With Brady Aiken, Derek Fisher, and A.J. Reed off the board, who could be joining them as fellow 2014 Houston Astros draftees? Here's a list of some of the top candidates, in no particular order:
Mac Marshall, LHP, Parkview HS (GA)
Height, Weight: 6'2", 185 lbs.
Date of Birth: 1/27/1996 (18.36 years old)
In his profile of Marshall, our very own leistomania409 suggested that even Jonathan Mayo's #58 ranking of Marshall might be under-selling the lefty, who works in the low nineties with his fastball (touching 94), and has two advanced offerings in his changeup and curveball. He was projected by many to be off the board in the first round, and the fact that he's still sitting there in the third may be too much to pass up.
Zech Lemond, RHP, Rice University
Height, Weight: 6'4", 195 lbs.
Date of Birth: 10/09/92 (21.66 years old)
Lemond broke the saves record at Rice, previously held by David Aardsma and Tony Cingrani, in 2013. He began the season as the Owls' closer again in 2014, but when Jordan Stephens blew out his elbow, Lemond was pressed into service in the rotation. Unfortunately, after five starts, he himself was sidelined with elbow inflammation after five starts. Such is the Rice way. He carries a nice 92-96 mph fastball, a spike curveball (Brent Strom catnip) that goes as high as the mid-eighties, and a new changeup that he's been able to throw for strikes. Prospect Digest calls him the right-handed Cingrani, and there's a good chance that he'd be a perfect fit for the tandem system, converting to a starting role as a pro.
Milton Ramos, SS, American Heritage School (FL)
Height, Weight: 5'11", 185 lbs.
Date of Birth: 10/26/95 (18.62 years old)
Perhaps the best defensive shortstop in the 2014 class, the Florida Atlantic commit is considered an exceptional student of the game. While his bat may not be as advanced as his glove, he shows a legitimate hit tool with a compact swing and plenty of line drives. He's a good candidate to add power as he gets stronger, and with a great deal of projection left on his frame, that's likely. One of the higher ceilings among candidates for this pick.
Jace Fry, LHP, Oregon State
Height, Weight: 6'1", 200 lbs.
Date of Birth: 7/9/93 (20.91 years old)
Young for his class, Fry is an outstanding pitcher in the Jeff Luhnow mold. Despite having had Tommy John surgery in 2012, he bounced back nicely in 2014, using deception and pitchability to enhance his low-nineties fastball, curveball, and changeup. His results in the ultra-competitive Pac-12 were better than you'd expect from a guy with his stuff, as he finished the season with a 0.92 WHIP and a 1.50 ERA, striking out 87 and walking just 26 over 107.2 innings this season.
J.J. Schwarz, C, Palm Beach Gardens HS (FL)
Height, Weight: 6'1", 193 lbs.
Date of Birth: 3/28/96 (18.19 on draft day)
Schwarz was on the U.S. national 18-and-under team that won gold in Taiwan last September. The son of former White Sox and Angels reliever Jeff Schwarz, J.J. is one of the better defensive catchers in this year's prep ranks, though his arm strength isn't anything to write home about. He combines an excellent approach at the plate with good bat speed, and should be able to hit double-digit home runs as a professional. Like many 18u players, he's considered to have outstanding makeup, which just adds to the profile of the man that Baseball America called the 45th-best prospect in the draft.
Cobi Johnson, RHP, J.W. Mitchell HS (FL)
Height, Weight: 6'4", 195 lbs.
Date of Birth: 11/6/95 (18.58 years old)
The son of former big leaguer Dane Johnson (now a roving pitching instructor for the Blue Jays,) the younger Johnson - a Florida State commit - has a ton of projection left on his lanky frame. His fastball sits in the 88-91 range, but many believe that there's room to gain some velocity there. His curveball and changeup both project as above-average pitches in the future, as well. Johnson missed time in his senior season with elbow soreness, but came back to help his team in the Florida state playoffs.
Dylan Cease, RHP, Milton HS (GA)
Height, Weight: 6'1", 175 lbs.
Date of Birth: 12/28/95 (18.44 years old)
Another prep righty who missed time with an elbow injury, Cease is a Vanderbilt commit who throws as hard as almost anyone in the draft, his fastball topping out at 97 mph. At just 6'1", 175 lbs., it's easy to dream on even more velocity, and he adds an above-average mid-70s curveball and a good, but inconsistent, changeup. Having been shelved since March, Cease still has a ways to go to develop his secondary offerings, but may provide an excellent canvas for an organization to paint on.
J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, Stone Bridge HS (VA)
Height, Weight: 5'11", 200 lbs.
Date of Birth: 10/11/96 (17.65 years old)
Bukauskas drew attention when he re-classified to the 2014 class and asked teams not to draft him, so that he could honor his commitment to the University of North Carolina. More recently, he's backed off of that somewhat, and a team with money - like Houston - may yet be able to lure him away from Chapel Hill. With a thick, durable build, Bukauskas has a fastball that's been clocked in triple digits, comfortably sitting in the mid-nineties late into starts. He also has a mid-eighties slider that flashes plus and a changeup, though he doesn't use it in games.
Jordan Luplow, RF, Fresno State
Height, Weight: 6'1", 195 lbs.
Date of Birth: 9/26/93 (20.69 years old)
Despite being limited to right field, Luplow has shown the ability to hit for average (.377) and power (.233 ISO). he's also shown an excellent ability to avoid strikeouts (8.49%), draw walks (13.90%), and even to steal a few bases (10/14). He has good bat speed, and has drawn A.J. Pollock comps for his ability to perform at a high level, even without having one tremendous tool. The kind of steady collegiate performer that has become "the Luhnow brand."
Jeren Kendall, CF, Holmen HS (WI)
Height, Weight: 5'10", 170 lbs.
Date of Birth: 2/4/96 (18.34 years old)
With a strawberry blonde mohawk hanging out of the back his cap, Kendall was easily one of the stars of the Area Code games in August. He is a cold-weather prospect that fits nicely into the prototypical leadoff mode, boasting plus-plus speed, a plus arm, and a nice hit tool from the left side. He's unlikely to hit for much power, but it's often been remarked that he shows more than most players of his size. Some consider his Vanderbilt commit pretty solid (as most Vanderbilt commits tend to be,) but a team like the Astros with a little bit of money to spend may be able to convince him to begin his pro career early.
Grayson Greiner, C, South Carolina
Height, Weight: 6'5", 220 lbs.
Date of Birth: 10/11/92 (21.65 years old)
At 6'5", 220 lbs., Greiner is a Joe Mauer-sized catcher from the collegiate ranks. Our very own Timothy De Block watched Greiner closely this season, and he likes his ability behind the plate - and he's not the only one, as Greiner's backstop skills are universally well-regarded. What you always worry about with a catcher that size are A) his knees, and B) his release -- tall catchers tend to have longer releases. Greiner doesn't have that question mark; he has plus arm strength and he makes tremendously-accurate throws. The knees? Well, he did miss playing for USA Baseball in 2012 because of a knee injury, and eventually he may need to move out from behind the dish. Greiner has shown an above-average bat with some raw power, but the latter hasn't really shown up in-game yet.