With the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft now in the books, it's time to rank the top prospects from the class as dynasty league owners prepare to make in-season additions to their roster.
1. Mark Appel, RHP, Astros: After dropping to eighth overall in the 2012 draft due to bonus demands and turning down the Pirates, Appel returned to Stanford for his senior season and was the top selection in this year's draft. He has been picked apart by scouts and analysts perhaps more than any player in the entire history of the draft and he's come out looking like the most MLB-ready player in the 2013 class. Appel stands 6-foot-5 and works in the mid-90s with his fastball with the ability to reach back for more. He also throws a nasty plus slider and a changeup, which also flashes as a plus offering. The expectation is that he'll go through the minors quickly, however, that still hinges on him signing with the Astros in a timely manner and that remains to be seen. Appel doesn't have the same kind of leverage he had last year, but he can still essentially hold the Astros' draft budget hostage because the July 12 signing deadline doesn't apply to college seniors. This means that if Appel and his agent Scott Boras choose, they can wait as long as until the day before the 2014 draft to sign and the high schoolers the Astros selected in the first 10 rounds will be in college by that time. The bonus recommendation for the No. 1 pick this year is $7.79 million, which is nearly two-thirds of the Astros' overall bonus pool of $11.7 million.
Having said all of this and ranking him first, I can still see the argument for taking a position player with the top pick in a midseason draft. In all likelihood a team picking this high is in rebuild mode and therefore Appel's readiness is perhaps a little less valuable. There's also the inherent injury risk with taking any pitcher. It may just depend on your team's needs and preferences when it comes to drafting young pitchers, but I think the next two players on this list are also acceptable choices for the top spot.
2. Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, Cubs: If your minor league system is lacking in power, look no further. Bryant, a third basemen from the University of San Diego, has been long known for his power and posted video game power numbers this season including 31 home runs and a .491 ISO in 228 plate appearances. Scouts like Bryant's athleticism, but it remains to be seen if he can stick at third base. Some think he'll fit in just fine in right field thanks to his average speed and plus arm strength. Either way, Bryant has plus-plus power and won't end up as just a first baseman defensively.
3. Clint Frazier, OF, Indians: While Bryant has the best power bat in the draft, Frazier has the best bat speed in the draft. Coupled with his quick-twitch athleticism, Frazier is the total package. He's still quite raw on both sides of the ball as he relies on that athleticism and lacks polish, but he's right out of high school after all. It might take him some time before he has that feel for the game, but Frazier might have the most superstar potential in this draft thanks to his power and speed combination.
4. Jonathan Gray, RHP, Rockies: Gray might have the best stuff of any pitcher in the draft at the present time. Appel is the better choice and he's less risky because of his track record. Gray, on the other hand, wasn't a can't-miss prospect coming out of high school, but he sure is now after an impressive junior year at Oklahoma. He's listed at 6-foot-4 and 239 pounds and even with elite fastball velocity he's able to pace himself in the middle of games so he has plenty left in the tank to finish. He has a wipeout slider and changeup, though his changeup is more of an average offering. Once Gray signs he'll be the top prospect in the Rockies system over outfielder David Dahl.
5. Colin Moran, 3B, Marlins: Moran had his best season at North Carolina as a junior after a productive stint in the Cape Cod league last summer. He's more of a hitter with power than a power hitter at this point, but for some players power is the last tool to show up. He projects to stick at third and be a great hitter with an advanced approach at the plate. The offensive baseline at third is such that he doesn't even have to hit for a ton of power to still be quite valuable.
6. Kohl Stewart, RHP, Twins: It would've been interesting to see what the Twins would have done had both Stewart and Gray been available when they picked fourth overall. The Twins have been courting for Stewart for some time now as they first started scouting his games two years ago, but would that relationship have been enough for them to pass on Gray? I guess we'll never know as Gray went off the board at No. 3. Stewart, a two-sport athlete, is already in the mid-90s with his fastball and throws both a curve and a slider. He's very projectable and has ace potential, but he's lower than his draft pick on this list because of the development necessary and added risks that come along with high school pitchers.
7. Austin Meadows, OF, Pirates: Meadows entered this year as the top prep player in the country, but Frazier had other ideas. Meadows doesn't have the speed of Frazier, but he covers the plate with a nice left-handed swing with power to play in the corner outfield.
8. Dominic Smith, 1B, Mets: Smith is the most complete high school hitter in the draft. He has massive raw power and he's not a free swinger. Smith takes a line drive approach to the plate and has power to all fields. If he projected as a defensive option anywhere other than first base, he'd be higher on this list, but Smith has the potential to be an elite hitter at the major league level.
9. Trey Ball, LHP, Red Sox: First off, this is the greatest name in baseball history. The kid's parents really knocked that one out of the park. How can you be anything but a professional athlete with a name like Trey Ball? I digress. Ball is a big time athlete, excelling both on the mound and in center field in high school, which actually gives him a decent fallback option in the unfortunate scenario that he were to hurt his arm. Ball's fastball currently sits 92-93 mph, but with a 6-foot-6 frame he could be throwing a lot harder in a few years. He made improvements to his curveball and changeup as the season rolled on this year and he'll have plenty of time to focus on those secondary pitches once he signs and commits to pitching full time.
10. D.J. Peterson, 3B, Mariners: The Mariners needed a power bat and they got one. Scouts love Peterson's swing and it's not just because of his gaudy power numbers with New Mexico, it's because he has a beautiful swing. He has tremendous bat speed and takes a short path to the ball that allows him to square everything up. He'll get a chance to stick at third base, but he's not much of a defender and could easily end up in a different corner.
Other Intriguing Draft Picks
Eric Jagielo and Aaron Judge: The day before the draft I was speaking with a former Yankees scout who had worked for the organization under current scouting director Damon Oppenheimer. The scout mentioned that the Yankees under Oppenheimer have long valued the Cape Cod League almost as heavily as a player's college season, noting that on the Cape the players play every day and not just on the weekends and of course they do so with wood bats. It was only after the first round that I realized how valuable that information was as with their first two selections the Yankees picked two outstanding college hitters who also excelled on the Cape. Jagielo and Judge are both polished hitters with big power potential. Jagielo, a left-handed hitter from Notre Dame, expects to enjoy playing home games in the Bronx where the right field seats are 314 feet away. He's also got the athleticism and arm strength to play third base. Judge, an outfielder from Fresno State, is a massive human being at 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds. He has plus-plus raw power and with his arm strength should find a home in right field. Despite his size, Judge is very athletic as he played center field in college and is an average runner.
Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox: There were so few legitimate up the middle players in this draft that when Anderson was popped at 17 it felt like all of the shortstops were already gone. He has plus-plus speed and that will certainly play up the middle. At the plate he's more contact than power, but opposing pitchers haven't been knocking the bat out of his hands. Anderson will likely be the top prospect in the White Sox system entering next season.
Phil Ervin, OF, Reds: Ervin is a tools machine. He's a plus runner and has raw power at the plate. Ervin has a good arm and could eventually move to right field, but he'll start his career off in center.
Rob Kaminsky, LHP, Cardinals: Any other team takes Kaminsky, a 5-foot-10 high schooler from New Jersey, and I'd be like, "So, what?" But, it's the freaking Cardinals. You just know they pulled one over on everyone again like they always do. They also nabbed Marco Gonzales from Gonzaga earlier in the first round. It looks like they got the infusion of left-handed starting pitcher that their system needed. It was pretty much the only thing the Cardinals didn't already have. Man, they are so good, don't you just hate it?
Ryne Stanek, RHP, Rays: Stanek may have won the last man still sitting in the green room if this were the NBA Draft as he watched and watched as he fell all the way to 29th overall. He's a serious power arm with a fastball that runs up to 98 mph and slider in the 84-87 mph range. Nobody seems to be all that impressed with his mechanics or arm action, but again look at the team that selected him. If there's an organization with a better track record of bringing along young pitchers than Tampa, please point them out to me.