2014 MLB Draft: The Premium Arms

In MLB Draft by GW

Draft season is starting to heat up, so it’s worth paying attention to some of the rumblings that are emerging. The consensus seems to be that there is a top tier of pitchers consisting of about five players: three from college and two from the high-school ranks. On the whole, observers are frustrated that there hasn’t been more separation. Coming into the spring, it was thought that two or three players were ahead of anyone from 2013’s class, but that no longer seems to be the case.

The Cubs pick 4th overall, and front office personnel have been reported to be in attendance at recent starts for Rodon and Hoffman. Given the uncertainty around many of the top names, however, it wouldn’t shock me if the Cubs choose someone from outside of this group. High school pitching is very deep in this draft to the point that some high-schoolers with premium velocity will likely last into the second round. In addition, there doesn’t appear to be a premium position player in the mold of Kris Bryant available this year, so the pick will probably be a pitcher.

Source disclosure: I hear things here and there, but rely primarily on information filtered through the mavens at Baseball America and Kiley McDaniel from Scout.

Carlos Rodon, LHP

6’3” 235 lbs

The Junior from N.C. State has been discussed as a premium talent since his breakout freshman season. He’s a lefty whose stuff has been intermittently fantastic. At his best, he throws the fastball at 94-96 with an elite slider and a decent changeup. This spring, he has been more hit and miss, with the fastball tending to hover around 93 with so-so command. Scouts view Rodon as more or less a finished product, with mechanics that are not amenable to adjustment. He is not considered a premium athlete, and some have questioned his makeup based on his temperament on the mound, including a tendency to show frustration at his teammates’ performances.

Personally, I worry about pitchers who rely heavily on the slider holding up for any length of time. Rodon has complained about back issues and mild shoulder tightness in the past, but thus far has avoided serious injury.

Jeff Hoffman, RHP

6’4” 185 lbs

Hoffman broke out in the Cape Cod league last year, showing a 94-97 mph fastball, hard sinker, 60-65 curveball, and good feel for pitching. He is a premium athlete with easy velocity. The knock on Hoffman is that his results, specifically strikeouts, haven’t been commensurate with his stuff (though he did strike out 16 against Middle Tennessee last week). In addition, this spring some have noted that the curveball had taken a step backwards as Hoffman isn’t finishing his pitches as well.

Yesterday, it was announced that Hoffman is experiencing arm soreness and will be shut down for two weeks. Depending on the severity, he could drop out of the top group quickly.

Tyler Beede, RHP

6’4” 215 lbs

Given Cub pitching director Derek Johnson’s ties to Vanderbilt, it’s not surpising that the Cubs have been connected with Beede. In addition, he’s big and strong, which the Cubs seem to value. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, and reportedly has a great changeup. The knock on Beede is control. In his career at Vanderbilt, he’s walked 116 in 233 innings pitched and has a tendency to deliver 5+ walk outings. Those issues may keep him out of the top five.

Brady Aiken, LHP

6’4” 205 lbs

Given the apparent flaws in the top college arms, a high-school pitcher could end up at #1 overall. Aiken is somewhat unique for a prepster in that he is known for his polish. The fastball is 90-94, the curveball is said to be improving, and the command is excellent.

Tyler Kolek, RHP

6’5” 250 lbs

Prototypical big-armed Texan righty. Reports on him this spring say that he touches 100 mph every time he takes the mound. At his size, most scouts think he has the frame to support that level of velocity.

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