With the MLB draft now only two weeks away, it's time to go in-depth on each of the players the Rockies may be selecting with the fourth overall selection. We're going to start with those least likely to be the selection and move up to those most likely, so be sure to check back as we continue to preview the prospects the Rockies may draft.
Our first potential selection is A.J. Puk, a left-handed starting pitcher from University of Florida. After a dominating performance this past summer, Puk was seen as a shoo-in for the first overall selection. This spring, there's been some some cause for concern that has possibly dropped him in the draft to a point where he may be available for the Rockies.
A.J. Puk's Strengths
Puk's biggest strength right now is his fastball. He may not have the fastest one in the draft, that belongs to Riley Pint, but he may have the best one in the draft. When healthy, Puk's fastball sits in the high 90s with good movement and has shown an ability to maintain velocity deep into his starts.
The other strength worth noting is his his physical traits. Being left-handed always helps, but Puk's 6'7, 230-pound frame is also ideal for a starting pitcher. Puk uses that frame well with good push from his legs and a clean, easy, repeatable delivery.
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Complete first round mock draft including compensation and competitive balance picks
Going 45 picks and three Rockies selections deep this time.
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A.J. Puk's Weaknesses
Puk isn't the standard college pitching candidate for the first overall pick. Usually the top college pitchers have more polish than the top high school pitchers, giving them a higher floor. Puk is lacking in that in some ways as he still doesn't have consistent secondary offerings. Puk is also lacking in the command/control department.
Puk has some maturity concerns dating back to an arrest last spring when he and a Florida teammate were arrested for trespassing after breaking into a construction site, climbing and playing on the equipment.
There are also some health concerns with Puk. He has had some back issues this spring, and while that usually isn't as big of a flag for a pitcher as arm issues are. If they develop into a chronic issue, as they sometimes do for tall guys, they could be a big cause for concern.
Why the Rockies will draft A.J. Puk
While Puk does have some weaknesses, he is still the best college pitcher in the draft. If the back checks out and the Rockies are comfortable with Puk's maturity after meeting and talking with him, there are some solid building blocks for the Rockies to work with.
The Rockies love a good fastball and Puk has the best one in the draft. Puk has also shown flashes of a great slider and good changeup that would be a great mix for a pitcher at Coors Field. There is also the potential for him to move faster through the minors than someone like Pint or Jason Groome because of his age. It's also very easy to fall in love with Puk's size and delivery.
Why the Rockies won't draft A.J. Puk
The biggest reason that the Rockies won't draft Puk is because they probably won't be able to. Most likely, either the Phillies or the Reds will have already drafted him by the time the Rockies get to make their first selection.
If he does drop for some reason, I could see the Rockies still avoiding him for a number of key reasons. First, the Rockies have been stressing control and command as an organization and it's easy to see them passing over a college guy who has less control than a number of the high-school pitchers available. Second, there is some evidence that the elevation at Coors Field hampers a pitcher's recovery and drafting a pitcher who may already have some issues may just be playing with fire.
Overall, I'd place the likelihood of A.J. Puk becoming a Rockie at extremely low at this point. Most of that is due to the fact that I believe he'll already be drafted by the time the Rockies make their first selection.