2014 Raw Draft Order
Corral First Overall Pick Again,
Focus on Two North Carolina Arms
virtue of posting the poorest record in Major League Baseball for the
third consecutive year in 2013, the Houston Astros will make draft
history next June by picking first overall for the third time in a
Astros became just the third team in the draft’s 48-year history to
garner consecutive 1/1 picks this year, joining the 2006-07 Tampa Bay
Rays and 2009-10 Washington Nationals in earning that dubious
distinction. But whereas both the Rays and Nationals had already gone
a long way towards reversing their losing fortunes by the time they
made the second of their consecutive picks, the Astros continued to
team extended their string of 100-loss seasons to three in 2013,
while dropping a franchise-record 111 games. That was 11 more losses
than the Miami Marlins, the only other team to lose at least 100
games this season, which raises the specter whether the Astros, who
have done little to bolster their roster during the off-season, may
be in line for a fourth consecutive shot at the No. 1 pick overall in
previous top draft selections were Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos
Correa in 2012 and Stanford righthander Mark Appel in 2013, and the
pair, who played briefly together this summer at Quad Cities of the
low Class A Midwest League, have had encouraging careers to date and
gone a long way towards providing the Astros with one of the most
fruitful farm systems in the game. But neither player—the more
advanced Appel, in particular—is considered a lock to even play in
the big leagues a year from now.
the top pick in the 2014 draft, the Astros will obviously gain access
to yet another premium prospect, further supplementing the depth of
talent in their organization.
Carolina State lefthander Carlos Rodon is a clear-cut favorite to go
No. 1 overall next June—and may have even been picked ahead of
either Correa or Appel in the last two drafts had he been eligible.
In neither case were Correa or Appel considered consensus No. 1
selections, nor did they receive the largest signing bonuses in their
respective draft classes, even though the Astros were allotted the
greatest amount to sign the top pick under terms of the current
Collective Bargaining Agreement.
circumstances could change next year with the celebrated Rodon in the
talent pool, especially if he performs to the level he did as both a
freshman and sophomore at N.C. State, when he went a combined 19-3,
2.33 with 86 walks and 319 strikeouts in 247 innings, and led all
NCAA Division I pitchers in strikeouts as a sophomore with 184—37
more than his closest competitor. Rodon also dominated international
competition during the summer in a second consecutive stint with USA
Baseball’s college national team.
6-foot-3, 240-pound lefthander has thrown consistently in the mid- to
high-90s throughout his college career, and augments his fastball
with an equally dominant slider and improving change. His ability to
command his dominant raw stuff sets him apart from any other pitcher
in the 2014 draft class.
Astros acknowledge that Rodon, an unsigned 16th-round pick
of the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2011 draft out of a nearby high
school, is on their short list of candidates, and planned to send a
delegation of front-office people and scouts to North Carolina to
meet with the lefthander this month to establish a relationship.
going to meet with several guys,” Astros scouting director Mike
Elias told mlb.com. “We have a few meetings lined up this month,
and he's on the list.”
Rodon is the
obvious front-runner to go No. 1 overall with the draft still six
months out, another North Carolina college pitcher, East Carolina
righthander Jeff Hoffman, has emerged as a viable alternative should
the Astros switch gears and seriously consider someone other than
Perfect Game’s early ranking of the Top
in the 2014 draft class, Rodon is ranked No. 1, Hoffman No. 2.
hasn’t enjoyed anywhere near the same kind of success as Rodon
through his first two college seasons at ECU, going a combined 9-9,
3.48 with 60 walks and 139 strikeouts in 184 innings. The undrafted
New York high-school product is considered more of a late bloomer,
though has been one of the dominant arms in the Cape Cod League the
last two summers.
making just four starts in 2013 in a return engagement to Hyannis, he
was an easy selection as the top professional prospect on the Cape on
the strength of an explosive fastball that was consistently between
94-97 mph and peaked at 98. He also featured a curve with hard, late
action, and a vastly improved changeup as his third pitch.
Rodon, the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Hoffman is still growing into his
long, lanky frame, and appears ripe to make a profound leap forward
next spring, possibly causing a dilemma for the Astros over which
pitcher to choose with the No. 1 selection.
be sure, North Carolina will be a popular destination next spring for
the Astros, and scouts from all organizations. In fact, North
Carolina State and East Carolina, located just an hour apart and
long-time rivals in the eastern half of the state, traditionally play
each other in home-and-home games each season and will do so a week
apart in 2014, on April 2 and April 9, in a pair of mid-week
encounters. It is highly unlikely, though, that the two pitchers will
hook up against one another—or even see action in either encounter.
Carolina State, which made its first College World Series appearances
in 45 years last spring, will also feature another premium draft pick
in shortstop Trea Turner, the top-rated college position prospect in
next year’s crop. He ranks No. 4 overall, according to PG.
N.C. State’s banner 2012 freshman class also featured the top
unsigned high-school selection from the previous year’s draft in
catcher Brett Austin, a supplemental first-round pick of the San
Diego Padres. But Austin hasn't progressed as hoped in his two years
with the Wolfpack, while Rodon and Turner have taken quantum leaps
pitching shapes up as the dominant theme of the 2014 draft, with
Rodon, Hoffman and fireballing Louisville closer Nick Burdi ranked
1-2-3 by Perfect Game. Among the top 10 prospects overall, six are
college arms, including Vanderbilt righthander Tyler Beede, the only
first-rounder from the 2011 draft to go unsigned. Beede, who tied for
the national lead in wins a year ago while posting a 14-1 record, is
considered a notch below the Big Three and ranks No. 5 overall.
handful of teams may be somewhat hesitant to place Burdi in the same
elite group as Rodon and Hoffman because of his limiting role as a
closer, but the 6-foot-3, 220-pound righthander has flashed the best
raw arm strength of any pitcher in the 2014 class and was thoroughly
dominant in his end-of-game role as a sophomore for the Cardinals.
The Illinois high school product, a 24th-round pick of the
Minnesota Twins in 2011, went 3-3, 0.76 with 16 saves, along with 62
strikeouts in 36 innings on the strength of a fastball that was
routinely clocked in triple digits.
contrast to a fairly-defined crop of college arms, there is little or
no consensus on the top high school talent in the 2014 draft.
California shortstop Jacob Gatewood, Georgia outfielder Michael
Gettys, Florida shortstop/righthander Nick Gordon, California catcher
Alex Jackson and Texas righthander Michael Kolek have consistently
been ranked among the nation’s top prep prospects, but none has
asserted himself to date as the best of the bunch.
now, it’s safe to say that the Astros focus in the 2014 draft will
be on college pitching, with Rodon and Hoffman ranking as the early
favorites to go No. 1 overall.
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