Top 100 MLB Draft Prospects | Draft Chat: Thursday, April 17, 11am-1pm Central
No Longer a Fixture at No. 1
Astros Consider Other Elite Arms
the recent history of baseball’s first-year player draft, Miami
prep shortstop Alex Rodriguez (1993), Virginia prep
shortstop-turned-outfielder Justin Upton (2005), Vanderbilt
lefthander David Price (2007), San Diego State righthander Stephen
Strasburg (2009) and Nevada junior-college catcher-turned-outfielder
Bryce Harper (2010) were all viewed as slam-dunk choices to go No. 1
overall well in advance of the proceedings. They easily fulfilled
those expectations by going off the board first.
Carolina State lefthander Carlos Rodon is just the latest can’t
miss prospect to be anointed elite status as a pre-determined No. 1
was projected to be the top pick in the 2014 draft as far back as two
years ago, while a mere freshman for the Wolfpack, but there’s
significant doubt now that will happen. At the midway point of the
current college season, with this year’s draft looming, Rodon has
struggled to live up to all his considerable pre-season hype and
press clippings on almost every count.
enjoying unquestioned success in his first two seasons for the
Wolfpack, compiling an overall 19-3, 2.33 record with 319 strikeouts
in 247 innings, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Rodon has simply not
dominated his competition this spring. In fact, he has even struggled
to win on a consistent basis. Through his first nine appearances,
Rodon was 2-6, though had a more-representative 2.29 ERA and fanned
72 in 63 innings while walking 21.
of run support has contributed significantly to Rodon’s losing
record, but scouts say he has only flashed the dominant stuff that
had them virtually conceding the top spot to him in this year’s
draft at the outset of the season.
fastball, a steady 94-97 mph offering in the past, has touched that
rarified area only occasionally, while his trademark slider hasn’t
been as crisp or sharp as consistently, either. He has also struggled
to command both pitches in a manner that once set him apart from
other top pitching prospects, and he has even scuffled in handling
adversity under the steady glare of a horde of scouts.
he still commands plenty of attention, a mere mortal Rodon has caused
the Houston Astros, picking first for a draft-record third straight
year, to entertain other options, particularly with the emergence of
two hot-shot high school pitchers, California lefthander Brady Aiken
and Texas fireballing righthander Tyler Kolek.
was viewed as a mid- to late-first-round pick entering the 2014
season, but a significant spike in his fastball velocity, to the
mid-90s, has seen his stock skyrocket. Kolek has thrown even harder,
but his rise to prominence is considered less surprising than Aiken
as he was generally considered to be the elite prep arm in the
country entering the spring season. He has nonetheless only elevated
his worth with a fastball that has routinely reached triple digits,
topping at 102 mph.
the 2014 draft a mere seven weeks away, Rodon is still squarely in
Houston’s mix and continues to rank as the top college prospect
nationally, but he has obvious company now and the consensus among
scouts and scouting directors contacted by Perfect Game is that the
6-foot-3, 210-pound Aiken has taken over as a slight favorite to go
No. 1 overall, followed closely by Kolek, and then Rodon.
really separated himself with the way he perfomed in a couple of
outings,” an American League crosschecker said. “He had great
stuff with his fastball touching 96-97 to go with an even more
dominant breaking ball. He really stood out with his ability to
command all his pitches, along with his excellent feel for pitching.
Right now, he’s a pretty clear No. 1 for me.”
6-foot-6, 240-pound Kolek has been even more electrifying than Aiken
with his steady diet of triple-digit fastballs, and opened the 2014
season by hurling 18 straight hitless innings. But he is not
considered as polished a product overall as Aiken, and Aiken has the
perceived additional advantage of being lefthanded.
his first 26 innings this spring for San Diego’s Cathedral Catholic
High, Aiken is 5-0, 0.54 with four walks and 48 strikeouts, while
Kolek has gone 3-0, 0.31 with 48 strikeouts in 22 innings for
Shepherd High. He had allowed just two hits and a single walk.
not everyone is willing to concede the top spot in this year’s
draft just yet to Aiken, or even Kolek, who would become the first
prep righthander ever selected No. 1 overall in the draft’s 50-year
history if the Astros were to stay close to home and tab a local
product with the top pick.
and Kolek have clearly helped themselves this spring, no question,”
a National League crosschecker said, “but I will be shocked if
Rodon doesn’t go No. 1.”
Aiken, Kolek and Rodon setting the tone, this year’s draft, set for
June 5-7, has the earmarks of becoming one of the most
pitching-dominated drafts in history.
addition to that trio, four other righthanders—East Carolina’s
Jeff Hoffman, Vanderbilt’s Tyler Beede, Louisiana State’s Aaron
Nola and South Carolina prep standout Grant Holmes— are given solid
chances of being tabbed in the first 10 picks, along with a pair of
college lefthanders, Texas Christian’s Brandon Finnegan and
Evansville’s Kyle Freeland.
most pitching-dominated draft on record occurred in 2004, when seven
of the first eight selections were pitchers. The exception,
coincidentally, was No. 1 overall pick Matt Bush, who began his
professional career as a shortstop but eventually moved to the mound
before his career was derailed altogether.
years ago, the first four players off the board for the first time
were pitchers, led by UCLA righthander Gerrit Cole, already a
mainstay in the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation.
could see as far back as last summer that it would be a
pitching-oriented draft this year,” said a National League scouting
director. “It was apparent just by looking at the Cape Cod League
and Team USA that the number of quality bats would be few and far
aside, Beede is the most noteworthy member of the current crop of
talented arms because he has the distinction of being an unsigned
first-round pick from the 2011 draft. He turned down a significant
seven-figure bonus offer from the Toronto Blue Jays as a
Massachusetts prep pitcher in favor of attending college at
status, however, may be the most tenuous of all the arms under early
consideration this year because of a string of erratic outings. He
started off quickly, stemming from a more consistent release point
than he displayed in his first two years at Vanderbilt, but soon
struggled to command his pitches, including a fastball in the low- to
mid-90s, and his performance suffered. Through his first nine starts
for the Commodores, Beede was 5-4, 3.23 with 20 walks and 56
strikeouts in 53 innings.
Rodon and Beede, Hoffman continues to be in the mix of college
pitchers at the top of the draft, even as his performance to date has
also been inconsistent. He is just 2-3, 3.34 with 19 walks and 56
strikeouts through his first 59 innings for ECU, and has flashed his
superior stuff only occasionally. But at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds,
Hoffman is considered more projectable than the bigger, more-burly
Rodon, and his fastball has topped out at 97, though his velocity and
command have fluctuated.
games of April 15, the six leading strikeout pitchers in the NCAA
Division I ranks are pitchers that are all strongly under
consideration to be drafted in the first round or supplemental first
round. Cal Poly’s 6-foot-5 lefthander Matt Imhof (7-2, 2.07
overall) leads the way with 88 punch-outs in 61 innings, though he is
considered a fringe first-rounder because he lacks dominant raw
and Finnegan rank second behind Imhof with 84 strikeouts, while
Freeland is fourth with 75. All have dominated to date with the
combination of impressive stuff and pristine command.
may have elevated his draft stock the most this spring on the
strength of his ability to throw consistent and quality strikes with
a fastball at 91-94 mph that has peaked at 96, along with an 88-90
mph slider. In 57 innings, he has walked just four while going 6-1,
is acknowledged by scouts to have the best command of any pitcher in
the draft, even as his control this spring hasn’t been quite as
impeccable as a year ago. He has already walked 13 (vs. 7 in 90
innings as a sophomore), but is an impressive 7-1, 0.70 overall.
Though his fastball typically only reaches the low-90s, Nola has
three above-average pitches and his stuff plays up significantly
because of his impressive command.
has intriguing raw stuff and has dominated this spring with a
fastball that has consistently peaked in the mid- to high-90s, along
with two quality secondary pitches, but at 5-foot-11, his lack of
size may hurt his chances of going in the first 10 picks. He is 6-2,
1.76 in his first 61 innings.
that quartet of strikeout artists, Maryland righthander Jake Stinnett
(74) and Rodon (72) rank fifth and sixth nationally. Stinnett opened
a lot of eyes earlier this spring when he outdueled Rodon in an
Atlantic Coast Conference matchup, and now stands to be the first
college senior drafted, while Rodon is significantly off his
strikeout pace of a year ago, when he rung up 184—37 more than his
the most dominant college arm this season has been Louisville closer
Nick Burdi, who has gone 2-0, 0.00 with seven saves in 14
appearances. In 17 innings, he has walked six and struck out 30.
while scouts say the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Burdi may have the best pure
arm in the college ranks with the combination of a fastball that
routinely reaches 100-102 mph and a wipeout slider that often tops
90, teams appear reluctant to lump the powerful righthander with the
elite college arms because he profiles as a reliever at the next
level. It is expected that Burdi will last until the back end of the
first round, though is so advanced that he could conceivably be the
first player from this draft class to reach the big leagues.
Aiken and Kolek are clearly the class of the high-school pitching
crop, South Carolina prep righthander Grant Holmes is another prime
candidate to crack the top 10 picks. He has showcased impressive raw
stuff of his own with a fastball that has peaked at 100 mph, but
doesn't offer the same physical projection in his 6-foot-2, 210-pound
frame that Aiken and Kolek do as the nation’s top prep arms.
righthander Jacob Bukauskas has made the most precipitous rise
through the draft ranks this spring among potential top high-school
selections, especially with a fastball that reportedly touched 100
mph in mid-April.
was initially supposed to be a member of the 2015 draft class, but
became a part of the current crop when he advanced his high school
course load sufficiently to be re-classified as a senior. He appears
to have edged his way into first-round consideration, but has
continued to elevate his standing at such an accelerated pace through
the spring that he could nudge his way towards the top 10 picks
overall with a continued strong showing.
first pick in this year’s draft has an allotted value of
$7,922,100, per terms of Major League Baseball’s Collective
Bargaining Agreement, and the Astros still have plenty of time to
deliberate on who to select and how to maximize the value of the
selection. But for now, the challenge to go No. 1 overall appears to
be a three-pitcher affair with Aiken, Kolek and Rodon squarely at the