PROSPECTS
2034 TNBL Draft Recap and Analysis: First Round
Cave Dameron breaks down every pick from the first round of the 2034 TNBL Draft.
by CAVE DAMERON
# Player POS POT Team
1 Rafael Cavazos SP 71 St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis also showed interest in Kazumi Kuwabara and Nicolaas Veldhuis before finally settling on Cavazos, and it's a good thing they did. Cavazos was hands down the best player in the draft, and was #1 on my board from day one. Left handed starters simply aren't built like this — Cavazos stands 6'3, 210 lbs and can touch 101 with his fastball. My only knocks on him are his underdeveloped changeup and his only slightly above average ability to keep the ball in the park. Cavazos projects as a legitimate ace. At worst, Cavazos will be one of the top closers in the league. That floor/ceiling combination is what makes Cavazos one of the best players coming out of the draft in years.
2 Sal Flores CF 67 Everett Hawks
Coming in at #3 on my board, Flores was the most developed hitter in the draft, and has the potential to be one of the best hitters in the game. Flores could probably help a TNBL team right now with his above average power and defending in either corner OF spot. Flores might have the range to play an above average CF, but projects better as a LF capable of winning multiple Gold Glove awards.
3 Antonio Huerta SP 65 Chicago Crappers
After dominating the SEC as a junior at Ole Miss, Huerta was made the #3 overall pick in the 2034 draft by Chicago. Some thought Huerta could've gone back for one more year of school, but he'll have no complaints after being drafted this high. Huerta specializes in inducing ground balls from opposing batters, throwing three above average pitches with downward movement (sinker, curveball, and forkball.) He'll need to work on his command if he wants to reach his ace potential, but he's almost guaranteed to be in a TNBL starting rotation someday soon.
4 Darrel Arsenault SP 67 Texas Stars
Arsenault was the second-ranked player on my board, behind only fellow LHP Rafael Cavazos. While he doesn't quite have the potential stuff that Cavazos does, Arsenault is slightly more developed at the same age. If he can develop his changeup like most scouts believe he can, Arsenault will have the arsenal of an ace who can anchor any rotation.
5 Kazumi Kuwabara SP 71 Disney Magic
Disney was reportedly also interested in Pedro de la Torre, but ultimately ended up going with Kuwabara. Kuwabara was rumored to be in play as high as #1 overall to St. Louis. He might've been the most developed starting pitcher in the draft, already possessing a plus fastball and two more near-average pitches. If he can keep developing the way scouts believe, he could end up with four plus-plus pitches in his arsenal, with a fastball that touches 99. The major concern with Kuwabara, and the reason I consider this pick a bit of a reach, is his size. Standing only 5'8 and 175 lbs, Kuwabara just doesn't have the size needed for a power pitcher. If he can maintain his velocity as he ages, Kuwabara could be an ace, but the odds are not in his favor.
6 Pedro de la Torre SP 67 Kansas City Centaurs
Kansas City didn't hide the fact that they wanted Arsenault or Kuwabara, but with those two already off the board, they'll be happy with landing de la Torre. De la Torre projects as one of the best all-around pitchers in the draft, sporting four potential plus pitches as well as good command and movement. He'll likely never be an ace, but de la Torre will make an above average starter one day.
7 Felix Camacho 3B 55 Los Angeles Earthquakes
The first true reach in the draft, Camacho just doesn't have the tools wanted in a first round pick. Compare him to, say, Raul Guzman, who went more than a round later, to get a better idea of where Camacho should've gone in the draft. Camacho lacks the arm to play on the left side of the infield, and lacks the quickness to play 2B. He'll most likely end up as a corner OF or 1B, and given his average-at-best power and non-existent eye, that makes for a wasted pick in an otherwise loaded draft.
8 Enrique Covarrubias SP 62 Baton Rouge Red Sticks
After being drafted in the first round by — and failing to sign for — the Baton Rouge organization last year, Covarrubias was picked in the first round again this year by the Red Sticks. The flamethrowing Colombian has the stuff to be a dynamite closer, but lacks anything close to resembling good command. His fastball touches 98, although it touches the opposite batter's box and the dirt in front of the plate more than it does the strike zone. Covarrubias projects best as a righty-specialist coming out of the bullpen. Combine that with his reported character concerns, and Covarrubias makes for a high-risk/low-reward pick better suited for a later round.
9 John Hartling CF 62 Fargo Rage
Another player with character concerns, Hartling at least has the potential to make a real contribution at the TNBL level. Hartling had the second-highest power potential in the entire draft, behind only Alvaro Garza, but Hartling is more developed and has a good eye where Garza does not. Fargo touted his ability to play multiple positions, but with Hartling having almost no arm to speak of, it'll be tough for him to pull it off. Hartling will need to work on his defense in order to stick in the outfield, let alone move to the infield, and right now projects as a below-average LF. At 19 years old he's still got plenty of time to figure it out, but with his reportedly low work ethic, it'll be surprising if he ever truly reaches his ceiling.
10 Stacey Steijns SP 65 Seattle Mariners
Steijns was #6 on my board, so this pick was a good value for Seattle. Already a highly polished starter, the lefty out of the Netherlands already possesses two plus pitches, with the potential for three plus-plus pitches in his arsenal. Even if his changeup never fully develops, he's got the command and movement to make it as a valuable bullpen piece. There were rumors of Seattle's interest in Nicolaas Veldhuis or Kevin Rogers, but the Mariners couldn't pass up the high floor of Steijns.
11 Jesus Serrano SP 61 Portland Beavers
Basically anything said about #6 overall pick Pedro de la Torre can also be said about Serrano. Both are big, strong righties who will sit in the mid-90s. Both have a cutter that projects as a plus pitch, a changeup with plus potential that needs some work, and a pitch with downward movement to keep the ball on the ground (Serrano has a forkball while de la Torre has a splitter.) Serrano probably has the slightly higher floor, and could've easily been a top-6 pick in de la Torre's place. Portland will be thrilled they got Serrano this far down.
12 Nicolaas Veldhuis C 71 Italia Stivali
Veldhuis was the most divisive player in the entire draft. Rumoured to be in play at #1 to St. Louis and #10 to Seattle, there were some who thought he'd fall out of the first round entirely. Veldhuis is essentially the ultimate lottery ticket. At 17 years of age and with no catching experience to speak of, Veldhuis has the tools to be an average defensive catcher. Failing that, he will be a DH or a bust. There are no other possibilities. He has the tools to be an exceptional hitter, and if he reaches both his offensive and defensive potentials, he will be one of the best players in the game. The 11 teams who passed on him can't be blamed for wanting a player with a higher floor, but the draft is all about potential, and Veldhuis oozes potential more than anyone else. I can't help but think a few teams will be kicking themselves in a few years' time when Veldhuis sits near the top of every prospect list.
13 Cole Pile RF 54 Atlanta Braves
Although Cole Pile might be the most unfortunate name imaginable, it's actually a perfect description of how Braves fans should feel about this pick. While Draft Santa gave all the other kids shiny new prospects loaded with potential, Atlanta was left with a low-risk/low-reward corner outfielder. Pile will likely never be more than average defensively, and his below average eye will keep him from being an elite hitter. Atlanta was clearly going for the high-floor player with good makeup, but with Kevin Rogers still on the board — who was rated a full one-and-a-half grades higher — this pick doesn't quite hit the mark.
14 John Styles SP 56 Pittsburgh Pirates
Stamina and character concerns kept Styles from going higher in the draft. He already has filthy stuff, with four average pitches, and has the potential for all four to be plus-plus. He does an okay job of keeping the ball in the park, but will need to work on his command in order to realize his full potential. Styles could end up as a mid-rotation starter for most teams, but the stamina concerns make a future in the bullpen the more likely outcome.
15 Kevin Rogers CF 68 Washington Nationals
Rogers falling to the Nationals at #15 makes him probably the best value pick of the first round. Some had Rogers going as high as the top 5. Rogers was reportedly being considered by Seattle at #10 and Italy at #12, but how he fell this far is anyone's guess. Rogers is not quite a five-tool prospect, as his arm is below average, but he's got everything else wanted in a top pick. He can hit for average, and has some of the most raw power in the draft. He'll add value on the bases as well. Rogers might have the range to stick in CF, and if he can, he'll be one of the most valuable prospects around. The only knock on him is his arm, which might force him into LF, where he'd be in contention for Gold Gloves every year. Add in his reportedly great makeup and that makes for one of the top prospects in all of TNBL.
16 Alvaro Garza CF 65 Seoul Phoenix
Another not-quite-five-tool prospect, Garza has the highest raw power in the draft. He's got the ability to make contact as well, although his complete inability to draw walks limits his value considerably. It'll be tough for Garza to stick in CF, and he doesn't quite have the arm to make it in RF, but he will be a fantastic defender in LF. Normally a player with this kind of power potential would go higher than #16, but Garza's terrible eye and rumored character concerns likely knocked him down a few spots.
17 Jose Mata RF 59 Myrtle Beach Mermen
While Mata doesn't quite have the raw power that Garza does, he has at least a passable eye, and he's more developed at a younger age. In fact, Mata is one of the most developed 18 year olds around, likely only eclipsed by Kevin Rogers and the blind wonderkid Tak-keung Zhang. Mata doesn't have the range or arm to stick in CF or RF, and will probably end up in LF or at 1B. But with his good contact ability and considerable power, Mata has more than enough potential to make an impact for the Mermen.
18 Aaron Dunsmore 2B 66 Cincinnati Reds
Another player who was drafted surprisingly late, Dunsmore has the look of a top-10 pick. Dunsmore just does everything well. He's got the tools to be an above average hitter and a fantastic defender. He doesn't quite have the arm to play SS, but he'll stick around as one of the best defensive 2B in the game. Dunsmore could probably help a TNBL team right now as a utility infielder and pinch runner. Even if he never reaches his potential as a hitter, Dunsmore will be a TNBL player someday soon. Although, with his good makeup and high work ethic, it's more likely he comes close to his ceiling of a very good player.
19 Jack Emery SP 60 Philadelphia Phillies
Emery was the best starter left on the board, and it's not hard to see why the Phillies wanted him. Emery has three already-developed pitches, with the potential for four plus pitches if he can continue to develop his changeup. The similarities to #10 overall pick Stacey Steijns are obvious, and Seattle was unsurprisingly interested in Emery as well. If Emery can work on his command, he'll develop into a #3 for most staffs. If he can pair that with a fourth pitch, he can move into borderline ace territory.
20 Adrian Barnett 3B 64 Brooklyn Patsies
Barnett is already highly developed as a hitter, and his defense at 3B stacks up well against almost anyone in TNBL. The only real knock on him is his average ability to draw walks, but that is more than made up for by his good ability to make contact and great power. If Erick Aguirre continues his struggles, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Barnett up at the TNBL level sometime this year.
21 Justin Barber 1B 57 Birmingham Barons
Rarold Heynolds of the TNBL Network might've (surprisingly) said it best when he said on-air, "Barber could have the most power I've ever seen." Barber has no shortage of raw power, and most scouts believe he'll turn that into game power as he fills out his frame. There are practically no flaws in Barber's hitting, as he can make contact and draw walks in addition to his immense power. When it comes to anything other than hitting, though, Barber looks lost on the field. He has no speed, no instincts on the basepaths, and is a sloppy defender. He'll have to work hard to make it at 1B, and will more likely end up as a DH. Oh, but what a DH he'll be.
22 Gabe Rojas CF 63 Vinson Emperors
After a string of "almost-five-tool prospects" went earlier in the draft, it's surprising that an actual five-tool prospect fell this far. Rojas can do it all: at the plate, on the basepaths, and in the outfield. He has the tools to play an above-average CF or Gold Glove-contending LF, and he's already extremely developed as a hitter at just 21 years of age. Players like Rojas typically don't fall out of the top 10, so this pick is up there with Rogers as one of the best value picks in the draft.
23 Bob Morales SP 65 Boston Red Sox
On talent alone, Morales projected to be off the board well before #23. But injury concerns, as well as a high bonus demand, scared teams away from the Oral Roberts commit. He's likely to go to college to work on developing his changeup and control. The changeup in particular needs some considerable work, and without it, Morales would be merely a long-reliever. If he goes to college and develops the way scouts believe he can, he could end up being a top 10 pick in a future draft.
24 Juan Davila 1B 51 Cloud City Sky Pirates
Like Justin Barber, Davila is a hitting specialist and nothing more. He'll have negative value on the basepaths and defensively, and most likely will end up as a DH. Davila has considerable raw power, but has yet to develop any of it into game power, although at 6'2 and 200 lbs, it's not hard to envision him doing so eventually. He won't draw many walks, but his power and ability to make contact should translate into Davila becoming an average DH in the TNBL.
25 Gerardo Novoa CF 49 Baton Rouge
The first two-way player taken in the draft, Novoa is definitely an intriguing prospect. He's got the range and arm to stick in CF, and has the potential to make an average hitter. That alone would make him worth a late first rounder, but Novoa is also extremely talented as a pitcher. He has the potential for SIX plus pitches, more than any other pitcher taken in the first round. Add to that a fastball that touches 97 and very good command, and Novoa seems to have one of the highest floors of any first rounder. Even if he fails as as starter and a hitter, he'll still provide value as a good defensive outfielder and a bullpen arm. If he reaches anywhere near his potential as a pitcher and can improve his bat, he'll be one of the most valuable players in the TNBL. A player with that kind of high-floor/high-ceiling typically goes in the top 10, not the very last pick of the first round.