Chances of Each 2014 Draft 'Legacy' Prospect Reaching MLB
Major League Baseball is a sport with a long history of sons following in their fathers' footsteps. It is also a sport where brothers play against each other and grandsons try to live up to the example their grandfathers set.
The 2014 MLB first-year player draft is no different.
There are sons who rank among the top prospects in the nation and others who are fringe players hoping to get a chance to prove they belong. This year’s draft also features a player whose connection to the game traces back to his grandfather's cousin. And then, of course, there are the brothers of current MLB players.
Let’s take a look at some of the "legacy" players in the MLB draft this season and check out their chances of reaching the big leagues by the time their playing days are through. The percentages are based on overall perception and ability for skills to translate into professional success.
As the MLB first-year player draft unfolds, this slideshow will be updated with information on the players featured and on other draftees with past connections to the game.
Mariano Rivera Jr., RHP, Iona University
2014 Stats: 2-6, 5.40 ERA, 12 GS, 70 IP, 26 BB, 50 K, .269 BAA
With their 29th-round selection (No. 872 overall) the New York Yankees selected Mariano Rivera Jr., the son of legendary closer Mariano Rivera.
From MLB.com’s Draft Tracker Twitter feed:
Summarizing some of his father’s accomplishments, B/R’s Rob Goldberg pointed out some of Rivera Jr.’s strengths and weaknesses:
While Rivera Jr. would love to reach this level, the Iona starter has not yet shown this type of talent. The pitcher posted a 2-6 record this season to go with a 5.40 ERA. The good news is that he has proven to have a willingness to go deep into games, leading the team with 70 innings pitched (including five complete games).
Rivera Jr. also had an impressive 50 strikeouts, although his 26 walks likely hurt his performances. Besides working on control, he will likely need to add weight to his 5'11", 155-pound frame.
We shall see what happens moving forward, but there is one guy who thinks that there is potential.
According to manager Joe Girardi, the elder Rivera said his soon is throwing the ball with more authority. "His velocity — he's gotten bigger and stronger and it's increased," Girardi said, via Brendan Kuty from the Star-Ledger.
If Rivera Jr. can harness his four-seam fastball and developing slider, a career as a reliever may be possible.
Chance of Reaching MLB: 15 percent
Luke Dykstra, 2B/SS, Westlake Village (CA) High School
2014 Stats: .452/.570/.726, HR, 13 RBI, 13 2B, 2 3B, 10 BB, 4 K
A four-year starter for the varsity team at Westlake Village High School in California, Luke Dykstra impressed the right people with the Atlanta Braves and ended up being the team’s seventh-round selection.
The pick generally elicited muted praise, exemplified by Bleacher Report’s Mike Rosenbaum who wrote that “the Braves' best pick on Day 2 was 2B Luke Dykstra (yes, the poor kid is Lenny's son), a ‘sum of all parts’ player who gets the most of his average tools.”
According to John Manuel over at Baseball America, Dykstra has “earned some Mark DeRosa comparisons from scouts who like him as a gamer with some pop who could fit at several positions defensively, with shortstop still possible early in his career.”
Regarding Dykstra’s intensity, the director of scouting for the Braves, Tony DeMacio, noted that “he’s just like his day; he plays with his hair on fire,” according to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman.
If those last two comparisons are indeed true, the Braves made a wise selection.
Chance of Reaching MLB: 75 percent
Cameron Berra, UT, Eastern Illinois University
2014 Stats: .290/.376/.361, HR, 33 RBI, 8 2B, 3B, 23 BB, 8 K
Cameron Berra, whose grandfather was a cousin of the legendary Yogi Berra, is best described as a utility player with a fantastic eye.
A senior at Eastern Illinois University, Berra is "a great role player" who "does a little bit of everything well," per B/R’s Mike Rosenbaum. And considering that he only struck out eight times in 183 at-bats in 2014, he has the patience to get the job done at the plate.
The numbers aren’t overwhelming, though. It will take quite a bit for him to make it to the big leagues. Interestingly, Berra was also the kicker for Eastern's football team.
Chance of reaching MLB: 15 percent
Ryan Ripken, 1B, Indian River State College
2014 Stats: .321/.371/.390, HR, 24 RBI, 8 2B, 11 BB, 16 K
Drafted in the 20th round of the 2012 draft by the Baltimore Orioles, Ryan Ripken, son of Cal Ripken, chose to attend South Carolina before transferring to Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, Florida. The move may have increased his draft stock.
Ripken does not possess a lot of power, but he has the "ability to barrel the ball" and has good "plate discipline," according to a recent scouting report from B/R’s Mike Rosenbaum. Another thing to consider is that when he was selected in 2012, the folks over at Orioles Nation noted that he was "slightly more athletic than his father."
To be sure, Ripken will be given every chance to make it to the big leagues. Whether or not he has the ability to put it all together against professional pitching is another story.
Chance of reaching MLB: 40 percent
Brandon Bonilla, LHP, Grand Canyon University
Update: In the 25th round, the Baltimore Orioles selected Bonilla. When speaking of the pick, Gary Rajsich, director of scouting for the Orioles, said "he has the potential to have a huge arm," via CSN Baltimore's Rich Dubroff.
That about sums it up. Bonilla will need to work on his command, but he has the raw stuff to make an impact in the bullpen.
2014 Stats: Did not pitch
Brandon Bonilla, son of six-time All Star Bobby Bonilla, has been through this before. Originally drafted in the 37th round of the 2011 draft by the Colorado Rockies, the left-handed pitcher decided to attend Arizona State before landing at Grand Canyon University in the Western Athletic Conference where he was this past season’s No. 3 prospect, per Aaron Fitt over at Baseball America.
Bonilla is going to be selected this year "thanks to his premium arm strength, his 6-foot-4 pitcher’s frame and his big league bloodlines," according to Fitt. The vagueness of the justification is because he wasn’t able to pitch this season due to academic reasons.
Last season, however, he went 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA, 29 strikeouts, 18 walks and a .169 batting average against over 24.0 innings pitched.
There is no doubt Bonilla has a power-arm and potential. He seems to be a left-handed version of Tommy Kahnle from the Rockies—big and erratic with a mid-90s fastball. Kahnle has found success this season, however, and with some mechanical adjustments, Bonilla may be able to do the same.
Any way you look at it, lefties who throw gas tend to get a shot at one point or another.
Chance of reaching MLB: 75 percent
Benito Santiago, C, Coral Springs Christian Adademy
Update: With their 38th-round selection, the San Francisco Giants took Santiago. Whether or not he signs with the Giants or chooses to honor his commitment to the University of Tennessee remains to be seen.
Per B/R's Adam Wells, if he plays in the SEC "it will afford him the opportunity to see what he has to work on and where his game stands." And if he finds some success, it could improve his draft position.
2014 Stats: .412/.484/.525, 20 RBI, 5 2B, 2 3B, 10 BB, 11 K
Benito Santiago shares more than a name with his father, who won the 1987 National League Rookie of the Year. Now the Coral Springs Christian Academy standout doesn’t have a cannon like the elder Santiago, but he is known for having "strong blocking and receiving skills," per B/R's Mike Rosenbaum.
Rosenbaum went on to add that Santiago has the "speed to play the outfield" and has "emerging left-handed power." We will see how well he adapts to professional hitting, but he certainly has the tools needed to be an impact presence in any lineup.
He does have limitations, however. As Baseball America’s Clint Longenecker noted, Santiago's "swing path and 5-foot-9, 166-pound build limit his power potential," and he is only a "close to average runner." And while that may be true, scouts have to be intrigued by his raw numbers.
It would be a shock if he doesn't play in the major leagues.
Chance of reaching MLB: 70 percent
Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia High School
UPDATE: With the No. 5 overall selection, the Minnesota Twins selected Gordon. In other words, an already loaded farm system just got a little bit deeper.
2014 stats: .494/.576/.843, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 28 R, 10 2B, 13 BB, 3 K
Shortstop Nick Gordon, son of Tom "Flash" Gordon, is going to be a star. That is, at least, if you listen to the scouting reports.
B/R’s Mike Rosenbaum, for example, called him "the best" at his position in the draft and a "potential first division, maybe All-Star shortstop down the road." Strong words, indeed. Rosenbaum is not alone, though.
From a staff report over at Baseball America (subscription required):
Gordon has a chance to be an above-average hitter with a loose, quick stroke that works inside the ball. He has strong bat-to-ball skills, and while he has more doubles power presently, scouts believe he could also have at least average power down the road once he learns to pull the ball, and maybe even above-average. Opinions on his defense differ, ranging from average to well above-average. He has soft hands, easy actions and natural instincts for the position. Gordon has the best arm in the high school class and it is at least plus.
Gordon will be a top-10 pick (if not higher) this year and will likely be on the fast track to the major leagues.
Chance of reaching MLB: 100 percent
Derek Hill, CF, Elk Grove (CA.) High School
UPDATE: Picking 23rd, the Detroit Tigers selected Derek Hill. B/R's Adam Wells opined that "Hill is the kind of toolsy athlete that the Tigers can build around."
2014 stats: .500/.586/.765, 30 RBI, 26 R, 11 2B, 7 3B, 18 BB, 17 K
Derek Hill, son of Los Angeles Dodgers scout Orsino Hill and a cousin of Darryl Strawberry, is a lock to play at the professional level. Baseball America (subscription required) went so far as to say that he is "the top defensive center fielder in the draft."
Even though he is known for his defense, Hill is quite good at the plate. Regarding his offensive abilities, BA noted:
Hill has a quick right-handed stroke and works inside the ball, showing strike zone awareness. Scouts believe he’ll also show power when he begins hitting the ball to his pull side more frequently. Hill rarely swings and misses in the zone, but will expand the zone against secondary stuff.
It’s true that Hill doesn’t have a ton of power and is more of a line-drive hitter, but he has ample room to improve in that area.
Chance of reaching MLB: 100 percent
Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Wichita State
Update: With the 20th pick in the draft, the Tampa Bay Rays selected Casey Gillaspie.
2014 Stats: .389/.520/.682, 15 HR, 50 RBI, 50 R, 15 2B, 58 BB, 28 K
Wichita State first baseman Casey Gillaspie, brother of Chicago White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie, is the total package. He is deceptively good in the field, has an incredible eye and hits everything in sight from either side of the plate.
MLB.com’s Jim Callis elaborates:
A natural right-handed hitter, Gillaspie has a similar swing from both sides of the plate. It's quick and features loft, which combined with his natural strength gives him plenty of power to all fields. Though he lacks quickness, Gillaspie has good instincts on the bases and has worked diligently to improve defensively at first base.
And make no mistake, it is his bat that does all of the talking. Per Baseball America (subscription required), "Gillaspie controls the strike zone" and "when he gets himself into hitter’s counts he has the above-average bat speed and strength to take advantage" of the situation.
Expect big things.
Chance of reaching MLB: 100 percent
Bradley Zimmer, CF, University of San Francisco
Update: With the 21st selection, the Cleveland Indians selected Bradley Zimmer. Bleacher Report's Adam Wells noted that Zimmer will "play center field at the next level."
2014 Stats: .368/.461/.573, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 42 R, 10 2B, 7 3B. 31 BB, 34 K
University of San Francisco center fielder Bradley Zimmer, brother of Kansas City Royals minor leaguer Kyle Zimmer, has the "best combination of power and speed in the 2014 draft class," according to the recent player profile from B/R’s Mike Rosenbaum. He is that special.
That is not to say that there aren't concerns about his viability as an MLB player. Baseball America (subscription required) pointed out some of the things that could end up impacting his ability to become a star:
He’s played plenty of center field in college—which not all scouts are sold he can play—and some scouts see him as a better fit there, mostly because they doubt he has the power to be a regular on a corner. Zimmer has an unorthodox setup that produces line drives and hard contact but little loft power. He’s led off for the Dons this season and profiles better as a two-hole hitter or further down the order, rather than as a middle-of-the-order bat.
Rosenbaum did note that Zimmer reminds him of Paul O’Neill, though. If that’s the case, all of the concerns about his ability to hit for power will be forgotten.
Chance of reaching MLB: 100 percent
Statistics for each player were pulled from a variety of sources, and are individually linked on each slide.
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