The Astros will make the No. 1 overall selection when the 2014 Draft begins on June 5. Houston has the top pick for the third straight year, something that never has happened before.
That wouldn't have been possible from the start of the Draft in 1965 through 2006, when the American and National leagues alternated choices. Since then, the Rays (David Price and Tim Beckham in 2007-08), Nationals (Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in 2009-10) and Astros (Carlos Correa and Mark Appel in 2012-13) have had consecutive No. 1 overall picks.
North Carolina State left-hander Carlos Rodon is the current favorite to kick off the 2014 Draft. Other top prospects include East Carolina right-hander Jeff Hoffman, Shepherd HS (Texas) right-hander Tyler Kolek, North Carolina State shortstop Trea Turner and Rancho Bernardo HS (Calif.) catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson. Scouts consider the 2014 Draft crop stronger than the 2012 and 2013 classes, particularly in terms of high school pitching.
As of now, the Blue Jays are the lone team with multiple 2014 first-rounders. They have their regular choice at No. 9 and a compensation selection at No. 11. Toronto received the latter pick for failing to sign Phil Bickford, the California high school right-hander the Jays drafted 10th overall in June.
The order in the first round likely will feature several changes between now and next June, the result of free-agent compensation. Teams have until five days after the end of the World Series to make a qualifying offer to their former players who become free agents. If a club makes that offer, which is a one-year salary equivalent to the average of the top 125 salaries in 2013 (expected to in the neighborhood of $14 million), it will get a choice at the end of the first round as compensation if the player signs elsewhere.
Additionally, the team that signs the free agent will lose its first-rounder, unless the pick falls within the top 10 selections, in which case the team forfeits its highest available pick. The Bickford compensation choice also is protected from free-agent compensation.
After the 2012 season, nine free agents received qualifying offers. All nine turned down the offers, and six wound up signing with new teams.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.