Simmons Field: Mizzou in the 2014 MLB Draft

Mizzou's Max Scherzer, 2006 1st round draft pick - Photo by Trripleplay

Two Tigers and a Tiger recruit are very likely to hear their names in this year's MLB Draft, with others possibly hearing their names called. Who will be the next Mizzou-Made Major League star?

Baseball is all about luck and opportunity. The right man in the right spot at the right time. In fact, there is a common saying around baseball circles that goes something like, "You only need one guy to like what he sees enough to pull the trigger. Once you're in, you can go back to being you."

Simply put, the draft is a gamble. A gamble based on scouting reports, which, in turn, are based on small, eyes-on sample sizes. Do something that draws the interest of the right scout at the right time, and you may have punched your ticket, even if what you did in that moment isn't necessarily how you normally play.

That's Dirk Hayhurst on How to Hack the MLB Draft on Sports On Earth.  If you want to know how hard it is to get those scouts to notice you as a player, read his whole story.

The 2014 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft begins tonight, with 40 rounds stretching through the next couple of days. For overall details of the Draft, check out the SBN 2014 MLB Draft hub page.

Mizzou Baseball fans watching the draft may hear some familiar names in the first round, but they will be players for teams that played against MU during their college careers.  RHP Aaron Nola,of  LSU, and OF Bradley Zimmer, University of San Francisco, are expected to go in the top round.

Tim Jamieson and company will be following the draft to find out which current players and which incoming recruits will be faced with the big decision in the coming days and weeks: Do I chase the Big League dream I've had since t-ball? Or do I don the black & gold and play for Mizzou?

A year ago, the Tigers lost junior pitchers Rob Zastryzny and Jake Walsh to the minor leagues.  Keaton Steele was also drafted, in the 40th round, but elected to return to Mizzou.  The Tigers also lost three of their signed recruits to the draft.

Let's take a look at which current Tigers and which MU recruits may have done the right things at the right time to grab the attention of the big league scouts.

Current Tigers

Junior RHP Brett Graves

Graves' junior season with Mizzou was not as spectacular as was expected from him. He had some grat games during the season, but toward the latter weeks he was less than dominating. He's still expected to be taken around the third round of the draft, though, based mostly on what scouts see as his high ceiling. During his prep career and his three years at Mizzou they've seen what Ian Kinsler saw in him:  the makeup of a big league pitcher.

Graves was drafted in 2011 by the Cardinals in the 26th round.

According to Dave Matter in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Graves had a pre-draft workout with the Detroit Tigers last week.

Check out his MLB.com draft profile video.

Brett Graves deals fastballs at 92-94 mph and tops out at 97 mph, showing the ability to get swings and misses. (mlb.com)

From Prospect Digest:

Projection: Where are the strikeouts? While his K-rate has bounced back nicely from a career worst 4.06 last year, he still hasn’t missed even an average amount of bats. The control is obviously an above-average to plus skill, but at some point he’s going to need to miss bats. Period. Backend starting option, maybe a decent fourth as things stand right now. And per the usual, he could always get pushed into late-inning role down the line.

Baseball America ranks him at #60 (2nd round) in their top 100 draft prospects:

Graves has a strong, athletic build at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds. Despite his size, Graves has groundball tendencies with a 1.3 groundout-flyout ratio this season. The 21-year-old’s development this season has put in him consideration to be drafted on the first day.

MinorLeagueBall.com lists Graves at #73, which would be the low 2nd round.

SBN's CrawfishBoxes puts him in the supplementary round or 2nd round.

He has done nothing but answer questions all year as his peripherals have improved dramatically to a 1.74 BB/9 and a 6.19 K/9. Considering that he only had 32 strikeouts in 71 innings in 2013, that's a large improvement.

Junior RHP Keaton Steele

Steele will likely hear his name on draft day for the third time, having been drafted in the 29th round by Tampa Bay in 2012 and by the Royals in the 40th round in 2013. MLB.com's Draft Report video of Steele says he's expected to sign this time around.

Steele's season gives every appearance of having been crafted specifically to show off his versatility.  He was the Tigers' closer for much of the season, and showed he could do that well. He also pitched in long relief a few times, stetching his innings beyond the typical inning or inning-and-a-half of the closer.  And then, when Mizzou pitchers started dropping like flies, he became a starter for the final three weekends of the season, pitching effectively for 9 innings, 8 innings, and 8-1/3 innings in those games - and demonstrated his endurance by throwing 132 pitches in that final game.  And by the way, he also performed nicely as the designated hitter in several games.

As a result, he will likely move up several rounds this time around. He's listed on the MLB.com Top 200 at # 177, around the 5th round.  Scout.com puts him as high as the 4th round.  Because Steele still has a year of eligibility left, he will have to decide whether to spurn yet another MLB draft and return for the Tigers.  I wouldn't count on that happening, especially if he goes in the top 10 rounds.

Baseball America lists Steele at # 271

Seniors RHP/DH Eric Anderson and C Dylan Kelly

Both will both be hoping to hear their names called.  Neither is likely to be drafted in the higher rounds.  Anderson's repeated injury problems will drop him several rounds, but his demonstrated athleticism may motivate some MLB organization to take a chance on him. He had enough "wow" moments this season to have grabbed some scout's attention. Kelly hasn't drawn great praise for his throwing abilities as a catcher, but his consistent offensive production and his on the field presence and control of the game may put him on some team's list.

Longshots

Juniors RHP John Miles and OF Logan Pearson, and senior 1B Kendall Keeton may have gotten the attention of some scouts, but all of them are a longshot for this year's draft.

Tiger Recruits

RHP Bryce Montes de Oca

Montes de Oca signed a letter of intent with Mizzou, even though he hails from Lawrence, KS.  His size and his fastball have grabbed plenty of attention from the scouts, but every profile of him mentions the drawbacks they see in him as well.

MLB.com's Draft Profile video suggests he is a work in progress, but says it has become "increasingly unlikely that he'll follow through on his commit to Missouri".  They have him ranked at #73 (late 2nd round/early 3rd round) .

Baseball America ranks him at #70 in their top 100 draft prospects:

History shows that the majority of tall pitchers to reach the majors come from the college ranks, as the scouting industry prefers to have tall pitchers show their stuff and strike-throwing ability for a few years after high school. Of the 33 American-born major league pitchers taller that were at least 6-foot-8, 82 percent were not selected from high school. The tallest drafted high school pitchers in the top two rounds in recent years are (2012 supplemental first-rounder) 6-foot-8 lefthander Matt Smoral, (2005 first rounder) 6-foot-8 righthander Chris Volstad and (2005 supplemental first rounder) 6-foot-8 lefthander Sean West.

Montes de Oca will be priority viewing for teams over the next few weeks leading up to the draft because few arms possess his power stuff, which puts him in contention to be a potential first-day selection.

Prep Baseball Report profiled him early in the season, after he returned from Tommy John surgery last year:

He throws with a methodical delivery and excellent body control using a high three-quarter slot, getting out in front with minimal effort. His fastball was clocked in the 92-96 mph range, which contributed to Olathe South chasing some pitches out of the zone but he also squared up the catcher for called strikes a good number of times as well. Scouts that saw him in his first start said he looked much sharper this time around.

SBN's CrawfishBoxes.com has a detailed profile of de Oca, including some handicapping of whether he will, or even should, go pro:

Guys his size usually take longer to develop due to having to control much more mass than smaller pitchers. That leads to them being late bloomers and guys who struggle with control and command early in their career. Stuff wise, he's mostly pumping fastballs since returning to the mound in April. His first appearance was nothing but fastballs. Can you blame him? He throws 88-94 primarily but can pump it to 97. His first start this year was mostly 94-97. He also throws a curve in the mid-70's and a change up in the mid-80's, however both are in need of a lot of development. ... His upside could warrant over-slot money if taken later. College is a real possibility for him since it could offer a shot to prove his mechanics have improved to protect his elbow and that he really is healthy.

Personally, I'm hoping he does decide to come to Mizzou this fall, if only so we can enjoy having another great Kansas pitcher (like Aaron Crow) who chose the Tigers instead of the Jayhawks.

RHP Tanner Houck

Houck, from Collinsville, IL, has been named by some as possibly being drafted as high as the 4th round. MinorLeagueBall.com has him listed 303rd on their draft list, which would be around the 11th round.

Houck's MLB.com Draft Report video compares him to Max Scherzer.  Because of Houck's dominant performance as his team went deep in their regioanls, his stock has risen on MLB.com's Top 200 draft rankings over the past few weeks and is now listed at # 132, which would be around the 5th round.

Prep Baseball Report has a profile:

Houck’s performance at the Super 60 solidified his status as one of the premier right-handed prospects in the Midwest. At 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, the Missouri recruit has an athletic, projectable frame, one that can easily handle more weight in the future. Houck’s fastball was a clear standout among a list of top-level arms. Aside from sitting 92-93 mph with his fastball, it was his late, hard arm-side life that separated Houck from his peers. Providing further separation from the pack was his three-pitch arsenal, all of which had sharp, late action.

SS Shane Benes

Benes, from Westminster Academy, StL, was considered a high draft prospect prior to the 2014 season, but an injury has sidelined him this season and will likely drop him down in the draft, which could be good news for Mizzou.  The various draft handicappers have Benes ranked all over the chart.  No one seems to know whether teams will still take a shot at him after his injury or whether they'll be content to let him go to Mizzou and prove he can still be productive.  The scouts haven't a chance to be wowed by him for several month.

Scout.com lists him as high as the 5th round, though. MLB.com's Draft Profile video suggests he is likely to go to Missouri after missing his senior season of baseball. MLB.com has Benes ranked in their Top 200, though, at # 116, which would put him in the 4th or 5th round.

Baseball America has Benes at #487, which would put him in the 15th-20th round range.

SBN's MinorLeagueBall.com also ranks him as potentially going as high as the 5th round, but has this to say about Benes:

All around talent with good bloodlines. Can hit for power, run, throw and hit above average. Shows three pitches on the mound as well. Torn ACL has him likely headed for college

Prep Baseball Report has has more:

SS Shane Benes (Westminster Christian Academy, MO), who has been sidelined all spring with a torn ACL, is the son of former major leaguer Andy Benes.

OF/RHP Zack Henderson

Henderson, from Greendale, WI, has also been mentioned as a possible draft pick.  Henderson says he's heard he could go as high as the 6th round, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Sentinel Journal:

Henderson begins his senior season as the 230th-ranked major-league draft prospect by minorleaguebaseball.com. "I always kind of knew (getting drafted) was a possibility because of all of the teams that have contacted me," Henderson said. "I always try to not get too caught up in it because it's out of my control. But seeing that ranking, it was like, 'Wow! This actually could happen.'

That would be a big loss for Mizzou, because Prep Baseball Report describes him as just the sort of hitter the Tiger offense needs:

Offensively, hits from a balance setup, wider stance. Makes hard contact, aggressive swinger, barrel awareness, excellent whip through the zone. Advanced bat speed, 93 mph exit velocity from the tee. Aggressive hitter with power potential.

There's always a Mizzou recruit or two who get named in one of the lower rounds of the draft because they caught a scout's attention or because of some family connections. With those recruits it will come down to how eager they are to get to the minor leagues vs. putting in their time in college and working their way up to a higher ranking.

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