2014 MLB Draft Email Discussion

Ryan Dunsmore

A look into the TCB staff's conversation around the 2014 MLB Draft.

Brooks

For the third year in a row, the Astros are picking first and for the third year in a row, there is not a consensus lock for the first pick. What are your thoughts on the 1-1 pick and the draft in general?

Ashitaka

Brooks has me fully convinced/hypnotized that Aiken is the right choice. Rodon scares me now, enough to make Jackson my second choice. I'll trust whoever they pick, but unlike last year (when I wanted Gray), I'll actually be a little disappointed if they don't go with Aiken.

Clack

I have been vacillating between the 1-1 choices over the last week or so. I probably would choose Rodon, but I feel less strongly in favor of him than at any time previously. I view Rodon as the safest pick, in the sense that he is mostly likely to make it to the major leagues, and to do so in a reasonable amount of time. I have gone back and forth on Aiken, but at this point I have reluctance to favor a high school pitcher in the draft. As I write an article about the history of the 1-1 pick, I get more concerned about selecting another pitcher, particularly out of high school. For the first time, I would consider drafting Jackson at 1-1, and maybe close to the same level as Rodon. If the front office was convinced that Jackson’s bat is elite, and he might sign with the Astros at a lower price than Rodon, I might favor Jackson.

TidewaterAstros

Yes, for the 3rd year in a row there is not a consensus 1-1 pick but each of these years has managed that feat in a very different way. This year's top bundle of candidates is so damn 'meh' I will be fine with any of them, really.


Here's my prediction: it'll either be Aiken or a surprise.
I kind of feel like this should be next year's crop of choices, when we're picking somewhere in the 5-7 range.

CRPerry

Unlike the last two years, I really have no strong feelings on who the Astros should pick. My eyeballs say Aiken, because his pitching motion looks so clean, but my brain screams that the cost of a 1-1 pick is too much to invest in a High School pitcher. My common sense tells me that Rodon is the surest bet to become a good major leaguer, but my eyes worry about the injury risk and the fact that he just walks a ton of batters. And something about his delivery makes me uncomfortable. So after thinking long and hard about it, I am going to go with Alex Jackson, despite knowing little about him. Why? Because he's a batter. He will play every day, has less injury risk than any pitcher at the top of the draft, is the best hitter available (this is pretty close to inarguable, right?), and I think he might sign for a bit less than the other guys, because otherwise he might fall a few picks.

Ashitaka

Since it seems like you're researching this kind of thing, I've wondered if there's an difference in speed to the Majors between prep bats and prep arms. Not the rate at which they make it or stick, but just, you know, if we were to go with either Jackson or Aiken, what does history say about which of them would be more likely to make the Majors earliest, assuming they do? Or is there no difference?

Also, a question to everyone; for those who want Rodon over Aiken, if Rodon demanded slot and Aiken was willing to sign significantly under slot, would that make a difference to you? Say $1.5 million under, which is easily enough for us to get another Lance McCullers-esque talent with the comp pick. If not, how much, if any amount, would it take to get you to switch?

Tim

I started liking Alex Jackson after Anthony wanted the sound of his bat in an audio file.

I'm not expert on swing mechanics, but his swing just made me all gooey and the sound coming from his bat was heaven. I am more interested in the Astros picking Jackson than them picking Bryant last year.

Ashitaka

Rodon has scared me off enough that Jackson is definitely my #2 now, but if he really were an elite hitting talent, I guess I'd just feel like I'd be hearing more about him, I guess. If he's not a legitimate candidate to turn into something like a .300/.380/.500, 25-30 HR hitter in the Majors, I can't see using a 1-1 pick on him.

Anthony

For a while now, I've been saying that this draft class gives me heartburn; that every 1-1 candidate was flawed. But recently, I began looking at it differently. Now, the depth of this class excites me.

There are five or six legitimate 1-1 candidates. The Houston Astros front office, led by the man responsible for more big leaguers than any other scouting director in baseball, have a lot of choices, and a lot of ways to attack a draft in which they carry three picks in the first two rounds.

It's pretty exciting when you look at it like that. I've been on the Jackson train for over a year now, and I still am. But whichever way they go, I'll be pleased. I like Jackson. I like Aiken. I like Rodon. I feel like they can't lose here.

Chris

I'm more interested in the Astros picking Bryant than I was last year.

Yeah, that last statement is how I feel too. But if I'm going to lean one way, it will be in the direction of the batter.

Irish Pete

I thought I was the only one who had switched to Jackson. I watched the video that Anthony sent also, and the swing was a thing of beauty. His bat seemed to just explode on to the baseball, and the sound was like a mini baseball symphonic orchestra.

He's the clear cut impact bat at the top of the draft. Luhnow specifically mentioned that they are looking for younger impact bats. He specifically mentioned Quad Cities in the interview question I heard him answer to Robert Ford. He said Quad Cities is a great offensive team, but it's almost entirely made up of college bats. They would like to get some young impact bats in this draft.

Ashitaka

Funny you should mention the depth, because while we've all been focused on 1-1, I'm wondering about guys people think could or should still be available for that comp pick and the top of the second round that we could hopefully go overslot on. Or is the depth so huge that we don't need to go overslot to get elite talent?

Ashitaka

In Jackson's favor, a lot of the concern I've heard with his bat reminds me, at least a bit, of the concerns pertaining to Buxton pre-2012 draft, so I guess that makes me a little more in favor of him.

Anthony

.280, 30-35.

70 grade power. Solid hit tool. In fact, his hit tool is within the top five of all the members of this class. His raw power may be the best in the class.

Add that to a solid defensive profile behind the dish. Elite arm strength, great soft hands. Student of the game.

The speed is above-average, and he's got all the other tools in bunches.

Irish Pete

I think the depth in collegiate pitching is what can lead the front office to feel like they can try to grab the potential impact bat of the draft and pick up some more later.

What are you rough % chances of him sticking at catcher? Pretty low?

Ashitaka

Give me a feel on what you think his defensive profile will be if he moves from behind the plate, since I've heard a lot of speculation about that. And, I guess if you think there's anything to that speculation.

Clack

Another question: who are the youngest and oldest high school players that are being considered? Is Jackson an older high school player? That is something that I would put on the negative side for Jackson.

Regarding Brian’s two questions. If the Astros selected Aiken, I would be disappointed if he did not come at a significant cost discount to Rodon. But I don’t think I would let the signing cost drive the selection decision. My gut feeling is that the rest of the league has caught up to the Astros underslot strategy used in 2012. I think it would be a mistake to assume that a McCullers/Ruiz type overslot play will exist. That said, this is a deep draft, and there is always a benefit to having more money available in the later rounds.

I don’t know the actual numbers for the average time for (high school) hitters vs. pitchers to reach the majors. It will depend on their level of advancement when they are drafted. However, given that pitchers will be protected more than hitters (in order to avoid injuries), my guess is that this front office would advance high school pitchers at a slower rate than hitters, assuming similar levels of readiness. Put another way, I think there would be less concern about pushing a high school hitter through the system too fast if he is showing rapid progress at each level.

David

My over-the-top support of an Alex Jackson pick is for many of the reasons Clarence mentions.

I just don't like taking a pitcher that high in the draft. Didn't like it last year. Don't like it this year. Sure, I'd rather Houston take the best player available. If that's Brady Aiken, then take him.

I think it was Jim Callis yesterday who said Aiken compared favorably to Dyan Bundy. In fact, he said Aiken is actually better than Bundy in some ways, that he's bigger and may have a slightly higher ceiling.

Of course, Dylan Bundy also underwent surgery this year, which could hamper his prospect status. And that's one of the biggest knocks on Aiken. High school pitchers (any pitcher) have a huge chance of getting injured and no one can predict how a pitcher comes back from that. Even if Tommy John surgery has become more common and much, much more effective, it's not perfect.

That's why I'd love a position player. High school position talents bust the same way as pitchers do. Callis did an interview with Grantland where he talked about the 2005 draft and how surprised he was that Jeff Clement never made it. Draftees bust, no matter where they play.

That's why I really like the idea of Jackson. If he really has the best power potential in this draft, if he can have a 60 hit tool down the road, he'd be the choice no matter where he plays.

But, it'd be great for Houston to not worry about slot games, to not worry about injuries or anything else and just take the best player available at the top of the draft. I don't know that they've done that in two years at 1-1.

Ashitaka

It sounds like you're doubting that Captain Correa is the greatest player in history. You take that back right now, sir.

Tim

Brady Aiken is by far the youngest (Aug 16, 1996). Alex Jackson is almost 8 months older (Dec. 25, 1996)

Anthony

I think the "Jackson will have to move off of catcher" narrative is a little weird, if I'm being honest. It's like this thing that someone said that then spiraled out of control.

Jackson is a very good defensive catcher. People are worried that he may eventually add too much weight and force a move to third base or right field, where he profiles as an outstanding defender.

It kind of reminds me of the whole "Carlos Correa may fill in and force a move to third base" narrative. You don't not draft Correa because when he's twenty-eight, he'll need to move to third base... and you don't not draft Jackson because when he's twenty-eight he'll be forced to be one of the better right fielders in the game. Womp womp.

Tim

I'll also mention that while getting Lance McCullers Jr. and Rio Ruiz were great, I'm not as high on them as other people. McCullers in particular, I haven't been hearing good things about.

David

Cap (we're calling Correa Cap now, right?) is still in the middle of my prospect heart. There are a lot of reasons why he was the No. 1 choice. But, he also isn't the top-rated guy from that draft. Buxton is more highly regarded among prospectors, though his injury hurts him for next year's ranks. Is there any chance that Correa becomes the No. 1 prospect in baseball?

I'm not complaining. It'd just be nice to get the BPA in a draft for once.

Anthony

Yeah. Ultimately, it doesn't matter what prospect lists and talent evaluators and national writers say. Ultimately, it only matters what they do once they hit the majors. But it'd be nice to have someone putting up Kris Bryant numbers, or getting Byron Buxton pub.

David

Wait, I thought Domingo Santana would be the best part of the Pence trade? How can Jackson move to right if Santana's there for 15 years?

I mean, if Buxton turns into the next next Ken Griffey and Cap turns into the next Derek Jeter, will we care if Buxton is more highly-regarded? We'll just count the World Series rings.

Ashitaka

Given his power potential, I'd almost be sad if he turns into Jeter. I get that he was a great hitter, but I never viewed him as anelite offensive player because he didn't hit for big power, even playing in Yankee Stadium(s).

Even though I know I shouldn't, I've totally bought in on Correa, 100%. If he's not almost Berkman's offense while playing SS/3B, I think I might not ever be able to believe in anything again.

Perry

My quick thoughts, which could totally be wrong. Take Rodon. He's shown that he has the tools to be an outstanding pitcher. Let the Astros organization work with him and I think he can become an ace. The pick just feels safer to me, even with Rodon's injury concerns. I just feel like we don't know enough yet to be able to predict these injuries. For all we know, Aiken will pitch two great years and then in April 2016 at AA the elbow goes. Would I venture to guess Rodon is more likely to get hurt? Yes. But I would also venture to guess that he's the safer bet to be great.

Don't include any of this because it's still not all official:....But, I'm getting a front row seat for the Nationals minor league pitching injury epidemic. Matt Purke is getting TJ, Felipe Rivero is getting TJ, Sammy Solis is gonna get TJ again and AJ Cole currently has a dead arm. We just don't know enough yet as to when these things are going to happen.

Brooks

There are biomechanical markers in pitching deliveries shown to correlate with injuries based on lab research. There are innings and pitch counts at different levels.

All of which have come around in the last 5-10 years and still not used to analyze pitchers except for few organizations (I know the Astros use them to some extent).

Purke, poor mechanics. Rivero is long armed in his delivery which adds stress to the joint. Solis short arms which adds stress at the end of the delivery. You have to go from greater than 90 degrees of elbow flexion to near full extension. (not picking on you Perry)

These markers and abuse things aren't perfect. But, reduce the risk to the same as with position players. If you narrow the pitching injury history down to guys who are not mechanical morons, you'd see a much different injury risk.

Ashitaka

So just to make it clear, what you're saying is that, based on recent evidence like these "biomechanical markers" and what we now know about workloads and year-round pitching, etc., there's no more reason to be afraid of Aiken getting injured than there is of Jackson getting injured?

Brooks

As long he is not abused. As long as he trains properly (which is a whole other issue since the majority of pitchers don't train properly), the risk is significantly lower than his peers. Look at Jason Castro. Torn ACL by rounding second base. Look at Manny Machados injury while running through 1st base. Byron Buxton's wrist. Josh Hamilton's thumb. Hammate fractures. Bryce Harper. Prince Fielder. The risk is everywhere.

CRPerry

My point was that pitchers get injured more often than batters, and that's part of why I prefer Jackson. Also, it's been pretty well discussed around...everywhere...that people are more concerned about Rodon's injury risk because of overuse/reliance on slider/whatevskees. I'm just using what other people report to form my opinions, plus my limited knowledge. If I had a MD in entroskeletalmuscularovids and a PHD in metabiolophysiolgicalisics, I'd perhaps form different opinions. But I just have to rely on what I've heard and what my eyes say and what my guts say. I don't like Rodon's delivery. Looks hard on the arm. I don't know if I'm right, but that's how it looks to me.

Brooks

That's my point. Injury history of pitchers is largely skewed. Statistics are only as good as the data input. The data input on pitcher injury is horrible due to poor mechanics. If you look at injury rates among pitchers with good mechanics, the injury risk is MUCH lower and closer to position players.

I honestly don't care about the pitcher injury rates because they are worthless stats because they are skewed and DO NOT represent pitchers like Tyler Kolek or Brady Aiken.

Idrees

My final answer is Carlos Rodon. I think we are over-thinking it, and probably over-scrutinizing every start of his (which understandably comes with the 1-1 hype that he's had for the past 2 years now). My rationale is that if scouts and draft experts were deeming him the best pitching prospect since Strasburg, then I don't feel that his production (after a slow start) should deter us that much. I think it definitely should raise questions or concerns, but ultimately, if this past year (2.01 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 117 K's in 98.2 IPs) is an OFF year for him, or at least a year where we have legitimate concerns about him, just imagine if he can work some of those kinks out. If he can develop as a professional, and work on same areas of improvement, like reducing his walks or having more consistency with his devastating slider, he can be even better. If he was getting legitimate David Price comps before the year started, I think they should still be valid now. I also feel like Rodon's slider might be the best offering in the entire draft (Kolek's fastball is the main competition of course). Sometimes it is hard to ignore tools like that, especially when you couple the tools with production that Rodon has had for the past 2 years. He is by no means perfect, and comes with injury concerns that Brooks has very nicely broken down, but with the risk comes immense reward. Take Rodon and let him be the one leading your rotation in 2 years. And to answer Brian's question, I also would not care if Rodon costs $1.5M more. If the Astros feel he is who they want at 1-1, then pay full slot if you have to. Talent should outweigh cost savings this year. I also believe the additional comp pick from the Orioles provides us with added financial flexibility, so saving money at the 1-1 should be lower on the priority list.

Aiken intrigues me, and the more I learn about him, the more impressed I am. Sure conventional wisdom is high school pitching prospects are risky propositions, but I have a gut feeling that the Astros might prefer to take a naturally talented pitcher like Aiken and mold him into an ace over the next 2-3 years. So although I might prefer Rodon, I would have no qualms if Aiken went 1-1.

I know Jackson is getting a lot of love here, but I'm not necessarily sold on him. I personally think we should go pitching here. Maybe this isn't fair to Jackson, but I feel that if we were going to go hitting, we should have drafted Bryant last year. Again, this is more of a gut feeling, but I feel like if we try to draft an impact bat this year because we didn't last year, we might just end up compounding the potential mistake. I am not calling Appel a bust year or anything absurd like that after 2 months into his professional career, but if you gave me the choice between a Bryant/Rodon duo or a Appel/Jackson duo, I'd take Bryant/Rodon every single time. In 5 years I can be proven very wrong, but that's my non-expert take. But getting back to Jackson, I can definitely see why many are wanting his potential .280, 30 HR bat in the lineup. If we draft him and he develops into that, then wonderful.

Ultimately, I think all 3 could end up being potentially great choices at 1-1. Although I have a slight preference towards Rodon, I'll trust the front office that has spent hundreds of hours on this decision.

Ashitaka

But what Brooks is saying seems to be that the old TINSTAAPP mentallity is based on a flawed understanding of flawed data. If that's the case and we can essentially now say that Aiken has no more real likelihood of injury than Jackson or Rodon or anyone else, then the argument that most people who seem to be against Aiken are using ("it's too risky to draft a HS pitcher because of injury/bust concerns") is an invalid one. If the argument is something along the lines of "this is the consensus among industry 'experts' so I have to go with it for now," isn't that a bit two-faced, considering how much we all regularly scoff at the industry experts via email (BP questioning Appel's #rig and all that junk)?

So I guess the question is; if it could be proved to your satisfaction that Aiken was no more risky than any other prospect and, therefore, you'd simply take the guy who you felt was the best talent, would you still pass on Aiken?

Brooks

It's just a very general statistic. It's simply too broad of parameters.

For example. Drayton hated the draft. Didn't want to invest in it. Why? Because 90% or more of prospects from the draft fail. So, based on that statistic, why draft anyone? Why spend money on it?

Because the value you get from it exceeds the cost when you draft the right players.

So, why draft pitchers when they'll get injured?

Because the value of a Kershaw is worth it. When you draft the right pitchers with the right mechanics, it reaps rewards.

Tim

I still prefer position players over pitchers. While studies and information on pitching injuries have improved, not everyone is using them. And even if an organization uses it, there's no guarantee that every single pitching coach developing pitchers buys into it. I also think there's still a lot to be learned about pitchers and why the get injured. There certainly have been improvements, but there's still a long way to go. Yes, position players get injured as well, but they're also not repeating the same athletic motion with slight variances a 100 times in a single game.

Clack

I think it goes beyond injuries. High school pitchers are the hardest to project for ML performance. Simply because college pitchers are closer to the majors (in terms of level of competition) and have a larger body of work, they tend to be easier than high school pitchers to project, in terms of ML performance. High school position players are risky, but I think it is somewhat easier to project their performance at the ML level than high school pitchers.

Looking at the history of 1-1 picks isn’t the ideal exercise, because it is just a slice of the high picks. But here is a list of 1-1 picks:

http://espn.go.com/mlb/draft/history

For whatever reason, teams seem more comfortable with the projection ability for hitters. There are not a lot of success stories at 1-1 for pitchers, particularly high school pitchers. The dreamiest successes are high school hitters. Most of the college hitters at 1-1 had success. I will say this---I think that ML teams are getting better and better at scouting and selecting draft picks, which may make historic comparisons irrelevant.

CRPerry

I understand the argument. But for the record: injury risk is NOT the biggest factor in my opinion that Jackson should be the guy. He's the best bat in the class, and if I'm paying that much for a draft pick, I want the guy who will play every day, even if the every-5-day guy's ceiling is marginally higher.

Anthony

Idrees - I commend you for this stance, though I don't agree with it. Shiny new toys aside, I'm not sure why 2014 would have knocked anyone off of the Rodon train. Simply put, if you were on it in 2013, you should still be on it.

That said, I was never fully on it. I bristle at the phrase "best pitching prospect since Strasburg," because to me, he's not and he never was. But if someone did think that, I just don't understand why they wouldn't still think that. He had a slow start in cold weather after pitching year-round? Okay. His numbers this year, while trending in the wrong direction more or less across the board, were still good.

So while I don't agree with you, I applaud you.

Ashitaka

As someone who did hop off the train, it's largely because of the pitching year-round and things like that, that have caused me to abandon him.

Brooks

Aiken:

Leg Lift 73.6% of height (Elite 60-70%. Not tied to injury, tied to timing and stride length)

Stride length: 79% of height (Elite 75-90%)

Shoulder Abduction: 88 degrees (Elite 80-100, within range. This is tied with shoulder and elbow injury, so he is safe)

Lead knee angle: 135 degrees (elite 125-140, with range also tied to timing, proper stride length and force moving up the chain)

Max external rotation: 180 degrees (elite 170-190 with range, tied to mechanical efficiency and shoulder injury, also point of elbow stress.

Elbow stress is limited by having elbow flexed over 90 degrees. Need above view to measure properly, appears to be there though.

Hip flexion at release: 89 degrees (elite 92-115, so a little too flexed, tied with deceleration path, however, he does decelerate well)

CRPerry

Oh ya, I'm operating on the assumption that I don't think Jackson will stay at catcher. If his bats as good as Anthony says, he needs to be playing every day in a position that won't destroy his knees.

Not that he's incapable of it, mind you, cause I don't know. I just think that a bat that good should stay in the lineup without doing all that squatting all the time.

Idrees

Gotcha Anthony, and thanks for your response. I am sure you know more knowledgeable about all of the prospects than I, so I appreciate your input. I also understand that scouts tend to exaggerate on their comps (I remember the Griffey and Daryl Strawberry comps for Ariel Ovando, and we all know how that is turning out).

Brooks, you are doing a wonderful job selling me on Aiken thus far. Would you happen to have that same data for Rodon (the leg lift and stride length and all that interesting stuff)? I think it would be beneficial to directly compare the two.

Irish Pete

Next question to draft people who are way smarter than me. Is Jackson considered the best high school bat, period? Or is him being a possible catcher adding to that mystique. I guess my question is, would Alex Jackson still be rated this highly if he was just an outfielder?

Perry

*places lightly* http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2080892-carlos-rodon-what-is-nc-states-weekly-routine-for-its-star-pitcher

David

Perry, this gets at something Brooks (and Kyle Boddy) have talked about before. Pitching coaches don't always know best. Look at the calls to authority in that article. Just because the coach has been around and his brother pitched, that makes him qualified to know whether Rodon is doing damage to his arm when he throws 130 pitches?

Even though he only throws once a week, he's still getting tired in that one game. He's still throwing more pitches than he'll ever be expected to throw in a single pro start. Fatigue can break down mechanics. Bad mechanics lead to bad habits, which can lead to injury. I don't care how well you think you're taking care of a guy. Throwing that many pitches is a mistake.

Perry

Oh yeah, in no way did I agree with it or know if it was correct. Just thought it was interesting and wondered what people's thoughts were about that kind of routine.

Anthony

It's between Jackson and Braxton Davidson for best overall bat - both power and hit tools - among the high school ranks. I could make a case for either.

Clack

The track record for high school catchers (Mauer aside) was part of my previous reluctance. I wouldn’t draft Jackson at 1-1 unless he truly has an elite bat, meaning that he can be moved to another position, similar to Harper.

The batting practice videos are nice, but I have become a bit skeptical of basing too much on them. I remember when we had the videos of Ovando in batting practice before the Astros signed him, and everyone thought he would be a great hitter.

Brooks

Domingo Santana sucks at BP

David

And Carlos Corporan looks pretty good

Anthony

Telvin Nash has an 80-grade BP tool.

Take BP with a grain of salt, for obvious (and some not-so-obvious) reasons. But don't discount the player simply because of them, either. Jackson has wowed a lot of scouts with his in-game prowess, both at and behind the plate. If he eventually becomes an elite third base or right field prospect, oh well. But I really think he can stick behind the dish through his prime. His throwing and receiving skills are on par with his elite bat.

TidewaterAstros

Question: if we were drafting solely based on need, who'd you pick?

Another hypothetical: with full benefit of hindsight, how would you rank order this year's top 3 w last year's? So Appel, Gray, Bryant, Aiken, Rodon, Jackson?

Lots of emails ensued with names, and positions

The conversation carried on with several other tangents and at least another 100 emails. Some relevant, others not really...

If you read all of that...pat yourself on the back!

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