2014 Draft Preview, part deux
Pitchers do seem to be the strength of it...

The hitters are a weird group, and I don't like the college bats for our selection AT ALL.  The arms, OTOH, are good from both the prep and college ranks - and nobody knows how they slot out.  They're all of a piece, and many of them have TOR potential. That's good for us, and more likely a selection to boot. They are laid out in order of my current preference (as the previous hitters were).


Brady Aiken, HS LHP - Yes. I rarely get excited about HS arms but very much yes. I don't expect him to be there at #6, but if he was I would draft him over everyone.  He's James Paxton minus some bad college coaching and a year sitting out from an NCAA dispute.  Clayton Kershaw comps have been raised - legitimately. Yes, you draft that guy. He cut down Japan in the U-18 championship, he's getting better with every outing, his makeup is plus, his teachability is plus, his stuff is plus all over the place especially for a teen lefty, his motion is beautiful and repeatable... I don't know what not to like about him. I'm not that fond of the name Brady, I guess. That's about it. Seriously, look him up - great pitcher, almost no shot he'll be there when we draft.  If he's not a top-3 pick somebody's been huffing too much paint. He's the only guy for sure I can say does NOT warrant being passed over and getting down to us.
Feeling: Very Hot
Tyler Beede, college RHP – Nice 4-pitch repertoire, his curve has beautiful break to it when it’s on, to go with mid-90s heat and a good change to boot, and his motion is nice and loose. Looks like he’s tipping pitches a bit (different arm slots sometimes) but that’s not a dealbreaker. I like how he sets up hitters, and he definitely thinks his way through at-bats. I’m not sure I believe he has an out pitch yet, though – it’s more the Gil Meche 4-pitch mold currently, which can take time to really become a TOR guy (which is why he walked a bunch of guys last year).  Of course, Aaron Sele just had a pretty curve ball and he was a nice TOR pitcher for quite a while. If we added Beede I would not be at all unhappy. He’s got all the potential to be one of the best pitchers in the draft once he irons out his various pitches 
(and getting him around Felix where his change is his out pitch might help – Beede has a nice one) and his command is much better so far this season.
Feeling: very warm
Tyler Kolek, HS RHP - He's a big kid... and I don't just mean tall.  He doesn't subscribe to the CC Sabathia ideal of hard thrower who eats at McDonald's 5 days a week to keep his arm strength up - he's just built like a defensive end.  He throws like Stephen Pryor, except with much better balance.  He practically touches his chin with his knee on every pitch, then casually wheels his tail leg around to tap the dirt with his toe.  Which is great to watch, but also makes me wonder how he pitches with men on base.  I'm not sure he's had much experience at that.  He's a high-90s high-schooler who also throws a slider (well, a slurve) which usually means TJ surgery is 18 months away. Of course, TJ is usually just a tune-up these days; would it stop you from drafting him? His basic two-pitch approach is simple and 
devastating, and his motion (unlike someone like Beavan when he was coming out of HS) is simple and clean, even with his 3/4 short-arming release. There's some effort and cross-body with the way he throws, but he's built like a tank.  Roger Clemens threw a lot like that too, even including the knee-to-chest leg kick...
Feeling: very warm
Carlos Rodon, college LHP - A lot like Kolek as far as build, though a bit shorter; he's a husky kid built like a 6'3 pitbull. HE can throw a GREAT slider at times, has thrown 100 mph but normally displays decent velocity for a lefty (90-94), but he's been off all year in both velocity and control. Keep in mind, Cole was thought of as the top arm, then 
had a mediocre college season for much of the year, and was still the #1 pick in the draft and is in the bigs now. Of course, Purke was thought of as maybe #2, then had a free-fall.  I don't really know what's going on with Rodon's draft helium, but he could go anywhere in the top-10 at this point.  I don't like how he spikes his landing leg into the ground and stops all his own momentum, but we fixed that sort of thing with Paxton.  Might have to do it again, because it's likely the cause of the bouts of inconsistency that Rodon goes through where he becomes either very hittable or annoyingly wild. LOT of talent there - but I'm getting some lefty Daniel Bard vibes, and I hate relief arms with top-10 picks. That said, he just struck out 15 dudes the other day and seems to be coming out the other side of his doldrums. So why is my Danny Hultzen warning beacon going off...?
Feeling: warm
Aaron Nola, college RHP - you know how annoying Sonny Gray is for the As? The way he dismantles your team with good-but-not killer stuff because he just knows how to pitch and control the zone and make his good stuff play up into great stuff because he's a ferocious competitor, and dropped in the draft only because MLB GMs are 
size-prejudicial and he wasn't a 6'6 aircraft carrier?  Yeah... Nola is like that. His delivery is a low 3/4, which, when combined with his height, will make people doubt him. He will drive people crazy that we're taking the "safe" arm a la Hultzen (whoops) with the best path to the majors but without #1 potential. Somebody check on how Gray is doing in Oakland. What's that?  His ERA+ through basically half-a-season is a Felix-crushing 164? Well whaddaya know...
Feeling: warm 
Jeff Hoffman, college RHP - Also a 4-pitch righty like Beede, a bit less consistent with his secondary offerings, made some mechanical adjustments (like not moving his head and taking his eyes off the target) as well as attitudinal ones, demolished the Cape Cod... there's a lot to like, even when he's having bad days.  His heater is mid-90s with movement. He's got a bit of a 3/4 delivery and is very... rangy.  Long arm hung out a long way, so righties are gonna hate him, especially if he gets that slurve working consistently. I like all the material, and that he's teachable. He twists around to face 1B after most of his pitches too, however - not as bad as Luke Weaver (below), but when you have to look back over your right shoulder after 80% of your pitches to see if you got a strike, it's a bit of a flag for me. That said Brandon Morrow has basically the same sort of motion, and Hoffman might go #1 overall, so what do I know? If we get him, just know that he's got lots of potential and was at a non-baseball school so he can be coached up further to boot.
Feeling: warm
Luke Weaver, college RHP - Weaver’s arm and pitch life is all very real. I like the way he attacks the zone. But his habit of finishing his pitches off balance with his back to the hitter doesn’t really work for me.  His frame is skinny, but that’s not really as much a concern to me as the way he has to muscle everything up there and throw from his heels. I think he’ll be a great reliever, but a 200 inning starter? Not sure I’m sold he can do that. When the 6’5, 260 pound teenage behemoth has a better motion it causes me concern. There's some work to do to keep him a starter, and I'm not a big fan of that in a highly-drafted college arm. 
Feeling: lukewarm
Grant Holmes, HS RHP - Another stout pitcher, Grant kinda see-saws in his motion, leaning one way, hucking the ball somewhere near the plate with the other arm. When I look at him I see a lot of effort, not a lot of control.  So naturally other people write about his great command and ability to hit targets. *shrugs* Again, what do I know? He looks about 25, body-wise, so what you see is likely what you get, but he's another 92-95 MPH arm who can rip off a great curve when he wants to. He seems to show the ball early though, so I dunno how much that'll cut off his perceived velocity. Not horribly enamored with him, but with the right pitching coach I'm sure he could be very dangerous.
Feeling: lukewarm
That's not all the arms, just all the ones I'm gonna go through at this point (still looking over a few of em for kicks).   
Amongst hitters, my pick is still Gettys, though I'm in a small minority there.  He's getting dropped down a lot of draft boards it seems, but he's staying high on mine. I wouldn't turn down Jackson either, and though he has more appeal to some as a catcher, I'd move him to the outfield post-haste. Pitching-wise, there are a lot of good arms. Aiken leads the way for me, but if you want a college guy I like Beede best of that crop at this exact moment, though Nola just won't shut up. I expect to draft an arm, unless literally 5 arms go before we draft.
I don't expect other teams to like Gettys the way I do (though Clint Frazier going #5 last year surprised me) so the only hitter that might go before we draft is likely Alex Jackson, unless some team goes for cheaper signability and tries to move their money to later in the draft. We have pitching coaches who have turned Taijuan Walker (and are turning Ed Diaz) into front-line arms from the raw clay they came with, so whoever we take should be a good one.
There will be top shelf talent there at 6. It's not a perfect draft to grab an impact talent because the top of the draft isn't filled with bats.  This isn't the 2005 draft.  But there are GOOD options for us - and I haven't even described all of em.  Heck, somebody might spring up like Touki Toussaint or Dylan Cease, another pair of teen arms who have tons of potential, and we might like them better. Kyle Freeland and Brandon Finnegan are climbing the ladder too, I just want a longer look before I put my thoughts to paper on them as well.  It's a good draft for pitchers, which are normally drafts I dislike. I'm pretty fond of our potential future Mariners in this one, though.
I don't see the bats catching the arms as far as we're concerned. We're drafting an arm unless everyone else does that ahead of us and we really like the Wil Myers comparison for Jackson, I'm thinkin'. Or they go with Nick Gordon just to watch me make Bitter Beer Face. Go Nick...


OBF's picture

But if Ben Wetzler out of Oregon State is still around in the 4th or 5th round he would be a great pitcher to get. Lefty, came to OSU as a thrower and has really learned and grown into a pitcher. Fastball can reach 92-93 but mostly sits at 90, throws a very good change up and a slider. He has a bull dog mentality and is a fantastic leader in the clubhouse.


It looks like Touki Toussiant, Sean Newcomb and Kyle Freeland are in range of our pick now, so here's a little writeup on each (with guys like Hoffman falling due to injury and Beede dropped down the prospective list too).
Touki’s stuff is filthy. Just ridiculous for somebody that young. Everything moves – he’s got a whiffle curve that’s hilarious when you see it and his fastballs are all divers and cutters. He also has no idea where anything is going. I don’t think he could throw a straight pitch for a strike on the black if you gave him 20 shots at it, but he might curve 3 or 4 balls back over the black somehow anyway. And bounce a couple to the fence, and bean the ump, and…
Touki is a blizzard of glorious chaos. If you believe you can show him how to throw ANY of that nonsense for consistent strikes, you draft him. He’s got a few things to work on mechanically and pulls severely off the mound to the first base side, but the raw material is unbelievable. Of course, isn’t that the case with any first-round hurler who busts horrifically? “He would have been great if only he could have thrown strikes… ever…”
Freeland is the Anti-Touki: Perfectly accurate, good stuff, with mechanics that horrify me as a long-term starter. He slams his left (pitching) arm to a stop against his right hip, jerks his arm back and does a lil one-arm shrug after every pitch. It’s about the worst deceleration mechanic you could have, especially since he pitches mostly upper-body and doesn’t get a ton from his base. Don’t get me wrong, it absolutely works for him. He strikes out everyone, walks no one, has command of 4 pitches, throws low 90s as a lefty, and is a groundballer thanks to all the movement he too gets on his pitches. But he’s skinny and if they can’t fix that crossfire death stop, I just don’t see a long career as a starter for him. For an org like ours that JUST drafted a dude like this to have him rip his arm out of socket and cost himself at least a year and a half if not a career, this is a hard pick for me to swallow even though I think he’s very talented. Freeland is the kind of pick you lose a draft over.
Newcomb is a raw dude from Hartford, strong frame, pitches from a bit of a butt squat but has a nice easy arm action and throws even a little harder than Freeland as a lefty. He’s basically unhittable, but he only really throws the fastball and changeup at the moment (although his slurvy-thing looks like it’ll be ROUGH on lefties once he polishes it up). He makes a living off his fastball, which he throws easily at around 93 and can go up to 96 or 97. Comes out easy and hides it well. I wouldn’t mind Newcomb – another guy we’d need to put polish on, but his frame and motion do not scare me like Freeland, even if I think Freeland is currently a better pitcher.
All that said, though, I would guess we’re on Alex Jackson (as an expected OF) or Aaron Nola if Aiken, Kolek and Rodon are all gone as they should be. Nola’s slight frame will scare some people, but if you hate seeing Sunny Gray out there for Oakland then Nola is the same kind of dude. Aaron pitches shorter than his 6’2 thanks to a flat 3/ 4 delivery (or slightly lower) and maxes out around 94, but that’s his TWO-seamer – he’s filthy. He’s a weird pitcher and if we take him you’ll hear “safe pick” (which is weird since his size and pitching style makes him risky) or “low upside” (which is weird since he’s demolishing college ball with two pitches, essentially, though his fb/change/curve arsenal could end up with 3 plus pitches).
Just think Sonny Gray / Andy Pettite and feel better if they call Nola’s name. He’s a straight up scary arm, and if you gave me Rodon or Nola, I would take Nola. Still not sold on Rodon.

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