Prospect Watch: MLB Draft Debut Projections – Aiken, Rodon, Conforto

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.


Brady Aiken, LHP, Houston Astros
Age: 17
School: Cathedral Catholic HS
Status: Signed ($6.5M)

MiLB Debut – Gulf Coast League Astros – Gulf Coast League: In recent years the Astros have shipped their high school pitching draftees to an affiliate rather than keep them in extended spring training. In 2010 — before the Jeff Luhnow era — Michael Foltynewicz began his career with the Greeneville Astros in late June. Two years later, Lance McCullers Jr. would debut with the Gulf Coast league in July before advancing to Greeneville. Expect Aiken to follow suit. At best, Aiken could see the New York – Penn League by the end of the year.

Carlos Rodon, LHP, Chicago White Sox
Age: 21
School: North Carolina State
Status: Unsigned (Represented by Scott Boras)

MiLB Debut – Winston-Salem Dash – Carolina League: Last year, Dave Cameron discussed the leverage Mark Appel had in his negotiations with the Houston Astros. Rodon, considered by many to be the best talent in the draft, is in a similar situation as Appel. While Boras may scare some White Sox’s fans, it’s expected Rodon will sign. The most obvious development arc to compare Rodon to that of Chris Sale. Sale pitched 103 innings in his final season at Florida Gulf Coast before he made 4 starts at Winston-Salem and then 7 starts with Triple-A Charlotte. When he debuted on August 6th of that year, the White Sox were in first place and 62 and 47. Rodon had a similar college workload. In his final season with the Wolfpack he pitched 98 innings (injuries and a failed playoff birth limited the total). With the White Sox battling in the tight American League Central — the Twins, Indians and White Sox all have 33 losses, 1 less than Kansas City and 5 less than Detroit — it’s possible Rodon could join the team in August or September like Sale did. The White Sox’s bullpen is poor, the owners the third worst bullpen FIP, and Rodon would be an elite addition.

Michael Conforto, OF, Mets
Age: 21
School: Oregon State
Status: Unsigned
Michael Conforto, OF

MiLB Debut – Brooklyn Cyclones – New York – Penn League: Conforto’s debut is interesting because, outside of Kevin Plawecki, the Mets have drafted high school position players in the early rounds during the Sandy Alderson era. Further, Conforto is a bat-only left fielder in an organization with poor hitting environments in the low minors. Conforto will debut in Brooklyn, but only briefly. Brooklyn serves the dual purpose of allowing the Mets to keep an eye on Conforto while also hyping him to the fan base. Like Plawecki, Conforto is an advanced hitter and should dominate the NYPL. However, left field in Brooklyn’s MCU Park overlooks the water and is death on left handed power. Skipping Brooklyn for Savannah may be unwise too, as it’s one of the least hitter friendly parks in the minor leagues. It would be in the Mets’ interest to send Conforto to St. Lucie after he gets his feet wet.

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Formerly of Bullpen Banter, JD can be followed on Twitter.

19 Responses to “Prospect Watch: MLB Draft Debut Projections – Aiken, Rodon, Conforto”

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  1. Kris says:

    C’mon JD, it’s Rodon!

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  2. CB says:


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  3. TomTerrific says:

    “It would be in the Mets’ interest to send Conforto to St. Lucie after he gets his feet wet.”

    This is true and there’s at least a fair chance it unfolds this way. He’s probably in Brooklyn for the remainder of the ’14 season tho. Decent chance he begins next year in St. Lucie tho.

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  4. Jorge Fabregas says:

    I believe all of Sale’s 2010 minor league appearances were in relief (this piece says he had starts). If I am not mistaken, his first minor league start was his rehab assignment this year.

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  5. The Ancient Mariner says:

    Minor point: the Twins, White Sox and Indians have one *more* loss than KC and five *more* than Detroit.

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  6. dirck says:

    We just had our draft of the 2014 draftees in my 16 team dynasty league ,with 7 minor league slots .I had made space to draft one ,I had the sixth pick,but on the day of the draft the Mariners transferred Walker from the DL to the minors and he had to fill my available minor league slot ,leaving me no time to make a trade to open up another slot .When my turn came Kolek was still available . After much agonizing ,I decided to drop Appel in order to get Kolek .Good decision ,bad decision ,50/50 ? I was so conflicted about it I think it is close to 50/50 . Any other opinions ?

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    • dirck says:

      Oh my other 6 minor leaguers are A.Bradley ,Walker,Stephenson,Sano,A.Russell,and Dahl.

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    • jdbolick says:

      Kolek involves so much projection that it’s tough to reasonably assess his likelihood and extent of future major league success. That said, I think it’s worth the gamble simply because I wrote in my preseason guide that there’s little reason to view Mark Appel as more than a mid-rotation starter.

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  7. TomTerrific says:

    Keith Law has Conforto as the Mets #1 prospect. Booyah!

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  8. Bat says:

    I think Conforto will probably be sent to Brooklyn to stoke local appetite but will finish the year in Savannah.

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  9. Not a Scout says:

    I might be wrong, but my impression is that Oregon Stat’s Goss Stadium also suppresses left-handed power. The stadium is oriented such that a left-hander’s pull-power would have him hitting pretty much straight south. The wind is usually out of the south-southwest–and it can get pretty strong in the Spring–so it’s constantly pushing everything in and toward center. Plus, it’s often raining and the stadium is not at a high elevation. All of this seems to have pushed OSU players to develop pretty good plate discipline and hit to all fields. This is all to say that Conforto strikes me as more of a Joey Votto than a Prince Fielder, so tough hitting environments might not affect him much. My worry would be that his approach will completely change when he gets to Las Vegas and discovers the joy of smacking dingers on routine fly-balls.

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  10. Bat says:

    What really concerns me about Conforto is that several commentators have compared him to Nick Swisher.

    Swisher is a good player, but not worthy of the #10 overall pick in a deep draft, I think, so I am hoping Conforto becomes something more than Swisher II.

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    • TomTerrific says:

      He may be in his decline, but Swisher had a very solid 9 year run so I don’t think the comp was meant as a slight.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        Agreed. If your first round pick turns out to have Swisher’s career, then you did pretty well for yourselves. He put up about 20 WAR in his first 7 seasons, including the clunker in Chicago.

        If Swisher is his ceiling and he’s more likely to be a lesser player, then you might want a little more upside potential in a #10 pick. But if it’s more of a reasonable comp, with potential for greater things, then that doesn’t sound so bad.

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  11. Terence says:

    Nick Swisher is currently a +27 WAR player. If you get that from a #10 pick you have gotten well more than expected value for the pick. Per this article, it appears that a #10 pick is a +6 WAR player on average.

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