2014 MLB Draft: The Ohio Players
Last year I did a feature on the top prospects in the state of Ohio as every year I get a lot of questions about the top players in Ohio. This year’s class is stronger at the top but the depth is not where it was last year, though there are still plenty of interesting players and a few familiar names from last year as well.
I found nine guys to talk about this year that I had some familiarity with. These are the Ohio guys who I am most intrigued by on draft day.
The Top Guy
The top player in the state of Ohio and really the only player who has a chance at being a first rounder is Cameron Varga a right handed pitcher from West Chester, Ohio who pitches for Cincinnati Christian Academy were he has dominated all year. He has thrown three no hitters this year. Varga has one of the better curveballs of any of the prep arms I have seen in clips this year and I see a plus pitch in its future.
There is a big downside to Varga which is his age. He will turn 20 this August, so he is pretty old for a high school player, and it has shown in how badly he beat high school kids this year. If you wonder how old that is for high school kids, well, he is only 10 months younger than Francisco Lindor who could play in the majors this year, and who was drafted three years ago. He is over two years older than Ti’Quan Forbes who is one of the youngest players in this class. A good indicator of growth in every major sport has been shown to be youth relative to level of competition.
Varga is more than likely going in rounds two or three this year and should be the first Ohio player to be drafted. That is, unless you count the next guy.
The One Who Got Away
As I stated before this is not as deep a class as last year, so I am including a guy from Ohio who now plays elsewhere. Kyle Schwarber is from Middletown, Ohio and ended up at Indiana. Schwarber is going in the top 20 picks and the comparison for him all year has been Travis Hafner due to his size, eye, and power from the left side.
Schwarber’s power is down this year, but he still shows a great eye at the plate and is hitting as well as ever. He played catcher in college but most scouts think he will be a first baseman. He is going to hit, and some team will draft him purely as a bat.
The Wildcard Part Two
The wildcard this year is familiar to those who read this article last year, as it is again Josh Desze from Ohio State. Before last season he was a big first baseman with plus power and a 100 MPH fastball as a reliever. Then he hurt his back in the Cape and lost last season and this year hasn’t gone as planned.
Dezse had two of his vertebrae crack and form a gap which was fixed by shaving off a piece of his hip and fusing it with the vertebrae gap. He basically only played DH this year as he was trying to get back and was okay. His future is as a relief pitcher with good velocity, but he has now not pitched in nearly two years. He should be transitioned back to pitching full time once he is drafted because that is his future.
I expect Dezse to go somewhere after round 10 and he could end up being a very pleasant surprise for that team down the line.
The Two Way Player
Zach Shannon from Anderson, Ohio near Cincinnati is listed as the number two prospect in the state of Ohio by every publication. He is committed to Ohio State and would be a pretty big addition for the Buckeyes. If you recall what I said about Varga, Shannon is the opposite as he won’t even be 18 until the end of June.
The question is what position would he play in the pros. As a hitter, he doesn’t have a defined position, and might end up a first baseman. His bat should profile fine there, but there is hope he can play outfield where his plus-plus arm could shine. His calling card as a hitter is his right handed plus power.
As a pitcher his fastball sits in the mid 90’s and his changeup is one of the best in the class if not the best in the class. He has focused mostly on hitting for his career, so he is a bit behind as a pitcher, yet I believe this is where he has the best upside. I see at least two plus pitches in that arm, which means worst case he is a very good reliever. If he focused completely on pitching I would be intrigued to see what a jump his stuff could make.
He is the top player in the state to me, draft-wise.
The Michigan Man
After talking about Shannon and Varga it is only fair to hit on the consensus number three high school player in the state, Jayce Vancena. Vancena is from Millbury, Ohio which is near Toledo and Vancena is committed to attend the University of Michigan.
Vancena has the frame teams look for at 6-feet-5 and seems like a likely top 10 round selection this year. He has sat in the low 90’s touching mid 90’s, and seems like a candidate to add some MPH to his fastball thanks to his frame. When it comes to Vancena its about projection as he is a two way player as well who will benefit from making a full commitment to the mound.
I don’t think Vancena will get a chance to ever suit up for the Wolverines as I think he gets drafted and signed thanks to his upside.
Devan Ahart is a personal favorite of mine who no one else seems to be very high on. He has a near 2:1 walk to strikeout total, he stole 26 bases, hit over 300, and hit 8 doubles. He is a guy who on the surface fills up a box score, and in terms of tools shows plus speed. He did it all for Akron and was the top player for them this year.
Yet his stock weirdly is lower on some sites now than it was at the start of the year. I don’t get it. Yes, his doubles are down, but everything else is up quite a bit. He showed pretty big improvement in his pitch recognition this year, he doubled his walk and steals totals from a year ago and after two years with no homeruns he hit three this year.
I am an Ahart fan. I think he is a guy who can have a future in the majors. I see a fourth outfielder with his speed and athleticism.
Brian Clark was the top college player in the state to start the year. He had excelled as the closer for Kent State the previous two years, and is fourth all-time in Kent State history for saves. He struggled to start the year as a starter and his long term future is in the pen.
Clark sits in the low 90’s and his best pitch is his slider. He could be the rare lefty who should be equally good against righties. His proven track record in the backend along with being left-handed should be enough to see Clark’s name called in the first 10 rounds.
Jake Schaaf is a guy I was intrigued by just based on the reports I could find. He was not only one of the top five prep players in Ohio, but the guy was also the starting quarterback at Springboro in Ohio. He was a recruited for both football and baseball, but he should be a pretty easy sign.
Schaaf is a very good athlete with great speed, and was one of the faster guys at the East Coast Pro Showcase last year. His 60 time is better than toolsy possible first rounder’s Forrest Wall and Michael Gettys. When you add in him filling out his 6-feet-2 frame there was the thought he could turn his gap power into real power.
So the issue here is that there are some character red flags. He got himself in some trouble and was let go from the football team. He is a very good athlete with speed and upside, yet the red flag is there and it also undoubtedly had an effect on his scholarships which could make him a guy who is likely to sign. The talent is there if you can look past the dumb mistake of a youth.
The Stat Guy
I have talked about Brian Clark from Kent State but the best player for Kent State this year was pretty clearly Alex Miklos. Miklos is a name that I have not heard anywhere, but man the numbers are pretty amazing. He had a slash line of .362/.439/.593. He has missed the last 10 games with a knee injury, but his compiled numbers are still great with 18 doubles, seven triples, 17 stolen bases, and three homeruns. He has been beaned 11 times, which if you combine with his other walks means he has a one to one walk to strikeout ratio. Plain and simple, the guy hits and has done it his entire college career.
The reason he is not getting any heat in spite of his performance might be due to his size at 5-feet-9 and a viewed lack of athleticism. His teammate Zarley Zalewski has put up good numbers as well but nowhere near approaching Miklos, yet Zarley will be drafted much higher than Miklos, which in all honesty is somewhat due to positional value. I am not meaning to speak badly of Zarley, I am just pointing out I am not sure what Miklos can do to help his value.
He reminds me a lot of last year’s Indians selection Mark Payton who fell out of the top 10 rounds because he was only 5-feet-8. I think a smart team would take a risk on Miklos later figuring he might not have prototypical height or tools, but he can hit. Worst case is you’re out a little money and get a solid minor league outfielder/depth guy.
Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Another Ohio State kid that should be a decent Senior sign is RHP Greg Greve from Walsh Jesuit. Young man has decent stuff, bounced around a lot at Ohio from starter to reliever.
Kyle Schwarber from Indiana is a stud hitter, don't know what position he'll play in the pros, maybe 1B. Pure hitter with real nice power.
I like Shannon to, but Varga has gotten more press here in Cincy. There is 50/50 chance that the Reds are considering choosing Varga.
It would be great if the Indains were able to draft any of the Ohio players.
You're doing a great job on this draft Jeff.
I like most of these specs. Shannon is indeed an intriguing talent and I had Miklos as an under the radar day 3 performer on my list too. Another Ohio native that will be available on day 3 is SR RHP Farris from Columbus, playing for Arizona U
Varga might drop because of his age and if available in the 3rd/4th would be a good pick.