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MLB Mock Draft: Brady Aiken emerges as No. 1 pick

Photo: Four-Seam Images/AP

Brady Aiken could become the first high school pitcher to be taken first overall since 1991.

In the first round of the 2014 MLB draft, which takes place tonight, teams will be forced to make a crucial decision: Should they go with a project or a safe pick?

The difference is a matter of how long a team is willing to wait to see their potential star of the future contribute. Will they go with a raw, talented player who will take time to progress through the minors? Or will they gravitate toward a mature player who is relatively close to the majors? Luckily for Houston, which holds the No. 1 pick, Brady Aiken is both: A 17-year-old high school lefthander, Aiken is a pitcher with top of the scale stuff, poise, command and mechanics. He is as safe a choice as a high schooler can possibly be, which is why he is listed first overall in our final mock draft. I'll be back during tonight's first round to break down each selection one-by-one.

NOTES: Teams choose in reverse order of wins from last season. First-round and compensation round picks can not be traded.

There are 27 first-round picks because four teams (the Braves, Orioles, Rangers and Yankees) forfeited their first-round selections after signing free agents who received qualifying offers from their previous teams and another (the Blue Jays) gained a pick after failing to sign its first-round choice from last year.

All stats through June 4.

1. Houston Astros

Brady Aiken
Position: LHP
Size: 6-foot-4, 210
School: Cathedral Catholic High, San Diego, Calif.

Clayton Kershaw was a high-school left-hander from Texas who wound up in southern California; Aiken is a high-school lefty from southern California who should wind up in Texas. Boasting a 94 mph fastball and with an outstanding curve and change, Aiken has already impressed Houston as a teenager. But the Astros are even more enthralled with what he could be when he is in his mid-20s.

2. Miami Marlins

Carlos Rodon
Position: LHP
Size: 6-3, 235 lbs
School: North Carolina State

Many draft pundits are convinced Miami will choose Rodon because his Cuban heritage would provide a connection to south Florida's Cuban community. The Marlins are more attracted to the fact that Rodon is a heck of a pitcher, with a high 90s fastball and a monster slider.

3. Chicago White Sox

Tyler Kolek
Position: RHP
Size: 6-5, 230
School: Shepherd (Texas) High

Questions regarding Kolek's stamina and secondary pitches are abundant, yet no one questions the raw, blistering velocity of his fastball, which can touch 100 mph. Chicago will determine if he is a closer or a starter in the minors, but right now, the White Sox are drawn to Kolek's stunning arm strength.

ATKINS: Kolek's 100 mph fastball recalls legend of Colt Griffin

4. Chicago Cubs

Kyle Freeland
Position: LHP
Size: 6-4, 185
School: Evansville University

The Cubs want a catcher, but Alex Jackson, who plays that position right now, may not stick behind the plate. With that in mind Chicago will probably opt to add pitching to a system well stocked with position player talent. This draft is rife with quality pitching, and Freeland looks to be the best of many available mound choices.

5. Minnesota Twins

Alex Jackson
Position: Catcher, Bats right/Throws right
Size: 6-2, 210
School: Rancho Bernardo High, Escondido, Calif.

Blessed with excellent raw power and a terrific throwing arm, the main question concerning Jackson is his eventual defensive position. Minnesota is an unusually patient organization and, if the Twins deign Jackson to be a backstop, they will give him ample time to develop.

6. Seattle Mariners

Nick Gordon,
Position: SS, BL/TR
Size: 6-2, 180
School: Olympia High, Orlando, Fla.

Scattered talk about Gordon going 1-1 (i.e. first overall) has recently popped up, but his bat may not merit that position. Gordon, the son of former MLB closer Tom Gordon and the brother of Dodgers second baseman Dee, has speed, outstanding defensive actions and a strong arm. As a bonus, he has pro bloodlines and the type of athleticism Seattle needs.

7. Philadelphia Phillies

Sean Newcomb
Position: LHP
Size: 6-5, 240
School: Hartford University

High school slugger Jacob Gatewood is a candidate at this spot, but the Phillies need a pitcher, preferably one who can reach the City of Brotherly Love quickly. Physically imposing, Newcomb has seen a meteoric rise in his draft prospects this spring.

8. Colorado Rockies

Max Pentecost
Position: C, BR/TR
Size: 6-1, 190
School: Kennesaw State

Colorado finds itself in a maddening position with this pick. It's well known in scouting circles that the Rockies crave pitching, and they will have many enviable options if they go that route. But Colorado also needs a catcher, and Pentecost is by far the best candidate in a draft that's thin on backstops.

9. Toronto Blue Jays

Aaron Nola
Position: RHP
Size: 6-1, 195
School: LSU

After failing to sign their No. 1 pick last year, the Blue Jays have set themselves up to have a great draft. Sources say Toronto will make a safe selection at No. 9 and then gamble at No. 11. Nola is as safe a pick as they come: a mature college pitcher with excellent secondary pitches and a knack for pounding the lower half of the strike zone.

10. New York Mets

Bradley Zimmer
Position: OF, BL/TR, OF
Size: 6-5, 205
School: University of San Francisco

In the past three drafts, the Mets have chosen high school position players who may not arrive at Citi Field until the end of this decade. With the 10th pick, New York could go for a player whose timetable is shorter and could quickly produce results. Zimmer is an advanced college outfielder who flashes multi-tool ability.

11. Toronto Blue Jays

Monte Harrison,
Position: OF, BR/TR
Size: 6-2, 195
School: Lee's Summit (Mo.) West High

Should the Blue Jays elect to go with a mature college pitcher at No. 9, they could take a gander on a tools-laden high school position player here at 11, with Harrison and Derek Hill the best options. Both are terrific athletes with outstanding speed, but in scouting, the bat trumps all. That gets Harrison gets the nod.

12. Milwaukee Brewers

Jacob Gatewood,
Position: SS, BR/TR
Size: 6-5, 190
School: Clovis (Calif.) High

The Phillies, Rockies and Mariners have all shown interest in Gatewood, a lanky youngster with a cannon for an arm and easy power. Sources indicate that Milwaukee is the most intense suitor for Gatewood, formerly a top high school quarterback prospect who is gifted with freakishly long arms -- his shirt sleeves measure 38 inches.

13. San Diego Padres

Michael Chavis
Position: 3B, BR/TR
Size: 5-11, 190
School: Sprayberry High, Marietta, Ga.

Desperate for offense, the Padres understand that this draft does not contain a glut of hitters. If San Diego desires more immediate help, it may opt for Michael Conforto, Casey Gillaspie or Kyle Schwarber. But on a long-term basis, the premier hitter still available at this stage could be Chavis, a stocky righthander whose swing makes a sharp sound upon impact.

14. San Francisco Giants

Derek Hill
Position: OF, BR/TR
Size: 6-2, 180
School: Elk Grove (Calif.) High

No high school position player has shown as much upward mobility this spring as Hill, the son of a Dodgers scout. Sources say the Giants are so enamored of the speedy Hill that they have donated equipment, including baseballs, to the Elk Grove program.

Photo: Butch Dill/AP

Vanderbilt right-hander Tyler Beede has seen his stock slip after a lackluster spring campaign.

15. Los Angeles Angels

Touki Toussaint
Position: RHP
Size: 6-2, 195
School: Coral Springs Christian Academy, Coral Springs, Fla.

Toussaint has an electric arm, firing a mid 90s fastball with a snapping curve. If chosen here, he could soon become a valuable contributor to an Angels' staff that has struggled to have much depth in recent years.

16. Arizona Diamondbacks

Trea Turner
Position: SS, BR/TR
Size: 6-1, 175
School: North Carolina State

Turner suffered a slow start to the 2014 college season, but he rebounded and is now the only college middle infielder considered to be a first-round candidate. He is speedy and a fine defender, and if his bat shows results, Turner could move up the minors fast, giving Arizona a much-needed boost of athleticism.

17. Kansas City Royals

Grant Holmes
Position: RHP
Size: 6-0, 210
School: Conway (S.C.) High

Holmes is the hardest throwing high school righty in this draft after Kolek, and Kansas City has struggled in developing a staff ace within its own system. The Royals would be delighted to snag Holmes, who in a less pitching-rich year would be a top 10 selection.

18. Washington Nationals

Tyler Beede
Position: RHP
Size: 6-4, 215
School: Vanderbilt

Beede has a top five arm, but erratic results this spring may have dropped him down about 10-15 spots. The Nationals would be delighted if Beede falls this far; if the Vanderbilt righty finds some consistency, he could be as good as a No. 2 starter in the majors.

19. Cincinnati Reds

Sean Reid-Foley
Position: RHP
Size: 6-3, 210
School: Sandalwood High, Jacksonville, Fla.

The Reds prefer to develop their starting rotation in-house; four of their five starting pitchers in 2014 began their careers with Cincinnati and their future staff could be similarly homegrown. Reid-Foley is a talented young righty who could one-day blend into a Reds staff with recent draft choices Robert Stephenson, Michael Lorenzen and Nick Travieso.

20. Tampa Bay Rays

Casey Gillaspie
Position: 1B, BB/TL
Size: 6-4, 238
School: Wichita State

It's simple: Tampa Bay needs offense. The Rays are 11th in the AL this season in homers, 13th in runs scored and 13th in OPS. Tampa Bay will not have a large array of hitters to choose from here, but Gillaspie may be the best available. This season, he hit 15 homers with a .389/.520/.682 line.

21. Cleveland Indians

Michael Conforto
Position: OF, BL/TR
Size: 6-2, 215
School: Oregon State

The Indians pay little attention to the defensive position of a potential draftee, evaluating the bat first and then deciding where to place the player. Conforto is similar to incumbent Cleveland star Jason Kipnis in that he does not have an obvious defensive position, but is a smart, patient hitter with a professional swing and approach.

22. Los Angeles Dodgers

Kodi Medieros
Position: LHP
Size: 6-0, 185
School: Waiakea High, Hilo, Hawaii

Tall, physical lefties like Aiken, Freeland and Newcomb have surpassed Medieros in this draft, partly because he has not been as good this spring as he was in his summer showcase performances last year. Still, the Hawaiian lefty has a superb arm, flashing a mid-90s fastball and Frisbee curve.

23. Detroit Tigers

Nick Burdi
Position: RHP
Size: 6-4, 215
School: Louisville

The Tigers love big, hard-throwing righties and are in need of a closer, making Burdi an ideal fit. He is close to unhittable at the college level, delivering an upper 90s fastball and displaying an aggressive approach. On a "need" basis, Burdi may reach the majors sooner than any other first-round pick in this draft.

24. Pittsburgh Pirates

Brandon Finnegan
Position: LHP
Size: 5-11, 185
School: Texas Christian University

Aside from Gerrit Cole, the Pirates' current starting rotation is comprised of veteran retreads. Finnegan would be selected much higher if he had not been beset by a sore shoulder this year, although he was able to return to the mound later in the season. A stocky lefty with a live arm, Finnegan could one day give the Bucs a solid second starter behind Cole.

25. Oakland Athletics

Michael Gettys
Position: OF, BR/TR
Size: 5-11, 200
School: Gainesville (Ga.) High

The A's have gone against the "Moneyball" template and selected athletic high school position players in recent drafts like shortstops Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson in 2012 and outfielder Billy McKinney in 2013. If they continue on that path, Gettys would be a nice fit. He runs extremely well, has a powerful arm and exhibits above-average bat speed.

26. Boston Red Sox

Jeff Hoffman
Position: RHP
Size: 6-4, 192
School: East Carolina

Hoffman was a 1-1 candidate until Tommy John surgery derailed his 2014 college season. The Red Sox may draft and sign Hoffman for a reduced price, let him heal and bring him along patiently. If he recovers fully, Hoffman could be the rare staff ace stolen at the bottom of the first round.

27. St. Louis Cardinals

Kyle Schwarber
Position: Catcher, BL/TR
Size: 6-0, 240
School: Indiana University

The Cardinals have shown a magic touch in recent drafts, such as taking young pitching stud Michael Wacha No. 19 overall two years ago, and they'll have to use it again to find the power hitter they desperately need (St. Louis has hit just 32 home runs this season, the fewest in the National League). Schwarber provides power (14 home runs) and impressive on-base skills (.464 OBP).

Dave Perkin is a professional baseball scout who has worked for the New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers and Baseball America. He is the author of the book "Five Plus Tools." Follow him on Twitter.

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