Checking In On The 2014 First-Rounders

The 2014 draft class was one of the weakest in years, and the post-draft signing period was nearly as underwhelming as the draft itself. The top-overall pick, LHP Brady Aiken, wound up not signing with the Houston Astros after a physical exam revealed enough to warrant the team lowering their bonus offer. Aiken refused a lower bonus and went back into the draft pool for this year.

As unexciting as the draft was, the majority of the first-round selections went on to have sterling pro debuts. One, LHP Brandon Finnegan, even went on to be the first from the 2014 draft class to reach the big-leagues. Several others seem likely to claim big-league jobs this spring.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, let’s take a look at the status of all 34 first round picks from 2014.

  1. Houston Astros: Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS (CA)
    • Lingering questions about physical led to a lower than expected offer from HOU. Aiken declined the Astros’ offer and threw his name back into the hat for the 2015 draft. Recently committed to playing the 2015 season for Florida-based IMG Academy.
  2. Miami Marlins: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd HS (TX)
    • Kolek made eight starts for the Marlins’ GCL squad and looked very much like a raw prospect that came from the high-school ranks. Posted 18-to-13 K-to-BB mark in 22 innings.
  3. Chicago White Sox: Carlos Rodon, LHP, North Carolina State
    • Rodon looked sharp at both Double and Triple-A after signing. Struck out 38 batters in 24.2 innings overall, and thanks to an injury to Chris Sale, he may start the 2015 campaign in Chicago’s rotation.
  4. Chicago Cubs: Kyle Schwarber, C, Indiana University
    • Scouts were torn on Schwarber’s ability, but Chicago’s front-office team were true believers all along and they’ve been rewarded for their faith. Schwarber hit a combined .344 with 18 homers in 72 minor league contests after signing, advancing to High-A. Plans continue to be to keep him behind the plate.
  5. Minnesota Twins: Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS (FL)
    • So far Gordon has been worth every penny of his nearly $4 million signing bonus. In 57 games in the rookie Appalachian League, Gordon hit .294 with 11 extra base hits and 11 steals. Not as impressive was his 11-to-45 BB-to-K ratio.
  6. Seattle Mariners: Alex Jackson, C/OF, Rancho Bernardo HS (CA)
    • Jackson missed a whole month after being struck in the face by a line-drive, one that fractured a bone in his sinus area. When he was on the field, however, he looked very impressive, hitting .280 with 10 extra base hits in 23 games.
  7. Philadelphia Phillies: Aaron Nola, RHP, Louisiana State University
    • Nola was spurned from spring training despite a strong performance in 2014, that included a 2.93 ERA in 12 outings, and a 45-to-10 K-to-BB mark. After finishing the season with Double-A Reading, he’s likely ticketed for Triple-A. With the less-than-impressive collection of pitchers the Phillies have at the big-league level, however, it only seems a matter of time before Nola joins the rotation.
  8. Colorado Rockies: Kyle Freeland, LHP, University of Evansville
    • Freeland was eased into pro ball, and made five starts in both the rookie Pioneer League and the Low-A South Atlantic. He looked sharp in both, posting a 1.15 ERA and a 33-to-6 K-to-BB ratio. He only served up one home run in 39 combined innings.
  9. Toronto Blue Jays: Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina University
    • Hoffman signed for the suggested $3.1 million, despite having his junior season at ECU cut short by an injury that required Tommy John surgery. After an offseason in which he was rumored to be the asking price for GM Dan Duquette in a trade with Baltimore, Hoffman has finally returned to the mound, and looks to make his pro debut this spring.
  10. New York Mets: Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State University
    • Conforto has impressed in spring training, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering how advanced his bat looked (.331/.403/.448) in a stint in the New York-Penn League last fall.
  11. Toronto Blue Jays: Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State University
    • Pentecost was very aggressive, at the plate and on the basepaths, during his debut. He struck out 21 times in 25 games, and walked just twice, while showing off above-average speed by legging out three triples. He finished the year in the Northwest League.
  12. Milwaukee Brewers: Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Waiakea HS (HI)
    • Another relatively raw prospect and a surprise top-15 pick, Medeiros made nine appearances in the Arizona League, and appeared both dominant (26 K in 17.2 IP) and inexperienced (13 BB and 7.13 ERA).
  13. San Diego Padres: Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State
    • The Padres traded Turner to Washington in December, but since players can’t be officially dealt until one year after being drafted, he has to remain with San Diego until June. He looked every bit as good as advertised in 69 games, hitting .323 with 16 doubles, 24 RBI and 23 steals.
  14. San Francisco Giants: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt University
    • A two-time first-round pick, Beede signed with San Fran for $2.61 million and had a strong debut , ending the year in the Northwest League with a 2.93 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 15.1 innings.
  15. Los Angeles Angels: Sean Newcomb, LHP, University of Hartford
    • Newcomb put goether an impressive performance in the Cape Cod League, and a strong junior campaign and wound up going in the first-round. He made only six starts, but showed great promise, striking out 18 in 14.2 innings and flashing a 97-mph fastball and three other solid offerings.
  16. Arizona Diamondbacks: Touki Toussaint, RHP, Coral Springs Christian Academy (FL)
    • For a high-school draftee, Toussaint got a decent amount of work in, making ten starts and two relief appearances, covering 28.2 innings. He too looked impressive (32 K), but also incredibly raw (18 BB and 4 HBP). Got better as the year wore on, but still finished with a 8.48 ERA.
  17. Kansas City Royals: Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Texas Christian University
    • Finnegan made 13 appearances in the minors, and was so dominant, posting a 1.33 ERA and racking up 26 strikeouts in 27 innings, that the Royals brought him to the big-leagues for the playoff push. He ended up being incredibly valuable, posting a 1.29 ERA in seven regular season outings, before losing steam in the playoffs (10.50 ERA in seven appearances).
  18. Washington Nationals: Erick Fedde, RHP, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
    • Like Hoffman, Fedde also went under the knife for Tommy John surgery in 2014. The Nats, who have had great success with pitchers coming back from TJ, pounced on him when he was still available at pick 18. He should return at some point in 2015, hopefully reclaiming his velocity (93-96 mph) and command of his above-average slider.
  19. Cincinnati Reds: Nick Howard, RHP, University of Virginia
    • A standout closer at UVA, Howard was drafted by the Reds with the intent to turn him into a starter. He made five starts in the Midwest League, and another five in the Arizona Fall League, each to mixed results. At the very worst, Howard could go back into the pen, but he’s likely to make his living as a #3/4 starter.
  20. Tampa Bay Rays: Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Wichita State University
    • Gillaspie checks all the boxes (average, power, plate discipline, defense) and he showed all of those tools in a 71-game run with Hudson Valley in the NYPL. He hit just .262, but doubled 16 times, homered seven times and drove in 42 runs. He also drew 42 walks, helping to offset his 65 strikeouts.
  21. Cleveland Indians: Bradley Zimmer, OF, University of San Francisco
    • Zimmer played primarily for Mahoning Valley in the NYPL after signing, and looked like an all-around talent, hitting .304 with 17 extra base hits and 11 steals in 45 games.
  22. Los Angeles Dodgers Grant Holmes RHP Conways HS (SC)
    • After signing for $2.5 million, Holmes went right to work putting up some huge numbers in rookie ball, racking up 58 strikeouts in 48.1 innings in 10 starts. Heading into 2015, Holmes ranks among the top-five prospects in LA’s system.
  23. Detroit Tigers: Derek Hill, OF, Elk Grove HS (CA)
    • A legit five-tool talent, Hill struggled after signing, hitting a combined .208 with 45 strikeouts in 47 games split between the rookie GCL and the Low-A NYPL. He did show flashes, however, with 11 steals and three triples.
  24. Pittsburgh Pirates: Cole Tucker, SS, Mountain Pointe HS (AZ)
    • Tucker spent the entirety of the 2014 season in the Gulf Coast League, where he showed incredible maturity for a high-school draftee. He hit just .267, but showed good speed on the basepaths and impressive discipline at the plate.
  25. Oakland Athletics: Matt Chapman, 3B, California State University, Fullerton
    • The A’s were aggressive with Chapman, moving him up to Double-A before the end of the 2014 season. He spent the majority of the year in the Midwest League, showing good power (five HR) and an uber-aggressive approach (7-to-46 BB-to-K) in 50 games.
  26. Boston Red Sox: Michael Chavis, 3B, Sprayberry HS (GA)
    • Chavis put forth an uneven effort in the GCL, hitting .269 with 12 doubles, but also 38 strikeouts in just 39 games. In a loaded farm system, Chavis doesn’t even rank among the top-ten prospects.
  27. St. Louis Cardinals: Luke Weaver, RHP, Florida State University
    • After a long collegiate season, Weaver made just six starts after signing, lasting just 9.1 innings. His one GCL start went well, but he was shelled for 11 hits and eight runs in 3.1 innings in the High-A Florida State League.
  28. Kansas City Royals: Foster Griffin, LHP, The First Academy (FL)
    • A physically mature left-hander who was a two-way standout in high school, Griffin looked sharp in 11 starts in the rookie Appalachain League, holding hitters to a .186 average.
  29. Cincinnati Reds: Alex Blandino, 3B, Stanford University
    • The Reds are going to give Blandino every chance to stick at shortstop, but his bat will play anywhere. He rapped 20 doubles and slugged eight homers in 63 games in 2014, and showed a good eye at the plate, drawing a fair amount of walks.
  30. Texas Rangers: Luis Ortiz, RHP, Sanger HS (CA)
    • Ortiz overcame some injury concerns to get selected late in the first-round, earning a $1.75 million bonus. He made six starts, among his nine appearances, and allowed just four runs in 20.1 combined innings. His K-to-BB mark of 19-to-6 was encouraging.
  31. Cleveland Indians: Justus Sheffield, LHP, Tullahoma HS (TN)
    • Despite being arrested for under-age drinking and criminal tresspassing, Sheffield still went in the first round and garnered a $1.6 million signing bonus. The lefty made four starts among eight appearances and looked good, striking out 29 batters in 20.2 innings.
  32. Atlanta Braves: Braxton Davidson, OF, T.C. Roberson HS (NC)
    • Davidson may have been the most polished hitter available from the high-school crop, so the Braves pounced on him when he was still available late in the first round. He struggled to adjust to pro pitching (.224 and 42 K in 147 AB), but he did show some patience, drawing 31 walks.
  33. Boston Red Sox: Michael Kopech, RHP, Mount Pleasant HS (TX)
    • Kopech checks in behind fellow first-rounder Michael Chavis on most prospect lists, but his ceiling is arguably much higher. With a 97-mph fastball and a power breaking ball, he has top-of-the-rotation stuff. He struck out 16 batters in 13.2 innings in the GCL, but also walked nine and allowed seven runs.
  34. St. Louis Cardinals: Jack Flaherty, RHP, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
    • Another two-way talent, Flaherty hails from the same school that produced fellow first-rounders Max Fried and Lucas Giolito. He doesn’t have as high a ceiling, but he does have good command of three offerings, including an above-average changeup, a rarity for a high-school draftee. He posted a 28-to-4 K-to-BB mark in 22.2 innings in the GCL.
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