Brian Gonzalez headlined a pitching-rich draft for the O’s. (Perfectgame.org)
The 2014 Major League Baseball Draft is officially in our rear-view mirror, but the time to analyze is just beginning. It may take years for the picture to fully come into focus, but why not break down the picks now? That’s what we’re here for, less than a month after the fact. We examine now, division-by-division, each team’s draft class and hand out grades for their selections.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Total Picks: 38
Pitchers Taken: 27
Notable Selections: Brian Gonzalez (third round, LHP, Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL)); Pat Connaughton (fourth round, RHP, Notre Dame); and Steve Wilkerson (eighth round, 2B, Clemson).
The Skinny: The Orioles, who were the final team to pick, took pitching. Then they took more pitching. And even more pitching after that. Twenty-seven of their 38 selections – which did not include a first- or second-rounder because of the Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez signings – were hurlers, furthering a recent trend towards young arms. In fact, their first five picks were pitchers before they finally grabbed Wilkerson in the eighth round. Gonzalez, rated No. 386 on Baseball America’s Top 500 prospects list, is committed to the University of Miami and his No. 90 draft slot would net him $594,200. A two-way star in high school, he was drafted as a pitcher, but also knows how to wield the lumber (see video below).
Connaughton is a two-sport star who also played for the Fighting Irish’s basketball team, scoring 13.8 points per game last season. The O’s will let him play hoops for his senior season. Wilkerson was the first position player taken by the O’s and brings a steady, switch-hitting bat.
Bottom Line: This is a solid but unspectacular class. The Orioles are banking on depth more than anything from their heavy emphasis on pitching.
Boston Red Sox
Total Picks: 41
Pitchers Taken: 18
Notable Selections: Michael Kopech (First round, RHP, Mt. Pleasant HS (TX)); Sam Travis (Second round, 1B, Indiana); Reed Reilly (Seventh round, RHP, Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo).
The Skinny: Kopech was the second of two first-rounders taken by Boston after Georgia high-school shortstop Michael Chavis, who is a solid all-around player, but may not have as high a ceiling as Kopech. Kopech’s electric arm earned him a scholarship to the University of Arizona, which he ultimately eschewed to sign with the Sox. Travis is a Providence native with big-time power potential who earned Big 10 Player of the Year honours this season. Reilly owns a school record for saves and returned for his senior year, passing up the opportunity to sign with the Orioles after they took him in the 18th round in 2013.
Bottom Line: A lot will depend on the development of Chavis and Kopech. Boston hasn’t had an impact first-round pick since Jacoby Ellsbury in 2005, but Chavis and Kopech come with plenty of promise. Travis’ bat is enticing and the Sox nabbed a couple of promising pitchers in the third and fourth rounds in Jake Cosart and Kevin McAvoy, respectively, but Chavis and Kopech will garner much of the attention.
New York Yankees
Total Picks: 39
Pitchers Taken: 24
Notable Selections: Jacob Lindgren (second round, LHP, Mississippi St.); Jacob Foley (fifth round, RHP, Central Michigan); Vince Conde (ninth round, SS, Vanderbilt); and Mariano Rivera Jr., (29th round, RHP, Iona).
The Skinny: Lindgren is hoping to buck a trend of misery in the second round for the Yankees dating back to Al Leiter in 1984 (although John Ryan Murphy did crack the roster this season). The southpaw reliever was rated as Baseball America’s 89th-best prospect in this year’s draft, dominating hitters to the tune of 16.3 K/9 IP, 0.81 ERA, and .124 opponents’ batting average in his junior season. Foley was previously taken by the Yanks in the 26th round of the 2011 draft but opted to attend college and upped his draft stock significantly, as he comes equipped with a consistent mid-90s fastball.
Conde is a defensive wizard who joined Sonny Gray as the only players in school history to earn Gold Glove honors. And then there is Rivera Jr. Only time will tell whether the 872nd overall pick makes any waves in the Yankees’ farm system or is merely a figurehead with a powerful family name attached.
Bottom Line: The Yanks were quiet early on in the draft because of the picks they lost with offseason signings, so they better pray that Lindgren pans out. We’ll probably find out real soon, because this kid is extremely polished, so he could be one of the quicker players to reach the bigs from this draft.
Tampa Bay Rays
Total Picks: 41
Pitchers Taken: 22
Notable Selections: Casey Gillaspie (First round, 1B, Wichita St.); Cameron Varga (Second round, RHP, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (OH)); and Blake Bivens (Fourth round, RHP, George Washington HS (VA)).
The Skinny: Gone are the days when the (Devil) Rays would be in the running for the top overall pick. Still, Gillaspie is no slouch at No. 20. A switch-hitter with big-time power from both sides of the plate, the younger brother of White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie is also a sure-handed defender at first. Varga was the Gatorade Ohio Player of the Year and threw a no-hitter in the state semifinals last month. Bivens’ draft stock shot up because of a devastating curveball and a consistent delivery.
Bottom Line: The Rays took four high school pitchers after the selection of Gillaspie, a sign of their faith in their player development program. Gillaspie should find himself with the big club within a couple years, but the rest of this year’s class may not pay dividends until further down the road.
Toronto Blue Jays
Total Picks: 41
Pitchers Taken: 22
Notable Selections: Jeff Hoffman (First round, RHP, East Carolina); Max Pentecost (First round, C, Kennesaw St.); Sean Reid-Foley (Second round, RHP, Sandalwood HS (FL)); Matt Morgan (Fourth round, C, Thorsby HS (AL)).
The Skinny: The Jays stocked up on batteries with their first five picks, nabbing three pitchers and a pair of catchers, including a high-risk, high-reward selection in Hoffman. The ECU standout recently underwent Tommy John surgery, yet Toronto felt it could take a chance on him because it had two first-rounders. Pentecost was not the first backstop off the board as expected, but has above-average speed for a catcher. Reid-Foley is a polished, first-round talent who was ranked 18th on MLB.com’s prospect list heading into the draft. He has signed with the Jays, while Hoffman and Pentecost are still unsigned. Morgan may project more as a defensive catcher but has time to develop a bat that has some power potential.
Bottom Line: Nine of the Blue Jays’ first 14 picks were pitchers, including 6′5”, 180-pound high school southpaw Nick Wells, the team’s third-round selection. Though Hoffman comes with injury concerns, getting him, Pentecost, and Reid-Foley meant Toronto essentially ended up with three first-rounders. Not a bad haul for oft-maligned GM Alex Anthopolous.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below how you think the AL East teams did in the 2014 MLB Draft.
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