The 2014 MLB Draft is chock full of pitchers with high ceilings and low floors. The Rockies will likely have their selection from a bevvy of these types of pitchers with the eighth overall pick. Let's look at which pitcher, if any, Colorado should take in the first round.
Aaron Nola, RHP (LSU)
If you buy into the pitch-to-low-contact philosophy the Rockies have been employing lately, Aaron Nola may be your guy. He doesn't have the overpowering fastball that some of his peers do but comes equipped with excellent command and a sinker that can still get up to 94.
One red flag may be that the curveball is his best pitch, a pitch that doesn't always play well at Coors Field. Sitting in the high 70's, it is his go-to swing-and-miss pitch and is said to have tight spin and plenty of depth.
He throws an above average change-up but reports suggest he can be inconsistent with his arm speed while throwing the pitch. At the higher levels, no matter how much break a change has, if hitters know it is coming they can either lay off it as it falls into the dirt or sit back and crush it if it hangs in the zone. His change will be a key if he is forced to throw the curve a bit less at altitude so normalizing his delivery mechanics would likely be priority one for his coaches.
Nola has developed a reputation as a guy who doesn't walk hitters and his three-quarters delivery that borders on straight side-arm reminds me of Dan Winkler.
Ryan Fagan from sportingnews.com:
His track record of success at LSU-he has a 1.43 ERA through 13 starts this season, he was the 2013 SEC pitcher of the year as a sophomore, and he had a 3.61 ERA in 89 2/3 innings as a freshman-makes Nola one of the more known quantities in this draft. And though he might not project as a true "ace" in the big leagues, he has the stuff (low 90s fastball, good breaking stuff) to be a productive MLB pitcher for a long time.
He may not be the most exciting pick, but he might just be the safest bet.
Kyle Freeland, LHP (Evansville)
Freeland represents the best option in terms of southpaws. His fastball isn't overpowering, either, at 90-92 mph but scouts have suggested that his 6'4 frame (Nola is 6'1) leaves room for added speed in the future.
His best pitch is his change-up which he throws with consistent arm slot and speed. A good change-up is practically a necessity for a LHP trying to make outs of right-handed batters at the higher levels.
Interestingly, he throw two different sliders -- one sitting in the mid-80s one in the high-70s -- though the slower one doesn't project well against better competition. His delivery is clean, smooth, and easily repeatable and he certainly looks intimidating on the mound.
The Colorado prep player was drafted by the Phillies in the 35th round in 2011 and the Phillies just happen to be the team with the pick right before Colorado's. If the big lefty is still on the board, however, and if the Rockies have any inclination that he could add a mph or two to his fastball, Freeland could represent the highest ceiling and rarest commodity available at pick number eight.
Tyler Beede, RHP (Vanderbilt)
Beede's inconsistency scares me. Everything I have read suggests that each of his pitches can be both plus and minus. At 6'4 and with the ability to hit 95 mph on his fastball -- in addition to having at least the capability combining it with a plus curveball and change-up -- it could just be a question of learning a better approach and tweaking his mechanics in order to gain stability.
He has developed a reputation for walking guys and an wildly inconsistent delivery.
If he can harness all of his potential, he could be a steal at the eighth pick and some mock drafts I have seen have him going as high as fourth. But do the Rockies really want to take a project pitcher with their first pick? Unless the Rockies have identified something with Beede that they believe can make him consistent, I would stay away.
Ryan Fagan again:
The injuries to fellow college right-handers Hoffman and Erick Fedde (UNLV) certainly haven't hurt Beede's status. That's unfortunate for Hoffman and Fedde, but it's probably true. Beede has a mid-90s fastball and well-developed changeup, tools that could help teams look pass hit-and-miss results at Vandy this season.
Judging by this video, he also doesn't come off the mound in much of a position to field. Still, he's got some pretty good stuff.
Erick Fedde, RHP (UNLV)
Erick Fedde ("Feddie? "Fed?" "Feed?" "Feday?") looks to me like a right-handed version of Tyler Matzek. He is tall at 6'4 but is listed at only 165 pounds (reminds me of me in high school) which means he still has room to fill out and maybe add some power.
As it is, his fastball sits in the low nineties but can occasionally touch 95 and with good run. His slider also flashed plus at times in the low to mid eighties but is mostly a swing-and-miss out pitch which he can only inconsistently throw for a strike.
His change is mostly a "show me" pitch at this point as he hasn't yet show the ability to throw it with much movement.
Fedde was considered in many circles to be a top ten talent before having Tommy John surgery in the spring. He had been cooking with a 1.73 ERA through 11 starts and the Rockies are in a position with their current pitching depth that if they really believe in a guy like Fedde (or the next entrant on our list) they should not be deterred by the fact that he will need extended recovery time...unless they believe the injury concerns will persist.
Jeff Hoffman, RHP (East Carolina)
Hoffman may be a better version (in concept at least) of Erick Fedde. He, too is sidelined with Tommy John surgery but his arsenal when healthy is scary. His fastball sits in the mid nineties and can touch 98. Scouts report his fastball more in the 92-94 range this summer but also suggest his projectable frame (6'4, only 185) means the power should maintain and even perhaps grow.
That he backs this up with a true 12-6 curve ball that I have seen multiple sources call a "hammer" and has some scouts drawing comparisons to Adam Wainwright, almost has me sold. He also throws a change-up that has flashed above average with good fade and speed especially considering that he is reported not yet having a good feel for the pitch.
Additionally he has a slider that does little more than throw hitters off the scent of the curve ball but serves as just a another tool in an already intimidating belt. He has a clean, repeatable delivery but still struggles a bit with command, not by walking guys but typically leaving the ball in the zone. He will need to learn to hit corners consistently to be effective in the pro's.
It is a risky pick, and one that won't pay any immediate dividends, but if he is there at No. 8, the Rockies should strongly consider adding such a dynamic pitcher with such a wide arsenal to an already promising list of young arms.
Brandon Finnegan, LHP (TCU)
Brandon Finnegan might not look as scary as some of the 6'4 guys on this list. Checking in at just 5'11, 195, he has still been seen hitting 98 on the radar gun. The pitch sits 92-95 with good command.
His breaking pitch is described as more of a "slurve" than a straight curve or slider. It projects as an above-average pitch and he can throw it to get swings out of the zone and also as a strike. The change-up is also supposed to be above average with great feel, and reports suggest he has a good idea of how to approach hitters and work-through at-bats and even games with solid pitching strategy.
Most of the mock drafts I have seen have him going outside the top ten but I like what I see both in the profile and video for Brandon Finnegan and would not be at all upset to see the Rockies land him with the eighth pick.
The delivery is kinda violent, but overall, I like him.
Grant Holmes, RHP (Conway HS)
The Rockies have tended more toward college pitchers recently making Holmes less likely. He has a good mid nineties fastball and the best curveball outside of Hoffman and likely first overall pick Carlos Rodon. He doesn't project to have ace stuff but could be a very solid rotation pitcher for a long time.
He can get run and sink on the fastball and even throws a change that is above average but doesn't rank elite in any single category. He has a good feel for pitching and mock draft have him going anywhere from the top ten to somewherein the twenties.
Sean Newcomb, LHP (Hartford)
John Manuel of Baseball America has the Rockies selecting Sean Newcomb with their first round pick. He writes:
They are more likely to opt for a college arm, either one of the injured pitchers or Hartford lefthander Sean Newcomb, whose durable body and plus fastball could allow him to complement rising Rockies arms Eddie Butler and 2013 first-round pick Jonathan Gray.
A lefty that touches 97 and is already 6'5, 240, Newcomb definitely has an intimidation factor. His slider is inconsistent but has flashed plus at 82-84 with late bite and tilt. He also projects to have an average change-up.
The main concern with Newcomb is his walk rates. He walked 37 batters in 72 innings with Hartford last season, though it is said that he repeats his delivery well.
Touki Toussaint, RHP (Coral Springs HS)
Christopher Crawford of MLB Draft Insider:
One scout told me that Toussaint has a "video game breaking-ball" when he's at his best, an 83-85 offering that has loads of spin and buries down and breaks away from right-handed hitters. He has a tendency to spike the pitch, however.
He adds to that a fastball that sits 92-95 and can be dialed up even higher on occasion with good run. He also has a change-up but reviews are mixed and suggest it will need work to be average at the next level. Some reports suggest that his violent delivery can help fool hitters but can also throw off his command for stretches.
Awesome name and awesome stuff with iffy command can be tempting, and I wouldn't be heartbroken if they took him, but Toussaint seems like a reach in the top ten.
I have no idea who I would take right now mostly because I have no idea who will be available. Nola is probably my favorite but most mock drafts show him gone by the time Colorado selects. Similar story with Freeland and Beede has been all over the place.
I know nobody gets excited over drafting someone who won't play for a year but it sounds like Hoffman may be a talent that is only available at this pick because of his surgery and the Rockies can afford to wait if he really has the most upside of the guys available.
All told, Sean Newcomb may be the best available, non-injured, highest potential guy with the added bonus of being a lefty but the command issues scare me. Which brings me back to Brandon Finnegan. I like the profile and if health is a major concern I think he would be my pick.
I would rank them thusly:
1. Aaron Nola
2. Kyle Freeland
3. Jeff Hoffman
4. Brandon Finnegan
5. Sean Newcomb
6. Erick Fedde
7. Tyler Beede
8. Touki Toussaint
9. Grant Holmes
I reserve the right to completely change my mind a few hundred times between now and the draft, but this is how I would prioritize these guys. How about you? Share in the comments.