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2014 MLB Draft Preview

May 17, 2014 | By Michael Seff | comment on this post
Brady Aiken was the ace of Cathedral Catholic high school.
Lefty Brady Aiken is a two-way star, but will be drafted as a pitcher. (Sean M. Haffey)

Only one thing appears certain about the 2014 MLB Draft, which will commence on June 5 in Secaucus, New Jersey: for the third time in four years, a pitcher will be selected first overall. And, for the third consecutive year, the perpetually rebuilding Houston Astros are on the clock.

Consider how quick the fast-track to the Majors really is these days. Mike Zunino (third overall), Kevin Gausman (fourth), Michael Wacha (19th), and Marcus Stroman (22nd) of the 2012 class have all appeared in Major League games already. And, oh yeah, Wacha started two games in last year’s World Series for the Cardinals. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.

So it goes without saying that it won’t be long before we see the likes of Brady Aiken (see video below), Carlos Rodon, Jeff Hoffman, Tyler Kolek and Alex Jackson at the big-league level. They are among the gems of this year’s class, one loaded with power arms.

As mentioned above, Houston picks first just as it did when selecting shortstop Carlos Correa in 2012 and pitcher Mark Appel in 2013. This year, the Astros could very well tab Aiken, a 6’3”, 210-pound southpaw who could be the most polished high school pitcher in the draft. Or, they could take an even taller pitcher in Kolek, a 6’5”, 250-pound righty capable of hitting triple-digits with his fastball. And that duo would just be the tip of the proverbial iceberg that is the talent waiting to be added to the professional baseball ranks this year.

Licking their chops at No. 2 will be the Miami Marlins, who know they will end up with a stud no matter what. Should the Marlins choose to eschew the pitching route, they could potentially strike gold with Jackson, a catcher-outfielder hybrid with big-time power potential. Or, the Fish could provide its fanbase with some local flavour in shortstop Nick Gordon. The Windemere, Fla., native and brother of Dee is considered the best middle infielder in the draft.

Following up the Marlins will be the Chicago teams, the White Sox and Cubs, while Minnesota will pick at five. By the time the Mariners pick at six, you would have to wonder whether Rodon or Hoffman would still be available. Seattle has plenty of promising young arms in its farm system, but what’s that old adage about “you can never have too much pitching?”

Rodon is a bit of a hefty lefty – okay, maybe just a burly one – weighing in at 234 pounds and standing 6’3”, but the North Carolina State ace enters the draft as Baseball America’s No. 1 prospect because he added about 30 pounds of bulk and, in turn, his fastball velocity jumped to as high as 98 mph. The 21-year-old also features a plus slider.

East Carolina’s Hoffman will be a tough sell for some teams considering he needs Tommy John surgery and will miss the rest of 2014, but these days, that procedure also comes with a fair degree of certainty. Could the 6’4”, 192-pound 21-year-old actually be even stronger than his mid-’90s fastball was in college? That remains to be seen, but despite his health concerns, Hoffman looks like the real deal.

After some of the big names fly off the board, there will be… well… even more potential stars to choose from for the Phillies at seven, Rockies at eight, Blue Jays at nine, and Mets at 10. And then the Blue Jays again at 11. Pitchers Kyle Freeland, Aaron Nola and Grant Holmes are all Top 10-worthy, while it simply wouldn’t be fair to neglect the position players left on the board. Outfielders Bradley Zimmer and Michael Conforto and shortstops Trea Turner and Jacob Gatewood all have legitimate cases to land in the Top 15.

We know very little for certain about the MLB Draft because of the incredibly high volume of players selected. That, in turn, leads us to one certainty – the later rounds will ultimately produce gems that no one saw coming. No, we’re not projecting a Mike Piazza to fall to someone in the 40th round, but the higher the picks, the greater the pressure.

Still, the ever-growing depth of pitching in these drafts gives promise to rebuilding teams in a game that is starting to see its most powerful era of competitive balance. In just a few short years, names like Aiken, Rodon, Hoffman, and Gordon will likely be front-and-centre in that movement.

Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below which players you’re tracking in the 2014 MLB Draft.

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