Draft : : Story
Tuesday, June 10, 2014

2014 MLB Draft Impressions

Patrick Ebert        
Photo: Perfect Game

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Now that the 2014 MLB Draft is in the books, and before we turn our attention to talent that will populate the 2015 MLB Draft and beyond, below is a list of six teams that really stood out for their draft efforts, six teams that left a strong first impression, and six teams whose efforts will need to be followed for a few years to get a better grasp of their effectiveness.

Great First Impressions

Arizona Diamondbacks

Similar to getting University of Nevada righthander Braden Shipley where they did in the 2013 Draft, the D-Backs draft stands out by the simple fact that they were able to land one of the best righthanded pitchers available in this year's draft, Touki Toussaint, with the 16
th overall pick.

What put their drafting efforts over the top were the additions of several other impact players with lofty upsides including prep lefthander Cody Reed in the second round, PG All-American outfielder Marcus Wilson and sweet swinging infield Isan Diaz in the competitive balance round after round 2, as well as athletic outfielder Matt Railey (3
rd round) and well as hard throwing righthanders Brent Jones (4th) and Mason McCullough (5th).

Their seventh rounder, Tyler Humphreys, offered one of the best bats from the junior college ranks, and Jared Miller (11
th round) could be one of the safer bets to make it to and enjoy a productive big-league career as a lefty specialist.

Jacob Bukaukas, who they took in the 20
th round, is unlikely to sign, but if they can figure out a way to sign any combination of hard-hitting outfielder Gerard Hernandez (21st round) and/or prep lefthanders Willie Rios (26th) and Cameron Bishop (32nd), their 2014 draft could be an extremely fruitful one.

Boston Red Sox

Many to most rumors that circulated prior to the draft regarding the Red Sox had them locked in on a college bat with their first pick, the 26
th overall selection, before turning their attention to the impressive depth of high school arms. When infielder Michael Chavis fell to their laps they made sure he didn't fall any further. Chavis, who won the Rawlings Home Run Challenge as part of the festivities at last year's PG All-American Classic, offers one of the most polished bats of any hitter eligible this year, and his intense style of player could make him an instant favorite in Boston.

They did indeed turn their attention to the deep prep ranks with their next pick by taking fellow PG All-American righthander Michael Kopech, who was connected to several teams in the second half of the first round. They added a few more high powered arms in Jake Cosart (3
rd round) and Kevin McAvoy (4th), while also getting a productive college bat in Indiana's Sam Travis.

The names kept piling in for the Red Sox as they continue to employ one of the more aggressive drafting styles of any team in baseball. Former first-round pick Karsten Whitson was their selection in the 11
th round, with polished college righthander Chandler Shepherd (13th) and PG All-American outfielder Trenton Kemp (15th) coming shortly thereafter.

Where the Red Sox could really make some noise is if they're able to sign several of their later picks, such as catcher Devon Fisher (20
th round), infielder J.J. Matijevic (22nd), PGAll-American leftander David Peterson (28th), projectable righty Josh Pennington (29th) and speedy outfielder Jeren Kendall (30th).

Chicago White Sox

Adding Carlos Rodon is obviously the big-name score for the White Sox, a player not typically associated with the team prior to the draft since they were believed to be locked in on prep righthander Tyler Kolek. When Kolek went to the Marlins one spot ahead of the White Sox, the big, powerful lefthander heard his name called at No. 3.

What makes their draft the most impressive however is their next two selections, prep righthander Spencer Adams, who is very projectable and enjoyed a big spike in velocity this spring, and Oregon State lefthander, who continually exhibits the ability to command a very strong three-pitch repertoire and may be one of the safer bets to enjoy a long, productive career as a big league starter.

Opinions varied in the scouting world on their fourth round selection, Brett Austin, Rodon's college teammate at N.C. State, however those that seemed to like Austin seemed to really believe that his bat would turn around as a pro and start living up to the lofty expectations he carried with him coming out of high school.

Outside the top 10, Bryce Montes de Oca stands out, mostly due to his huge stature. He missed most of his junior year due to Tommy John surgery, but picked up where he left off this spring throwing his usual, hard 94-97 mph fastball.

Houston Astros

With the No. 1 pick in the draft, for the third consecutive year, the Astros should, by default, be listed here. PG All-American Brady Aiken, who started the Classic for the West squad last August, was the pick, as expected if not known. Aiken adds rare polish and high marks for his character with an improving fastball and sharp overhand curveball.

The fact that Aiken signed for $1.4 million less than slot gives the Astros a big chunk of change to play with, similar to when they signed Carlos Correa to an under slot deal two years ago that allowed them to pursue other impact players including Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz.

Fifth round pick Jacob Nix is most likely going to be the main beneficiary of that savings, a high-upside prep righthander that wasn't expected to fall as far as he did. And don't rule out 21st-round pick, another PG All-American lefty, Mac Marshall, who has made his intentions known to attend Louisiana State, but the Astros have pulled off similar surprises in recent years.

Hard-hitting outfielder Derek Fisher and powerful first baseball A.J. Reed also represented good value in the supplemental first and second rounds, while J.D. Davis and Daniel Mengden also enjoy productive college careers as two-way talents.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers made arguably the biggest splash on the first day of the draft by taking three PG All-Americans with their first three picks. And based on the pre-draft rankings of all three players – Kodi Medeiros, Jacob Gatewood and Monte Harrison – it was clear that they would have to be creative with their allotted signing bonus pool to get all three in the fold.

That process has already occurred, with both Gatewood and Harrison coming to terms for bonsues worth several hundred thousand dollars more than their assigned slot values. Medeiros is expected to come to terms for right around $2 million, with a few other of their other pick in the top 10 rounds also signing quickly.

Those picks include Troy Stokes, a speedy prep outfielder that profiles as a prototypical leadoff option with good on-base skills; Dustin DeMuth, a third baseman from Indiana Unviersity who has consistently put up big offensive numbers in a loaded Hoosiers lineups; David Burkhalter, a projectable prep righthander that sits in the 88-90 mph range now with room for improvement.

Twelth-round righthander Jordan Yamamoto, who like Medeiros hails from Hawaii, has also reportedly come to terms. High upside picks in the late rounds that may prove to be difficult signs including J.J. Schwarz (17
th round), Tate Blackman (20th), Patrick Weigel (22nd), Cre Finfrock (26th), Turner Larkins (28th) and Carl Chester (38th). While none of them are expected to sign, if any of them do it will help make an already strong draft look even better.

Toronto Blue Jays

It's easy to make a strong impression on draft day when you have two early picks to play with, and they took a calculated gamble with their first such pick, the ninth overall selection, by taking East Carolina righthander Jeff Hoffman. Hoffman of course was lost mid-season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but prior to that he was making a strong case for the No. 1 overall selection, and he may not miss that much development time considering he likely was going to be used sparingly this summer, if healthy, due to his heavy spring workload.

Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost was their second first rounder, a compensation pick after not signing Phil Bickford a year ago. Pentecost had a great season at and behind the plate this year after being named the Cape League MVP and PG Summer Collegiate Player of the Year last summer.

PG All-American Sean Reid-Foley wasn't expected to slide to the second round, giving the team another aggressive selection early in the draft. Prep lefthander Nick Wells (3
rd round), catcher Matt Morgan (4th) and outfielder Lane Thomas (5th) all offer considerable promise.

A trio of Illinois high school products, righthander Lake Latz (11
th round) and Tanner Houck (12th) as well as athletic catcher Mike Papierski (16th) all offer very strong value where they were drafted if the team can find a way to sign any of them.

Good First Impressions

Cleveland Indians

The Indians had two extra, early picks to play with in this year's draft, thanks to compensation for losing Ubaldo Jimenez and the competitive balance lottery, so like the Blue Jays, it should be expected that they walk away from the draft with a strong impression. All of their picks in the top three rounds offered very good value for where they were selected, starting with their first selection, University of San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer, who was considered to have one of the best pure bats in this year's class.

Justus Sheffield was the team's next pick, a polished PG All-American lefthander with an improving four-pitch mix and a fastball that can creep toward the mid-90s regularly. Mike Papi was another one of the draft's better bats, with arguably the most patient approach of any player available which could allow him to advance quickly. Prep righthander Grant Hockin move up draft boards quickly this spring with improved stuff, while hard-hitting corner infielder Bobby Bradley also saw his name move up boards with a strong spring.

Lefthander Sam Hentges (4
th round) made a strong early impression this spring before tapering off, but he let it be known there's more on the way as he continues to get stronger, while athletic catcher Simeon Lucas (7th), prep righthander Micah Miniard (8th) and Puerto Rican shortstop Alexis Pantojas (9th) all offer considerable promise. As does San Diego State outfielder Greg Allen, who surprisingly fell to the team's pick in the sixth round.

Colorado Rockies

Kyle Freeland's hometown Rockies made sure he didn't fall past their first pick, the eighth overall selection, and reports of the Rockies doctors being familiar with Freeland's somewhat concerning health status makes it easy to feel better about the promising lefthander's bright future.

Forrest Wall, one of the best pure bats available in the draft, was the team's supplemental first round pick, and they added another big prep bat in third baseman Kevin Padlo in the fifth.

Ryan Castellani (2
nd round) continued to put the pieces together to become a more complete pitcher this spring, while Georgia Southern lefthander Sam Howard (3rd round) also moved up draft boards with a strong spring.

Max George (6
th round), Harrison Musgrave (8th) and Richard Prigatano (11th) all offered excellent value for their slots and have the tools and skills to make a steady progression to the big leagues.

Kansas City Royals

The Royals were one of the teams in consideration to be listed in the above category of making a great first impression, as they loaded up on some very high potential and known commodities on the days of the draft. Texas Christian lefthander Brandon Finnegan was the first of these picks, who has returned after being shut down for precautionary measure late in the college season to record back-to-back dominant outings in Regional and Super Regional play.

Another lefty, PG All-American Foster Griffin, was the team's second pick. Griffin came out early in the spring and looked considerably better than what he had shown in the past adding to what was already a strong pitching class. One more lefty, UCF's Eric Skoglund, was added in the third round, with projectable and hard-throwing prep righthander going in the second.

Chase Vallot, a hard hitting catcher from the Louisiana prep ranks that also participated in last summer's Classic, was the Royals selection in the first competitive balance round. Virginia outfielder Brandon Downes offers great value as a sixth-round pick with a handful of other players that offer promise among their selections in the top 10 rounds.

Los Angeles Angels

Similar to the Chicago White Sox, the Angels draft stands out for the number of promising arms they selected early. University of Hartford lefthander Sean Newcomb, who previously wasn't believed to make it out of the top 10 picks, was their first selection at No. 15 overall, and was followed by PG All-American righthander Joe Gatto (2
nd round), polished and projectable Ole Miss ace Chris Ellis (3rd), the much improved Illinois State righty Jeremy Rhoades (4th) and one of the best arms from the junior college ranks, righthander Jake Jewell (5th).

Given this clear preference early in the draft to load up on high powered arms, the team switched gears for most of their remaining picks in the top 20 rounds, taking 10 position prospects with their remaining 15 selections in those rounds.

Texas Rangers

The Rangers deserve extra credit for being place in this category without the benefit of their original first round pick, which they forfeited during the offseason for signing outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. They did gain a pick for losing one of their free agents, Nelson Cruz, and with that selection they took PG All-American righthander Luis Ortiz. Ortiz was one of the first high school pitchers to make a strong, initial impression at this time last year, pitching in his usual 90-94 mph range with his trademark slider.

Another PG All-American, Ti'Quan Forbes, was their pick in the second round, a tall and rangy shortstop that is high on tools and also offers a fair amount of polish, both in the batter's box and on the field. Josh Morgan can equal Forbes in the tools department and is another prep shortstop, going to a team with no shortage of them, with considerable upside.

Gabe Gonzalez (13
th round) is the team's most notable late round pick after the top 10 rounds, a hard-throwing high school righthander from Las Vegas who may just be starting to scratch the surface of his lofty potential.

Washington Nationals

Parallels are already being drawn between the National first-round pick, Erick Fedde, and the team's first-round pick from two years ago, Lucas Giolito, since both had known arm injuries they were dealing with at the time they were drafted. In Fedde's case, he has already had Tommy John surgery, as Giolito did so later that summer in 2012, and while Fedde doesn't have quite the upside of Giolito, he was considered to be a near-lock for the top 10 overall picks, thanks to his mid-90s fastball and hard slider, prior to injury.

University of Miami lefthander Andrew Suarez had a long and winding journey due to his own injuries that stemmed back to his senior year in high school, but he finally put the pieces together and enjoyed a very strong campaign for the Hurricanes.

Prep catcher Jakson Reetz is one of the most versatile players in the country, and was named the MVP at last summer's PG All-American Classic, representing great value in the third round. Righthander Robbie Dickey (4
th round) was considered the top prospect from the junior college ranks to open the season, while Unviersity of Nevada corner infielder Austin Byler (9th) has significant power potential.

The Jury's Still Out

Baltimore Orioles

So it doesn't sound like we're picking on the Orioles, it's important to point out that their first selection didn't occur until the third round after signing free agents Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez last offseason. However, the players they select early are somewhat curious, as there isn't much impact talent outside of fourth-round pick Pat Connaughton. Their eggs may all be in one basket with Connaughton, who was already believed to be a difficult sign given his two-sport (basketball) status at Notre Dame, and the Orioles draft pool was already significantly compromised.

Their selections just outside the top 10 rounds, lefthanders John Means (11
th round) and Matt Trowbridge (13th), as well as righthander Nigel Nootbaar (12th) offer very good value at those spots.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers followed a very similar drafting pattern as they have in recent years, taking one high upside player with their first pick, which came in the form of PG All-American outfielder Derek Hill, prior to loading up on a hefty collection of safe, proven commodities from the college ranks. Righthanders Spencer Turnbull (2
nd round), Adam Ravenelle (4th) and Artie Lewicki (8th), as well as catchers Grayson Greiner (3rd) and Shane Zeile (5th) all offer value at the professional level, but there isn't much collective upside to this group of players.

That said, developing big leaguers is what the draft is all about, and they may be able to procure 2-3 such players among the group.

It may not matter if Hill, who speed and overall defensive acumen, patrols the spacious outfield at Comerica Park and serves a crucial leadoff role for the Tigers for years to come.

Minnesota Twins

PG All-American shortstop Nick Gordon, the recipient of the Jackie Robinson Award as part of the 2013 Classic festivities, is a perfect match for the Twins who are developing a deep base of promising position prospects, so his selection alone is notable. He has the tools, both offensively and defensively, to turn as both a rock up the middle of the infield and a catalyst atop the order for a long, long time.

However, the picks after Gordon is where the questions arise. Both Nick Burdi (2
nd round) and Michael Cederoth (3rd) were among the hardest throwers eligible for this year's draft, but both carry a profile as short relievers both now and in the future. While they could help solidify the Twins' bullpen for as many years as Gordon does, the upside of such picks is more in question given their roles.

Similar to the Tigers, after taking Gordon in the first round they went heavy with college players, taking such players with their next 13 selections.

New York Yankees

Addressing the team's current bullpen also appeared to be one of the primary goals of the Yankees, selecting Jacob Lindgren with their first selection (2
nd round) and his Mississippi State bullpen Jonathan Holder in the sixth round. Lindgren has already been pegged as the most likely candidate to make it to the big leagues the fastest of any 2014 draftee thanks to his low-90s fastball and signature slider.

Prep righthander Austin DeCarr does offer considerable upside and promise as the team's third round pick, while lefthander Jordan Montgomery and righthander Jordan Foley enjoyed fine collegiate careers at South Carolina and Central Michigan respectively. University of Texas outfielder Mark Payton is viewed as a safe bet to make it to the big leagues at worst as a fourth outfielder, while Vince Conde improved his draft standing with a strong spring for College World Series bound Vanderbilt.

Being able to sign some collection of a handful of notable picks after the top 10 rounds, most notably prep righthander Garrett Cave (17
th round), college lefty Porter Clayton (21st) and athletic college outfielder Dominic Jose (24th) could go a long way in changing the initial impression left from this effort.

Oakland Athletics

The Athletics were rumored to be involved with a handful of dynamic high school athletes prior to the draft, including PG All-Americans Monte Harrison and Ti'Quan Forbes. Instead, the A's with the more predicatble and safe college route with all of their early picks.

Cal State Fullerton's Matt Chapman, their first-round pick, could be a good player for a long time, an athletic infielder with a very strong arm and promising power potential. Their next three selections, Daniel Gossett, Brett Graves, Jordan Schwartz and Heath Fillmyer, all three righthanders from the college and junior college ranks, have enjoyed productive careers at their respective levels.

The upside in the A's draft comes in the form of their sixth and eighth round selections, prep shortstop Trace Loehr and prep righthander Branden Kelliher. Both hail from the Pacific Northwest, and offer intriguing upsides coming off of strong senior seasons.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Without a doubt the Pittsburgh Pirates took some talented ballplayers, but it's the order in which those players that were selected that draw the most scrutiny. Prep shortstop Cole Tucker was identified as being high on their board, and they definitely will go well under slot with both he and their supplemental first-round pick, outfielder Connor Joe, to be able to free enough money to get their next two selections in the fold.

Those next two selections come in the form of prep righthanders Mitch Keller (2
nd round) and Trey Supak (supplemental 2nd), both of whom made strong pushes up draft boards this spring and give the Pirates 2014 draft class instant recognition.

Their next four picks also offer promise from the college ranks in hard-hitting outfielders Jordan Luplow (3
rd round) and Michael Suchy (5th), switch-hitting catcher Taylor Gushue (4th) and projectable righthander Tyler Eppler (6th).

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