For the third year in a row, the No. 1 pick in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft belongs to the Houston Astros. The team selected Stanford right-hander Mark Appel a year ago and it seems all but official a hurler is going to be top dog for the third time in four seasons in 2014. There’s no question GM Jeff Luhnow has an appealing trio of pitchers at his doorstep to go along with the team already having a highly touted crop of prospects down on the farm. Lefty Carlos Rodon of North Carolina State has been the favorite to go in this spot before, but he has some pretty stiff competition in a couple of high school arms. Brady Aiken of California has been making a bid for the top selection and local product Tyler Kolek of Texas could be the first ever high school righty selected No. 1.
Throw in the fact Rodon is considered the best college southpaw since David Price and Kolek consistently throws hard at 97-99 MPH with his fastball and the choice seems even tougher. Yet it’s Aiken who ESPN’s Keith Law projects to be the first selection in the draft.
It remains to be seen if Law’s projection ends up being correct, but certainly Aiken should be the No. 1 pick in the draft. He has so much upside and is said to be a smart pitcher. If velocity on his fastball was an issue before, that no longer seems to be the case. After all, Jose Fernandez needs Tommy John surgery. So does Martin Perez for that matter. East Carolina’s Jeff Hoffman was, at one point, seen as a possibility to compete with Rodon for the top pick, but he also is going to have the procedure done on his arm.
Check out this article on Jose Fernandez: http://isportsweb.com/2014/05/14/miami-marlins-can-marlins-survive-loss-fernandez/
Kolek throws so hard on a constant basis, incredible for anyone, let alone someone his age, but should an alarm not be going off in team’s minds about this kid? Should this not warrant a waving of the red flag to any GM out there? Kolek has appeal. Of course he has appeal. At face value, a consistent thrower that hard, that young, says he very well could be one of the game’s best pitchers. Beyond the surface, however, with this current rate of pitchers having to come on down and be the next contest for Tommy John surgery, it seems only a matter of when, not if, Kolek is going to blow out his arm and undergo the operation. Though the young Texan also seems to have good off speed pitches, Aiken’s curveball and changeup appear to get more critical acclaim. Someone who throws those pitches with a fastball nowhere near as hard and is even younger than Kolek seems like he can only grow into something special.
What about Rodon? Like Kolek, he has his perks. Unlike the blazing right hander from the Lone Star State or the youthful lefty from the Golden State, Rodon has experience at the collegiate level. So he’s more polished. Rodon is said to have a fantastic slider, but it seems to all be upside vs. a more finished product at this point.
It would not be pure outrage if Houston made Kolek the first ever high school right handed pitcher the very first selection in the draft. Nor would it be something to cry over if they went for the 21-year-old member of the Wolfpack. Me personally, I think myself and many others would agree on the importance of pitching. In terms of potential, I simply think Aiken has the most of it, and though possible, would very much doubt Aiken would undergo Tommy John surgery whereas Kolek would not.
For these reasons, if the Astros were to choose Aiken, they would choose best.
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