The Astros have officially selected high school left-hander Brady Aiken with the first overall pick in the 2014 draft. Aiken was rated as the top draft prospect on the board by Baseball America, ESPN’s Keith Law and Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com. Other players thought to be in the mix with the first overall selection were North Carolina State left-hander Carlos Rodon, high school right-hander Tyler Kolek, high school shortstop Nick Gordon, high school catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson and Louisiana State right-hander Aaron Nola.
Aiken becomes the first high school left-hander taken in the Top 5 picks since the Orioles selected Adam Loewen fourth overall in 2002, and he’s the first high school pitcher to go 1-1 since the Yankees selected Brien Taylor back in 1991. While those facts illustrate some of the risk and uncertainty with high school pitchers, scouts tend to agree that Aiken is among the best talents — if not the best talent — in this year’s class.
Aiken’s fastball sits in the 92-94 mph range and has touched 97 mph, per Mayo and Callis. BA praises his athleticism — he was his football team’s quarterback earlier in high school — as well as his “fluid delivery with minimal effort” and his ability to command all three of his pitches. Law notes that Aiken’s changeup might be his best pitch, adding that his fastball and curveball give him a chance for three plus pitches when he’s at his best.
Aiken will only further bolster an Astros farm system that has become one of the best in the game over the past few years under GM Jeff Luhnow, scouting director Mike Elias and the rest of the Houston front office. The Astros have selected first overall for three straight years now, with Carlos Correa and Mark Appel being their previous No. 1 overall picks in that stretch. Some of their highly regarded prospects, such as George Springer and Jon Singleton, have graduated to the Majors this season, giving Houston fans hope of a bright future. Aiken and the remainder of Houston’s picks will join a farm system that still includes Correa, Appel, Michael Foltynewicz, Lance McCullers Jr., Delino DeShields Jr., Domingo Santana and many other well-regarded prospects.
The No. 1 overall spot in the draft this year carries an assigned pick value of $7,922,100, per Baseball America. The Astros don’t have to spend the entirety of that sum on Aiken if they can reach a deal with him and his adviser (he is reportedly being advised by Casey Close of Excel Sports Management). However, the team is also free to go over slot should it be necessary, from a negotiation standpoint. As BA’s J.J. Cooper reported in April, the Astros have $13,362,200 to spend on their draft pool this season, and they’re free to use that money as they see fit within the first 10 rounds.