2014 MLB draft: Dark horse candidates for Chicago Cubs with first pick
Most people are expecting the Chicago Cubs to select a power arm with their first pick (fourth overall) in the 2014 MLB draft. North Carolina State LHP Carlos Rodon, Vanderbilt RHP Tyler Beede and East Carolina RHP Jeff Hoffman are the most talked about guys as they all have the size and stuff to be aces at the next level.
But what if all three are gone by the time the Chicago Cubs are on the board?
Trea Turner, Rodon’s teammate and shortstop for North Carolina State, could be the next choice. His combination of elite speed and ability to get on base at a high clip would give the Chicago Cubs something they lack in their organization. He is a also a very good defender at a premium position. Sheppard HS (TX) right-hander Tyler Kolek is another intriguing prospect. At 6’-6” and 240 pounds, he can already hit 100 mph on the radar gun. Alex Jackson, a catcher from Rancho Bernardo HS in California, may have the best power in the entire 2014 MLB draft. I got a chance to see him hit, and the ball sounds scared coming off his bat. Another toolsy kid is Jacob Gatewood from Clovis HS in California. The 6’-5” right-hander is still raw in some areas but the power potential is huge, and he has the skills to play the hot corner at the next level, including a very strong arm. And then there is Braxton Davidson from TC Roberson HS in North Carolina. At 6’-3” and 215 pounds, his power and approach from the left side is also something the Chicago Cubs lack in their organization. He is most likely relegated to first base, however, putting extra pressure on his bat and less room for error.
Those are the names I hear the most when talking about the Chicago Cubs and the fourth overall pick in the upcoming 2014 MLB draft. There is a lot of upside on that list and I wouldn’t complain with any of them. There are, however, four months until the draft and a lot of baseball to be played. Here are 10 more guys that may not be considered top-five picks by most right now, but certainly have the talent to be in the conversation with a strong year. In no particular order:
Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco
The 6’-5”, 210 pound left-hander oozes potential and shows every tool except power right now. With his size, however, most think he can hit around 20-25 home runs a year down the line. He has a plus arm, much like his older brother, and Royals top prospect Kyle Zimmer, and mixed with his speed and instincts, should remain a legit center fielder. Over 58 games as a sophomore, he hit .320/.437/.512 with 12 doubles, seven home runs and 19 stolen bases. He also shows a great approach at the plate as he drew 29 walks to 31 strikeouts and was hit by a pitch a whopping 16 times, proving he’ll do whatever it takes to get on base. He showed off his wheels for the Collegiate National Team, swiping 11 of 12 bases over 21 games while also hitting an even .300. He hit .270 over 22 games with Cotuit of the Cape Cod League with eight extra-base hits and six stolen bases. He drew just three walks to 22 strikeouts but this was after a long season of baseball and fatigue may have been setting in. He’s a big, athletic left-hander who can play a premium position and there is still upside left.
Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville
The southpaw was extremely impressive at the Cape Cod League, posting a 2.25 ERA and 48 K/4 BB over 40 innings. He seemed to get better as the season went on, and his last start was his best outing — he allowed three hits over seven shutout innings while striking out 10 to no walks. His slider is already a plus pitch, and his fastball can touch 96 mph and sits in the 91-94 mph range. His change-up is still developing, and there is some effort in his delivery, but with his size (6’-4”, 185 pounds) and athleticism, there is a lot to like as a possible number-two starter. Projected as a mid-to-late first-round pick, he would have to show a lot this year to be considered at four.
Michael Gettys, OF, Gainesville HS (GA)
Maybe my favorite prep player in the 2014 MLB draft, Gettys, like Zimmer, shows every tool except present power. Although, I did see him launch one deep into the bleachers in center field at Wrigley Field, so it is definitely there. His arm was clocked at 100 mph from the outfield, and he can run a 6.4/60, showing plus speed that does show up on the base paths. He swiped 38 bases over 32 games as a junior last season and has the instincts to be a threat at the next level. I also saw him make a throw to third from center field that was right on the money without a hop. The 6’-2”, 200 pound right-hander still has some work to do at the plate, but with a full year concentrating more on hitting than pitching, I fully expect him to answer his critics. A ton of upside and a high character kid. Committed to Georgia.
Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State
If scouts believe Pentecost can stick behind the plate, he has an outside chance to go this high with a strong junior season. His offensive potential alone makes him a first round pick. He picked up MVP honors at the Cape Cod League after hitting .346 over 35 games with six home runs, 29 RBI and five stolen bases. He also drew 16 walks to 22 strikeouts, showing off a solid approach at the plate. The 6’-2”, 195 pound right-hander is a very good athlete who has been clocked at 6.8 in the 60. Over 57 games as a sophomore, he hit .302/.374/.410 with 14 doubles, three home runs and drew 22 walks to 27 strikeouts. More of a line-drive hitter right now, many believe more power is going to come.
Derek Fisher, OF, Virginia
A very good athlete, and maybe the best overall college bat in the 2014 MLB draft, Fisher is a 6’-3”, 200 pound right-hander who should hit for more power this year. He made great strides last year in his approach at the plate dropping his strikeouts from 61 to 38 over roughly the same number of games. Over 53 games as a sophomore, he hit .306 with 12 doubles, seven home runs, eight stolen bases and a .420 OBP/.505 SLG. He hit .333 in the Cape Cod League and drew 25 walks to just 19 strikeouts, again showing his improvement in his approach. Along with his good speed, he also has a strong arm but there are questions about his throwing mechanics and he may be forced to left field. Many are expecting a big year, and if he does breakthrough with the power numbers, he could be in the mix at pick four.
Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS (CA)
Arguably the most polished prep pitcher available in the 2014 MLB draft, Aiken is a 6’-4”, 205 pound southpaw with some upside left. His fastball can touch 94 mph but sits more in the 89-92 range with good tailing action. His curveball sits in the low 70s and looks like a future out-pitch with good rotation. His change-up has good depth and deception and sits in the low 80s. He is an alumni of Team USA Baseball and was the winning pitcher in the gold-medal game against Japan in the World Cup Championship in Taiwan, allowing just one run over seven innings while striking out 10. The Cubs also lack depth in left-handed starting pitching and Aiken is a mature kid with great mound presence. Committed to UCLA.
Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford
He has the size and power arm you want in a frontline starter. At 6’-5” and 240 pounds, the southpaw can dial his fastball up to 95 mph. His secondary stuff stills needs some refining, although his slider shows plus potential. His change-up is still developing and continued progress this year could shoot him up draft boards. Over 13 starts, he had a 3.75 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 92 K/37 BB over 72 innings while holding hitters to a .213 batting average. There is a lot to like about a pitcher of his size, arm strength and possible four-pitch mix from the left side.
Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU
While he may not have the upside as others on this list, and he may not have the ideal size you want in a frontline starter at 6’-1” and 185 pounds, not many can toss a game like Nola. A pinpoint control artist, he went 12-1 with a 1.57 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 122 K/18 BB over 126 innings as a sophomore. As a freshman, he had 89 K/7 BB over 89.2 innings and 40 of those strikeouts were looking. He features a plus, low-90s fastball with nasty sink to it. He offsets his fastball with a deceptive change-up that freezes hitters. He also adds a 77-80 mph curveball with depth that flashes plus potential. His three-pitch mix, great command of all of them, and mentality on the mound, make him one of the better pitchers in the 2014 MLB draft and a safe pick if there is such a thing.
Luke Weaver, RHP, Florida State
Like Nola, Weaver relies more on his ability to paint the corners and mix up his pitches rather than overpowering you. A groundball pitcher, his fastball can touch 96 mph and he uses a sinking change-up with great deception to baffle hitters. His slider is just average and a big progression in his breaking stuff would be needed for him to go this high. Over 15 starts, he had a 2.29 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 119 K/19 BB over 98.1 innings. His 10.9 K/9 and 6.3 K/BB ratios show the kind of command and stuff he has. Also like Nola, at 6’-2” and 170 pounds, his size can be a concern.
Touki Toussiant, RHP, Coral Springs HS (FL)
“Raw” would be the word that best describes Toussaint. His stuff is electric, but can also get erratic. His fastball can touch 98 mph with explosive life and his curveball is already a plus pitch — a mid-70s hammer that some consider the best in the class. He adds a lot of deception to his delivery, and at 6’-2”and 195 pounds, there is still room for projection. He also features a cutter, and his change-up, like most prepsters, is still developing. He is long, lean and athletic — something scouts love for further development. Committed to Vanderbilt.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @DanMKirby for 2014 MLB draft updates, college baseball news and Chicago Cubs ramblings.