To say that Chicago Cubs super prospect Kris Bryant’s spring was impressive is perhaps the understatement of the year. A prospect who batted well above .400 and led all of Major League Baseball in home runs is, in most cases, justification for a spot on the Major League roster.
Note, however, that I said, in most cases, as despite his almost video game like spring, Bryant will be spending the beginning of the season “seasoning” in Iowa. Cubs president Theo Epstein had all but publicly said that Bryant would start the season in the minors. Of course, the reaction to this move is less than satisfactory. Cubs fans are understandably upset, Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras is very angry, and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association has issued a statement on Bryant’s demotion, calling it a “bad day for baseball”. Even I am upset that Kris Bryant will have to waste two weeks in AAA instead of being an immediate contributor.
Having already discussed the reason why top prospects often spend extra time in the minors, it’s clear why Bryant is going down instead of staying up. For those who still need help connecting the dots, it’s more feasible for the Cubs to have a full six years of Kris Bryant production on the cheap, rather than five years for the sake of an early promotion. And that’s understandable. The Cubs are going to be stacked with cheap high ceiling talent until the early 2020s. It’s clear that should all their young bats pan out, they will have to either dole out big contracts early in these players’ careers, pay them in free agency, or risk losing them to big spending franchises like the Yankees and Dodgers.
However, the problem for fans isn’t just delaying Bryant’s debut, it’s also the way they explained why they were going to do it.
Throughout Spring Training, Theo Epstein never admitted why Bryant was going to stay down. Sure, he offered the same excuse, that Bryant “needed more seasoning”, and offered up Dustin Pedroia and his Rookie of the Year 2007 season as a reason for why Bryant deserved to stay down, but these excuses had no foundation to them.
Trying to justify demoting a prospect like Bryant is hard to do, especially for a fanbase that has had very little to cheer about lately, but I believe that Epstein had the opportunity to diffuse some anger by explaining his true motivations.
Had he just said “I am demoting Bryant because it makes sense to keep him an extra year when he will be in his prime rather than lose that year for two weeks of production”, I’m certain that fans would have understood. Would they have accepted the justification? In all likelihood, they wouldn’t take it well, but they would still take it. Honesty, while painful, is a better policy than presenting the same excuse and expecting the fans to take it, no questions asked.
Sure, Scott Boras and the MLBPA would have had justification to file a grievance against Epstein and the Cubs, but it would have allowed for the elephant in the room to be addressed. It’s no secret that the arbitration clock is considered a nuisance, a hinderance which prevents top prospects who are major league ready from contributing when they are ready, but rules are meant to be broken. Had Curt Flood not opted to report to the Phillies after he had been traded from the Cardinals, Major League Baseball likely would still be operating under the reserve clause. Had Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Josh Bell not received a $5 Million signing bonus to keep him from committing to the University of Texas, then the draft slotting system would not have been implemented. Had the Rangers not paid an obscenely expensive posting fee to pry Yu Darvish away from Japan, then the slotting system wouldn’t have been revised.
We could spend the remainder of this post playing the “what if” game, but it’s clear, Kris Bryant is going to spend an extra two weeks in Iowa, and when the Cubs promote him, his clock will tick. He’ll be a free agent by 2021, barring him signing a contract extension. In the meantime, I wouldn’t be surprised if the MLBPA and Major League Baseball decide to discuss ways to eliminate the arbitration clock, with an idea in place by next offseason.
Until then, patience, Cubs fans. Two weeks doesn’t determine a whole season, and when Bryant comes, you’ll probably never have to see him go to the minors again.
…Then I’d be eating a lot of smoothies right now. Yesterday’s post about first round picks who had yet to sign made casual mention that Kris Bryant would probably by one of the last first rounders to sign. Well, surprise surprise, Bryant has just signed a deal, and not just any deal. Thanks to Scott Boras, Bryant got the $6.7 Million he asked for. Bryant will likely report to either the Short-A Boise Hawks or the Low-A Kane County Cougars where he will begin his professional career. Bryant became the 30th of the 33 first rounders to sign, leaving only Miami’s Colin Moran, Toronto’s Phil Bickford, and the Yankees’ Aaron Judge as the remaining unsigned picks.
Bryant, who led the NCAA in home runs this year with 31, helped bring the University of San Diego into the Fullerton Regional of the NCAA tournament, where they fell to eventual champion UCLA.
Bryant projects as a decent hitter with excellent power, Defensively, Bryant’s arm is major league ready. Expect Bryant to make the major leagues by early 2015, with a possibly fall cameo next year.
The signing deadline for 2013 draft picks is coming up, and so far, 29 out of 33 players have completed deals. Most recently was the Padres first round pick, Hunter Renfroe of Mississippi State University. The remaining picks to sign are as follows:
University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant, who was chosen second overall by the Chicago Cubs. Sources indicate that Bryant and the Cubs have been “far apart in negotiations”, but the Cubs are “confident that they can get a deal done”. Bryant was Baseball America College Player of the Year and is also a finalist for the Golden Spikes award. It has been reported that Bryant’s camp wants more than the $6.7 Million that is recommended for the second overall pick, while the Cubs want Bryant to sign for slightly less than that amount, as they are over budget and could forfeit draft picks if they do overspend for Bryant. If the Cubs do not sign Bryant, he will likely finish his senior season at San Diego, and hope that he can raise his stock to the point where he is the number one pick in next year’s draft, much like Mark Appel did last year.
North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran was chosen with the sixth pick by the Miami Marlins. So far, nothing has come out of either camp. The Marlins have dealt with this situation before, when last year, Andrew Heaney of Oklahoma State waited until the final hour to sign with the team, despite rumors that he would not sign as the Marlins would not offer him a contract. One point worth noting is that the Marlins also have not signed top pick Matt Krook and have no plans to, potentially freeing up more money to sign Moran.
Oaks Christian High School pitcher Phil Bickford, who was chosen tenth overall by the Toronto Blue Jays, is the sole remaining high schooler who has yet to sign. Bickford, who had signability concerns, is expected to command more than $3 million, which is more than the recommended slot for the tenth pick. Out of all the choices, he and Bryant seem the least likely to sign their deals.
Fresno State outfielder Aaron Judge was taken 32nd overall by the New York Yankees. Judge is expected to sign soon, and had no signability concerns when he was drafted, in fact, he did take batting practice with the team after he was drafted.
Since 2008, when the “Draft and Follow” signing was eliminated, there has been at least one first round draft choice who ultimately did not sign, which led to compensation for the drafting team in the form of a draft pick. Here’s a rundown of those unsigned picks and where they ultimately went.
Aaron Crow was chosen with the ninth pick in the 2008 draft by the Washington Nationals out of the University of Missouri. Crow elected not to sign, citing the infamous reason that the Nationals were a “Losing Organization”. He had exhausted his college eligibility, and ended up pitching for the Fort Worth Cats. A year later the Kansas City Royals chose him with the twelfth pick. He signed, and has since served as a valued bullpen arm and an emergency closer. He earned an All-star selection in 2011, although he didn’t pitch in the game.
(The Nationals used their compensatory pick the following year on Drew Storen, who pitched for Stanford University. Storen now serves as the Nationals set up man.)
Gerrit Cole was taken by the New York Yankees with the 28th pick in the draft out of Orange Lutheran High School. He never had any intention to sign with the team, and ultimately went to pitch for UCLA, where he had a half-decent college career. Three years later, the Pirates took Cole with the first pick in the 2011 draft. He was promoted to the major leagues a little less than a month ago, and has contributed to the team’s ascension to the top of the NL Central standings.
(The Yankees used their compensatory pick the following year on Slade Heathcott, an outfielder from Texas High School in Texarkana. Heathcott is currently playing for the AA Trenton Thunder.)
Matt Purke was a high school arm in Texas who drew rave reviews and was considered to be a potential first round pick. The Texas Rangers chose him with the 14th pick in the draft. He didn’t sign, and opted to pitch for the Texas Christian University baseball team. After two seasons, Purke’s stock fell, as he was injured his sophomore season. The Washington Nationals took him with their third round pick, where he signed. He’s currently pitching in Double-A after missing most of last year due to injury.
(The Rangers used their compensatory pick on Jake Skole, an outfielder from Blessed Trinity High School in Roswell, Georgia. Skole, who has struggled since being drafted, is currently on the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in Single-A)
LeVon Washington was a highly touted outfield prospect from Buchholz High School in Gainesville, Florida. He was chosen by the Tampa Bay Rays with the 30th pick in the draft. He elected not to sign, and ultimately went to Chipola College, a Juco team from Marianna, Florida. Washington was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the second round the following year. He currently plays for the Lake County Captains in the Midwest league.
(The Rays used their compensatory pick on Justin O’Conner, a catcher from Cowan High School, in Cowan Indiana. O’Connor currently plays for the Bowling Green Hot Rods of the Midwest league.)
James Paxton was a supplemental pick by the Toronto Blue Jays out of the University of Kentucky. The Canadian chose not to sign, and because he was ineligible to return to the Wildcats, pitched for the Grand Prairie Airhogs of the American Association. The following year, the Seattle Mariners took Paxton with their fourth round draft choice. Paxton has managed to climb onto the top prospect list, and currently pitches for the AAA Tacoma Rainiers.
(The Blue Jays used the compensation pick for Paxton on Noah Syndergaard, a pitcher for Legacy High School in Texas. Syndergaard was traded to the Mets following the 2012 season and currently pitches for the AA Binghamton Mets. He will be pitching in the Futures game on July 14th.)
Barret Loux was the sixth pick in the 2010 mlb draft, chosen by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Loux, a senior from Texas A&M, was not offered a contract after he failed a physical. After being declared a free agent, he signed with his home state Texas Rangers. Loux was later traded to the Chicago Cubs as a player to be named later in the Geovany Soto trade. He is currently pitching for the Iowa Cubs in AAA. Incidentally, the pick after Loux was North Carolina pitcher Matt Harvey.
(The Diamondbacks used their compensatory selection on Broken Arrow High School pitcher Archie Bradley, who is currently pitching for the AA Mobile BayBears.)
Karsten Whitson was taken out of Chipley High School, in Florida by the San Diego Padres with the ninth pick in the draft. Whitson declined his offer and went to pitch for the Florida Gators, where he’s had a solid college career. However, after an injury plagued 2013, Whitson’s stock fell, and he was chosen in the 37th round by the Washington Nationals. It is unlikely that he will sign, as he will want to raise his stock so that he can be a first round pick in 2014.
(The Padres used their compensatory selection the following year on Indian River State College third baseman Cory Spangenberg. He is currently playing for the AA San Antonio Missions.)
Dylan Covey was taken with the 14th pick our of Maranatha High School in California by the Milwaukee Brewers. He did not sign after tests revealed that he was suffering from Type 1 diabetes. Covey spent the next three seasons at the University of San Diego where he took control of his medical condition. Covey was drafted this year by the Oakland A’s in the fifth round. He signed a contract and is currently pitching in short season ball.
(The following year, the Milwaukee Brewers selected Georgia Tech left hander Jed Bradley. Bradley is currently pitching for the A level Brevard County Manatees)
We already covered Tyler Beede, who currently pitches for Vanderbilt and is likely a top pick in next year’s draft.
(The Blue Jays used their compensatory pick on Duke reliever Marcus Stroman, who, despite a suspension for PED’s, is now pitching for the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats.)
Brett Austin, a catcher from Providence High School in North Carolina, was chosen by the San Diego Padres in the supplemental round of the draft. Austin didn’t sign and is currently a catcher for the North Carolina State University team. He is a projected top prospect for the 2014 draft. With the team drafting Austin Hedges in the second round, it’s unlikely that they miss Austin that much though.
(The Padres selected Walker Weickel out of Olympia High School in Florida as compensation for losing Austin the following year. Weickel, a pitcher, currently plays for the Fort Wayne TinCaps in the Midwest league.)
Mark Appel was chosen by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the 8th pick in the 2012 draft. He didn’t sign with the team, spent one more year at Stanford, and was chosen last month by the Houston Astros with the first overall pick.
(The Pirates chose Grayson High School outfielder Austin Meadows as compensation for Appel with the ninth pick in the draft. Meadows, who signed his contract last month, is currently playing for the Gulf Coast League Pirates.)
How many first rounders do you think will sign? Will this be the first year since 2007 where all the first round picks are signed?
Day One of the Draft is in the books and what an event it was. While not as entertaining as the NFL draft, it certainly had its highlights. From the attendees getting picked, to hearing Clint Frazier sing (something I never want to hear again), to Nick Ciuffo wiggling his ears, to the awkward moment when Ian Clarkin was taken by the Yankees despite the fact that he and his father both hate the team and were very happy when they lost the 2001 World Series, all in all, it was an interesting night. Now, we focus on the winners and losers of the draft:
Winners: Most Teams that had more than one first round choice in the draft.
Most teams that had two or more (in the case of the Yankees) first round draft choices used them on big name talent. The Pirates used their two picks on the consensus top hitter in the draft, and the top catcher in Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire. The Cardinals used their picks to bolster their pitching, specifically their southpaws, with Gonzaga’s Marco Gonzales and Garden State prepster Rob Kaminsky. And the Yankees have begun their transition to the future with the selections of third baseman Eric Jagielo of Notre Dame, expected to take over for Alex Rodriguez, Aaron Judge, the freakishly large and athletic outfielder from Fresno State, and California prepster Ian Clarkin, who apparently had to quickly change his fan allegiance after saying he hated the Yankees. All in all, very solid names came to those who picked more than once. However…
Loser: Texas Rangers
Billy McKinney, a home state product and the second best prep corner infielder, was available at pick 23. The Rangers bypassed him, going for Oral Roberts starter Alex Gonzalez. Jon Denney, the third best prep catcher, was available at pick 30, and the Rangers went with Travis Demerritte, who wasn’t even close to being the best available prep shortstop after JP Crawford was picked. Two stupid decisions in one night. Must be a sign of things to come. The Rangers have generally had good picks in recent years, opting for prep talent which could contribute down the line, but this time, they overvalued their two picks. Will it come back to bite them? Possibly, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Winner: Mark Appel and the Houston Astros
Apparently waiting an extra year did help Appel in his quest to go first overall. The Astros, who bypassed him a year ago for prep shortstop Carlos Correa, decided that he was ready the second time around, and picked him first overall. Appel, a Houston native and soon-to-be Stanford alum, was considered, along with Oklahoma ace Jonathan Gray and San Diego infielder Kris Bryant, to be a top pick. Because of his college experience, he should be fast tracked to the major leagues.
Loser: Jon Denney
You know how ESPN focuses on football players waiting to be drafted by showing shots of them in the green room, like they did with Aaron Rodgers, Brady Quinn, and Geno Smith? If they were covering the MLB draft, you can bet that one of the things they’d show more than anything else would be Jon Denney, waiting in the dugout while the names came and went. Denney, who was originally considered the top prep catcher, had a senior slump which dropped his stock. Nobody expected him to fall out of the second round, but unfortunately, he did. What’s worse for Denney is that the remainder of the draft will be done by conference call, instead of live television, No draft hat for him with the team logo on the side, no jersey, no putting his name on the board, no picture with Bud Selig, and no interview with the MLB network “on field” reporter. Sad. However, there are several options for him. He could sign with the team that does draft him, and likely he will be picked in the third round, he could go to a junior college program and resubmit his name for the draft next year, or he could go to college and rise his stock in time for the 2016 draft.
Winner: Billy McKinney
Billy McKinney is a Texan, but his allegiance lies in Oakland. Before the draft, he was asked if he was a Rangers fan, however, he said “No no, I’m an A’s fan” The A’s must have heard this and tabbed him to be their first baseman of the future. With two consecutive high schoolers chosen in the first round, Billy Beane is departing from his moneyball drafting strategy of high floor collegians in favor of high ceiling prepsters. McKinney and 2012 first rounder Addison Russell will be probably the most hyped prep players in Oakland since Todd Van Poppel and Ariel Prieto, but hopefully they won’t fizzle like the other two did.
Loser: Moneyball drafting
Billy Beane went 11 years between drafting prep players in the first round. Starting in 2002 and ending in 2011, the A’s selected collegians in the first round. Some panned out, like Nick Swisher, Jemile Weeks, and Huston Street. Others failed, like Jeremy Brown, John McCurdy, and Corey Brown. It seems that Beane has outgrown this phase, and ventured back into the prep drafting phase. With choices like Addison Russell and Billy McKinney, it has shown that Oakland is ready to ditch the drafting system that made them famous. That doesn’t mean that Moneyball is dead entirely, as Oakland still goes for cheap talent that can get them wins.
Winner: Nick Ciuffo’s ears
When Tampa Bay took their catcher of the future, we all learned that he has an interesting fact about him: He can wiggle his ears. When he was chosen, we got to see first hand, his talent. Although not as awesome as Courtney Hawkins doing a backflip in a suit, Ciuffo wiggling his ears like a mischevious leprechaun certainly was a highlight of the night.
Loser: Clint Frazier’s pipes.
There should be a rule that states that unless athletes have good singing voices, they should avoid singing entirely. Clint Frazier didn’t get the memo, and “graced” the viewers with his half-dead rendition of a certain Taylor Swift song that I absolutely refuse to name. Stick to baseball, Clint.
Winner: Colorado Rockies
Jonathan Gray’s positive Adderall test may have hurt his draft stock, but he still fell into the welcoming arms of the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies, who have yet to produce a true franchise pitcher, may have finally found their star. A workhorse with a 102 mile per hour fastball, Gray projects to be the ace of the Rockies staff for years to come.
Loser: San Francisco Giants
Either the Giants are really smart, or really stupid, because their first round pick were not even remotely close to the MLB top 100 prospects. Christian Arroyo, a shortstop, the position which they are set with. With Brandon Crawford in the majors and 2011 first rounder Joe Panik at AA, it made absolutely no sense for them to go after Arroyo. Similarly, the Giants could have picked a catcher in the hopes that when Buster Posey does inevitably have to move to first base, he would be ready to take over. Jon Denney was available. Instead, they bypassed him twice in favor of Arroyo and Ryder Jones, a prep third baseman. If Denney is still available by the time the Giants pick next, then they should seriously consider taking him.
Winner: Harold Reynolds
Harold Reynolds is the consummate professional analyst at the 2013 draft, and is starting to draw comparisons to Mel Kiper in terms of his experience. Reynolds, a former baseball player and fourth round draft pick, has the most insight into the situation, as he’s actually been there and done it. Reynolds will be the face of the MLB draft for years to come.
Loser: Pedro Astacio
I dont’ know which was more painful to watch/hear: Clint Frazier “singing” or Pedro Astacio coming up to the podium to announce who the Rockies picked. Either way, it was awful. Astacio mumbled through his words, couldn’t get the names of the schools correct, and just stumbled in more ways that you can imagine. Even Bud Selig’s annual “with the X pick in the 2000 draft” was more bearable this year. Bring back Garrett Atkins.
Coming up: Draft Grades, steals, and busts.
The 2013 Draft is 2 weeks away, and with conference tournaments and high school playoffs ending and starting, it’s time to update my mock draft. Certain players have raised their stock, while others have fallen Among the top prospects that have risen is Jonathan Gray, a pitcher for the University of Oklahoma Among those who have fallen is Oklahoma prep catcher Jon Denney, whom I originally tabbed as Joe Mauer’s potential successor. I originally mocked him to Kansas City at the 8th pick, but his stock has risen to the point where he is battling Mark Appel for the top pick in the draft. Without further delay, here is my new mock draft. Again, it will be split into three parts.
1. Houston Astros select Jonathan Gray, Pitcher, Oklahoma
(Prev. Mark Appel, Pitcher, Stanford)
Almost every mock draft site lists Jonathan Gray as a top pick, and I’m willing to go that route too. Gray is a potential frontrunner for the Golden Spikes award, given annually to the best amateur (I would say college, but Bryce Harper and Alex Fernandez won at the JuCo level) baseball player. He is in the top five in strikeouts, top 25 in ERA, and has brought Oklahoma back into the College World Series discussion. Gray’s stock can only get better with the NCAA tournament looming. Gray is armed with a long-lasting high velocity fastball as well as a solid slider. He’s a workhorse starter, and has the potential to pitch a full game. Houston will not hesitate to take this pick, no matter what.
2. Chicago Cubs select Mark Appel, Pitcher, Stanford
(Prev. Sean Manaea, Pitcher, Indiana State)
This may change as the NCAA tournament approaches, but in all likelihood, Appel will once again fail in his quest to go first overall, whether it’s due to signability concerns or the fact that Gray is better. Appel’s fall could be short, though, as the Chicago Cubs are always on the lookout for promising arms. Appel’s fastball isn’t as dazzling as Gray’s, but his other stuff is practically majors material. It will be interesting to see how long he stays in the minors, if he does at all.
3. Colorado Rockies select Kris Bryant, 3B, San Diego
(Prev. Austin Meadows, OF, Grayson High School, Georgia)
Colorado’s most glaring farm system need is at first, but if Kris Bryant is still available at the third spot, expect the Rockies to draft him. Bryant has emerged as one of this year’s top collegiate bats, A power hitter with fielding ability, the possibility that Bryant becomes Todd Helton’s heir is a very possible reality. Bryant also has the benefit of playing in a dry climate, so the adjustment from playing in San Diego to Denver isn’t exactly the world’s biggest issue.
4. Minnesota Twins select Reese McGuire, Catcher, Kentwood High School, Washington
(Prev. Jon Denney, Catcher, Yukon High School, Oklahoma)
MLB Trade Rumors published some draft notes a couple weeks ago that indicated that the Twins were looking towards making a deal to draft and sign Reese McGuire. McGuire, whose stock has risen to the point where he is a potential top ten pick, is most likely going to succeed Joe Mauer as the team’s catcher in the distant future. McGuire has a great arm coupled with solid fielding ability and a developing hitting skill set. Playing in Washington State will help the adjustment to the cold Minnesota springs as well.
5. Cleveland Indians select Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina
(Prev. Kris Bryant, 3B, San Diego)
The Indians lose out on Kris Bryant, but get another prized Tar Heels infielder in Colin Moran. Morans value is that he is defensively capable at third base, He also has the ability to hit, and in a spacious ballpark like Progressive Field, Moran is definitely a hot commodity. Having Moran also proves valuable with top shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor also coming up in the next two years, so expect the left side of the infield to be one of the best up-and coming infields in the future.
6, Miami Marlins select Austin Meadows, Outfielder, Grayson High School, Georgia
(Prev. DJ Peterson, 1B, New Mexico)
Meadows is the top high school talent in the draft, but with the above teams having more pressing minor league needs, soon to be major league, Meadows falls all the way to the Marlins. Though the Marlins need a first baseman for their minor league system, the chance to go after Meadows is likely going to have them change their minds. Meadows is also a first baseman though, so he could be guided through the system as an infielder. Meadows is a solid all-around guy, and should merit a lot of attention, plus playing in Georgia isn’t too far from playing in Miami.
7. Boston Red Sox select Clint Frazier, Outfield, Loganville High School, Georgia
(Prev. Ryne Stanek, Pitcher, Arkansas)
Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows are friends and rivals, so you can imagine the media angle if they are drafted one after another. The Red Sox have been connected to Frazier for the longest time, and rightfully so. Frazier is almost a mirror image of Meadows as well, except he is a better power hitter. It will be interesting to see how Frazier and Meadows do when they both reach the majors.
8. Kansas City Royals select Sean Manaea, Pitcher, Indiana State
(Prev. Jonathan Gray, Oklahoma)
Sean Manaea fell all the way from number 2 to number 8 in my draft, but fortunately, to a team which is likely to have a bright future on the horizon. Manaea garnered attention this past summer as a member of the Hyannis Harbor Hawks, and while he doesn’t have the benefit of facing top level competition like Grey or Appel, he still looks like a promising lefty, which are hard to come by these days. Manaea also has the benefit of possibly joining James Shields and Wade Davis in a vastly improved Royals rotation.
9. Pittsburgh Pirates select Ryne Stanek, Pitcher, Arkansas
(Prev. Chris Anderson, Pitcher, Jacksonville)
Ryne Stanek is a big college name, and the Pirates love big college names. Once considered the top pick in this draft, Stanek’s injury concerns and velocity drop have lowered him to a top ten selection. Stanek may have had problems this year, but his arsenal is two standard deviations above the average college pitcher. If Stanek can get past this season and return to top form, he, Gerrit Cole, and Jameson Taillon could make for a scary good front part of the Pirates rotation.
10. Toronto Blue Jays select Kohl Stewart, Pitcher, St. Pius X High School, Texas
(Prev. Clint Frazier, Outfield, Loganville High School, Georgia)
Toronto, as of late, has been drafting and developing high ceiling pitchers, and that strategy doesn’t look like it’s going to change. With the Marlins and Mets decimating their minor league pitching prospects down to Deck McGuire, Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris, and Marcus Stroman, and with the sting of losing 2011 pick Tyler Beede to Vanderbilt, where he has gone on to look like a top five pick in the 2014 draft, the Jays could go after one of the best athletes in the high school ranks. Kohl Stewart. Stewart is an excellent high school baseball player with a great arsenal of pitches, Stewart is also one of the top rated football quarterbacks in the nation and has signed a letter of intent to play for Texas A&M in both baseball and football. Stewart could command a high bonus, which the Jays would most likely oblige to give, especially with the possibility of Stewart’s quarterback competition, Johnny Manziel, likely leaving for the NFL after the 2013 college season. Stewart’s only knock is his health, as he is a diabetic, but with the recent success of diabetics in baseball, don’t expect it to be much of an issue.
11. New York Mets select Aaron Judge, Outfield, Fresno State
(Prev. Phillip Ervin, Outfield, Samford)
The Mets outfield is a mess, with the team now relying on clearly past their prime players like Rick Ankiel and Marlon Byrd, while players like Brandon Nimmo are years away from the big leagues. Barring a trade for Giancarlo Stanton, if the Mets want an outfield bat that has plenty of pop, the answer is Fresno State’s Aaron Judge. Judge, who is a physical anomaly, with a 6’7″ 255 pound body, which makes him one of the biggest outfielders in baseball. Judge also has shown plenty of power, like last year when he homered of Mark Appel twice. Judge reminds me a lot of Jeromy Burnitz and Dave Kingman, both average hitters with plenty of power potential. Having a guy like him patrol Citi Field’s outfield will be a sight worth waiting for.
12. Seattle Mariners: DJ Peterson, 1B, New Mexico
(Prev. Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina)
Seattle is rife with pitchers, has an up-and coming catcher in Mike Zunino, has a solid enough outfield, and a decent infield, at least from third to second. Which leads us to first base. Since being acquired in the Cliff Lee deal, Justin Smoak hasn’t exactly set the world on fire like he was supposed to. With DJ Peterson, the team is opting for a new direction. Peterson is generally solid, and like Manaea, he was discovered over the summer while playing for Team USA. Peterson has the pop in his bat necessary to put him in the lineup for the future, and should the team not resign Michael Morse, he represents the Mariners future on offense.
13. San Diego Padres select JP Crawford, Shortstop, Lakewood High School, California
In what can be seen as a dropoff from last year’s surge of middle infield talent, JP Crawford stands as the best middle infield prospect in the draft. I previously had Crawford going to San Diego, as they have a penchant for getting high ceiling developmental prospects, and in all likelihood, they will, as shortstop is a possible future position of need. Crawford has a developing hitting skill set, but his defense is arguably some of the best that will be seen in the high school ranks. Crawford is also a home state product, even if he’s a two hour drive away from Petco, so it’s possible that the Padres already have some interest in him. We’ll see how he turns out in the future if he plays for the Padres.
The MLB Draft is less than two months away. With that in mind, it’s time to put on my Draft Cap, act like Mel Kiper Jr. and make my predictions as to which prospects are going where. But rather than doing an entire mock draft, I’m splitting it into three posts. The first round, which includes the new compensation round and competitive balance lottery picks, is 39 picks long. It begins with the Houston Astros and ends with the Detroit Tigers. It has been said that this year’s class is considered weak compared to previous ones as aside from Stanford ace and former Pirates pick Mark Appel, nobody stands out as a consensus number one selection. Regardless, I relish the challenge and will take a shot at determining who goes where. The general idea here is that the picks will be either best player available or by weakest position in farm system. Here we go.
1. Houston Astros: Mark Appel, Pitcher, Stanford
Mark Appel and first overall draft choice are two phrases that have been used in the same sentence before. Last year, it was almost certain that the Astros were going for the big Stanford ace, but they ultimately decided that prep shortstop Carlos Correa would be a better investment as a top pick. That being said, Appel did not sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team that did draft him, and ultimately returned to Stanford. In a relatively weak class like this one, Appel is a certainty. He has top pick written all over him, especially with the mid 90’s fastball that scouts have continually gushed over. Appel seems to also be a top candidate for the Golden Spikes Award, given annually to college baseball’s best player as well. If the Astros are willing to give Appel the money that he asks for, expect him to be an anchor in an up-and-coming rotation.
2. Chicago Cubs: Sean Manaea, Pitcher, Indiana State
The NFL Draft has Workout Warriors, the NBA Draft has Tournament Stars, and Major League Baseball has Cape Cod Kings. This is the name given to baseball players who play in summer leagues and excel, raising their draft stock for that sole reason. Sean Manaea became the latest CCK when he registered a 5-1 record and a 1.22 ERA. The Indiana State product had previously not garnered much attention, but with the Summer league and a high-90’s velocity on his fastball, the Cubs will likely abandon their latest draft tradition of drafting high ceiling high school position players in favor of Manaea, who draws a comparison to a left handed Matt Harvey.
3. Colorado Rockies: Austin Meadows, Outfield/First Baseman, Grayson High School, Georgia
Last year, the Rockies selected one of the biggest sleeper picks in Oak Mountain High School outfielder David Dahl. Expect them to do something similar this year with Grayson High School’s Austin Meadows. While Meadows’ primary position is outfield, Colorado could move him to first base and have him develop as an infielder throughout his minor league career. Meadows, like Dahl is a plus hitter with some speed. Whereas the humid Georgia air had a dampening effect on Meadows’ power, if drafted by the Rockies, Meadows could become one of the best hitters in baseball.
4. Minnesota Twins: Jon Denney, Catcher, Yukon High School, Oklahoma
The last time the Twins selected a high profile prep catcher in the first round, his name was Joe Mauer, and he soon became one of the best catchers in baseball. Minnesota’s catching depth behind Drew Butera is suspect, and unless the Twins are content with having him or Ryan Doumit serve as Mauer’s successor when he retires or moves to another position, Oklahoma’s Jon Denney will likely be the best choice for the Twins. Denney is like Mauer in a lot of ways. He has power in his bat, and is a defensive asset. He certainly will fit in with Minnesota’s recent philosophy of drafting high ceiling prep products, as evidenced by last year’s selections of Byron Buxton and J.O Berrios.
5. Cleveland Indians: Kris Bryant, Third Baseman, San Diego
College baseball players take less time to develop, and Cleveland has opted to go that route before, especially with last year’s pick of Tyler Naquin. In Bryant, the team not only gets a dependable third baseman but also a legitimate power threat, perfect for Progressive Field’s dimensions. While the team does already have a third baseman in Lonnie Chisenhall and a power threat in Mark Reynolds, Bryant is a better hitter than Chisenhall and doesn’t strike out as much as Reynolds. In addition, Chisenhall would be more valuable as a trade chip anyway. Bryant should be at the top of Cleveland’s board, especially since he is the fourth best player available.
6. Miami Marlins: DJ Peterson, First Baseman, New Mexico
Miami’s biggest weakness in their minor league system is first base, and the draft is relatively weak in that position. Fortunately, there is at least one college first baseman who could fit in the Marlin future. DJ Peterson may be a reach right now, but if he can repeat what he did in the summer leagues and Team USA, his stock should rise exponentially. Peterson also has power, as he was Team USA’s best hitter over the summer. That could translate well in the cavernous Marlins Park. It will certainly be interesting to see him, Christian Yelich, and Giancarlo Stanton in the same lineup.
7. Boston Red Sox: Ryne Stanek, Pitcher, Arkansas
The MLB Draft has its fair share of tumblers, players that are projected to go high but fall down. Usually, its money, sometimes its injury related, sometimes it’s both. Ryne Stanek is a tumbler because of injuries and possible demands of a high contract. Stanek is projected as the top pitcher in some drafts, and in some cases, he could go as high as first overall. While he does have the talent, the teams that do pick before Boston are usually not at a luxury to spend high on draft picks. Boston is an ideal destination as the Red Sox have a top rotation in the making with Matt Barnes and Henry Owens coming up. Expect Stanek to be a solid second or third starter in Boston’s rotation.
8. Kansas City Royals: Jonathan Gray, Pitcher, Oklahoma
Like Sean Manaea, Jonathan Gray has risen quickly up draft boards. Kansas City should take a look at him because of his ability to throw 100+ miles per hour. While the Royals do have a solid cache of pitchers in their arsenal already, Gray could be used in any aspect. Prospects2pros envisions Gray as a closer for the Royals, especially with his speed and his pitch arsenal. In addition, with the Wil Myers trade taking away two of the Royals’ top pitching prospects, Gray could become Kansas City’s first big pitching star since Zach Greinke.
9. Pittsburgh Pirates (Compensation for inability to sign Mark Appel): Chris Anderson, Pitcher, Jacksonville University
The Pirates are not big on selecting small school prospects, (see Alvarez, Pedro, Cole, Gerrit, Appel, Mark, Taillon, Jameson) but in Chris Anderson, the team may just have to go around that bias and take a hard look. Anderson compares to fellow draftmate Jonathon Crawford in size, pitch speed, and athletic ability, but unlike the University of Florida ace, Anderson has a lot more to gain, especially after facing stiffer competition. Considering the last small-school Florida college star (Chris Sale) has done a lot for himself since being drafted, getting a guy like Anderson could catapult the Pirates pitching rotation to the top.
10: Toronto Blue Jays: Clint Frazier, Outfield, Loganville High School, Georgia
If Austin Meadows were to lose two inches and ten pounds, curl his hair and dye it orange, learn to bat and throw righthanded, and transfer to Loganville High School, then people would probably say that the two were separated at birth. Frazier is a bit undersized for an outfielder, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in ability. As previously mentioned, Frazier and Meadows are similar talents, and in a hitters park like the Rogers Centre, Frazier could make the most out of Toronto.
11. New York Mets: Phillip Ervin, Outfield, Samford
Even if the Mets’ outfield is performing better than expected, Sandy Alderson should seriously use the 11th pick on a college outfielder with a high ceiling, especially since the team still lacks a true leadoff man. In Phillip Ervin, the Mets are getting some of the fastest legs in the draft, as well as a bat that can hit ten to fifteen home runs in a good year. Like Clint Frazier, however, he is undersized, and like Chris Anderson, he hasn’t had the benefit of playing for a major college program, but in a place like Citi Field, Ervin will certainly thrive for years to come.
12. Seattle Mariners: Colin Moran, Third Baseman, North Carolina
Seattle has made plenty of investments in SEC and ACC players in the past few years, like Josh Fields, Dustin Ackley, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, and most recently, Mike Zunino. Don’t expect them to buck the trend this year, especially if Colin Moran is still on the board. Moran, the nephew of former first overall pick BJ Surhoff, has the ability to spray hits around the park and his defensive capability make him an ideal candidate to play in Seattle’s infield with fellow Tar Heels alum Ackley. His power would be ideal for the newly shifted Safeco Field, and he would be a solid fast track developer.
13. San Diego Padres: JP Crawford, Shortstop, Lakewood High School, California
San Diego’s recent trend of drafting long term projects could suit them here, especially with a premier talent like JP Crawford still on the board. Crawford is similar to current shortstop Everth Cabrera, but he has more offensive capability. Crawford garnered nation attention in the Under Armour Showcases during the summer, and scouts feel that he will develop into a Jeter-like shortstop. If the Padres get Crawford and he matures correctly, they could have one of the top left infields in baseball by the end of the decade.