Re-Ranking the Top 2014 MLB Draft Classes Post-Signing Deadline
The deadline for signing 2014 draft picks was last Friday, July 18, at 5 p.m. ET. As you probably know by now, the Houston Astros made headlines for all the wrong reasons with their failure to sign highly touted prep arms Brady Aiken, the No. 1 overall pick, and Jacob Nix (fifth round), who had a $1.5 million agreement in place and had already passed his physical.
Not every team struck out with signing its top draft picks, however. In fact, only three teams, including the Astros, failed to sign their selections from the top 10 rounds. The Toronto Blue Jays were unable to reach an agreement with seventh-round pick Zach Zehner, while the Washington Nationals came up empty with second-rounder Andrew Suarez and ninth-rounder Austin Byler.
However, now that we know which players will be beginning their professional careers (if they haven’t already), it’s time to look back at the big winners from this year’s draft.
The rankings were based on two things: whether or not teams were able to sign their top draft picks (primarily players selected in the first 10 rounds as well as those signed to over-slot bonuses in later rounds) and those specific players' impact potential as members of their new organization.
Here’s a look at the top draft classes in the wake of last Friday’s signing deadline.
10. Washington Nationals
Post-Draft Signing Deadline Update: The Washington Nationals signed eight of their picks from the top 10 rounds.
The Washington Nationals approached this year’s draft as everyone expected, using their first-round pick to grab UNLV right-hander Erick Fedde (No. 18, $2.5111 million bonus) despite the fact that he underwent Tommy John surgery late in the spring.
Beyond Fedde, the Nats came up big with their selection of catcher Jakson Reetz (third round, $800,000), one of the more impressive high school players in the class, and then followed it by drafting hard-throwing right-handed pitcher Robert Dickey (fourth, $400,000), one of this year's top junior college arms.
The Nationals landed one of college baseball's premier athletes in outfielder Dale Carey (seventh, $60,000), who finally put things together this spring at Miami to bat .305 with a career-high seven home runs, and they subsequently added another solid college bat in Louisville outfielder Jeff Gardner (eighth round, $40,000)
Though the Nats had a strong draft overall, I’d be remiss not to mention that they failed to sign two of their better picks, both college juniors, before the deadline: left-handed pitcher Andrew Suarez (second round), who seemingly believes he’s a first-round talent and will return to Miami for his senior year, and Nevada first baseman Austin Byler (ninth), who batted .326 with 14 doubles and 14 home runs this spring.
9. Cincinnati Reds
Post-Draft Signing Deadline Update: The Cincinnati Reds signed all of their picks from the top 10 rounds.
As was the case in 2013, the Cincinnati Reds went all-in on college players early in this year’s draft, selecting Virginia closer Nick Howard ($1.9905 million bonus), whom they will develop as a starter, with their first-round pick (No. 19 overall), followed by a pair of highly touted college infielders in shortstop Alex Blandino (No. 29, $1.788 million) and third baseman Taylor Sparks (second round, $972,800).
The Reds also landed several power arms in the draft including USC right-hander Wyatt Strahan (third, $558,700), junior college right-handed pitcher Tejay Antone (fifth, $308,400) and, interestingly, Seton Hall right-hander Jose Lopez (sixth, $85,000), who missed the entire season with an injury.
In addition, the Reds found great value with their fourth-round pick, prep third baseman Gavin LaValley ($525,000), who was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Oklahoma after batting .554 with 18 bombs, and second baseman Shane Mardirosian (seventh, $350,000).
8. Kansas City Royals
Post-Draft Signing Deadline Update: The Kansas City Royals signed all of their picks from the top 10 rounds.
The Kansas City Royals made a questionable first-round pick in left-handed pitcher Brandon Finnegan (No. 17 overall, $2.2006 million bonus), who has excellent stuff but comes with legitimate injury concerns given his size and medical history, though they quickly made up for it with a trio of high-upside high schoolers in left-hander Foster Griffin (No. 28, $1.925 million), catcher Chase Vallot (No. 40, $1.35 million) and right-hander Scott Blewett (No. 56, $1.8 million).
After that, the Royals' financial commitments to their early-round picks forced them to target mostly cost-efficient college players with some upside, including left-handed pitcher Eric Skoglund (third round, $576,100), toolsy Virginia outfielder Brandon Downes (seventh, $150,000) and outfielder Brandon Thomasson (ninth, $5,000).
7. Chicago Cubs
Post-Draft Signing Deadline Update: The Chicago Cubs signed all of their picks from the top 10 rounds.
The Chicago Cubs had an overall successful draft this year, though it began with them shocking the baseball world by selecting Indiana catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber at No. 4 overall ($3.125 million bonus) rather than one of the many impact arms still on the board. However, considering that Schwarber has batted .398/.479/.707 in 33 games and is now on his third level (High-A Daytona), it’s fair to say the organization knew exactly what it was doing.
The Cubs also found good value in Maryland senior right-handed pitcher Jake Stinnett ($1 million) in the second round. They probably reached a bit for Virginia Tech catcher Mark Zagunis ($615,00) in the third, though it allowed them to save money and ultimately sign several high-ceiling prep arms from latter rounds.
Specifically, the Cubs drafted three notable prep arms in Rounds 3 through 6 in left-hander Carson Sands (fourth, $1.1 million), left-hander Justin Steele (fifth, $1 million) and right-hander Dylan Cease (sixth, $1.5 million). All three players were perceived to have signability issues, especially Sands, a Florida State commit, and Cease, who avoided surgery this past spring for a partial UCL tear and was committed to Vanderbilt.
The organization also landed several intriguing college pitchers in Saint Louis right-hander James Norwood (seventh, $175,000); right-hander James Farris (ninth, $3,000), a senior with good pitchability and command; and Fresno State right-hander Jordan Brink (11th, $100,000), who has plenty of untapped potential after recently moving from the outfield to the mound.
6. Arizona Diamondbacks
Post-Draft Signing Deadline Update: The Arizona Diamondbacks signed all of their picks from the top 10 rounds.
The Diamondbacks opened the draft by selecting four high-ceiling prep players, including highly touted pitchers right-hander Touki Toussaint (No. 16 overall, $2.7 million bonus) and left-hander Cody Reed (second round, $1.0345 million), as well as up-the-middle preps in outfielder Marcus Wilson (No. 69, $1 million) and shortstop Isan Diaz (No. 70, $750,000). The organization also picked up sweet-swinging prep outfielder Matt Railey ($600,000) in the third round.
In addition, Arizona snagged several interesting arms in subsequent rounds, including Brent Jones (fourth round, $350,000), a right-hander with a mid-90s fastball and sharp curveball; right-hander Mason McCullough (fifth, $323,700), a right-hander from Division II Lander who features a mid-90s fastball but lacks control control; and Middle Tennessee State left-hander Zac Curtis (sixth, $40,000), who led all NCAA hurlers with 136 strikeouts this year.
The D-backs grabbed a pair of junior college players as well in third baseman Tyler Humphreys (seventh, $150,000), who dropped 18 bombs this past spring, and outfielder Grant Heyman (eighth, $157,500), one of the better under-the-radar sluggers in the class.
5. Philadelphia Phillies
Post-Draft Signing Deadline Update: The Philadelphia Phillies signed all of their picks from the top 10 rounds.
The Phillies had a very successful draft this year after deviating from their previous strategy of targeting young, high-ceiling players in favor of those with realistic futures in the major leagues.
Specifically, they landed a pair of high-end college pitchers in right-hander Aaron Nola (No. 7 overall, $3.3009 million bonus) and left-hander Matt Imhof (second round, $1.1879 million), both of whom should quickly get to the majors and will serve as excellent additions to the team's starting rotation. The Phillies later grabbed highly projectable Arkansas right-handed pitcher Chris Oliver (fourth round, $550,000).
I really liked the organization’s selection of Pepperdine’s Aaron Brown (third, $750,000) as a center fielder, as most teams were likely considering him a left-handed pitcher. Furthermore, Sacramento State first baseman Rhys Hoskins (fifth round, $349,700) offers decent value, as the 6'4", 225-pounder has big raw power that plays well in games along with a mature approach.
4. Chicago White Sox
Post-Draft Signing Deadline Update: The Chicago White Sox signed all of their picks from the top 10 rounds.
The Chicago White Sox made a haul on Day 1 of the draft, as they popped left-handed pitcher Carlos Rodon (No. 3 overall, $6.582 million bonus), the best college pitcher in this year’s class, and walked away with an absolute steal in the second round with high-upside prep right-hander Spencer Adams ($1.2827 million).
In terms of arms, they found good value in left-hander Jace Fry (third round, $760,000), who excelled this season in Oregon State's rotation and profiles as a back-end starter with good command of a four-pitch mix. They also grabbed 6'6" right-hander Zach Thompson (fifth round, $363,400) out of UT-Arlington and later took left-hander Brian Clark (ninth, $151,400), who had an uptick in velocity this past spring at Kent State.
As for position players, the White Sox landed N.C. State backstop Brett Austin (the No. 54 overall pick in the 2011 draft) in the fourth round for $450,000. They also drafted athletic outfielder Louie Lechich (sixth, $40,000), who batted .342/.396/.542 with seven homers this past spring for San Diego, as well as shortstops Jake Peter (seventh, $203,800) and John Ziznewski (eighth, $10,000) and prep second baseman Jake Jarvis (10th, $141,300).
The organization took a flier 6'8" prep right-hander Bryce Montes de Oca (14th), who was pitching in the mid-90s this spring exactly one year removed from Tommy John surgery, but it was unable to sign him prior to the July 18 deadline.
3. Boston Red Sox
Post-Draft Signing Deadline Update: The Boston Red Sox signed all of their picks from the top 10 rounds.
The Red Sox killed it on the draft's opening night, finding excellent value with each of their first three picks in shortstop Michael Chavis (No. 26 overall, $1.8705 million bonus), right-hander Michael Kopech (No. 33, $1.5 million) and first baseman Sam Travis (second round, $846,800).
The Red Sox grabbed several high-upside college pitchers as well, with the most notable being right-hander Jake Cosart (third round, $450,000), the younger brother of Houston Astros starter Jarred Cosart, who moved from the outfield to the mound about a year ago and features an explosive fastball in the mid- to upper 90s.
They also selected right-hander Kevin McAvoy (fourth, $300,000), who played a major role in Bryant's success over the last two years, and right-hander Reed Reilly (seventh, $107,500), who saved 11 games and posted a 1.62 ERA and 10.56 K/9 this season as Cal Poly's closer.
In addition, the Red Sox landed a pair of high-floor college hitters in outfielder Danny Mars (sixth, $211,800), a junior college product with plus speed and strong on-base skills; catcher Ben Moore (eighth, $152,700), who showed good contact skills while also working in the outfield for Alabama; and outfielder Cole Sturgeon (10th, $10,000), who may ultimately end up on the mound if he doesn’t develop as expected in the outfield.
As is the case every year, the Red Sox took several fliers on potential above-slot candidates, including prep center fielder Trenton Kemp (15th, $250,000) and catcher Devon Fisher (20th, $300,000).
2. Toronto Blue Jays
Post-Draft Signing Deadline Update: The Toronto Blue Jays signed all but one of their picks from the top 10 rounds.
The Blue Jays had an outstanding draft this year, landing three of the best players in the class within the first two rounds in right-hander Jeff Hoffman (No. 9 overall, $3.0808 million bonus), catcher Max Pentecost (No. 11, $2.883 million) and right-hander Sean Reid-Foley (No. 49, $1.11288 million), who was widely considering a first-round talent but surprisingly fell into their lap in the second round.
Toronto would then add more talent at premium positions, as it began Day 2 of the draft by selecting a trio of high-upside preps in 6'5" left-hander Nick Wells (third round, $661,800), catcher Matt Morgan (fourth, $300,000) and raw-but-toolsy outfielder Lane Thomas (fifth, $750,000).
The Blue Jays made a run at several high-upside high school prospects on the final day of the draft, selecting right-hander Jake Latz (11th), catcher Mike Papierski (16th), outfielder Todd Isaacs (22nd) and right-hander Keith Weisenberg (38th), though they ultimately failed to sign all four players. Meanwhile, the team also failed to sign seventh rounder Zach Zehner, an outfielder from Cal Poly.
1. Cleveland Indians
Post-Draft Signing Deadline Update: The Cleveland Indians signed all of their picks from the top 10 rounds.
The Cleveland Indians reaped the benefits of having four Day 1 picks and ultimately enjoyed the best draft of all 30 teams, grabbing a pair of impact college hitters in outfielders Bradley Zimmer (No. 21 overall, $1.9 million bonus) and Mike Papi (No. 38, $1.25 million), as well as two high-upside prep arms in left-hander Justus Sheffield (No. 31, $1.6 million) and right-hander Grant Hockin (No. 61, $1.1 million).
The Indians landed several impressive hitters in later rounds, highlighted by Mississippi prep first baseman/third baseman Bobby Bradley (third round, $912,500), who flat-out mashes and projects as at least an average hitter with above-average power.
San Diego State outfielder Greg Allen (sixth, $200,000) also offered good value given his potential as a top-of-the-order switch-hitter, and I liked the team's selections of prep catcher Simeon Lucas (seventh, $168,200) and Puerto Rican shortstop Alexis Pantojas (ninth, $144,600), who's already a standout defender and should have no problem remaining at the position.