MLB

2014 MLB Draft: Top 10 Picks

Brady Aiken
Written by Sportsnaut

1. Houston Astros

Brady Aiken, LHP Cathedral Catholic HS (Callf.)

Aiken models his game after David Price, with three plus pitches. The fastball is his best pitch. He is the third high school left hander taken No. 1 overall.

Aiken is a couple of years away, but once he arrives can make an impact.

Aiken led Team USA to the gold medal at the 18-and-under World Cup in Taiwan last September by winning both of his starts, including a championship-game performance against Japan in which he struck out 10 and allowed one run in seven innings.

He has the chance to develop three above-average or better offerings. His once-average fastball is now topping out at 97 mph and sits 92-94 mph, featuring both run and sink. He commands his fastball well and throws all three of his pitches for strikes.

2. Miami Marlins

Tyler Kolek, RHP Shepherd HS (Texas)

Kolek gives the Marlins another potential ace to pair with Jose Fernandez.

Kolek is the latest in a long line of Texas high school fireballers. He pushed his fastball to 100 mph and above several times this spring, even out of the stretch. He throws both a 12-to-6 curveball and a sharp slider, and though the slider is newer to him, it has more upside. He rarely uses a changeup, but it has the potential to become an average offering.

The only real knock on Kolek is that his control and command have yet to catch up to his premium stuff.

3. Chicago White Sox

Carlos Rodon, LHP N.C. State

Rodon’s best pitch is his slider. He has mechanics similar to David Price. He could be the first player in the draft that gets promoted to the Majors.

One scary thought is Rodon paired with Chris Sale in the rotation for the Chicago White Sox. He immediately becomes the top prospect in their farm system.

Rodon can overpower hitters with two pitches. His fastball sits at 91-94 mph, can reach 97 and features good life. His best offering is a wipeout slider that usually arrives in the mid-80s. He’s still working on a changeup that shows signs of becoming an average pitch.

Rodon did a fine job of locating his pitches while with Team USA last summer, but his command hasn’t been as sharp this year. Nevertheless, his strong frame is built for durability and he has all the ingredients to become a true No. 1 starter

4. Chicago Cubs

Kyle Schwarber, C/OF Indiana

Schwarber is a catcher currently, but a move to the outfield is possible in the future. The Cubs selected him at this position in the draft, because they believe he is the most advanced college bat.

Schwarber powered Indiana to its first College World Series appearance and first outright Big Ten Conference regular-season championship since 1932 last year, slugging a school-record 18 homers and ranking third in NCAA Division I in that category.

He offers lots of strength and bat speed from the left side of the plate, and he’s not a one-dimensional hitter either. Schwarber controls the strike zone well and repeatedly barrels balls, so he should hit for a high average as well.

5. Minnesota Twins

Nick Gordon, SS Olympia HS (Fla.)

Gordon has great bloodlines, with his brother Dee playing for the Dodgers, and of course his father Tom (Flash) Gordon.

He has the tools to remain at shortstop, and sprays the ball to all fields.

Gordon is talented enough to follow in the footsteps of either his father Tom, a former All-Star pitcher, or his brother Dee, an infielder with the Dodgers.

Gordon has the actions and arm to stick at shortstop, and his plus speed plays well on the bases. He has a solid left-handed swing and uses the whole field to hit. He’s made some strength gains this spring, but will need to add more muscle to hold his own against big league pitching.

In a draft class that’s weak on shortstops, Gordon has established himself as one of the best.

Alex Jackson

ESPN.com

6. Seattle Mariners

Alex Jackson, C/OF Bernardo HS (Calif.)

This is a huge move for Seattle, by adding a right-handed bat in their farm system. He profiles as a player that can hit possibly 25-30 home runs.

He compares well to Buster Posey, with plus plus power.

Jackson’s best tool is his right-handed power, which he generates with bat speed and strength. He has enough feel for hitting that he could produce .280 batting averages in the Major Leagues. To do that, he’ll need to curb a tendency for his swing that gets long at times which causes him to miss hittable fastballs.

Jackson’s arm gives him a third future plus tool. He moves better than most catchers, though his receiving will need to improve if he’s to stick behind the plate. If not, he has enough athleticism and bat to make it as a right fielder. He has committed to Oregon.

7. Philadelphia Phillies

Aaron Nola, RHP LSU

He shows great command, by pounding the strike zone. Nola throws to both halves in the zone. He is a 2014 Golden Spikes Award Finalist.

The Phillies get a pitcher that can be in the rotation for a long time.

The ace of a 2013 Louisiana State pitching staff that included Twins second-round choice Ryan Eades, Nola finished among the NCAA Division I leaders in wins (12), ERA (1.57), strikeouts (122), K-BB ratio (6.8) and WHIP (0.80).

He helped the Tigers end a three-year absence from the College World Series and finished his sophomore season without allowing an earned run in his final 26 2/3 innings. He extended that streak to 54 innings this spring, when he has been better than ever.

Nola isn’t physical or overpowering, but he has exquisite command of his three-pitch arsenal. He effortlessly works at 91-93 mph with his fastball, which plays up because his low three-quarters arm slot produces sink and he can locate the pitch wherever he wants. His changeup is his best secondary pitch, grading as plus at times, and he can throw his three-quarters breaking ball for strikes.

8. Colorado Rockies

Kyle Freeland, LHP Evansville

The best pitch from Freeland is his low 80s slider. There are some concerns with his mechanics. The other great thing about selecting him is that, he’s from Denver.

I don’t expect Freeland to spend too much time in the minors for Colorado.

Freeland scuffled at times during his first two years at Evansville, going a combined 8-13 with a 4.44 ERA, before breaking out in the Cape Cod League last summer. He led college baseball’s top summer league in strikeouts (48) and K-to-BB ratio (48-to-4), as hitters had trouble dealing with his fastball and slider. The same has been true this spring, when he has dominated once again.

He confuses hitters with his fastball, as if he throws harder than 93 mph, because he has some deception in his delivery and the pitch has heavy life, and he can reach 95-96. He throws a true slider in the low 80s and can turn it into more of a mid-80s cutter at times. He’ll also display an average changeup at times, getting good sink on it.

9. Toronto Blue Jays

Jeff Hoffman RHP East Carolina

This is a good risk that Toronto is taking. He recently had Tommy John surgery, but gives them protection for some of the older starters in the rotation.

Hoffman did lack some consistency this spring, while having some dominant outings. He missed two starts in late April and early May, and East Carolina announced he would require Tommy John surgery. Because the track record with elbow reconstructions is encouraging, and he has so much upside, Hoffman still should factor into the first round, perhaps even the upper half.

Hoffman hasn’t fully grown into his 6-foot-4 frame, yet at times he works in the mid-90s and hits 98 mph with his fastball. His big-breaking curveball can be equally devastating and his changeup can be a plus pitch at times.

10. New York Mets

Michael Conforto, OF Oregon State

This is a great pick for the Mets, as he knows how to hit. The best thing about him is his power from the left side of the plate.

Conforto has athletic bloodlines, as his father Mike was a Penn State linebacker and his mother Tracie (Ruiz) won two gold medals in synchronized swimming at the 1984 Olympics. Conforto considered a college football career like his dad but made a wise choice — he was the Pacific-12 Conference’s Freshman of the Year in 2012 and Player of the Year in 2013, when he led Oregon State to the College World Series.

His best tool is his left-handed power, which could produce 25-plus homers on an annual basis once he gets to the Major Leagues. He doesn’t get cheated at the plate, taking a big uppercut hack that produces nice loft on his drives.

Photo: ESPN Insider

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