It's too early for certainties in the First-Year Player Draft, which begins on June 5. This week, decision-makers are cramming in as many possible looks at top players, many of whom are participating in high school playoffs or college conference tournaments. Clubs will convene next week to put their Draft boards in order, at which point the first-round picture will become clearer.
The Astros own the No. 1 overall pick for an unprecedented third straight year, and if 2012 and 2013 are any indication, Houston will wait until the last minute to reveal its decision. Left-handers Brady Aiken (Cathedral Catholic High, San Diego) and Carlos Rodon (North Carolina State), right-hander Tyler Kolek (Shepherd, Texas, High), catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson (Rancho Bernardo High, San Diego) and shortstop Nick Gordon (Olympia High, Orlando, Fla.) have established themselves as the Draft's top prospects and very well could go in the first five choices -- though in any number of possible orders.
Teams still are trying to determine how to handle health questions that surround several college pitchers. Righties Jeff Hoffman (East Carolina) and Erick Fedde (Nevada Las-Vegas) were likely top-10 picks before blowing out their elbows and requiring Tommy John surgery, and lefty Brandon Finnegan (Texas Christian) enjoyed similar status before leaving one start and missing another with shoulder tightness. He hasn't been as sharp since, and scouts will closely monitor his Saturday start at the Big 12 Conference tournament.
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.
Here's a look at how the first round could play out:
1. Astros: Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS (San Diego)
Houston likely will choose between the top three pitchers and Jackson, and is believed to prefer the two left-handers. The Astros may save money versus the $7,922,100 assigned pick value to spend later in the Draft but won't compromise on talent at No. 1.
2. Marlins: Alex Jackson, C/OF, Rancho Bernardo HS (San Diego)
Miami is looking at the same players as Houston, with talk that ownership could dictate a Rodon selection. Recent word has senior club officials enamored with Jackson, the best bat and position player available.
3. White Sox: Carlos Rodon, LHP, North Carolina State
Chicago almost certainly will take a pitcher, with a preference for college arms and Rodon No. 1 on its list. If Rodon is gone, the White Sox could pass on Aiken and Kolek and opt for Louisiana State right-hander Aaron Nola.
4. Cubs: Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS (Orlando, Fla.)
Though Chicago needs and wants pitching, it could spend a top-10 choice on a position player for the fourth straight year. If Aiken and Rodon aren't available, there's a growing sense that the Cubs would pass on Kolek in favor of Gordon or Jackson. A healthy Hoffman would have been the obvious choice here, and if Chicago doesn't see an obvious fit, it could cut a deal with Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost and save money to spend elsewhere.
5. Twins: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd (Texas) HS
Minnesota may just see which of the top five prospects remains on the board at No. 5. If the Twins go outside that group, it likely would be for a college starter such as left-handers Kyle Freeland (Evansville) or Sean Newcomb (Hartford). If they want a money-saver, the pick could be Lee's Summit (Mo.) West High outfielder Monte Harrison.
6. Mariners: Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford
If none of the top five prospects fall, most of Seattle's options will be college products: Newcomb, Nola, Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto and North Carolina State shortstop Trea Turner.
7. Phillies: Aaron Nola, RHP, Louisiana State
Coming off its worst year since 2000 and headed toward a third straight non-winning season, Philadelphia is looking at more immediate help from the college ranks. The Phillies would make an exception in the unlikely event Gordon is available but otherwise will consider many of the same players as the Mariners.
8. Rockies: Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville
Eight of Colorado's last 10 first-rounders have been collegians, a trend that should continue this June. Though a medical report from his Denver high school days has raised some red flags, Freeland has been as dominant as any college pitcher this spring.
9. Blue Jays: Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State
Toronto is most closely tied to high school right-handers such as Touki Toussaint (Coral Springs, Fla., Christian Academy) and Sean Reid-Foley (Sandalwood High, Jacksonville, Fla.), but could wait two picks later at No. 11 to take them. The Blue Jays could take Turner here to keep him from the Mets at No. 10. With their second selection coming before 21 clubs make their first, Toronto also is an obvious destination for Hoffman, who was a potential No. 1 overall choice.
10. Mets: Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State
New York is another team looking at the same college names mentioned from Nos. 6-9, and also would consider San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer.
11. Blue Jays: Touki Toussaint, RHP, Coral Springs (Fla.) Christian Academy
With a compensation pick for not signing first-rounder Phil Bickford a year ago, Toronto could grab the third-best high school arm or buy low on Hoffman.
12. Brewers: Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State
Catching is always in short supply and Pentecost is clearly the best player in this Draft who's a lock to remain behind the plate, so his stock is rising. Milwaukee would love a shot for one of the better college arms to fall here and could consider Finnegan, Vanderbilt right-hander Tyler Beede or a prepster such as Toussaint or Conway (S.C.) High righty Grant Holmes.
13. Padres: Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco
Freeland and Toussaint probably wouldn't get by San Diego. If they're gone, the Padres could snatch Zimmer after going with a college outfielder (Hunter Renfroe) in the first round last June as well.
14. Giants: Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway (S.C.) HS
Holmes has more polish and comparable stuff than fellow high school right-handers Kolek and Toussaint, and San Francisco has had success with smaller, live-armed righties (see Lincecum, Tim). The Giants also could go for Beede or Reid-Foley, and they're a possible destination for the two first-rounders with the most helium right now, Elk Grove (Calif.) High outfielder Derek Hill and Virginia right-hander Nick Howard.
15. Angels: Kyle Schwarber, C/OF, Indiana
Los Angeles is targeting several collegians and the best options remaining look like the sweet-swinging Schwarber or Beede. If the Angels look for a discount, they could turn to Parkview High (Lilburn, Ga.) left-hander Mac Marshall.
16. Diamondbacks: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
The first round starts to get very murky at this point, and more than a dozen different players have been linked to Arizona here. The Diamondbacks were pleasantly surprised when Braden Shipley fell into their laps at No. 15 this year and could get similar value in Beede or Finnegan here.
17. Royals: Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis (Calif.) HS
Kansas City favors high-ceiling position players and projectable pitchers -- which doesn't exactly narrow the field much at No. 17. Beede or Howard could add to the starting pitching depth that the Royals have struggled to build, but Gatewood's massive raw power could be hard to walk away from.
18. Nationals: Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina
This is pure speculation, because it's way too early to know Hoffman's asking price or which teams will be willing to wait on his recovery. Washington is an easy fit for Hoffman or Fedde because it spent $2,925,000 and the 16th pick in 2012 on high school righty Lucas Giolito even though he had an injured elbow that required Tommy John surgery after his first pro appearance. At the same time, Hoffman could find a home in the first 10 picks when all is said and done.
19. Reds: Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Sandalwood HS (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Unless Turner or Schwarber somehow last until No. 19, Cincinnati will consider high school arms (Toussaint, Holmes, Reid-Foley) and athletes (Hill, Harrison).
20. Rays: Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Wichita State
Tampa Bay hasn't drafted well despite having 18 first- or supplemental first-round picks since 2008, 12 of which it used on high schoolers. The Rays could go for a collegian to get some more immediate help for its thinning farm system, and Gillaspie has one of the better bats available. At the same time, don't rule out Hill, Harrison or Junipero Serra High (Gardena, Calif.) outfielder Marcus Wilson.
21. Indians: Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Texas Christian
Another purely speculative guess, as Finnegan could land much higher in the Draft if he finishes strong and puts his shoulder woes behind him. Hoffman and Fedde are possibilities, too. If he does, Cleveland will zero in on college bats such as Schwarber, Gillaspie and two Virginia players, outfielder Derek Fisher and first baseman Mike Papi.
22. Dodgers: Derek Hill, OF, Elk Grove (Calif.) HS
Hill's father Orsino, who reached Triple-A as an outfielder, is a Los Angeles area scout who has his son in his territory. If the Dodgers don't go for the family connection -- which would be a legitimate pick, not nepotism -- they're associated with several prep arms, including White County High (Cleveland, Ga.) right-hander Spencer Adams and The First Academy (Orlando, Fla.) left-hander Foster Griffin.
23. Tigers: Nick Howard, RHP, Virginia
Detroit covets hard throwers and Louisville right-hander Nick Burdi has the best college fastball. Howard is close behind him and, unlike Burdi, has a legitimate chance to transition from college closer to big-league starter.
24. Pirates: Monte Harrison, OF, Lee's Summit (Mo.) West HS
While Pittsburgh is loaded with multi-tooled outfielders at the Major League and Minor League levels, another one like Harrison or Wilson could be the best player on the board at No. 24. The other option might be an advanced college hitter such as Gillaspie, Fisher or Kentucky first baseman A.J. Reed.
25. Athletics: Ti'quan Forbes, SS, Columbia (Miss.) HS
There's persistent chatter that Oakland will take Forbes, who would become the fifth straight high school bat popped in the first or supplemental first round by the Athletics. Hill, Harrison and Wilson also would fit that demographic.
26. Red Sox: Erick Fedde, RHP, Nevada-Las Vegas
Because Boston has a second first-rounder at No. 33 (compensation for free agent Jacoby Ellsbury), it's in better position than most to gamble on one of the college pitchers with a reconstructed elbow. If the Red Sox want a healthy college arm, they could turn to Florida State right-hander Luke Weaver.
27. Cardinals: Luis Ortiz, RHP, Sanger (Calif.) HS
St. Louis could go in several directions here but a high school pitcher looks like the best bet. Ortiz might have gone in the middle of the first round if he hadn't strained his forearm earlier in the spring, so he provides good value. Adams and Griffin also could fit here.
28. Royals: Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Waiakea HS (Hilo, Hawaii)
It's no secret that Kansas City likes Medeiros, and after passing on him at No. 17, it likely would have to take him here rather than risk losing him by waiting until No. 40. Local product Harrison also would be tempting for the Royals, as would Reed's power bat.
29. Reds: Spencer Adams, RHP, White County HS, Cleveland, Ga.
Cincinnati could double up on prep pitchers with Adams, Griffin or St. Augustine Prep (Richland, N.J.) righthander Joey Gatto.
30. Rangers: Forrest Wall, 2B, Orangewood Christian HS (Maitland, Fla.)
As usual, Texas is linked to premium athletes. Wall, who has plus speed and is one of the best high school bats available, would be just the fifth high school second baseman ever taken in the first round. Other candidates include Hill, Harrison, Wilson and Gainesville (Ga.) High outfielder Michael Gettys.
31. Indians: Derek Fisher, OF, Virginia
If Cleveland does gamble on an injured pitcher at No. 21, some of the college bats they might consider could still be available 10 selections later. Fisher had a chance to go in the middle of the first round before breaking the hamate bone in his right hand.
32. Braves: Michael Chavis, SS, Sprayberry HS, Marietta, Ga.
There's a good chance that Atlanta will find its first-rounder in its home state. There's not a lot of consensus on Chavis because of questions about his future defensive home, but his enticing bat makes him a candidate for some clubs in the middle of the round. Adams and Gettys are two more Georgia candidates, and Griffin and Wall could fit here as well.
33. Red Sox: A.J. Reed, 1B, Kentucky
The NCAA Division I home run leader, Reed would fill a hole at the lone position that isn't well-stocked in Boston's deep farm system. The Red Sox also could opt for a prep pitcher such as Griffin, Gatto, Tullahoma (Tenn.) High left-hander Justus Sheffield or Ardmore (Ala.) High southpaw Cody Reed.
34. Cardinals: Luke Weaver, RHP, Florida State
If St. Louis passes on Ortiz at No. 27, it's doubtful that it would again here. Weaver's stock dipped at midseason, but a strong finish and his track record of success ensure that he won't escape the first round.