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MLB Draft Prep 2014: An Introduction

Yeah, it's cold. Yeah, it's early. But, it's time to start draft prep.

MLB Photos via Getty Images

As I'm writing this, we are just ticking under the six-week mark until college baseball starts. The draft is in five months. And the Cubs select fourth.

As pitchers (especially in the north) aren't even outside yet, it's a bit silly to take anything too seriously now, but being over-prepared beats being blind-sided. My hope over the next few months will be to detail the competitors for the pick at No. 4, and (to an extent) for pick No. 44.

Last year's game-plan involved closely monitoring college games between late February and early April, when minor league games kick in. I'll probably follow roughly the same flight plan this time around. Cubs minor league games will trump college stuff, so once the Kane County Cougars and Tennessee Smokies start playing, attention to NCAA arms will wane a bit.

And arms it will likely be. As of now, the only college bat in play is North Carolina State shortstop Trea Turner. He is very quick, the question will be if his bat will be solid enough to upstage the pitching on the board. Two prep bats get mini-features below, one a catcher/outfielder, another a shortstop/third baseman.

But it boils down to the arms this draft. Turner's Wolfpack teammate Carlos Rodon has been the favorite for the spot since shortly after spurning the Brewers in 2011. I likely won't make too much of a big story of Rodon's numbers this season, as he figures to be long gone by No. 4 if he remains healthy. (And if he isn't, is he worth the fourth pick?) Nonetheless, since I'll be following Turner anyway, Rodon updates won't be that hard.

Six-four, 200 pound righthander Jeff Hoffman from the baseball factory known as East Carolina is this year's Sean Manaea. He put up eye-popping numbers in the Cape Cod League last summer. If he pitches well in the spring, he might be gone as well, but he will be on my radar. As East Carolina audio streams their games free on-line, he might be my Friday default game early.

Vanderbilt's Tyler Beede is a logical pick at No. 4. His stats have been solid, but teams have been waiting for him to dominate (like Jonathan Gray did last season). From Vanderbilt, Cubs pitching guru Derek Johnson has a decent dossier on Beede already.

Will it be Rodon, Turner, Beede, or Hoffman? We shall see. Tyler Kolek is a high school pitcher with a 95-98 mile per hour fastball, and a bit of feel for a slider, but standard warnings about Texas high school arms apply. Those figure to be the seven most under discussion (with the HS bats), until injuries and surprises kick in.

Here are a few more bits of info to begin your draft prep season: