2014 Draft Preview: Rodon Remains Atop Mock Draft 2.0

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.

1. ASTROS
HoustonAstros

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


Miami Marlins2. 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

3ds_whitesox853. 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

3ds_cubs794. 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

3ds_twins815. 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

3ds_mariners836. 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

3ds_phillies837. 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

3ds_rockies858. ROCKIES: The Rockies prefer the college route historically and have interesting options here. Turner will start to come into play in this range, and his top-of-the-scale speed would play well in center field at Coors Field, or he could stay at shortstop if Troy Tulowitzki needs to move. They are more likely to opt for a college arm, either one of the injured pitchers or Hartford lefthander Sean Newcomb, whose durable body and plus fastball could allow him to complement rising Rockies arms Eddie Butler and 2013 first-round pick Jonathan Gray.
Projected Pick: LHP Sean Newcomb

3ds_bluejays819. BLUE JAYS: If the Jays want a college position player, Turner appears to be their man thanks to his speed. They’re also in heavily on Miami prep righthander Touki Toussaint, who has the tantalizing upside the organization craves. The Mets aren’t likely to take Toussaint, so the Jays could wait to take him with their second pick (11th overall). It’s possible Toronto could go with Hoffman and Toussaint and wind up with two of the draft’s top arms when healthy, but would be an extremely risky approach.
Projected Pick: SS Trea Turner

3ds_mets8110. METS: The Mets are in on the top college bats. Oregon State’s Conforto is hitting at a .393/.545/.632 clip and fits the bill for an organization looking for power.
Projected Pick: OF Michael Conforto

3ds_bluejays8111. BLUE JAYS: With their second pick, the Jays will get a high-upside pitcher. While the injured Hoffman is tempting, Toussaint appears to be too attractive to pass on twice.
Projected Pick: RHP Touki Toussaint

3ds_brewers7912. BREWERS: Milwaukee has been tight-lipped as usual. Other industry sources seem to believe they are leaning toward pitchers such as South Carolina prep righty Grant Holmes, who has earned Ben Sheets comparisons and could wow in a workout, or Vanderbilt’s erratic but talented ace Tyler Beede.
Projected Pick: RHP Tyler Beede

padres-201313. PADRES: It now sounds like the Padres are leaning more toward bats than arms with this selection. Turner would be a strong option here, either as a shortstop or as a center fielder in Petco Park. If he’s not available, that leaves the likes of San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer or Indiana slugger Kyle Schwarber, who likely would move off catcher for the Padres.
Projected Pick: OF Bradley Zimmer

3ds_giants8314. GIANTS: The Giants could have their pick of injured pitchers here, though the lack of an extra pick likely precludes them from pulling the trigger. The best college bats on the board are catchers Schwarber (though he likely will move) and Max Pentecost, so the Giants will look for a pitcher here. They’d pop Newcomb or Beede if available, but prep pitchers are the top player on the board at this point.
Projected Pick: RHP Grant Holmes

3ds_angels8715: ANGELS: College bats appear to be the focus for the Angels, though their dearth of starting pitchers in the minor leagues could lead them to take a chance on a damaged pitcher such as Finnegan or Hoffman.
Projected Pick: C Max Pentecost

3ds_diamondbacks2116: DIAMONDBACKS: The draft gets wonky after Pentecost goes off the board. Holmes would make sense if he’s available, as would Pentecost. This is the first spot where interest starts for one of the top prep bats, Georgia prep infielder Michael Chavis. A high school second baseman (Chavis’ most likely defensive home) this high would be unusual, so a college arm makes more sense. Finnegan, who was looking like a single-digit selection previously, could be a value here, though he could use a good start in the Big 12 tournament to solidify his stock.
Projected Pick: LHP Brandon Finnegan

3ds_royals2917: ROYALS: As we wrote last week, the Royals are interested in Hawaiian lefthander Kodi Medeiros, though they’d prefer him with a lower pick. In an organization that has never hit 40 home runs, Gatewood would be tempting, but Schwarber—who may wind up a lefthanded version of Billy Butler but with more power—makes more sense.
Projected Pick: C Kyle Schwarber

3ds_nationals8118: NATIONALS: Gatewood’s slide likely will carry him past the Nats, who are said to be in on college bats. They’d probably hate to see Schwarber go one spot ahead of them but will be happy to take Casey Gillaspie, a switch-hitter with power and track record.
Projected Pick: 1B Casey Gillaspie

3ds_reds8319: REDS: Cincinnati wouldn’t be expected to be the team to take high school righties three times in four years, but that’s where the value is on the board at this time, with the likes of Adams and Floridian Sean-Reid Foley.
Projected Pick: RHP Sean Reid-Foley

3ds_rays520: RAYS: Likely the best defender in the draft, Derek Hill fits the Rays’ profile as a tools up the middle player with upside. Missouri prep outfielder Monte Harrison has more athleticism and strength but Hill’s baseball background—his father is Dodgers scout and hitting coach Orsinio Hill—tips the scales.
Projected Pick: OF Derek Hill

3ds_indians8321: INDIANS: With other college bats off the board, Kentucky slugger A.J. Reed will tempt the Indians. But the Tribe has tried and failed with college first basemen high in the draft many times over the years (Michael Aubrey, Stephen Head, Beau Mills) and won’t get fooled again. Cleveland has another pick at No. 31, so it can take a risk with one of the injured pitchers and may need to go get one with its first pick, because the Royals and Reds pick again before Cleveland.
Projected Pick: RHP Jeff Hoffman

3ds_dodgers8322: DODGERS: Hill’s Dodgers ties would be enticing if he were available here. But the Spencer Adams pick we detailed last week makes too much sense, and his talent fits this range.
Projected Pick: RHP Spencer Adams

3ds_tigers8323: TIGERS: The Tigers liked to take players who fell due to sign ability under the old system. The way to do that in this system is to take top talents who fell due to injury. If Hoffman’s here, he’d be a target, but UNLV’s Erick Fedde is on the board.
Projected Pick: RHP Erick Fedde

3ds_pirates8124: PIRATES: Harrison may not last this long, thanks to his all-around tools and athleticism and improving instincts. If he sticks around at 25, the Pirates will pounce.
Projected Pick: OF Monte Harrison

3ds_athletics7925: ATHLETICS: The A’s are in on high school bats such as Hill, a Bay Area product; Harrison; Chavis; and Florida prep second baseman Forrest Wall. They’ve been linked to Mississippi prep shortstop Ti’quan Forbes he likely doesn’t fit this high.
Projected Pick: 2B/3B Michael Chavis

3ds_redsox8526: RED SOX: Boston has high hopes, but in this scenario its top targets such as Fedde or Hoffman, or Harrison, are off the board. They can hit on a prep bat with their second pick, but could still get high upside with Virginia outfielder Derek Fisher, who has hitting ability and untapped athleticism.
Projected Pick: OF Derek Fisher

3ds_cardinals8127: CARDINALS: The Cardinals would be in on a college bat that legitimately fits, such as Fisher. In a draft heavy in catchers, that position is a priority but will have to come with a later pick. A late surge, including a return to the 90s for his fastball, has pushed Florida State righty Luke Weaver back into first-round consideration, but there’s more power among the prep arms such as central California prep Luis Ortiz, who starred with USA Baseball’s 18U team last fall.
Projected Pick: RHP Luis Ortiz

3ds_royals2828. ROYALS: The Royals are strong on Hawaii prep lefty Kodi Medeiros, low slot and all, as he’s hit 95 mph recently with a power slider. Because several teams from 28-40 also are in on him, the Royals will have to strike here with an extra pick.
Projected Pick: LHP Kodi Medeiros

3ds_reds8329. REDS: Some scouts consider Wall, the Florida prep second baseman, to be the best pure hitter in the class, college or high school. He’s likely to become the highest-drafted high school second sacker ever.
Projected Pick: 2B Forrest Wall

3ds_rangers8330. RANGERS: This far back, it’s hard to get a read on where Texas is leaning. They’d get value in power arm Nick Howard, the Virginia closer who started last season. He could move quickly in a bullpen role or give starting a shot again in pro ball, especially after giving up hitting.
Projected Pick: RHP Nick Howard

3ds_indians8331. INDIANS: OK, asking Cleveland to pass on Kentucky slugger Reed twice when he’s leading the nation in home runs—and could always fall back on being a lefthanded pitcher—is just too much to ask of the Tribe.
Projected Pick: 1B/LHP A.J. Reed

3ds_braves8332. BRAVES: Atlanta keeps getting linked to lefthanders such as Florida prep Foster Griffin, Georgia prep Mac Marshall (who appears to be slipping), Medeiros and Alabama prep lefty Cody Reed.
Projected Pick: LHP Foster Griffin

3ds_redsox8333. RED SOX: Boston would love a high-ceiling arm with one of its first two picks. The options remaining likely are riskier players such as New Jersey prep Joey Gatto, Reed and prep lefties such as Justus Sheffield, Carson Sands and Alex Verdugo, the Arizona two-way talent.
Projected Pick: LHP Alex Verdugo

3ds_cardinals8034. CARDINALS: St. Louis went heavily for pitchers at the top of last year’s draft and took Ortiz with its top pick in this exercise. Gatewood makes sense for a team with extra picks and a deep enough farm system to take the risk.
Projected Pick: SS/3B Jacob Gatewood