Cathedral Catholic High (San Diego) left-hander Brady Aiken is MLBPipeline.com's top-rated Draft prospect, while Shepherd (Texas) High righty Tyler Kolek is right on his heels at No. 3. They're two of the leading contenders for the Astros' No. 1 overall pick, and they almost certainly will go off the board in the first five selections.
While Aiken and Kolek are the class of the high school crop, they're just two of perhaps a dozen prep pitchers who could get taken in the first round. Right-handers Grant Holmes (Conway, S.C., High), Sean Reid-Foley (Sandalwood High, Jacksonville, Fla.) and Touki Toussaint (Coral Springs, Fla., Christian Academy) represent the second tier of high school arms, and all figure to get snapped up in the top 20 or so choices.
Who's the best of that trio? Toussaint has the best chance of creeping into the first 10 picks, and Jonathan Mayo makes the case for him here. Toussaint has the most electric fastball-curveball combo in the Draft, and Reid-Foley commands four solid-or-better offerings, but it's Holmes who has the best combination of stuff and polish.
Holmes established himself as a likely first-rounder with a series of strong performances on the showcase circuit last summer, and he has been better than ever this spring. He made scouts sit up and notice when he fired a 100-mph fastball during a preseason scrimmage, and he continued to deliver outstanding velocity throughout his senior season. Holmes repeatedly worked at 91-97 mph, also impressing with his improved ability to locate his fastball on both sides of the plate.
Holmes can devastate hitters with his curveball as well. At its best, it grades as well above average, a low-80s power breaker with good depth. He didn't need it much against high school competition, but the Florida recruit also has made significant strides with his changeup, which can run to either side and shows flashes of becoming a plus pitch.
"The only knock on Holmes is his height, but he's strong, so he does it easy," an area scout said. "We've seen 97-98 mph in the seventh inning. I've seen three plus pitches and the ability to maintain his velocity. I like him a lot. He really competes and he has feel for pitching."
Holmes is shorter and bigger than his listed 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, though scouts have noted that he spent the offseason getting into tremendous shape. He may lack much in the way of projection, but he's strong and his present stuff gives him more than enough to succeed as a front-line starter in the Major Leagues.
Holmes has a quick arm and provides premium pitches with little effort in his delivery. His arm action can get long in back, and he must be sure to stay on top of his pitches to get good downward plane and work at the bottom of the strike zone, but he's more refined than a typical high school pitcher.
Only three South Carolina prep arms have made it into the first round, and Holmes should surpass Billy Hawley (23rd overall by the Reds in 1982) as the highest pick from the state. Holmes harnesses his stuff better than Toussaint and has the weapons to miss more bats than Reid-Foley -- which makes him a better prospect than either.
The 2014 Draft will take place on June 5-7, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday, June 5, at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on June 6.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.