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The 2014 MLB Draft is shaping up to be one of the most promising in recent years, as a combination of a deep and talented crop of players and elite pitchers North Carolina State LHP Carlos Rodon and East Carolina Jeff Hoffman, has draft pundits salivating. The Nationals possess the #19 pick in this June’s draft, and have an excellent opportunity to replenish their farm system that has suffered from trades and graduations in recent years.
Although we are early into the college baseball season, these are a few of the many draft eligible prospects that have caught my eye thus far this year, in the 2nd installment of Scouting the Draft.
Brandon Finnegan LHP Texas Christian University
Scouted -> 2.14.14 vs. Jacksonville University – (7 IP, 3 hits, 3 walks, 13 strikeouts)
In his first start of the season, Finnegan overwhelmed the Jacksonville lineup with two plus offerings, flashing a powerful mid-90s fastball with excellent life and a devastating slider he threw for strikes; in addition, later in the game he showed a mediocre, but promising changeup with arm-side run that induced whiffs from right-handed batters. Finnegan’s delivery is fairly polished though involving more effort than one might like, and his command of the strike zone is a bit below-average at this stage in his development. However, his biggest negative for scouts is his size, as he is listed below 6-0 tall with little physical projection remaining.
If a team can overlook his less than prototypical size and believes in his changeup, Finnegan could be selected in the first 20-40 selections this June, as it is rare to find left-handed pitchers with two present plus pitches.
NatsGM Projected Draft Status -> Late 1st Round through Round 2
Charlie White CF University of Maryland
Scouted -> Numerous Times, Most Recently 3.2.14 vs Massachusetts
An intriguing prospect playing his college baseball near Nationals Park, White serves as Maryland’s leadoff hitter and center fielder for the second consecutive year in 2014. A left-handed batter with excellent contact skills and a knack for reaching base, White lacks home run power which limits his upside professionally. Defensively, White utilizes his blazing speed, solid baseball instincts, and average arm to be a dynamic center fielder. Without much physical projection remaining, White will need to maximize his impressive speed, hit, and defensive tools to overcome his lack of power in his attempt to climb through the minor leagues.
A redshirt junior, White was drafted in the 29th round last year by the Yankees, but should see a jump up draft boards this coming June. White could be a nice Day 2 selection, especially for a somewhat budget conscious organization.
NatsGM Projected Draft Status -> 7th Round to 10th Round
Grayson Greiner C University of South Carolina
Scouted -> Three times, Most Recently 2.28.14 vs. Clemson
The first thing you notice about Greiner is his physically imposing size, as he appears larger than his listed 6-5 220lbs; this immediately makes scouts question if Greiner will be able to remain a catcher in the professional ranks. However, Greiner provides a big, quiet target for the pitcher, shows notable arm strength, and is fairly agile behind the plate, making him a surprisingly quality defensive catcher. Offensively Greiner has a longish swing with quality bat speed, but has not shown the production or power one might expect from such a strong, talented prospect in his first two collegiate seasons.
Greiner will be an interesting prospect this coming June, as some teams will be put off by his size and lack of power numbers in college, yet some team will fall in love with his present defensive skills and dream on the potential of his bat. While I do not see him as a 1st round pick, polished collegiate catchers are always in demand on draft day, and I see Greiner being selected early in June.
NatsGM Projected Draft Status -> 2nd to 3rd Round
Casey Turgeon 2B University of Florida
Scouted -> Numerous Times, Most Recently 2.28.14 vs. Illinois
A polished collegiate hitter with an excellent, compact left-handed swing, Turgeon has gap power and the ability to occasionally pull one over the fence. Along with average or slightly above-average speed and excellent awareness of the strike zone, Turgeon’s aptitude for the game allows him to play above his tools. Maxed out physically around 5-10 175lbs and likely limited to second base defensively, the team that selects him will be convinced his hit tool and intangibles will allow him to reach the majors. In a class lacking many collegiate bats, Turgeon slots in nicely on Day 2 of the draft.
NatsGM Projected Draft Status -> 4th to 6th Round
It is official – major league baseball front offices have become significantly more prudent in signing free agents in recent years. As teams have begun locking up their core young players to lengthy extensions and front offices have become more sensible about signing good, but not elite, players to outrageous free agent contracts, organizations have started viewing the trade market as a strong alternative to fill holes on their rosters.
Although teams are extremely hesitant to part with their prospects, especially young pitching, this winter we saw an increase in old-fashioned, player-for-player, baseball trades. Snow still covers the ground in the northeast, but since we are rapidly approaching Opening Day, I figured this would be an appropriate time to announce my choices for the Best and Worst Trades made this offseason.
Honorable Mention: Chicago White Sox receive 3B Matt Davidson from Arizona for RHP Addison Reed, Baltimore Orioles acquire OF David Lough from Kansas City for INF Danny Valencia, Chicago Cubs receive OF Justin Ruggiano from Miami for OF Brian Bugosevic, Houston Astros acquire OF Dexter Fowler from Colorado for RHP Jordan Lyles and OF Brandon Barnes, and Oakland Athletics receive RHP Luke Gregerson from San Diego for OF Seth Smith
3) Kansas City acquires OF Norichika Aoki from Milwaukee for LHP Will Smith
Kansas City has excellent depth in the bullpen (and has a knack for developing relievers) and took advantage of a breakout season from Smith in relief last season to fill a major need in the outfield. Aoki should play every day in right field and bat atop the lineup, serving as an excellent table setter for the middle of the potentially potent Royals lineup.
2) Chicago White Sox receives CF Adam Eaton from Arizona in exchange for OF Brandon Jacobs and LHP Hector Santiago
One of my favorite trades in recent years, the White Sox parted with a quality depth arm in Santiago, and a 4th outfielder in Jacobs to acquire their likely starting center fielder for the rest of the decade. Eaton, a dynamic defensive outfielder, has good speed and excellent on-base skills, but failed to impress the Diamondbacks in 66 games last season. In a change of scenery, I think Eaton has a chance to flourish into an average or slightly better starting center fielder for the White Sox. As Macklemore would say, “One man’s trash is another man’s come-up”!
1) The Washington Nationals acquire RHP Doug Fister from Detroit for Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol, and Robbie Ray
This trade has been analyzed endlessly both here at NatsGM and elsewhere on the internet, but it is difficult to find fault in the Nationals taking spare parts in Lombardozzi and Krol, along with their 4th best pitching prospect, to find their #4 starter and fill their biggest offseason need. Ray is a quality prospect who should have a nice major league career, but Fister is one of the more underrated players in baseball and makes this deal an absolute steal for Washington.
Honorable Mention: Oakland Athletics receive RHP Jim Johnson from Baltimore for 2B Jemile Weeks and David Freitas, San Diego Padres acquire OF Seth Smith from Oakland for RHP Luke Gregerson, Kansas City Royals trade OF David Lough to Baltimore for 3B Danny Valencia, Texas Rangers receive 1B Prince Fielder + $30 million from Detroit in exchange for 2B Ian Kinsler, and Texas Rangers trade OF Craig Gentry and RHP Josh Lindblom to Oakland for OF Michael Choice and 2B Chris Bostick
3) Colorado Rockies receive OF Brandon Barnes and RHP Jordan Lyles from Houston in exchange for OF Dexter Fowler
Fowler has underachieved relative to his talent thus far in his career, but Colorado made a mistake parting with this talented center fielder for this package, in order to find room for both Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau in their lineup. Lyles is a reasonable #5 starter and Barnes is a quality #4 outfielder, but these pieces do not have the type of ceiling that should be acquired in exchange for Fowler at this stage in Colorado’s rebuilding effort. To trade Fowler, Colorado should have looked for prospects to pair with pitchers Eddie Butler and Jon Gray.
2) Detroit Tigers acquire LHP Robbie Ray, LHP Ian Krol, and INF Steve Lombardozzi from Washington for RHP Doug Fister
I understand Detroit wanted to clear salary this winter and make room for LHP Drew Smyly in the rotation, so trading Fister is understandable and Robbie Ray is one of the best pitching prospects traded this winter. My major complaint with this trade is the Krol and Lombardozzi parts, as Detroit should have insisted on prospects or more valuable depth players to enhance the quality of their return. For this reason, I believe this is one of the worst trades this winter.
1) Milwaukee Brewers trade OF Norichika Aoki to Kansas City for LHP Will Smith
Smith is a fine pitcher who took to being a reliever last season after serving as a starter most of his career, and is under contract for many years. However, Aoki is a solid 2+ win player signed for less than $2 million in 2014, quite a valuable commodity in this environment. Considering the dearth of minor league talent in the Brewers’ system currently, they would have been wise to look a bit longer-term and acquire a prospect or two in return for Aoki, rather than a solid 7th inning reliever.