The Astros choice for the number one overall pick in Thursday's 2014 MLB Draft is not an easy one, but the case for Brady Aiken is. What makes the selection difficult is that there's more than one who has an easy case for the spot as well.
There really is a lot to like about Brady Aiken as a prospect. The negatives for the high schooler are the ones that accompany the track record of draft picks that fit his profile. Let's look at that first.
In general, high school prospects are far more risky. That's understood. That's backed my historical data. The reason is that they have faced less challenging competition and so their performance may not translate as well to the pro ranks as well as collegiate athletes. There is also a larger learning curve resulting in a need for more time in the minor leagues. The longer a prospect is in the minors, there more chance of something bad like an injury happening (larger risk for pitchers). You also have to look at the maturity aspect of the prospect. Is the high school kid really ready to take on a large bonus check and live away from mom and dad much more independently than he would in a college program?
High school pitchers and catchers have the highest bust rates based on historical data of the draft. There is a larger learning curve with pitching. Where a high school pitcher gets by with heat, that doesn't get where you need to go in the pros. It takes command, off-speed pitches, pitch sequencing, ect. Often times, they simply don't develop those aspects of their game. As mentioned before, injuries sometimes happen.
A left-handed pitcher with a fastball that tops out at 96/97 as a senior in high school with a hammer curve and a promising change up? I'll take as many as you can give. Add in what appears to be above-average to plus command for a pitcher in high school, and you have a recipe for a top flight starter stuff wise.
He's tall and built like a pitcher with good waist height and shoulder breadth. He's pretty athletic and can control his body well throughout his mechanics. He needs work on his mechanics, but all pitchers do to some extent, especially amateurs.
Here's where I think Aiken steals the show. The main thing that holds people back on Aiken is the fear of injury. I'm going to do my best to settle those fears. There is so much that we know now that we didn't know ten years ago about injuries. American Sports Medicine Institute have been able to find kinematic measurements in deliveries that increase stress on pitcher's arms. They've also been able to identify factors that increase risk of injury.
Kinematic measurements: Aiken checks out and is in the safe ranges.
Pitching year round: Aiken took the fall off.
Pitching with fatigue: 7 day schedule and no known instances of throwing ridiculous pitch counts
Heavy breaking ball usage: Not that I've seen.
I hope that settles some of your concerns.
Some of the analysts on the inter web have speculated that Aiken will take below slot which only sweetens the package as he could add even more first round talent later on.
Essentially, you are drafting a kid with less wear and tear on his arm than Carlos Rodon or Tyler Kolek (who pitched in the fall), similar breaking ball use as Kolek, better mechanics than Rodon, about equal with Kolek, and better stuff than what Rodon showed this year. His off-speed stuff is better than Kolek's.