Draft | Story | 12/17/2012

2013 Draft Strengths

Patrick Ebert        
Photo: Indiana State
Join David Rawnsley, Todd Gold, Frankie Piliere, Kendall Rogers, Patrick Ebert and Baseball Prospectus special guest Nick Faleris in the chat room tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 18, from 11 am until 1 pm CST  to talk about the 2013 MLB Draft.

During this time of year most scouts spend their time conducting home visits, getting inside player's heads trying to determine what makes them tick while also selling their respective teams. For as good as any player's tools are, many recognize that the mental approach to the game, among other intangible aspects frequently labeled as “character issues,” can be just as important to a player's success as his more recognizable physical prowess.

As scouts do their due diligence, fans of the MLB Draft do their own, often hungry to determine how the next installment of the draft stacks up with past (and future) ones.

Since the college crop often dictates how an entire draft class is viewed, the 2013 draft class has already been labelled as weak. There is a distinct lack of prominent, well-rounded college position prospects, especially those that play premium defensive positions.

While the 2012 draft also had a limited number of impact hitters, an abundance of talented, well-rounded athletes from almost every position at the high school level helped make up for that deficit. It should be noted that Golden Spikes Award winner Mike Zunino of the Florida Gators was the third overall pick, although both Tyler Naquin (Texas A&M, 15
th overall) and James Ramsey (Florida State, 23rd overall) were considered to be reaches at their respective slots.

Stanford's Mark Appel did enter last year as one of the favorites to go first overall, and was still expected to be the No. 1 pick leading up to the pick itself before the Houston Astros surprised people by taking PG All-American Carlos Correa. At one point in time it was believed Lucas Giolito could have become the first high school right-hander to be taken with the first overall pick, but an early March elbow strain prevented that from happening.

As good as Appel has been, he never was viewed as a true and legitimate option to go 1/1 in an otherwise stronger draft class.  Prep outfielder Byron Buxton had a world full of athleticism but a questionable hit tool, whereas prep shortstop Carlos Correa wandered unchartered waters hailing from Puerto Rico.

From 2009-2011 we saw Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Gerrit Cole taken with the first overall picks, all three of whom entered the year with that very expectation. While Indiana State's Sean Manaea may not be the No. 1 prospect on everyone's list for the 2013 draft, I see a similar combination of size, stuff and command that belonged to another college left-hander taken with the first overall pick: 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner David Price (2007).

Despite the perceived weakness of the 2013 draft class there are some obvious strengths that deserve to be recognized.

1. Power arms at the top

Manaea has the making of a true staff ace, with prototypical size (6-foot-5, 235 pounds) and command of a three-pitch repertoire that includes a 93-95 mph fastball that peaked last summer at 98, a wipeout slider and a changeup. He posted ridiculous numbers on the Cape last summer (5-1, 1.22 ERA, 85 strikeouts, 7 walks, 21 hits allowed in 57.1 innings) that led to him being named Perfect Game's Summer Player of the Year.

Mark Appel's return to Stanford helps strengthen this class, as he too has the required size and power arsenal that put him in the conversation for the first pick in 2012. Arkansas' Ryne Stanek has a simlar profile, and possibly an even higher ceiling given his lanky, wiry strong stature and electric arm speed.

All three pitchers could find themselves taken among the top 5-7 overall selections similar to the 2011 draft when college arms were taken with the first three picks.

Karsten Whitson held a similar distinction when he opted not to sign as the ninth overall pick of the Padres in 2009 as well as after his freshman year in college when he seemed like a favorite to go first overall in 2013. Injuries caused Whitson to experience set-backs during his sophomore seasons, but reports out of fall ball indicate that he has regained his previous form, and could put his name in the conversation along with the three power arms identified above.

Whitson's Gators teammate Jonathon Crawford is in a position to do the same, as could fellow SEC aces Ryan Eades (LSU) and Bobby Wahl (Ole Miss). Appel's teammate A.J. Vanegas has been slow to develop at Stanford, but has the same kind of arm, while Trevor Williams at Arizona State has a similar profile.

Although the college pitchers are expected to overshadow the crop of high school arms, Dustin Driver (Wenatchee HS, Wash.), Clinton Hollon (Woodford County HS, Ky.), Robert Kaminsky (St. Joseph Regional HS, N.J.), Carlos Salazar (Kerman HS, Calif.), Casey Shane (Centennial HS, Texas), Jordan Sheffield (Tullahoma HS, Tenn.) and Kohl Stewart (St. Pius X, Texas) are among some of the more notable fire-ballers at the prep level.

2. Left Handed Pitching

Manaea easily slides to the top of this category as well, which is largely comprised of high school lefties.

Kaminsky elevated his status at the National Showcase in mid-June, showing easy low- to mid-90s arm strength and a hammer curveball. Jonah Wesely's mastery of his four-pitch repertoire was best on display at the WWBA World Championship where he may have solidified his status as a solid first-round pick.

Trey Ball (New Castle HS, Ind.), Stephen Gonsalves (Cathedral Catholic HS, Calif.) and A.J. Puk (Washington HS, Iowa) offer a trio of tall, projectable left-handers that may not currently light up radar guns the way Kaminsky and Wesely do, but could be doing so more consistently in the near future.  Ian Clarkin (James Madison HS, Calif.) is somewhat of a combination of his PG All-American teammates, showing good size and command of a polished three-pitch repertoire.

Garrett Williams (Calvary Baptist HS, La.) has positioned himself as possibly the second best left-hander after Kaminsky in this class, as both he and Hunter Green (Warren East HS, Ky.) both peaked in the low-90s at the National and continue to show improvement.  Jake Brentz (Parkway South HS, Mo.) and Tyler Alexander (Carroll HS, Texas) took big steps up the rankings due to their performances in Jupiter.

After Manaea, the college ranks don't offer as many power arms among the left-handers, not that any of them can be labelled as soft-tossers.

Marco Gonzales' (Gonzaga) profile is similar to that of Sean Gilmartin in that he can reach the low-90s, but is at his best working the outer half with his three-pitch mix and easy, repeatable delivery. Vanderbilt's Kevin Ziomek has the ability to peak in the 93-95 range with a very sharp slider.

Alex Haines (Seton Hill, Pa.), Dillon Overton (Oklahoma) and Tom Windle (Minnesota) gives the 2013 draft class even more depth among the left-handers available from college.

3. High School Catchers

The 2009 draft was the last time we saw an incredible wealth of talent from the catching position, as this year's high school crop could rival that collection of promising backstops.

That conversation starts with Reese McGuire (Kentwood HS, Wash.), whose defense overshadows his powerful left-handed stroke due to the rarity of his skills. His quickness both behind the plate and in his release, powerful throwing arm and advanced blocking skills make him one of the more advanced true catchers to emerge from high school.

The depth of catching at the high school level was reflected on the 2012 Perfect Game All-American Classic rosters, as five other catchers (Nick Ciuffo, Zack Collins, Jeremy Martinez, Brian Navarreto and Chris Okey) joined McGuire. At this point in time, only Collins (American Heritage HS, Calif.) projects to play elsewhere, although Okey's (Eustis HS, Fla.) speed, quickness and versatility may prompt a Craig Biggio-type switch to second base.

Jon Denney (Yukon HS, Okla.), similar to Collins, may fit better at first base, but has shown enough behind the plate to give him a chance to stick. Tyler Alamo (Cypress HS, Calif.), Francis Christy (Casa Grande HS, Calif.), Will Haynie (Brentwood Academy, Tenn.), Tyler O'Neill (Garibaldi HS, B.C.) and Matthew Thaiss (Jackson Memorial HS, N.J.) provide intriguing depth.

Keep an eye on yet another PG All-American, Chris Rivera (El Dorado HS, Calif.), who plays up the middle of the infield in addition to pitching, but may fit best behind the dish.

4. Two-Way Talents

Several of the players listed under this category help represent one of the other strengths listed. Like most players that show pro tools both as a hitter and as a pitcher, scouts have already shown a preference toward which way these players project the best.

Despite A.J. Puk's immense power potential, his size and ability to throw effortless low-90s heat causes scouts to lean toward his pitching prowess. The same can be said for fellow lefties Garrett Williams and Marco Gonzales.

The opposite is true for Dominic Smith (J Serra HS, Calif.), whose disciplined eye and sweet, left-handed swing gives him more promise at the plate despite the ability to hit the low-90s consistently.

Aaron Brown on the other hand, a draft-eligible sophomore who arrived at Pepperdine known more for his own sweet left-handed swing, may assume a weekend starting role next spring given his emergence as a pitcher.

With a profile similar to that of Drew Stubbs, Michael Lorenzen could always be moved back to the mound if he struggles to make the necessary adjustments to pro pitching as a hitter.  Lorenzen served as Cal State's Fullerton's every day center fielder and closer in 2012, with great range in the outfield and the ability to throw in the mid-90s off the bump.

Derik Beauprez' (Cherry Creek HS, Colo.) future shifted from that of a positional prospect to that of a pitcher last summer thanks to his emerging arm strength. Kacy Clemens wants to stick as a hitter for as long as he can despite having qualities similar to that of his father on the mound.

J.P. Crawford (Lakewood HS, Calif.), Travis Demeritte (Winder Barrow HS, Ga.), Sheldon Neuse (Fossil Ridge HS, Texas) and Chris Rivera would all be likely two-way contributors at the college level should they take that route, but project better as position prospects at the professional level.

The one exception to this category is Trey Ball, who has scouts split as to where his talents are best served. An extremely projectable 6-foot-6, 180-pound left-handed pitcher and outfielder, at first glance you would think that his upside would be greater on the mound with his present ability to throw in the low- to mid-90s. However, he runs as effortlessly as he throws, allowing him to cover a tremendous amount of ground in center field, and he also shows very good leverage in his swing.

5. Power Bats

What the 2013 draft class lacks in quality it gains in quantity when it comes to impact bats, although the real weakness, as noted above, is the lack of such hitters at positions up the middle of the field at the college level.

Kris Bryant (San Diego) and D.J. Peterson (New Mexico) both currently play third base, but may be better off sliding across the diamond to first or moving to a corner outfield spot. Peterson is the better natural hitter of the two, whereas Bryant has immense power potential.

Austin Wilson (Stanford) has been labelled a five-tool athlete since high school when he participated as a 2009 PG/Aflac All-American, but has yet to put all of the pieces together for him to enjoy success at a consistent level.  Aaron Judge (Fresno State) has similar potential given his 6-foot-7, 230-pound frame, but is an x-factor given the lack of similarly sized sluggers that have enjoyed success.

At the high school level the big power comes in the form of Zack Collins, Rowdy Tellez (Elk Grove HS, Calif.) and Justin Williams (Terrebonne HS, La.), all left-handed hitters that had no problem reaching the upper deck at the Metrodome during the 2012 National Showcase numerous times.  While not as powerfully built, Clint Frazier (Loganville HS, Ga.) is tightly wound with a profile that has drawn comparisons to Mike Trout. Frazier too put on an impressive display of power at the Metrodome, with his shots coming in the form of line drives to left-center as a right handed hitter.

Bryce Harman's (Lloyd C. Bird HS, Va.) left-handed power was evident in Jupiter, and his potential rivals that of Collins, Tellez and Williams.

Although Cavan Biggio (St. Thomas HS, Texas) and Dominic Smith don't have the true power profile, they offer two of the more polished left-handed swings of any player eligible for the 2013 draft.  Biggio hit one of the more memorable shots at a Perfect Game event last summer, launching a three-run blast over the baggie in right field at the Metrodome.  Smith hit a would-be shot into the winds at the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter that Hurricane Sandy shoved from the gap in right-center to left for a ground-rule double, a testament to his own power potential.

Not a strength, but...

I also need to add that I feel the perception of the lack of true shortstops is somewhat overblown. The 2013 draft class does offer three potentially premium talents at the position in J.P. Crawford, Oscar Mercado (Gaither HS, Fla.) and Jan Hernandez (Carlos Beltran Academy, P.R.). The emergence of Edwin Diaz (Ladislao Martinez Otero HS, P.R.) and the re-emergence of Wesley Jones (Redan HS, Ga.) at the 2012 WWBA World Championship in Jupiter gives the class two more shortstops worth mentioning, and both Connor Heady (North Oldham HS, Ky.) and Andy McGuire (James Madison HS, Va.) could be in the mix for the early rounds.
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