2014 MLB Mock Draft: Fresh First-Round Projections to Start the New Year

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2014

2014 MLB Mock Draft: Fresh First-Round Projections to Start the New Year

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    A brand new year brings with it great expectations. Never is that more evident than when talking about Major League Baseball's annual draft, which provides fans of every team with hope for the future. 

    Unlike the last two drafts, which did feature a lot of great talent at the top but lacked depth, the 2014 class is shaping up to be very strong. It is led by a pair of teammates from North Carolina State, left-handed pitcher Carlos Rodon and shortstop Trea Turner. 

    Rodon, in particular, will be the man to watch this spring. He's got all the pressure in the world on his left arm, entering the year as the No. 1 player available. Given the high level of performance he has shown the last two years, combined with top-of-the-rotation stuff, the Wolfpack ace doesn't seem likely to buckle under the pressure. 

    The high school class is also loaded with talent, though the position players will have to answer many questions about their ability to perform in games. Raw tools are great, but the results have to show for teams to take you in the first round. 

    Keep in mind that six months away from the draft, our first mock of the new year is more of a snapshot look at where talent stands as the season gets ready to start. Things will change, players will rise and fall, so don't get too hung up on who your team picks. Pay closer attention to the scouting reports and what these players need to work on. 

    Also, free agents like Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales all have draft compensation attached to them, so if they sign with new teams, the draft order will change as signing clubs forfeit their first-round selections. 

    Note: Draft order courtesy of MLB.com. College stats courtesy of NCAA.com.

1. Houston Astros Select NC State LHP Carlos Rodon

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    Everything in the 2014 draft starts with Carlos Rodon, who will be taking his talents to Houston in June barring an underwhelming performance or injury. 

    The NC State left-hander has true ace potential with a plus-plus fastball/slider combination in his arsenal. Rodon lacks ideal size (6'1") but has a big lower half, stays over the ball well, repeats easy mechanics and isn't afraid to challenge hitters. 

    How good is Rodon?

    Had he been eligible for the 2012 or 2013 drafts, there's a good chance teams would have taken him ahead of Carlos Correa (also drafted No. 1 by Houston), Byron Buxton and Mark Appel. Left-handed pitchers with this kind of stuff are an incredibly rare breed. 

    He's the clear favorite to go No. 1 overall in this draft thanks to an impressive college pedigree and elite-level stuff. The Astros could have a very interesting rotation in 2016 with Rodon, Mark Appel and Mike Foltynewicz. 

2. Miami Marlins Select East Carolina RHP Jeff Hoffman

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    After Carlos Rodon, the best player in the draft appears to be East Carolina right-hander Jeff Hoffman. He's a rare college pitcher who offers physical projection at 6'4", 183 pounds, to go along with top-of-the-rotation stuff. 

    Hoffman utilizes a plus-plus fastball and improving 12-to-6 curveball that lacks some consistency but has the potential to be a 70-grade pitch at peak. He also throws a solid-average slider, though it's clearly the third pitch in his arsenal. 

    Two things Hoffman will have to work on during the regular season to ensure his spot as the No. 2 pick are consistency and dominance. Even though his stuff looks the part of an ace, he had a pedestrian 84-39 strikeout-to-walk ratio with a 1.26 WHIP in 109.7 innings last season last year. 

    Video via E. Tyler Bullock, Bullpen Banter

3. Chicago White Sox Select Rancho Bernardo HS C Alex Jackson

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    The high school crop in this year's draft is very...interesting. None of the players have done a lot to stand out in game action, but last year's showcase events gave them a forum to display what their raw tools can turn into. 

    Alex Jackson has the highest ceiling of any prep player in the 2014 class because of his potential as a catcher. He's still raw behind the plate but has the arm strength and athleticism to become an above-average defender. 

    At the plate, Jackson has plus raw power and a good approach to project as a solid-average hitter. He could end up moving to right field, which would put more pressure on the bat to play, but the profile fits well at the position. 

    The White Sox have started to draft better in recently, going after high-upside athletes instead of cheap, easy-to-sign players with low upside. Jackson would fit nicely into their current plans, even though it will take him at least four years to develop as a catcher. 

    Video via Baseball Factory TV

4. Chicago Cubs Select Shepherd HS RHP Tyler Kolek

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    The Cubs are in a perfect spot where they can fill their biggest organizational need and draft the best player available. Tyler Kolek has the kind of upside any team in the top five would be happy to bet on, though he's not without flaws. 

    First, Kolek is a massive human being. He's listed at 6'6", 245 pounds with room to fill out that frame. It's a muscular, physical body, not one that will get out of hand as he gets older. He already looks the part of a workhorse starter. 

    Then there is Kolek's arm, which is made out of gold. He's already touching 98-99 with the fastball and will show a plus curveball. The breaking ball lacks consistency, and control is an issue, as he's the definition of a thrower right now. 

    Kolek has a good delivery with some deception to keep hitters off the fastball, which can get too straight, and will throw a solid slider to give him potentially three above-average or better pitches. 

    Video via Baseball Factory TV

5. Minnesota Twins Select NC State SS Trea Turner

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    Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

    The one player in this draft who gives me more headaches than anyone else is Trea Turner. He's a tremendous athlete who will stick at shortstop at the next level, offering plus-plus speed and an excellent approach at the plate. 

    So what's my problem? There are 30 teams who would love to have that kind of player in their system. 

    Turner had an ankle injury last year that prevented him from showing off that elite speed. He also lacks any kind of power projection with a slight 6'2", 170-pound frame. 

    Unless Turner is able to use that speed to create havoc on the bases and beat out infield hits, his offensive upside is limited. By all accounts that speed has returned, as Clint Longenecker of Baseball America reported the NC State shortstop ran a 60-yard dash in 6.32 seconds on November 6.

    That makes it much easier to put Turner in the top five of the 2014 draft, though he will be a player to watch closely once the season starts.  

6. Seattle Mariners Select Clovis HS SS Jacob Gatewood

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    Jacob Gatewood is a player I have in the top 10 entering the year, but I can easily see him sliding out of the top 20 once the season starts.

    He was one of many high school players I saw at the Under Armour All-America Game in August, an event where he won the pregame home run derby. The power potential is very real, as Gatewood was sending balls out of Wrigley Field with ease thanks to lightning-quick wrists. 

    The problem comes when Gatewood has to face game pitching. He didn't look comfortable in the box and struggled to square up velocity. Perhaps I am putting too much stock into one game, which admittedly isn't a perfect way to evaluate talent but does provide me some context. 

    Concerns aside, Gatewood is a tremendous athlete who will probably end up at third base because he's 6'4", but the arm strength will play anywhere, and the power upside is hard to resist. 

    Video via Baseball Factory TV

7. Philadelphia Phillies Select Gainesville HS OF Michael Gettys

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    Even though Ruben Amaro's plans at the MLB level leave a lot to be desired, at least he's consistent when it comes to the draft. He—along with the scouting and player development department in Philadelphia—loves athletes and will always bet on upside.

    Michael Gettys certainly fits that mold. He's got arguably the best bat speed in the class, plus raw power, running speed and plus-plus arm strength. You put that player in center field, and he could turn into an All-Star. 

    Of course, like Jacob Gatewood, Gettys hasn't shown the hit tool against velocity in games. It's a raw profile and one that will take time to develop, but if he gets it, we could be talking about one of the best players in this class. 

    He's also got some upside as a pitcher, having touched the mid-90s with his fastball, but this kind of athlete should be patrolling the middle of the field. 

    Video via Baseball Factory TV

8. Colorado Rockies Select Vanderbilt RHP Tyler Beede

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    The Rockies are building a nice stable of young pitching with Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler leading their system heading into 2014. 

    Vanderbilt ace Tyler Beede was once in the mix to be the No. 1 pick in this draft but hasn't taken some of the necessary steps forward to reach that level. He still has a strong, deep arsenal to attack hitters with. 

    Command is the biggest obstacle standing in Beede's way right now. He can throw strikes but doesn't put the ball where it needs to be for his stuff to play up. Hitters can get to him on the right day. 

    Beede could move up or down as the season moves along, depending on what happens with the command profile. 

    Video via VUCommodores

9. Toronto Blue Jays Select Sanger HS RHP Luis Ortiz

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    One thing we know about the Blue Jays' draft philosophy is that high school upside will always win out. It's been Alex Anthopoulos' ideology since taking over, and it helped this team make a lot of big trades last winter. 

    Luis Ortiz is slowly moving up my draft board. He's shown more consistency than some high school arms with more velocity (Touki Toussaint) and has a big workhorse frame at 6'3" after getting himself into much better shape last summer. 

    He's also got a solid feel for pitching with a smooth, easy delivery that he repeats well. Combine that with a mid-90s fastball and sharp, hard slider that projects as a plus pitch, Ortiz looks the part of a top-10 pick.

    Video via Steve Fiorindo, Bullpen Banter

10. New York Mets Select Virginia OF Derek Fisher

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    Derek Fisher is the kind of college hitter I love to watch. He didn't come out of the gate on fire but has gradually improved each season to the point where it would be a shock not to see him taken in the top half of the first round. 

    I think the Mets will fall in love with Fisher's gorgeous left-handed swing to take him No. 10 overall. He does have a sizable load and timing mechanism that gives him some problems making contact in games, but the raw power is legitimate, and he continues to show better discipline. 

    Fisher doesn't offer much of a defensive profile, though a team can stick him in left field and be confident he won't embarrass himself. The bat is the calling card, and as long as it continues to play in games next season, he will be a top-15 pick. 

    Video via Northeast Baseball Prospects

11. Toronto Blue Jays Select Olympia HS SS Nick Gordon

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    Compensation pick for failing to sign 2013 first-round pick Phil Bickford

    Nick Gordon is the half brother of Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon, though Nick has a much higher ceiling in pro ball. 

    Gordon plays above-average defense at shortstop with plus arm strength, good hands and solid range. He also has good speed and will steal his share of bases. 

    Like Dee, Nick's slight frame doesn't offer much in the way of power projection. He is two inches taller than his brother and built with more muscle, so he should be able to hit his share of doubles and triples. 

    Nick also has excellent bat control and a strong idea of what to do at the plate, two rare qualities in a high school hitter. He's also got a strong track record on the mound with an above-average fastball and solid-average curveball, though shortstop should be his position in pro ball. 

    Video via Baseball Factory TV

12. Milwaukee Brewers Select Tullahoma HS LHP Justus Sheffield

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    It's rare that I feel sorry for a team, because tough decisions have to be made that shape the direction of every franchise. Some will work out; others will set clubs back for years. 

    The Brewers are in the latter category, boasting a dreadful farm system and no depth at the MLB level to compensate for it. They need a miracle to avoid staying out of the bottom of the NL Central for the next five years. 

    I do offer some hope in the form of left-handed pitcher Justus Sheffield, nephew of Gary. He's not the biggest guy in the world at 5'11", 190 pounds but boasts tremendous athleticism with an easy, controlled delivery and one of the deepest arsenals by a high school pitcher in this class. 

    Sheffield has plus velocity from the left side, three off-speed pitches and a feel for everything he throws. He could end up as a reliever because of the slight frame, but the ceiling is that of a quality No. 3 starter. 

    The Brewers have to shoot for upside if they want to get their system out of the dark corner it's been backed into. 

    Video via Steve Fiorindo, Bullpen Banter

13. San Diego Padres Select Coral Springs Christian HS Touki Toussaint

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    Even though I am not sold on Touki Toussaint's upside as a starting pitcher, having seen firsthand just how little control he really has at the Under Armour All-America Game, some team will jump on him in the top half of the first round because the ceiling is huge. 

    Just looking at the raw stuff, Toussaint is a monster. He generates tremendous velocity, up to 95 already, from a projectable, athletic 6'2", 195-pound frame. The heater is supported by a curveball with late, hard bite. 

    He's the definition of a project for whatever team that decides to draft him, which happens to be San Diego, in this case. The Padres have done a great job of building depth in their farm system. Toussaint would fit in nicely with that core group. 

    Video via Baseball Factory TV

14. San Francisco Giants Select Kennessaw State C Max Pentecost

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    Depending on whether you think Alex Jackson can stay behind the plate, Max Pentecost could be the first true catcher taken in the 2014 draft. He's going to move up draft boards as the season moves on thanks to impressive raw power that could turn into above-average game production. 

    He's got some moving parts to his swing, including a long forward stride and moving his hands back before coming toward the pitcher, which could give him some problems against velocity in pro ball. 

    Pentecost is improving behind the plate. He's still got some adjustments to make with receiving and blocking balls, but there's a lot of athleticism in his body and plus arm strength to project as an above-average backstop. 

    To those concerned that the Giants already have Buster Posey, keep in mind teams often draft the best player available (or should) and let things work themselves out (as they often do). Posey could shift to first base in the future to save his legs, giving Pentecost the starting catcher job. 

    But don't worry about that now, as it's still at least two or three years away. 

    Video via Northeast Baseball Prospects

15. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Select Parkview HS LHP Mac Marshall

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    Besides being the owner of a great name, Mac Marshall is the kind of projectable left-handed pitcher who can look like a steal based on his draft position in a few short years. Marshall reminds me a lot of another recent Angels draftee, Tyler Skaggs.

    Skaggs didn't quite have the velocity Marshall does—usually in low 90s—at the time of the draft, but both utilize curveballs with tremendous potential and tight break. Marshall's changeup is more advanced than Skaggs' was at this point. 

    Marshall is free, easy, loose and offers physical projection. I love his potential and upside. Allowing him to work with Skaggs, who was brought back to Los Angeles in a three-team trade with Arizona, could help Marshall find his footing quicker than anticipated. 

    Video via Steve Fiorindo, Bullpen Banter

16. Arizona Diamondbacks Select T.C. Roberson HS 1B/OF Braxton Davidson

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    Even though I, like many others, have gotten a lot of mileage out of Kevin Towers' recent moves, the selection of Braxton Davidson would be something no one could argue. 

    Davidson is the one prep player in the 2014 class that I can see taking several steps forward before the draft, possibly even sneaking into the top five. He's got a rare combination of present hitting ability and projection. 

    Bat control, hitting eye and plus raw power to all fields give Davidson arguably the highest offensive ceiling in this class. Along with Jacob Gatewood, he's the prep player to keep a close eye on this spring. 

    One thing that could hold Davidson back is position, as he's likely going to be a first baseman in pro ball. Usually an early first-round high school pick will have the ability to play shortstop or center field, at least for the first few years of his career. 

    Video via Baseball Instinct

17. Baltimore Orioles Select Cathedral Catholic HS LHP Brady Aiken

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    Brady Aiken will be one of the youngest players in the 2014 draft, not turning 18 until August 16. That makes him an even more attractive option for any team attempting to draft the young left-hander. 

    As far as Aiken's work, he's got an ideal pitcher's frame at 6'3", 205 pounds with a loose arm and good deception in his delivery. He will be a 200-plus inning pitcher in the big leagues. It doesn't hurt that he's already flashing a plus fastball and above-average curveball. 

    One thing that might be of concern is lack of physical projection, meaning Aiken's velocity probably won't spike in the coming years. But this is a left-hander with a fastball sitting in the low-90s and potentially 55-60 grade curveball. That's a tremendous value, especially at this spot in the draft. 

    Video via Baseball Factory TV

18. Kansas City Royals Select Hartford LHP Sean Newcomb

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    Sean Newcomb strikes me as the 2014 version of Indiana State left-hander Sean Manaea, who had a breakout campaign in the Cape Cod League before struggling with injuries and inconsistent results prior to the draft. 

    Manaea was also a Kansas City selection, going 34th overall in the 2013 draft. Newcomb was a dominant presence on the Cape last summer, striking out 28 in 22.1 innings and showing top-of-the-rotation stuff. 

    Newcomb has touched 97-98 with his fastball with a plus slider. At 6'5", 240 pounds, he certainly looks the part of a dominant starter. His biggest issue will be convincing teams to overlook the mediocre competition he will face pitching at a smaller college. 

    As long as the stuff looks good, everything else will fall into place for Newcomb. 

    Video via Northeast Baseball Prospects

19. Washington Nationals Select Evansville HS LHP Kyle Freeland

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    One thing we know about the Washington Nationals is they will always bet big on pitching in the draft. Lucas Giolito was an injury risk two years ago, but Mike Rizzo took him with the 16th overall pick. Two months later he had Tommy John surgery. 

    The good news is Kyle Freeland doesn't have those kinds of injury concerns, yet. (Knock on wood.) He's a projectable 6'4", 185-pound left-hander with a fastball that has touched 94 and slider that looks like a future monster. 

    Finding consistency with the breaking ball will determine how high Freeland climbs in the draft. He's got the makings of a No. 2 starter, if it all comes together. 

    Video via E. Tyler Bullock, Bullpen Banter

20. Cincinnati Reds Select UNLV RHP Erick Fedde

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    Erick Fedde is a player who's just as likely to drop out of the first round entirely as he is to be a top-20 pick, because there are so many different directions his body and his stuff can go. 

    Rarely do you find a college pitcher with physical projection like Fedde has. He's listed at 6'4", 165 pounds, smaller than most high school pitchers in this class. Sometimes a player is just naturally small, so the body won't fill out like teams want, raising concerns. 

    If it doesn't, Fedde will face a lot of questions about his ability to start and throw 180-200 innings. He's got plus fastball velocity with a slider that has hard tilt, so the dream of starting is still very much alive. 

    If teams only see Fedde as a reliever, he will end up being taken in the second round. 

    Video via Northeast Baseball Prospects

21. Tampa Bay Rays Select Sahuaro HS OF/LHP Alex Verdugo

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    The Rays have to start drafting and developing talent if they want to keep their long streak of success going. Their last first-round pick to have any kind of MLB success was David Price (2007). 

    Some of their problems have been bad luck, some of it is poor drafting, and the rest is picking near the back of the first round for the last six years where the talent pool is more volatile. 

    To solve some of their problems, two-way prospect Alex Verdugo looks like a great fit. He's got tremendous potential on either side of the ball, with a projectable frame, low-90s fastball and a curveball that flashes above-average in his pocket. 

    Verdugo also has an advanced hit tool, with above-average raw power that he will grow into. He's got plus arm strength and above-average running speed. It's rare to find a two-way player with this kind of upside, especially at this point in the draft. 

    Video via Baseball Factory TV

22. Cleveland Indians Select San Diego State RHP Michael Cederoth

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    The Indians have a draft philosophy that they never deviate from: starting pitching or up-the-middle talent. Sometimes it works out well, like selecting Francisco Lindor in 2011. Other picks have been downright puzzling, like Tyler Naquin in 2012. 

    This year, given the volatility with middle-of-the-diamond talent, the Indians seem likely to go the starting pitching route and grab San Diego State right-hander Michael Cederoth. He's got the frame (6'6", 210 pounds) and power arm (mid- to high-90s fastball) scouts will drool over. 

    However, Cederoth does have a lot to work on if he wants to factor into the first-round mix. He lacks a second above-average pitch and an arm stab in his windup that limit his command and control. 

    Right now he's probably a reliever, but the upside points to at least a mid-rotation starter with some minor adjustments. 

    Video via RKYosh007

23. Los Angeles Dodgers Select Mitchell HS RHP Cobi Johnson

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    The Dodgers are going to bet on high school pitchers with upside more than anyone else in Major League Baseball. It's a philosophy that has served them well in the past, with Clayton Kershaw being the most obvious example. 

    Cobi Johnson is one of the most projectable arms in this class, with excellent present stuff and plenty of room to grow. He's 6'4", 175 pounds with a low-90s fastball, curveball with good shape and plus potential and potential for an above-average changeup. 

    Given his present velocity and frame to fill out, Johnson could end up with plus-plus velocity readings in the next few years. Don't sleep on him as a mid-round selection if there is even a slight uptick in the quality of his stuff. 

    Video via Baseball Factory TV

24. Detroit Tigers Select Louisville RHP Nick Burdi

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    Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

    Here's the thinking that went into this pick: find the biggest right-handed pitcher with premium velocity. It's hardly the most scientific analysis, but if you look at how the Tigers have drafted over the years, that's all they look for. 

    Nick Burdi could sneak into the first round based on stuff and results, but the ceiling is limited as a two-pitch reliever. He's got the best fastball in the class, regularly touching triple-digits, and a plus slider that is going to make a lot of MLB hitters cry. 

    The Tigers are not shy about drafting pitchers who only project as relievers, especially if they are right-handed and throw hard. Burdi makes perfect sense for them, based on that criteria. 

25. Pittsburgh Pirates Select Elk Grove HS OF Derek Hill

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    At this point in the draft, finding a premium athlete with present baseball skills is a rarity. Derek Hill is one of the most exciting players in this draft class, with elite speed and plus-plus defense projection. 

    Questions will surround Hill's bat. He's still growing into a 6'2", 170-pound frame and isn't showing a lot of power in games, but the projection is fantastic. He has also shown the ability to handle himself with the bat against quality competition, which is more than some players taken in the top half of the round can say. 

    Hill's defensive profile should be good enough to push him into the back half of the first round, with the bat determining how high he climbs come June. 

    Video via Steve Fiorindo, Bullpen Banter

26. Oakland Athletics Select Indiana C/1B Kyle Schwarber

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    Dave Weaver-USA Today Sports

    Players like Kyle Schwarber make the draft hard to predict. He's so good in one phase of the game (hitting) but does nothing else well.

    The Indiana product has a great feel at the plate—he has a solid swing with many moving parts he manages to control—and big raw power that played out in games last season (.647 slugging percentage). 

    Unfortunately, at least for teams deciding when to draft him, Schwarber offers no positional value at all. He has played catcher in college but isn't nimble enough to handle the job in professional baseball. He could move to first base without embarrassing himself—if a team doesn't want a DH-only player. 

    Without a position, Schwarber's bat has to be special in order to carve out an MLB career. He's got the most precious commodity (power) in the game right now. That will carry him a long way.

27. Atlanta Braves Select Milton HS RHP Dylan Cease

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    No team loves to scout and draft from their own backyard more than the Atlanta Braves. They will also go after low-ceiling college arms, if there isn't a high school player from Georgia they are enamored with. 

    Dylan Cease is a pitcher the Braves are likely to fall in love with as the spring moves on. He offers projection at 6'2", 180 pounds with a fastball that already sits in the low 90s.

    Command and lack of a consistent breaking ball are going to knock him down a peg or two. He's also very top-heavy in his delivery, not driving to the plate with his lower half and letting his arm do all the work. 

    Video via Baseball Factory TV

28. Boston Red Sox Select Columbia HS SS Ti'Quan Forbes

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    The rich keep getting richer in Boston. An already-loaded Red Sox system will get another shot of adrenaline in the form of dynamic shortstop talent Ti'Quan Forbes. 

    Forbes will be just 17 at the time of the draft, yet already boasts solid actions at shortstop, plus arm strength and premium speed. He's also got a projectable 6'4", 175-pound frame and shows above-average raw power. 

    Forbes is still raw offensively and will need a long time to develop, but if the hit tool and power arrive, combined with the defensive profile, he could be a star. Age helps Forbes, because there won't be as much urgency to rush a player who will spend his first full year in pro ball (2015) as an 18-year-old. 

    Video via Steve Fiorindo, Bullpen Banter

29. St. Louis Cardinals Select Florida State RHP Luke Weaver

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    Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

    When the St. Louis Cardinals draft pitching, you can't help but take notice. That's the respect this franchise has earned over the years, culminating with last year's crop of rookie arms in Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal. 

    Luke Weaver has the potential to fit right in with that crop of young studs. The Florida State right-hander can run his fastball into the mid 90s with late explosive action. He also has a solid-average changeup to keep lefties off the heater. 

    At 175 pounds, Weaver is a little slight, but he's got good size (6'2") and has shown no signs of wearing down after an impressive sophomore season. He threw 98.1 innings with a 2.29 ERA and 119-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio. 

30. Cincinnati Reds Select Sandalwood HS RHP Sean Reid-Foley

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    Compensation pick for free agent Shin-Soo Choo

    The second pick for the Reds will be similar to the first one: an athletic right-hander with above-average velocity and projection. 

    Unlike Erick Fedde, Sean Reid-Foley will also flash an above-average breaking ball and changeup. He's also got a strong feel for all three pitches and good control already. 

    Reid-Foley does have some drawbacks, most notably a short-arm delivery that limits his command. But the overall package and upside should be enough to get the right-hander into the first round. 

    Video via Baseball Instinct

31. Atlanta Braves Select LSU RHP Aaron Nola

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    Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor

    Compensation pick for free agent Brian McCann

    The Braves are likely to go for a low-ceiling college pitcher with one of their two first-round picks. Aaron Nola generates a lot of buzz because he's been a consistent performer at one of the top baseball programs in the country. 

    As impressive as that is, Nola lacks the upside necessary to be a high pick in a draft with this much talent. He's a bit undersized at 6'1", 183 pounds and works from a low arm slot that prevents him from getting on top of the fastball, though it does give the pitch some late life. 

    Nola's stuff is solid. The fastball can play better than the above-average velocity suggests because of the movement. He's also got an above-average breaking ball and changeup. The delivery and arm slot suggest a future out of the bullpen. 

32. Boston Red Sox Select San Francisco OF Bradley Zimmer

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    Compensation pick for free agent Jacoby Ellsbury

    Yes, Bradley Zimmer is the brother of Kansas City Royals pitching prospect Kyle Zimmer. Both entered the draft with more projection than you typically find from a college player, though Bradley is further away than his brother. 

    On raw tools, Zimmer has the potential to be a top 15-20 pick. He's built like a truck at 6'5", 205 pounds with more room to fill out. He's got above-average raw power, arm strength and running speed. 

    Being able to show the offensive tools, particularly power, in games is holding Zimmer back. He hit just seven homers in 58 games last season, which won't work for a corner outfield prospect. I still believe in the tools and think there is more than enough ceiling to warrant a late first-round pick. 

    Video via RKYosh007

33. St. Louis Cardinals Select TCU LHP Brandon Finnegan

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    Compensation pick for free agent Carlos Beltran

    Brandon Finnegan falls into the same category as Louisville's Nick Burdi, in terms of not knowing exactly what to do with him or where he slots. 

    The upside is tremendous. Finnegan is a left-handed pitcher who can touch 96-97 with the fastball and a vastly improved breaking ball that gives him two legitimate weapons to get advanced hitters out. 

    There is a downside, as Finnegan is just 5'11", 184 pounds and has to throw every inch of himself into generating that premium velocity. It's probably a long shot that he can start, but two plus weapons will play well in the back of a bullpen. 

    The only question is if a team feels that Finnegan's profile warrants a first-round selection. Finding a big leaguer at pick No. 33 is rare, so I can see the Cardinals taking a chance on the TCU lefty. 


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