Philadelphia, PA – Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Here are some players to watch as likely top 10 picks in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, which gets underway June 5.
1) BRADY AIKEN, LHP, CATHEDRAL CATHOLIC HS (CALIFORNIA)
Aiken could become the first high school lefty to go in top-five since 2002 ... Has been on scouts' radars for a while, but jumped to the top of most draft boards this spring when his velocity increased ... When he helped Team USA to the gold medal at the 18-and-under World Cup in Taiwan last September he was throwing in the high 80s. After a winter of working out, though, he has seen his fastball jump to 97 mph at times ... Curveball was already a plus pitch, but it has been perfected this spring. He throws it with good depth in the 77-79 range with sharp bite ... Changeup could develop into an above- average offering, but some scouts think his slider will eventually become his third best pitch ... Possess terrific command for someone so young ... Some concern that he doesn't have a go-to strikeout pitch, but the curve could become that with time ... Has committed to UCLA
2) CARLOS RODON, LHP, NORTH CAROLINA STATE
Considered the best college left-hander since David Price ... Has been projected to a be a top-three pick since a stellar freshman season at NC State ... Was the driving force behind the Wolfpack's first World Series berth in 45 years last season, as he set a school record with 148 strikeouts ... Hasn't been as good this season, pitching to a 2.01 ERA, while still striking out 117 batters in 98 2/3 innings ... Will overpower hitters with two pitches. His fastball sits at 91-94 mph, but can reach 97. His best pitch, though, is his slider that usually arrives in the mid-80s ... Still trying to develop his changeup, but it could become a solid third offering in time ... One downside is that scouts think he relies on slider too much ... Another is that he is viewed as being a little over confident at times ... If he doesn't go No. 1, most think Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria won't let the Cuban-American Miami-born hurler slip past him at two ... Drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 16th round of the 2011 MLB draft.
3) TYLER KOLEK, RHP, SHEPHERD HS (TEXAS)
Has bounced back nicely from a broken left arm that caused him to miss much of his junior season in 2013 ... A three-sport athlete who drew big interest from schools as a defensive end ... Probably the hardest thrower in this class and has maintained triple-digit radar gun readings all spring, hitting 100-102 mph regularly. In fact most scouts have marveled at his consistent velocity rate for someone so young ... Fastball sits 96-98 mph ... He also throws both a 12-to-6 curveball and a sharp slider. As he progresses, though, his slider is expected to a be a plus pitch for him ... Will have to develop his changeup at the next level ... The only real downside has been his command, but facing lesser competition among the smaller schools in Texas he struck out 60-percent of the batters he faced, opposed to just a 6-percent walk rate ... Would not be shocked if his home state Houston Astros make him the No. 1 pick ... Younger brother, Stephan, who is also a pitcher, could be a top selection in next year's draft.
4) AARON NOLA , RHP, LOUISIANA STATE
The only two-time Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year (2013 and 2014) in league history, the right-handed Nola led the SEC this season in strikeouts (127), innings pitched (109) and opponent batting average (.173), and he is No. 3 in the nation in strikeouts. Nola is 10-1 on the year with a 1.49 ERA, and he has moved to No. 3 on the LSU career strikeouts list with 338 ...Nola isn't physical or overpowering, but he has exquisite command of his three-pitch arsenal ... Consistently throws in the low 90s from a low three-quarter arm slot which produces sink ... Also has an above average change-up that he uses to keep hitters off balance ... Among the 2014 pitching crop, Nola is the best bet to reach his ceiling and likely will be the first starter to appear in the big leagues ... Was a 22nd round draft choice of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011.
5) ALEX JACKSON, C/OF, RANCHO BERNARDO HS (CALIFORNIA)
Scouts became aware of Jackson in 2012 when he led California prep players with 17 home runs as a sophomore ... Since then he has only solidified his standing as the top right-handed power bat in this draft ... Can hit the ball to all fields and possesses insane bat speed ... If he can tighten up his swing, which gets long at times, he could develop into a .300 hitter at the next level ... In addition to his power Jackson has a terrific arm ... He needs work behind the plate and is considered a project at best ... Because of his bat the most likely scenario is that a team will turn him into a right fielder in order to fast track him to the majors ... Not considered a great base runner ... Rancho Bernardo High School hasn't had a first-round pick since Philadelphia Phillies lefty Cole Hamels in 2002 ... Has committed to Oregon.
6) KYLE FREELAND, LHP, EVANSVILLE
After two unproductive years at Evansville, scouts started to become aware of Freeland last summer while playing in the Cape Cod League ... The left-hander led college baseball's top summer league in strikeouts (48) and K- to-BB ratio (48-to-4), as hitters had trouble dealing with his fastball and slider ... He has done nothing to hurt his value this spring, as he led the Purple Aces to a regular season MVC title and went 10-2 with a 1.90 ERA. He also struck out 128 batters compared to just 13 walks in his 99 2/3 innings this season ... Very deceptive delivery that makes his fastball appear faster than it is. Although it does sit between 90-93 mph, but can top out at 96 ... That delivery, however, is a big reason why some scouts think he won't make it as a starter ... Also throws a slider in the high 80s that can also turn into a mid-80s cutter ... Needs to develop changeup a bit more ... A 35th round draft choice of the Philadelphia Phillies back in 2011.
7) NICK GORDON, SS, OLYMPIA HS (FLORIDA)
The latest in a line of Gordons that includes his father, former major league reliever Tom, and brother, Dee, who is an infielder in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization ... Was impressive on the mound last summer, throwing a fastball in the low 90s, but prefers to play everyday and played shortstop mostly this spring ... Given the lack of middle-of-the-diamond prospects in this draft Gordon could be a top-10 pick ... Like his brother, Gordon is an asset on bases with plus-speed ... However, also like his brother he need to game more strength as he progresses ... Is committed to Florida State.
8) TREA TURNER, SS, NORTH CAROLINA STATE
Hit scout's radars due to his blazing speed and has shown the tools and contact ability to be a leadoff hitter in the major leagues ... Right-hander does have a tendency to try and swing for the fences, something that could hinder him at the higher levels ... Began college career at third base before shifting to shortstop. Has the range to stay there but did have nine errors through 54 games this season ... Hit .321 in that span with eight homers, 36 RBI and 26 steals in 30 tries ... Brooks Wallace Award finalist and All-ACC first team in 2013, when he led team with .368 average, 66 runs scored, 84 hits and 30 steals despite missing 11 games with an ankle injury ... Led the nation with 57 stolen bases as a freshman in 2012, including a stretch of 29 straight steals without being caught ... Was selected in the 20th round of the 2011 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
9) SEAN NEWCOMB, LHP, HARTFORD
Fits the mold of desire as a hard-throwing left-handed, but a limited showcase makes him a bit of a high-risk, high-reward selection ... Fastball sits in the low 90s, but projects to add some more speed ... Has a smooth delivery and doesn't fight himself on the mound ... Figures to be a three- pitch hurler, adding a curveball and changeup to his heater ... Not coveted out of high school, struggled big time with command as a freshman before suffering a season-ending forearm injury after nine appearances ... Still struggled with walks, but fanned 92 batters in 72 innings as a sophomore before surpassing that with 106 through 14 starts and 93 1/3 innings this year ... Added an 8-2 record and 1.25 ERA to the high strikeout total during junior season, one that came after his summer stint at the Cape Cod League was cut short due to mononucleosis.
10) MICHAEL CONFORTO, OF, OREGON STATE
Regarded as one of the top outfield college prospects in the draft due to his power potential and solid eye at the plate ... Large build and athletic background make him destined for routine 20-homer seasons, but also has shown the willingness to get on base other ways ... Left-handed slugger was hitting .369 with seven homers and 55 RBI through 51 games this season, drawing 46 walks with 32 strikeouts .... Followed up a solid sophomore season in which he hit .328 with 11 homers and 47 RBI in 65 games. His home run total tied for the Pac-12 lead and he was selected as the conference's Player of the Year while also getting named to the College World Series All-Tournament Team ... Is some question regarding his defense, but he did show off solid arm strength with two outfield assists at home plate during the 2013 College World Series.