Only one more painstakingly long day until Bud Selig will approach the podium and commence the 2014 MLB Draft. Yesterday we examined the strength of the draft, specifically the pitching crop and highlighted several of the top pitchers available. Today we will now turn our attention to the best hitters this year has to offer.
Due in large part to the nearly unlimited signing bonuses given to prospects three years ago prior to the adjustments in draft spending, the pool of hitting prospects again feels relatively light, with a notable dearth of elite bats. Nevertheless, there are quality bats with potential to blossom on the collegiate side, and there are plenty of high school athletes one can dream of one day developing into a dangerous major league hitter. This is an introduction to several of the top hitters available in the 2014 draft, each of whom is expected to be selected during the 1st round on Thursday.
Alex Jackson C/OF California High School
7-Word Scouting Report: Potentially Elite Hitter, Strong Arm, Likely Right-Fielder
Perhaps the only hitter in this draft class with the ceiling to be a true impact, difference-making middle-of-the-order hitter, Jackson has easily noticeable bat speed and man-strength in his well-built frame. A few scouts question his hitting ability, but the general consensus is Jackson will hit for power and plenty of it.
Defensively, he has good athleticism, reasonable speed, and a very strong arm, making him likely to shift from behind the plate to right field, where he easily profiles as an above-average outfielder. The team that drafts him will certainly move him, as they will want to expedite his bat to the major leagues, and he should be drafted inside the top-5.
Nick Gordon Shortstop Florida High School
7-Word Scouting Report: Pure Shortstop, Potential Above-Average Hit and Power
The near-consensus top middle infield prospect in this draft, Gordon (son of Tom Gordon, brother of Dee Gordon) has a surprisingly physical body, quality bat-to-balls skills, and more power than one might expect from a middle infielder. He needs refinement with his swing mechanics and to continue to get stronger as he matures, but Gordon has a chance to be an above-average hitter with slightly above-average power from the middle infield.
Gordon has solid speed, an excellent throwing arm, and the athleticism that will allow him to stay at shortstop professionally. While he projects to be a different type player than his brother Dee, Nick has outstanding potential with a ceiling as an All-Star caliber shortstop. Gordon should be selected inside the top-7 picks.
Trea Turner Shortstop North Carolina State
7-Word Scouting Report: Elite Speed, Pure Shortstop, Questionable Hit Tool
An obviously toolsy athlete with elite speed, Turner physically looks the part of a top draft prospect, with a solid frame with some projection remaining. Offensively Turner shows a good eye at the plate, with a plan and approach during his at-bats. He shows healthy bat speed and good balance at the plate, although his game will be based upon gap power and utilizing his speed at the top of the lineup.
Defensively Turner is clearly athletic enough to play shortstop in the majors, but does not flash the monster throwing arm expected from that position. Turner has good agility and shows range both left and right, although if it were up to me, I would shift him to center field to take advantage of his outrageous speed. Nevertheless Turner projects as an up-the-middle defender with a reasonable chance to hit atop a lineup at the next level, and the team that believes in his bat will pop him inside the top-15 picks.
Bradley Zimmer OF University of San Francisco
7-Word Scouting Report: Still Raw Potential 5-Tool Prospect, Pure Centerfielder
One of my favorite collegiate players since I watched him as a lanky, athletic freshman outfielder, Zimmer has blossomed into above-average (or better) defensive centerfielder with potential offensively. With notable bat speed from the left side and home run power, Zimmer has the potential to develop into an impressive major league hitter.
Defensively, Zimmer has very good speed and a strong throwing arm, which leads scouts to believe he is a no-doubt major league centerfielder. While Zimmer is far from a finished product, the potential for Zimmer to be an above-average 2-way centerfielder makes him a strong contender to be selected in the first 15 picks overall.
Kyle Schwarber C/1B/LF Indiana University
7-Word Scouting Report: Bat-First Prospect, Massive Left-Handed Power, Questionable Defender
A thick, massively built man, Schwarber has one of the sweetest left-handed swings in this draft class and possesses the type of bat speed that could allow him to hit 25+ home runs in the future. Questions exist where Schwarber will play defensively, as he is unlikely to remain a catcher professionally, though with surprisingly speed and athletic ability, he could play a reasonable left field with adequate instruction and refinement. That said, Schwarber is a bat-first prospect and the team that selects him will be convinced his left-handed power will translate against major league pitching.
A.J. Reed 1B/LHP University of Kentucky
7-Word Scouting Report: Big Power, Strong Arm, Difficult Prospect Profile
Perhaps the leading contender to win the NCAA College Baseball Player of the Year, the impressive 2-way player leads the nation in home runs and has also been a force on the mound. His professional future lies as a first baseman, as scouts are intrigued by his massive power and believe his hit tool could improve as he focuses exclusively on batting.
Reed is not a particularly athletic player and is likely limited to first base defensively, although his strong arm and soft hands should make him a better than average defender. Reed will really have to hit for power to profile as a major league first baseman, but the team that selects him in Round 1 will believe in his bat and will have the option of converting him back to a pitcher if he fails to hit.
Michael Conforto LF Oregon State University
7-Word Scouting Report: Polished Hitter, Above-Average Bat Speed, Pure Left-Fielder
A thickly built collegiate hitter, Conforto uses his excellent strength and above-average bat speed to hit for both power and average. He does not possess good speed, and with only average arm strength, Conforto profiles at a bat-first left field prospect whom will need to hit his way to the major leagues. In a draft light on college hitters and players who should move quickly, Conforto has a chance to be selected inside the top-15 picks.