It’s been over a month since we visited the issue of the No. 6 pick in the 2014 draft, and it seems that things have changed.
After a year or more of saying N.C. State LHP Carlos Rodon was the consensus No. 1 pick, Baseball America has now shuffled the deck in favor of high school pitchers Brady Aiken of California and Tyler Kolek of Texas.
Aiken was No. 9 last fall when BA did a full rundown, but now he’s all the way at the top, with Kolek moving from No. 3 to No. 2.
Their development combined with Rodon struggling to maintain the mid-90s velocity he showed in prior years, and also having some rough outings during the college season, to drop the Wolfpack starter down to No. 3.
Also, there is a growing sense that using a high pick on a high school pitcher is less risky than in the past, given greater awareness of injury risks, the growing development of “professionalized” coaching and training of select and traveling teams, and, of course, the “instant Cy Young” performance of Jose Fernandez, taken out of high school in the 2011 draft.
That being said, the Mariners recent history is to take college players when they are this high up in the draft (Ackley, Hultzen, Zunino, Peterson). Whether that is “set in stone” or just a small number of data points we don’t know.
Regardless, if Aiken and Kolek really are that good (LH Aiken has been mid-90s with a mature approach and good breaking stuff; RH Kolek has been up near 100), then they’ll be gone before No. 6 anyway.
All of which could leave an impressive buffet line of college pitching options for the Mariners.
- Rodon is still ranked high on most lists, just not consensus No. 1 — he reportedly was back in the mid-90s last Friday against Duke, and has “the best slider in college ball,” so he might be a steal if he drops to No. 6.
- Jeff Hoffman RHP from East Carolina was considered the best choice to challenge Rodon at the beginning of the college year, but he’s had some rough outings as well. BA now has him at No. 5 (down from No. 2).
- Tyler Beede RHP from Vanderbilt was a guy that many already had pegged in the No. 6 range; he’s probably improved his stock but there’s not much room for upward movement with Aiken zooming past him.
- Aaron Nola RHP from LSU is in the same boat with Beede; both would be in the top five of a lot of drafts. Some consider Nola to be closest to the majors of any player in the draft.
There are a host of others, but those are the four most likely to get consideration at No. 6. Mathematically, one of those four, or one of the prep arms, will be there. My sense is that any of them would be a solid choice. And if recent events have proven anything … you can’t have too many starting pitchers!
Meanwhile, draft evaluators are down on the hitting options.
Our faithful correspondent, the always sharp-eyed Gordon Gross, zeroed in on high school OF Michael Gettys of Georgia, who was No. 13 in the pre-season BA rankings. But reports say his “bat has been iffy” in the high school season, and BA dropped him to No. 27 in the latest version.
Trea Turner, N.C. State shortstop, was widely viewed at the top college position player due to strong glove work and “plus-plus” speed with a decent bat. He was perhaps most often mentioned in February/March as a guy likely to be snatched up with the No. 6 pick if still there.
Turner is hitting .301/.389/.444, but scouts seem to have cooled on his potential as well. And, even though you can’t really draft for “need” in baseball, the M’s do have Miller, Taylor, Smith and Reinhemer as college shortstops rising in the ranks, plus Franklin wherever he fits, and Marte as a glove wizard with some speed. So Turner might not be the best fit anyway. BA has now dropped him to No. 11.
So, our contingent of Oregon State fans might ask, does that open up consideration of Michael Conforto, the Beaver OF hitting .395 with 32 walks and just 18 strikeouts? It does, although he’s only got two homers so far, after hitting 11 last season.