2014 MLB Draft: Names to watch
We have now had three Friday nights in the college baseball season, so this gives us a chance to look at the pitchers and hitters who early in the season are preforming well.
For those who are not familiar with college baseball, Friday night is when all of the ace pitchers for each team pitch. It is the most important night in college baseball and the best night to evaluate the top talent in the game.
I get asked a lot about who the Indians might grab with those three first round picks (the three picks are their own pick, compensation pick, and a competitive balance first). So here is a chance to highlight a few performers in the early going who might be candidates for these picks and show how they are performing. I am going to look at four hitters and four pitchers who I think should be on the Indians radar early on.
Luke Weaver, RHP, Florida State University
In my last mock I had Weaver to the Indians. He has performed well against his early opponents. He has a 2.12 ERA and .230 batting average against. His control has been solid as well on the year, but could improve some. I will be curious to see how he does as the schedule gets harder. I have been higher on Weaver than most because I still think he has a good skillset with a worst case of a backend pen arm.
Aaron Nola, RHP, Louisiana State University
Nola has been knocked by several people, myself included, at points because he isn’t viewed as having the upside of other pitchers. People look at Nola and see a guy who doesn’t throw hard enough or has a lights out pitch. Yet all he does is produce as last year he outperformed Ryan Eades who ended up going in the second round last year. The only change this year for Nola is he has been even more dominant. In his first three starts he has gone 19 innings giving up no runs, striking out 24, and walking only two. His opponents are hitting .136 off him. He has only given up a single extra base hit. At what point does one look past the stuff and realize Nola manages to get guys out? Jeff Hoffman has much better stuff, but has always been very hittable. Nola on the other hand has always missed bats, so consider me intrigued.
Chris Ellis, RHP, Ole Miss
Speaking of guys who have not given up an earned run, Chris Ellis is in the same situation through three starts. He has pitched in 22 innings and allowed 6 walks while striking out 13 batters. He has given up no extra base hits and teams are hitting .147 off him. He has given up a single unearned run this year. Ellis has the size teams want in pitchers and he showed well in the Cape. This start can only help his value, but if there is a little concern it would be the lower strikeout totals. Even still, that is a nitpick when someone is pitching this well.
Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Texas Christian University
When you look at the stats for Finnegan for his career you assume he is a top 10 pick. It is not easy to find a left hander who throws hard and racks up the strikeouts. The issue for Finnegan is and always will be his size. He is less than six feet tall which is a negative for quarterbacks and pitchers. This is the same reason Sonny Gray fell so far on his draft day, and is the reason a lefty who hits 98 MPH will go in the 20s this year. Finnegan has pitched quite well in the early going this year with a 2.18 ERA, five walks and .224 opponents batting average against. The most amazing number is 33 strikeouts in only 20.2 innings. Finnegan is a power pitcher from the left side, the second best in this class behind Rodon. The numbers make me wonder if worst case he is a Billy Wagner type closer, though I still think he can start. Gray has shown smaller pitchers might be a market inefficiency to be exploited, and another such arm Marcus Stroman who is a top prospect of the Blue Jays.
Alex Blandino, SS/3B, Stanford University
Blandino was not good last year, but in spite of this he was still on most top 100 lists to start the year. This year though he has been in fire with a 1.193 OPS. Blandino has always had a good eye and has only struck out once this year. He is hitting and shown some doubles pop. It is unlikely he will stay at short, but could be a Kipnis-lite type of bat to me at either second base or third. A guy with potential average power, above average eye and hit tools looks like a future starter to me.
Bradley Zimmer, OF, University of San Francisco
Zimmer is the younger brother of Kyle Zimmer of the Royals who is one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. Bradley is not quite as good a prospect as Kyle, who was a top 10 pick in a very good draft. Zimmer reminds me a bit of a plus version of Tyler Naquin. He has better speed than Naquin, but both are corner outfielders who don’t have ideal power. The difference is Zimmer has better speed, and at 6’5” looks like there should be power in his frame that has yet to develop. This year Zimmer has a .993 OPS and he is performing well but the power is still not there. His best skills are his plus arm and speed. A lot of people are higher on Zimmer; they think the power will come, which is why to some he is a top 15 player.
Matt Chapman, SS/3B, Cal State Fullerton
I was not high on Chapman to start the year because of the questions surrounding his hit tool. He always had plus power and a good arm, but the question was could he hit enough to take advantage of the power. This year he has hit well with an OPS of 1.000 all while displaying power. He is going to move to third base but there he might have one of the strongest third base arms in the league. My concern in the early going is he doesn’t have the best eye at the plate, his strikeout to walk ratio is nearly three to one. Still, at the end of the day he has the potential to be an average defender at third with plus power.
JD Davis, 1B, Cal State Fullerton
Davis is a lot like his teammate Chapman as he has plus power and a questionable hit tool. The difference is David has some of the best power potential in the entire draft and he has a much better eye at the plate. Davis will also be hurt that he is only a first baseman. Teams would have to consider drafting in spite of his position thanks to his power and performance this year and over the summer. Another positive for Davis is teams are always looking for right handed power, which Davis possesses. On the year Davis has an 1.119 OPS, both his OBP and SLG are higher than Chapman’s. Chapman actually has an average which is 50 points higher, but Davis’s OBP is 30 points higher, because he walks more. He is averaging a walk a game, and has a near one to one walk to strikeout ratio. He has below average speed but has managed two triples this year thanks to smart base running and hard hitting.
For those who are curious I hope this gives a few more names to follow this college baseball season. As of now all of them are names to keep in mind as possible future Indians.
Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Aaron Nola is just very advanced for his age. He's really going to level out as he goes up the minor league ladder.
I somewhat disagree, with you on Weaver. He's a guy I think can get a bit stronger. He's pretty polished, has good control and is continuing to improve. If he's there at 21, I think he's a solid pick up. That said, he doesn't have the upside of some of the HS arms / bats that will likely be there. My question is who would likely reach and exceed the same ceiling of Weaver? Weaver offers a quick return, potential 2 (at best), but likely a no.3 SP. IMO, he'd be worth the pick.
I've supported drafting Lindor, Frazier and dreamed on Archie Bradley, but at the 21st pk the talent level is different. Those three are premier talents, at 21 that kind of upside / talent will likely be gone. However, with multiple high picks the Indians gain the opportunity to gamble and go after upside early / often.
For this reason, Luke Weaver..isn't good enough. Nor is Aaron Nola. Brad Zimmer is though.. and there are many more players that may or may not show gaudy numbers against a level of competition that might rise to the level of "Grocery Bagger". Only when this occurs will the Indians most important lifeline, the draft, be able to be exploited.
Out of this list I really like Finnegan. Even if hes short hes a lefty who throws close to 100 mph. I would love to get a lefty who can move quickly in the system and join Bauer and Anderson as future rotation members.