2014 MLB Draft Day One Review/Analysis Part 2
Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Touki Toussaint (16), LHP Cody Reed (54)
I wrote rather extensively on Toussaint in my previous write-ups. Perhaps the most upside of any prep arm in the draft, but with that upside comes high risk. He improved on his command some between his junior and senior seasons in high school, but is still wild with his command. Delivery issues, also, but that curveball is so good at such a young age I think he is worth a gamble at pick 16. Cody Reed, who I previously did not cover, is a 2/3 starter at best, but will end up somewhere in the starting rotation. Reed is a mammoth 6’5” left-handed pitcher who throws a plus fastball. Reed’s changeup, slider, and curveball are potential plus pitches, if not plus already. One red flag on Reed is his weight. I have seen him listed anywhere from 240lbs to 260lbs. The Diamondbacks organization will undoubted try to get him to shed 20+lbs. There is a ton of upside potential on Reed, but it is not quite there yet, still I love the pick at 54. The Diamondbacks day one draft uses the deadly ‘p’ word, potential. If either guy reaches that potential, day one has been a success for them.
Kansas City Royals: LHP Brandon Finnegan (17), LHP Foster Griffen (28), C Chase Vallot (40), RHP Scott Blewett (56)
The biggest issue with Brandon Finnegan is his height. He is listed at 5’11”, but may measure out to 5’10”. There are durability issues with players at both heights, as the shorter the pitcher, the incidence of injury increases. A few 5’11” pitchers have been successful at the major league level, notably Pedro Martinez, but I can’t think of any 5’10” starters that have had success over multiple years. Finnegan’s fastball touches 99, sitting at 91-95 throughout a game. Finnegan’s secondary pitches are a potential plus curveball, potential plus slider, and a potential average changeup, which does not sound like great starting pitching material, especially from a collge arm his height and. He is also another ¾ arm slot guy. Finnegan dominated at TCU, possessing a 4.88 K/BB ratio during his junior season. Finnegan should be given every opportunity to start, which he probably will get with the Royals, but if he turns out to be a bullpen arm nobody should be shocked. At 18, Foster Griffen is already 6’5”, which helps his stock quite a bit more than other prep arms. Throwing motion is not bad. Fastball touches 94 rarely and sits at 88-91. His changeup is a potential plus pitch and his curveball need work to even be considered above average. Command issues are present with Griffen, but then again, they are present with most prep arms. If the Royals sign him (which they probably will) and things work out he can make the back-end of the starting rotation. Chase Vallot was a late-riser, gaining traction into the late first round in the days leading up to the draft. Vallot probably should’ve been a late first round pick, too, as he plays a valuable position, catcher, has good plus power potential, and has a cannon for an arm. Has still hands and a still bat leading up to his swing. He is only 17, but raked competition, putting up a 1.763 OPS his senior season. I hate to use high school statistics, but it shows he has had no problems yet. Some question his pitch recognition against major league talent, but he’s 17, give him time. 6’6” prep arm Scott Blewett tops out at 96 for his fastball, regularly hitting 90-94. He possesses a potential plus 12-6 curveball, but velocity is not there for the pitch yet, usually sitting in the mid-70s. Blewett possesses a decent changeup that should evolve into league average assuming everything goes right. Once again, Blewett is another high school arm that lacks good command, but it does not appear to be as bad as the worst offenders in this draft. If the Royals want him to sign they are going to have to overslot him, as he’s made it clear he would like to go to St. John’s. If I am Dayton Moore, I give him the money without hesitation, I think Blewett could be a 2/3 starter down the road given proper development.
Washington Nationals: RHP Erick Fedde (18), LHP Andrew Suarez (57)
I have already done a write-up on Fedde, so not too much detail here. Plus fastball and potential plus plus slider. This should not be a shock, as the Nationals took Lucas Giolito last year after injury and rehabbed him into success Will history repeat itself with Fedde? If I had to guess I would say yeah, he will recover fine and return to almost the same form he had prior to Tommy John surgery late in the season. They passed over quite a bit of quality talent for Fedde, who is a quality talent, albeit hurt, and only time will tell if that was the right move. Andrew Suarez was one of the better pitchers on one of the best college teams this past season, the University of Miami. Suarez really came into his own this past season, with his prior seasons at Miami being mediocre. Plus fastball touches 95, but sits at 91-93. He uses a curveball and slider as secondary pitches, both with good movement and potential plus pitches down the road according to some. They are very similar looking pitches, so it is hard for someone breaking him down to recognize the difference between the two with Suarez, but not so hard with opposing batters. He is not a strikeout guy, so expect high groundball contact from opposing batters. Not deceptive with his stuff. Suarez is likely a back of the rotation pitcher in the majors if not a bullpen arm. Not crazy about what the Nationals did on day one, but it is in no way a disaster like the Chicago Cubs day one.
Cincinnati Reds: RHP Nick Howard (19), 3B Alex Blandino (29), 3B Taylor Sparks (58)
6’4”, 215lb Nick Howard is the first reliever to be taken during the 2014 MLB Draft. Howard’s easy plus fastball touches 98, but normally sits at 92-95. His curveball has potential to be a plus pitch down the road, thrown in the 80-84 range. I remember reading he has a slider, but I think people just confuse the slider and curveball. His changeup stinks and he should really limit it or just drop it from his arsenal. He is close to major league ready. Potential closer or setup guy, definitely will be in the bullpen. Alex Blandino was a late riser on draft boards that actually stuck, being drafted with the 29th overall pick. 6’0” Alex Blandino is a Stanford man. The last thing a hitter in baseball wants to be is a Stanford man. Stanford pushes hitters to make poor contact, making them line-drive/ground out hitters with little power. Like a Stanford man, Blandino makes contact with the ball well. Unlike a Stanford man, he has some plate patience, which is a major positive. He will probably have below league average power (single digit home run seasons). Defensively he’ll stick at third base almost assuredly. I do not like this pick. I would be shocked if he ever started regularly for just about any major league team. I do not like the Reds other day one third baseman selection, Taylor Sparks. Sparks has a below average hit tool, lacking any sort of plate discipline. He had a 4 K/BB ratio during his junior season at UC Irvine. Might develop above league average power. Defensively identical to Blandino. Taking two third basemen on day one who are mediocre is very strange. At least Howard is fine. Bad day one draft for the Cincinnati Reds.
Tampa Bay Rays: 1B Casey Gillaspie (20), RHP Cameron Varga (60)
I already did a writeup on Gillaspie, so go back and read that if you want a more detailed picture, but he’s a power bat who can make good contact that’s 1B or DH only. Average at best defensively at 1B. Put up great numbers at Wichita State. Cameron Varga has been really impressive, albeit at the high school level. Nine wins, zero losses, 0.00 ERA, 51 innings pitched, 126 strikeouts, five walks, seven shutouts, and five no-hitters during his senior season at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. Just by those numbers alone, one must wonder why 6’4”, 205lb Varga was not taken higher. Well, the story with Varga goes a bit deeper, with a previous biceps injury, already being 20 years old, and not quite having major league stuff. Not enough hip movement, placing heavier strain on his arm. Varga has a plus fastball that tops out at 95. Curveball needs work, but has plus potential. Slight command issues at this time, as should be expected with a high school arm, but likely to improve. I’m not sure what the bigger knock against Varga is, being twenty or previous injury history pitching on a high school schedule (which has fewer innings than the major leagues). Even with all the red flags, I am surprised he did not go higher. There’s big potential as a 2/3 starter with him, but that potential is a big if. Good day one draft for the Rays.
Cleveland Indians: OF Bradley Zimmer (21), LHP Justus Sheffield (31), 1B/LF Mike Papi (38), RHP Grant Hockin (61)
The best way to describe Zimmer is just being ‘there’. He does not leap out on anything specific, other than his arm and speed, which will land him in CF or RF. Only real knock against him is plate patience, but that is a problem with a ton of guys. He’ll make the majors and produce about average in every category. Sheffield is another short pitcher, akin to Brandon Finnegan, standing at roughly 5’10”, despite what others claim (He’s not 6’1” or 6’2”). While it is high school stats, he had a 19.26 K/9 ratio his senior year, with a 0.34 ERA. Unlike Cameron Varga, Sheffield’s stuff is projected to get higher level guys out. Mechanics are much better than other prep arms in this draft. Fastball sits at 89-93, touching 94 at times, and projects to be average. Throws a 77-79 curveball, that projects to be above average in the future. Sheffield’s slider has plus potential. Command is advanced for his age. He has a strong commit to Vanderbilt, so he’s not going to sign unless they overslot him fairly big. 6’3”, 210lb Mike Papi currently plays 1B at Virginia, but could easily switch to LF. Papi has one of the more advanced college bats in this draft, adept at recognizing pitches and having plate patience, which could very well wind up to him hitting above average in the major league. Has a good arm. High floor/low ceiling-type guy. Grant Hockin-type guys are what you start to see around the 60th pick. At 6’3”, 195lbs, Hockin is a project. Fastball tops out at 93, sitting at 88-90. Potential plus 12-6 curveball that sits in the low 70s. Average changeup and slider. Great mechanics. Big stride. He could turn out to be a rotation guy, but it is just too soon to make any judgments on him. UCLA commit, so they will have to overslot to sign him in addition to Sheffield. Fine day one draft for the Cleveland Indians.
Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP Grant Holmes (22), LHP/OF Alex Verdugo (62)
I’ll just copy and paste my Grant Holmes write-up to save you time: “Holmes projects to be big league ready quicker than other prep arms like Toussaint. Fastball tops out at 97, but sits in the low-mid 90s. Plus curveball that could end up plus plus, but currently sits 82-84. The curveball might be top three in this draft. Changeup rates to about average to above average. Red flag on the fastball as it tends flatten at times, which would of course lead to him getting smashed in the majors if changes aren't made. Besides some mechanical changes, Holmes doesn't really project to get much better, but that's fine because he's a pretty good pitcher already.” I think they give Holmes some time in the minors before they call him up, even if he is the most ready prep arm in the draft. He could try and fit into the back end of the rotation. I’m completely stunned Alex Verdugo fell to pick 62 and not because I thought he was first round talent. There was heavy talk of him in the late 20s/early 30s that sprung up in the days prior to the draft. The problem with Verdugo is there is legitimate uncertainty as to which position he will play. The current plan for the Dodgers it to try him as an OF, then switch him to pitching if it doesn’t work. As a position player, Verdugo is fairly average, with a good arm and good right field defense. As a pitcher, Verdugo hits 92 with his fastball, sitting at 87-90 regularly. Average 12-6 curveball. If I had to take a guess, Verdugo ends up in the bullpen down the road, but that’s just a guess. Good day one for the Dodgers.
Detroit Tigers: OF Derek Hill (23), RHP Spencer Turnbull (63)
I am still in shock they did not go with Nick Burdi at pick 23. Did the write-up on Derek Hill in my second post, so go back and check it out. Hill is the fastest guy in the entire draft, with plus plus speed. Has a big arm, so he can play RF if needed. Still needs to work on his hit tool, which some say could become plus down the road. No power and little plate discipline makes him a defense first player, which is fine for certain teams or coming off of the bench. 6’3”, 195lb Turnbull is the reliever that Detroit so badly needs, although he started at Alabama. Turnbull has a plus fastball that touches 98, but sits at 92-95. His slider (almost a curve) got many out at the college level, but will be average at best in the majors, as it does not project to get any better. The slider sits at 78-81. He also uses a changeup that the Tigers should encourage him to drop, as it is not a good pitch at the college level, let alone a higher one. Has the same command issues one would expect out of a high school arm, but he might be able to improve on that. He will live and die with the fastball coming from the bullpen. Fine day one for the Detroit Tigers.
Pittsburgh Pirates: SS Cole Tucker (24), 1B Connor Joe (39), RHP Mitch Keller (64)
The Pirates taking Cole Tucker with pick 24 was a complete shock to me. Gatewood, Griffen, Ortiz, Wall, Reed, Adams, and specifically Monte Harrison were all available with this pick. They were linked to Harrison at this pick, but it was rumored he wanted a king’s ransom not to go play football for Nebraska. It turns out that they had Cole Tucker ranked highly on their board and did not think he would be there at pick 39. Switch-hitting SS Tucker was ranked in the 80-90 range of prospects overall, so this was quite a reach. Tucker is 6’3” and only 17 years of age, so it’s not a lock that he sticks to the position if he keeps growing. Average contact, below average power, little plate patience, not quite the making of the 24th overall selection in the draft. Interesting in that he has good bat speed, but no home run power, just doubles power at best. Tucker has a plus arm and is a plus runner, which may help him if he fills out a bit and has to move to another position. It’s really too soon to make a judgment on Tucker other than the Pirates jumped the gun. Another reach by the Pirates was their second pick, 1B Connor Joe. Joe was ranked roughly the 100th best prospect in the draft. He offers versatility in defense, be able to allegedly play catcher, first base, and outfielder. His best qualities are his arm and plate patience. 6’0” Joe could potentially develop power, but now it is average at best. He has to be an underslot signing, but could develop into a great backup catcher, if not better. 6’3”, 195lb Mitch Keller has a fastball that touches 95, a dramatic increase from his junior year in high school when he was throwing 85-88. Keller uses a curve as a secondary pitch, which should develop to become league average, and a changeup that needs work. Has excellent command for a high school pitcher. Could end up a mid-rotation guy. Has a strong commitment to North Carolina, so the previous two being underslotted will likely go to Keller to persuade him from attending UNC. The Pirates had a pretty poor day one of the draft.