2014 MLB DRAFT: FIRST ROUND ANALYSIS
Pick: Brady Aiken, lhp, Cathedral Catholic, San Diego
Pick value: $7,922,100
Area Scout: Brad Budzinski
Pick analysis: The last time a high school lefthander went first overall was 1991, five years before Aiken was born. Despite rumors swirling about a number of different pitchers (the most recent was Tyler Kolek), the Astros took the consensus top player. His draft report is strikingly similar to Clayton Kershaw’s report in 2006.
Scouting report: Aiken's advanced feel for pitching and lean, projectable body have made him a big-name prospect for years, but he became a no-doubt, top-of-the-draft talent when his velocity jumped this spring. Aiken's fastball sat in the 88-91 mph range and topped out at 92 on the showcase circuit last summer, but he spent the winter working out, and he made waves by running his heater up to 97 in an early-spring showdown against Alex Jackson's crosstown Rancho Bernardo High team. He has sat at 92-93 mph this spring, regularly touching 96, and spots his fastball well at the knees to both sides of the plate. His curveball was already a solid-average pitch last summer at 73-75 mph, but one scout called it "silly good" this spring, a 77-78 hammer with depth and sharp bite. Aiken also has good feel for a changeup, giving him a third potential plus pitch, and some scouts say his slider is another promising offering, though his curve is his calling card. A former football quarterback early in his high school years, Aiken is a standout athlete with an ideal pitcher's frame (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and a fluid delivery with minimal effort. He stands out most for his extraordinary ability to command his entire repertoire. The UCLA commit also draws plaudits for his intelligence and ability to make adjustments.
Pick: Tyler Kolek, rhp, Shepherd (Texas) HS
Pick value: $6,821,800
Area Scout: Ryan Wardinsky
Pick analysis: The Marlins have ties to the midwest and covet power arms. They drafted the hardest-throwing prep arm in draft history.
Scouting report: Scouts knew about Kolek as one of the top 2014 targets in Texas when he broke his left arm in a collision at first base in March 2013. The injury ended his junior season, but Kolek kept himself in shape. When he went to the tryouts for Texas' Area Code Games team in late May, his fastball popped 99. A three-sport star who was drawing interest as a defensive end, Kolek decided to focus exclusively on baseball after the ACG tryout. Kolek then spent the summer establishing himself as the hardest thrower in a draft class full of velocity, and has maintained triple-digit radar gun readings all spring, hitting 100-102 mph regularly. Kolek's fastball sits 96-98 mph thanks to tremendous strength, coordination in his 6-foot-5, 245-pound body and surprising arm speed. Kolek is very athletic in his delivery has a very long stride, even for his size. Scouts consider Kolek's consistent top-end velocity unprecedented in the draft era for a high school pitcher. His fastball plays up beyond its pure velocity readings because of its heavy plus life, working downhill with sink. His dense fastball will likely be a groundball-inducing offering when hitters make contact. He throws both a curveball and slider, and the slider is a power pitch in the mid-80s that is his best secondary pitch and shows at least plus potential. His curveball has decent shape but he prefers the slider. He repeats his delivery and throws quality strikes. He has shown a changeup in showcases or in the bullpen but hasn't needed it in games. Kolek can lose his direction to the plate, working from the far first base side of the rubber and occasionally landing closed. But he has cleaned up his delivery this spring, leading to the consistent velocity. He has performed as expected as a potential top-five pick against small school Texas competition, striking out 60 percent of hitters against 6 percent walks. Scouts struggle think think of a physical comparison for Kolek and that lack of analogous players make scouts wonder how his body will progress as he ages. Strike-throwing ability and the development of his offspeed stuff will be the keys to his development, as he has the chance to develop into a power pitcher that fronts a rotation.
3. WHITE SOX
Pick: Carlos Rodon, lhp, North Carolina State
Pick value: $5,721,500
Area Scout: Abe Fernandez
Pick analysis: The White Sox were known to covet pitching and drafted the consensus No. 1 overall player entering the year. They had narrowed their list down to a few arms and Rodon was the one that reached them.
Scouting report: The son of Cuban-Americans who moved to North Carolina when he was a 9-year-old, Rodon emerged as one of the state's top pitchers as a high school senior and was being crosschecked heavily when back spasms sapped his velocity and pushed him down the draft. A 16th-rounder of the Brewers in 2011, he spurned more than $500,000 to attend North Carolina State, where his velocity jumped immediately as he firmed up his body and shortened his stride. He hit 97 mph regularly in short stints to open his freshman season, with a slider that immediately became one of the best in college baseball. His slider remains the best pitch in the draft for most scouts, sitting 85-87 mph and scraping 89 at its best with two-plane depth. Multiple scouts have given Rodon's slider 80 grades on the 20-80 scale when it is on, though some say he relies on the slider too much. More concerning this year was a lack of explosiveness on his fastball for the first half of the season, when Rodon often sat 89-92, as well as below-average command, particularly to his arm side. His changeup was a solid-average pitch last summer, when he dominated Cuba to end his summer with USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team and pitched like a big leaguer. It has been inconsistent and often non-existent this spring, however. His listed 6-foot-3, 234-pound frame is an asset for some due to thick, strong legs and durability; others knock him for a lack of athleticism and projection. Rodon's confidence crosses over into cockiness at times, but his competitiveness gives him a No. 1 pitcher's mentality. A second-half revival of his fastball velocity back to the mid-90s, tied to improved direction in his delivery to home plate, had him more closely resembling the pitcher who led Division I in strikeouts and strikeouts per nine in 2013, when he led the Wolfpack to its first College World Series trip since 1967. The worst-case scenario for Rodon is a potential closer, but he's a potential frontline starter with some refinement.
Pick: Kyle Schwarber, c/of, Indiana
Pick value: $4,621,200
Area Scout: Stan Zielinski
Pick analysis: Some believed that the draft truly started at the fourth pick with the Cubs, who were reportedly considering a number of different players, mostly position players. The Cubs got one of the best college hitters in the draft, who may not have the conventional upside of a top-five pick but has as high a floor as nearly any position player in the college ranks.
Scouting report: Recruited by some Big 10 Conference schools to play middle linebacker, Schwarber instead brought his fierce physicality and power to the middle of the diamond, anchoring Indiana's lineup for the last three seasons. His 18 homers in 2013 ranked third in the country and helped the Hoosiers become the first Big Ten team to reach the College World Series since 1984. Listed at 6-feet, 240 pounds, Schwarber has made considerable improvement defensively over the course of his Indiana career, carrying over some hard-learned lessons when he struggled handling velocity with USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team last summer. He still stabs and boxes too many balls, and a long transfer can sabotage his solid-average arm strength, but he's thrown out 33 percent of basestealers this season after nabbing just 19 percent in 2013. His leadership qualities have been evident with the Hoosiers and he has a strong, durable body for catching, but he'll never be more than a fringe-average defender. Schwarber fits in the first round for his bat. He's a smart hitter who studies pitchers and has tremendous strength to punish pitches to all fields. He's thick and could be quicker on pitches inside with a trimmer physique. He's a better athlete than he looks and is even a fringy runner with the aggressiveness to have stolen eight bases this spring, second on Indiana's team. His athleticism gives him a chance to shift to left field if catching doesn't work out.
Pick: Nick Gordon, ss, Olympia High, Orlando
Pick value: $3,851,000
Area Scout: Freddie Thon
Pick analysis: Gordon to the Twins had long been rumored as one of the surest matchups in the top half of an uncertain first round. Late buzz indicated a top arm could be in the mix, but the Twins drafted the best pure shortstop in the class who has some of the best instincts and makeup in the draft.
Scouting report: Gordon is talented enough that he could have followed in his father Tom's footsteps as a pitcher or his brother Dee's footsteps as a shortstop. The quality of this year's draft class is held back by the dearth of up-the-middle position players, so Gordon, who is the consensus best middle-of-the-diamond player, looks like he will go in the top 10 picks. Gordon has potential to be a rare lefthanded-hitting domestic shortstop who contributes offensively and defensively. He added more than 10 pounds to his wiry 6-foot, 180-pound build over the offseason and this additional strength helped in many facets of his game. Gordon has a chance to be an above-average hitter with a loose, quick stroke that works inside the ball. He has strong bat-to-ball skills, and while he has more doubles power presently, scouts believe he could also have at least average power down the road once he learns to pull the ball, and maybe even above-average. Opinions on his defense differ, ranging from average to well above-average. He has soft hands, easy actions and natural instincts for the position. Gordon has the best arm in the high school class and it is at least plus. Despite being a plus runner in the 60, Gordon's speed plays closer to average out of the box. Scouts have conviction about Gordon's makeup, which is among the best in the draft, and say he has top-of-charts instincts. Gordon also has a solid backup option as a pitcher who can run his fastball up to 94 with an above-average curveball.
Pick: Alex Jackon, c/of, Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego
Pick value: $3,575,900
Area Scout: Gary Patchett
Pick analysis: The draft played out very well for the Mariners, who were known to covet Jackson, the best high school hitter in the class. He could have went in the top three. Jackson is the first high school player taken by the Mariners in the first round since Nick Franklin in 2009.
Scouting report: Jackson burst onto the national scene in 2012, when he led California prep players with 17 home runs as a sophomore, then put on a show at the Area Code Games that summer. In the two years since, the Oregon commit has cemented himself as one of the top power bats in the draft class, and a lock to become Rancho Bernardo's sixth first-round pick in the last 20 years, following in the footsteps of Hank Blalock and Cole Hamels. Jackson's muscular 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame is packed with present strength. He stands out most for his plus to plus-plus righthanded power potential, but he also has a solid approach and drives the ball with authority to the middle and opposite fields. He has a loose swing, electric bat speed and a knack for making hard contact. Jackson has another premium tool in his arm, which grades out as plus or even plus-plus, depending on which scout you ask. If an organization wants to develop him as a catcher, most scouts think Jackson can become a solid defensive backstop in time, but his receiving and blocking need plenty of work. He'll have an impact bat no matter where he plays, so a team could fast-track him by putting him in right field, and he also has flashed promise at third base. He's a below-average runner but not a clogger.
Pick: Aaron Nola, rhp, Louisiana State
Pick value: $3,300,900
Area Scout: Mike Stauffer
Pick analysis: The Phillies, who typically draft for upside, took Nola, likely the quickest mover any of any college starting pitcher. This was the first time the Phillies have drafted a college player in the first round since 2007.
Scouting report: The Blue Jays drafted Nola and his older brother Austin in 2011, and they both turned down the Jays to play the 2012 season together at LSU. While Austin is now playing shortstop at Double-A in the Marlins system, Aaron was having one of the best seasons in college baseball in 2014. Athletic and flexible, Nola manages to stay on top of his pitches and command them despite a mid-three-quarters release point that gives his fastball excellent life. His fastball sits 93-94 mph and touches 95 regularly, and he reached back for 96 in a hyped, head-to-head showdown with Vanderbilt and Tyler Beede in March. Nola's fastball command ranks toward the top of the college class, as he can pitch to both sides of the plate, though his walk rate has increased (1.3 to 2.3 per nine) this season as he has thrown more sliders. His strikeout rate has jumped even more (8.7 to 10.7 per nine). Nola arrived at LSU with a plus changeup with sink that looked like his fastball out of his hand, but he has lost feel for his change while improving his slider, which was once below-average. Scouts give his slider average or better grades as he has added power to the pitch, but they would like to see a return of his plus change. Nola gets swings and misses in the zone with his fastball, the mark of a starting pitcher, and is one of the safest bets in the class. His command should help the 6-foot-1, 196-pounder move quickly.
Pick: Kyle Freeland, lhp, Evansville
Pick value: $3,190,800
Area Scout: Scott Corman
Pick analysis: The Rockies had the most extensive history with the medical reports for Freeland, whose status was uncertain for some teams down the stretch. The Rockies team doctor performed his operation in 2007. Colorado has a history of drafting from the college ranks and Freeland was the highest-ranked college starter left on the board.
Scouting report: Freeland hopes to join the projectable Colorado prep products who became successful big league pitchers, from Scott Elarton and Roy Halladay to Mark Melancon and Kevin Gausman. Just 170 pounds when the Phillies drafted him in the 35th round in 2011, he went to Evansville and earned a rotation spot as a freshman, when he was throwing 85-88 mph. He has grown to 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, and the quality of his stuff has continued to improve as he has grown into his body and retained a quick arm. He hit 96 mph in the fall after pitching at 89-93 mph last summer in the Cape Cod League, and he has maintained that stuff this spring. Freeland has a loose arm and plus-plus control and projects to have big league command, and his 15-1 strikeout-walk ratio ranked second in the country, and his 106 strikeouts ranked third. Freeland gets swings and misses with his fastball as well as a hard slider in the 85-86 mph range when he's right. The slider is lethal to lefthanded hitters. He also throws a solid-average curveball that he locates well. Freeland's changeup can be too firm at times but has good tumble when it's on. Some scouts aren't convinced Freeland's delivery will allow him to start, as he has a bit of a head jerk, but he has shown the athleticism to repeat it and throws a high volume of quality strikes. He rose up draft boards all spring as his numbers popped off both the radar gun and the stat sheet.
9. BLUE JAYS
Pick: Jeff Hoffman, rhp, East Carolina
Pick value: $3,080,800
Area Scout: Chris Kline
Pick analysis: The Blue Jays value upside, and no college pitcher has more upside than Hoffman, who could have contender for a top-three pick had he been healthy. His stuff is among the best in the draft, but he had Tommy John surgery after his best start of the season in April.
Scouting report: Scouts in the Northeast recall Hoffman as an athlete with some projection who was not ready for professional baseball, with a mid- to upper-80s fastball. He made good on his East Carolina commitment, and three years later, he could become the highest-drafted player in program history despite requiring Tommy John surgery in mid-May. Hoffman has a premium pitcher's body at 6-foot-4, 192 pounds, with twitchy athletic ability, and his stuff has grown with his body. He broke out in the Cape Cod League, where he ranked as the No. 1 prospect last summer, and pitched well in front of a large scouting crowd at Virginia in February 2014 in his second start. He was having an uneven season until mid-April, when he struck out a career-best 16 in eight one-hit innings against Middle Tennessee State. It was his last start prior to surgery, though. At his best, Hoffman's athletic body, electric fastball and ability to maintain his velocity evoke Justin Verlander. His fastball sits from 92-96 mph, reaching 97-98, and his two-seamer features above-average sink, life and arm-side run. His changeup and curveball both flash plus, with the changeup being more consistent. He also throws a slider, which usually earns average grades. Hoffman appeared poised to be one of the first seven players drafted, but his late arm injury and surgery cloud his immediate draft future. His athleticism and elite velocity still portend a rosy future if he returns to health, and a team with extra picks will likely take a shot at him.
Pick: Michael Conforto, of, Oregon State
Pick value: $2,970,800
Area Scout: Jim Reeves
Pick analysis: The Mets took the best college hitter on the board after drafting high school position players for three consecutive years. They were rumored to be on bats at this spot.
Scouting report: While other college and high school position players have better all-around tools, Conforto ranks as the best present hitter in the 2014 draft. He has had a monster junior season for Oregon State, building off his first two seasons when he was an All-Freshman selection in 2012 and led the Beavers to Omaha in 2013. Listed at 6-foot-2, 217 pounds, Conforto has present strength and above-average bat speed. He has controlled his aggressiveness as a junior, taming a swing that got too big over the summer with Team USA. He's become a more selective hitter, ranking second in the country in walks and first in on-base percentage while hitting .410 though the first week in May. After hitting 24 homers in his first two seasons combined, Conforto had just five thus far as a junior, giving some evaluators pause because he's a bat-first player. He has plus raw power and should project to hit 20-25 annually. He also has improved his fringy outfield defense, which is seen as adequate for left field, with average arm strength that doesn't always play. Conforto has shown playmaking ability with the glove, however, with show-stopper plays in the College World Series last year and key outfield assists in games against rival Oregon.
11. BLUE JAYS
Pick: Max Pentecost, c, Kennesaw State
Pick value: $2,888,300
Area Scout: Mike Tidick
Pick analysis: The Blue Jays, who typically target high school players, went with college players at the top of the draft with their first two picks. But Hoffman and Pentecost are premium athletes for their positions. Pentecost was rumored to be in play much higher in the draft, and his athleticism and hitting ability give him a high baseline for performance at the next level.
Scouting report: The Rangers drafted Pentecost as a seventh-rounder in 2011 but couldn't sign him away from Kennesaw State, due in part to a broken bone in his elbow joint that hampered him in high school. Pentecost's athleticism stood out then and still does after catching for most of the last three seasons. Scouts consider him an above-average runner period, fairly exceptional for a catcher, and his 6-foot-1, 190-pound body could use more strength to hold up under the rigors of catching 100-plus games. The body and his speed earn him Jason Kendall comparisons. He's an average receiver with average arm strength with inconsistent throwing mechanics and profiles as an offensive catcher. After two solid seasons as an everyday player, Pentecost took things up a notch last summer, earning Cape Cod League MVP honors by hitting .346/.424/.538. In 2014, he ranked among the national top 10 in batting and hits as the calendar turned to May, and scouts like his line-drive swing, which has improved over the course of his college career. Most scouts see him as a below-average power producer but some see enough feel for hitting for Pentecost to reach 12-15 homers eventually.
Pick: Kodi Medeiros, lhp, Waiakea HS, Hilo, Hawaii
Pick value: $2,805,700
Area Scout: Josh Belovsky
Pick analysis: The Royals at No. 17 were rumored to strongly covet Medeiros, who has some of the nastiest stuff in the class. The Brewers knew he wouldn’t be around for their next pick. Medeiros is one of the most unique players in the class as a low-slot lefthander with premium stuff.
Scouting report: The last two Hawaiian high schoolers to go in the top two rounds both went No. 59 overall (Brandon League in 2001 and Dane Sardinha in 1997), which gives Medeiros the opportunity to be the highest-drafted Hawaiian prep since the draft moved to a single phase. He was the first pitcher to throw in game action on the showcase circuit for the 2014 draft at Perfect Game National last June, and Medeiros quickly opened eyes. His fastball sat 90-92 mph over extended innings this spring and has touched 95. He throws from a low arm slot that is just above sidearm, giving his fastball plus-plus life with heavy arm-side run and sink. His heavy, groundball-inducing fastball was a constant discussion point for hitters on the showcase circuit. Medeiros’ slider is at least a plus offering and one of the best breaking balls in the high school ranks. The Pepperdine commit’s changeup has improved, showing the makings of an above-average offering with continued refinement. Controlling his stuff in the zone will be key for his ability to remain in a rotation, and many in the industry believe Medeiros will likely be a reliever in the long run because of the uniqueness of his arm slot and the potential for large platoon splits, as well as his stature. The 6-foot-1, 191-pounder has a strong, defined and athletic build and used to participate in judo. He is young for the class and will turn 18 just before draft day.
Pick: Trea Turner, ss, North Carolina State
Pick value: $2,723,300
Area Scout: Tyler Stubblefield
Pick analysis: The Padres were known to be targeting position players and got one of the most dynamic in the class. Turner, who entered the year as a potential top-five overall pick, has a rare skill set as a premium runner who has the ability to play shortstop.
Scouting report: Then-Pirates South Florida area scout Rolando Pino (now with the Red Sox) beat the whole industry on Turner, drafting him in the 21st round in 2011, but he couldn't get Turner signed despite offering him more than $500,000. The Palm Beach County product took Division I baseball by storm in 2012, leading the nation with 55 stolen bases in 59 tries, and Turner has hit 14 home runs the last two seasons, leading N.C. State in homers both years. Hampered by a ankle injury in 2013, he still helped lead the Wolfpack to their first College World Series trip since 1967 along with roommate Carlos Rodon. The ankle injury cost Turner speed last year, but he's back to turning in 70 and 80 times to first base, including 3.45 seconds on a push bunt, and his speed has played more since he moved back to the leadoff spot after hitting third. Turner's swing remains long and sweepy, he struggled with the bat with USA Baseball last summer, and most scouts consider him a bottom-of-the-order candidate as a big league offensive player. His sneaky power gets him in trouble, causing his swing to get big and his approach to be too pull-oriented. His defense at shortstop, however, has improved as he's added strength in the last year. He has plus range, particularly to his left, good hands and a 55 arm sufficient for the play in the hole. If Turner's bat comes around as a pro, he has all-star potential. As it is, he's a tough comparison as a speedy college player who's a true shortstop.
Pick: Tyler Beede, rhp, Vanderbilt
Pick value: $2,613,200
Area Scout: Andrew Jefferson
Pick analysis: Beede began the season as the No. 3 college pitcher in the class but struggled with his control down the stretch, though he had one of the best starts of his career in his final outing before the draft. While his control has been his been the most deficient part of game up to this point, he is going to the right organization to help him harness his plus stuff.
Scouting report: Beede was the fourth high school pitcher drafted in 2011, after Dylan Bundy, Archie Bradley and Jose Fernandez. The Blue Jays and Beede didn't come to terms, though, with the Jays offering $2.4 million and Beede seeking $3 million or more. He headed to Vanderbilt and struggled as a freshman but seemed to put things together while earning Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year honors in 2013. Even in his 14-1, 2.32 season, Beede walked 5.6 per nine innings, and he had a rough summer with Team USA, with his delivery getting out of sync when he couldn't find the strike zone. He has thrown more strikes this spring (3.3 BB/9) but has been more hittable, and scouts give him average control grades with below-average command. Nevertheless, Beede looks the part of a first-rounder at an athletic, powerful 6-foot-4, 215 pounds with a clean arm, and he flashes plus with three pitches. At times he pitches with a well above-average fastball, reaching 97 mph and sitting 92-94. His changeup has been his best secondary offering this spring, earning plus grades, and he throws one of the hardest curveballs in the draft at 80-81 mph, giving him a third plus pitch. Beede has a big personality and rap alter ego (Young Beedah) and was the life of Team USA's clubhouse despite his struggles last summer. He's a wild card in the first round whose last starts, particularly at the SEC tournament, will be watched closely as scouts look for signs of improved strike-throwing.
Pick: Sean Newcomb, lhp, Harford
Pick value: $2,475,600
Area Scout: Nick Gorneault
Pick analysis: Newcomb received late helium as a potential top-10 pick and presents value for the Angels at No. 15. He is the most talented pitcher to enter their system through the draft in years.
Scouting report: Newcomb wasn't a priority follow in high school and walked 38 in 45 innings as a Hartford freshman. He took off in 2013, however, ranking second in the nation in strikeouts per nine (11.5) and landing a spot in the Cape Cod League. A bout of mononucleosis interrupted his Cape stint. Newcomb has flashed mid-90s velocity but more often pitches at 91-93 mph with his fastball from a sound delivery, and the ball gets on top of hitters because he does it so easily. He has plenty of projection left with a strong 6-foot-5, 240-pound workhorse body and a fresh Northeastern arm. He maintains his delivery and throws a lot of strikes with the fastball, though he tends to get away with elevated pitches against modest competition. His breaking ball wavers between a curve and slider, and scouts believe his arm slot lends itself more to a curveball. His changeup flashes promise, though he uses it sparingly. Scouts can dream on Newcomb more than the average college pitcher but also have less certainty because of his short track record.
Pick: Touki Toussaint, rhp, Coral Springs (Fla.) Christian Academy
Pick value: $2,338,200
Area Scout: Frankie Thon
Pick analysis: Toussaint at No. 16 provides an arm that is a top-10 talent on pure stuff. In back-to-back years, Arizona has grabbed athletic righthanders with tremendous upside. They took Nevada’s Braden Shipley last year.
Scouting report: Toussaint might have the least baseball experience of any top draft prospect, yet arguably the highest ceiling of any high school pitcher. He's of Haitian descent and was a soccer player who began playing baseball as a teenager. He gained note in scouting circles as an underclassman by running his fastball up to 97 mph with a hammer breaking ball. While his control was below-average on the showcase circuit last summer, he showed all the raw material. Then he made significant strides as a pitcher this spring. Although he sat 90-93 mph at the National High School Invitational in frigid weather, Toussaint has had numerous starts where he sat 93-96 mph, touching 97 with plus life. He has elite arm speed and whip-like arm action with long arms. His curveball shows flashes of being a plus-plus offering and potentially the best in the class. His hammer, according to TrackMan, had the highest spin rate of any Perfect Game All-American. Toussaint's changeup improved dramatically and has at least plus potential. Control will be his biggest question mark, as he has struggled to consistently fill up the strike zone. But his elite, quick-twitch athleticism could go toward allaying those concerns, as he is probably the best athlete in the pitching class. Toussaint also has a great pitcher's body at 6-foot-2, 198 pounds with a high waist, long extremities and large hands. He is also young for the class and won't turn 18 until after the draft.
Pick: Brandon Finnegan, lhp, Texas Christian
Pick value: $2,200,600
Area Scout: Chad Lee
Pick analysis: Had Finnegan been healthy the entire season, he could have gone in the top 10 picks and has some of the most electric stuff in the draft.
Scouting report: Even Finnegan's pitching coach, former big leaguer Kirk Saarloos, gives Carlos Rodon an assist for Finnegan's breakthrough junior season. TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle coached USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team last summer and brought the live-armed Finnegan with him despite an 0-8, 3.18 season. Finnegan rewarded his coach by running his fastball into the 93-98 mph range, and then became different pitcher when he learned a new slider grip from Rodon. He went from having a below-average breaking ball to a wipeout pitch. Finnegan hasn't quite had the same power he showed last summer, pitching more in the 90-95 mph range this spring, but his slider has power and late action. He still has his solid-average changeup and much more confidence now with his breaking ball. Scouts also point to improved pitchability as he has settled into the Friday starter routine as well. Finnegan is just 5-foot-11, 184 pounds, and his early departure from an April 25 start and subsequent skipping of a start with a stiff shoulder will raise durability concerns. He was scheduled to return to the mound for the final weekend of the regular season, and if he shows he's healthy could pitch his way back into the first 10 selections.
Pick: Erick Fedde, rhp, Nevada-Las Vegas
Pick value: $2,145,600
Area Scout: Mitch Sokol
Pick analysis: Fedde had long been tied to the Nationals, who used the 16th pick in the 2012 draft on another talented righty with elbow trouble, Lucas Giolito. He also could have moved into the top 10 picks had he been healthy all season.
Scouting report: A Las Vegas High graduate, Fedde remains a tall, projectable righthander as he was in 2011, when the Padres drafted him in the 24th round. He has pitched in the UNLV rotation for three seasons and gained significant confidence pitching last summer in the Cape Cod League and then with Team USA. Fedde ran his fastball up to 92 mph in high school and pushed 94 last summer. He's still slender at a listed 6-foot-4, 175 pounds but has added strength and touched 97 mph this spring, more often sitting in the 90-93 range. He repeats his delivery, throws quality strikes with the fastball and commands his slider well. The pitch has taken a step forward this spring, flashing plus at 81-84 mph at times, scraping higher. He has shown the ability to bury it or land it for strikes. Fedde's changeup plays average. UNLV skipped his turn in a non-conference weekend in early May, which together with his slender frame stoked durability concerns. Those fears came to fruition a week later, when it was disclosed Fedde would have Tommy John surgery. Fedde's polish and upside would have landed him in the first 10-15 picks, and still could keep him in the first round in a volatile class thanks to his track record.
Pick: Nick Howard, rhp, Virginia
Pick value: $2,090,500
Area Scout: Jeff Brookens
Pick analysis: The Reds have a history of taking college relievers and giving them the chance to start in the pros. Howard has the stuff to make the transition or could move quickly in the bullpen.
Scouting report: Howard had a strenuous sophomore season, getting more than 200 plate appearances as a third baseman and sometime shortstop while logging 61 innings as one of Virginia's starters. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder also started in the Cape Cod League last summer, though the quality of his stuff was down. That has not been the case this spring after the Cavaliers have moved him to a relief role, where Howard has developed into an aggressive strike-throwing machine with power stuff and malicious intent. He was averaging 16.6 strikeouts per nine innings and had allowed just 18 baserunners through 23 innings. He pitches aggressively off a fastball that ranges from 93-96 mph and touches higher. Howard's curveball comes and goes, at times showing power and 12-to-6 shape, but he doesn't always throw it with conviction. He also throws a slider and changeup at times, all the while employing Virginia's trademark delivery that starts with bent knees. Howard's four-pitch mix and athleticism give him a chance to start, but he could zip to the majors as a reliever.
Pick: Casey Gillaspie, 1b, Wichita State
Pick value: $2,035,500
Area Scout: J.D.Elliby
Pick analysis: Gillaspie presented the best college bat left on the board and the Rays had been linked to bats. He is the first-ever first baseman drafted by the Rays in the first round.
Scouting report: The younger brother of White Sox infielder Casey followed in the family footsteps both with Wichita State and in the Cape Cod League with Falmouth. His eight homers last summer led the Cape, and Gillaspie is bigger than his older brother, checking in at 6-foot-4, 238-pounds. The switch-hitter is a poor runner limited to first base as a lefthanded thrower, but he's a nimble defender for his size. Like his older brother, Gillaspie's value is in his bat, with power from both sides of the plate, and though he's a bit more comfortable from the left side, the swings work from both sides of the plate. Gillaspie controls the strike zone and ranked among the nation's walks and on-base percentage leagers. When he gets himself into hitter's counts, he has the above-average bat speed and strength to take advantage, with above-average raw power that he gets to consistently. Gillaspie is more laid-back than his older brother but also profiles better as a power-hitting first baseman. He'll look even better to teams that lean on analytics.
Brady Aiken Spent 2018 On The Sidelines Regrouping
Rather than pitch competitively in 2018, Aiken focused on his conditioning and mechanics at the Indians' Arizona complex.
Pick: Bradley Zimmer, of, San Francisco
Pick value: $2,008,100
Area Scout: Don Lyle
Pick analysis: Historically, the Indians have valued college players and Zimmer presented the top college position player left on the board.
Scouting report: Zimmer spent his freshman season with the Dons watching his older Kyle deal with the pressure of being a first-round pick. Kyle, a righthander, went fourth overall to the Royals in 2012, and Bradley emerged as a potential first-rounder with a strong sophomore season. That 2013 campaign got better when he earned a spot on USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team and performed well, hitting .300 and leading the team with 11 stolen bases. Zimmer ranks as one of the better athletes in the college hitter class, with a lean 6-foot-5, 205-pound frame, broad shoulders and an extra gear as a runner, grading out as above-average. He has shown plus arm strength as well and looks the part of a right fielder. He's played plenty of center field in college--which not all scouts are sold he can play--and some scouts see him as a better fit there, mostly because they doubt he has the power to be a regular on a corner. Zimmer has an unorthodox setup that produces line drives and hard contact but little loft power. He's led off for the Dons this season and profiles better as a two-hole hitter or further down the order, rather than as a middle-of-the-order bat.
Pick: Grant Holmes, Conway (S.C.) HS
Pick value: $1,980,500
Area Scout: Lon Joyce
Pick analysis: With just three prep arms, the deepest demographic in the draft, off the board by pick No. 22, the Dodgers had their pick of many of the talented high school arms they historically have preferred. Holmes presents a combination of stuff and polish.
Scouting report: For the fourth straight season, South Carolina will produce a prep righthander in the top two rounds of the draft. Before this streak started, just two Palmetto prep pitchers had been drafted in that range since the draft went to a single phase. Holmes could even outdo Taylor Guerrieri (No. 24 overall to the National in 2011) as the highest-drafted South Carolina prep pitcher in modern history. Holmes has some of the best present stuff in the class. He came out sitting 93-96 mph, touching 98 early in the season and then 91-94 in some later starts. His power curveball is one of the top breaking balls in the country, a plus pitch that flashes better. On the showcase circuit, Holmes was primarily a two-pitch pitcher with a seldom-used changeup. But the offering has become a legitimate above-average weapon that could become plus. The biggest knock against Holmes is his powerful, broad-shouldered and barrel-chested 6-foot, 216-pound body that offers limited physical projection. Scouts say his fastball can play true up in the zone when he fails to locate down, and he leaves too many high fastballs most games. His delivery with recoil and a long arm swing is unlikely to produce plus control. But he has present stuff and pitchability. Holmes, a Florida signee, is the younger brother of Colby Holmes, a two-time national champion at South Carolina.
Pick: Derek Hill, of, Elk Grove (Calif.) HS
Pick value: $1,953,100
Area Scout: Scott Cerney
Pick analysis: Hill had as much helium as any high school position player over the last few weeks and performed well at multiple workouts. He is the first high school position player the Tigers have drafted in the first round since Cameron Maybin in 2005.
Scouting report: A student of the game, Hill is the son of former first rounder (1982 January phase) and current Dodgers' area scout Orsino Hill, who was also an outfielder. Combining well above-average speed with defensive instincts makes Hill the top defensive center fielder in the draft class. He has plus range and made highlight reel grabs on the showcase circuit. The Oregon commit has at least an average arm with a quick release that is also accurate. Hill ran the 60-yard dash in the 6.3-second range last summer, and his speed could make him an impact basestealer. Orsino worked as a hitting instructor before scouting and his son has aptitude as a contact-oriented hitter. Hill has a quick righthanded stroke and works inside the ball, showing strike zone awareness. Scouts believe he'll also show power when he begins hitting the ball to his pull side more frequently. Hill rarely swings and misses in the zone, but will expand the zone against secondary stuff. His swing is geared more toward line drives with below-average over-the-fence power. The 6-foot, 185-pound Hill has an athletic, toned build with build with room to get stronger.
Pick: Cole Tucker, ss, Mountain Pointe HS, Phoenix
Pick value: $1,925,500
Area Scout: Mike Steele
Pick analysis: Tucker has risen as much as any high school position player in the country over the course of the spring. The Pirates have been tied to prep position players and Tucker is one of the few with an up-the-middle profile.
Scouting report: A high-energy, scrappy player with passion for the game, Tucker was the starting shortstop for USA Baseball National team that won its second consecutive World Cup gold medal last summer. He has plus instincts that make his tools play up. Tucker began switch-hitting two years ago, but his natural lefthanded swing offers better bat speed and a more compact swing path. He could be at least an average hitter (with the potential to be better) as a high-contact bat that uses the whole field and stays inside the ball. His line-drive swing path will likely limit him to below-average power, as he drives the ball to the gaps. Tucker's speed plays at plus out of the box and is even better underway as a long strider. A natural athlete, Tucker has the ability to stay at shortstop with an above-average arm that can throw from different angles, soft hands and smooth actions. The long, lean and wiry Tucker offers a considerable amount of projection with his body for a position player at 6-foot-3, 175 pounds. He has long arms, big feet and will likely add a significant amount of strength. As a tall lefthanded-hitting infielder that can play shortstop, Tucker has drawn comparisons to Andy Fox. The Arizona commit comes from a baseball family and his father is in the Florida high school baseball hall of fame. Tucker is very young for the class and won't be 18 until after draft day.
Pick: Matt Chapman, 3b, Cal State Fullerton
Pick value: $1,898,000
Area Scout: Eric Martins
Pick analysis: Chapman has been rising up draft boards late in the process. Though the A’s were tied to prep position players, a demographic they had invested in at the top of the draft throughout the last few years, they returned to their college roots.
Scouting report: Chapman has been an infield mainstay for three years at Cal State Fullerton, and he led USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team with 20 RBIs last summer. He also generated a buzz in two mound appearances for Team USA, running his fastball up to 98 mph, but he has not pitched in three seasons for the Titans. Chapman's plus-plus is a major asset at the hot corner, where he has the actions and instincts to be an above-average defender. He has plenty of strength in his 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame, projecting for average power, but his line-drive swing is more tailored for driving doubles from gap-to-gap. Chapman has a disciplined approach and walks about as often as he strikes out. Scouts like his hard-nosed, blue-collar mentality and sound baseball instincts. And his premium arm makes pitching an intriguing fallback option should his bat eventually sputter.
26. RED SOX
Pick: Michael Chavis, 3b, Sprayberry HS, Marietta, Ga.
Pick value: $1,870,500
Area Scout: Rob English
Pick analysis: The Red Sox were in an advantageous position, with their pick of some players who might have fit higher on the board, and Chavis’ talent could have figured higher than No. 26. He is the first prep infielder drafted by the organization in the first round since 1973.
Scouting report: As many of the toolsy high school position players raise questions about their hitting ability, the players that teams are confident will hit have moved up draft boards, and Chavis is one of the better bats in the class. He has a chance to go in the first round, a testament to his consistency as a 5-foot-10, 192-pound righthanded hitter. Chavis has tremendous strength through his hands and wrists and produces plus bat speed from a short, compact stroke. He hit consistently on the showcase circuit, including sending a 94 mph fastball from Touki Toussaint right back up the box at East Coast Pro. He has plus raw power that translates to game action. Currently a high school shortstop, Chavis will likely move off the position as a pro. Third base remains his most likely destination because of his first-step quickness, body control and above-average arm. Catching is an option and he has the necessary physical attributes, but he has spent limited time behind the plate. He has slightly above-average speed that will likely settle in around average with his strong, compact build. The Clemson commit is a high-effort, gamer who endears himself to scouts with his style of play, and scouts lauded his work ethic.
Pick: Luke Weaver, rhp, Florida State
Pick value: $1,843,000
Area Scout: Ty Boyles
Pick analysis: Weaver presents a combination of stuff, athleticism, track record and polish that the Cardinals covet in pitchers, and he was the top college starter left on the board.
Scouting report: Florida State produced back-to-back first-round righthanders in 1994-95 with Paul Wilson and Jonathan Johnson, but they haven't had a righty go in the first round since then, with Nick Stocks being a supplemental first-rounder in 1999. Weaver entered the year as the best bet to end that streak but has seen his velocity back up this spring from its 96 mph peak last season. Slight and athletic at 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, Weaver pitches off an 88-92 mph fastball that peaks higher on occasion but less frequently this year than last year, as scouts report he has lost some of his previous looseness. His fastball has some sink from a three-quarters slot, and his changeup has good deception and sinking action. Weaver's slider remains a fringy pitch, as it was when scouts saw him last summer with USA Baseball, and his strikeout rate has plummeted from 10.89 per nine (11th in the country last year) to 7.2 this season. However, he has mound presence, above-average control and the competitiveness demanded of a Friday starter for a top program. Weaver has second- or third-round tools with first-round pedigree.
Pick: Foster Griffin, lhp, The First Academy, Orlando
Pick value: $1,815,500
Area Scout: Jim Buckley
Pick analysis: The Royals doubled up on lefthanders with Griffin and Finnegan. Griffin is the highest-drafted prep lefthander the Royals have selected since taking Mike Montgomery 36th overall in 2008.
Scouting report: A year after Marlins unsigned third-rounder Ben DeLuzio became the highest-drafted player in The First Academy's (Orlando) history, Griffin is positioned to grab that title. Griffin teamed with Adam Haseley to form the top duo of senior lefthanders in the country. They led The First Academy to a championship at the National High School Invitational in March, tossing shutouts and hitting over .500 for the event in frigid conditions. Griffin presents a nice blend of present stuff, strike-throwing ability and projection. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder has an ideal pitcher's build that is made to handle innings and has drawn physical comparisons to Cole Hamels. His fastball sits 88-92 mph, touching 94 with glove-side run and downhill plane, and he's capable of getting his fastball under the hands of righthanded hitters. He has advanced feel for an above-average changeup. His curveball has improved and shows enough spin to project as at least an average offering. The Mississippi commit is a strike-thrower who can command his fastball to both sides of the plate. He is the son of a former professional golfer, Fred, and is old for the class.
Pick: Alex Blandino, ss, Stanford
Area Scout: Rich Bordi
Pick analysis: Blandino had as much late helium as any college position player, a demographic the Reds have gone to often in recent years after drafting Phillip Ervin (2013), Yasmani Grandal (2010) and Yonder Alonso (2008).
Scouting report: Blandino burst on the scene as a freshman, hitting eight home runs despite starting just 29 games. He has yet to match that total in the two ensuing seasons but has hit enough to be one of the top college bats in the class. The 6-foot, 190-pounder has a strong track record hitting with wood, batting .310 with five home runs in 268 at-bats in the Cape Cod League the last two summers, often playing shortstop for Yarmouth-Dennis. He's struggled a bit more with Stanford, especially as a junior where he's been pitched around in a below-average lineup. He's a career .282 hitter heading into the home stretch of his college career, despite having looseness in his swing, good bat speed and quick wrists. He does a good job staying inside the ball but at times sells out trying to generate home run power. Blandino projects more as a fringe-average or average power hitter rather than a true bopper, so a move to second base fits better than third. He's an average defender with good hands and an average arm, and if his bat doesn't develop he may be athletic enough to be a utility infielder, playing all three spots. He's a below-average runner. Blandino's laid-back demeanor may suit the grind of pro ball better than the short college season.
Pick: Luis Ortiz, rhp, Sanger (Calif.) HS
Pick value: $1,760,500
Area Scout: Butch Metzger
Pick analysis: Down the stretch, Ortiz has returned to form, reaching the mid-90s with an easy delivery and plus slider. If he had been healthy all season, he likely would have been gone by this point, but he missed time with a forearm injury.
Scouting report: Ortiz was a hard-throwing, soft-bodied hurler entering his junior year. Then he lost 30 pounds over the course of the next year and was one of the most consistent pitchers on the showcase circuit last summer. He worked exclusively out of the stretch, sitting 92-94 mph, touching 95 with regularity and late riding life through the zone. Ortiz was named the World Cup MVP for his role as the closer on the gold medal-winning 18-and-under USA Baseball national team. But he has had an uneven spring, running his fastball up to 96 mph early only to miss time with arm tightness. He has been used irregularly, pitching three times in a five-day stretch in early April. His velocity had bounced back, however, sitting 91-94 in a late April start. Ortiz has an out pitch in his slider, a changeup with average potential and a curveball he is working into game action. The Fresno State commit has an easy delivery and the ball jumps out of his hand from a high three-quarters arm slot. Ortiz has demonstrated advanced strike-throwing ability with the ability to locate well on either side of the plate. The 6-foot, 223-pound Ortiz has a strong, durable build that lacks projection and needs to be monitored over the long run.
Pick: Justus Sheffield, lhp, Tullahoma (Tenn.) HS
Pick value: $1,733,000
Area Scout: Chuck Bartlett
Pick analysis: The Indians diverted from their typical pitcher preference for college arms at the top of the draft. Sheffield is the first prep arm the organization has drafted in the first round since 2001, when they selected Dan Denham (17th) and Alan Horne (27th), failing to sign the latter.
Scouting report: A year after a banner crop of high school pitchers in Tennessee, Sheffield is the consensus top arm, with a considerable gap between him and the second-best prep pitcher in the state. He has been a known entity since he was an underclassman because of his older brother Jordan, a righthander who had Tommy John surgery in the spring of his senior year but otherwise might have been a top-two-round pick in the 2013 draft. Jordan ended up going in the 13th round to the Red Sox and headed to Vanderbilt. The Sheffield brothers starred in the Breakthrough Series, televised on the MLB Network, when Justus was a rising junior, and he ran his fastball up to 93 mph the following spring at the National High School Invitational. While both Sheffields have similar stature, Justus has the benefit of being lefthanded, at a strong, compact 5-foot-10, 196 pounds, and young for his draft class. He offers athleticism, feel for pitching and a four-pitch mix. His fastball typically sits 90-92 mph, touching 94 with some run and sink, and his changeup shows the makings of an above-average offering, as does his curveball. Sheffield has pitchability and is a strike-thrower with the chance for at least average control, potentially better. He has also committed to Vanderbilt, but he's expected to sign as his talent puts him in the mix for the top two rounds
Pick: Braxton Davidson, of, Roberson HS, Asheville, N.C.
Pick value: $1,705,400
Area Scout: Billy Best
Pick analysis: Davidson had been linked to the Braves and was the top power bat available. He is the first prep position player the Braves have drafted in the first round since Jason Heyward in 2007.
Scouting report: Davidson faces the tough profile of a high school first baseman, a demographic that was not drafted in the first round from 2009-2012, but his combination of hit and power tools could have him in play in that range a year after Dominic Smith went No. 11. The lefthanded hitter has at least plus raw power and hit three home runs in four games at the Tournament of Stars. He showed swing and miss tendencies on the showcase circuit but made an offensive transformation heading into the spring season. He has become a much better hitter, to the point that his above-average hit tool is likely better than his power in game action. Davidson, who is strong and quick to the ball, has shown the ability to drive the ball with authority to the opposite field. He is an intelligent hitter with strong awareness of the strike zone. After a dedicated workout regime he showed a trimmer, leaner and more athletic physique at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds this spring. His well below-average speed limits him to a corner profile, and first base is probably his best defensive position. A North Carolina commit, he has a fringe-average arm that is best suited for left if he doesn't play in the dirt.
33. RED SOX
Pick: Michael Kopech, rhp, Mount Pleasant (Texas) HS
Pick value: $1,678,000
Area Scout: Tim Collinsworth
Pick analysis: After drafting a prep position player with their first pick, the Red Sox returned to the high school ranks for Kopech, one of the fastest-rising prep arms. They had been linked to high school arms at this spot, targeting the strength of this draft class.
Scouting report: In one of the most talent-barren years in Texas in recent memory, Kopech has shown arm strength that would stand out against any crop. He had an uneven summer on the showcase circuit that ended on a high note with one of the top showings at the Under Armour All-American Game, when he struck out out Monte Harrison, Michael Gettys and Alex Jackson in succession. A loose, flexible athlete with a quick arm, Kopech showed better velocity entering the spring, going from 89-92 mph at multiple events last summer to 92-96, touching 98 this spring. The ball jumps out of his hand and gets on hitters quickly. The Arizona commit's fastball also has plus life with cutting action and sink that will produce ground balls. Kopech has multiple breaking balls and his slider shows above-average potential. He has feel for a changeup with average potential. Kopech has a high-maintenance, rotation-heavy delivery that can be tough to repeat. He also has rigidity to the front side of his delivery. These factors cause some scouts to wonder if the delivery and strike-throwing ability will play in the rotation, though he has the stuff to do so, is an impressive athlete and has thrown strikes this spring. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Kopech has one of the best pitching bodies in the draft with wiry strength.
Pick: Jack Flaherty, ss, Harvard-Westlake HS, Studio City, Calif.
Pick value: $1,650,400
Area Scout: Mike Dibiase
Pick analysis: Flaherty was known as one of the tougher signs in the class and goes with the last pick in the first round. His athleticism, projectable body and feel for pitching fit the Cardinals mold. St. Louis’ robust player-development system could help Flaherty add velocity, as many Cardinals pitchers have done since they turned pro.
Scouting report: Last summer, scouts regarded Flaherty as a better prospect at third base thanks to his gap-to-gap stroke and quality infield actions. But he struck out 12 in his 2014 season debut on the mound and quickly convinced scouts that he is a potential late first-round talent as a pitcher. Flaherty's 6-foot-3, 217-pound frame offers current strength as well as projection, and his arm action is clean and fast, so he figures to add velocity as he matures. He already sits at 88-92 mph and touches 93, and his command and control are advanced for his age. Flaherty has good feel for four pitches, led by a changeup that projects as plus to plus-plus. His 77-80 mph slider can be a swing-and-miss pitch, and he can use his curveball as a get-me-over pitch or occasionally as a chase pitch, because it does have some tightness. Scouts believe the slider has plus potential, giving him a chance for three above-average or better offerings.