The Word on the upcoming June 5th Draft is that it's laden with pitching. Potential high-end talents trickle all way down to the recesses of the second and third rounds. Here's my top 10 for fantasy purposes, with the caveat that these ranks could change quickly once players make their pro debuts. Without further ado:
1. Carlos Rodon, LHP N.C. State
The draft buzz has circled Carlos Rodon since last summer when he shutout a robust Cuban National team over 6 2/3 innings, racking up 11 k's in the process. He regularly flashed a top-of-the-chart (80 on the 20-80 scale) slider to go along with a mid 90's fastball, from the left side. Until recently, he was the clear favorite to go first overall in the 2014 draft. His stock has slipped though, as he's failed to live up to the other-worldly standard he set for himself. Although he's prevented runs at a better rate than his junior season (2.01 ERA vs. 2.99), his strikeouts and hits per nine moved in the wrong direction. His velocity, however, has reportedly returned, and he likely won't last past the second or third pick. His path to majors is dependent upon his future team. There've been concerns about the workload he's shouldered (he's exceeded 120-130 pitches in outings), and there's speculation that he could be rested after signing, then let loose in the Arizona Fall League. Miami (2nd overall) is the best case scenario for his fantasy value.
Best Case Scenario: David Price
ETA: Late 2015
2. Brady Aiken, LHP Cathedral Catholic HS (San Diego)
Don't be fooled by the fact that Aiken's a high school arm. He's in consideration for the first pick because at 18, he already flashes three plus (60 or better on the 20-80 scale) pitches. He's seen an uptick in velocity this spring, sending his draft stock through the roof. He'll sit 92-94 with the fastball, with an off-the-table curveball that has a chance to be an elite major league out-pitch. He has above-average mechanics, especially given his age, and his ceiling/floor combo is very high. Barring injury, Aiken has a great chance to reach the majors quickly and could be a number 2 starter, or better, if everything breaks right.
Best Case Scenario: Cole Hamels
Potential Fits: Astros, Marlins, White Sox
3. Aaron Nola, RHP LSU
Nola has been College Baseball's best pitcher over the last few years. He doesn't overpower, but his pitchibility is off the charts, carving hitters with an arsenal that is consistently above average. His fastball sits 91-93 with good life, getting swings and misses in the zone. He throws from a ¾ delivery, which I like, but scouts are concerned could lead to a pronounced platoon split (think Justin Masterson). Nola's trademark is his ability to control the fastball to either side of the plate; he has an elite command/control profile which should make him one of the class's first major league graduates. He could either be one of the league's best mid rotation starters, and there's upside for him to be more. He gets a bump on this list due to his high-floor.
Best Case Scenario: Alex Cobb
ETA: Mid 2015
4. Tyler Kolek, RHP Shepherd HS (Texas)
Kolek may have the highest upside of any pitcher in the draft. He's a high school kid who, no joke, has hit 102 on the gun. Not only does the fastball have unprecedented velocity (for a high schooler), but it also has heavy sink, making it not only supremely difficult to make contact with, but also supremely difficult to lift. Before disclosing his ambitions to concentrate on baseball, Kolek was recruited as a defensive end. At 6-foot-5, 245-pounds, he's an absolute beast of a human. He has a surprisingly efficient delivery and good athleticism for his size, but, like most young pitchers, struggles to repeat his peak mechanics. He doesn't line himself up towards the plate often, and his secondary pitches lag far behind his fastball; but the upside is that of a true #1.
Best Case Scenario: Gerrit Cole (Nolan Ryan?)
Potential Fits: White Sox, Marlins
5. Touki Toussaint
Touki is my guy. I love his mechanics (although they're a bit all over the place sometimes) and love his arsenal: he currently has two plus major league pitches, a fastball that'll sit in the low to mid 90's (scraping 97) and a curveball with so much break catchers have difficulty gloving it (see sidebar). Touki is more raw than your average high-school pitcher, as he's both young for his class (he's still 17) and didn't begin playing baseball until he was eleven--he was a stand out soccer player before that.
He's a fast twitch athlete with enormous physical gifts. The ceiling is vast, but Touki has trouble controlling his electric arsenal and will need plenty of seasoning at minor league level (barring a massive breakthrough). In a class marked by its bounty of pitching, it wouldn't surprise me if Touki winds up being the best.
Best Case Scenario: Jose Fernandez
6. Nick Burdi, RHP Louisville
Burdi will be the first reliever off the board, and is the only pitcher in the draft with a fastball to rival Kolek's. It's a true 80 (on the 20-80 scale), and it sits comfortably in the high 90's, and regularly tides into triple-digits (In fact, he reportedly hit 103 in an outing this season). He also throws a slider in the low 90's that's nearly as devastating as the velocity. Baseball America's draft report quoted a scout who called it "hard, late and unfair." Unlike Marcus Stroman, another college closer, Burdi doesn't have a chance to start at the next level. But he could pitch in a Major League bullpen right now, and, given his likely draft slot (towards the end of the first or beginning of the second round), he could be a weapon for a contender down the stretch. His college (Louisville), however, is still in contention for the College World Series, which could push back his timetable.
Best Case Scenario: Aroldis Chapman
Potential Fits: Red Sox
ETA: Late 2014-Early 2015
7. Jeff Hoffman, RHP East Carolina
After a strong performance on the Cape last summer, Hoffman was seen as one of the best pitching prospects in the land (some scouts preferred Hoffman to Rodon). He began his campaign to challenge for the top spot this spring, but after a season-best (probably career-best) outing against Middle Tennessee State (he struck out 16 batters over eight shutout innings), it was revealed that Hoffman needed season ending Tommy John Surgery (surprise, surprise). It was a huge blow to his value, but the track record of successful recoveries from UCL tears (Lucas Giolito comes to mind) means he could still be taken in the top half of the first round. Before injury, the big 6-foot-4 right hander comfortably sat in the mid-high 90's with a curve and change that both flashed plus (60 or better).
Best Case Scenario: Justin Verlander Lite
ETA: Late 2016
8. Grant Holmes, RHP Conway HS (South Carolina)
Holmes is a high school arm who, like Aiken, is developmentally closer to the bigs than many of his college peers. His present arsenal is replete with plus (60 or better) goodness: a fastball that sits in the mid 90's; a sharp two-plane curveball; and a change up he rarely throws, but has advanced feel for. The knock on Holmes is his body. He's not overweight, but he's 6-foot 215-pounds, and doesn't have a lot of room for physical growth. At first glance, he looks more befit for a rugby scrum than a baseball mound.
Best Case Scenario: Bartolo Colon (c.1999)
9. Brandon Finnegan, LHP TCU
Finnegan is another prospect who's status shot through roof last season because of his performance with team USA. The 5-foot-11, 186-pound lefty showed premium velocity (93-98) with a new slider he learned from none other than Team USA teammate, Carlos Rodon. Concerns arose this spring, however, as his velocity showed more in the 91-95 range, and he missed time with a shoulder injury. The shoulder has called into question his long-term projectability as a starter. I'm personally a fan of Finnegan's delivery, but I don't pretend to know whether or not he's more frontline starter or elite closer. Either way, his present stuff is excellent, he's a candidate to be fast-tracked.
Best Case Scenario: Billy Wagner
ETA: Early 2016
10. Sean Newcomb, LHP Hartford
Newcomb is a "pop-up" prospect, as it wasn't until 2013 that he began to show first round promise. He's a big, 6-foot-5 240 lefty who throws in the low 90's, but can sometimes reach back for more. He doesn't yet have a reliable breaking pitch, and has wavered between throwing a curveball and a slider. He doesn't have a long track record, so although he has a projectable frame and a quality arsenal, he's still a bit of an unknown. He'll likely be selected before the middle of the first round.
Best Case Scenario: Mike Minor
Possible Fits: Angels, D'Backs, Royals, Padres
Who will you pick in your dynasty drafts next spring?