MLB Draft 2014: Ranking the 5 Biggest Steals of Day 1

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistJune 6, 2014

MLB Draft 2014: Ranking the 5 Biggest Steals of Day 1

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    Day 1 of MLB's 2014 First-Year Player Draft is in the books, with 74 amateur players now one step closer to realizing their dream of taking the field in the major leagues.

    As you'd expect, there were no shortage of surprises on the first day of this three-day extravaganza.

    The Chicago Cubs took Indiana University's Kyle Schwarber with the fourth overall selection, far earlier than anyone predicted, while South Carolina prep star Grant Holmes, considered a top-10 talent by both ESPN's Keith Law (subscription required) and B/R's Mike Rosenbaum, fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers at pick No. 22.

    Based on pre-draft rankings and Holmes' overall profile (tools, makeup and projectability)  the Dodgers landed one of the biggest steals of the night.

    Who else joined them?

    Let's take a look.

Honorable Mention

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    These picks all represent great value for their teams, but for a variety of reasons—namely the talent level of the players that follow—just missed the cut as one of the five biggest steals of the draft's first day.

    • RHP Spencer Adams, Chicago White Sox (Round 2, Pick 44)
    • RHP Nick Burdi, Minnesota Twins (Round 2, Pick 46)
    • IF Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox (Round 1, Pick 26)
    • 1B Braxton Davidson, Atlanta Braves (Round 1, Pick 32)
    • OF Derek Fisher, Houston Astros (Competitive Balance Round A, Pick 37)
    • OF Michael Gettys, San Diego Padres (Round 2, Pick 51)
    • OF Monte Harrison, Milwaukee Brewers (Round 2, Pick 50)
    • RHP Sean Reid-Foley, Toronto Blue Jays (Round 2, Pick 49)
    • OF Marcus Wilson, Arizona Diamondbacks (Competitive Balance Round B, Pick 69)

5. RHP Jeff Hoffman, Toronto Blue Jays (Round 1, Pick 9)

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    At one point considered as the potential No. 1 overall pick, Jeff Hoffman fell out of the conversation after recently undergoing Tommy John surgery

    While there's certainly a risk involved in taking an injured player, when you consider how many pitchers have undergone Tommy John surgery and gone on to have successful careers, the risk isn't as great as it was only a few years ago.

    Named the best right-handed pitching prospect in this year's college class by B/R's Mike Rosenbaum and Baseball America (subscription required), Hoffman has great command, clean mechanics and a four-pitch arsenal that includes an electric mid-90s fastball.

    He's exhibited the ability to carry his velocity deep into games, and while he may take a bit longer to reach the big leagues thanks to his injury, Hoffman has the potential to develop into a front-of-the-rotation arm.

    Eventually, the Blue Jays are going to have to replace aging starters like Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey, and Hoffman has a chance to be better than both of them. You simply can't pass on that kind of potential, especially when you have two of the first 11 picks in the draft.

4. RHP Touki Toussaint, Arizona Diamondbacks (Round 1, Pick 16)

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    As B/R's Adam Wells so aptly put it, "(Touki) Toussaint should have gone higher based on talent."

    A phenomenal athlete with arguably the best name in the draft, Toussaint has less wear-and-tear on his arm than some of his counterparts and huge potential, as noted by Baseball America, which ranked him as the fifth-best right-handed pitching prospect in the draft:

    Toussaint might have the least baseball experience of any top draft prospect, yet arguably the highest ceiling of any high school pitcher. He’s of Haitian descent and was a soccer player who began playing baseball as a teenager. 

    He already has a pair of plus offerings in his fastball, which sits in the low-90s, and his curveball, a pitch that B/R's Mike Rosenbaum called the best of all the right-handed high school pitching prospects available.

    One of the youngest prospects in this year's draft, the 17-year-old is a project. He needs to continue developing his secondary offerings and work on his overall command, as he sometimes struggles to throw strikes consistently.

    But his flaws are all correctable, and the Diamondbacks have a roving pitching instructor—former St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan—who knows a thing or two about developing pitchers.

    A future Diamondbacks rotation featuring Touissant, Archie Bradley, Patrick Corbin and Braden Shipley could be one of baseball's best. 

3. OF Bradley Zimmer, Cleveland Indians (First Round, Pick 21)

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    The younger brother of Kansas City Royals pitching prospect Kyle Zimmer, Bradley Zimmer has the kind of power/speed combination that teams dream of.

    Ranked as the No. 14 prospect in the draft by Baseball America—No. 8 by B/R's Mike Rosenbaum—Zimmer was arguably the best college bat available, making him a great value for the Indians with the 21st overall selection.

    Per Baseball America:

    Zimmer ranks as one of the better athletes in the college hitter class, with a lean 6-foot-5, 205-pound frame, broad shoulders and an extra gear as a runner, grading out as above-average. He has shown plus arm strength as well and looks the part of a right fielder. 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.

    Regardless of whether his power ever fully develops or not—I happen to believe that it will, especially as he adds weight and strength to his frame—Zimmer has an advanced hit tool that will make him productive at whichever position he ends up playing. 

2. SS Jacob Gatewood, Milwaukee Brewers (Comp. Balance Rd. A, Pick 41)

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    A first-round talent that nearly fell into the second round, Jacob Gatewood has perhaps as much raw power as any player in the draft.

    Per B/R's Mike Rosenbaum, who makes note of Gatewood's "stupid power" in the video above:

    Jacob Gatewood is the epitome 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.

    He has the soft hands and athletic ability to stick at shortstop, and the Brewers will likely start him out there, but a move to third base or left field down the road isn't out of the question as it's entirely possible that he outgrows the position.

    While his power is real, Gatewood's mechanics at the plate are flawed. He tends to be overaggressive, resulting in a lot of swing-and-misses. He struggles with both pitch recognition and making adjustments at the plate. 

    That said, those flaws are all correctable—and it's not every day that a team gets a chance to add a player with 30-plus home run potential.

    Gatewood has work to do before he's ready to make an impact in the major leagues, but when we look back at this draft class in a few years, he could stand out as the biggest steal of them all.

1. RHP Grant Holmes, Los Angeles Dodgers (Round 1, Pick 22)

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    As former Cleveland Indians GM John Hart said during MLB Network's live broadcast of the draft, if Grant Holmes was two inches taller, he would have been a top-five pick.

    Listed at 6'2", there's been some debate as to whether he's closer to 6'0" flat, but there's no disputing that he has some of the best present-day stuff of any pitcher in the draft. 

    Both his fastball, which sits in the low-to-mid-90s, and his power curveball are already plus offerings, with his breaking ball potentially a plus-plus pitch down the road.

    ESPN's Chris Crawford made no qualms about calling Holmes the steal of the first round:

    And there we go, your steal of the first round. It's tough to call a high school pitcher who is 6-feet tall a fast-track guy, but with two plus-plus pitches and outstanding feel for pitching, I think Holmes can move quickly through the system. He reminds me of an earlier version of Bartolo Colon before he gained all the weight, as a stocky guy with upper-echelon stuff. I think he's got a great chance to be the first prep pitcher to make it to the big leagues, including Brady Aiken.

    Holmes isn't yet the complete package, as some of his secondary offerings, including his changeup, need work. But he's fearless in attacking the strike zone and has the makeup and talent to emerge as a front-line starter in a relatively short period of time.

    How quickly he arrives, however, could be dictated by what the Dodgers do with some of their pitching prospects (Chris Anderson, Zach Lee and Julio Urias), who are all likely ahead of him on the team's organizational depth chart.