Teams have spent the past week setting up their First-Year Player Draft boards, and now they'll start pinning down the signability of their top targets. Possible scenarios are becoming clearer, at least at the top of the first round, though exactly which ones will play out remains uncertain.
The Astros possess the No. 1 overall selection for the third straight year, and in both 2012 and 2013 they didn't reveal their choice until just before the Draft. The consensus top prospects are left-handers Brady Aiken of Cathedral Catholic High in San Diego and Carlos Rodon of North Carolina State, right-hander Tyler Kolek of Shepherd High in Texas, catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson of Rancho Bernardo High in San Diego and shortstop Nick Gordon of Olympia High in Orlando, Fla. The Astros are considering all of them.
While a deep group of pitchers took a hit when righties Jeff Hoffman of East Carolina and Erick Fedde of Nevada-Las Vegas needed Tommy John elbow surgery, there were some positive developments this week in the NCAA playoffs. Inconsistent Vanderbilt righty Tyler Beede had one of his better outings, working at 92-96 mph while striking out 14 against Xavier. Texas Christian lefty Brandon Finnegan had his best start since missing time with shoulder tightness, striking out 12 and touching 96 mph against Siena.
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 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 (Calif.)
Houston's decision likely will come down to Aiken, Rodon and Jackson, none of whom is expected to command the full $7,922,100 assigned pick value. There's increasing chatter that the Astros might play it safer by going for a bat, but the guess here is that they'll pop the Draft's top-rated prospect in Aiken.
2. Marlins: Carlos Rodon, LHP, North Carolina State
Miami is focusing on the same players as Houston. Ownership may prefer Rodon and some senior club officials may want Jackson, the best bat in the Draft. It's unclear whether the Marlins would take Aiken if he's available.
3. White Sox: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd HS (Texas)
Rodon may be No. 1 on Chicago's board and likely would be the pick here, but signability could be an issue. The White Sox almost certainly will take an arm and it's hard to ignore the upside of Kolek, the hard throwing high schooler. If the South Siders prefer collegians to prepsters, polished Louisiana State right-hander Aaron Nola could be their man.
4. Cubs: Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State
Chicago wants pitching and covets Rodon, who could land here if Jackson goes to Houston or Miami. But if Rodon goes in the top three, the Cubs may not like any of the arms enough to take them this high. Hoffman would have been an obvious target before he blew out his elbow, and the Cubs could pass on Kolek or Nola. There's a growing sense that they'll save money to go after pitching later by cutting a deal with Conforto or Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost. Chicago could take Gordon, but it doesn't appear to be in on Jackson.
5. Twins: Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS (Fla.)
Minnesota will wait to see which of the five best prospects remains and likely will take the top one remaining on its board, probably Gordon. Other options would be a college pitcher such as Hartford left-hander Sean Newcomb or stockpiling cash by doing a deal with someone such as Lee's Summit (Mo.) West High outfielder Monte Harrison.
6. Mariners: Alex Jackson, C/OF, Rancho Bernardo HS (Calif.)
This would be a dream scenario for Seattle, as Jackson's power would play well even at Safeco Field. He should get here if he doesn't go first or second. Otherwise, the Mariners will turn to the college ranks for Newcomb, Nola, Conforto or North Carolina State shortstop Trea Turner.
7. Phillies: Aaron Nola, RHP, Louisiana State
Neither Gordon nor Nola is expected to get past Philadelphia, with the latter more likely to be available. The Phillies will consider many of the same players as the Mariners, as well as Evansville left-hander Kyle Freeland, who had an MRI last week to clear up confusion involving his elbow arising from an old medical report. This looks like the high-water mark for slugging Clovis (Calif.) High shortstop Jacob Gatewood, but he has swing-and-miss concerns and Philadelphia needs more immediate help.
8. Rockies: Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville
Colorado almost certainly will go the college route for the ninth time with its last 11 first-rounders. The Rockies would love to grab Nola, and also will consider Freeland -- they know his medical history well because their team doctor performed Freeland's arthroscopic elbow surgery when he was a Denver high schooler -- and Newcomb. Other options include Indiana catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber and San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer.
9. Blue Jays: Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State
The same three names come up again and again for Toronto's two picks at Nos. 9 and 11: Hoffman, Turner and Coral Springs (Fla.) Christian Academy right-hander Touki Toussaint. Of that trio, the Mets are most likely to take Turner at No. 10, so he could be the choice here.
10. Mets: Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford
After taking high school position players with its previous three first-round selections, New York is tied to college prospects this year. The Mets' top three targets look like Conforto, Newcomb and Turner in some order. If they're all unavailable, Beede and Zimmer could fit.
11. Blue Jays: Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina
As much as Toronto loves high school arms, it may pass on Toussaint and others to take Hoffman, a potential No. 1 overall choice before he got hurt. Where Hoffman will go should become more apparent once he reveals his price tag later this week.
12. Brewers: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
Milwaukee very well could opt for Pentecost, but it has mostly been tied to pitchers. Beede and Finnegan are viable options after bouncing back this weekend. The Brewers also have evaluated a number of high school arms, including Toussaint, Conway (S.C.) High right-hander Grant Holmes, Waiakea HS (Hilo, Hawaii) left-hander Kodi Medeiros and Mount Pleasant (Texas) righty Michael Kopech. Kopech has some serious helium.
13. Padres: Touki Toussaint, RHP, Coral Springs Christian Academy (Fla.)
This would be a best-case scenario for San Diego, which loves Toussaint. If he doesn't last this long, fast-rising Elk Grove (Calif.) High outfielder Derek Hill could be the front-runner. The Padres feel better about Freeland's MRI than most teams and also could opt for Conforto, Pentecost or Finnegan.
14. Giants: Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway HS (S.C.)
San Francisco develops pitchers as well as anyone, and it has several in its sights, including Toussaint, Holmes, Beede and Virginia right-hander Nick Howard. Howard is another player charging up the Draft boards. If the Giants take a position player, it could be Hill.
15. Angels: Kyle Schwarber, C/OF, Indiana
Los Angeles figures to grab a college player to help prop up a thin farm system. The Angels are associated with several bats (Conforto, Schwarber, Pentecost, Zimmer) and arms (Freeland, Beede, Finnegan).
16. Diamondbacks: Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State
This represents a worst-case scenario for Pentecost, who has a good chance to go No. 4 to the Cubs or No. 12 to the Brewers. Arizona gets mentioned with a lot of the college bats (Zimmer, Wichita State first baseman Casey Gillaspie, Stanford third baseman Alex Blandino) but also with players from all of the other demographics such as Freeland and Howard, Sprayberry High (Marietta, Ga.) shortstop Michael Chavis and Tullahoma (Tenn.) High left-hander Justus Sheffield.
17. Royals: Derek Hill, OF, Elk Grove HS (Calif.)
Kansas City perpetually needs pitching and could be tempted by Beede, Howard or Finnegan. The Royals also like several high schoolers, including Medeiros and The First Academy (Orlando, Fla.) left-hander Forrest Griffin (another guy with a lot of helium). They can wait until their second choice at No. 28 to get a quality prep arm, but Hill would be long gone by then.
18. Nationals: Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Wichita State
Washington 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. That gamble is paying off, leading to speculation the Nationals could buy low on Hoffman or Fedde. However, they seem to be concentrating more on college bats: Conforto, Schwarber, Gillaspie and NCAA Division I home run leader A.J. Reed, a Kentucky first baseman.
19. Reds: Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Texas Christian
Cincinnati hopes for a shot at Turner, Toussaint or Schwarber, which probably won't happen. The Reds could get nice value with Finnegan if he stays healthy. They like a number of high school arms (Sandalwood High School's Sean Reid-Foley, Holmes, Griffin, Spencer Adams from White County High in Cleveland, Ga.) and athletes (Hill, Harrison) but can wait until No. 29 for some of them.
20. Rays: Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco
With the exception of Hill, most of the players linked to Tampa Bay are college products who would help boost a farm system that has slipped. Beede, Finnegan, Gillaspie and Zimmer all would make sense.
21. Indians: Erick Fedde, RHP, Nevada-Las Vegas
Cleveland would be more comfortable with a college bat. But if Schwarber and Gillaspie are off the board as expected, the Indians could gamble on Fedde, who was pitching his way into the top 10 before his elbow gave out. Three players from Virginia -- Howard, outfielder Derek Fisher and first baseman/outfielder Mike Papi -- also could be in play.
22. Dodgers: Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Sandalwood HS (Fla.)
Hill would be a great story here, because the club's area scout in his territory is also his father, Orsino, a former Triple-A outfielder. Los Angeles always gets linked to high school arms, and this year is no exception with Reid-Foley, Griffin, Adams and Sheffield. The Dodgers did use two of their past three first-rounders on college pitchers, however, so don't rule out Howard.
23. Tigers: Nick Howard, RHP, Virginia
The obvious guess for Detroit is someone who lights up a radar gun, such as Howard or Louisville right-hander Nick Burdi. Yet don't be shocked if the Tigers grab a top bat such as Gillaspie, Chavis or Blandino.
24. Pirates: Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis HS (Calif.)
This is probably on the low end for Gatewood, who gets mentioned as high as No. 7 and could go in the teens to Kansas City or Washington. Pittsburgh could go for another toolsy prepster in Harrison or an advanced college bat such as Gillaspie, Reed or Fisher.
25. Athletics: Monte Harrison, OF, Lee's Summit West HS (Mo.)
Rumors persist that Oakland will make Columbia (Miss.) High shortstop Ti'quan Forbes its fifth straight high school hitter taken in the first or supplemental round. That might happen, but Hill and Harrison fit the same demographic and are better prospects.
26. Red Sox: Alex Blandino, 3B, Stanford
Yet another player making a late surge is Blandino, a proven college hitter who can stay in the infield. He probably doesn't get to Boston's second pick at No. 33, so the club will wait until then to grab one of the several prep pitchers it likes.
27. Cardinals: Foster Griffin, LHP, The First Academy (Fla.)
St. Louis could kick off a late first-round run on high school arms with Griffin, Sanger (Calif.) High right-hander Luis Ortiz or Adams. This also could be the floor for Gatewood.
28. Royals: Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Waiakea HS (Hawaii)
Kansas City has made no secret of the fact that it likes Medeiros, who might get here but probably wouldn't last until the team's next selection at No. 40. Other high school pitching candidates include Griffin, Kopech, Sheffield and Salisbury (Conn.) School right-hander Austin DeCarr. If the Royals want a position player, Harrison is a local product and Reed's power is enticing.
29. Reds: Spencer Adams, RHP, White County HS (Ga.)
At least a few of the high school arms and athletes Cincinnati would consider at No. 19 should still be available. In this scenario, those would include Adams and St. Augustine Prep (Richland, N.J.) right-hander Joey Gatto. Reed could sneak in here as well.
30. Rangers: Forrest Wall, 2B, Orangewood Christian HS (Fla.)
Wall, who has above-average hitting ability and speed, is the type of premium athlete whom Texas loves, which could make him just the fifth high school second basemen ever taken in the first round. Other candidates include Hill, Harrison, Junipero Serra High (Gardena, Calif.) outfielder Marcus Wilson and Gainesville (Ga.) High outfielder Michael Gettys.
31. Indians: A.J. Reed, 1B, Kentucky
Cleveland likes Reed better here than at No. 21. The Virginia hitters, Fisher and Papi, also would be in play.
32. Braves: Michael Chavis, SS, Sprayberry HS (Ga.)
Most of Atlanta's targets appear to hail from the Southeast, with Chavis and Wall the strongest possibilities. Others include Griffin, Adams and Gettys.
33. Red Sox: Michael Kopech, RHP, Mount Pleasant HS (Texas)
All of the high school arms mentioned in this first-round projection seem to be in play for Boston. If the Red Sox don't take a college hitter at No. 26, they could grab one here in Reed or Fisher.
34. Cardinals: Luis Ortiz, RHP, Sanger HS (Calif.)
Ortiz could have been a mid-first-rounder had he not strained his forearm earlier in the spring, and he could be a steal here now that he has regained his premium stuff. So could right-hander Luke Weaver, who has a strong track record of success with Florida State and Team USA.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter.