Pipeline Inbox: 2014 Draft full of good HS arms
Mayo answers readers' questions about some of the game's most promising prospects
With the recent launching of our 2014 Draft Top 50, it seemed fitting to make this week's Inbox Draft-focused.
Many of you had hit Jim Callis and me with queries via Twitter with @MLBPipeline, but we couldn't get to them all. So I picked a handful to answer now, sneaking in one question about a different kind of Draft that's taking place next week at the Winter Meetings.
Have a question about prospects?
E-mail your query to MLBPipeline.com reporters Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
Do you consider Tyler Kolek to be a starter or a relief pitcher when all is said and done?
-- Jack N., Andover, Minn.
Kolek is currently No. 4 on our Top 50, and the top-ranked high school arm in the class. The simple question, of course, is: Do you think we'd rank him fourth if we thought he was a reliever? I can see where the idea would come from. Kolek is a hard thrower, who probably would hit triple digits with ease as a closer type. He also struggles a bit with command and doesn't have much of a changeup as of now. If there was no hope of him developing on either front, then maybe he would profile as a reliever. But it's far too early, and there are signs that his changeup will be Major League average. His command may be questionable, but with his premium stuff and room for growth, I'm still thinking he's a starter all the way, and one who could be a frontline type when all is said and done.
What do you think of Luis Ortiz? Where does he go in the Draft?
-- Ryan B., Winnipeg, Manitoba
I wanted to start off the Inbox with a pair of questions about high school pitching, always the highest risk-reward option in every Draft. Ortiz comes in at No. 16 on the Top 50, but he's one I could see moving up with a strong senior season in Northern California. The Fresno State commit has the chance to perhaps have four Major League average -- or better -- offerings, highlighted by a fastball that touches the upper 90s and a killer slider that serves as an out pitch. With a clean and easy delivery, Ortiz is already a pretty good strike thrower. He's not the thin projectable type (he's fairly mature physically). There are a few high school arms ahead of him on the list -- Kolek, Touki Toussaint and Brady Aiken -- but Ortiz isn't far behind, and it wouldn't surprise me if he ended up ahead of some of them. If you told me Ortiz would go at some point in the middle of the first round, I might believe it.
Who is this year's steal in the Draft, like Michael Wacha and Marcus Stroman were in the 2012 Draft?
-- William P., Waldorf, Md.
This is a tough one to answer in December. Remember, we didn't know Wacha and Stroman (especially Wacha) would be steals. Stroman came in as a potential steal type given his size. Many thought Wacha was going to go much higher in the Draft, and while he still exceeded expectations with what he did in 2013, had he gone closer to the top 10, he may not quite be in the "steal" category. Still, I'll give it a shot. I'll give you one hitter and one pitcher, both from the college ranks. I'll go with Max Pentecost, the Kennesaw State catcher, as my hitter. Granted, he's ranked No. 20 -- so maybe he's not a sleeper, but he has the chance to be really good. It wouldn't shock me if he went in the top half of the first round, and he's even athletic enough to play another spot if a team thinks his catching isn't coming around. For a pitcher, I'll take Florida State's Luke Weaver, ranked No. 23. He doesn't have the best pure stuff in the class, or even among the college crop of arms, and he's not the most physical pitcher you'll see. But he can really pitch and his sinking fastball-changeup combination, combined with his command, should let him move quickly. The fact that he's done it in a big-time conference against really good competition just pads his resume.
The Blue Jays really love high school pitching. Will the best talent available likely be pitching around the ninth spot?
-- Terry H., Cartwright, Newfoundland
Both Jim and I took a stab at a mock top 10 picks. Both of us agreed with you, that the Blue Jays could very well continue their love affair with high-ceiling high school pitching with the No. 9 pick. Jim had them taking Toussaint from Florida. I had them taking Kolek (Jim had Kolek going No. 3). Obviously, it's way too early to know for sure, and performances in the spring are really important for the prep pitchers in every class. But it does look like there will be some good young arms to choose from for Toronto at No. 9 and No. 11 (their compensation for not signing Phil Bickford, the high school pitcher the Jays took in the 2013 Draft). The guys mentioned in the Ortiz question all could fit -- Kolek, Toussaint, Aiken and Ortiz. And I'll throw in Grant Holmes and Kodi Medeiros for one more righty and lefty, respectively, giving the Blue Jays a very deep crop of high school pitchers to look at.
Who are the best Rule 5 Draft prospects this year?
-- Nathan G., Deer Park, Texas
With the Winter Meetings rapidly approaching, I had to sneak one Rule 5 question in after a series of Rule 4 Draft questions. We're just starting to look at names, and trust me when I tell you there are tons of them to pour over. Sometimes, a familiar name is what catches your eye -- remember former first-rounder Matt Hobgood? We'll be talking to scouts and front-office types at the Winter Meetings to whittle down the list to ones who could get taken. For now, I asked Jim to help me out, and we each picked three currently Rule 5-eligible players we kind of like. Jim went with Carlos Perez, a catcher in the Astros' system; Jeremy Hazelbaker, an outfielder in the Red Sox's system; and Tyler Ybarra, a left-handed reliever in the Blue Jays' system. As for me, I went with Rockies outfielder Tim Wheeler, Astros right-hander Bobby Doran and Pirates reliever Zach Thornton.