2013 MLB Draft Top Prospects: 25-1
The Amateur Draft is upon us! Our top 50 Draft Prospects are listed below with discussion. Thanks as always for reading – BB
The writeups for prospects #50-26 can be found here.
1. Jonathan Gray – RHP – Oklahoma
Steve Fiorindo: Gray offers the biggest upside of the draft. He has jaw dropping stuff, really the stuff legends are made of, hitting triple digits regularly. I saw him right around the time that he started to garner top of the first round as a possibility, and he he has kept that momentum. I personally would probably go Appel at1:1, or consider seeing if I can do something like the Astros did last year and save a few million and snag a Frazier (who I viewed as a 1:1 candidate just a month ago) or Bryant or someone a little lower down and doubling up with projected first rounders again.
Don Olsen: He is a guy with a chance for three plus pitches and truly top of the table velocity. Having watched him progress systematically over the years, he has always been a high guy. He worked with one of my favorite non-pitching coaches that helps Oklahoma area arms, so I know he has that drive to push himself to the brink. He should be a high 90s guy, true two way swing and miss slider. His floor will dictate on the growth of the change up, but he has huge hands, so plus ability is what my gut tells me.
2. Mark Appel – RHP – Stanford
SF: Above I said he would probably be my 1:1, and I think Appel is considered the “safer” guy at the top of the draft. He may not have the ultimate upside as Gray, but he still offers front of the rotation upside with an innings eater type as a floor. I know Don has mentioned that Gray has the floor of a closer which is good, but I think I go with Appel and his track record here.
Jeff Reese: I favor Appel as the top player in this draft as well. This is a change from where I stood a year ago; while some of it may be a product of the differences in class, Appel has made positive strides in areas where I had concerns, clearly putting him ahead of where I viewed him in 2012. His three pitches have been more consistent from start to start (at least in the times that I’ve watched him), whereas in past seasons he would too often have only one of them working at a time. His approach to hitters has also improved, attacking more with fewer instances where he’s nibbling on the outside corners.
Al Skorupa: I’d take Gray right now, but both college arms are a clear 1-2 for me (and seemingly everyone else right now). I don’t know that there is a real Ace type arm in this draft, but these guys have the best chance to make that jump right now. Either way you’re going to add a very good pitcher to your organization.
3. Kris Bryant – 3B/1B/OF – San Diego
SF: Bryant didn’t hit for me in the two live looks I had, the second being at LMU when he was a little bit dinged up, and there was a noticable favoring of the ankle when he was walking/running (and he DH’d). What he offers is huge power potential, possibly rare power potential from the right side. The biggest knock is the range at third, and if he can stay there. If he hits like some think he will, he can play anywhere. I think the range at third thing is a bit overrated, he has good instincts and quick hands, and is athletic for his size.
AS: I’m confident Bryant will hit as a pro, but I’d lean towards him ending up at first base or as a bat first corner outfielder. Bryant hit all Spring and with Team USA last summer and really emerged as the unquestionable top college bat. Is he a real impact big leaguer? I’m not so certain. He’ll definitely hit for power but there’s a lot of pressure on this bat and I don’t know that he’s a real special big league bat in a corner or especially at first. This isn’t the profile of player I’d ideally like to be taking with the third overall pick… but with how this draft lines up I think you have to be pretty happy to grab Bryant there.
4. Clint Frazier – OF – Loganville H.S. (GA)
SF: I think a few of us have man -crushes on Frazier here at BB, at least our email chains would suggest that. Some prefer fellow Georgian Austin Meadows, but I’m in the Frazier camp. Meadows offers projection, whereas I think Frazier is a “what you see is what you get” type, and I really liked what I saw down in San Diego.
Evan Rentschler: I’m probably one of the few guys who leans slightly to Meadows, but I completely understand why Frazier’s present ability is more comforting. Watching him hit a double off the RF wall at Under Armour on a swing that wasn’t even fully extended was convincing. His defense is more in question, as I’ve seen his routes look less than instinctual and seen his plus arm airmail balls to the screen. The arm has been held back even more this spring by some nagging injuries, and he succumbed to hamstring issues that eroded his above average speed, making me wonder if his tightly-wound musculature might be prone to such issues. His bat ensures that he’ll still be a potential star if he moves to an outfield corner sooner than later.
AS: I’m firmly in the Frazier camp, personally. I love the way he plays the game. Love his bat speed, swing, athleticism and quick hands. Frazier’s hands are the equivalent of Gray’s fastball. You can’t teach those things. Evan hits on most of the negatives above and they’re strong points, but hey… Frazier is a ballplayer. If he figures out his swing with pro instruction and the bat really develops he I think could be a franchise player.
5. Kohl Stewart – RHP – St. Pius X H.S. (TX)
SF: It’s hard to really stand out in a showcase atmosphere which is where I saw Stewart, the PGAAC and the Area Code Games, when it seems like every player on the field is a “GUY”, so I can’t say I he really opened my eyes as the top prep pitcher in the country. Since the showcase scene, he has really taken the step forward and we have seen added velocity and it sounds like the stuff is special. Imagine what he could be like if he was just a baseball player. I wonder if he is selected high enough so he won’t step on a college football field.
ER: I’m fascinated by the comments by some scouts that Stewart has better stuff than Jameson Taillon at the same age, but I’ve only seen Stewart at the PGAAC, where his raw stuff and performance were nowhere close to what Taillon had show in his own Aflac appearance. Stewart actually left me fairly tepid after that look, which simply highlights the importance of getting multiple looks.
AS: I’m always partial to high upside, athletic pitchers. I could legitimately see the case for taking Stewart over Appel and maybe Gray. As Steve alludes to, it wouldn’t be entirely shocking if Stewart takes another huge leap forward once he spends a year focusing just on baseball. Could he be the best arm coming out of this draft when we look back in 5 or 10 years? It’s possible. I’d still be pretty happy with one of the college guys and the quick help they provide, of course.
6. Austin Meadows – OF – Grayson H.S. (GA)
SF: Meadows will always be linked to Frazier, both coming from Georgia high schools and expected to be the first two high school outfielders selected in the draft. Meadows is the projection guy, the smooth swinging lefty with the body to dream on. I stated above that I’m a Frazier guy, but Meadows is like a 1B to Frazier’s 1B. In a sense it’s almost what type of player you prefer, a guy to dream on, or a guy who has now tools and skills.
ER: Again, count me as leaning ever so slightly to Meadows. I believe in the ability to maintain enough speed for CF as he matures, and I’m a fan of the hit tool, as he keeps his hands inside the ball very well, and naturally takes balls on the outer half to the opposite field. There’s no doubt the future power ceiling is a question mark, but it’s worth noting Meadows is fairly young for his class and a full eight months younger than popular “now” hitters like Frazier and Jon Denney.
7. Braden Shipley – RHP – Nevada
AS: The Nevada right-hander is one of the biggest helium arms of the Spring. His rise really started last summer when he stood out as the best prospect in the Alaska Baseball League – a Cape Cod alternative. Shipley is still a work in progress, but has shown the arm strength and raw stuff to excite teams. A lot of teams love this mix of fresh arm, athleticism and stuff.
8. Ryan Stanek – RHP – Arkansas
JR: Stanek is an interesting case. Drafted highly out of high school, he simply didn’t have the polish necessary to dominate at the collegiate level. Gradual improvement from year to year with his mechanics has facilitated more consistent control and command of his raw stuff. That raw stuff is what makes him a top 10 prospect; the fastball sits comfortably in the mid 90s and the slider can be a wipeout swing and miss offering, and he compliments those plus pitches with a solid change up and curve ball. The command is still mediocre and can keep him from piling up the strikeouts that his stuff would suggest. Still the gradual improvement from the pure thrower who came in as a freshman is worth noting. Stanek shows much better feel for the craft of pitching, showing some ability to make in-game adjustments and set up hitters. With his athleticism and pure stuff, it’s easy to envision continued improvement as he enters professional baseball.
ER: I’m absolutely with Jeff. I got a look at Stanek at the 2012 Prospect Classic and was very impressed with the FB/slider combo, his control (rather than command), and his sequencing. What I didn’t love was the arm action, which seemed stiff and excessively wearing on the shoulder, and he’s of the type of slender build that doesn’t look like it will necessarily add much good weight. So, as good as the stuff is, he’s definitively in the second tier of college arms for me, which should still spell a top half of first round draft position as Jeff says.
9. Colin Moran – 3B – UNC
DO: I grade him out in the high 50s, so you have to really love his hit tool to grab early in round one. He may not hold true to the simple rotational swing, but the barrell finds the ball on a consistent basis. I can see plus hitting ability and above average to average power. He can make all of plays and shows that quick first step to man the corner at this stage.
AS: I thought Colin Moran was underrated by most scouts I talked to and in major publications at this time last year. So I wasn’t surprised to see his stock rise all Spring. He can definitely hit. All the same, this isn’t a profile I’d be all that excited to land in the top 5 or first overall as some have theorized is possible. I don’t really love Moran’s glove at third – though I do think he can stay there and it’s the best fit for him. He doesn’t have the footspeed for the outfield and I don’t see him as a first base bat. He may grow into some later in his career but I’m not confident there’s a whole lot of over the fence power here. Moran is still one of the safest college bats in the draft and I’d be very happy to land him closer to the middle of the first.
10. Dominic Smith – 1B – Serra H.S. (CA)
SF: Smith is one of the best pure high school hitter in the country. On paper he sounds like a prototypical right fielder as he has some athleticism and regularly pitched in the low 90’s, but I think, in the end, he ends up at first base where he profiles as a plus defender. He seems more comfortable around the bag than he does in the outfield. He may be able to run the ball up into the 90’s on the hill, but the throwing action in the outfield seems seems a little bulky.
ER: I’m perplexed by the idea that some see Smith in RF as Steve points out. I just didn’t see the footwork and jumps in limited viewing, whereas he looked very much at home at 1B at the PGAAC. I also have some doubts about the ultimate power ceiling. Jon Singleton has been a popular comparison for some, but at this stage Singleton was showing light tower power on a regular basis with some questions about his contact ability, the opposite of where we find Smith. Smith featured a level swing when I saw him last year, making it hard to generate much loft. While that could change with professional instruction, my feeling is that he may be as much Sean Casey or Billy Butler as Singleton.
11. Hunter Renfroe – OF – Mississippi State
DO: Hunter was always a high motor and fast twitch athlete; he gets around great in the outfield, and has a true rocket for an arm. I saw a great progression last summer in the Cal Ripken summer league. He started to lay off the slider low and away and would work with the ball. He has great bat speed and a ton of raw power. Hunter should be able to provide an average hit tool, with his improved adjustment to off speed over the past year. Power could easily sit plus, and maybe a chance to hit 30 as a pro in the right situation. He could provide some versatility, but his skill set will lead to a full time right fielder that will factor on the base paths.
JR: Like many collegians in this draft class, Renfroe was highly thought of as a prep with the tools to make a major impact at a number of positions: catcher, bullpen ace, outfield. He dabbled with the first two before establishing himself as the right fielder for Mississippi State. Production didn’t manifest until his junior season when a better approach and more consistent contact allowed the raw power to shine through. Pitch recognition is still a concern, of course, but when the light bulb starts to illuminate for players with potential for four plus tools (the hit tool keeps him from 5-tool status), the draft stock skyrockets.
12. Trey Ball – LHP/OF – New Castle H.S. (IN)
SF: The first two way guy to come off the board should be Trey Ball, and draft junkies will be the ones paying attention to what position is called out when he is announced to see if the selecting team likes him as a pitcher or in the outfield. His profiles are similar at both positions because he offers big time projection as he has the body to add on at least 15 to 20 pounds the next few years. I like him on the mound, in the brief looks I had I think he was a little more advanced on the hill, that’s where I seem him going forward.
ER: Ball is another player I started following heading into his junior year as it’s rare to find a prospect of his caliber in the region (I currently live in Ohio). I was as torn on his future role as everyone else, preferring him as a pitcher at PGAAC one week and as a hitter at Under Armour the next. I haven’t seen him this spring but reports that he’s now consistently 91-94 with the FB and showing a future plus curve explain why he’s considered a top half of the first round lock. He already showed very good feel for a change last year. You might knock him for being a bit old for the class, but that’s less of a concern for pitchers, and there’s a ton of projection left, like a lefty A.J. Cole.
13. JP Crawford – SS – Lakewood H.S. (CA)
SF: SMOOTH. . . I think that’s the word that best describes Crawford in the field. He doesn’t scream loud tools, but you don’t really need a lot of loud tools to be a good short stop at the major league level. One scout told me that at the Major League level, a 50 hit tool with average pop plays well enough to stick as long as you can field the position.
ER: I came across Crawford last spring while looking ahead to this year’s draft and I’m not surprised one bit by his ascendance to first round lock. The bat was surprisingly stout for a rail-thin kid and he generated natural loft and hard contact in batting practice. Game hitting was a little different, as his load is high and fairly far back, forcing him to rely on his above average barrel ability to cover the plate. His promise as a SS was immediately evident, as his positioning and footwork were polished for his age and his arm was above average. He played some 2B at the PGAAC and looked like he’d been doing it since he was in diapers, but teams have to be excited about him as a SS because even a median offensive outcome would project him as a well above average regular at the position.
14. Nick Ciuffo – C – Lexington H.S. (SC)
SF: A lot of people are calling this a weak draft, but most agree that catching is one of the deepest positions, especially at the high school level. High school catching is a risky grab, especially at the top half of the first round where we could see at least three prep catchers go. Ciuffo offers an all around package in a very athletic body, especially for a catcher.
ER: I only saw Ciuffo at the Team USA Prospect Classic last year, but was intrigued by the approach, the sturdy build, and the line drive stroke, and that was before seeing him behind the plate, where he looked like a natural. The sorts of things you can’t typically observe from the couch — leadership, competitiveness, poise — are reportedly present in spades, making him all the more compelling. It’s hard to argue with the seeming consensus that Ciuffo is the “all-around” catcher to Denney’s “bat first” and McGuire’s “special glove” versions.
15. Jon Denney – C – Yukon H.S. (OK)
SF: I only got to see some BP from Denney at the Area Code Games, and the bat is strong. We see some Frazier/Meadows debate above, and there could easily be similar debate with Denney and Reese McGuire. I think I prefer the more athletic and more defensively skilled McGuire, but Denney offers up plus hit and power tools that will play even if he can’t stay behind the dish.
DO: Denny is a true 4 tool catcher that will not embarrass himself on the base paths. I feel he has a chance for an overall plus hit tool, power could even sit plus-plus with his approach. He has a strong arm, and I see the systematic improvements to stay at catcher. His footwork and receiving skills are solid. Having watched him enough, he brings out a bit of Terry Steinbach comparisons.
ER: I only got to see Denney on the Under Armour broadcast, but I was sold on the bat immediately. He features one of the simpler swings in the class, but it’s a phenomenally strong one, as I still remember him pulling a ball up and off the outer half of the plate through the gap between third and short. Denney’s catching ability has been more open to debate, penduluming from below avg grades to above and back again in the space of a year. I’m comfortable sticking with the impression from UA, where he looked steady. Denney has seen his stock drop this spring if you believe the pundits, but I find that surprising, as all he’s done is hit, showing a lot of extra-base power. The bat ensures that he retains value even if he moves off catcher, but he’s not as much of a project as, say Stryker Trahan, and this type of power from the position is tough to pass up. He’s currently linked to the Yankees, whose first pick comes at 26, which seems about ten spots lower than he deserves to go in my book.
16. Sean Manaea – LHP – Indiana State
DO: I wrote about the “ceiling” of Sean last summer here. He has not been the same pitcher this spring, albeit he has been seeing nagging leg/hip injuries all season. I would like to see the velocity return, but he flashed the grade that should put him up with the big two. His ceiling is high and floor a lot lower now. A team that drafts him around this ranking has to feel the kid last summer is in there. I always go with the best I have seen, but pitchers and lost velocity changes this dynamic. If teams get a clean MRI and the problem is maybe minor hip surgery or hernia surgery as a worst case scenario, his ceiling is simply too good to ignore at this point.
AS: It’s very difficult to place Manaea at this point with his health uncertain. A healthy Manaea was someone I projected as a #3 starter, but there was perhaps even more upside than that and I really liked his repertoire and makeup. The way this is shaping up someone might get a great bargain here.
17. Reese McGuire – C – Kentwood H.S. (WA)
SF: McGuire is my guy as far as the high school catching group is concerned. Some have rumbled and grumbled about the defense, but I thought he looked solid defensively and our Michael Schwartze got quite a few looks and thought he looked good behind the dish too. I’m a fan of the whole package, I like him behind the dish, and I like the bat too.
ER: I’m seconding Steve here. Denney’s bat wows me, and I appreciate what Ciuffo offers, but McGuire has some hitting chops of his own (I’m partial to prep guys who are able to go to the opposite field with hard contact as McGuire has the last two seasons), and he’s an impact defender in the making, which is what counts. In some ways this reminds me of the manner in which Austin Hedges was characterized as a senior, with the glove ostensibly far ahead of the bat, and I won’t be surprised if McGuire is “surprising” people with his hitting ability as a pro in similar fashion to Hedges.
MS: I was fortunate to have McGuire just about 30 minutes away from me this year and I ended up seeing him a total of seven times this season. The first thing that jumps out with McGuire are his tools behind the plate. He is the best defensive catcher in the draft, armed with a plus-plus arm. His pop times are consistently clocked under 1.80 and he is very aggressive in throwing from his knees behind runners, accurately to every bag. Offensively is where the questions arise as he lacks big time potential at the plate. He has a quick, line-drive swing with above-average raw power potential and has showed the ability to square the ball to all parts of the field. He also has a good, patient approach at the plate with a good eye. He has the tools but what worried me from seeing him this season was the lack of hard contact I saw him make this year. I saw him hit just three extra-base hits and did not see him hit a single homerun. The lack of consistent hard contact off of mediocre pitching raises some concerns but the tools are there to suggest that he has the potential to hit for a solid average at the next level with some power. Despite the concerns offensively, Mcguire’s ticket to the bigs is his impact tools behind the plate and are what should land him in the top-15 picks.
18. Phil Bickford – RHP – Oaks Christian H.S. (CA)
SF: It’s hard not to be impressed when in one of your live looks at a kid he takes a no hitter into the 5th and ends up striking 15 hitters against a pretty solid baseball team. Bickford has been a big helium guy out here in Southern California since he got a bit of a velo jump and started touching 96. On the mound there are some similarities to University of Oregon’s Jimmie Sherfy, Bickford is taller, but they have similar builds and similar stuff. Bickford attacks primarily with a two pitch mix, a riding fastball that works in the low 90’s but touches 96 in the early innings. He also has a sweeping slider that works well with his arm action and angle. I think he only threw one cambio in that outing, he didn’t need to to cut up that high school team on that day. One of the things I liked most about Bickford, especially in the outing against Bonita, was that he uses his pace in his favor to control the game. He works extremely fast, like the hitter gets his second foot in the box and he starts his windup, fast. The umpire had to slow him down on multiple occassions. Right now Bickford is pretty easily the top So Cal righty in this class.
A few more words on Bickford since I’ve seen him three more times since the first round of comments. He struck out 18 in the CIF Championship Game, against an completely overmatched team. I think the 15 punchouts against a much better Bonita team may have been more impressive, but the 18 K’s in the spotlight of the championship is impressive, although the game got out of hand. There were quite a few scouts in attendance, and one scout with a team drafting in the bottom half of the draft said he wasn’t sticking around, “he won’t last til us.” I’ve heard others linking him in the 8-15 range too.
19. Devin Williams – RHP – Hazelwood West H.S. (MO)
DO: This is my excerpt from Pine Tar Press on Williams:
Devin has the ideal frame, narrow and minor muscular development, a ton of projection down the line. He gives off a bit of Edwin Jackson look at the same age. He flashed solid three piece arm action, could use a better drive and extension that will happen with development and some consistency with mechanics; you cannot teach his explosive arm speed. Fastball sat 90-92 (93) mph with the ability to sink the offering, and showed some backspin on the ball that will likely improve. He shows a workable slider that has tight bite rotation, flashed a few high quality offerings that can miss bats. Change up is above average at this stage of development, shows the action and deception to reach at least a plus ceiling, maybe higher. He is a string bean that flashes plus stuff across the board, proper development could lead to a TOR ceiling.
20. Aaron Judge – OF – Fresno State
DO: Here are my excerpts from Pine Tar Press:
He has a long, large frame with solid muscular development and throws out comparisons to Giancarlo Stanton or Frank Howard from a sheer size. Aaron is highly agile and nimble given his frame, shows plenty of speed to stay in centerfield at this stage; logical with his size could grow even more. His arm strength, with accuracy and carry, could profile in right field. His range and instincts off the bat could produce a quality defensive player. His swing has compacted a bit more this season, shows more rotational balance with a line drive path. He has a touch of loft that is an ideal path given the 110-117 off the bat I have seen within the last year. He has immense raw power potential and the approach improvements should see at least average contact. The foundation is present for a high caliber player, even with his size and extended arms.
AS: Judge’s hit tool is a question mark but I’d still go to the park to watch this guy play. His big athleticism nearly matches his gigantic frame and prodigious power. If we were only drafting off of batting practice Judge might go 1st overall. Yet, that’s not the case and his long levers and pitch recognition problems create pretty big holes in his swing. Judge can be a good major leaguer even if he hits .240, though. He doesn’t need to square balls up to hit for extra bases and he does a lot of things well.
21. Hunter Harvey – RHP – Bandys H.S. (NC)
ER: I’m constantly lamenting the limited looks I get at even the best amateur players, and every year there are at least one or two players who deliver a mediocre summer performance in my look(s) followed by a huge step forward in the spring. Last draft that player was Ty Hensley, who’d looked flat at Under Armour in 2011 but came out firing a consistent 92-95 with the FB and a hammer curve last spring. This year it’s Harvey, who has followed an equally ambivalent 2012 UA performance by unveiling a similar plus FB/breaking ball combo. Professional bloodlines heighten the comparison. The winter between a player’s junior and senior baseball seasons cannot be underestimated as a period of growth. Suffice to say that Hensley’s rapid maturation made him a first round pick, and Harvey’s should make him no worse than a supplemental rounder.
22. Marco Gonzales – LHP – Gonzaga
SF: There isn’t a lot of sexy in Gonzales’ prospect package. Multiple scouts have said that there isn’t a lot of 6’s and 7’s in Gonzales’ game, but there are a lot of 5’s and he knows how to use those fives so the pitches play up. This may limit his ceiling, but most seem to think they know what they are going to get when he’s selected in the mid to low first round, and that’s a Major League pitcher that probably won’t need a lot of time to come, and there’s a lot of value in that.
23. Ryan Boldt – OF – Red Wing H.S. (MN)
DO: I care less about any minor injury at this point. His bat is simply too good to ignore. Look at his summer and see where he is from, he is further along that any kid from his area that I remember. I seriously thought he would garner attention with the premiere group, but being selected in the late first or compensatory first, a team will get a kid that can simply rake. He should be a high contact hitter with above average power, show a good 5 tool set. When a kid shows me a bit of Nick Markakis in his approach, this is a kid that should garner first round attention, hurt or healthy.
24. Ian Clarkin – LHP – Madison H.S. (CA)
ER: For whatever reason, I haven’t fallen as hard for Clarkin as many others have, so I’ll chalk it up to some deficit on my part. The breaking ball is undeniable, and one of the best in the draft, and the FB features consistent average velocity. I’m not a fan of the delivery, which has too many moving parts for my taste. While it worked okay at PGAAC, it clearly affected his command at the Prospect Classic, and any fear that it may continue to do so puts me off, as even tweaking a pitcher’s delivery is fraught. So while I understand Clarkin’s allure, he’s decisively behind Trey Ball and Rob Kaminsky among prep left-handers for me.
25. Matt Krook – LHP – St. Ignatius Prep (CA)
SF: When word got out that Krook was up to 96, he shot up draft boards, I was trying to get some video shot so I could get at least a look at him on video, but they got knocked out of the playoffs early so that never happened. From what I’ve heard, Krook is an arm strength guy, right now probably more of a thrower than a pitcher. If you’re going to be that type of a guy, you might as well touch upper 90’s.