With the conclusion of the regular season comes the solidifying of the picture for 2015 MLB first-year player draft.
The Colorado Rockies' inability to finish out the season as poorly as they played most of it means that they will end up with the third overall pick in the draft. The Arizona Diamondbacks proved more adept at tanking properly and the Houston Astros will almost certainly be selecting second due to an inability to sign last year's first-round pick Brady Aiken. There is still a slight chance Houston could sign Aiken, giving the Rockies the second pick, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
The draft order is as follows:
|2. Astros (for failure to sign Brady Aiken)|
|7. Red Sox|
|8. White Sox|
|18. Blue Jays|
All picks up until Cincinnati, at No. 11, are protected and will not change no matter what. After that, this order is subject to change based upon who does or doesn't sign players who were given qualifying offers.
Since the draft is so far out, there is room for major changes in the landscape between now and then. So let us take a first-glance look at some of the players the Rockies may be looking to draft in the same overall slot they took Jon Gray just two years ago.
Brady Aiken - LHP, Purgatory
Who knows what the future holds for the young, left-handed fireballer that Houston drafted last season. His injury concerns and the whole ordeal with the Astros this season (them demanding less money because of issues with his elbow in the medicals and him refusing to sign) make it unlikely they draft him again.
So, if the Diamondbacks pass on him, the Rockies would be in a position to draft Aiken and should if they are satisfied with the health and character issues. The stuff and command is there for a lefty, fastball/curveball/change-up pitcher with a projectable frame.
The mock drafts I have seen this early have the Texas Rangers selecting him fourth overall.
Brendan Rogers - SS, Lake Mary HS
Rogers is currently the most highly touted high school bat in the draft and many mocks I have looked at have him going first overall unless teams balk at his look. Not overly imposing on the field, and as a short stop without blazing foot speed, Rogers still possesses the highest rated bat in the draft right now.
Fangraphs rates his hitting and power numbers both at 60 and he is still expected to be above average defensively.
Being so young, it will be fascinating to see how Rogers plays from now until draft time. If his stock rises, it only leaves the Rockies with more interesting options.
Michael Matuella - RHP, Duke
Matuella has a higher rated fastball than Aiken according to Fangraphs, sitting at a 65 with a potential 70 for the future. With the ability to dial it up to 97 mph and backing it up with an above average curve and a solid change, some think Matuella will rise all the way up to the top pick.
He has had some soreness issues and only threw 58 innings last year. If he holds up well and the two teams above him decide to go in a different direction, Matualla could fall into the Rockies lap in a similar fashion to the way Jon Gray did. At 6'6, 225 lbs, he is an intimidator and could potentially be a quick riser to go along with Kyle Freeland.
Walker Buehler - RHP, Vanderbilt
Buehler. Buehler. Buehler.
Well as long as he doesn't spend all day pretending to be sick in bed, Walker Buehler could turn out to be a pretty good pitcher. His fastball can reportedly touch 96 mph with two plus breaking balls and change-up command that flashes above average.
There may end up being concern over his slight frame, standing at only 6'1, 160 lbs. Reminds me of me in early high school and college. So ... if that's any indication, he should start getting fat right around 26.
Phil Bickford - RHP, Southern Nevada JC
The anti-Buehler from what I can see, Bickford has the imposing frame scouts are looking for at 6'4, 200 lbs. He hits 97 with the fastball and did some maneuvering to make himself eligible for this draft by moving from Cal State Fullerton to Southern Nevada.
He has apparently added a plus slider since high school. The fact that he hasn't been throwing it until recently is good both because it could mean much less wear and tear on the arm and also be an example of an ability to learn and adapt and employ at a quick rate.
Chris Betts - C, Wilson HS
There are a number of other pitchers still in the mix between now and then, but I wanted to take a look at one other non-pitching prospect rated to go near the top.
Right now, Betts is sitting around the low teens in mock drafts (15 for Fangraphs) but is drawing comparisons to Brian McCann both for his raw power and likelihood to stay behind home plate. Being that catcher is still one of the most difficult positions for any organization to fill, it is the one area where I would be fine with the Rockies reaching for a bit based on position.
The hope, though, is that Betts shows even more promise between now and the draft and makes himself a real top-five candidate.