In what's becoming an annual tradition, we head into the first day of the First-Year Player Draft with no one exactly sure what the Astros will do with the No. 1 overall pick. Houston once again appears destined to hold off on a final decision until this afternoon, which leaves the teams behind the Astros wondering what they will do with their selections.
As a result, I haven't made many changes to the top of my first-round projection since the previous one on Monday. My predictions for 11 of the first 13 choices remain the same, and I could have left the top 20 picks untouched and retained a clear conscience.
Jonathan Mayo's most recent mock Draft is up as well, and his picks are recorded beneath each of mine. We will both update the picks, in list form, one last time on Thursday afternoon.
The projections below could blow up as soon as the Astros settle on their decision, so check back for a late-afternoon update as events warrant.
The 2014 Draft will take place today through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network tonight 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 Friday.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 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.
1. Astros: Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS (San Diego)
Despite rumors that Houston is considering as many as six players, the decision likely will come down to Aiken and North Carolina State left-hander Carlos Rodon, the top two prospects in the Draft, and Rancho Bernardo High (San Diego) catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson, the best available hitter. The Astros are unlikely to pay the full $7,922,100 assigned pick value to any of them, so the players' willingness to cut a deal will play a role in the choice.
Mayo's pick: Aiken
2. Marlins: Carlos Rodon, LHP, North Carolina State
For now, this appears to be the clearest one in the first four. Miami is focusing on the same players as Houston has been, and on Wednesday, many of the clubs at the top were convinced that the Marlins would get Rodon, who's believed to be ownership's preference. It's uncertain whether Miami would take Aiken if he's available.
Mayo's pick: Rodon
3. White Sox: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd (Texas) HS
Assuming Aiken and Rodon are gone, the White Sox will pick between Kolek, the hardest-throwing high schooler ever, and Louisiana State right-hander Aaron Nola, the most polished pitcher in the Draft. The decision could go either way.
Mayo's pick: Kolek
4. Cubs: Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State
The Cubs covet pitching, but if Aiken and Rodon aren't available, they likely will take a position player over Kolek or Nola. The Cubs would bypass Jackson to take Olympia High (Orlando, Fla.) shortstop Nick Gordon if they consider only talent. They're also mulling a discounted deal with one of four college position players, then using the savings to sign pitchers taken later in the Draft. Conforto and Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost are higher in Chicago's pecking order than Indiana catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber and North Carolina State shortstop Trea Turner.
Mayo's pick: Kyle Schwarber, C/OF, Indiana
5. Twins: Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS (Orlando, Fla.)
Count Minnesota among the clubs hoping for a shot at Aiken or Rodon, though that's not realistic. The Twins have been tied to Gordon for weeks, with Kolek and Hartford left-hander Sean Newcomb also in the mix.
Mayo's pick: Gordon
6. Mariners: Alex Jackson, C/OF, Rancho Bernardo HS (San Diego)
Unless Jackson goes first or second, Seattle will be delighted to grab him. The backup plan consists of college players Newcomb, Nola, Conforto, Turner and Evansville left-hander Kyle Freeland.
Mayo's pick: Jackson
7. Phillies: Aaron Nola, RHP, Louisiana State
This selection is shaping up as whichever player the White Sox leave after resolving their Kolek-vs.-Nola dilemma. Philadelphia fell in love with Gordon early in the process, but he probably won't get here and the team took shortstops (Roman Quinn and J.P. Crawford) with second- and first-round choices in 2012 and '13.
Mayo's pick: Nola
8. Rockies: Kyle Schwarber, C/OF, Indiana
For the ninth time with its past 11 first-rounders, Colorado is expected to take a college player. Nola would be the Rockies' preference, but unless he gets past the Phillies, they'll choose between sluggers Schwarber and Conforto, left-handers Newcomb and Freeland and San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer. Colorado could be more willing to take Freeland than most clubs despite concerns about his elbow, because its team doctor performed his arthroscopic surgery when Freeland was a Denver high schooler.
Mayo's pick: Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State
9. Blue Jays: Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State
For weeks, the same three players have been associated with Toronto's picks at Nos. 9 and 11: East Carolina right-hander Jeff Hoffman, a legitimate No. 1 overall candidate before he blew out his elbow in April; Coral Springs (Fla.) Christian Academy right-hander Touki Toussaint; and Turner. The Mets might want Turner at No. 10, so Toronto might not risk waiting on him.
Mayo's pick: Turner
10. Mets: Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford
New York is tied to collegians after using its last three first-rounders on high school position players. The Mets would prefer a pitcher, giving Newcomb the edge over Conforto and Turner. If all three are gone, they could go for Freeland. Another option could be fast-rising Orangewood Christian High (Maitland, Fla.) second baseman Forrest Wall, who offers the best combination of hitting and speed.
Mayo's pick: Newcomb
11. Blue Jays: Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina
With two picks this early, Toronto is in better position than any club to take a gamble on Hoffman, who won't return to the mound until mid-2015 after having Tommy John surgery. The Blue Jays also love high school arms, so they may not be able to resist the allure of Toussaint's electric fastball/curveball combination.
Mayo's pick: Hoffman
12. Brewers: Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State
The Draft starts to get murky at this point. Pentecost, Toussaint, Vanderbilt right-hander Tyler Beede and Elk Grove (Calif.) High outfielder Derek Hill all should go in the next few picks, and they could go in any possible order. Milwaukee also could kick the tires on Hoffman.
Mayo's pick: Pentecost
13. Padres: Touki Toussaint, RHP, Coral Springs (Fla.) Christian Academy
San Diego loves Toussaint and Hill, one of whom should be available. If not, the Padres would choose between Turner, Freeland, Pentecost, Conforto and Texas Christian left-hander Brandon Finnegan.
Mayo's pick: Toussaint
14. Giants: Derek Hill, OF, Elk Grove (Calif.) HS
Hill has plenty of helium and had a strong workout for San Francisco, which could push him ahead of several pitchers: Toussaint, Conway (S.C.) right-hander Grant Holmes, Beede and Virginia right-hander Nick Howard, another player surging up Draft boards.
Mayo's pick: Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway (S.C.) HS
15. Angels: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
With a thin farm system, the Halos are looking for immediate help in the form of a college player. Beede, a Blue Jays first-round pick out of high school in 2011, has been frustratingly inconsistent but helped his cause with a strong performance in the NCAA regionals last weekend. Freeland and Finnegan are two other pitchers who could interest the Angels, as could Conforto, Schwarber, Pentecost and Zimmer.
Mayo's pick: Beede
16. Diamondbacks: Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville
Much like last year with Braden Shipley at No. 15, Arizona could be pleasantly surprised when a talented collegian falls in its lap. Freeland, Finnegan and Zimmer all were considered likely top-10 picks earlier in the spring. The D-backs also could be the first team to take Sprayberry High (Marietta, Ga.) shortstop Michael Chavis or Lee's Summit West (Mo.) High outfielder Monte Harrison.
Mayo's pick: Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco
17. Royals: Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis (Calif.) HS
Gatewood has the most power potential in the Draft, and Kansas City might wait to address its need for pitching with its second choice at No. 28. If the Royals don't want to wait on arms, they'll look at collegians such as Beede, Finnegan, Freeland and Howard and high schoolers such as left-handers Kodi Medeiros (Waiakea High, Hilo, Hawaii) and Forrest Griffin (The First Academy, Orlando, Fla.). Zimmer, whose older brother Kyle was Kansas City's 2012 first-rounder, could be tempting.
Mayo's pick: Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Waiakea HS (Hilo, Hawaii)
18. Nationals: Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Wichita State
Washington is focusing on college hitters: Conforto, Schwarber, Gillaspie and NCAA Division I homer leader A.J. Reed, a Kentucky first baseman. Because the Nats took high school right-hander Lucas Giolito 16th overall in 2012 and paid him $2,925,000 even though he had an injured elbow and needed Tommy John surgery, they're associated with Hoffman and Nevada-Las Vegas right-hander Erick Fedde. The latter had worked his way into top-10 consideration before requiring reconstructive elbow surgery.
Mayo's pick: Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville
19. Reds: Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Texas Christian
Cincinnati's dream is to get Turner, Toussaint or Schwarber, though Finnegan could be a steal if he can stay healthy and shake off concerns about his shoulder. The Reds can wait until No. 29 to take one of the many high school pitchers and athletes who intrigue them.
Mayo's pick: Finnegan
20. Rays: Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco
Zimmer is the best athlete among this year's collegians and wouldn't be available here if he hadn't slumped. Most of the players linked to Tampa Bay are college products who could move quickly through a flagging farm system, including Beede, Gillaspie and Finnegan. If the Rays are willing to wait on high schoolers, they could choose Hill, Gatewood or Harrison.
Mayo's pick: Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis (Calif.) HS
21. Indians: Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Sandalwood HS (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Cleveland expects the college hitters it likes best, Schwarber and Gillaspie, to be gone. So the Indians will wait until No. 31 to grab one and go for a high school pitcher here, choosing between right-handers Reid-Foley, Spencer Adams (White County High, Cleveland, Ga.), Luis Ortiz (Sanger, Calif., High) and Michael Kopech (Mount Pleasant, Texas, High) and left-handers Medeiros and Justus Sheffield (Tullahoma, Tenn., High). Kopech doesn't find a first-round home in this iteration of the projection, but he likely will on Draft day and could go as early as the teens.
Mayo's pick: Derek Fisher, OF, Virginia
22. Dodgers: Spencer Adams, RHP, White County HS, Cleveland, Ga.
Hill would be a great story for the Dodgers because their area scout in his territory is his father, Orsino, a former Triple-A outfielder. Los Angeles always gets linked to prep pitchers, and is once again with Reid-Foley, Adams, Griffin and Sheffield. Don't rule out Nick Howard, however, because the Dodgers did use two of their past three first-rounders on college pitchers.
Mayo's pick: Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Sandalwood HS (Jacksonville, Fla.)
23. Tigers: Nick Howard, RHP, Virginia
Detroit has shown interest in hitters such as Hill, Gillaspie and Chavis. Yet it's almost a requirement to give the Tigers a flamethrower, and we'll do that by giving the nod to Howard over Louisville right-hander Nick Burdi.
Mayo's pick: Derek Hill, OF, Elk Grove (Calif.) HS
24. Pirates: Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway (S.C.) HS
Holmes could go at least 10 picks earlier than this, but high school pitchers in general and right-handers in particular often go lower than they're rated. With so much prep pitching depth in this year's Draft, teams are going to address other positions first. Pittsburgh gets connected a lot of high school hitters, including Gatewood, Harrison and T.C. Roberson High (Asheville, N.C.) outfielder Braxton Davidson.
Mayo's pick: Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Wichita State
25. Athletics: Monte Harrison, OF, Lee's Summit West (Mo.) HS
Rumors persist that Oakland will take Columbia (Miss.) High shortstop Ti'quan Forbes, but Harrison would extend the club's streak of five straight high school hitters taken in the first or supplemental round. The Athletics also could take a college starter such as Beede, Howard (he could move from the bullpen to the rotation in pro ball) or Florida State right-hander Luke Weaver. Cal State-Fullerton third baseman Matt Chapman wowed them in a workout.
Mayo's pick: Nick Howard, RHP, Virginia
26. Red Sox: Erick Fedde, RHP, Nevada-Las Vegas
With another first-rounder at No. 33, Boston could gamble on one of the first-round talents recovering from Tommy John surgery. If not, the Red Sox could opt for a proven college hitter like Reed or Stanford third baseman Alex Blandino.
Mayo's pick: Michael Kopech, RHP, Mount Pleasant (Texas) HS
27. Cardinals: Luis Ortiz, RHP, Sanger (Calif.) HS
St. Louis could get in on the late first-round run of high school pitchers with Adams, Ortiz, Medeiros, Griffin or Sheffield. Hitter possibilities include Chavis, Reed and Blandino.
Mayo's pick: Erick Fedde, RHP, Nevada-Las Vegas
28. Royals: Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Waiakea HS (Hilo, Hawaii)
Kansas City has been enthralled for a while by Medeiros, who is unlikely to last until its next selection at No. 40. Other prep pitchers of interest include Griffin, Kopech, Sheffield and Salisbury (Conn.) School right-hander Austin DeCarr. If the Royals want a position player, local product Harrison and Reed are possibilities.
Mayo's pick: Monte Harrison, OF, Lee's Summit (Mo.) West HS
29. Reds: Foster Griffin, LHP, The First Academy (Orlando, Fla.)
Some of the high school arms and athletes Cincinnati will consider at No. 19 should still be available. The Reds would consider most of those listed above in the 20s, and in this scenario, they'd be left with Griffin and St. Augustine Prep (Richland, N.J.) right-hander Joey Gatto.
Mayo's pick: Foster Griffin, LHP, The First Academy (Orlando, Fla.)
30. Rangers: Forrest Wall, 2B, Orangewood Christian HS (Maitland, Fla.)
There's a growing sense that multiple teams might be laying in the weeds on Wall, who has been connected to the Mets at No. 10 and could go significantly higher than No. 30. Other premium athletes on Texas' radar are Hill, Harrison, Junipero Serra High (Gardena, Calif.) outfielder Marcus Wilson and Gainesville (Ga.) High outfielder Michael Gettys. They're also in on home-state high school right-handers Kopech and Garrett Fulenchek (Howe, Texas, High).
Mayo's pick: Wall
31. Indians: Alex Blandino, 3B, Stanford
Cleveland likes Blandino and Reed better here than at No. 21. Two Virginia hitters, outfielder Derek Fisher and first baseman/outfielder Mike Papi, also could come into play. Don't be shocked if the Indians double up on high school pitchers if the right one is still available.
Mayo's pick: A.J. Reed, 1B, Kentucky
32. Braves: Michael Chavis, SS, Sprayberry HS, Marietta, Ga.
Chavis and Wall could go much higher than this, or they could both still be on the board. They're two of several Atlanta targets from the Southeast. Others include Adams, Griffin and Davidson. The Braves also are intrigued by Fulenchek.
Mayo's pick: Michael Chavis, SS, Sprayberry HS, Marietta, Ga.
33. Red Sox: A.J. Reed, 1B, Kentucky
If Boston doesn't grab a college hitter at No. 26, it could take one here in Blandino or Reed. The Red Sox also are on seemingly every high school pitcher mentioned in this projection, in addition to St. Thomas More High (Lafayette, La.) catcher Chase Vallot.
Mayo's pick: Alex Blandino, 3B, Stanford
34. Cardinals: Justus Sheffield, LHP, Tullahoma (Tenn.) HS
St. Louis could grab one of the hitters it considered at No. 27. If Chavis, Reed and Blandino don't last this long, the Cards might double up on prep pitching. Sheffield's brother Jordan might have been a first-rounder last year if he hadn't had Tommy John surgery.
Mayo's pick: Luis Ortiz, RHP, Sanger (Calif.) HS