For Day Two of the 2014 draft, we’ll highlight some of the most intriguing picks in each round.
• The Marlins went off the BA 500 while taking shortstop Brian Schales of Edison High in Huntington Beach, Calif. Schales was the league player of the year in his conference and a Long Beach State commitment with a simple, repeatable swing and solid bat speed. Announced as a shortstop, he projects as a third baseman as he adds strength to his frame with a solid-average arm and solid-average hitting tools. Some scouts project above-average power if he can improve his plate approach. He has good hands and solid infield actions and should stay in the infield. He’s listed at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds but has room to grow and get stronger.
• The Reds also went off the BA 500 with first baseman Gavin LaValley, who hit 54 home runs while helping his high school team win three state championships. He’s physically dominated Oklahoma prep competition and has improved his body over the course of his high school career. An Oklahoma signee, the massive LaValley is listed at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds but scouts say he’s closer to 240, but he’s strong has plus raw power. He’s expected to have limited defensive value but should be athletic enough to stay at first base. Scouts that liked him saw some wrist snap and feel for hitting to go with the strength. He didn’t face a lot of velocity in high school en route to being Oklahoma’s Gatorade player of the year, hitting .554 with 18 home runs this spring.
• The Orioles didn’t start picking until the third round, where they took prep first baseman Brian Gonzalez, who ranked No. 311 on the BA 500. They actually aimed higher in the fourth round with Notre Dame righthander Pat Connaughton, the best two-sport player in the draft class. Connaughton wants to continue to play for the Irish’s basketball team this winter, where he averaged better than 13 points and seven rebounds per game, and then begin his baseball career full-time next year in 2015. He has excellent athleticism and body control but remains raw on the mound, which shows in his below-average command. His fastball typically sits in the low 90s, but his arm strength, athleticism and school bring natural comparisons to Jeff Samardzija.
• Righthander Chad Sobotka showed premium arm strength and mid-90s velocity last summer in the Cape Cod League but missed the entire season with a back injury at USC-Upstate. He did get back on the mound in late May and threw several bullpens and workouts for area scouts, and the Braves saw enough to take him with pick No. 133—right around where he ranked on the BA 500 (No. 115).
• Several power arms made their way into the fourth round. The Astros snagged Texas A&M’s Daniel Mengden with the first pick of the round; his velocity dipped this spring due to a stress fracture in his lower back. The Phillies got an even livelier arms in Arkansas’ Chris Oliver, who ranked No. 66 on the BA 500 but who was arrested on a DWI charge two days before the draft. The Royals and Diamondbacks went for college relievers-turned-starters back to back in picks 119 and 120, with Kansas City taking Illinois State’s Jeremy Rhoades while Arizona selected Cornell’s Brent Jones, who became the highest draft pick in school history. Rhoades is noted for hitting the mid-90s as a reliever with a plus slider.
• The first two junior-college hitters off the board went within two picks of each other, and they almost could not be more different physically. Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) JC outfielder Wes Rodgers, at No. 113 to Colorado, went first, and the 6-foot-4, 180-pounder has a sleek frame that earns comparisons to former Rockies outfielder Dexter Fowler. He’s a long-strider with center field potential, though he’s raw, and his hitting approach is geared more to contact than power. Two picks later the Mets popped El Paso (Texas) CC corner bat Eudor Garcia, who’s listed at 5-foot-11, 225 pounds. He was one of the top performers in the JC ranks (.460, 14 home runs) thanks to present strength and a quiet approach. A third baseman in junior college, he likely fits better in left field or possibly first base.