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.
Welcome to season 2 of Prospects2Pros. Things are a little different from last year, for one, the blog now has it’s own twitter feed. Secondly, the blog will be monetizing, I apologize in advance, but it’s time to get some extra cash. Third, there will likely be more radio podcasts than there were last year, hopefully I will be getting into contact with some prospects and getting interviews lined up, if any of you readers know anyone who would be interested in going for 15 minutes for an interview, please, let me know.
And now we officially get down to business.
Masahiro Tanaka has been the biggest story this offseason. The Japanese ace for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, who was noticed despite a poor 2013 World Baseball Classic, had a tremendous 2013 season, going undefeated with a 24-0 record and a sub 1.00 ERA. Tanaka was rewarded with the Eiji Sawamura award, given to the top pitcher in Japan, as well as the Pacific League MVP, and the Japanese Sport Grand Prize. Tanaka had expressed interest in playing Major League baseball after the season.
What followed has been considered a major dragging of feet. For two and a half months, the Rakuten Eagles were debating whether or not to post Tanaka, while MLB officials were concerned about the posting system; for those who are unaware, the posting system allows international clubs to gain compensation for the loss of their star players, should they choose to leave their team legally. (In the case of Cuban baseball players like Jose Dariel Abreu, Yasiel Puig, and Yoenis Cespedes,) they are defectors, and clubs do not have to pay the players’ former club any money. This whole back-and-forth carried through the Winter Meetings in Orlando, when the president of the Eagles visited in order to gauge interest in Tanaka, as well as work on posting system negotiations. Eventually, it was agreed that the maximum posting fee would be $20 million, a great decrease from the amount of money that the Texas Rangers paid in order to be allowed to negotiate with Yu Darvish, Obviously the Eagles president was not happy, and even threatened not to post Tanaka, going so far as to offer him a record extension. however, this was averted when the Eagles relented and posted the ace on Christmas Day.
Tanaka may be available now, but it appears that there are other roadblocks preventing the ace from signing. One of the big ones involved the Eagles coercing Tanaka to donate some of his contract to the team in order to finance stadium improvements, (The Eagles Stadium was heavily damaged in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.) which included the construction of a dome. MLB has put the kibosh on that, but needs to make the agreement with the Eagles in writing in order to make sure that they do not get anything else but the posting money. Since then, Tanaka has been without a club, and while there are rumors that teams are “interested”, no formal bids have come out.
Given what has happened since the new posting system came about, I wouldn’t be surprised if teams are now going to be more hesitant to offer up their star pitchers. When Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish were posted, it was the highest bidder, in the case, the Red Sox ($51 Million), and the Rangers, ($52 Million) who bought their players and doubled, or even tripled their team’s payroll. Given the season that Tanaka had just come off of, I’m not surprised that the Eagles would be hesitant to just let him go for $20 million. That’s like paying for an expensive imported car through a penny auction site. Clearly the Eagles feel that their ace pitcher was worth a lot more. And when they lost that leverage with the agreed fee, they were faced with a lose-lose situation. Even if they paid Tanaka the record deal, they risked making him unhappy, and if the posted him, they knew that they were getting less than they thought he was worth. Even when they tried the loophole, you knew they were desperate. The Eagles, while a relatively new team, are one of the weaker teams in the Pacific league, and having to face the Seibu Lions without their star player and without the money they feel they need for his services is going to hurt them for a while.
This leads me to the focal point of this piece: Could this lead to the end of teams posting their stars? Could we lose out on players like Shohei Otani, Yosuke Nomura, Yasuhiro Ogawa, Naoya Masuda, and Takahiro Norimoto, all because clubs feel like their being cheated by our system?
While we can’t be sure, since we don’t know which Japanese star will be making the jump across the pond next, it will be interesting to see how this saga plays out. First of all, in order to get a general idea of what may or may not happen, Tanaka has to sign. We know that the interested teams are certainly willing to pay big money for a guy who won 24 games and had a sub 1.00 ERA, it’s just the matter of who wants him badly enough so that they have to pay him the money he wants. You also have to factor in the success of Tanaka in the States. We have seen Japanese players succeed in the US (Hideo Nomo, Yu Darvish, Ichiro, Hiroki Kuroda) and fail (Matsuzaka, Kei Igawa, Tsuyoshi Shinjo) I think that Tanaka’s career trajectory will define the future for Japanese-American baseball relations. If Tanaka succeeds, we could see Otani and other young Japanese phenoms play for our teams, but if he fails, it could be us who send our AAAA players and over-the-hill guys over to Japan where they benefit from the decrease in competition (Wlademir Blalentin anyone?)
So keep an eye on the Tanaka situation, and hope that he succeeds in the States. This could be crucial for Japanese and American baseball alike.
All-Star voting ends in six days, and with the National League starting lineup still unclear, there’s been plenty of jostling. The San Francisco monopoly was broken when Yadier Molina overtook Buster Posey and David Wright passed Pablo Sandoval to lead their respective positions. Meanwhile, the outfield, as of right now, looks to consist of Carlos Beltran, Justin Upton, and Bryce Harper, although Harper is injured right now, and may pull out so that he can return to the Nationals fully healthy. This leads me to the focus of this article.
Yasiel Puig has taken Major League Baseball by storm so far, hitting .435 with 7 home runs and 14 RBI. He’s become ESPN’s latest media darling, and many have campaigned that he should be on the All-star team, whether as a starter or as a reserve.
I’m not one of those people.
Puig, while great, does not deserve the honor of being on the roster. I point this out because his stats are over the course of one month, and the last time I checked, one month of play does not give you an All-star nod, unless you’re in a short season league.
Puig may look like he’s been in the majors longer, as his stats compare to someone who has been in the majors for maybe three months, but he should not be put on the ballot until he has the necessary time under his belt.
What encompasses the necessary time? I believe that at least two months is an acceptable amount of time for a major league baseball player to be eligible for an All-Star nod. I would say three months, but Bryce Harper completely redefined the service time when he made the majors at the beginning of last May, culminating in his first, in what will likely be a number of All-star selections. Harper did end up showing that he belonged in the majors after more than one month, and ended up winning the NL Rookie of the Year.
This isn’t to say that Puig will not reach the level that Harper has, but again. I point out that there are plenty of great outfielders in the National League Behind Beltran, Harper and Upton, there’s Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies, Ryan Braun of the Brewers, Matt Holliday of the Cardinals, and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, and if that’s not enough, there’s also Domonic Brown, who would be picked for a spot if I were the manager of the NL All-stars, and Jay Bruce and Shin-Soo Choo, if that’s not enough.
That’s not to be said that Puig should be completely blocked from the All-star team, When the rosters are announced, there will be one last spot to fill, which is done by the Final Vote. If Puig is voted in this way, or selected as an injury replacement, then I will have no qualms about him playing in the All-star game.