The Major League Baseball amateur draft is a joke when compared to the NBA and NFL drafts. We may never see nearly 80 percent of those players picked, possibly more, at a level higher than Double-A, while we can see players like Johnny Manziel perform this year in Cleveland and we already saw Michael Carter-Williams lead a horrific Philadelphia 76ers club in the NBA. The progression through the minor league system in baseball prepares young players and their minds for the rigor and tumultuous lifestyle that goes along with a 162-game marathon. However, the draft is something that fans should be interested in, and MLB could do more with it to make it interesting to their fans. Tonight, the draft begins. Many names will be called and very few will be recognized, but it is worth getting to know them, as several will become stars, and a select few may change the game.
For those of you in dynasty fantasy baseball leagues, tonight is a HUGE night, as the minor league stars that you pack on your bench for future consumption will see a tremendous number of alternatives become available for your stashing pleasure. For those people, and those who are interested in getting to know the names of some future stars who just love the game, this is for you. These are the top players in the MLB Draft and why you should know them.
Most “Ready” Arms (aka, college pitchers)
Carlos Rodon, LHP, North Carolina State
Rodon was considered a generational talent last season, but things didn’t go as well for him in the 2014 college season. His stock has fallen a bit, but the stuff is still there. The fastball tends to work in the 93-94 range but can hit 97, while the slider is plus and it is a total wipe-out pitch. Command could be an issue, but he is said to be the top left-handed college arm since David Price by MLB.com’s Jonathon Mayo.
Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU
Like Kevin Gausman, Nola has great stuff, highlighted by a very good changeup. A fastball that works 91-93 with that plus change makes him a solid, quick advancing arm. The results at the collegiate level and the plus command make him a very worthy, early selection.
Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville
Freeland has the “violent delivery” label that has some scouts worried already, but when you see what Chris Sale is doing, you have to wonder if anyone in charge of turning in the final selection for their teams should really care about that anymore. A very good fastball and slider can make Freeland a strikeout artist in the majors, and his change is solid but not nearly as effective. Having three effective pitches will make him useful in whatever role he fulfills, and he is worth the risk in the rotation for whoever selects him, mechanical worries or not.
Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford
Velocity is the word that comes up on Newcomb the mostt. The 6’5″, 240 pound southpaw has a fastball that, like Rodon, can touch 97, but, unlike Rodon, he has four total pitches that he can utilize to keep batters off balance. Repeatability is an issue for him still, but the stuff is there to be dominant, even coming from a small school.
Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
With Beede’s stuff and inconsistent abilities to harness it, I wonder if a fair comparison would be to Gerrit Cole. Cole had tremendous velocity and needed to find the mechanics necessary before taking the next step. Beede has the same electric fastball, touching 97, with a power curve and change. He was taken in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft and he will be selected in the same round tonight.
Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina
Tommy John surgery or not, Hoffman will get selected in the first round tonight. The right-hander’s name was mentioned as an option for the No.1 overall pick just before his injury, and he likely would have been the selection were it not for the injury. Look for Hoffman to be picked by a team with more than one first round pick, likely Toronto, who can take a gamble and enjoy the reward later.
Elite Potential (aka, top high school players)
Brady Aiken, LHP
Electric stuff, can touch 97 with his fastball, and solid, mature frame (6’3″, 210). Could be the Astros No.1 overall selection.
Tyler Kolek, RHP
He could be the hardest throwing prep arm in the history of the draft. Can already hit 100 with his fastball. 6’5″, 230 pound frame makes him a horse, and his powerful repertoire makes him an elite prospect.
Alex Jackson, C/OF
Plus power potential and very good hit tool from the catching spot. He can run a bit, but he’ll take a bit longer to simmer in the minors if he is kept at catcher. The benefit would be that power and a plus throwing arm behind the plate, which is quite valuable.
Touki Toussaint, RHP
Didn’t move to the United States from Haiti until the age of six, and apparently that makes him more of a “project” than others in this draft. Don’t buy it. He has a fastball that can touch 97 and an out-pitch curve.
Offense is dying in the velocity-led, pitching dominated MLB that we see today. Players with plus power are worth a long look. Here are a few to look out for:
A.J. Reed, LHP/1B, Kentucky
Big man, slow feet, who cares. Big power. 6’4″, 245 pound masher has hit more consistently this season in the tough SEC, but, like other large men before him, the length of his swing could become his downfall with advanced pitching.
Kyle Schwarber, C/OF, Indiana
Power with bat speed makes him a potential offensive weapon, as it has for Javier Baez. Power with bat speed with the potential to be an offensive-minded catcher with below average defensive skills makes him a fantasy baseball player’s dream.
Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State
Another left-handed power bat, but this one comes with some risks. He’s going to be limited to left field defensively, if he sticks in the outfield at all, and he has trouble making consistent contact. He could annually produce 20-25 home runs, but the other numbers may not be quite so consistent.
Jacob Gatewood, SS
The first high school bat on the list. Gatewood could go under the elite-level names, but I figured I’d hide him here for those who continue reading – just in case you’re in my league. A 6’5″, 180 pound high school shortstop automatically makes a fantasy nerd think of Alex Rodriguez. Gatewood has the potential to be a 30-homer up-the-middle player, but he needs to work on his hit tool and approach a bit for that to become real. He may never get there and he may have to move to third as he fills out, but if there is potential, there is a worthy risk.