It’s a little early for MLB draft talk, but given the lack of activity by the Cubs this offseason, it figures be a prominent discussion point again in 2014. The Cubs have the fourth overall pick, and the early buzz around the top of the draft is pitching.
Last year, for example, at the Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego, one pitcher touched 94 mph… This year, nine high school hurlers hit 95 or better, with the top velocity belonging to Tyler Kolek, who hit 99 mph and is the top high school player in the class.
The two names currently being discussed most are both from the college ranks, Carlos Rodon and Jeff Hoffman. Rodon is the best bet to go to the Astros at #1 overall. The big lefty from North Carolina State has dominated in his first two college seasons and features an elite slider. The 'stros front office met with him in November.
Hoffman is a recent riser; the numbers in his first two seasons at East Carolina were only OK. However, he has rocketed up draft boards by virtue of his performance in the 2013 Cape Cod League. The stuff improved enough that astute Cape-watcher Kylie McDaniel placed him above Rodon. Baseball America posted a profile today that's worth reading:
Hoffman’s fastball can sit 93-97 mph over extended innings and touch higher. He has a loose, easy arm action as the ball jumps out of his hand with downhill plane and minimal effort from a three-quarters slot. His fastball plays up beyond its pure velocity because of its plus life, sink and groundball potential.
The Epstein front office has been vocal about their preference for position players high in the draft. So far, they have adhered to that, selecting centerfielder Albert Almora in 2012 and slugging third-baseman Kris Bryant over “consensus” #2 Jonathan Gray in 2013. Indications are, however, that they would have taken Mark Appel in 2013 had the Astros passed, so don’t be surprised if they opt for pitching given its quality in 2014.
My early vote for best name goes to catcher Max Pentecost. He possesses unsurpassed levels of the Spirit.