Freeland Headlines Annual Pretend Draft

Beginning in 2003 at Baseball America, I’ve gone through the annual exercise of making Draft picks through the top 10 rounds. The idea is to put my reputation, if not my money, where my mouth is, because I spend so much of my time critiquing how teams do in the actual Draft.

It works like this: I randomly assign myself the choices of a team outside the first five selections, and I’m subject to the same bonus-pool restrictions that clubs face. In other words, I can’t just take the most talented player in each round and wind up with a $15 million signing budget.

If you want to check out my picks from 11 years of drafts at BA, they’re all here. I’ve picked 24 players who have made it to the big leagues — not including Luke Hochevar, my 2005 first-rounder, whom I didn’t sign. The best prospects in my farm system are third baseman Garin Cecchini (who got a cup of coffee with the Red Sox this year) and left-hander Daniel Norris, while outfielder Mikie Mahtook and catcher Andrew Susac are on the verge of their first callups.

Anyway, let’s get to the 2014 Draft. I drew the eighth slot (Rockies), which means I get a competitive-balance pick to play with and $8,347,300 in bonus-pool cash for the first 10 rounds. I also can spend an extra $417,365 without losing a future first-rounder, so that will be my upper limit.

Round 1 (No. 8): Kyle Freeland, lhp, Evansville (real draft: Round 1, No. 8, Rockies). I went in the same direction that the Rockies did with their actual pick, and for the same reasons. Though past medical reports raised some questions about the health of Freeland’s elbow, he was as dominant from start to start as any college pitcher this season. He has a heavy fastball that can reach the mid-90s and backs it up with a low-80s slider than can morph into a mid-80s cutter. He flashes an average changeup too, and he throws tons of quality strikes, so I see a possible frontline starter. Additionally, his lack of leverage means I can save money versus the $3,190,800 assigned pick value and spend it elsewhere. I also considered Coral Springs (Fla.) Christian Academy right-hander Touki Toussaint and Hartford lefty Sean Newcomb before deciding on Freeland.

Round 1/supplemental (No. 35): Forrest Wall, 2b, Orangewood Christian HS, Maitland, Fla. (Round 1/supplemental, Rockies). The highest-rated players still available on the board were high school right-handers Sean Reid-Foley (Sandalwood High, Jacksonville, Fla) and Spencer Adams (White County High, Cleveland, Ga.), but the depth of prep pitching in this Draft allowed me to gamble that one of them or a comparable arm might be available in the second round. I wound up mirroring the real-life selections with each of my top two choices, something I hadn’t done previously. But I can’t argue with Colorado’s choice of Wall, who pairs perhaps the best pure hitting ability of any high schooler in this Draft with well above-average field. If he never regains average arm strength following shoulder surgery in 2011, he still can be an asset at second base or in center field. If his arm does bounce back, he has the actions to play on the left side of the infield.

Round 2 (No. 48): Sean Reid-Foley, rhp, Sandalwood HS, Jacksonville, Fla. (Round 2, Blue Jays). Adams went 43rd overall to the White Sox, but Reid-Foley remained there for the taking. If teams weren’t skittish about picking high school arms and there weren’t so many available this year, he could have been a first-rounder. He has a nice combination of polish and stuff, albeit with a somewhat unconventional delivery. He throws four pitches for strikes, the best of which are his low-90s fastball and low-80s slider. Lee’s Summit West (Mo.) High outfielder Monte Harrison also was tempting here as the best athlete in the Draft, but he came with a higher price tag that would have precluded some aggressive selections later.

Round 3 (No. 82): Jakson Reetz, c, Norris HS, Firth, Neb. (Round 3, Nationals). To me, Reetz was the best high school catching prospect this year who’s destined to remain behind the plate. He’s very athletic and has a strong arm. He can hit too and has a track record of producing againt top competition, winning MVP honors at the Perfect Game All-America Classic and batting .435 with the U.S. 18-and-under national team last year. I also mulled taking slick-fielding American Heritage School (Plantation, Fla.) shortstop Milton Ramos and Rice right-hander Zech Lemond.

Round 4 (No. 113): Trace Loehr, ss, Putnam HS, Milwaukie, Ore. (Round 6, Athletics). Loehr is a slightly lesser-talented version of Wall, projecting as a plus hitter with plus speed. Likewise, he’ll probably wind up at second base rather than shortstop, and I’m still happy to bet on his bat and his quickness. Wall, Reetz and Loehr are going to eat up most of my Freeland savings and the additional $417,365 cushion, so I’ll have to be more conservative with my final six picks.

Round 5 (No. 143): John Curtiss, rhp, Texas (Round 6, Twins). One of the more underrated players in the Draft, Curtiss didn’t pitch at all in 2013 while recovering from Tommy John surgery and a second operation to remove a rib in order to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome. The Longhorns used him as their closer this year, but I see a starter going forward with a 92-96 mph fastball and a hard slider.

Round 6 (No. 173): Greg Allen, of, San Diego State (Round 6, Indians). He may not have much power, but I like the way Allen fits the center fielder/leadoff hitter profile. He’s a switch-hitter who makes contact and controls the strike zone, and he has the quickness to steal bases and run down balls from gap to gap.

Round 7 (No. 203): Trenton Kemp, of, Buchanan HS, Clovis, Calif. (Round 15, Red Sox). I should have enough cash to squeeze in one more (slightly this time) over-budget signing. Kemp is a raw athlete with exciting tools, starting with well above-average speed and solid power potential. Also a star wide receiver on Buchanan’s football team, Kemp could start to improve rapidly once he concentrates on baseball.

Round 8 (No. 233): Dean Deetz, rhp, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M JC (Round 11, Astros). Deetz’ stuff took a big jump forward this spring, with his fastball sitting at 92-94 mph and touching 98, and his slider working into the mid-80s. He’s raw but athletic, and all of that is enough to override the Tommy John surgery he had in 2012 and some makeup issues from his past.

Round 9 (No. 263): A.J. Vanegas, rhp, Stanford (Round 11, Dodgers). Vanegas turned down $2 million as a Padres sixth-round pick out of high school in 2010, and he had control and injury issues with the Cardinal. Yet he still can show electric stuff (mid-90s fastball, slider with bite) and could become a late-inning reliever in the Majors.

Round 10 (No. 293): Richard Prigatano, of, Long Beach State (Round 11, Rockies). He never has really tapped into the power potential his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame hints at, but Prigatano is a gifted hitter with strength. In the 10th round, it’s a worthwhile gamble to hope he can figure out how to hit more home runs. A good athlete for his size, he fits best in left field but is capable of playing in right.

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