MLB teams like pitching depth of 2014 draft

Aaron Nola, Tyler Beede and Carlos Rodon are among the top MLB draft prospects (AP).
June 4, 2014, 9:15 AM

It’s no wonder MLB teams look forward to the amateur draft every year. It may be unpredictable, but it’s the most efficient way for an organization to add talent, bar none.

Two factors give teams the power to add talent affordably. Drafted players can only negotiate with one team, and clubs operate under draft caps that limit the total dollars spent.

So even a poor draft class represents a great opportunity for MLB teams, and this year’s class has plenty of impact talent. Take it from Mike Elias, who will select first overall Thursday. The Houston Astros scouting director says he’s pleased with the group, which includes an influx of young arms.

“There’s a lot of high school pitching this year,” Elias told Sportsnet this spring. “I’d say that’s the main thing that characterizes the class this year. There are a lot of high school pitchers that are impact arms at the top and there’s a lot of depth to the class.”

The Astros have the luxury of selecting first from the nation’s amateur players for the third consecutive season and they’ve said they’re considering six players with the top pick. But teams picking later on in the first round are also pleased with the depth of talent. The Toronto Blue Jays, who select ninth and 11th overall, expect to add two impact players.

“I think there is some pitching depth in this draft — both (high school) and college,” Blue Jays scouting director Brian Parker told Sportsnet. “There have been some injuries to some top arms over the past month but I still think the overall strength of the draft is pitching and not just in the first round. I think there is some real depth after the first round, especially with the (high school) arms.”

While potential first round talents such as Jeff Hoffman, Erick Fedde and Brandon Finnegan have suffered injuries of varying severity, there’s a lot of pitching out there. And the pitchers aren’t the only ones impressing.

“This year’s draft class has good depth to it,” another scouting director said. “I do think there are some bats in this class that balance things out.”

Whether it’s stocking up for the distant future, adding trade chips, or even selecting a player capable of making a difference down the stretch, the draft remains the best chance teams get to re-stock their farm systems. After months of scouting and weeks of organizational meetings, we’re mere days away from the draft itself.

Here’s a primer on 30 of the top draft-eligible players, with the top prospects listed near the top:

Brady Aiken
Position: LHP | School: High School | Age: 17
With a fastball that reaches 97 m.p.h. and above-average secondary offerings, Aiken has shot to the top of draft boards. He should be selected within the first few picks of the draft thanks to his easy delivery and above-average command.

Carlos Rodon
Position: LHP | School: NC State | Age: 21
The left-hander entered the spring as the top player available and reinforced his status with a strong year, posting a 2.01 ERA with 117 strikeouts in 98.2 innings. His 97 m.p.h. fastball and hard slider impress, even if some question his body.

Tyler Kolek
Position: RHP | School: High School | Age: 18
The massive right-hander throws up to 100 m.p.h., so he’s expected to be selected early on. As the video below shows, Kolek and his younger brother both have power arms.

Alex Jackson
Position: C/OF | School: High School | Age: 18
Viewed by some as the draft’s best bat, Jackson could end up at catcher or in the outfield. Teams are always on the lookout for right-handed power, which makes the San Diego product appealing.

Nick Gordon
Position: SS | School: High School | Age: 18
While Gordon’s future is likely at shortstop, his arm is good enough to play on the mound, like his father, former big league closer Tom “Flash” Gordon. His legs earn high praise, which is no surprise considering he’s the brother of Dodgers speedster Dee Gordon.

Aaron Nola
Position: RHP | School: LSU | Age: 21
Many observers consider Nola the most polished pitcher in the draft. He doesn’t overpower hitters, but he has the stuff and command to retire big league hitters, which is why he could reach MLB sooner, rather than later. He went 11-1 with a 1.47 ERA at LSU, striking out 134 in 116.1 innings.

Kyle Freeland
Position: LHP | School: Evansville | Age: 21
The lefty can touch 95 m.p.h. and he has an impressive slider as well. He broke out last year by dominating the Cape Cod League.

Max Pentecost
Position: C | School: Kennesaw State | Age: 21
The Cape Cod League MVP should stick at catcher, where his above-average bat will play up. The Cubs have been linked to Pentecost with the fourth overall pick.

Touki Toussaint
Position: RHP | School: High School | Age: 17
Toussaint, who lived in Haiti until he was seven, can touch 95 m.p.h. with his fastball. Though he has struggled with his command, he’s viewed as an impact arm with a good attitude. “He has this engaging, addictive personality,” coach Matt Cleveland told MLB.com.

Sean Newcomb
Position: LHP | School: Hartford | Age: 20
The six-foot-five lefty can touch 97 m.p.h. and has an impressive slider. The Mariners and Rockies have been linked to Newcomb, who’s considered one of the top college lefties available, along with Rodon and Freeland.

Trea Turner
Position: SS | School: NC State | Age: 20
Turner has incredible speed, but teams can’t be completely sure what they’ll get at the plate. The right-handed hitter has two years’ experience at shortstop after spending his freshman year at third.

Jeff Hoffman
Position: RHP | School: East Carolina | Age: 21
After touching 98 m.p.h., Hoffman was in the mix for the first overall pick early on. Instead, he required season-ending Tommy John surgery, not that his confidence has suffered. “Whatever team takes the so-called risk and drafts me is going to get the best player in the draft,” he told the New York Times.

Bradley Zimmer
Position: OF | School: San Francisco | Age: 21
Zimmer has a promising left-handed swing and a strong throwing arm, which makes him one of the top college position players available. His brother Kyle was the Royals’ first round selection in 2012.

Michael Conforto
Position: OF | School: Oregon State| Age: 21
Conforto is among the best power bats in the draft with a lefty swing that produced against college pitching. However, he has limited defensive value.

Tyler Beede
Position: RHP | School: Vanderbilt | Age: 21
Beede declined to sign with the Blue Jays after going 21st overall in 2011. Though he’s had an inconsistent spring, he can touch 95 m.p.h. with his fastball and has been impressive in the college ranks. Expect him to go higher this year than he did three years ago.

Sean Reid-Foley
Position: RHP | School: High School | Age: 18
Reid-Foley has good pitches across the board, including a fastball that tops out at 95 m.p.h. The right-hander has been linked to the Reds and Dodgers.

Grant Holmes
Position: RHP | School: High School | Age: 18
Though he’s not as tall as most pitchers, Holmes has touched 100 m.p.h. and will certainly be selected in the first round.

Michael Chavis
Position: SS | School: High School | Age: 18
His future may be at a corner position, but there’s no questioning Chavis’ bat. He’s a line-drive hitter with impressive bat speed.

Erick Fedde
Position: RHP | School: Nevada-Las Vegas | Age: 21
Before undergoing Tommy John surgery, Fedde had looked like a sure first rounder. The skinny six-foot-four righty should still go off the board early despite the injury.

Spencer Adams
Position: RHP | School: High School| Age: 18
If you’re looking for athleticism, Adams is your man. The former three sport star can dunk a basketball and tops out around 95 m.p.h. on the mound.

Brandon Finnegan
Position: LHP | School: TCU | Age: 21
The under-sized left-hander has had success in the Cape Cod League and on Team USA. However, questions about his shoulder continue to swirl and will impact his draft stock.

Kyle Schwarber
Position: C/OF | School: Indiana | Age: 21
Viewed as one of the top college bats available, Schwarber could be a future star if he stays behind the plate. The Angels are among the teams that have been linked to him.

Derek Hill
Position: OF | School: High School | Age: 18
Hill’s speed may be his best skill, but it’s not all he offers. The toolsy high schooler shouldn’t last beyond the first round.

Monte Harrison
Position: OF | School: High School | Age: 18
The right-handed hitting outfielder has committed to playing both baseball and football at Nebraska, which is a testament to his athleticism. He can throw 97 m.p.h. and projects as an above-average hitter.

Kodi Medeiros
Position: LHP | School: High School | Age: 18
Armed with a fastball that reaches 95 m.p.h. and an impressive slider, Medeiros has impressed scouts despite his relatively small frame. The Royals appear to like the Hawaii product.

Casey Gillaspie
Position: 1B | School: Wichita State | Age: 21
Gillaspie is a switch-hitter who projects as one of the top college bats available. His brother Conor is the third baseman of the Chicago White Sox.

Jacob Gatewood
Position: SS | School: High School | Age: 18
A gifted athlete, Gatewood could hit 30 home runs per year in the big leagues. The Nationals have been linked to six-foot-five infielder, who may not stick at shortstop.

Nick Howard
Position: RHP | School: Virginia | Age: 21
Howard was a two-way player at Virginia, where he touched 98 mph off of the mound. While he could start, interested teams may view him as a reliever.

Foster Griffin
Position: LHP | School: High School | Age: 18
The six-foot-five right-hander is an athletic strike-thrower projected to go toward the end of the first round.

Forrest Wall
Position: 2B | School: High School | Age: 18
The speedy infielder has battled shoulder injuries in recent years, but his bat continues to impress. The left-handed batter is a line-drive hitter with sneaky power.

Notes: High school lefty Mac Marshall has three-plus pitches. … Watch out for Maryland right-hander Jake Stinnett, who threw a no-hitter and sustained good numbers all season. … Duke first baseman Chris Marconcini was one of the ACC’s most productive hitters. … High schooler Sam Hentges has a projectable six-foot-seven frame and a smooth delivery from the left side. … FSU third baseman Jose Brizuela is a left-handed batter with impressive doubles power. … High school outfielder Marcus Wilson could be a first-round selection for a team seeking upside.

Canadians in the draft: Keep an eye on Gareth Morgan, the top Canadian draft prospect, and Zach Pop, the top Canadian pitcher.

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