The NBA Finals just started. I get it. It is a Thursday night at the start of June. I get it. The weather is nice. I get it. The MLB Draft isn’t glamorous. I get it. But for all of you baseball nerds out there, I know we were all tuned into the 1st round of the 2014 MLB Draft. Nothing beats being two months into the regular season and then boom, draft time. It is unlike any sport out there. The NFL and NBA Draft are basically holidays now. We see these players in college all over ESPN and then when they get drafted, they are starting for their new team right away, and maybe even being a star in their league. Even the NHL Draft is pretty entertaining. A lot of the top picks in the draft go to the NHL right away and make a difference. But the MLB Draft is totally different. Every pick is going to see the minor leagues. End of story. Maybe even for quite a few years. Most of them, besides a very select few, won’t make a difference for a Major League ball club for years. Shoot, some of them won’t ever even make it to The Show. All of those reasons I mentioned kind of take away from the excitement the other leagues’ drafts have to offer. As an avid baseball fan, it really doesn’t bug me. I love baseball. And I certainly love the draft. With all that being said, I am going to give you my best effort in breaking down the winners and losers of the 1st round. Yeah, I will probably regret everything I have to say in seven years because I will be dead wrong, but I might as well give it a try.
Chicago White Sox (3rd overall pick: LHP Carlos Rodon) – In a major turn of events, the Miami Marlins passed on their homegrown prized prospect and took RHP Tyler Kolek. For months now, Rodon was the consensus best player in the draft. He had a bit of a rough junior season at NC State though, which dropped his value a touch, as he went 6-7 with a 2.01 ERA, 98 2/3 innings pitched, 117 strikeouts, and 31 walks. He was also a bit unlucky as he gave up 29 runs, but only 17 of them earned.1 But in his previous two seasons at NC State, Rodon went 9-0 with a 1.57 ERA with 135 strikeouts in 117 innings his freshman year, and then went 10-3 with a 2.99 ERA with 184 strikeouts in 132 innings his sophomore year.2 He was also a superstar on Team USA over the past two seasons. At 6’3″ and 230 pounds, the man is a tank. His fastball is clocked in the mid-90’s, he has a devastating slider, and has been working on an above-average change up . He has been compared to David Price and has been mentioned as the best pitching prospect since Stephen Strasburg. He is said to be the most Major League ready player in the draft and might see some time in the Sox’s bullpen sometime in September. His downside? He had several 120+ pitch outings this past season at school and once hit 134. Definitely something that worries teams. His agent is also Scott Boras, which some experts believed is why the Astros and Marlins passed on him. He will be asking for some serious money. Other than that, there is a lot to like about the kid. He is a gamer that always wants the ball, and he should be a great addition next to Chris Sale on the South Side of Chicago.
Philadelphia Phillies (7th overall pick: RHP Aaron Nola) – Nola has been tagged as the safest pick in the draft. Some mock drafts had the right-hander going as high as 3rd overall to the White Sox or 6th overall to the Mariners. The Phillies must be ecstatic that Nola fell to them. He throws a 92-94 MPH fastball with a ton of movement and has a very good slider and change up. His stuff is not overpowering but he is known to paint the plate and command the strike zone like no other. This season at LSU, Nola was arguably the best pitcher in college. He went 11-1 with a 1.47 ERA with 134 strikeouts and only 27 walks in 116 1/3 innings.3 His only loss this year is when he gave up two solo home runs to Florida in a 2-1 loss. If the junior were to stay at LSU one more year, he would break every pitching record they have. Most experts believe Nola will be the first pitcher to make it to the Majors and could have an immediate impact for the Phillies. The only worries around Nola is that he is only 6’1″ and 196 pounds. He also isn’t projected to be an ace or a top-of-the-rotation arm. He has been compared to Cardinals’ right-hander Michael Wacha. Many see Nola as a very good #2-3 starter. Nothing wrong with drafting a sure-fire starting pitcher though. This pick should pay off very soon for the Phillies.
Cleveland Indians (21st overall pick: OF Bradley Zimmer) – MLB.com had Bradley Zimmer rated as the #10 prospect in the draft. Many mock drafts had Zimmer going #10 to the New York Mets or #16 to the Arizona Diamondbacks. So for Zimmer to fall all the way to #21 to the Indians must have come as a real shock to them. Zimmer has been called the best pure hitter in this year’s draft and is a five-tool player. He has plus hitting, fielding, arm strength, and base stealing. He can hit the ball to all parts of the field and experts say he can continue to improve on his power. At the University of San Francisco this past season, Zimmer hit .368 with 7 HR, 31 RBI, 10 doubles, 7 triples, 21 stolen bases, 42 runs scored, and a .456 OBP in 54 games.4 He had a rough freshman year, where he just hit .242. That off-season, he put on 15 pounds and it seemed to help all of his numbers his sophomore year, where he batted .320 with a .437 OBP. At 6’5″ and 205 pounds, Zimmer is a big boy who played mostly centerfield at San Francisco. Scouts say he could bulk up even more. He is projected to take over right field as he moves through the Indians’ organization, as he has a huge arm. Zimmer has a fairly unorthodox swing which also scared some teams.5 But honestly, who cares about a “normal” batting stance. If you can produce, you can produce. That is all that matters. Zimmer will need some work done in the minors but he should be solid right fielder for the Indians in no time.
Boston Red Sox (26th overall pick: Michael Chavis) – Ever heard of Dustin Pedroia? Well, Chavis is Pedroia’s brother-from-another-mother. They are basically the same person, expect Chavis rocked a killer bow tie at the draft this year.6 The Sprayberry High School (Marietta, Georgia) senior doesn’t have any super special attributes. During his senior season, Chavis hit .580 with 13 HR and 37 RBI in 28 games. He is an above-average hitter, fielder, and hits the ball real hard, but he isn’t a great runner. Scouts say he hits the ball every time he makes contact, has a very nice swing, and could have some serious pop if he can continue to develop in the minors. He can play anywhere in the infield but he is projected to play at the hot corner. Dave Perkin of Sports Illustrated had Chavis going #13 overall to the San Diego Padres, so you would have to say Chavis slid a ways down the draft board. He stands at 6’0″ (generous) and 185 pounds. He has stated that his favorite player in baseball is Dustin Pedroia and scouts say Chavis plays the same style of game as Pedroia. He gives it his all every game and is a leader on the field. It will take some time for Chavis to make it to The Show but I like this guy and I think he is a very solid pick for the Red Sox.
Honorable mentions: C/OF Alex Jackson (6th overall to the Seattle Mariners), RHP Touki Toussaint (16th overall to the Arizona Diamondbacks), and RHP Luke Weaver (27th overall to the St. Louis Cardinals).
Miami Marlins (3rd overall pick: Tyler Kolek) – I am stretching a little bit here. Initially, I really liked Tyler Kolek. I was planning on him ending up with the White Sox, so I was preparing myself to like the guy. But, I can’t believe the Marlins passed on Carlos Rodon. Rodon was a perfect fit for the Marlins. The kid’s father is Cuban, who later moved to Miami. He was a homegrown kid with Cuban ties that would have been an awesome marketing point for the Marlins. He seemed to be destined to be bros with Jose Fernandez. That would have been fun to watch. Anyways, back to Kolek. Many see this guy as the next Roger Clemens. At 6’5″ and 245 pounds (sometimes much heavier than that), Kolek has topped out at 100 MPH and consistently throws in the high 90’s. He just finished high school, and flame throwing high school pitchers have never really had a great time panning out in the Majors. At his size, there aren’t any pros that scouts can compare the kid to, so that has provided some concern. With that being said, his high school numbers were out of this world. He went 5-2 with a 0.35 ERA with 126 strikeouts in only 60 1/3 innings.7 He only walked eight. Incredible stuff. This guy has boom or bust written all over him. He could be the best pitcher in the Majors in a couple of years. He also could be a big time bust we talk about years from now. Time will tell, but Kolek has a ton of potential.
Chicago Cubs (4th overall pick: C/1B Kyle Schwarber) – Yes, I am a huge Chicago White Sox fan. Yes, I hate the Chicago Cubs. But I promise, I did not pick the Cubs as a loser because of any of my biases. I was going to pick the Cubs as a loser even before the draft started just because they had the 4th pick. The top three players in the draft, all pitchers, went 1-2-3. The Cubs really needed a pitcher and weren’t fortunate enough to land Aiken, Kolek, or Rodon. Nothing they could do about that, but a real bummer for Cubs fans. As for the Schwarber pick? It is hard to say. It was a real wild card pick for the Cubs if the top three pitchers were taken before them, which happened. Some experts saw the Cubs taking him at #4. Others saw Schwarber falling into the late 1st round. One thing is for sure; the kid can rake. He might have the best raw power in the draft. This past season at Indiana, Schwarber hit .358 with 14 HR and 48 RBI.8 He also had 16 doubles and six triples. Get this. He walked 44 times and only K’ed up 30 times. Very solid. In three seasons with Indiana, he has 40 HR while walking 116 times and only striking out 91 times. To be honest, I like this guy. He should be a very good Major League hitter. The downside is, it doesn’t look like he will stay at catcher. More than likely he will move to the outfield, probably left. Theo Epstein and the Cubs “claimed” he was #2 on their draft board (doubt it) but many see the move as a money-saver, due to the fact there was quite a drop off of talent after the top three picks. This will allow for the Cubs to spend some more money deeper into the draft.
Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals (9th overall pick RHP Jeff Hoffman and 18th overall pick Erick Fedde) – I group these two teams together because pitchers Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde both had Tommy John surgery in recent months.9 Even with our medical advances, Tommy John surgery and elbow issues still scares me. Especially when a team goes out and makes their first pick a player with this issue. If I am a GM, I am avoiding any pitcher with any injury issues. Period. To the Blue Jays defense, Hoffman was a top three pitcher coming into this year. He was seen throwing in the high 90’s and also has a very solid curveball and changeup. He has also been compared to Justin Verlander. But Hoffman will need to put on some weight and work on his command to become a solid starter in the future. As for Fedee, he stands at 6’4″ and only 175 pounds. Having Chris Sale being so dominant in the Majors certainly helps his cause, but it still has some scouts worried. Another issue is Fedee was only ranked #33 on MLB.com. At #18, it is a bit of a stretch, especially for a pitcher who just blew out his elbow. He will certainly be a project for the Nationals.
With all of this being said, who knows what will happen. Projecting any player into the future is close to impossible, but we all try to do the best we can at projecting players. I’d like to look at my analysis down the road and just be so proud of how right I was. Lucky for me, I will probably not want anyone to see this article once these players pan out. If I were you, I’d put my money on the “loser” players I chose. Who knows. You don’t know. I certainly don’t know. But I do know it will be fun watching this class of 2014 perform down the road.