Last year’s No. 1 overall draft pick became eligible for the 2015 draft on Thursday, as IMG Academy announced Brady Aiken will pitch for its postgraduate baseball team this spring.

Aiken and the Houston Astros famously were unable to reach an agreement before the July 15 signing deadline, and it was expected that the 18-year-old left-hander would sign on with a junior college program and re-enter the draft.

Right-hander Jacob Nix, who failed to sign with the Astros as a fifth-round pick last year and ultimately settled a grievance with the club in November, will join Aiken at IMG, and both pitchers will once again audition for scouts leading up to the June 8 draft.

“We’re excited for Brady [Aiken] to join us at IMG Academy,” said IMG Academy’s director of baseball, Dan Simonds, via its official website. “At IMG [Academy] he will have access to everything from world-class coaches and performance experts to top-notch facilities and the latest technology.”

Aiken was the top prospect in the 2014 draft class, and he should be among the best—if not the best—this time around. Still, a lot can happen between now and early June that could potentially affect his draft stock.

So, how realistic is it that Aiken will be selected first overall for the second straight year?

It wasn’t long after last year’s draft, two days to be exact, that Aiken reportedly agreed to a $6.5 million bonus with the Astros, according to writer Jim Callis. On June 23, the Cathedral Catholic High left-hander arrived in Houston to make his signing official, which obviously didn’t happen.

After two weeks of speculation as to why Aiken had yet to sign, Jon Heyman of reported that the Astros saw something they didn’t like in a post-draft MRI of the then-17-year-old’s left elbow. As a result, the team immediately reduced its offer to Aiken from $6.5 to $5 million, well below the $7.9 million slot value for the No. 1 overall pick.

Ken Rosenthal of went on to report that the Astros believed “Aiken’s physical revealed a ‘significant abnormality’ in the area of his elbow ligament,” and he also added that the team had made another revised offer to the southpaw of $3,168,840.

However, Aiken’s adviser, Casey Close, who also advises Nix, maintained throughout the ordeal that his client was fully healthy contrary to reports of an elbow issue, per Rosenthal.

Aiken will now have the opportunity to erase any doubt regarding his health at IMG Academy, which was ranked by as the No. 2 high school team in the country prior to his enrollment.

According to’s Keith Law:

Aiken is expected to report to IMG this week and should be ready to face live hitters in game action in about two weeks. The source indicated that Aiken is likely to make seven to nine starts for IMG, enough for scouts from MLB teams to evaluate him while limiting his innings enough to allow him to pitch a full summer for the team that drafts and signs him.

At 6’3″, 210 pounds, Aiken, who doesn’t turn 19 until August, projects as a front-line starter with the potential for three plus offerings and an outstanding feel for his craft. Basically, it’s easy to make a case for him as the top draft prospect for 2015.

“I don’t know how you don’t have him at No. 1, especially in a fairly weak draft class,” one American League scout told ESPN Insider Christopher Crawford earlier this month.

“You don’t see left-handers with three plus pitches and borderline plus-plus command come around very often, and you get that in Aiken. That could change if he struggles this spring or someone steps up more than we expect, but if you’re asking me today, Aiken’s the guy.”

That’s not to say Aiken won’t have competition for the No. 1 spot, though.

Brendan Rodgers (Lake Mary HS; Lake Mary, Florida) is currently the top position player in this year’s class, as he projects as a plus hitter with plus power and has a legitimate chance to stick at shortstop.

Meanwhile, there will be numerous pitchers trying to overtake Aiken on the draft boards this spring, a group that currently includes college right-handers Michael Matuella (Duke), Kyle Funkhouser (Louisville) and Walker Buehler (Vanderbilt), as well as high-ceiling prep left-handers Kolby Allard (San Clemente HS; San Clemente, California) and Justin Hooper (De La Salle HS; Pasadena, California).

That being said, Aiken is a safe bet to come off the board very early in the first round so long as he stays healthy. Even a poor performance this spring for IMG is unlikely to significantly affect his draft stock.

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