MOCK DRAFT 2
The 2014 draft class continues to shift quickly, with the big picture already changing significantly since last week’s first version of our mock draft.
East Carolina righthander Jeff Hoffman has had his Tommy John surgery, and Nevada-Las Vegas righthander Erick Fedde has now gone from injury question mark to on the Tommy John schedule. Texas Christian righthander Brandon Finnegan returned to the mound after missing essentially two starts (he was removed in the first inning of one), and plenty of scouts were in to see how he threw Thursday night. Finnegan struggled, giving up six runs (five earned) and failing to make it out of the fourth, so it’s not surprising that his draft stock has taken a hit.
With three potential top 10 candidates trending downward, other college pitchers are moving up, as well as top college and high school hitters. Scouting directors and crosscheckers say there’s a consensus on five college bats for the first round, though the order is not certain: North Carolina State shortstop Trea Turner, who righted his falling draft stock with a big series against Coastal Carolina last weekend; outfielders Bradley Zimmer (San Francisco) and Michael Conforto (Oregon State); and catchers Max Pentecost (Kennesaw State) and Kyle Schwarber (Indiana). The only other college bats who could sneak into the first round appear to be slugging first basemen Casey Gillaspie (Wichita State) and A.J. Reed (Kentucky).
High school hitters also could be moving up, with infielders Forrest Wall and Michael Chavis and outfielders Derek Hill and Monte Harrison benefiting from the uncertainty with college pitching. The top prep bats—San Diego catcher Alex Jackson and Orlando shortstop Nick Gordon—look unlikely to fall out of the top five.
Jackson’s power barrage has thrust him into the conversation for the top three selections. It’s unlikely the Astros take him at No. 1, however, and then move him from behind the plate to right field or third base. They’re expected to choose between two of the many lefthanders with upside in this draft, North Carolina State’s Carlos Rodon and San Diego prep Brady Aiken. Rodon has more upside thanks to his top-shelf slider, but as one crosschecker put it, “Aiken does it easier and throws a lot more strikes. He may not have the same present stuff, but he’s more consistent, and his stuff is plenty good. He just does so many things well.”
Industry opinion appears to favor Aiken as the top prospect in the draft, and he’s the rare high school player with a long-enough track record to earn the No. 1 selection. But Rodon’s trend lines continue to point in the right direction, and the Astros’ big league struggles likely bring pressure to speed up the rebuilding process in Houston. Rodon’s talent is worthy of the No. 1 pick, and so is the buzz factor he would bring.
Projected Pick: LHP Carlos Rodon
2. MARLINS: Ownership would jump on Rodon if the Marlins get the chance, even if he’s not the first choice of their scouting department. Prep arms Aiken and righthander Tyler Kolek, as well as Jackson, are said to top their board. Several scouting directors have said they believe Jackson’s likely position switch would drive him down the board, but he also has the draft’s best bat. He has the most usable power in the class as well as one of its best hit tools, and he has enough experience in the outfield to move quickly.
Projected Pick: C/OF Alex Jackson
3. WHITE SOX: Chicago would like a shot at Jackson, and may still get it, but this scenario would leave the polished Aiken falling in their lap.
Projected Pick: LHP Brady Aiken
4. CUBS: Here’s where it gets interesting. The Cubs want a college pitcher, but Rodon is unlikely to fall this far, leaving Kolek and his 100 mph fastball staring them in the face. Kolek is such an outlier, however, that teams aren’t sure what to make of him. It’s not only his velocity and height (6-foot-5), but at 250 pounds he’d be the biggest high school pitcher ever drafted in the first round by weight, bigger than Indians 1998 first-rounder C.C. Sabathia (who was listed at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds when drafted) and even Orioles 2009 first-rounder Matt Hobgood (listed at 6-5, 245).Kolek’s extreme velocity, at a time when every other hard-throwing prep pitcher, it seems, is having Tommy John surgery, further complicates matters.Kolek’s unique combination appears to be dropping him down boards. The same is true of Finnegan, who was projected in this slot last time. The Cubs still prefer a college pitcher, and Evansville’s Kyle Freeland has been burning up boards with his stellar season. The tall lefty is in play this high and won’t get out of the first 10 picks if he doesn’t falter down the stretch.
Projected Pick: LHP Kyle Freeland
5. TWINS: The Twins have done their due diligence on the top prep arms, and their emphasis on finding velocity in recent drafts could lead them to Kolek. But they’ve also done a lot of work on Gordon, whose middle-of-the-diamond athleticism is too much to turn down.
Projected Pick: SS Nick Gordon
6. MARINERS: As we wrote last week, Conforto is an intriguing local option here for the Mariners. The organization’s pressing need for pitching, however, which is heightened by the loss of 2011 first-rounder Danny Hultzen to shoulder surgery, means a fast-moving college pitching target makes more sense. No college arm other than Rodon will move more quickly than Louisiana State’s Aaron Nola.
Projected Pick: RHP Aaron Nola
7. PHILLIES: Early reports had the Phillies honing in on Fresno prep shortstop Jacob Gatewood, but reports of Gatewood’s poor spring persist. He could fall out of the first round completely at this point due to a significant lack of contact. Philadelphia would love for Jackson or Gordon to fall this far but will have to settle in this scenario for Kolek, the hardest-throwing amateur in draft history.
Projected Pick: RHP Tyler Kolek