With the 2013 MLB draft approaching fast — first round to be held on June 6, the list of players under consideration by the Chicago Cubs is rounding into shape. While many feel they will opt for the best college arm available, since pitching is what they lack most in the system, don’t bet against Theo Epstein and Co. to look in other directions. After all, they badly needed pitching last year, as well, and grabbed prep outfielder Albert Almora with the sixth overall pick. Whichever direction the organization chooses to go, here are nine players who appear to be locks as far as consideration goes for the 2013 MLB draft.
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Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford. Entering the season, there were questions about the deception on Appel’s pitches and if he was going to be able to get professionals out the way he toys with college hitters. After going 10-2 as a junior with a 2.56 ERA and 130 K/30 BB over 123 innings, he was selected with the eighth overall selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates but decided to return to school after negotiations broke down. At 6’-5” and 235 pounds, the right-hander features a mid-90s fastball that can touch 99 mph, a true swing-and-miss slider and his change-up sits in the mid-80s and has developed into another plus offering this year.
After giving up two runs over five innings in a 5-1 loss to Rice in his season opener, striking out just three to three walks, he has been absolutely filthy. Over his last three starts, he has allowed two runs on 10 hits over 25 innings, striking out 40 to three walks. The movement is there, the change-up has been a weapon and his command pin point. With his size, demeanor on the mound and ability to go deep into games without losing velocity, Appel has placed himself in the pole position among college arms through the first month of the season.
Sean Manaea, LHP, Indiana State. The best southpaw in the 2013 MLB draft, Manaea is a 6’-5”, 235-pound power pitcher who made hay by dominating hitters at the Cape Cod League over the summer. He went 5-1 in eight starts with a 1.22 ERA and a league-leading 85 strikeouts in 57.1 innings pitched, setting a modern record for strikeouts at the CCL. He features a mid-90s fastball with deception and a slider that, when on, is the best in the draft. His change-up is a solid offering, and he has great poise and command of all his pitches.
As a sophomore, he went 5-3 with a 3.34 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 115 K/37 BB over 105 innings. He also had seven pickoffs and held runners to just two stolen bases in nine attempts. He opened the season tossing four innings against IPWF on February 15, allowing one run on four hits while striking out six to three walks. In his second start on February 22, he allowed one hit over six shutout innings, striking out 10 to two walks. He then went 15 days between starts to due bad weather in the Midwest. On March 9 against Mercer, he showed some rust in the early going but turned it on and picked up his first win of the season, allowing two runs over six innings, striking out eight to two walks, allowing three hits. Scouts have noticed a dip in his velocity and less bite on his breaking stuff over his first three starts. You can easily chalk that up to the cold weather and how inconsistent his days of rest have been in between starts. He has the size, stuff and mound presence to be an ace at the next level and, as the weather heats up, I bet he will, as well.
Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma. A late addition to the mix, Gray officially welcomed himself to the party by touching 100 mph and abusing a very good UCLA team on March 9. Over seven shutout innings, he allowed five hits while striking out eight to one walk in a 4-0 win. On the season, he is now 3-1 with 27 K/8 BB over 26 innings, allowing six runs on 17 hits. Along with his plus fastball, he also features a plus slider and potential plus change-up. At 6’-4” and 240 pounds, the right-hander has the size to be a workhorse.
As a sophomore, he went 8-4 with a 3.16 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and 104 K/42 BB over 102.2 innings. He has cut his BB/9 from 3.7 last year to 2.7 this year while gaining velocity and movement.
Ryne Stanek, RHP, Arkansas. The 6’-4” right-hander entered the season with talks of being potentially the first overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft. While he hasn’t been terrible, the season hasn’t started off the way many had hoped. Over four starts, he is 1-1 with a 3.71 ERA, 1.53 WHIP and 16 K/10 BB over 17 innings. He has pitched into the sixth innings in only one of those starts and his 5.3 BB/9 is alarming. The command may be off thus far, but his stuff is still great. He features a low/mid-90s fastball with movement, a plus slider and a solid change-up with late fade. He also adds a curveball that isn’t quite on par with his slider but still a decent offering.
As a sophomore, he went 7-4 with a 2.91 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 80 K/33 BB over 86.2 innings. His frame suggests he could easily add 15-20 pounds to his 180-pound frame and he has great poise on the mound. His command has been an issue in the past and continues to be this year. If he can improve on that, he has all the stuff to be an ace.
High school bats
Clint Frazier, OF, Loganville HS (GA). Frazier’s talents were on full display in a highly anticipated match-up against friend and rival Austin Meadows and his Grayson team on March 12. Before the game even started, he wowed nearly 100 scouts by hitting 23 home runs in batting practice, as well as showing off his plus arm (98 mph) by throwing a strike from mid-centerfield. Then he hit two home runs during the game, one of them a towering shot over the trees in left. One scout called it the longest home run he had ever seen a prep player hit. He finished the game 2-for-4 with two home runs and five RBI as his team won 14-4 by mercy rule in the sixth inning.
The 6’-1”, 190-pound right-hander is now hitting .600 (15-for-25) over seven games with six home runs and 18 RBI. As a junior, he hit .424 with 24 home runs and stole 14 bases over 114 at-bats. He is built like a tank and his incredible bat speed allows for some of the best power in the 2013 MLB draft — maybe the best. Along with his plus arm, he also has plus speed and is very aggressive in all aspects of the game. Some question if he will be able to remain in center field, but his arm and speed would play extremely well in right, as well. Like the Cubs first-round pick in 2012, Albert Almora, Frazier has a very high understanding of the game, is a high-character kid and all he wants to do is play baseball. A future outfield of Frazier, Almora and Jorge Soler could be something really special on the North Side. Here is an interview I did with Frazier.
Austin Meadows, OF, Grayson HS (GA). Like Frazier, there isn’t much to dislike about Meadows. At 6’-4” and 200 pounds, the left-hander has great power to all fields, a plus arm and plus speed. Maybe not as electric as Frazier, his ceiling may be a bit higher because of his size and ability to rake from the left side. In the match-up with Frazier, he finished 0-for-1 with a walk and hit by pitch, hardly seeing a pitch to swing at. On the season, he is hitting .471 with a home run and six RBI.
Meadows has been a name on the scene for quite some time. As a member of U16 Team USA in 2011, he put on a show for the ages as USA won the gold at the IBAF Youth Championships held in Mexico. Over eight games, he knocked in a Team USA record 28 runs. To put that into absurd perspective, over a 162-game season, that works out to 567 RBI, probably a record of sorts. Some think Meadows has a better chance to stick at center field than Frazier as he understand routes better at this stage and his speed allows him to get to anything hit to him. Another high character kid, he stated at the beginning of the year he would avoid interviews and anything draft related to put all of his focus on his game.
Jonathan Denney, C, Yukon HS (OK). No one in the prep ranks saw his 2013 MLB draft stock rise more over the past year than Denney, a 6’-2”, 205-pound right-hander. He showed tremendous power in tournaments and, more importantly, the defensive skills to remain a catcher at the next level. Power-hitting catchers who can defend their position are always at a premium, and the Cubs lack any kind of depth at the position.
Over his first five games of the season, it is very easy to see that the hype is for real. He has gone 13-for-16 with four doubles, a triple, four home runs, 14 RBI and has a slash line of .880/1.812/2.692. Staggering numbers to say the least. I don’t care what the level of competition is, you can’t do much better than that. I had a chance to interview Denney and you can see what a level-headed kid he is to go along with all of that talent.
Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, San Diego. At 6’-5” and 215 pounds, the right-hander is arguably the best college bat in the 2013 MLB draft. His combination of power and patience at the plate separate him from the rest as he leads the nation in both home runs and walks. Over 17 games, he is hitting .379 with six doubles, eight home runs, 16 RBI and has drawn 21 walks for a .556 OBP and .897 SLG. He has struck out 14 times, but that is just nitpicking. A very good athlete, he has also gone 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts. Over his last 10 games, he has gone 16-for-33 (.485) with 21 runs, three doubles, eight home runs, 15 RBI and has drawn 14 walks for a .646 OBP and 1.303 SLG.
Bryant has been knocking the cover off the ball since he stepped foot on campus. As a freshman, he hit .365 over 53 games with 17 doubles, nine home runs and a .482 OBP and .599 SLG. He was named first-team All-American by Baseball America as a sophomore after hitting .366 with 14 home runs, 57 RBI and a .483 OBP and .671 SLG over 57 games. The bat isn’t a question. Where he will eventually end up on the field is. While there is still a chance he could stick at third, many feel a corner outfield spot will be his ultimate destination as his athleticism and arm should play well.
Colin Moran, 3B/1B, North Carolina. A better pure hitter than Bryant, the 6’-3”, 215-pound left-hander hasn’t shown the power that most expected from him at the college level. Although, he has hit three home runs over his past three games, so that may be changing. Moran was named Freshman of the Year by Baseball America, hitting, .335 over 65 games with 20 doubles, 47 walks and an ACC leading 71 RBI. As a sophomore, he hit .365 over 41 games with 11 doubles, three home runs and a .435 OBP and .494 SLG.
This year, he is hitting .344 over 16 games for undefeated North Carolina. He went the first eight games of the season without getting an extra-base hit but has five of them over his last eight. He has drawn 17 walks to just three strikeouts, showing a great approach at the plate and has one of the best swings in college. Like Bryant, he may not end up at third base. Unlike Bryant, many feel he lacks the athleticism to play in the outfield and may end at first base where he actually is very good defensively.
If I had to rank these players as far as my 2013 MLB draft wish list goes, this is how I have it right now:
- Clint Frazier
- Sean Manaea
- Mark Appel
- Austin Meadows
- Jon Denney
- Jonathan Gray
- Kris Bryant
- Ryne Stanek
- Colin Moran
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @DanMKirby for 2013 MLB draft updates and prospect news.