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2014 MLB Draft in Review: Nola, not Aiken, prevails

Four years removed from the 2014 MLB Draft, we are beginning to see some of its budding stars.

MLB: New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been four years since the 2014 MLB Draft, which seems like — at least to me — a long time. I still remember that I was playing in my own baseball game while the draft was going on. I missed the first five or six picks before I got back to my phone. Anyway, that’s enough about my experience. Four years later, I’m here to review it. As you will see, many of MLB’s budding stars were picked in this draft and not just in the first round.

The First Pick: Brady Aiken, Houston Astros

The Astros made the left-handed pitcher Aiken the first pick of the 2014 draft out of Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego. Prior to the draft, Aiken was rated as the number-one prospect on a number of draft prospect lists, including Keith Law’s on ESPN.

Issues arose with Aiken’s health. The Astros were not satisfied with Aiken’s physical, noticing elbow inflammation. Early in the signing period, Houston and Aiken agreed to a $6.5 million bonus, but after this problem came about, the Astros reduced their offer to just $5 million. Negotiations continued, but at the July 18 deadline, Aiken remained unsigned.

The saga sparked debate across Major League Baseball about the bargaining power given to draftees. The Astros only pulled out of the $6.5 million agreement because they believed that Aiken would not say no to them, taking a gamble on himself to not only stay healthy for another season, but also produce at the same level to be picked first once again.

Aiken enrolled in IMG Academy in Florida the following year in order to remain draft eligible in 2015. In his first start, he was removed with elbow discomfort and had Tommy John surgery the following March. The Indians still selected Aiken with the No. 17 pick in 2015, signing him to an approximate $2.5 million bonus. Across two seasons in the minor leagues, Aiken has a 5.05 ERA, 17.9 percent strikeout rate and a 15.0 percent walk rate, reaching as high as Single-A Lake County.

First Rounders in the Majors

Of the first 41 picks in the first round and first supplemental round of the 2014 MLB Draft, a solid 17 have already appeared in the Major Leagues.

2014 Draft: Major Leaguers from 1st round

Pick No. Selecting Team Player Debut fWAR New Team
Pick No. Selecting Team Player Debut fWAR New Team
3 White Sox Carlos Rodon 2015 5.2 -
4 Cubs Kyle Schwarber 2015 4.8 -
7 Phillies Aaron Nola 2015 9.8 -
8 Rockies Kyle Freeland 2017 3.0 -
9 Blue Jays Jeff Hoffman 2016 0.8 Rockies
10 Mets Michael Conforto 2015 7.5 -
13 Padres Trea Turner 2015 7.8 Nationals
14 Giants Tyler Beede 2018 0.1 -
15 Angels Sean Newcomb 2017 2.4 Braves
17 Royals Brandon Finnegan 2014 0.2 Reds
18 Nationals Erick Fedde 2017 -0.3 -
21 Indians Bradley Zimmer 2017 2.0 -
25 Athletics Matt Chapman 2017 4.7 -
27 Cardinals Luke Weaver 2016 2.9 -
29 Reds Alex Blandino 2018 0.3 -
34 Cardinals Jack Flaherty 2017 0.6 -
37 Astros Derek Fisher 2017 0.1 -

The first player from the 2014 draft to appear in the Major Leagues was 17th overall pick Brandon Finnegan. Just three months after being drafted, Finnegan was in the Royals’ bullpen in their run to capturing American League pennant. Pitching twice in the 2014 World Series, Finnegan has the cool distinction of pitching in the College World Series and the MLB World Series in the same exact year. The following season, he was shipped to the Cincinnati Reds in the Johnny Cueto trade, which helped the Royals capture their first World Series title since 1985. Successful pick? Successful pick, indeed.

Finnegan is one of four players to be picked in the first round that is now with a different big league club. Among them are Jeff Hoffman, who was acquired by the Rockies for Troy Tulowitzki; Trea Turner, who was dealt from the Padres to the Nationals in a three-team deal that netted them Wil Myers; and Sean Newcomb, who moved from Atlanta to Los Angeles’ American League club in the Andrelton Simmons deal.

No first round pick — or any pick from this draft, for that matter — has been more valuable than Phillies right-handed pitcher Aaron Nola. Nola has developed into a bona fide ace for Philadelphia, and at age-25, there’s an argument to be made that he’s among the best pitchers in Major League Baseball. The only issue with Nola thus far has been his health, maxing out at 168 innings pitched in 2017. Regardless, the Phillies expected Nola, selected out of LSU, to be the ace of the staff on their next winning team. In 2018, he’s been just that.

While Nola has been the most valuable selection of this group, there has been just one All-Star: Michael Conforto. The 25-year-old out of Oregon State University was selected to the National League All-Star team in 2017. In a season that was unfortunately cut short by injury, Conforto slashed .279/.384/.555 with 27 home runs and a 146 wRC+ en route to a 4.3 fWAR-season.

Other Notable Selections

It wasn’t just the first round that produced Major League players from this draft. For a full list of every single player to appear in MLB from 2014, check out The Baseball Gauge. Of the 53 Major Leaguers selected in 2014, here is a list of some notable names.

2014 Draft: other notable Major Leaguers

Round Selecting Team Player Debut fWAR New Team
Round Selecting Team Player Debut fWAR New Team
2 Red Sox Sam Travis 2017 -0.1 -
2 Astros A.J. Reed 2016 -0.9 -
2 Athletics Daniel Gossett 2017 -0.2 -
3 Marlins Brian Anderson 2017 0.7 -
4 Yankees Jordan Montgomery 2017 3.2 -
4 Astros Daniel Mengden 2016 2.5 Athletics
4 Mariners Ryan Yarbrough 2018 0.6 Rays
5 Phillies Rhys Hoskins 2017 3.2 -
5 Mariners Dan Altavilla 2016 0.1 -
6 Yankees Jonathan Holder 2016 0.8 -
6 Dodgers Brock Stewart 2016 -0.3 -
22 Twins Trevor Hildenberger 2017 0.5 -
38 Pirates Paul DeJong 2017 4.6 Cardinals

Clearly, the Phillies did well in this draft. Rhys Hoskins, another cornerstone of theirs, was the Phillies’ 5th round pick; he’s still getting his feet wet in the Major Leagues, but so far, everything’s been really good for him in Philadelphia. When he broke into the Major Leagues in 2017, Hoskins homered 18 times in his first 34 games.

Also listed as a notable draftee is Paul DeJong, who was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 38th round of the 2014 draft. Rather than sign with them, DeJong decided to return to school at Illinois State University for his senior year. It worked out well for him, as he was selected 34 rounds higher in the 4th round of the 2015 draft by the Pirates’ rival, the St. Louis Cardinals. Imagine how things might be different in the NL Central if the budding star was playing for Pittsburgh rather than St. Louis.

Top Prospects

It wouldn’t be fair to review the 2014 draft without mentioning those who haven’t yet broken into the Majors. Of MLB’s Top-100 prospects, nine were selected in 2014.

2014 Draft: top prospects

Round Selecting Team Player Prospect Rank Current Team
Round Selecting Team Player Prospect Rank Current Team
1 Red Sox Michael Kopech 9 White Sox
1 Indians Justus Sheffield 44 Yankees
1 Red Sox Michael Chavis 75 -
1 Twins Nick Gordon 76 -
2 Pirates Mitch Keller 14 -
2 Rays Brent Honeywell 18 -
2 Dodgers Alex Verdugo 30 -
2 Brewers Monte Harrison 66 Marlins
6 Cubs Dylan Cease 56 White Sox

Most of them, of course, are first and second round picks. Michael Kopech, who can repeatedly hit triple-digits with his fastball, and Brent Honeywell, with his ever-so-famous screwball, are among the more well-known names on this list. Still, all nine of these players are close to helping their Major League clubs soon.

On the whole, the long-term impact of the 2014 MLB Draft has yet to be determined. We have some interesting stories, some budding stars and some top prospects looking for their first taste of big league baseball. As we’ve seen with most drafts, it takes about seven or eight years before we can see the players fully develop.

Devan Fink is a Featured Writer for Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.