With the 2013 draft in the books it's time to look ahead to the 2014 draft.
TCB presents the way too early 2014 Astros draft board.
In no particular order, these are the players we'll be keeping our eyes on through the summer and into the 2014 baseball season.
Trea Turner, SS, NC State:
The linchpin of the offense of a College World Series NC State club, Turner can do it all on the diamond and is sure to be in high demand next summer. A plus defender at shortstop, Turner has lateral burst, balance, soft hands and an aptitude for the diving play. He also possesses a quick release that helps his above average strength play up. He's a pro-ready defender and should be a highlight real with the glove at the next level.At the plate, Turner has just as much talent. His quick hands get to the ball in the hurry and he drives through the ball with his quick hips and sprays liners to all fields. His power goes primarily to the gaps but he shows potential 10-15 home run pop down the line. His approach at the dish is impeccable and he draws plenty of walks. He is a potential top of the order hitter who can wreak havoc on the bases and score runs in bunches while adding some modest power to a lineup. -Spencer
The top closer in college baseball in 2013, Burdi was a key member of a tremendous Louisville staff that carried the Cardinals to Omaha. A gas-throwing, 6'4" right hander, Burdi posted a 0.78 ERA in 34.2 innings last season, and, even more impressively, struck out 61 batters versus 13 walks in those frames. He allowed just 25 hits, and was nothing short of dominant. Next season, Burdi projects to jump to the starting rotation, and has the stuff to be a star there as well.
Burdi's bread and butter is his elite fastball, which can touch as high as 102 MPH, and will likely sit around 96 when he returns to starting. He pitches off of his fastball overwhelmingly, as he should, but he also throws a hard slider with bite to keep hitters off balance. He will have to adapt his plan for attacking hitters a bit as a starter, but he has more than enough stuff to handle the jump and continue to dominate. His frame is ideal for starting, and his mechanics, though a little twisty, can certainly handle a starter's workload. Burdi could be 2014's Jonathan Gray if all goes according to plan. -Spencer
One of the nation's very best hitters in 2013, Schwarber was the star of a strong Indiana club that made a deep run in the postseason. A former high school linebacker who has deceptive athleticism despite his stocky build, Schwarber has played catcher and first base for the Hoosiers but is more likely to play the latter position in the pros. Either way, it is his bat that will be his mealticket. Schwarber raked to the tune of a .376/.468/.674 slash line for IU in 2013 and added 18 home runs while walking more than he struck out. He has a great power hitter's build and has a swing that maximizes his pop. He shows power to all fields and can be an all-star quality middle of the order hitter at the next level. -Spencer
A fireballing 6'2" right handed pitcher with athleticism in spades, Toussaint has been on the radar for a long time thanks to his big velocity. Though a bit raw, Touki shows the framework of two plus to plus-plus pitches in the form of his high-90s fastball and big breaking curve. Toussaint's premium athleticism is on full display in his delivery which features plenty of leg drive and arm speed that he converts into his 98 MPH heat. His fastball has plenty of run and could be a 7 pitch down the line.He attacks the hands of righties and generates a lot of swings and misses with his fastball. He pairs the heater with a plus curveball with corkscrewing action and hard, late drop. The pitch has fairly consistent shape, though he has some trouble dropping it in for strikes. In general, Toussaint's command can be fairly hit or miss. His mechanics are sound but inconsistent and his landing point tends to vary a fair amount which causes him issues. He's a raw prospect at this point, but his upside is truly limitless. He has the potential to be an ace if he gets his issues ironed out and develops a changeup, but he has a very long way to go to get to that stage. He's not on the level of a Kohl Stewart or Max Fried of the last couple drafts in terms of polish, but the raw potential is every bit has high. -Spencer
The 6'2" 200 pound shortstop likely won't be a shortstop next year. Recruited out of Easley, South Carolina, as a shortstop/pitcher Pankake has played the last two season for the Gamecocks exclusively at shortstop. That looks to change next season as Pankake will tryout for next years club as a position player and pitcher. He will be in the middle of the everyday lineup, however, it doesn't look it will be at short. Instead it looks like Pankake could play in left field, at third base or first base or even all three while also possibly being the teams closer. The switch appears to be mutual between player and coach and for the benefit of the players draft status, which to me sounds like a head scratcher.This past season Pankake had a .311 batting average, a .387 on-base percentage and a .496 slugging percentage. He hit 11 home runs and walked as man times as he struck out (29). His defense at short was shaky but not because he lacked talent at the position. His defense was shaky because he sometimes lacked focus on routine ground balls, which is something easily correctable. If his bat takes another step forward in his junior year it will play at all three positions he could possibly move to but it would play even better if he stayed at short. To me this position switch smells a lot like a coach talking his talented player into feeling a need elsewhere in the interest of the player, which is unfortunate because this could have a negative impact on Pankake's draft status. In preparation for the possibility of pitching next season Pankake will not play in any summer leagues. -Tim
North Carolina's Colin Moran made a late push to be the #1-overall draft pick in 2013. Young for his level, he challenged Kris Bryant as the top college bat in the draft. Mike Papi vs. Trea Turner could have a similar situation in 2014. Though Turner is widely acknowledged as the best college bat in the draft right now, Papi had a uniformly better season this year. Turner's .378/.460/.571 sophomore campaign pales to Papi's .390/.524/.634. And unlike Bryant/Moran, who plied their trade on opposite coasts, Papi and Turner play in the same ACC. -Anthony
Alex Jackson is so good, he got Gosuke Katoh drafted in the second round. As scouts poured into Rancho Bernardo HS to see Jackson, many caught wind of his teammate, Katoh, whose stock rose as a result, finally going to the Yankees at 66th overall. If Jackson is good enough to make a middle infielder with limited arm a 2nd-round pick, imagine what he can do for himself. At 6'2", 210 pounds, Jackson has a nice, loose catcher's build. A legitimate five-tool catcher, he combines outstanding defense with tremendous power, which he's shown to all fields. Pop times in the 1.7's, excellent blocking skills, and quick twitch athleticism will keep him behind the plate, though he also plays third base and the outfield. -Anthony
People love prep shortstops, and Jacob Gatewood is one to dream on. At 6'5", 190 lbs., with plenty of room to fill in, he may outgrow shortstop, but he'll get every chance to stick there, as he's an outstanding athlete who could provide double-digit home runs from the position. Plus arm strength; quick, soft hands... you're sold on him before you see him bat. And then he bats, and it's a thing of beauty. Balanced at the plate, he generates terrific bat speed with loose, quick hands. He squares the ball up and drives it. He and Alex Jackson will be this year's Frazier/Meadows - expect comparisons right up until draft day. -Anthony
Harvard-Westlake won the high school national championship in 2013 despite having just lost two first-round pitchers in Max Fried and Lucas Giolito - and Flaherty was a major part of the reason. I watched Flaherty dominate a good Valencia lineup early in the season from the mound... but pitching isn't even his strength. At 6'3", 200 lbs., with room to fill in, Flaherty already carries a lot of strength for the shortstop position. He generates good bat speed and hits the ball to all fields. Defensively, he may end up at third base, but he's athletic enough to merit a long look at short, with quick hands, good range, and lots of arm strength. A leader on the field; plays with confidence and poise, which is only going to increase in his senior campaign. Could be a very special player. -Anthony
Nola represents a change from the hard-throwing pitching prospects like Rodon and Beede with ability to throw multiple pitches at an average to above-average level and great maturity and pitchability on the mound. Though Nola's stuff doesn't quite compare to Rodon or Beede, it's still appealing as a #2 or solid #3 starter in an MLB rotation. His fastball and curve are his best pitches, both with the potential to be plus, and mixes in an average changeup. His control is among the best in the draft, and his fastball has some sink on it. A few things working against Nola; he's only 6'1'' so he doesn't have the prototypical frame or projection a lot of teams look for when drafting a pitcher in the top five picks. And though he's the third best college pitcher right now, pitchers just below him with better pure stuff like Michael Cederoth and Nick Burdi could overtake Nola if they dominate their draft-year seasons, much like Jonathan Gray did. -Curtis
Carlos Rodon, LHP, N.C. State
Not only is there no better player in the 2014 draft than Carlos Rodon, he'll be the best pitching prospect drafted since Stephen Strasburg was picked in 2008. A 6'2'' lefty, Rodon sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and throws a sinker that's already a plus pitch. He also throws a low 90s cutter and a few more pitches, ranging from a curve, changeup and splitter. They're all behind the others, and he'll most likely choose one and scrap the others when he reaches pro ball. He has an easy throwing motion from the left side that generates easy velocity, and scouts really like his mechanics. Though a team like the Marlins could opt to take one of the elite high school bats if they get the #1 pick next year, there's no reason at this point why Rodon is not deserving of the #1 overall pick. -Curtis