Brady Aiken – the 2014 number one overall pick who didn’t sign with the Houston Astros last year – today announced that he has had Tommy John surgery. This should be a surprise to no one at all. If you have been reading my columns – specifically this week’s trends column – I alluded to the fact that I thought this announcement was imminent for Aiken and that, ultimately, it would be a good thing for his draft status in 2015. Better the injury that is known and fixable rather than go into the draft with the cloud of possible injury hanging over him.
So many young pitchers end up having Tommy John surgery. It is almost simply part of the pitching experience these days. As fans know, outside of the lost year of development and the rust that comes with it, there is rarely any long-term concern for the pitcher. A few have even gained some velocity on their fastballs post-surgery.
When the news occurred, I was hit with a torrent of questions about how far Aiken will fall. My answer is that he may not fall at all. Last year in a stronger draft, Jeff Hoffman was selected 9th and Erick Fedde 19th and both players had late-in-the-season announcements of Tommy John surgeries. They both fell less than 10 spots off of their projections prior to injury. Aiken has an advantage over both because he will be back closer to his draft date since it’s an early-season injury. He should return earlier next season than Hoffman or Fedde will this season (if they pitch at all). On top of that, Aiken has a much higher ceiling than either Hoffman or Fedde. There was, after all, a reason he went number one last year.
I would still bet on Aiken going in the top-10. I think a sneaky team that could grab him could be the Cubs. They have traditionally gone safe early, but this should be viewed as their last chance to pick in the top-10. They could grab the player who will clearly be the most talented player on their board when they pick. I believe Aiken’s floor would be the Brewers at 15; no team spent more on their early picks or took bigger risks last year. Also don’t sleep on the Red Sox, who have shown a tendency to draft left-handers and aren’t afraid to spend.
In 2012 Lucas Giolito went from being the likely number overall pick to the 16th pick in the draft when he got hurt in March and needed Tommy John surgery. If they redid that draft, I have a hard time seeing him get outside of the top three. This year, Giolito was in the top-10 on every prospect list. I think teams learned their lessons.
Brady Aiken’s story is a big one, but don’t worry too much about him. He is still going to be a millionaire by the time July rolls around.