Mock drafts are hard. They really are. You're not only trying to sequence a crazy number of variables -- by my count, there are no less than 50 players I think are good enough in one way or another that they could easily be seen as worthy of a first-round pick, depending on how you squint -- but you're trying to sequence those variables based on the game theoriest of factors: human behaviour. Trying to figure out what an organisation likes and appreciates in a player, how much they factor their own needs into the equation, what they view those needs as and how that view might differ from your own, and at what point you've not typed a player's name for so long that he becomes a value proposition...all of those things go into a well-researched, thoughtful, meaningfully constructed mock draft.
Of course, the very best mock is still going to be something like 95% wrong. Which is why I'm just going to wing it.
So anyway, here is the penultimate entry in this year's draft preview series, in which I throw darts at a board (metaphorically), and show my ass (literally), by pretending to know something about this whole draft thing when I most assuredly do not.
I'm going through the first round and first supplemental, 34 picks in all. Conveniently, that also takes us through the Cardinals' second pick, so that sounds like an excellent place to stop. And here...we...go.
1.) Houston Astros -- Carlos Rodon, LHP, North Carolina State
Most of the recent mock drafts coming out have the 'Stros taking Brady Aiken, the high school lefty whose draft has soared this spring after showing a big increase in velocity. Me, though, I'm going back to the player who was the consensus top overall pick before the season, and who has come on strong again late in the college season. There could be concerns about his workload in college, as well as some inconsistent stuff early in the year, but the Astros are beginning to make their first big steps toward contention, bringing up George Springer and Jon Singleton this season already, and I think the relatively quick possible impact of Rodon -- he could be in the big leagues next year -- in joining a crop of pitchers like Mark Appel and Mike Foltynewicz makes him extra attractive to a team possibly looking to bring players in waves starting very soon.
2.) Miami Marlins -- Alex Jackson, C, Rancho Bernardo HS
The Marlins have done well for themselves drafting and developing high-end pitching talent over the past handful of years, and they could go that direction again in drafting Aiken or Tyler Kolek. For my money, though, they take a possible offensive centerpiece of the future in Jackson and try to develop him behind the plate. He has the physical tools to stay at catcher, and if he does, the bat puts him in a class by himself.
3.) Chicago White Sox -- Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS
The White Sox will almost surely take whichever of the top pitching prospects is left at this point, and in this particular mock they have both Aiken and Kolek to choose from. Aiken is the more polished, well-rounded pitcher at the moment, and his stuff is right there with Kolek's in terms of quality. He should move faster, and give the Sox a possible rotation anchor to help build around as they try to continue turning their ship around.
4.) Chicago Cubs -- Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd HS
I know you don't draft for need, but the Cubs need pitching in their system, and all thing being equal, I think there's a very good chance they default to an arm. Plus, Kolek is absolutely worthy of this spot based on his stuff and the hype, even if I personally am not buying in on him completely.
5.) Minnesota Twins -- Nick Gordon, Olympia HS
Everybody -- and I mean everybody -- has the Twins taking Nick Gordon. In this case, I can't really argue against the crowd, as the pick makes a ton of sense for the Twinkies. Gordon is the top defender at short in the class this year -- at least in terms of present ability -- and we've seen how valuable middle infield talent has become over the last couple years. I question how much Gordon is going to hit ultimately, but, like Oscar Mercado in the Cards' own system, the bar isn't all that high when the glove is as good as this.
6.) Seattle Mariners -- Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State
Conforto is the most big league-ready bat in the draft this year, and could make an impact as soon as this time next season. Seattle, I think, will take him with an eye on the immediate future, when he could serve as an offensive complement to Robinson Cano. Conforto is more a DH than anything to me, but the bat should play regardless.
7.) Philadelphia Phillies -- Jacob Gatewood, SS/3B, Clovis HS
The Phillies love their tooled-up project players, and while a more immediate impact player like Aaron Nola or Kyle Freeland would certainly have some attraction here, I think the lure of Gatewood's upside will prove too much for Philly to pass on.
8.) Colorado Rockies -- Aaron Nola, LSU
The Rockies love college players, and they'll continue building their budding stable of arms by taking Nola from the NOLA, whose efficiency and groundball-centric approach should play well in Coors Field.
9.) Toronto Blue Jays -- Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina
The Blue Jays are known for taking risks on tough signability guys, guys with medical issues, guys with makeup questions...well, you get the idea. We've seen teams willing to pop Tommy John pitchers and pay them to rehab, and Hoffman seems to be a good fit here for a team with two first-round picks.
10.) New York Mets -- Kyle Schwarber, C/OF/1B, Indiana
The Mets have gone heavy on high schoolers the last few years in the draft, but most of the rumours out there have them looking at college bats this time around. With Conforto gone, Schwarber is the next-best bat guy on the board. He won't play catcher, but he should hit wherever.
11.) Toronto Blue Jays -- Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State
The Jays spend their second pick of the first round on the ultra-toolsy Turner, who could play several positions for them down the road.
12.) Milwaukee Brewers -- Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville
Freeland has had a ton of helium this spring, with talk he could go half a dozen picks higher than this even. I think if he gets to the Brewers they take him then do a little jig in the war room, envisioning him making it to the majors by September of next year to join what is already a very good rotation.
13.) San Diego Padres -- Touki Toussaint, RHP, Coral Spring Christian Academy
The Padres are supposed to like Toussaint a lot, according to plenty of people with sources. I have no sources, but Toussaint makes sense here in terms of value for the pick, even if I would steer well clear of him personally.
14.) San Francisco Giants -- Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco
Zimmer feels like a natural fit for AT&T Park's wide-open outfield, and the Giants have found success with a similar player in Angel Pagan. Bonus: Zimmer is within walking distance, so easy signing day travel!
15.) Los Angeles Angels -- Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State
The Angels' farm system is wretched. Pentecost would give them an immediate shot in the arm, and should be able to make an impact relatively soon at the big league level as well. He could easily go higher than this, but the way things have fallen so far I see this as a good landing spot.
16.) Arizona Diamondbacks -- Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford
I'll be honest: I really have no idea what the Diamondbacks will be looking for. They've got management issues, a GM who seems to be on his way out, and a history of making pretty good draft picks and then trading the players away for god only knows what reason. That being said, Newcomb could go quite a bit higher than this, so he seems like a good value play.
17.) Kansas City Royals -- Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway HS
I can't see Holmes falling much further than this -- two months ago he was being talked about as a possible top five guy -- and he just feels like a Royals pick to me. I'm not sure why. Kodi Medeiros gets mentioned here a lot as well, which would break my heart.
18.) Washington Nationals -- Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Wichita State
Gillaspie is the next bat on the list, just ahead of A.J. Reed of Kentucky, although I personally would take Braxton Davidson over all of them. Offense, particularly of the collegiate variety, seems to be the Nats' focus this year.
19.) Cincinnati Reds -- Michael Chavis, SS/3B, Sprayberry HS
I'll be honest: I'm basing this pick almost entirely on the fact the Reds seem to take at least one player I'm really in love with pretty much every single year. Chavis doesn't actually feel like a Jocketty front office pick to me, but he's moved up into this range with a big spring, and would certainly add some impact to a Reds' system that seems a little thin.
20.) Tampa Bay Rays -- A.J. Reed, 1B, Kentucky
The scuttlebutt all along has been the Rays are looking for a quick-moving bat, which makes sense, considering what their big league club looks like just about every year. I think they'll try to restock the farm on the pitching side when they move Price, and take advantage of the presence of one of the best college bats in the draft here to try and add near-term offense.
21.) Cleveland Indians -- Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
The Indians would be thrilled if a player of Beede's talent level were to fall to this point, I think, and probably wouldn't hesitate at all to pick him, even if they would actually prefer to take a bat, philosophically.
22.) Los Angeles Dodgers -- Derek Hill, OF, Elk Grove HS
The Dodgers are suckers for upside, and Hill is one of the more premium athletes in the draft this year. His father also just happens to be an area scout for the Dodgers, so there's a family connection there as well. It almost seems to convenient to actually work out this way, but hey, I'm not immune to a great narrative.
23.) Detroit Tigers -- Nick Burdi, RHP, Louisville
The Tigers' complete all-in, win-now-at-all-costs attitude extends even to their drafting habits, as they take the top college closer on the board, a pitcher who could reach the majors as soon as September if things go well, and should at the least give them another weapon to deploy in their quest to win a title in the extreme short term.
24.) Pittsburgh Pirates -- Brandon Finnegan, LHP, TCU
This is another case where the player in question has fallen far past where most of the consensus seems to have him, and even with the questions around Finnegan himself, the Pirates have proven in the past to be very opportunistic when presented with the chance to draft a player below where his value seems to be.
25.) Oakland Athletics -- Forrest Wall, 2B, Orangewood Christian HS
Remember the good old days, when you could count on the A's to take college performers, OBP monsters, and polished arms? Well, those days are gone, and Oakland has been loading up of late on toolsy prep players early in the draft. There's a lot of buzz about the A's taking Monte Harrison here, or Ti'quan Forbes, and both would be solid picks in their own right. But I think the A's go off-script a little to take an only slightly less toolsy high schooler who has a better hit tool than either of those other guys in Wall. The A's have gone heavy on low strikeout guys recently, and Wall fits that profile perfectly, in that he has remarkable bat control, if not the flyball heavy batted ball tendencies Oakland also seems to like nowadays.
26.) Boston Red Sox -- Braxton Davidson, OF/1B, TC Roberson HS
The Red Sox are another of those teams that always seem to select one of my favourite players every year, instantly converting said player into a lifelong enemy. (Henry Owens is the prime example I can think of recently.) For my money, Davidson is going to be the best bat in this draft long-term, and I only see him sliding this far because bat-first defensively limited high schoolers don't have the same kind of attraction their collegiate brethren do. Davidson has the patient, grinder mentality the Sawx like in their hitters, and has as much usable power as any hitter in the draft.
27.) St. Louis Cardinals -- Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Waikaea HS
Okay, so let me explain: yes, Medeiros is probably the guy I most want to see the Cardinals draft. But, I promise you I didn't construct this mock with an eye toward getting him to the Redbirds. The most likely spot for him to go is probably the Royals' first pick at 17, and the way things fell I think there was a player too highly rated for them to pass over at that spot. He could certainly go any other number of spots, but for the most part, I think the 20-25 range is just about right for him, if not a little lower because of the questions he comes with. (Small size, unorthodox delivery, etc.)
Honestly, I have no idea if the Cardinals like him or not. But, they've shown in recent memory they don't mind taking undersized pitchers -- look no further than last year's first round -- and Medeiros's stuff, combined with what I see as fairly low-risk mechanics, make him an outstanding fit for me. And yes, there will once again be naked street-dancing if this actually happened.
28.) Kansas City Royals -- Derek Fisher, OF, Virginia
The Royals, furiously swearing revenge on the Cards for swiping Medeiros out from under their feet, take one of the better college bats on the board, albeit one who hasn't always performed up to expectations.
29.) Cincinnati Reds -- Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Sandalwood HS
Reid-Foley could easily go ten picks higher than this, and the Reds will be glad to take him if he's still sitting on the board. He's super risky mechanically, but the stuff is impossible to argue with.
30.) Texas Rangers -- Monte Harrison, OF, Lee's Summit West HS
The Rangers love premium athletes, and this pick for me comes down to a question of Forbes, Harrison, or Michael Gettys, the athletic marvel who has fallen this spring based on his hitting troubles. Harrison is the one actually rising up draft boards, so I think he's the pick here.
31.) Cleveland Indians -- Erick Fedde, RHP, UNLV
Fedde was flying up boards before blowing out his elbow. The Indians are in a good position here to take him and store him on the shelf for a year. If one of the college bats fell, I would probably go that direction instead, but Fedde might be too tempting here.
32.) Atlanta Braves -- Michael Gettys, OF, Gainesville HS
The Braves have a thing for drafting players, particularly outfielders, from Georgia. Even with his struggles at the plate this spring, Gettys's athletic abilities are too impressive to ignore, and Atlanta will gladly add him to an already-strong system, where he'll immediately take over the top spot on several 'Best Tools' categories.
33.) Boston Red Sox -- Luis Ortiz, RHP, Sanger HS
I really like Luis Ortiz. He's got as high a ceiling as just about any pitcher in this draft, and other than a forearm issue this spring, he's done nothing to make teams worry about his future. It's a shame to see him go to Boston.
34.) St. Louis Cardinals -- Mike Papi, OF/1B, Virginia
There were two bats I considered here: Papi and Stanford infielder Alex Blandino. The Cards put a lot of stock into Cape Cod numbers, and Blandino was excellent there last year, and he offers a bit more positional flexibility than Papi. Not to mention, the Redbirds have had good luck lately drafting Stanford infielders.
However, I'm going with Papi here because a) I like him better, and this is my mock draft, and b) Papi has tremendous hitting skills, crazy plate discipline, and less-than-stellar power production, particularly when you look at his size and strength. A big part of his somewhat lackluster power numbers has to do with his approach, which is, at times, a little overly defensive, which leads to those excellent walk totals but also occasionally keeps him from driving the ball as effectively as he might otherwise. Sound familiar? Papi is a little like a bigger, stronger version of Matt Carpenter, and I wonder if the Cardinals wouldn't jump at the opportunity to develop a player who already possesses such high-level bat control and contact ability.
I have to say, if the Cardinals actually came away with these two players I've mocked to them here, it would be about as good a situation as I could imagine. Both guys are players I really, really like, and there's a nice balance between the two of near-term performance and long-term projection. Of course, there's zero chance this is how things actually go, so I don't know why I'm bothering to talk about it.
But anyway, that's my mock draft for 2014. We've got just one more day until the real thing, and I'll be back tomorrow with my final wrap on the draft previews as we head in. I hope you've all enjoyed reading the series as much as I enjoyed putting these together.