The MLB Draft is this Thursday, and, though it is not as hyped as the NFL Draft, to the more in-depth fan it is equally, if not more, important. Over three days, 40 rounds (plus a few compensation/competitive balance picks in the early going) worth of high school and college players will be presented the opportunity to play professional baseball. First-round picks are typically the most make-or-break guys. They will be remembered by franchises for years due to their successes, or lack thereof.
This is what I think will happen, but also some of what I would do in each team’s situation. I took into account both the teams’ current Major League depth chart, and the prospects they have in their system. I feel like I should go ahead and put it out there that, as far as pitchers go, I favor the college arms because they can make an impact with the big club quicker than the guys from high school. With that, let’s get rolling.
Pick #1, Houston Astros; Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS, California
L/L 6’3″ 207 lbs
Stat Line: 5-3, 0.92 ERA, 53 INN, 80 K, 25 BB, 30 H
Pick #2, Miami Marlins; Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State
L/L 6’3″ 234 lbs
Stat Line: 6-7, 2.01 ERA, 99 INN, 117 K, 31 BB, 84 H
I need to explain myself for both of these picks together. Up until today I figured there was no way that the Astros could pass up Carlos Rodon. That was, of course until I found out that Scott Boras was in the situation. Yes, the “superagent” is Rodon’s “adviser” which is just the NCAA-friendly word for “future agent”. Based on his previous endeavors, one can only assume (i.e. I’d bet the farm) that Rodon’s contract will be worth every cent that his respective future team is allotted to pay him. Jef Luhnow, being the smart GM that he is, will presumably avoid as much contact with Boras as possible, draft lefty Brady Aiken, and try to save a few bucks. Jeffery Loria, the Marlins owner, is not strapped for cash, nor does he have restraint on spending it. It would work out extremely well because Rodon is Cuban-American, and that would be enough to sell tickets in Miami, as opposed to Houston.
As far as how the two left handers compare, Rodon is a power guy who sits in the mid-to-high 90s with his fastball, with a nasty slider that stays around 85-87. After LEGEN (wait for it) Freshman and Sophomore seasons, in which he was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award both years, and won it last year, he had a somewhat disappointing Junior year, going 6-7 with a 2.01 ERA , a 3.77 K/BB ratio, and a 10.64 K/9. The stats don’t really say “disappointment” though, aside from the W-L, and I really don’t care about those. The fact of the matter is, he is a great pitcher, and should be picked 1 or 2.
Brady Aiken is another lefty arm, but is out of high school, and isn’t as much of a power guy, but works more with location and repertoire. He does run his fastball at 91-92, but touches 96-97 as well. His curveball is filthy, and he’s got baseball smarts, too. Aiken put up a 0.90 ERA. No, that is not a typo. He completely shut down the California high school circuit, and raised is draft stock to the almost consensus #1.
One more thing, DARY.
Pick #3, Chicago White Sox; Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd HS, Texas
R/R 6’5″ 245 lbs
Stat Line: 4-1, 0.45 ERA, 46 INN, 100 K, 6 BB, 14 H
When a high school kid from Texas models his game after Nolan Ryan, you know he respects the game. When he actually pitches like Nolan Ryan, then you know he is going to have success. Tyler Kolek is just that. The 6′ 5″, 245 lb righty sits betweek 97-99 and topped out at 102. Again, not a typo. It should be safe to say that he and Chris Sale will make and effective 1-2 duo.
Pick #4, Chicago Cubs; Alex Jackson, C/OF, Rancho Bernardo HS, California
R/R 6’1″ 224 lbs
Stat Line: .415 AVG, 82 AB, 41 R, 34 H, 20 XBH, 11 HR, 26 RBI, 8 SB
Jackson really projects as an outfielder, probably right because of his strong arm. He has a quick bat, keeps his hands inside the ball, and has power to all fields. His swing is really smooth with not much movement, so he brings his hands straight through the ball.
Pick #5, Minnesota Twins; Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS, Florida
L/R 6’0″ 180 lbs
Stat Line: .508 AVG, 63 AB, 22 R, 32 H, 15 XBH, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 7 SB
Nick, son of Flash, brother of Dee, will stay at shortstop, and I feel he could hit in the middle of the order, but probably in the two-hole. He squares the ball up and hits line drives, so he’ll get on base, and he has above average speed, but not necessarily lead-off speed. He is smooth in the field, with a strong arm (he was a pitching prospect previously) and a lot of upside.
Pick #6, Seattle Mariners; Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State
L/R 6’2″ 217 lbs
Stat Line: .369 AVG, 179 AB, 49 R, 66 H, 23 XBH, 7 HR, 55 RBI, 4 SB
Conforto, the first college bat off the board, is the best college bat on the board, a strong lefty power hitter from Oregon State who projects out to hit 20-plus homers per year, and one who can provide more protection for Robinson Cano in the heart of the Seattle order. The Mariners don’t have much top-tier outfield depth in the outfield in their system, or with the big league club right now, so they should be set to take one with their first pick.
Pick #7, Philadelphia Phillies; Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville
L/L 6’3″ 170 lbs
Stat Line: 10-2, 1.90 ERA, 100 INN, 128 K, 13 BB, 79 H
Let’s face it, Cliff Lee is getting old. To attempt to replace him, the Phillies should take the lefty from Evansville. Freeland has excellent control while sitting in the high 80s to low 90s with his fastball, and staying in the mid-to-high 80s with his slider. He was drafted out of high school a few years ago (failed to sign), and history has a tendency to repeat itself. Expect him to make his way to Citizens Bank Park in the next couple years to join Cole Hamels in the Phils’ rotation, presuming Ruben Amaro is able to lock up Hamels with a new contract.
Pick #8, Colorado Rockies; Brandon Finnegan, LHP, TCU
L/L 5’11” 184 lbs
Stat Line: 8-3, 2.16 ERA, 79 INN, 103 K, 21 BB, 60 H
Another hard throwing lefty comes up in the #8 spot. Finnegan throws in the mid 90s, with a slider in the low 80s and a change in the mid 80s. Should compliment Jon Gray and Eddie Butler well in the Rockies’ future rotation.
Pick #9, Toronto Blue Jays; Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU
R/R 6’1″ 196 lbs
Stat Line: 9-1, 1.42 ERA, 102 INN, 120 K, 23 BB, 60 H
I originally had Touki Touissant in this spot (see pick #12) but figured the Jays would go for the college guy from LSU over the Florida High Schooler. Nola’s brother, Austin, is already in Double-A in the Blue Jays system. Nola is a big, power righty with exceptional stuff. Look to see him in the bigs within the next year and a half.
Pick #10, New York Mets; Trea Turner, SS, NC State
R/R 6’1″ 171 lbs
Stat Line: .321 AVG, 215 AB, 65 R, 69 H, 23 XBH, 8 HR, 36 RBI, 26 SB
A lot of people have Turner going at nine to Toronto, but I just don’t see it. If he was out of high school, then maybe, but I really think Jose Reyes will be their shortstop for the next five years (at least), and the Mets need to hit the panic button at short real soon. That’s where Turner comes in. His top tool is his speed, as he was NC State’s leadoff hitter, but he flashes some pop as well. His swing can get long, so he’ll have to work it out in the minors, but even so, he’ll be up before the Blue Jays would have been ready for him.
Pick #11, Toronto Blue Jays; Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco
6’5″ 205 lbs
Stat Line: .368 AVG, 220 AB, 42 R, 81 H, 24 XBH, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 21 SB
More baseball bloodlines show up in Zimmer, whose brother, Kyle, was the third pick overall by the Royals in 2012. Bradley is an athletic outfielder who has plus speed and can really square the ball up. He projects to play a corner outfield spot, but could stick in center as well. I really think he would go into a corner role (Left Field) with the Blue Jays, whether Anthony Gose or D.J. Davis winds up in center, with Jose Bautista in Right. I’m not a Melky Cabrera fan, so I would trade him whenever Zimmer is ready, presuming that Zimmer produces in the minors (he will).
Pick #12, Milwaukee Brewers; Touki Toussaint, RHP, Coral Springs Academy, Florida
6’2″ 198 lbs
Stat Line: 6-2, 0.82 ERA, 45 IP, 86 K, 33 BB, 17 H
The Brewers will need rotation help in a few years, it’s not urgent, but they will eventually. Plus, you can never have enough pitching. Milwaukee has relatively good position depth, so they should take the best high school arm on the board, and that is Toussaint. He is an athlete, and could probably play outfield, but his electric arm will keep him on the mound. He routinely runs his fastball up to 96, and has a heck of a breaking ball. The only real issue here is control, and that can be worked out in the minors. After all, the Brew Crew has some time. No need for a “savior” at this point.
To close the first twelve picks, I want to address the first three again. Those guys are really interchangeable up there, and Kolek has Aiken and Rodon beat statistically. But as the line from “Million Dollar Arm” goes, “A lefty with juice is money in the bank.” Aiken and Rodon both fit that bill, so they get the top two spots for me, and I addressed why Aiken gets the top spot earlier. Picks 13-34 will be coming later in two separate posts.