2014 Draft: First Impressions

Three days after the draft is not a time to make any significant judgements on a team’s draft class, especially when the teams possess much more information than anyone in the public domain by a large magnitude. Some players won’t sign for another month, if they do. But it’s not too early to take a first look at which drafts made strong initial impressions.

Cleveland Indians

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The Indians drafted a lot of different profiles in the top 10 rounds and came away with an impressive haul of talent, offering probability and upside, especially in the back half of the top 10 rounds, when many teams were going senior-heavy. They did not draft a righthanded hitter in the top 10 rounds, even though two of those hitters play the two most righthanded-leaning positions on the diamond (catcher and shortstop). Cleveland drafted the most high school players (seven) of any team in the first 10 rounds.

Bradley Zimmer

Bradley Zimmer (Photo by Larry Goren)

The Indians had three picks before the beginning of the second round and took college outfielder Bradley Zimmer at No. 21 and a polished prep lefthander Justus Sheffield with their second selection. This was likely the floor for Zimmer, who could have gone higher and has a track record of hitting. Sheffield has a chance for two above-average offspeed offerings with advanced control and a low-90s fastball that touches 95. Mike Papi (No. 38) is one of the most patient college bats in the class and has athleticism, at least average speed and an above-average arm to play a corner outfield spot, likely right field. Righthander Grant Hockin (second round) offers polish for a prep righthander and an above-average slider to go with a low-90s fastball.

First baseman Bobby Bradley (3) gives the Indians one of the better prep hitters in the class and his plus raw power has a chance to translate in power production. College center fielder Greg Allen (6) and prep shortstop Alexis Pantojas (9) are two of the better defenders in the draft at their respective positions while facing questions about their ability to impact the baseball offensively.

Two big-bodied prep arms from nontraditional baseball states—6-foot-6 lefthander Sam Hentges (4; Minnesota) and 6-foot-7 Kentucky righthander Micah Miniard (8; Kentucky)—offer fastballs up to 94 with curveballs that show at least average potential. Righthander Julian Merryweather (5) is a talented senior with a fastball that touches at least 95 with an above-average changeup and lefthanded-hitting prep catcher Simeon Lucas (7) has offers potential with his lefthanded bat.


3ds_bluejays81Toronto Blue Jays

The Jays walk away from the 2014 draft with three first-round talents and other athletic high school players with upside, the organization’s modus operandi. The Blue Jays drafted college players with their first two selections for the first time since 2009, the final draft under the J.P. Ricciardi regime, before drafting four consecutive high school players.

Max Pentecost

Max Pentecost (Photo by Cliff Welch)

Toronto covets upside and athleticism and their first two picks, righthander Jeff Hoffman (No. 9) and catcher Max Pentecost (No. 11), offer both of those traits in spades. Hoffman is one of the most talented pitchers in this entire draft and it’s highly unlikely he would have lasted until the ninth selection had he not had Tommy John, likely in contention for the top four picks. Pentecost, who has plus arm strength and speed to go with improved receiving, has a good chance to hit.

Prep righthander Sean Reid-Foley (No. 49) is a first-round talent who will likely receive over-slot money with a fastball up to 96, plus slider and competitive strike-throwing ability. Prep lefthander Nick Wells (3) gives the system a projectable arm with a fastball up to 93 and curveball that shows plus potential. Prep catcher Matt Morgan (4) and outfielder Lane Thomas (5) offer athleticism and up-the-middle defensive profiles. Morgan has a line-drive stroke and above-average pure arm strength, though his arm hasn’t consistently played at that level in game action. Thomas has a quick righthanded stroke with plus speed and an above-average arm.

Junior college lefthander Grayson Huffman (6) and college righthander Justin Shafer (8) bolster the pitching depth. Huffman is an athletic, strike-throwing lefthander with average fastball velocity, an above-average changeup and curveball that shows at least average potential. Shafer is an athletic two-way player who has ran his fastball up to the mid-90s on the mound.

Toronto has signed high school players drafted after the 10th round to overslot deals in the last two drafts and has some attractive targets for similar deals this season; lefthander Jake Latz (11), righthanders Tanner Houck (12) and Zach Pop (23), as well as outfielder Todd Isaacs (22) and catcher Drew Lugbauer (21). Middle infielder Gunnar Heidt (13) was considered a single-digit round talent before a broken hand in late April.


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Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks walked away with considerable upside from a high school heavy crop at the top of the draft. Arizona spent it first five picks on prep players, the most of any team to start the draft and the first time the organization had done so since 1997.

A year after selecting Braden Shipley at No. 15, Arizona drafted another premium athlete one pick later (No. 16) with high school righthander Touki Toussaint. He has arguably as high an upside as any pitcher in the draft with a fastball that can sit 92-95 at its best, arguably the best curveball in the draft and a vastly improved changeup that shows plus potential. He is the top pitching athlete in the class and improved strike-throwing ability will be the key to unlocking his immense potential. Arizona doubled up on power arms with lefthander Cody Reed in the second. Reed has a thick body but his fastball sat 92-95 mph, touching 96 down the stretch with both a breaking ball and changeup that show plus potential.

Touki Toussaint

Touki Toussaint (Photo by Alyson Boyer Rode)

With back-to-back selections in the second compensatory round, Arizona went with a high-upside athlete with outfielder Marcus Wilson and a polished high school middle infielder in Isan Diaz. Wilson, who is one of the youngest players in the class, has plus-plus speed from a long, lean body with room to get stronger and above-average bat speed. Diaz offers polish and impressive body control with a chance to hit from the left side of the plate, drawing Jose Vidro comps.

Outfielder Matt Railey (3) is one of the better lefthanded prep hitters in the class, with a smooth stroke and at least average power potential. Arizona then targeted power righthanders with its next two selections in Brent Jones and Mason McCullough. Both have effort to their deliveries but Jones has touched 96 and McCullough has touched 98. Scouts expect that both with end up in the bullpen long-term, with Jones having a greater chance to remain in the rotation.

Lefthander Zac Curtis (6) has a strong track record of performance and his fastball has touched 94, though his smaller stature (5-foot-9) will likely push him to the pen. Third baseman Tyler Humphreys (7) was one of the best junior college position players in the country, showing above-average power potential. Outfielder Grant Heyman (8) is another athlete with upside, showing plus speed and power potential.


Milwaukee Brewers
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The Brewers went all in with upside at the top of the draft and will likely allocate most of their financial ammunition at three high school players in the top 50 picks, marking the first time since 2008 the Brewers have selected prep players with their first three selections. Although this class doesn’t offer high probability, its talent at the top is immense.

Their draft began with the selection of Kodi Medeiros at No. 12, making him the third prep pitcher selected. Although he was not the consensus third prep pitcher because he is unique, Medeiros has a chance for three plus pitches with one of the best sliders in the class and significant groundball potential. His low three-quarters arm slot leaves some to project him in the bullpen.

Monte Harrison (Photo by Tomasso DeRosa)

Monte Harrison (Photo by Tomasso DeRosa)

The Brewers then got the high school class’ best raw power (No. 41 shortstop Jacob Gatewood) and athlete (No. 50 outfielder Monte Harrison), and both have signed above-slot deals commensurate with late first-round money. Gatewood, whose body and above-average arm likely fit best at third base or right field, is capable of jaw-dropping displays of raw power but faces questions about his ability to get to the power. Harrison offers plus speed, arm strength and power potential, but also faces questions about his hitting ability like most multi-sport athletes. These top three players will likely define the Brewers’ high-beta draft that had four seniors in the top 10 rounds.

Righthander Cy Sneed (3) was their next selection, offering a backend starter profile with a low-90s fastball up to 95. Strong, compact, prep outfielder Troy Stokes (4) has drawn comparisons to L.J Hoes and is a plus runner with a quick, compact righthanded stroke. Third baseman Dustin DeMuth (5) has a history of hitting and is one of the better senior position players in the country. Prep righthander David Burkhalter has a lean, projectable and athletic build with a fastball that reaches the low 90s.

Milwaukee grabbed its second Hawaiian with righthander Jordan Yamamoto (12), an Arizona commit who has touched 94 with his fastball, showing an above-average breaking ball. Lefthander Caleb Smith (15), righthanders Javi Salas (10) and Brandon Woodruff (11) are a trio of power bullpen arms. While the Brewers’ draft is an eye-of-the-beholder draft, the top three picks have a chance to move toward the top of the organization’s top prospects list.

 

Draft | #2014 draft #Arizona Diamondbacks #Cleveland Indians #Toronto Blue Jays

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