It’s mock draft time, or has been for awhile, but anyway, the latest for both Baseball America’s John Manuel and former Baseball America’s and current mlb.com’s Jim Callis are live.
Manuel has the Astros taking Brady Aiken first, followed by Alex Jackson to the Marlins, Tyler Kolek to the White Sox and Carlos Rodon to the Cubs. Here’s what Baseball America and mlb.com have to say about Carlos Rodon.
Baseball America (ranked 3rd)
The son of Cuban-Americans who moved to North Carolina when he was a 9-year-old, Rodon emerged as one of the state’s top pitchers as a high school senior and was being crosschecked heavily when back spasms sapped his velocity and pushed him down the draft. A 16th-rounder of the Brewers in 2011, he spurned more than $500,000 to attend North Carolina State, where his velocity jumped immediately as he firmed up his body and shortened his stride. He hit 97 mph regularly in short stints to open his freshman season, with a slider that immediately became one of the best in college baseball. His slider remains the best pitch in the draft for most scouts, sitting 85-87 mph and scraping 89 at its best with two-plane depth. Multiple scouts have given Rodon’s slider 80 grades on the 20-80 scale when it is on, though some say he relies on the slider too much. More concerning this year was a lack of explosiveness on his fastball for the first half of the season, when Rodon often sat 89-92, as well as below-average command, particularly to his arm side. His changeup was a solid-average pitch last summer, when he dominated Cuba to end his summer with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team and pitched like a big leaguer. It has been inconsistent and often non-existent this spring, however. His listed 6-foot-3, 234-pound frame is an asset for some due to thick, strong legs and durability; others knock him for a lack of athleticism and projection. Rodon’s confidence crosses over into cockiness at times, but his competitiveness gives him a No. 1 pitcher’s mentality. A second-half revival of his fastball velocity back to the mid-90s, tied to improved direction in his delivery to home plate, had him more closely resembling the pitcher who led Division I in strikeouts and strikeouts per nine in 2013, when he led the Wolfpack to its first College World Series trip since 1967. The worst-case scenario for Rodon is a potential closer, but he’s a potential frontline starter with some refinement. — John Manuel
mlb.com (ranked 2nd):
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 65 | Slider: 70 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 65
The best college left-hander since David Price, Rodon became the favorite to go No. 1 overall in the 2014 Draft in his freshman year at North Carolina State. He reinforced his status by leading the Wolfpack to their first College World Series berth since 1968 last spring, leading NCAA Division I with a school-record 184 strikeouts. He hasn’t been as consistently dominant in 2014, but he’s still in the mix for the top pick.
Rodon can overpower hitters with two pitches. His fastball sits at 91-94 mph, can reach 97 and features good life. His best offering is a wipeout slider that usually arrives in the mid-80s. He’s still working on a changeup that shows signs of becoming an average pitch.
Rodon did a fine job of locating his pitches while with Team USA last summer, but his command hasn’t been as sharp this year. Nevertheless, his strong frame is built for durability and he has all the ingredients to become a true No. 1 starter.
Callis also has Aiken going first to the Astros, but has Carlos Rodon going to the Marlins. He’s also got Kolek going to the White Sox and has Michael Conforto projected to be drafted by the Cubs.
Chicago wants pitching and covets Rodon, who could land here if Jackson goes to Houston or Miami. But if Rodon goes in the top three, the Cubs may not like any of the arms enough to take them this high. Hoffman would have been an obvious target before he blew out his elbow, and the Cubs could pass on Kolek or Nola. There’s a growing sense that they’ll save money to go after pitching later by cutting a deal with Conforto or Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost. Chicago could take Gordon, but it doesn’t appear to be in on Jackson. — Callis
Saving money is the last thing I want the Cubs to be doing in a draft. Jesus. Here’s the scouting reports on Conforto.
Baseball America (ranked 8th):
While other college and high school position players have better all-around tools, Conforto ranks as the best present hitter in the 2014 draft. He has had a monster junior season for Oregon State, building off his first two seasons when he was an All-Freshman selection in 2012 and led the Beavers to Omaha in 2013. Listed at 6-foot-2, 217 pounds, Conforto has present strength and above-average bat speed. He has controlled his aggressiveness as a junior, taming a swing that got too big over the summer with Team USA. He’s become a more selective hitter, ranking second in the country in walks and first in on-base percentage while hitting .410 though the first week in May. After hitting 24 homers in his first two seasons combined, Conforto had just five thus far as a junior, giving some evaluators pause because he’s a bat-first player. He has plus raw power and should project to hit 20-25 annually. He also has improved his fringy outfield defense, which is seen as adequate for left field, with average arm strength that doesn’t always play. Conforto has shown playmaking ability with the glove, however, with show-stopper plays in the College World Series last year and key outfield assists in games against rival Oregon.
mlb.com (ranked 17th):
Scouting Grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 60 | Run: 40 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 55
Conforto has athletic bloodlines, as his father Mike was a Penn State linebacker and his mother Tracie (Ruiz) won two gold medals in synchronized swimming at the 1984 Olympics. Conforto considered a college football career like his dad but made a wise choice — he was the Pacific-12 Conference’s Freshman of the Year in 2012 and Player of the Year in 2013, when he led Oregon State to the College World Series.
Conforto’s signature tool is his left-handed power, which could produce 25-plus homers on an annual basis once he gets to the Major Leagues. He doesn’t get cheated at the plate, taking a big uppercut hack that produces nice loft on his drives.
While he’s willing to take a walk when pitchers won’t challenge him, Conforto swings and misses too much to hit for a high average. Most of his value comes from his bat, because while he has some athleticism, he’s a left fielder with subpar speed, range and arm strength.
I’m hoping for Carlos Rodon. I’d be pretty happy about that.