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Prospect Talk: Draft Notables

If you read down to the bottom of my posts, you should go outside and get some fresh air or something, I mean what are you reading the bottom of my posts for? However, if you have ignored your body’s dire need for fresh air and general movement, you may have noticed that I also write for a site called MLB Draft Insider (MLBDI). So what I’m going to do, is introduce you to the upcoming draft class by way of MLBDI curator Chris Crawford’s Board. I don’t know how much of it I will get through prior to the June 6 draft, but I will try to give you the basics on each player.

For today, let’s take a look at the top 10. Bear in mind that this is not a projected top 10, that’s what the Mock is for. After the draft takes place, I plan on ranking the prospects based on fantasy value, in some form or another.

1. Mark Appel – SP – Stanford

Appel is a fairly known quantity at this point. He was in play for the first overall pick last year before sliding to eighth overall and deciding not to sign with the Pirates. Appel has seen an improvement in his stock since last season when he as a bit passive as a pitcher and saw his superlative stuff get hit a bit more often than it should. He’ll show a fastball in the mid 90s and can touch 99 MPH on occasion. He’ll show two plus secondaries; in his change and his slider. He shows the ability to command his pitches well, and should move quickly as a minor leaguer and pitch toward the top of a rotation.

2. Jonathan Gray – SP – Oklahoma

Gray’s calling card is an 80 fastball that can touch triple digits. He’s sit in the mid 90s and has held his impressive velocity deep into games. He’s slider is a plus pitch already and still has room to improve. Gray has dominated college baseball this season and has become a worthy challenger to Appel for the first overall selection. Gray does throw a change, though it’s not as advanced, it could be an above-average pitch in time. He might have a slightly higher ceiling than Appel, but carries more risk in regards to the variation of his outcome.

3. Kris Bryant – 3B – San Diego

Bryant is the top bat in the class, and as mentioned by Jim Callis on Kiley McDaniel’s most excellent podcast (Marginal Prospects) has outhomered some 200+ teams this season. Bryant has legitimate plus to plus-plus raw power and isn’t a straight hacker. He’s got an idea at the plate, though there’s plenty of swing and miss in his game. The question, as with many power hitting prospects is the utility of his hit tool. Bryant might not be long for third base either, and could end up in the outfield or even at 1B putting even more pressure on the bat.

4. Kohl Stewart – SP – St. Pius X HS (TX)

Stewart is the top prep arm available in the draft, and is likely to go in the top 5 picks. He brings 4 average-to-above pitches to the table, including a low-to-mid 90s fastball that can touch 97 MPH. He throws both a curve and a slider, with the latter as the more explosive option. He does throw a change up that features little movement but is solid right now. His control and command both need work, but that’s not uncommon for a prep pitcher, and cleaning up his delivery/mechanics could go a ways towards fixing that issue.

5. Austin Meadows – CF – Grayson High School (GA)

At 6’3/200, Meadows looks great in a uniform. He’s a strong kid who projects to have big power as he fills out his frame. The hit tool also projects as above average right now, and he currently has the athleticism to stay in center, though that comes with a weak throwing arm. If he fills out as expected, he’ll have to shift to left field, as the arm won’t allow him to play right. He’s a potential above-average hit, power and speed guy, but there are a lot of pieces that have to click to make that work.

6. Sean Manaea – SP – Indiana St.*

I put an asterisk next to Manaea as this is likely to change given that shoulder tightness kept him out of a scheduled start recently, and he’s also faced ankle and hip injuries this season. To his credit, those injuries haven’t kept Manaea from many starts, though they have changed his effectiveness. Manaea hasn’t been the same pitcher he was when he exploded in the Cape Cod League, hitting 96 MPH and showing a plus slider. Both pitches appear more average right now, with the fastball ranging from the high 80s to low 90s from the left side. To his credit, it’s still a good pitch due to the deception in his delivery. The slider and change are more average pitches, not bat missing offerings though.

7. Clint Frazier – CF – Loganville HS (GA)

Frazier is the other high school center fielder from Georgia that’s getting a ton of buzz this year. At 6’1/190 you might think he has room to grow, a la Meadows, but in fact he’s pretty maxed out physically. He does have some impressive tools though, including extremely impressive bat speed generated by quick hands and good hip rotation. He hasn’t completely harnessed this incredible bat speed though, often getting fooled by weak off-speed pitches. It might be that facing more advanced competition helps him, as the increased velocity will mean he’s not so far ahead of the pitches. While he’s in center field for the time being, a corner outfield spot is his most likely definition. As a fantasy play, I like Frazier more than Meadows, but more on that later.

8. Colin Moran – 3B – North Carolina

Recent news has Houston looking at Moran as an option at first overall (presumably because he’s open to a discount), as opposed to one of Appel, Gray and Bryant. Moran has put together a phenomenal college season, though there is some question as to whether his swing is geared for the college game and not the pros. He has phenomenal knowledge of the strike zone, helping him to get hitters’ pitches to swing at. He’s not a huge power hitter, though it projects as above-average to plus down the line. There are questions as to Moran’s ability to stick at third base, though not do to his glove so much as his range. He’s a below-average runner at present. In the end though, we’re talking about a likely above-average hit, plus power third baseman…not bad.

9. Austin Wilson – CF – Stanford

Wilson was unable to get on the field early this season due to injury, and has been impeded by those injuries even once he did return. Wilson’s calling card is plus to plus-plus power, which is especially notable in that he’s been able to avoid (at least in part) the “Stanford swing” that tends to focus on hitting singles to the opposite field. Wilson’s hit tool is fringy right now, but there are a few mechanical tweaks that could be made to push it closer to average. He’s a center fielder right now, but, like Meadows and Frazier listed above, will likely end up in a corner. He has the arm for right and could be an above-average defender there.

10. Hunter Renfroe – RF – Mississippi St.

Renfroe has gained a ton of steam in recent weeks, and now seems unlikely to escape the top 15 and could go in the top 10. He’s another big power, weak hit tool type of player, though his hit tool has further to go than the guys listed above. That said, the ceiling on the hit tool isn’t lower than the aforementioned big power guys listed above. Pitch recognition is a major issue for him, and he’s developed to the point that you wouldn’t expect more power to come along due to growth. But like Frazier before, there could be an improvement in power due to advancing his pitch recognition skills and the utility of his hit tool. Renfroe is already in RF and is likely to stay, as he moves well and has more than enough arm to play the position.

Hopefully these gave you guys an introduction to some of the top talents coming into this year’s draft. Instead of going through players by rank, and potentially not getting to some interesting names, I might pick a few names that interest me and highlight them going forward. I’m also up for taking suggestions, so if there’s someone that interests you that wasn’t mentioned, drop a line in the comments and I can tell what (or if) I know on them going forward.

If you’re interested in full scouting reports on the top draft prospects, and analysis on the top 150, MLB Draft Insider has a draftbook available for $3.99 that is well worth the money.

You can follow me on Twitter at @cdgoldstein
You can read my other work at Fake Teams and MLB Draft Insider

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Craig Goldstein

Craig Goldstein

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