2014 Draft Top 50: Carlos Rodon Stands Alone (Oct. 2013)

Compiled by John Manuel and Clint Longenecker

After a below-average 2013 draft, the 2014 class has potential to be the best class since 2011’s banner crop.

Carlos Rodon

Carlos Rodon (Photo by Alyson Boyer Rode)

The two headliners of the class are both college pitchers in North Carolina. N.C. State lefthander Carlos Rodon, who had a strong summer with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, gives the class a clear No. 1 prospect, combining size, plus stuff, good makeup and a strong track record of success. Jeff Hoffman was the top prospect in the Cape Cod League, solidifying his status as the draft’s No. 2 prospect, with a fastball up to 97, an out-pitch curveball and changeup that flashes plus. Hoffman stacks up well with any college pitcher in the last two classes at this point in the draft calendar.

Rodon and Hoffman typify the power arms from both the college and high school classes that should be the strength of the 2014 draft. Last year, for example, at the Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego, one pitcher touched 94 mph: eventual No. 4 pick Kohl Stewart. This year, nine high school hurlers hit 95 or better, with the top velocity belonging to Tyler Kolek, who hit 99 mph and is the top high school player in the class.

The high school pitching class is as deep as it has been in years and is replete with big velocity arms that could go in the first 50 picks. The high school hitters did not fare well against top pitching this summer, as many of the top hitters offer loud tools but struggled to hit in games.

There is a fairly deep supply of college power hitters in the class, but as usual the college ranks are light on up-the-middle players, as many of the top hitters in the class likely profile in left field or at first base. Shortstop Trea Turner and catcher Max Pentecost have the athleticism and tools to stay at their respective positions; they are the only two college position players with a better than even chance to stay up in the middle in the Top 50.

The 2013 crop of high school catchers had depth, but the 2014 class is light behind the plate, as only one catcher, Jakson Reetz, appears in the Top 50.

1. Carlos Rodon, lhp, N.C. State: Could have ranked No. 1 in previous two draft classes with a 93-95 mph fastball and premium slider.

Jeff Hoffman

Jeff Hoffman

2. Jeff Hoffman, rhp, East Carolina: His stuff isn’t far off from Rodon’s, but he hasn’t performed to a comparable level (6.8 K/9 in two seasons).

3. Tyler Kolek, rhp, Shepherd (Texas) HS: Six-foot-6, 250-pounder has touched 99 mph and fits the Texas fireballer description.

4. Trea Turner, ss, North Carolina State: Ankle issue hampered him in 2013, but he offers bat speed, athleticism and top-of-the-scale speed when healthy.

5. Jacob Gatewood, ss/3b, Clovis (Calif.) HS: Long, lean and toolsy athlete with a plus arm and arguably the best power potential in the class.

6. Alex Jackson, c/of, Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego: Pairs plus power and arm strength with athleticism and a chance to stay behind the plate.

7. Tyler Beede, rhp, Vanderbilt: Unsigned 2011 first-round pick has three above-average or better pitches, but command has become an issue for him.

8. Touki Toussaint, rhp, Coral Springs (Fla.) Christian HS: Like Beede, Toussaint shows premium stuff (mid-90s fastball, curve) but struggles to throw strikes at times.

9. Brady Aiken, lhp, Cathedral Catholic HS, San Diego: Projectable lefty with an ideal pitcher’s body has a chance for three plus offerings with command.

10. Aaron Nola, rhp, Louisiana State: Smallish, athletic college ace has excellent life on a low-90s fastball and plus changeup.

11. Nick Gordon, ss/rhp, Olympia HS, Orlando, Fla.: The son of former big leaguer Tom and brother of Dodgers infielder Dee has a chance to stick at short with a plus arm, good actions and a solid lefthanded swing.

12. Bradley Zimmer, of, San Francisco: The rare college bat with projection as well as strong present tools; scouts are divided on his power potential.

13. Michael Gettys, of/rhp, Gainesville (Ga.) HS: Plus speed and power and one of best arms in the class, but he struggled to hit this summer.

14. Luis Ortiz, rhp, Sanger (Calif.) HS: Strong-bodied power pitcher with an easy delivery was MVP of 18U World Cup with fastball up to 95 mph and a plus slider

15. Mac Marshall, lhp, Parkview HS, LiLburn, Ga.: Athletic lefthander with a low-90s fastball that touches 94 mph, a plus changeup and emerging curveball.

16. Derek Fisher, of, Virginia: Powerful lefthanded swing makes him a potential first-rounder, though his defense and all-around tools are more in question.

17. Kyle Schwarber, c/1b, Indiana: Physical lefthanded swing helps him hit for power and average; his best position is clearly the batter’s box.

18. Michael Conforto, of, Oregon State: More swing and miss than scouts would like mitigate a physical, powerful corner profile.

19. Sean Newcomb, lhp, Hartford: Breakout Cape Cod League performer has a durable 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame, and he flashes a four-pitch mix with mid-90s heat.

20. Kyle Freeland, lhp, Evansville: Projectable Colorado prep product flashes excellent velocity from the left side, up to 93-95 mph.

21. Michael Cederoth, rhp, San Diego State: Physical 6-foot-6, 210-pounder rivals Aztecs great Stephen Strasburg in velocity with 94-98 mph fastball.

22. Cobi Johnson, rhp, Mitchell HS, Holiday, Fla.: Son of Blue Jays pitching instructor Dane offers athleticism, projection and command of a fastball that touches 93 mph and a potentially plus curveball.

23. Brandon Finnegan, lhp, Texas Christian: Smallish lefty holds upper-90s velocity deep into games and developed a plus slider during his time with Team USA.

24. Grant Holmes, rhp, Conway (S.C.) HS: Powerfully built but undersized, the 6-foot Holmes has a fastball that reaches 96 mph with power and depth to his curveball.

25. Matt Chapman, 3b/rhp, Cal State Fullerton: His easy premium arm could push him to the mound if his bat doesn’t fit third-base profile.

26. Erick Fedde, rhp, Nevada-Las Vegas: He has room to fill out his 6-foot-4 frame and add velocity to a fastball that he throws in the low 90s with good command.

27. Nick Burdi, rhp, Louisville: The biggest pure arm in the draft class with a 100 mph fastball and low-90s slider; strictly a reliever.

28. Max Pentecost, c, Kennesaw State: Athletic for the position if he can stick there, and coming off a boffo summer when he won Cape Cod League MVP.

29. Braxton Davidson, 1b/of, Roberson HS, Asheville, N.C.: Young for the class, Davidson provides a powerful lefthanded bat with pop and a feel to hit.

Kodi Medelros (Photo by Scott Kurtz)

Kodi Medeiros (Photo by Scott Kurtz)

30. Kodi Medeiros, lhp, Waiakea HS, Hilo, Hawaii: With a lively fastball up to 95 mph and a power slider, Medeiros pairs electric stuff with an unconventional low slot.

31. Sean Reid-Foley, rhp, Sandalwood HS, Jacksonville: Athletic righthander with a fastball up to 95 mph, above-average slider and average changeup with good control.

32. Luke Weaver, rhp, Florida State: He draws Tim Hudson comparisons for the body and live arm that pumps fastballs up to 96 mph.

33. Derek Hill, of, Elk Grove (Calif.) HS: A plus-plus runner, Hill is a premium defensive center fielder who has shown a feel for hitting in games.

34. Alex Verdugo, lhp/of, Sahuaro HS, Tucson, Ariz.: He’s a legitimate prospect both ways thanks to his feel for hitting, and a smooth delivery with a fastball up to 93 mph on the mound.

35. Dylan Cease, rhp, Milton (Ga.) HS: Athletic pitcher who produces easy velocity, with a fastball up to 97 mph; inconsistent breaking ball and command are knocks.

36. J.D. Davis, 1b/3b/rhp, Cal State Fullerton: Unsigned Rays fifth-rounder out of high school in 2011 offers power on the mound and at the plate.

37. Dylan Davis, of/rhp, Oregon State: Similar to J.D. (no relation) with power both ways, he’s more advanced as a hitter and has more velocity on the mound.

Justus Sheffield

Justus Sheffield (Photo by Alyson Boyer Rode)

38. Justus Sheffield, lhp, Tullahoma (Tenn.) HS: He offers a fastball up to 95 mph, above-average breaking ball/changeup combo and the ability to throw strikes.

39. Ti’Quan Forbes, ss, Columbia (Miss.) HS: Young and spindly, the three-sport Forbes is a premium athlete and plus runner who will need time to develop with the bat.

40. Cameron Varga, rhp, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, Loveland, Ohio: Nagging injuries sidelined Varga this summer, but the 19-year-old has touched 95 mph with his fastball in the past with a plus curveball, and he has an athletic build.

41. Monte’ Harrison, of, Lee’s Summit West (Mo.) HS: Coveted wide receiver also has one of the best arms in the class as well as plus speed, and he has developed as a hitter.

42. Michael Chavis, 3b, Sprayberry HS, Marietta, Ga.: Five-foot-11 gamer offers all-around skills with plus bat speed, contact ability and above-average raw power to go with above-average wheels and arm.

43. Keaton McKinney, rhp, Ankeny (Iowa) HS: Six-foot-5, 223-pounder has a low-90s fastball that has touched 94 and one of the better changeups in the class.

44. Alex Blandino, 3b, Stanford: Two-time Cape Cod League all-star struggled last spring but has the bat speed and athleticism to stay on the infield.

45. Jack Flaherty, 3b/ss /rhp, Harvard-Westlake HS, Burbank, Calif.: With a big frame at 6-foot-3, 217 pounds, Flaherty has above-average speed and arm with a feel for the barrel and improving power.

46. Joey Gatto, rhp, St. Augustine Prep, Hammonton, N.J.: Gatto offers athleticism, projection and a fastball up to 94 mph from a big 6-foot-3, 204-pound frame.

47. Lukas Schiraldi, rhp, Texas: Son of former big leaguer Calvin, he shined this summer while flashing a plus fastball and solid secondary repertoire.

48. Joey Pankake, ss/3b/rhp, South Carolina: Powerfully built infielder controls the strike zone and has plus raw power to fit the profile at third base.

49. Jackson Reetz, c/of/rhp, Hickman (Neb.) HS: An offensive star of the 18U USA Baseball squad that won a gold medal this summer, Reetz has shown the ability to hit in games, as well as the tools and athleticism to stick behind the plate.

50. Taylor Sparks, 3b/1b, UC Irvine: An unconventional, upper-body swing didn’t keep him from leading the college national team in batting; he also offers plus raw power.