The Colorado Rockies have selected Kyle Freeland, a left-handed pitcher from the University of Evansville and a Colorado native, with the 8th selection in the Rule 4 draft. The Rockies had been rumored by some to take LSU pitcher Aaron Nola or Indiana catcher Kyle Schwarber with the pick, but the Cubs surprised many people by taking Schwarber fourth overall and the Phillies took Nola a slot before Colorado's pick.
Many reports had Freeland's stock plummeting coming into this draft, but he was my favorite coming in so I'm happy with the pick.
Here is what I wrote about Freeland about a week ago as part of our draft coverage:
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.
It's a nice story for a kid coming home (he went to Thomas Jefferson high school in Denver), but most importantly Freeland was likely the best player available.
Early mock drafts had Freeland going in the top three, and his above average control and projected quick route to the big leagues should have Rockies fans elated about Freeland joining Eddie Butler, Jon Gray, and company as another exciting arm in the farm system.
According to Jon Hart on MLB Network, Freeland might have the best slider in the draft, and Hart thinks that Freeland could reach the majors before anyone else drafted ahead of him. The reports of some possible medical issues (see below) and falling stock should be concerning to fans, but the Rockies may have gotten a steal at number eight with Freeland.
Here are some thoughts from David Hood (AKA David OhNo) on Freeland:
In the end, the pitcher the Rockies were most often linked to the the last two weeks became the pick. I'll admit I've had to warm to Freeland because the initial video I watched left a bit for concern, but there's plenty to like with this pick.
Despite the lofty strikeout totals this season at Evansville, Freeland's stuff isn't pure power, but above average pitches played up by excellent command. He's going to pitch in the low 90's with a fastball carrying late life, and will back the pitch up with a solid slider that he can locate in the zone. I've read reports of a developing cutter this year, and given the recent minor league cutter craze (Butler and Winkler most notable), this was likely pleasing news to Rockies' scouts. Freeland has a build reminiscent of Christian Friedrich, long and imposing, but athletic and loose.
Based on his excellent command and solid mix of pitches, Freeland should move quickly with #3 starter potential...if he can stay healthy. Freeland sent out MRI results to teams before the draft (more on this in a second) and though they were supposedly healthy, Kiley McDaniel reported via Twitter today that one team was highly concerned with them.
The first thing I noticed with Freeland was the lack of shoulder tilt in his delivery and the stress he put on his throwing arm. His delivery is more arm than total body, and can at times appear violent. The previous surgery shouldn't prove worrisome, but I don't like this type of delivery when discerning long term health. Another quibble is Freeland's change up, which does have decent fade, but I felt was telegraphed with a slower arm speed. I also think too much is made of his peak velo of 96, where most recorded starts had him 90-93, then factor in pitching every fifth day vs. once a week...
Overall, this is a solid selection that probably has more injury risk than other picks, but provided he's healthy, Freeland could take a similar short trip to the majors ala Butler. He slots in just behind Gray and Butler on my Rockies pitching totem pole, edging Matzek with superior command despite lesser stuff, and Anderson with superior stuff and even if not better command.
Lastly, why was any weight put on the fact that the Rockies' doctor performed Freeland's surgery? Good doctors can perform surgeries that fail, and no doctor should be so proud to not recognize when an arm they repaired is looking less than favorable long term. If the Rockies liked what they saw in the MRI (and let's face it, he pitches, it's never going to look clean. I've heard stories of pitchers in college being told not to get an MRI by their coaches because they always come back showing damage, pitching is hard), then they had reason to take him, not because of a doctor on their payroll. Regardless, Freeland's slipping stock might give the Rockies additional bonus money to spread around on picks tomorrow if not later tonight.
Stay tuned to Purple Row for your Rockies 2014 MLB draft coverage!