Let’s take a look at some of the early returns from some of the 2014 draft class. We’ll stick with the polished college players this week who could find themselves on the fast track to the majors. You can find more details on many of the recent draftees in my pre-draft hitters and pitchers pieces.
3rd Overall, Carlos Rodon, SP, White Sox: Will debut in rookie ball before being sent to Single-A Winston-Salem later this month. The White Sox will use him exclusively in a relief role this year in order to manage his innings, similar to what they did with Chris Sale. He has the makings of a future ace.
4th Overall, Kyle Schwarber, C/OF, Cubs: He’s destroyed minor league pitching (34 G, .394, 9 HR, 29 RBI), and is now on his third minor league stop, High-A Daytona. It’s unlikely he sticks behind the plate, but his bat will play in an outfield corner, despite the fact he’s likely to be a below average defender. He should join the rest of the Cubs to prospects in the upper minors next year.
7th Overall, Aaron Nola, SP, Phillies: Nola was one of the more polished arms in this class, and he’s already showing good early returns for High-A Clearwater (21.1 IP, 3.80 ERA, 18/3 K/BB). He has a safe floor, and should move quickly through the Phillies organization. He could be one of the fastest movers in this class, with a 2015 arrival very possible.
8th Overall, Kyle Freeland, SP, Rockies: The early returns have been great (9 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 7/0 K/BB), although he’s doing his damage in Rookie ball, which is not much of a challenge for an arm of his caliber. Yahoo! Pitching By The Numbers guru, colleague Michael Salfino, believes Freeland could be the next Sale, who Salfino picked up in dynasty when Sale was a college sophomore. I’m a believer, and you should be a buyer.
9th Overall, Jeff Hoffman, SP, Jays: Recovering from Tommy John surgery. Check back in 2015.
10th Overall, Michael Conforto, OF, Mets: It took him a while to get into a Mets uniform, but the early results for Single-A Brooklyn have been encouraging (5-for-12). Conforto, doesn’t have much standing in his way in New York, and has a chance to race to the majors by the middle of 2015 if he’s the real deal.
11th Overall, Max Pentecost, C, Jays: Another advanced bat demolishing lower level pitching (13 G, .373, 9 RBI), Pentecost is currently in Single-A, and is on the verge of his second promotion. Double-digit power should come in time, but for now, expect a strong hit tool to carry him through the minors.
13th Overall, Trea Turner, SS, Padres: After struggling with Short-Season Eugene (.228, 1 HR, 9 SB), he’s been a bit more effective since moving on to Single-A Fort Wayne (.375, 4 SB). These small samples should be taken with a grain of salt. Turner has game changing speed, and if the bat fully develops, he’ll be a fantasy star.
14th Overall, Tyler Beede, SP, Giants: After pitching 113.1innings and helping Vanderbilt to a national championships, the Giants are being cautious with their top draft pick. He’s yet to debut with the club, and there is no timetable for him at this point.
17th Overall, Brandon Finnegan, SP, Royals: Finnegan has yet to surrender a run as a pro (7 IP, 1 H, 6/0 K/BB), and the Royals couldn’t be happier. His stuff is outstanding from the left side, but some scouts are still concerned over his slight build (5-foot-11, 185 lbs). The Royals have another successful undersized righty in Yordano Ventura, and with three excellent offerings, there is a great chance for Finnegan to succeed as a starter in Kansas City.
18th Overall, Erick Fedde, SP, Nationals: Recovering from Tommy John surgery. Check back in 2015.
19th Overall, Nick Howard, SP, Reds: So far, so good for Howard (2 IP, 0 R, 3/0 K/BB). He pitched out of the bullpen for Virginia this year, but the Reds will look to bring him along as a starter in the minors. Inconsistent secondary offerings have been an issues in the past, but if he can harness his four-pitch mix, he has a chance to be special.
20th Overall, Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Rays: Gillaspie has been solid in his first look at professional pitching (.278, 4 HR, 23 RBI), playing in the Class-A New York-Penn League. He’s a solid hitter who could be the long-term solution at first base for the Rays by the 2016 season.
21st Overall, Bradley Zimmer, OF, Indians: Another guy taking his talents to the New York-Penn League, and another successful start (.286, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 4 SB). Zimmer is an intriguing player who could eventually develop into a 20/20 outfielder, making him a nice dynasty stock.
25th Overall, Matt Chapman, 3B, Athletics: Chapman is a typical A’s corner infield prospect, who flashes solid power and patience, but may never hit for a great average. He’s already moved up from Rookie Ball to Class-A Beloit, where he’s enjoying modest success (.267, 2 HR, 8 RBI). He’s currently on the 7-day DL, but should return to action shortly.
27th Overall, Luke Weaver, SP, Cardinals: Weaver has been unhittable in Rookie Ball (4 IP, 2 H, 6/0 K/BB) and should move quickly through the Cardinals system. He’s a polished college arm, much like Michael Wacha and Marco Gonzalez, with a chance to be a very effective pitcher if his breaking ball develops.
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