Lincoln Hamilton and Steve Carter decide to combine powers like so many Captain Planets. We'll keep going on this list as long as we have hot sports opinions. The rankings are pretty fluid right now, only a rough order. As we add more detail and players to the list, it will take firmer shape.
This list has yet to see its final permutation. Check back for updates.
1) Jonathan Gray - RHP - University of Oklahoma
An 80 fastball and plus, at least, breaker give Gray elite, ace upside. 127:21 K:BB ratio is but a morsel of dominant production. Almost no realistic scenario exists in which Gray stays healthy and isn't a valuable big league hurler. His stuff is just too good. Not quite on the Price/Strasburg level but we like him better than Gerrit Cole before the Pirates took Cole 1-1. Gray is, quite simply, one of the five or so best college pitching prospects of the last decade.
Gray’s elite stuff has translated into amazing production. He has struck out 104 batters in just 89.2 innings this spring. Gray has walked a scant 16 hitters all season and only allowed 51 hits in his first 12 sterling Sooner starts.
He’s a big, strong young man from a small town in central Oklahoma. At 6-foot-4 and every bit of his listed 239 Gray is a burly, corn-fed, country kid straight out of central casting. A little better athlete than he’s sometimes given credit for, Gray has the physical build scouts refer to when they tag someone as a “potential workhorse”. While the actual likelihood of Gray suffering an arm injury is fairly high, that stems from the incredibly high baseline rate of injuries for pitchers of elite velocity. When generating that much force, there’s more energy around to potentially find its way into the arm. Nothing about Gray’s mechanics jump out as elevating his injury risk.
A bad run of luck with the magical arm injury fairy is about the only thing standing between Gray and MLB stardom. Players with his arm and production don’t fail very often. Command of a 100 mile per hour fastball tends to translate to success.
Gray’s game is all about power. Despite sneaking up draft boards this spring Gray’s rise to prospect prominence has actually been a steady one. Drafted twice before, Gray threw in the low-90s out of high school and worked his way up to the middle-90s after spending time at Eastern Oklahoma State Junior College. Jonathan Gray didn’t come out of nowhere; he just keeps working and keeps getting better.
Mark Appel is a really good pitching prospect and will likely have a fine major league career, but Jonathan Gray has a chance to be a true, dominating ace.
His recent positive test for adderal does nothing to tinge our view of Grey. If anything the Astros ought to be more excited to draft him #1 overall because that failed test might save them some money on a signing bonus.
The future doesn’t always work out as it should or even how we think it ought to. Maybe Jonathan Gray never comes close to such lofty praise. All one can do is make the best decision based on the information available at the time. Given his stuff, production and history of improvement Gray is the kind of prospect you have to really question taking anyone else over.
2) Clint Frazier - CF - Loganville High School (GA)
A terrific all-around athlete, Frazier could develop into a dominant two-way force. A plus runner (even better when not hampered by an ankle injury like he was for part of this spring) with a strong arm, Frazier has the athletic ability to run down balls in center, but a former infielder Frazier lacks the instincts to be a current plus defender. Offensively Frazier has the natural ability to hit for both average and power. An aggressive, hands-oriented swing leads to lots of hard contact. Steve Carter put Frazier 1-1 on his board in September, and nothing has changed since then.
Frazier developed his man-muscles early; lack of projection, in his case, should not be viewed as a bad thing. A borderline plus-plus runner, Frazier has run to first in 4.2 seconds from the right-hand side and was clocked in the low 6.4s in the 60 yard dash. That speed should make him a threat to steal 30+ bags.
Defensively, Frazier has the raw foot speed and arm strength to be an elite centerfielder. Capable of throwing 95-97 MPH off a mound, opposing runners should think twice about taking an extra bag off Frazier. However, the defensive ability has yet to match up to Frazier’s prodigious physical abilities. An infielder until this past year, Frazier is still learning the finer points of reading fly balls but experience should make him a considerable asset with the glove. Even if Frazier turns into a +10 defensive centerfielder, that likely won’t be the best part of his game.
Clint Frazier can hit. Frazier has pure hitting ability in his hands that few people can match, even fewer his age. His trigger, load, strength and bat speed are all drool-worthy. He doesn’t just want to make contact with the ball, he wants to kill it. Frazier swings like the ball said something about his momma. Don’t nobody talk bad about Momma Frazier.
In other words, a true superstar. A ginger Andrew McCutchen. We love him. And so should you.
3) Kris Bryant - 3B - University of San Diego
A borderline first-round talent out of high school, Bryant dominated WCC pitchering at a historic rate. Bryant sits on a .338/.500/.863(!) triple slash line with 62 walks and 38 strikeouts in 211 at bats thus far. Thirty one times Bryant has sent pitches hurling over outfield walls while going seven-for-eleven in stolen base opportunities. Bryant's tool set is rather average, other than his prodigious power. Bryant's power earns an easy 70 grade; some would argue even higher. A mediocre defender, Bryant is iffy to stay at third base long-term but has enough speed (40 grade) and arm strength (65) to man a corner outfield spot.
Hip slide and a front knee trigger could make Bryant more pitchable than he should be, but his plane covers the inner half well. One scout put it well this spring, 'he is out of sequence'.
It might be a little hard to take an all-bat prospect in the top 3 overall who has a below-average hit tool, but Bryant seems a lock to go that high. He won't turn into a Trout/Harper/Machado/Posey type of franchise guy without major changes to his swing but Bryant's track record suggests he should get on-base enough, hit for a lot of power and not kill any one on defense.
4) Mark Appel - RHP - Unviersity of Stanford
The eighth overall pick last June, Appel turned down a max-offer from Pittsburgh to return to Palo Alto and may go even higher this go-round. Appel's senior season as seen a spike in his strikeout rate, though his overall stuff remains similar to last spring. A low-to-mid 90's fastball is complimented by an above-average slider and change. Appel commands his stuff well and should turn into an above-average major league starter with very little development. Appel has always been a bit of an underachiever as he doesn't have great deception, which can make his stuff play down as hitters tend to take rather comfortable cuts against him. Questions remain about how high his ultimate upside is; Appel seems more likely to be closer to a good #3 starter than an ace.
5) DJ Peterson - 1B/3B - University of New Mexico
The best hitter in the country that no one is hyping. Peterson's .401/.514/.807 line is slightly less impressive given the Lobos play in one of the nation's most extreme hitter's park, but Peterson's talent is legit. Peterson has only struck out 31 times in 255 plate appearances (12.1%) while walking 44 times (17.2%). Earlier this year, a scout said he prefers Peterson over Bryant, as Peterson's swing is 'vastly better, he's just not as good of an athlete as Bryant is'. Predominately a third baseman for New Mexico, Peterson played first base for Team USA and will likely find first his long-term home. Even without positional value, Peterson has a chance to move quickly through an organization and could be a .290+ hitter with 30 home run power who draws plenty of walks. That will play anywhere on the diamond.
6) Kohl Stewart - RHP - St. Piux X High School (TX)
A type 1 diabetic for whom baseball might not even be his first love, Stewart is, none the less, one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft. Committed to play QB at Texas A&M, Stewart has as much, if not more, upside as any prep arm this year. His fastball peaks at 96-97 MPH; his change-up and slider each have above-average, at least, potential. There's a real chance for Stewart to develop legit top-of-the-rotation stuff. Having split his athletic attention between football and baseball, Stewart isn't very polished on the mound, but that can easily be corrected with experience. Personally, Lincoln has a slight fetish for high school quarterbacks turned pitcher. QBs tend to have very quick releases, strong arms, good athleticism, toughness and leadership abilities. All those attributes are present in Stewart. He may be a tough sign, but $2-4 million is slightly more than he'd earn playing football in the SEC. If a team can convince him that Kohly Football isn't a cool nickname they could have an ace with proper development.
7) Phil Bickford - RHP - Oaks Christian High School (CA)
It took a couple viewings to get a handle on Bickford. At first I wasn't sure if what he was doing was awful or great. Watching video head on, from the batter's point of view, made it extremely difficult to pick up on Bickford's arm action. An extremely low 3/4 arm angle guy, close to a true side-arm action, Bickford hides the ball very well from batters. His fastball really jumps on hitters. That's always a good thing for results but often times pitchers go about it in ways that are dangerous to their long-term health; delaying the pick-up phase of the delivery in order to keep the ball hidden behind their backs longer, resulting in poor timing. Bickford, however, has an extremely short, simple and efficient arm action. He throws like he's playing catch. However he plays catch at 96 MPH. Bickford's arm strength is as good as anyone in the high school draft class, only Kohl Stewart may be better. Six-foot-four and 200 pounds, Bickford has plenty of room to get stronger. He doesn't utilize his lower-half as well as he could in his delivery. He has a tendency to just drift off the mound, letting his front side to most of the work. These are just ways that Bickford could amp up his velocity even more in a few years time. He's shown enough of a slider and change to give hope that real front-of-the-rotation stuff is in there. In a relatively boring draft, Bickford is one of the few guys worth getting really excited about outside the top 5 as the very definition of a live, loose arm.
8) Sean Manaea - LHP - Indiana State University
A small-school lefty with a slightly unorthodox delivery, Manaea still sits near the top of most draft boards thanks to big league quality stuff. Manaea has as good a three pitch mix as anyone in this draft, outside of Gray. His fastball sits 91-94 MPH with late sink, his slider should be death to left-handed batters and none too pleasant on righties and his change-up could be above-average as well. Manaea dominated the Cape Cod League last summer, alleviating quality of competition concerns. Manaea's arm action is very short; he gets the ball into the drive-line early in his delivery. He attacks hitters from an awkward low 3/4 arm angle. Manaea has dealt with a hip injury this spring, robbing him of some velocity, but he is still the best southpaw in the draft and could develop into a # 2/3 starter assuming the injury isn't a long-term concern. Manaea is tumbling down some draft boards but without medical information to the contrary, we're sticking with him.
9) Austin Meadows - CF - Grayson High School (GA)
Meadows draws constant comparisons to fellow draft classmate Clint Frazier due, almost entirely, to location. Other than being the same age and growing up in relatively close proximity Meadows is a different animal. A 6-foot-3 southpaw, Meadows is a tremendous pure athlete, flashing 70 wheels in drills, with bat speed for days. Present plus pull power could develop into straight away damage as Meadows matures. Concern exists about how well his athleticism will hold as Meadows fills out his large frame. Few players in this draft can match Meadows for pure upside but a relative lack of polish keeps him just outside my top 5. While the downside exists, Meadows is still worth a top 10 selection as the potential to be a 3-hole hitter/above-average defensive center fielder is juicier than a Gushers binge.
10) Colin Moran - 3B - University of North Carolina
The draft's most polished hitter, Moran has worn out college pitching for three years despite modest tools. A below-average runner, lacking in first-step quick-twitch explosion and with an arm that's maybe a tick above-average Moran is fringy at third base. He makes most of the plays he gets to, unfortunately, he doesn't get to a ton of them. Standing 6-foot-3, Moran looks like he could easily pack 15-20 more pounds despite already weighing 210. Any team selecting Colin Moran is not doing so because of his defense. Despite not having the sweetest swing in the world, Moran barrels up balls as well as anyone in the draft and has phenomenal plate discipline. One of the few college stats shown to have some predictive ability for future success is how well a player controls the strike-zone. Moran has walked 18.6% of the time while only whiffing in 6.6% of his plate appearances so far this spring - both elite marks. Even if Moran shifts down the defensive spectrum to first base, he should maintain enough offensive production by hitting for a solid average (.285-.300) while getting on-base a ton (.400 OBP is a possibility) and displaying mostly gap/doubles power while muscling 15-20 over the wall. As a high average, high OBP, mediocre power first baseman Moran could develop into this generation's version of John Olerud or Mark Grace, albeit with out Grace's beautiful swing or penchant for slump-busters. In most drafts Moran would rank as a mid-first round talent but the lack of worthwhile candidates should push Moran into the top 10, possibly top 5. He probably won't be much better than he is right now, but Moran is one of the very few guys in this draft who stands a better than 50/50 shot of being at least an average everyday big leaguer.
11) Jon Denney - C - Yukon High School (OK)
Somehow Oklahoma has become a baseball hotbed the equal of Georgia/Florida or southern Californa. Jonathan Gray is the best prospect in this class and fellow Okie Denny has a chance to be one of the best high schoolers. A stout 6-foot-2, 205 pounder, Denney has decent athleticism and possibly could hold down a right-field gig it a team elects to bring him up that way. If a team does, it won't be because he can't catch. Denney moves well behind the plate and has posted pop times under 1.9 seconds, showing legit plus arm strength. No, if a team moves Denney to a different position it will be with the aim of protecting his bat. Still a little raw, Denney has exciting pure hitting ability and some serious power potential. Denney shows plus bat speed, thanks to outstanding hip rotation, and could develop power to all fields. Denney switches from a leg kick, to a toe-tap, to a knee bend as a timing mechanism, though he shows a knack for balance with each. Settling on one (preferably not the knee bend) should help Denney reach his immense ceiling. He needs a little seasoning, but Denney could emerge as one of the game's best all-around catchers in time.
12) Trey Ball III - LHP/OF - New Castle High School (IN)
The best two-way prospect in this class, Ball warrants first round consideration both on the mound and in the outfield. While Ball profiles as a potential big league right fielder, we like him a little better on the mound. Ball's heater sits low-90's with potential for a lot more velocity down the road. Ball has shown decent feel for a change-up and already owns one of the better breakers in this year's high school class. Ball's mechanics are smooth and efficient. Standing 6-foot-6 but only 180 pounds, Ball has plenty of room to fill out and add strength. About the only thing hindering Ball's development on the mound is his potential as an everyday guy.
13) Reese McGuire - C - Kentwood High School (WA)
True catchers with a chance to hit are rare commodities. McGuire is smooth behind the plate with soft hands and regularly posts 1.8 pop times. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds McGuire shouldn't overgrow catching and is a decent enough athlete. Offensively, he has enough natural talent in his hands to make you take notice. A right-handed thrower, McGuire swings left-handed which makes his swing look prettier (lefty swings always look better). McGuire should develop at least average power once he figures out what to do with his lower-half - he currently has no idea whats going below his waist. High school catchers are a risky lot *coughcoughKyleSkipworthcough* but McGuire figures to be a good enough defender to be worth a starting spot with minimal offense, and could contribute much more than that.
14) Phillip Ervin - OF - Samford University
Yup, Samford. Oh, and he's maybe 5-foot-10. But Phillip Ervin is awesome at baseball. A two-way stud for the Samford Bulldogs, Ervin's big league future lays in as an everyday player where he has one of the best packages of tools and skills in this year's draft. A speedster with solid arm strength, Ervin has the athletic tools to be a quality defender and should be able to stay up-the-middle. At the plate, Ervin has surprising pop for his size. He makes strong consistent, contact (10.3% K) while maintaining excellent plate discipline (16.1% BB). He has enough raw strength and bat speed to be a 20+ home run threat in the show, and could easily swipe 20 bags as well. The quality of competition concerns are mitigated a bit by Ervin's stellar Cape Cod season, in which he earned the league's MVP.
15) J.P. Crawford - SS - Lakewood High School (CA)
The best of a weak middle infield class, Crawford is one of the few prospects in this draft who has a chance to both stick at shortstop and contribute something offensively. JP is not the same caliber athlete as his famous uncle, Carl -- no word on if JP's mother ever sent him to live with his rich uncle in LA after he was shootin' some b-ball outside of the school -- but JP is an above-average runner with a strong arm and the instincts to be a quality defender in the six-hole. Offensively, he's not super polished but the raw tools are fairly intriguing. Crawford displays solid bat-speed, has an aggressive lower half and some natural leverage built into his swing. A natural right-hander, Crawford swings from the goofy side. The 6-foot-2 Crawford might want to spend some of his signing bonus on a sandwich to help fill out his 175 pound frame. His overall skill set, team's desire for up-the-middle-talent and high opportunity cost of passing on one of the few pure SS's in the draft give Crawford an outside shot of being a top 15 pick. With that type of money he can fully stock his own banana stand.
16) Ian Clarkin - LHP - James Madison High School (CA)
Sometimes non-giant left-handed pitchers immediately get stuck with the "finesse" label. The 6-foot-2 Clarkin is not a finesse pitcher. Committed to the University of San Diego and a local San Diegite...San Diegin? San Diegon? Clarkin has above-average arm strength, fastball sits low-90s, and a hammer curve which could be a plus offering at the big league level. Clarkin starts his motion with an extremely high leg kick but occasionally drifts through his balance point and throws off his timing. His arm action is direct and powerful. His command should improve drastically once Clarkin repeats his stride more consistently. Lefties with quality stuff and live arms are always a premium come draft day and even considering the downside Clarkin is a legitimate first round talent.
17) Robert Kaminsky - LHP - St. Joseph Regional High School (NJ)
Being a prospect from the Northeast can be both a blessing and a curse. Weather shortens baseball season, reducing the time ball players can play ball but less experience can go hand-in-hand with greater upside. Kaminsky may get dinged by a few teams for being from Jersey, he's likely knocked by more for only reaching six feet in cleats. I (Lincoln) don't really care about that. Kaminsky has plus arm strength, works his fastball 92-95 MPH, thanks to sound mechanics. Kaminsky's secondary offerings lag behind the elite prospects but it's reasonable to project both his slider and change as future average pitches. It will take a few years but Kaminsky could end up being one of the best values of the 2013 MLB Draft. He's probably a sandwich to early second round pick but will outperform many of those selected before him.
18) Nick Ciuffo - C - Lexington High School (SC)
Ciuffo has the frame and arm strength to be a quality catcher long-term. Already a decent catch-and-throw guy, Ciuffo has a chance to combine defensive, positional and offensive value. At the plate, he's inconsistent but the raw ability is there. Ciuffo begins with an open stance then strides closed; in and of itself, not necessarily a bad thing. However Ciuffo over-strides and ends up cutting off hip rotation, leaking out his front side and creating poor balance. Ciuffo's hands, on the other...hand...I'm so sorry, I got very little sleep last night...show plenty of strength, bat speed and build a swing path meant for damage. Ciuffo needs to get with a good hitting instructor, but almost no high school bat is a finished product. Ciuffo has a chance to have, at least, average hit and power tools. If he achieves that as a lefty swinging catcher, you're looking at a terrific everyday player and the kind of player who can have a long big league career.
19) Alex Gonzalez - RHP - Oral Roberts University
Further proof that scouts will find you where ever you are, if you're good enough. Alex Gonzalez is good enough. The right-hander's fastball sits 91-93 MPH with excellent movement. Gonzalez pitches off his cutter, making him somewhat rare in the amateur ranks. Gonzalez pounds the strike-zone and flat out dominated a low level of competition this spring (something many other prospects forgot to do). As a sinker/cutter/slider guy Gonzalez may need a slower offering to keep hitters off balance but should have more than enough stuff to develop into a quality mid-rotation starter.
20) Riley Unroe - SS - Desert Ridge High School (AZ)
If Riley Unroe were five inches taller he'd be a top 10 pick. Considered a "plus" runner by most analysts, Unroe has run a 6.4 second 60 yard dash. "Plus" doesn't do those wheels justice. Riley Unroe is a small white guy but he's a helluva athlete. His fastball touches 90 MPH, he has soft hands and plenty of range. No doubt should remain in anyone's mind that Unroe is capable of sticking at shortstop despite being listed at 5-foot-11 (one of the more laughable measurements in this year's draft class). Even at closer to 5-foot-9, it doesn't make that big of a difference. He'll still be just 17 years-old on draft day, Unroe has one of the better swings in the high school class. A switch-hitter, his swing is a little cleaner from the right hand side but he shows a little more leverage in his left-handed swing. Unroe won't be a big power hitter but he should hit tons of doubles thanks to his well above-average pure hitting ability. A USC committ, Unroe might be difficult to sign if he slips but he shouldn't slip. When he stands on his talent he's 6-foot-4.
21) Hunter Harvey - RHP - Bandys High School (NC)
One of the better prep arms this year, Harvey gets bonus points with some for being the son of a big leaguer, former All-Star Bryan Harvey, but I only care about that what your dad did if you're a racehorse or a girl I'm trying to date. Neither of those things, what Harvey does have going for him is a smooth motion, above-average arm strength and a chance for a quality three pitch, starter's mix. His curve and change could each be average, at least, offerings and Harvey can already ramp his heater up 93-95 MPH though he works a little lower. He's not the biggest guy in the world and high school right-handers are notoriously a risky lot but Hunter Harvey has, all things considered, a pretty decent shot of turning into a quality major leaguer with an outside shot of turning into a borderline #2.
22) Tim Anderson - SS - East Central Community College (MS)
A terrific athlete in a draft short on them, Anderson is a pop-up guy thanks to his background as a basketball player. Still fairly raw, Anderson hit .495/.568/.879 ranking as one of the most productive JuCo hitters in the country. Anderson has the physical ability to be an asset at shortstop or centerfield. His current hitting approach is contact, gap-to-gap centered but Anderson has enough physical strength and above-average bat speed to to suggest he won't just be a Punch and Judy hitter. Given his lack of experience Anderson is further away from his ceiling than most prospects his age, but that ceiling is higher than all but the elite in this draft. He's made remarkable strides in a relatively short amount of time and remains one of the most interesting high upside picks outside the top 10.
23) Braden Shipley - RHP - University of Nevada
In a down year a team could easily talk themselves into Braden Shipley early in the first round. A converted position player, Shipley is still new to pitching but has premium raw stuff. His fastball touches 97-98 MPH and Shipley has shown excellent natural feel for a change-up. While his control is ahead of his command, that two-pitch combo puts him ahead of most others in this draft class. Shipley is a big, athletic kid and, while converted position players have pretty high injury rates (their bodies have had less time to adjust to the stress of pitching and are generally less equiped to handle them long-term), his arm action is short, simple and quick. His strikeout rate is a little lower than you'd like to see from a first round pick but given his newness to the mound, one can forgive Shipley striking out *just* 24.0% of batters faced. If his fastball command improves with experience and he stays healthy Shipley has tremendous upside and still has the floor of being a high-leverage bullpen arm.
24) Billy McKinney - OF/1B - Plano West High School (TX)
McKinney has a quite set up, maintains excellence balance, terrific hip rotation, strong forearms and barrels the ball up consistently. One of the few players in the entire draft who has a reasonable chance to of developing a plus hit tool, McKinney's overall draft value is held down by sub par athleticism. A borderline 7.0 runner in the 60 yard dash, McKinney has a below-average arm and questions on if he'll be able to man left field in the bigs. Not the biggest guy in the world (6'1") and close to maxed out physically already, McKinney might not develop the plus power teams look for in a first base/DH type. However what McKinney does do well is really important (hitting) and that skill is still likely get drafted in the late first or supp. round and give him a chance at a quality big league career.
25) Eric Jagielo - 3B - Notre Dame
Jagielo benefits from being one of the better college performers in a down draft. It's not he's faked his way through South Bend (insert your own joke because I can't decide on just one) Jagielo real offensive potential. Six-foot-three and a well-proportioned 215 pounds, Jagielo above-average present strength for an amateur and generates plus bat speed. He sets up tall and may need a little tinkering but Jagielo has enough strength, bat speed, discipline at the plate and production to project as a potential above-average big league offensive player. Unfortunately, Jagielo is a well below-average runner who may be stuck in left field. If Jagielo can handle any position more difficult than first-base he has a solid chance to be a quality every day guy.
26) Marco Gonzalez - LHP - Gonzaga University
Probably the best two-way player in the nation, Gonzalez's big league future is on the mound where he shows better feel for secondary pitches than most two-way guys. Despite average arm strength, Gonzalez has a chance to get big league hitters out with a plus change-up and well above-average curve. His command isn't as great as you'd prefer for a college lefty but two quality off-speed pitches is a rare enough commodity that some team will nab Gonzalez pretty early. His upside is debatable, but Gonzalez is a plus athlete which may cause a team to hope he adds a tick or two to his fastball once he commits fully to pitching. Gonzalez's strikeout and walk numbers were borderline for a first-round college hurler but he keeps the ball on the ground - Gonzalez did not allow a single home run all year. Gonzalez ought to carve out a decent big league career for himself, though stardom seems unlikely.
27) Kyle Serrano - RHP - Farragut High School (TN)
One of the more polished prep righties in this class, Serrano has a chance for three average, or better, big league offerings. A fastball/slider/change guy with advanced command, Serrano gets dinged, by some, for being a slightly undersized right-hander. But at 6-foot-1, 185 Serrano has enough strength to ramp his fastball into the low-90s with movement. His arm action has a tiny bit of length in the pick-up phase but his overall timing appears solid. His motion is smooth and relatively low-effort. Serrano does land slightly closed giving him a cross-fire action that flummoxs hitters but that few pitchers can maintain physically for the long-term. His polish and advanced knowledge of pitching largely stems from his father Dave, head coach of the University of Tennessee baseball team. That family connection may make Serrano a difficutl player to sign but amateur signing bonuses pail in comparison to the value of a solid mid-rotation big league starter like Serrano could turn out to be.
28) Matt Krook - LHP - St. Ignatius High School (CA)
The First Year Major League Baseball Player Draft can be a fickel mistress. Few things, however, are certain: teams will always grab catcher's, shortstops and left-handed pitchers with any sort of upside. Matt Krook is a 6-foot-4, 200 southpaw whose fastball has touched 94-95 MPH. For that alone Krook would get drafted fairly high, throw in the fact that his curveball has shown signifigant upside as well and you're looking at a potential first-rounder. He needs to get a little stronger and reign in his command but power lefties are always worth a gamble and Krook could end up being a steal. You thought you'd get away without a pun, didn't you?
29) Hunter Dozier - 3B - Stephen F Austin University
A small school shortstop, Dozier will likely move to third in pro ball but stands as one of the best college performers in the country. Dozier finished the year with a .396/.482/.755 batting line including 17 bombs, nearly as many BB as K (34/35) and was 12-for-17 stealing bases. In a year in which offense was really down across the country Dozier's numbers stand out. The 6-foot-4, 220 pound Dozier has a chance to get on-base at a reasonable rate, hit 20-25 home runs and play quality defense at third. That's a pretty valuable all-around player in my book.
30) Dominic Smith - 1B/OF - Serra High School (CA)
While high school pitchers have the highest attrition rates, scouting young hitters is more difficult. You almost never get to see them face elite stuff and while a pitcher may throw 100 pitches in a start, a scout is lucky to see 10 good in-game swings out of a player during a weekend series. That makes all-bat prospects like Dominic Smith a little more risky than one might think. Smith isn't a bad athlete, but he's a below-average runner with an average arm. He could probably man a corner outfield spot without hurting a team. Listed at an even 6-foot - amazing how many people reach that cutoff exactly, huh? Like every fake ID is for a 21 year old; how many 21-year-olds do you think are in this fucking town? - Smith is barrel chested and is well on his way to developing some serious pipes. His upper body strength is an asset where Smith will make his money, in the batter's box. Smith looks, to some, as much like a future above-average hitter as anyone in this year's high school draft class. Faint praise aside, questions surround Smith's future power ability. Will it settle in at average? A tick better? Little worse? Smith needs to figure out how to translate his physical strength into bat speed. Some of his swings seem to be *cough* lacking aggression. Luckily, Smith has age on his side; the left-hander will still be 17 years-old on draft day. Good prospects who are really young tend to perform like great ones. It's hard to see stardom in Smith's future without a serious power spike down the line, but a quality big league career as an above-average regular is well within reach.
31) Josh Hart - CF - Parkview High School (GA)
Hart has pushed his way into first round consideration thanks, largely, to some of the best wheels in the draft. A legit 70 runner with a decent enough arm, Hart figures to offer a team loads of defensive value. Hart could likely etch out a career as a reserve outfield/pinch runner/defensive replacement even if he never hits but Hart has some hitting ability. His game isn't about power, but Hart has a simple, quick stroke and has a chance to hit for decent averages down the line. His future as a top-of-the-order table-setter will largely depend on his pitch selection - one of the most difficult things to scout in a high school player. A little under six-feet tall, Hart actually has some room to fill out. He's a smallish, lean guy but should go from lean to wiry in a few years. Hart's upside is somewhere close to Ben Revere/Denard Span. While that's not a franchise guy, DeBen Respan would be a solid draft pick.
32) Carlos Salazar - RHP - Kerman High School (CA)
A big state/small town kid, Salazar has arguably the best arm strength of any prep pitcher in the draft. His fastball flirts with the high-90s, having touched 98-99 MPH before. A team team buying Salazar is doing so because of that arm strength as the rest of the package needs work. His command is poor and his off-speed pitches needs to be refined but the hope of elite stuff is there. Salazar's arm action is sound; his command problems likely stem from an aggressive jump move he makes while striding. Salazar is an all-out guy on the mound but most of the work is done by his lower-half. He'll require time and tinkering but Salazar has massive upside. A career as a front-of-the-rotation stud is possible, if unlikely, Salazar's velocity is good enough that he could slide into the bullpen where he has closer potential.
33) Travis Demeritte - 3B - Winder Barrow High School (GA)
A shortstop for his high school, Demeritte lacks the elite footspeed to stay at short long-term but has enough range, hands and arm strength to be an asset defensively at third. At the plate Demeritte is raw but has some real upside. His bad speed and swing path lead to dreams of 20 home run power despite Demeritte standing an even 6-foot, 175. He needs to figure out what he's doing with his lower half but the big things: bat speed, hands, balance all show enough promise to project Demeritte as a future big leaguer even though the team who drafts him will need to have faith in their player development staff.
Guys Not Worth First Round Grades
There will be a few players likely drafted in the first round or at least the top 50 that are not worthy of such selection. Doesn't mean they totally suck or are terrible people but their current prospect portfolio has some significant red flags. The odds are against pretty much any prospect having a long big league career, these are guys with worse odds than normal.
Ryan Stanek - RHP - University of Arkansas
Ryan Stanek was thought of as a potential top 5 pick for most of last summer. He's big, strong, has a mid-90s fastball and his slider can leave hitters flailing. Stanek has the raw stuff and look of a potential #2 big league starter, maybe even a staff ace. The problem, however, is that the sum total of Stanek is much less than the sum of his parts. Despite big-time stuff Stanek only struck out 79 batters in 97.1 college innings (19.8% of total batters faced). Even worse he walked 41 (10.3%). Stanek's command is downright awful at times. His motion is a mess. He's a high-effort guy who makes his throwing arm do the heavy lifting. Health and performance risks abound with Stanek yet some team will likely still draft him in the top half of the first round. Maybe he carves out a year or two as a reliever but Stanek's inability to strike college hitters out belies his sparkling 1.39 ERA.
Jonathon Crawford - RHP - University of Florida
Damn near everything said about Stanek applies to Crawford as well. A big name from an SEC school, Crawford is also likely to be a first round selection despite performance worthy of a late-round flier. Despite a fastball that lights up radar guns and flashing a good slider Crawford's K rate was only 18.4%. Crawford walked 9.9% of batters faced this spring, a number which jumps to 12.5% if you include the 10 batters he plunked. Any team drafting Jonathon Crawford in the first round is either doing so with ignorance to his woeful performance or with the intention of radically changing him and if that's the case why draft so highly?
Aaron Judge - OF - Fresno State
Aaron Judge is a monster. Dude is 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds that look like someone pissed off Bruce Banner. Despite his size, he's a good enough athlete to man a corner outfield spot and as one might expect has excellent raw power. Judge hit .369/.461/.655 for the Bulldogs this spring and his 12 bombs are just scratching the surface of what it seems he's capable of. Unfortunately, Judge also struck out 21.6% of the time. There's a dirty little secret with big, muscley guys -- most of them can't hit. There's a reason Judge's body type, while imposing, is atypical on a baseball field. His swing is long. Too long. And there's not much anyone can do about it. Judge is a terrific athlete but he'd be better off finding a career as a blocking tight end than a big league right fielder.
Ryan Eades - RHP - LSU
You didn't think I was done picking on SEC pitchers, did you? You probably know the story by now, Eades whiffed just 19.1% of batters this spring while walking, though his command is slightly better than Stanek or Crawfords as Eades walked only 7.4% (9.4% including HBPs). Again, poor college performance despite good raw stuff is a bad indication of future success. Extremely few players perform better in the major leagues than in college. Eades also has the added red flag of an extremely long arm action and terrible timing that should rate him as a high injury risk on its own. If a team doesn't believe in such alchemy, all they have to do is look back to Eades high school career when had to have surgery on his labrum.
Bobby Wahl - RHP - Ole Miss
Seriously I don't, in general, have anything against right-handed starters from the SEC it's just a cooincidence. Or is it? The SEC is the best conference in the country and, as such, the most heavily scouted. Has a bias developed within the scouting community? Is every Friday night starter with an above-average fastball seen as a first rounder just because they play in the SEC? Twenty five percent strikeouts tends to be a dividing line in college analysis, if a hurler is striking out one in four batters he faces he's probably good enough to get enough outs on his own at the game's highest level. Bobby Wahl only struck out 19.4% of batters and walked 10.9%. The raw stuff is seems solid but lack of command and general ineffectiveness is likely to prevent Wahl from a meaningful big league career as a starter.