2014 MLB Draft: 10 Prospects with the Highest Superstar Ceilings
With draft prospects, it’s all about projecting how a player’s game will translate in the major leagues. And when talking about a prospect's overall potential in the major leagues, we're basically referring to his ceiling.
Now when we say ceiling, we’re talking about a player’s best-case outcome from a developmental standpoint, with the ceiling representing his maximum (and at least somewhat realistic) potential. However, it’s also a term heavily associated with risk level, as it’s often the youngest and most raw players (or in this year's crop of talent, the injured) deemed to have the highest ceilings.
With that being said, here’s a look at the top 10 draft prospects with the highest ceilings among players in this year’s class.
Michael Gettys, OF, Gainesville HS (Ga.)
Michael Gettys features one of the more intriguing power/speed profiles in this year’s class, with excellent strength to his 6’2”, 200-pound frame and 70-grade speed that plays on both sides of the ball. There’s no doubt he’ll remain in center field for the duration of his career, where his top-flight wheels translate to similar range in all directions. Meanwhile, Gettys’ arm strength is unparalleled among his peers, as he was gunned at 100 mph from the outfield last summer.
At the plate, Gettys, a right-handed hitter, has explosive bat speed and shows plus raw power. However, his current swing mechanics hinder his ability to make consistent contact; he tends to dip with his back shoulder and then force a high finish with his hands, which in turn limits the time his barrel stays in the hitting zone. Plus, Gettys’ fringy pitch recognition and overaggressive approach only amplify his weaknesses and highlight the huge gap between his present ability and potential.
If Gettys is to come anywhere close to his huge ceiling, then his hit tool will need to be at least serviceable at maturity.
Monte Harrison, OF, Lee's Summit West HS (Mo.)
Monte Harrison takes home honors as the best athlete in this year’s class.
Besides his enormous potential on the diamond—which we’ll get to momentarily—the 6’2”, 200-pound Harrison is known for his highlight-reel dunks and rating as a 4-star recruit at wide receiver, per 247Sports. He’s committed to Nebraska next year and expected to play both baseball and football.
Harrison, like Gettys, has numerous standout tools including plus speed and range in the outfield, as well as legitimate plus-plus arm strength that ranks among the best in the class. He’s likely to spend his career in center field, but his cannon for an arm would also support a move to right field.
The right-handed hitter’s bat lags well behind his other tools, but that’s mostly a result of his lack of baseball experience as a three-sport standout. That being said, Harrison’s strength and bat speed call for above-average power at maturity, and overall he could take huge developmental strides once he fully commits to baseball.
Jacob Gatewood, SS/3B, Clovis HS (Calif.)
Jacob Gatewood is the definition of projectable, with an athletic 6’5” frame that will allow him to add considerable strength as he matures physically. A right-handed hitter, Gatewood’s lightning-quick wrists and explosive bat speed yield effortless plus-plus raw power—especially to the pull side. However, there’s growing doubt whether Gatewood will ever hit enough to utilize his enormous power in games. Right now his power-oriented swing is overly complicated and entirely dependent on timing, which in turn prevents him from consistently barreling the ball.
While he’s currently a shortstop, Gatewood is quickly outgrowing the position, and the popular belief is he’ll have to slide over to third as a professional. Regardless, the development of his hit tool, and not his future position, will determine whether Gatewood becomes one of baseball’s premier sluggers or simply a guy who runs into some pitches here and there.
Touki Toussaint, RHP, Coral Springs Christian HS (Fla.)
Touki Toussaint, who doesn’t turn 18 until after the draft, ranks as one of the top prep pitchers in this year’s class. That rating is due to a lightning-quick arm, good athleticism and ability to flash two plus offerings at the present.
The 6’2”, 195-pound Toussaint has a fastball that sits in the low- to mid-90s and occasionally hits 96-97 mph. He complements the offering with arguably the best true curveball among high school righties, throwing it in the low-70s with exceptional depth and a sharp, two-plane break capable of inducing whiffs at any level.
The key for Toussaint moving forward will be his development of a third pitch, as it could potentially determine whether he serves as a starter or reliever at maturity in the major leagues. If the changeup comes along as hoped and he’s able to improve both his control and command, Toussaint could serve as an impact No. 2 or 3 starter at maturity. If that doesn’t work out, the right-hander should still have a solid career out of the bullpen.
Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd HS (Texas)
Right-hander Tyler Kolek is everything one looks for in a potential front-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, as he’s a physical presence on the mound at 6’5”, 250 pounds, with arguably the best fastball velocity in the class. Working on a downhill plane from a three-quarters arm slot, Kolek sits comfortably in the mid-90s with his heater and bumps triple digits. More importantly, he produces the near-elite velocity with ease and holds it deep into games.
Kolek’s secondary arsenal will require thorough development, as he throws an inconsistent slider that flashes plus potential, an average curveball and a seldom-used changeup. However, all three offerings are expected to improve in the coming years, as their current states more so reflect his lack of experience and feel on the mound.
It will be difficult for Kolek to reach his ceiling as a No. 1 starter without first drastically improving his control and command, but, as it likely will be the case with his secondary weapons, he’s likely to make natural developmental strides with experience.
Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS (Calif.)
Brady Aiken enters the draft as the undisputed top prep prospect in this year’s class and, according to our final predraft rankings, its top overall prospect.
The 6’4” left-hander has shown improved fastball velocity this spring, consistently sitting in the low-90s and even bumping 95-96 mph, as well as displaying his usual outstanding polish. Aiken's secondary arsenal consists of a changeup and curveball, and they’re both already average-or-better offerings with plenty of room for improvement.
More significantly, Aiken’s present combination of stuff, polish and pitchability is rare for a high school pitcher, let alone a left-handed one. For that same reason, Aiken should have a realistic chance at reaching his ace ceiling. He’s already more developed than his peers and has the potential to move through an organization faster than anticipated.
Carlos Rodon, LHP, North Carolina State
Carlos Rodon has been the projected No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft for basically the last year-and-a-half, but this spring the junior left-hander didn't dominate as he did the previous two seasons. Make no mistake, though, Rodon is still one of the premier talents in this year’s class.
At 6’3", 234 pounds, Rodon features an explosive fastball in the low- to mid-90s and mixes in a cutter, while his plus-plus slider in the high-80s currently receives the highest grade compared to his peers. The southpaw also has a changeup that flashes above-average potential at his disposal—though it’s considerably less advanced than his other two pitches.
Rodon’s overwhelming success over the last three seasons at N.C. State is a fair representation of what he can offer a big league team moving forward. Yet, after relentlessly dominating college hitters, the left-hander will quickly learn he’ll need to sharpen both his control and command to succeed as a professional.
After logging more than 130 pitches—not including all of his slightly-less-ridiculous pitch counts in the 110s and 120s—on two separate occasions this spring, it’s only natural to question his durability moving forward. But if Rodon can stay healthy, he has all the ingredients to emerge as a front-of-the-rotation starter.
Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina
Jeff Hoffman was viewed as a potential No. 1 overall pick headed into the spring, and he pushed his draft stock even higher with an impressive one-hit, 16-strikeout performance against Middle Tennessee State in mid-April. However, after missing a pair of starts from late April into early May, it was announced that Hoffman would need season-ending Tommy John surgery.
When healthy, the 6’4”, 200-pound right-hander usually sits in the 92-97 mph range with his fastball and more toward the high end of that range when he’s at his best. While he does a decent job of working the pitch to both sides of the plate, his overall command leaves room for improvement.
In terms of his secondary arsenal, Hoffman throws a plus curveball that has plus-plus potential at maturity, as well as a mid-80s slider that already grades as at least an average offering. The right-hander has a changeup with average fading action that should develop into another weapon during his rise to the major leagues.
Given the success rate of Tommy John surgery these days, there’s no reason to believe Hoffman won’t bounce back from the surgery. Though he’ll have fallen behind the developmental curve by the time he returns to the mound in 2015, Hoffman’s athleticism and pure stuff should help make up for the lost time and put him back on course for a highly successful career in the major leagues.
Bradley Zimmer, OF, University of San Francisco
Bradley Zimmer, 21, continued to make strides this spring and build on his success from the previous summer, as he hit for more average and demonstrated a better feel for the strike zone. A left-handed hitter, Zimmer is widely considered one of the better college batters in the class, with a mature feel for hitting and above-average power potential. Furthermore, the 6’5” outfielder also possesses one of the finest collections of tools among amateur prospects with good speed and plus arm strength as well as the defensive prowess to possibly stick in center field.
Zimmer projects as a first-division center fielder in the majors, though that's also assuming his bat translates and he sticks in center. His value stands to take a significant hit if he's forced to move to a corner position, as Zimmer would likely be expected to show more consistent power. Should Zimmer never tap into his power potential, he suddenly becomes more of a fourth-outfielder type (or "tweener") rather than a dynamic center fielder.
Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway HS (S.C.)
Grant Holmes has a thick, durable build at 6’2”, 210 pounds, with broad shoulders and a strong lower half. Even though he has impressive present athleticism for his size, the right-hander is seemingly maxed out physically. However, that doesn’t make his pure stuff any less impressive, as Holmes already showcases two plus pitches in a 93-96 mph fastball (which has scraped triple digits in the past) with late life and wipeout curveball with sharp break in the low- to mid-80s.
As is the case with all undersized right-handers who feature big-time velocity, the concern with Holmes is whether he can handle the rigors of a full professional season. As long as the 18-year-old stays healthy, he should move relatively quickly through his drafting team’s farm system; he requires less projection than most of his peers and features stuff that’s already suitable for the major leagues. Therefore, the right-hander should at least approach his ceiling as a No. 2 starter if everything goes as planned with his development.