Drafts are always an inexact science, but the MLB draft is an entirely different beast.
Accurately grading the 2014 MLB draft after one day is nearly impossible. All of the players selected are a minimum of two years away from the major leagues, and in that time, top-five picks can turn into scrubs, and scrubs can turn into All-Stars.
This draft does look to have a ton of talent from top to bottom in the first round. Teams that may have wanted to save money on their slot could’ve still ended up walking away with a player comparable to where they were selected.
Here’s a tentative look at how each team did in the first round, followed by four of the smartest gambles.
No. 4 Kyle Schwarber, C/OF
I’ll admit to contradicting myself a bit here, having given the Chicago Cubs a “B” for this selection. They passed up on some impressive talent to reach for Kyle Schwarber.
Perhaps Nick Gordon didn’t make sense with Javier Baez one of the top minor-league shortstops in baseball. Alex Jackson might have been a questionable pick, too, as Jorge Soler and Albert Almora are waiting in the wings. The Cubs had other options, though, whether it was Aaron Nola, Kyle Freeland or even Jeff Hoffman.
Taking Schwarber is a risk in that Chicago could look bad for letting other, more talented players slip through its grasp:
With all of that said, the Indiana star is one of the best power hitters in the draft. Power hitters will never go out of style, so even if Schwarber is limited with his skill set, he’ll carve out an everyday role in the lineup.
By reaching here, the Cubs also saved themselves some slot money that can be spent on their later draft picks.
Even this pick’s harshest critics—myself included—may have to acknowledge that Chicago have made a masterstroke when looking back in a few years.
No. 9 Jeff Hoffman, RHP
You can understand why Brady Aiken, Carlos Rodon and Tyler Kolek went ahead of Hoffman. He will be coming off Tommy John surgery after all. Beyond those three, though, the East Carolina star could’ve been the next pitcher off the board.
Instead, Nola and Freeman were drafted ahead of Hoffman, leaving the Toronto Blue Jays with one of the best collegiate pitchers in the 2014 draft at the No. 9 pick.
As CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman said, Tommy John surgery works:
Hoffman should be able to make a strong recovery and fulfill the promise he showed with the Pirates before he went down. While he acknowledged in the conference call after his selection that he won’t be carrying a perceived draft slight with him every time he pitches, it will weigh on his mind at times, per MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm:
To some extent I think that could be pretty accurate. But I’m not the one that’s going to pitch with that kind of energy every day. I’m going to go out there with energy no matter what, not just because a few teams passed on me. I’m going to go out there and pitch my game and I’m excited to get to do that for the Blue Jays.
As far as signability goes, Hoffman shouldn’t be much of a worry. He’s arguably much better off being in a major-league rehabilitation program than he would be in college.
No. 18 Erick Fedde, RHP
The Washington Nationals have been down this road before, drafting Lucas Giolito 16th overall in the 2012 draft. It was apparent at the time he was drafted that Giolito would need Tommy John surgery, so plenty of teams passed on him.
Now, Washington has one of the best pitchers in the minor leagues. Maybe Erick Fedde will be the next in line.
The UNLV star said that he’ll probably be out for about a year, per The Washington Post‘s James Wagner:
That’s a small price to pay for somebody who can grow into a solid No. 2 starting pitcher. Fedde’s got a strong fastball and a slider that will miss bats. He’s not quite the high-ceiling prospect that Giolito was, but Fedde should be a reliable rotation guy for years to come.
Plus, the Nationals likely saved some slot money with this pick that can be used later in the draft.
No. 34 Jack Flaherty, RHP
If any of these four guys is a signability concern, it’s Jack Flaherty. Since the St. Louis Cardinals spent such an early pick on him, you’d think that they know what they’re doing. As Baseball America‘s Aaron Fitt pointed out, though, going up against North Carolina could be expensive:
Flaherty certainly seems excited to be joining the St. Louis organization, per the team’s Twitter account:
How can you blame him with the Cardinals’ track record of developing pitchers? They have a seemingly unending assembly line of hurlers.
Flaherty doesn’t have overpowering stuff, like Shelby Miller or Michael Wacha. Instead, he possesses solid control and command. He doesn’t miss the strike zone often and knows how to get batters out.