By Kyle Johansen @kylejohansen on June 2, 2014
The draft is heavy on pitching this year with three elite prospects at the top and many interesting college and high school arms who will be available throughout the first few rounds. NC State left-hander Carlos Rodon had occupied the No. 1 spot on most draft boards heading into the season, but he has slipped down draft boards as others have risen ahead of him.
Here are the top 10 pitching prospects in the 2014 MLB Draft.
Brandon Finnegan owes his climb up the rankings to Carlos Rodon, who showed him a new slider grip while playing together on USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team last summer. Finnegan’s slider went from below-average to a plus-plus pitch, and when paired with a fastball at 90-95, Finnegan became a very interesting left-handed pitching prospect. The one knock on Finnegan is his slight frame at 5-foot-11, 184-pounds.
Sean Newcomb has a huge frame at 6-foot-5, 240-pounds and throws strikes by consistently repeating his delivery. Newcomb can reach the mid-90s with his fastball but his breaking ball wavers between a curveball and a slider. Newcomb ranked second in the country in strikeouts per nine innings with 11.5 in 2013, and he possesses the frame and upside teams are looking for.
Erick Fedde was originally drafted out of high school in the 24th round by the Padres, but he elected to go to UNLV instead. Fedde is 6-foot-4, 175-pounds and can dial his fastball up to 97 while consistently throwing it for strikes. Fedde also has a potentially plus slider at 81-84 that he commands well in addition to an average change-up. Fedde had a chance to be selected in the top ten picks, but Tommy John surgery has clouded his outlook.
Jeff Hoffman was in the discussion for a top-five pick throughout the spring, with a fastball that can reach 98 and an athletic, projectable pitcher’s body at 6-foot-4, 192-pounds. Hoffman’s two-seamer has good life and his change-up and curveball both have the potential to be plus pitches. However, Hoffman had to undergo Tommy John surgery in May and will likely slip out of the top ten picks.
Touki Toussaint only began playing baseball as a teenager, but he has the potential for three plus pitches. Toussaint’s fastball touches 97 with good movement, in addition to a curveball which has the potential to be the best in this year’s draft class. Toussaint also shows a feel for his change-up which has plus potential. Toussaint is 6-foot-2, 198-pounds and possesses long arms, legs and large hands, giving him all the tools to succeed.
Kyle Freeland steadily rose up draft boards during the spring as he showed plus command with a 15-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which ranked No. 2 in the country. Freeland stands at 6-foot-4, 190-pounds and throws four pitches. His fastball touches 96, while his hard slider settles in at 85-86. His curveball is average and his change-up could use work, but Freeland possess both the stuff and control to succeed in the Major Leagues.
Aaron Nola is one of the safest picks in the draft but is not perceived to have the elite upside of the players ranked ahead of him. Nola’s fastball comfortably sits at 93-94 and has late life due to a mid-three-quarters delivery. Nola worked on his slider this season at the expense of his change-up, but both pitches have a chance to be plus offerings. Nola has excellent command and should rise quickly through the minor leagues.
Carlos Rodon was long considered a lock to go No. 1 overall and should still be selected among the top four picks. Rodon cemented his elite draft status during his freshman year at NC State by showing velocity as high as 97 in addition to a slider that is regarded as the best pitch in the draft. However, a drop in his fastball velocity combined with a slider that was not as impressive this spring has caused his draft status to slip.
The draft has never seen a player quite like Tyler Kolek. His velocity, regularly touching 100-102, is unprecedented from a high school pitcher as is his 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame. Kolek unsurprisingly strikes out an inordinate amount of batters but also does an excellent job of limiting his walks. His fastball has heavy sink and should be very difficult for batters to elevate. He also throws a hard slider, a curve and has shown a change-up.
Brady Aiken has cemented himself as the top prospect in this year’s draft as a left-handed pitcher with three plus offerings. Aiken’s fastball comfortably sits at 92-93 and has reached 97 at times this spring. What sets Aiken apart is his ability to command each of his pitches. His curveball has been outstanding this year and his change-up has a chance to be his best pitch overall, which has led to a Cole Hamels comparison.
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