this draft. As for Reese McGuire, he came from what was considered a deep catching class which included the likes of Nick Ciuffo, Victor Caratini, and Andrew Knapp. McGuire gained a lot of national exposure playing for Team USA’s U18 squad. McGuire has decent hitting ability, but it his defense that had scouts crooning for him. McGuire is a special catcher who could be the long term answer a few years down the road.

The Pirates didn’t waste time in getting a solid prep arm in the second round. Blake Taylor, a California lefty, had generated some interest. Armed with a low 90’s fastball that can hit a mid 90’s tick at times, as well as a basic curve, Taylor could be a good developmental prospect. The only knock on him is the fact that his tertiary pitch, a change up, has barely been used and is underdeveloped. Taylor will be a developmental prospect, who, in all likelihood, could find himself at the back end of the Pirates rotation by 2018.

In a draft class that was generally weak in terms of middle infield talent, the Pirates may have pulled off a steal in taking LSU’s JaCoby Jones. Jones, who also is an outfielder, is a jack-of-all-trades type player. He flashes some speed a certain degree of hitting ability, and has no real position. In some ways, he could be considered another Jack Wilson, a lunch pail infielder who held the fort down at Pittsburgh for many years. Jones could find himself doing this if a position, any position at all, opens up.

Arizona Diamondbacks first rounder Braden Shipley may have gotten all the attention this collegiate season, but thanks to an equally impressive performance by rival Buddy Borden, he had to share the Mountain West Pitcher of the Year award. Borden may have not gotten the same degree of recognition, but the fact that he played his home games in Las Vegas, which is a deathbed for pitchers, shows that he could have some flashes of greatness. He has a low to mid 90’s fastball, as well as solid curveball-changeup combo. Borden may be the first Pirates draftee from the 2013 class to make the majors, and if he does, he’ll be a solid long reliever/spot starter.

I liked what the Pirates did in the first half of the draft. They took high profile names, and drafted solid filler talent. This could be one of Pittsburgh’s better drafts, and Neal Huntington clearly deserves a round of applause.

Grade: A

St. Louis Cardinals:

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First Picks: Marco Gonzales, Pitcher, Gonzaga, and Rob Kaminsky, Pitcher, St, Joseph Regional High School, New Jersey (19, 28)

Other Notable Picks:

Oscar Mercado, Shortstop, Vivian Gaither High School, Florida (57)

Mason Katz, 2B, LSU (125)

Chris Rivera, Shortstop, El Dorado High School, California (215)

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The Cardinals continued their draft strategy of taking college pitchers, only this time, they went with southpaws. Gonzaga’s Marco Gonzales is a nasty lefthander from a mid major conference. Armed with a four pitch repertoire, as well as a solid bat, Gonzales has the ability to pitch deep into games, and if the game is going tough, win them by himself. As for Rob Kaminsky, he certainly can pitch, as his stuff is well developed for high school, and his command is there, but it’s durability that serves as the big question mark. If Kaminsky can develop the ability to stay late into games, the Cardinals might have another Shelby Miller-type prep star on their hands.

The Cardinals concluded their notable picks with three middle infielders: Oscar Mercado, who has almost no hitting ability but can play shortstop like Omar Vizquel in his prime, Mason Katz, who can hit, but has been moved around the diamond a lot, and really has no true position, and Chris Rivera, who garnered national attention as a tween baseball player, and is known best for his power. Given that the Cardinals middle infield is set for the duration, if anyone were to really make a difference in fighting for a Cardinals roster spot, it probably would be Mercado, who some thought was a first round talent. Katz probably is your typical utility bench bat, someone who can score late in the game, and if Rivera is going anywhere, it’s probably college, so that he can improve his draft stock three years down the line.

I liked the Cardinals picks in the first round, and the middle infielders that they chose had been whispered, but all in all, it really wasn’t one of the best drafts for the team. Gonzales will likely be one of the earliest first rounders to reach the majors, but other than that, this class has a long way to go before it can be considered a true success or failure.

Grade: C

Next up, the NL West.

2013 MLB Draft: Looking at the top returning picks

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Prospects2Pros has made it very clear that one of the highlights of this blog will be the MLB draft. But with the draft a couple months away, and with college baseball heading into the midpoint of the season, I have decided to take the first of many looks at the draft. To start, I will focus on three players who were already drafted in the first round, but elected to stay in school. 

Today, I began by following a bunch of prospects and draft experts on twitter, among them, former 2nd overall pick Jameson Taillon, and the official MLB draft twitter feed, as well as MLB.com prospect writer Jonathan Mayo, whose rankings serve as the basis of my top 100 prospect mini-profiles. Mayo had sent out a tweet saying that he would be answering questions about the draft, so being the nut that I am, I felt compelled to ask the following question:

Mayo responded rather quickly with this:

Now, unless you are a draft nut like I am, you will have no idea who those two players are, so I will provide some exposition. 

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Karsten Whitson and Dylan Covey are two former first round picks. Whitson was a highly touted arm out of high school, who was taken with the ninth overall pick in the 2010 draft by the San Diego Padres, while Covey also was a highly touted arm who was taken by the Milwaukee Brewers who was drafted in the same year. 

Whitson elected to go to the University of Florida, where he spent the next two years contributing to the continued success of the program, while also contributing to the team’s 2011 College World Series Final appearance, the first one to be held in TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, which had replaced the old Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium. Whitson unfortunately missed the entire 2013 season with shoulder surgery, and, as Mayo stated, is unlikely to be another first round pick. 

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Covey, on the other hand, decided to go to college because of a recent diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. He then spent the next three years pitching for the University of San Diego Toreros, the same school that former first rounder Brian Matusz attended. As Mayo said, it is uncertain if Covey will be a first round pick. 

Covey and Whitson would cross paths once again, this time pitching in the Cape Cod League for the Orleans Firebirds in 2012, and they would contribute to the team that made the semifinals of the Cape Cod League playoffs. 

The other player who is a former first round draft choice is Stanford ace Mark Appel. Appel famously turned down a lucrative offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates under the advice of his agent, Scott Boras. He is projected to be the first overall pick in the 2013 draft. You may also recall that Appel’s actions caused the Mets to lose out of Michael Bourn, allowing him to sign with the Cleveland Indians 

My general feelings about these three players are that Appel will be taken with the first pick in the draft, and Covey may go as high as the sandwich round, while Whitson decides to wait another year and attempt to challenge NC State pitcher Carlos Rodon and Vanderbilt ace Tyler Beede for the top pick in the draft. We will see how things go until then.