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2014 MLB Draft: National League Central Analysis

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Luke Weaver
Luke Weaver
Joel Auerbach, Getty Images

Chicago Cubs
1-4) Kyle Schwarber, C, Indiana University
2-45) Jake Stinnett, RHP, University of Maryland
3-78) Mike Zagunis, C, Virginia Tech
4-109) Carson Sands, LHP, North Christian HS, FL
Looks like a clever use of the bonus rules here once you consider the potential of fourth-rounder Sands (who was mentioned as a first-round talent pre-draft), fifth rounder Justin Steele (LHP, Mississippi HS) and sixth rounder Dylan Cease (RHP, Georgia HS). All would require above-slot bonuses to pass up college and all three were rated among the most intriguing high school arms available. Stinnett was the best college senior available this year and won’t take long in the minors, while Schwarber has a strong college bat, if not the strongest given the relative paucity in that department this year. The rest of the class was college-oriented but they picked some good ones: James Norwood (RHP, 7th round, St. Louis University), Jordan Brink (RHP, 11th round, Fresno State), and Jeremy Null (RHP, 15th round, Western Carolina) are three arms of high regard who could have gone many rounds higher under different circumstances.

Cincinnati Reds
1-19) Nick Howard, RHP, University of Virginia
1-29) Alex Blandino, INF, Stanford University
2-58) Taylor Sparks, 3B, UC Irvine
3-94) Wyatt Strahan, RHP, Southern Cal
4-125) Gavin LaValley, 3B, Cal Albert HS, OK
Straight-forward selections. Howard closed in college due to team needs but he has three big league pitches and could advance quickly even if moved to the rotation. Blandino shot up draft boards late due to solid production with power and plate discipline, overcoming stigma often attached to Stanford hitters. Sparks has better physical tools than Blandino and hit .360/.388/.581, although his very aggressive approach is questionable (six walks, 40 strikeouts). He could have gone in the first round if not for that. Strahan can hit 95 and was successful in college despite occasional command troubles. LaValley crushed Oklahoma high school competition due to enormous power and could be a steal in the fourth round. The class was filled out with a mixture of picks from different sources, from the polished college end (Seth Varner, LHP, Miami-Ohio, 10th round) to raw high schoolers (Montrell Marshall, INF, Georgia HS, 12th round).

Milwaukee Brewers
1-12) Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Waiakea HS, Hawaii
CB-41) Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis HS, CA
2-50) Monte Harrison, OF, Lee’s Summit HS, MO
3-85) Cy Sneed, RHP, Dallas Baptist
4-116) Troy Stokes, OF, Calvert Hall College HS, MD
After being criticized for years of conservative college-tinted drafting, the Brewers switch gears to a high-reward, high-risk approach with the top rounds this year. Medeiros has an unusual low-angle arm slot but also hits 95 on his best days and has a nasty slider and changeup. Gatewood and Harrison were two of the most tooled-up preps in the draft. Gatewood has enormous power but opinions differ on how often he can get to it in pro ball. Harrison could develop into Andrew McCutchen. . .or Bubba Starling. Cheap but productive college seniors in middle rounds like Dustin DeMuth ( 3B, Indiana, 5th round) and Javi Salas (RHP, Miami Hurricanes, 10th round) enable the overslot bonuses at the top to fit into the budget. Not to be ignored: sixth rounder David Burkhalter, a highly-projectable high school arm from Louisiana.This is the kind of draft that can make a farm system. It can also break it, and the history of similar all-upside strategies by other teams in previous years shows that there is no guarantee here.

Pittsburgh Pirates
1-24) Cole Tucker, SS, Mountain Pointe HS, AZ
CB-39) Connor Joe, OF, University of San Diego
2-64) Mitch Keller, RHP, Xavier HS, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
CB-73) Trey Supak, RHP, La Grange HS, Texas
3-100) Jordan Luplow, OF, Fresno State University
4-131) Taylor Gushue, C, University of Florida
Tucker was a surprise pick, although he did have late helium once scouts decided that he can stay at shortstop. He’s got the defensive chops, good speed, and a chance to hit. Keller was another helium guy: Iowa doesn’t have spring high school baseball, but scouts took notice when Keller started throwing 95 MPH and showing a good curve in workouts. His arm is fresh and he could be a steal even that high. Supak was better-known than Keller three months ago and fits the profile that the Pirates like in prep pitchers: projectable and athletic. Joe, Luplow, and Gushue were all solid college performers, with Gushue particularly interesting as one of the youngest college players available at age 20, but with a proven track record on both offense and defense for a top program. Also keep an eye on Nelson Jorge (SS, International Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico, 7th round) and Kevin Krause (C, SUNY Stony Brook, 9th round) as middle picks with more upside than most.

St. Louis Cardinals
1-27) Luke Weaver, RHP, Florida State University
1-34) Jack Flaherty, RHP, Harvard Westlake HS, CA
2-68) Ronnie Williams, RHP, American Senior HS, FL
CB-71) Andrew Morales, RHP, UC-Irvine
3-104) Trevor Megill, RHP, Loyola Marymount University
4-135) Austin Gomber, LHP, Florida Atlantic University
Luke Weaver personifies college pitching polish while Morales was an affordable senior option necessary to get the high school arms signed. Flaherty has four pitches and is polished for a high school guy. Williams has been up to 94 MPH and has an athletic, easy delivery. Megill is a 6-8 right-hander who missed the spring with Tommy John surgery but was a strike-thrower with a 93 MPH fastball before getting hurt. Gomber is another strike-thrower with good size (6-5) and the ability to change speeds, a type the Cards have had good success with. The rest of the class was similarly college-oriented. Picks of particular interest include Nick Thompson (OF, 8th round, William and Mary, good power), Daniel Poncedeleon (RHP, 9th round, Embry-Riddle), Danny Diekroeger (INF, 10th round, Stanford) and Jordan DeLorenzo (LHP, 12th round, West Florida). Late-round Cardinals sleeper sabermetric pick: Chase Raffield, OF, 37th round, from Georgia Southern hit .368/.449/.650 with 24 homers and good strike zone judgment in 108 college games.