With Baseball America releasing their top 200 player list earlier today, it’s time to finally release the second — and final mock draft of the year, especially with two weeks to go before the draft. This mock will just look at the first round and compensatory selections, no competitive balance picks, no second round. Although the general strategy is to go with best player available, let’s assume that the best player available is also a team’s top need. So without further delay, here is the 2014 MLB mock draft.
1. Houston: Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State
(Original selection: Rodon)
Houston lacks a dominant top ten left-handed pitching prospect in their system, and in the prospect rankings, there are three top arms. However, two of the three, Brady Aiken and Kyle Freeland, are untested against power competition, and generally untested arms are riskier investments than proven college arms. Even though Rodon has struggled this season, I doubt that the Astros, unless they were looking at another prospect all along, are going to deviate from an already-established plan. Despite Jonathan Gray’s rising stock last year, the team opted to go for the consensus top prospect at the beginning of the year, Mark Appel. Rodon has more experience and polish than Freeland and Aiken, and he will undoubtedly fit in what is already seen as a deadly future rotation.
2. Miami: Alex Jackson, C, Rancho Bernardo HS, California
(Original selection: Tyler Kolek)
Alex Jackson may be one of the more power hitters in this class, and the Marlins may be one of those teams who could find themselves in need a high level catcher in the future. Kyle Skipworth, the team’s first round pick in 2008, has just started as a major leaguer, but all signs point to him being a bust. Jackson’s arm and bat will ensure him a shot at a position which requires more athleticism, so if he decides that catching isn’t in the future, then he does have some projectability as an corner infielder or outfielder.
3. Chicago White Sox: Brady Aiken, LHP Cathedral Catholic HS, California
(Original selection: Alex Jackson)
Brady Aiken was a top 5 pick in my initial draft, and if it weren’t for the stigma that is attached to high school arms, he’s probably hit the top spot, but top three isn’t bad, especially for a team lacking a dynamic pitching prospect like Chicago. Really, it could go either way between him and Tyler Kolek, but Aiken does have the benefit of having actually played the previous season while Kolek was hurt. Having Aiken and possibly Sale in the same rotation will be a boon for the Southsiders.
4. Chicago Cubs: Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville
(Original selection: Jeff Hoffman)
The Cubs have spent that last few drafts upgrading their position players, so now must be the time for a pitching upgrade. Like their crosstown rivals, they are especially deficient when it comes to left-handed pitching. Kyle Freeland’s stock has done nothing but rise this year, and it is a theoretical possibility he could be a top five pick given how the picks may fall. The only knock on him is his propensity to try too hard when he pitches, which could lead to arm injuries, but tweaking his delivery shouldn’t be that much of a problem.
5. Minnesota: Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS, Florida
(Original selection: Brady Aiken)
Even though the Twins would benefit from grabbing another outfield prospect to take some load off of Byron Buxton, the general consensus among Twins fans is that they need a shortstop given the failure at the position and from their last shortstop draft pick, Levi Michael, and the best outfield prospect available is a reach at 10. I talked about Gordon a lot in my previous mock draft and my Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop article, and since then, he’s risen from the #3 shortstop in the class of 2014 to the #1. Gordon’s best assets are his legs and his arm, and if he can improve his hitting, he’ll definitely be a better shortstop than his brother Dee.
6. Seattle: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd HS, Texas
(Original selection: Trea Turner)
Here’s the first really big fall of the draft, as Tyler Kolek, who was viewed by many at the beginning of the season as the top high school prospect, could potentially fall to here. Seattle could add him to their growing list of arms, especially if Taijuan Walker or another high level pitching prospect ends up leaving in a trade. Kolek’s fastball is explosive and he has healed fully from his injury, which means that he should be ready for the transition to pro baseball.
7. Philadelphia: Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco
(Original selection: Michael Gettys)
Philadelphia may be one of the few teams that is in a bad situation here, as the fallout from Wetzler-gate has destroyed trust between the team and some major college programs. Still, the Phillies need to develop a true outfielder, and unfortunately the best prep outfielder in the top 100 is at best a top 30 pick. Bradley Zimmer may be a bit of a reach, but he’s still got top ten talent, and would certainly be a solid addition to the Philadelphia outfield. His arm is solid, and he will make it as a low order slap hitter. Part of the reason why he’s so attractive is his pedigree, his brother Kyle was the fifth overall pick in 2012 by Kansas City.
8. Colorado: Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU
(Original selection: Jacob Gatewood)
If there was ever a prospect I would happy to be wrong about, it’s Aaron Nola. Initially, I said that Nola’s dependence on finesse instead of strength was going to affect his stock, potentially triggering a fall to a team like the Indians, but given Nola’s dominant spring, it’s safe to say barring any surprises or Scott Boras-type contract demands, Nola has cemented his position as a top ten arm. Given also the fact that he pitches in the same conference as college baseball’s third best big name arm in Tyler Beede, he’s really accelerated his stock even further, and Colorado could use another big name college arm to draw crowds.
9. Toronto: Trea Turner, SS NC State
(Original selection: Tyler Beede)
While it may seem odd drafting a college shortstop while there’s a particularly good one playing in the majors, Toronto could afford to upgrade by going for a younger model, especially with Jose Reyes about to turn 31. Turner has Reyes’ speed and glove, but needs to develop his hitting if he wants to be a top of the lineup threat. Having him and top prospect DJ Davis in a future lineup together just screams terror on the base paths, and would usher in an era of inside baseball which would allow Toronto to compete with the other AL East clubs.
10. New York Mets: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
(Original selection: Touki Toussaint)
Sandy Alderson prides himself on getting at least one good pitching prospect in the team’s farm system, as evidenced by Matt Harvey (2011-12), Zack Wheeler (2012-13) and Noah Syndergaard (2013-14). With Syndergaard likely coming up next month, and Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom already making their impressions, Alderson is in serious need of a new pitcher to develop. Beede, who I honestly think is better than Rodon, if not also Nola, does have the ability to be a number two starter in a major league rotation like the Mets. He will need to fine tune his command, but otherwise, he could be the next big arm that Met fans get excited about.
11. Toronto: Kyle Schwarber, C, Indiana
(Original Selection: Schwarber)
Like the NFL and running backs, in baseball, it’s always a good idea to keep at least two solid catchers on a team. Catchers are not the most durable players in baseball, and in all likelihood, one will presumably move to an infield position that doesn’t require constant stress on the knees. Schwarber is a big man at 230 pounds, and his presence behind the dish will certainly prevent plenty of runs. He’s a solid hitter as well who projects to be a mid to low level part of a major league lineup. Having him and AJ Jimenez behind the plate will be quite the boon for the Blue Jays, who would greatly benefit from their presence.
By Steven Inman
Most naysayers believe the Mets are making a mistake by trying to build their franchise back up with young pitching. They refer to Generation K, a trio of young pitchers who never made it in New York. Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson all came up through the Mets system as top prospects with blazing fastballs. Although it sounds very similar to the trio of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard it doesn’t appear that history is due to repeat itself.
Isringhausen was the only pitcher of the trio to make it in the big leagues, and he did it for the most part as a closer in Oakland and St. Louis. Harvey and Wheeler have already had more success in their young careers than the trio from the 90’s did with the Mets.
The difference that I see between the three pitchers of 2014 and Generation K is Harvey, Wheeler and Syndergaard all seem to throw much more free and easy than most young pitchers. Harvey and Syndergaard seem to throw 97mph without putting much stress on their arms. Wheeler when his mechanics are right, has the easiest delivery of the three.
Also in the past 20 years due to video, scouting has gotten much more accurate. A much higher percent of top prospects are making it to the big leagues and establishing themselves as the cream of the crop in Major League Baseball. When Generation K came out, for the most part scouts really didn’t have the technology to look at a kid’s delivery and say “he’s not going to hold up for 200 innings” Now we do and those kids are quickly switched to the bullpen for the most part.
Also 20 years ago guys were throwing 130-135 pitches in the minor leagues regularly. In 2014 pretty much every pitching prospect is on some kind of pitch limit per game, and innings limit for a season.
Teams have learned from the Generation K’s of the world and have put some work in to protect their young pitchers to give themselves a better chance of holding up long-term.
Two of the three pitchers from Generation K blowing out their arms within the span of a year is just unlikely and not likely to happen again this time. Harvey undergoing Tommy John surgery is a pretty simple process and he should come back just as good as before as long as he doesn’t rush his rehab.
Wheeler and Harvey already look like the real deal and Mets coaches in spring training can’t stop raving about Noah Syndergaard. Mets fans, fear not Sandy Alderson is building this team the right way and the Mets have a very bright future.
As much as I wanted to wait until all the free agents with draft compensation signed, I feel that it’s time to make the first mock draft of the year for MinorLeagueMadhouse. While picks are usually done as either Best Player Available, Easiest To Sign, or General Manager’s Draft Philosophy, I’ve decided to go by need in the minors. To be more precise, which position in the top 20 is the weakest, or, if there is a clear cut pick, or if the general manager has a philosophy that they have publicly disclosed (like Jeff Luhnow of the Astros or Sandy Alderson of the Mets,) So without further delay, here is the first mock draft of the year for Minor League Madhouse.
1. Astros: Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State
Carlos Rodon is the consensus number 1 pick in the draft right now, and nothing short of a Rick Ankiel-type meltdown will change that. The Astros have a strong enough pitching presence in the minor leagues right now, but Luhnow will be hard pressed to give up on the potential that Rodon has. With a major league caliber slider and fastball, as well as a preference to strike out hitters. Rodon, who helped NC State make the College World Series last year, is definitely going to fit in what could be the best future rotation in the league.
2. Marlins: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd High School, Texas
The Marlins have reaped the benefits of one high school arm that they drafted, why not go for another that looks Major League ready? Kolek is arguably one of the best prep arms in this year’s class. He has a fastball that is better than some collegiate pitchers, in addition to a well rounded arsenal of secondary pitches. Kolek’s only knock is is command and control, which is common for flame throwing prep arms, not to mention he’s behind on his development thanks to an injury he suffered in his sophomore year, but in showcases, he’s looked like the genuine article, and would be a perfect developmental athlete, as he can only get better.
3. White Sox: Alex Jackson, C, Rancho Bernardo High School, California
Last year, I pointed out that Chicago’s weakest position in the minors was catcher. And they did have the opportunity to grab a catcher early with Nick Ciuffo and Jon Denney on the board. However, they whiffed on both. Now, they have a golden goose in Alex Jackson, who comes from the same high school as Cole Hamels. Jackson is a well rounded high school catcher, although he does need improvement in commanding a game. He has plus power, decent speed, basically, he has the chance to be one of the better prep catchers in the last few draft classes. If Jackson fails behind the plate though, he could make it as an outfielder, where his arm would be his best strength.
4. Cubs, Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina
The Cubs have bolstered their position player ranks in the past few drafts, now it’s time to go back to pitching. Hoffman, who pitches for a smaller school in East Carolina, is tall and gangly, but pitches like he’s in prime athletic shape. Hoffman’s fastball is something to behold, and his curveball is almost at the same level. He controls the ball well, but he will need to work on his finesse if he wants to be a high end starter.
5. Twins: Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic High School, California
You can never have enough pitching, especially when it comes to lefties. Brady Aiken is a bit of a reach for the Twins, but given that they don’t have a top ten left handed pitching prospect at the time of this writing, it may be a good idea, both position wise and money wise, to go after him. This isn’t to diminish Aiken’s skill set, the young Southern California hurler is definitely even and well rounded in his skill set. He’s a jack of all trades pitcher, with no set primary pitch, which is good, as it serves as a reminder to the better days of Johan Santana. Aiken’s athleticism is also a plus, although now that his future has been set as a pitcher, he should focus primarily on that. Still, Aiken and 2013 pick Kohl Stewart would headline a young, and powerful pitching class should the Twins decided to pick him.
6. Mariners: Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State
The Mariners don’t seem to have a problem with a specific position, what they need, however, is speed. NC State shortstop Trea Turner is the answer to that problem. Turner has major league legs, and while his hitting is developmental right now, he is somewhat respectable in that category. Turner is still fully transitioning from third base to shortstop, which is fine, but if he wants to advance a few levels, he will need to improve on his fielding. Still, Turner profiles as a #1 or #9 hitter in an American League lineup, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for him.
7. Phillies: Michael Gettys, OF, Gainesville High School, Georgia
Byron Buxton was the star of the 2012 draft class and Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier were the stars of the 2013 prep class, now, Michael Gettys becomes the next high level hitter from the state of Georgia. Gettys’ game is focused now on his legs and his arm, but his hitting, when properly developed, could make him into the next prep hitting star. Given Ryan Howard likely will retire when Gettys comes around, and there really isn’t a power presence to back him up yet, it would be a good idea for the Phillies to capitalize on the Georgia Prep slugger trend.
8. Rockies: Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis High School, California
We got an early peek at Jacob Gatewood last year at Citi Field’s high school home run derby, and he certainly put on a show, but besides that, Gatewood is a well polished athlete who despite his body, has the potential to be one of the better hitting shortstops in history. Tall and lanky, he does have the potential to lead the league in home runs, especially in the thin air of Denver. Given the injury history and likelihood that Troy Tulowitzki may not finish his mega contract extension, taking Gatewood would be a wise insurance policy for the Rockies. He and 2012 first rounder David Dahl could make a lethal power combination for years to come.
9. Blue Jays: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
Surprised that Toronto would try again? You shouldn’t be. Beede was drafted by the Blue Jays out of high school as a first rounder in 2011, but he turned down the money to honor his college commitment. Three years later, Beede has emerged as one of the best pitchers in the SEC and after a historic campaign with the Commodores, brought himself into the Golden Spikes conversation. Beede’s offerings, particularly his fastball, are devastating to hitters, but what he needs improvement on is his control. Beede has the chance to continue the legacy of excellent Vandebilt pitchers started with David Price and continued with Sonny Gray this past year. If he can improve his control, he should be in the majors by late 2015-early 2016.
10. Mets: Touki Toussaint, Pitcher, Coral Springs High School, Florida
If what Keith Law speculates from his interview with Sandy Alderson is true, then Alderson must be talking about Touki Toussaint. Here’s a guy who has come out of nowhere, established himself as a truly different pitcher who, with some help, can control and even expand the strike zone with his fastball and major league curve. Touki has the potential to make an impact in any rotation, and his curve should allow him to strike out plenty of batters, provide catchers are able to handle it. The only knock on him is his lack of experience; Toussaint did only start playing his sophomore year of high school, and his international background; while he is from the Caribbean, Haiti isn’t exactly a baseball hotbed. Still, his arm is very loose and worth looking at, and having it in the same rotation as Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey would be scary.
So this is part one. Stay tuned part 2, which is due to come out some time next week.
Phew! My two month hiatus is done. Sorry that I didn’t post anything for a while, but nothing really broke, and with the trade deadline being literally dead, never mind the fact that the expected happened, although the return could have been better, I really had nothing to write.
Anyway, yesterday was a big buzz day in terms of August trades. With Matt Harvey possibly shut down until 2015, the Mets pulled a classic “Oh sh*t” and promptly traded their two best players to Pittsburgh for Futures game alumnus and Pirates infield prospect Dilson Herrera, as well as a player to be named. Herrera is a 19 year old who, while undersized, can hit for power. He has above average speed, and while his glove needs work, he certainly could factor into the team’s long term plan. Dilson, at the time of the trade, ranked as high as the Pirates number 9 prospect, and as low as number 11. It’s also been reported by Pirates GM Neal Huntington that the PTBNL is expected to have people say that the Mets got very solid pieces in the deal (Update: The PTBNL in question is pitcher Vic Black, former 2009 first round pick of the Pirates). And all it took was a 36 year old outfielder having a miracle season and a catcher who had just lost his starting job to the team’s second best prospect.
This begs the question, how does Sandy Alderson do it? Since becoming the team’s general manager in 2011, Alderson has made three major trades, including the one above, in which he shipped out players who either had one miracle season, or who were starting to get past their prime, in exchange for at least one hotshot prospect. Examples:
July 2011: Trades outfielder Carlos Beltran, who is in the midst of a comeback season after an injury plagued 2010, to the San Francisco Giants for pitcher Zack Wheeler, who rises through the Mets system as the team’s number two, then number 1 prospect, before making his major league debut with the Mets. Wheeler is currently the number 3 starter in New York, behind Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. He is expected to get some points in the already established Rookie of the Year race. Beltran on the other hand, serves as a rental player, and the Giants do not make the postseason in an attempt to repeat as World Series champions. He signs with the Cardinals, and is named an All-star for them twice.
December 2012: Trades pitcher R.A Dickey and catchers Mike Nickeas and Josh Thole to the Toronto Blue Jays for catchers Travis d’Arnaud and John Buck, pitcher Noah Syndergaard, and outfielder Wuilmer Becerra. Buck ends up serving as catcher for most of the year and actually ends up third in the All-star vote, before being traded in the above deal. d’Arnaud starts as the team’s top prospect, ahead of Wheeler, ends up in Triple-A, gets hurt, rehabs, and makes his long anticipated big league debut in mid-August. Syndergaard blazes through Single-A and Double-A, and is named the starting pitcher in the 2013 Futures game. He is regarded as the team’s new number 1 prospect. Becerra is playing modestly well in the Gulf Coast league, and may or may not factor into the team’s future.
If you think about it, Alderson, in his three seasons as the general manager of the Mets, has, on a shoestring budget, brought the team out of the Omar Minaya induced darkness, when the team had no prospects, and no real chance of competing. He dumped off bloated contracts and revitalized the farm system with not one, not two, but four top ten prospects, all for guys who on any other teams would have gotten maybe a top 40 prospect and chump change.
Let’s look at each team’s situations to get an idea of how Sandy does it.
1. Carlos Beltran had already served his purpose in New York and looked to be coming off the books if he wasn’t traded. His value was severely diminished due to the 2010 injury, and Alderson had no plans to keep him on the team regardless of whether he revitalized or failed as a man in his last year. When Beltran exceeded expectations, teams were interested. When he made the All-star team as a starter, they were literally falling over themselves for him. Alderson could have basically asked for a contending team to gauge their farm system and they would have not only offered their top two prospects, but also a top ten who had the upside to be a top 5, which, incidentally, the Giants did offer not only Wheeler, but also outfielder Gary Brown and first baseman Brandon Belt. Alderson may not have jumped on the opportunity to gauge the team’s future, but he did get a franchise arm in Wheeler, one that could compete with Harvey when they both came up, and revitalize a much-maligned rotation. Suffice to say, it worked in the Mets favor. Wheeler rose through the system, and despite some mechanical issues, not to mention playing in the baseball Siberia that is Las Vegas, he’s become a much hyped part of the team’s rebuild.
2. Again, the Dickey deal was an effort to capitalize on a solid season. After seeing that the Blue Jays had gutted half their farm system in exchange for practically everyone good on the 2012 Marlins team, save Giancarlo Stanton, Alderson was ready to deal with Toronto. Granted, he could have made a deal with any team that wanted Dickey. The Red Sox would have offered a package that surrounded either Xander Bogaerts or Jackie Bradley, but not both, thus dropping them on the list. Texas offered a package that surrounded Mike Olt, but without Jurickson Profar, the deal was dead. The Dodgers offered Zach Lee, their top pitching prospect, and Dee Gordon, a shortstop, but given the fact that the Dodgers system has been weak, no deal there. Alderson had one big priority: Capitalize on Dickey’s wonder year by getting the next Piazza. In Alex Anthopolous, he found a sucker. Not only was Anthopolous willing to give either d’Arnaud or JP Arencibia up, he also was willing to get rid of one of his 2010 high school pitching phenoms. Having already given up Henderson Alvarez AND Justin Nicolino, you’d think he’d want to hold on to Syndergaard and Sanchez, but no. Alderson insisted, and also asked for Buck so that d’Arnaud’s transition be smoother. Anthopolous was more than happy to oblige, and the team soon found itself with two top prospects and a solid veteran catcher, not to mention an outfield throw in.
So there really is no magic in Alderson’s dealings, it’s just a simple matter of market philosophy. Remember Schoolhouse Rock’s infamous video, Money Rock? That song, Walkin’ on Wall Street? Basically, Alderson is selling high on guys who are past their prime, and reaping returns of enormous value. And again, this is on a shoestring budget. With that problem going away in the offseason, Alderson will be able to make bigger investments, like signing a big free agent outfielder.
The Byrd deal likely won’t pay dividends immediately for the Mets. Herrera is a good two or three years away, and with no clear idea who the PTBNL is (Update: Vic Black), he may or may not contribute to the team’s immediate future either. However, it may turn into another win-win for the Mets, as the team is interested in bringing back Byrd next year. In this case, even if the Pirates do end up relying on the contributions of Buck and Byrd, the team will still lose the deal. Score another for Alderson.
One of the biggest things in baseball that fans don’t give a damn about is arbitration. They know it’s there, but they couldn’t care less about considerations for service time, monies to be payed to player X, and all the complicated legal jargon that is the underbelly of baseball business. Granted, even P2P did try and read about salary arbitration, but fell asleep before getting past the second sentence. Basically, to put it in a nutshell, arbitration is when a player has reached a certain amount of service time and is a free agent, the team that owned him can offer him a salary for that year. The player can accept that salary or counter, by which point, a judge, colloquially referred to as an “arbitrator” will determine if the player’s price is fair or if the team’s price is fair.
Fans are not generally enthusiastic about arbitration, especially for those players who haven’t even made the big league club yet. Prospects are often at the butt end of the arbitration process, because teams want an extra year of control on their prospects. This is why such players as Zack Wheeler, Dylan Bundy, Jurickson Profar, and Travis d’Arnaud are languishing in the minors while less than talented incumbents continue to lumber around with what limited time they have left, like Shaun Marcum and Anthony Recker, among others. P2P cannot speak for players, but is pretty sure Travis d’Arnaud has had enough of Sin City, especially since that’s where he suffered his season-ending injury that has continuously delayed his big league debut. That, and Zack Wheeler was one of the top performers this spring, and with the rash of injuries that has plagued the Mets, many have called for his call-up.
Some teams however, have no qualms about losing the extra year of team control that they would normally get with stashing their top prospect in the minors. This is apparently the case with Minnesota Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks and Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who will be making his big league debut at the age of 20 against the Mets. Given that the Marlins are inclined to jumpstart their prospects, the move should not be surprising, but with Fernandez having never pitched above A ball, the results can be disastrous. The same goes for Hicks, who has yet to play a game of Triple-A ball, and looked like the struggling minor leaguer he was after he got drafted in his first game. The thing is, the Marlins and Twins acknowledged that they both are top 25 talents on the team who clearly deserve their roster spots sooner rather than later. On the other hand, Mets fasn will have to wait a month while Wheeler faces “command issues” and d’Arnaud “gets back up to fielding strength”.
Many writers agree with P2P and say that the arbitration system preventing the top prospects from making their debuts sooner rather than later is stupid. While nothing can be done now, the owners and the MLBPA, as well as commissioner Bud Selig should really consider looking over the Collective Bargaining Agreement and smooth over the rough spots.