With the June draft not right around the corner I decided to get together the writers of TCB for a little draft discussion because, hey, it's never to early to discuss the draft. Below several of our writers discuss some of the players the Astros could draft with the first selection in the 2013 MLB June Draft as well as some of the more intriguing names that could raise their stock during Spring.
Brooks (AKA Subber10):
Let's start by clarifying that this is a very early look at the 1.1 pick. The season hasn't started and captain practices are going to start picking up this week before coaches start running practice. As of now, data and reports are pretty limited on most draft prospects. At this point, performance form last season and the Cape Cod League are some of the the leading factors in where college players rank and showcases are really the only thing we have to go on. Because of that, college players are typically ranked a little higher. Especially this season as the high school ranks as it looks to be a weaker class this year for high schoolers than last year. But, the good news is that the college ranks are stronger this year than last at the top.College pitching looks to the be the strongest at the top of the board with Mark Appel, Ryan Stanek, and Sean Manaea. Mark Appel has the strongest stats and career to go off of right now and will likely have the least leverage in negotiations despite have Scott Boras in his corner. Stanek is more of the scouts dream with a nice fastball and wipeout slider to rack up strikeouts in the SEC. However, Manaea is almost a left-handed Stanek that is a little more rough around the edges with his mechanics but has a breakout performance in the Cape to back him up.
All three of them profile as frontline starters with the Ace ceiling. I need to see more of Manaea this season with how he performs and develops with a close look at his mechanics. If he continues to post good numbers and I start to like some adjustments in his mechanics, I may be drooling my June. I think he has the highest ceiling of all the draft prospects right now but his floor is considerable lower than the other two pitchers. But, because of the ceiling, he is my pick right now.
I'll start by joining the Mark Appel camp. I hate to talk about drafting based on need at 1.1, but take a quick look at the farm system. A number of high ceiling position players who have the potential to be major cornerstones on a contender (Singleton, Springer, Deshields, Correa) but a lack of high end pitching prospects (McCullers has the highest ceiling, but he's just so far away its hard to take anything to the bank with him). Other than him, Folty, Tropeano and Cosart are the closest impact guys, and only Cosart possesses anything close to an ace ceiling. Therefore I'm definitely in the pitcher camp, and by default of this year's class, a pitcher in the college ranks as Appel, Manaea and Stanek make up the consensus top 3.
I like Appel because there's actually some negotiating leverage as Brooks mentioned, allowing Luhnow a chance to map out his draft and take some higher upside guys later. If all goes smoothly, Appel would have the chance to join a big league club in mid 2014-he would offer a serious upgrade to a bad Astros team, but his upside, which is ace potential, could stretch far, far into the future and give the Astros the kind of pitcher that is imperative to succeed in October. I like Appel more than Stanek, but the appeal of Manaea if intriguing. A power lefty with great stuff who can blow hitters away with multiple pitches? That's near can't-miss. But I give Appel the edge right now because of familiarity, draft plotting and his big league ETA combined with upside.
Chris (AKA CRPerry13):
I'll go a little outside the box. I subscribe to the TINSTAAPP theory, especially when given the golden ticket of a 1-1 pick. The number of top-10-pick hitters who have flamed out because of injury is dwarfed by the number of pitchers who have done so and the Astros can't afford to be bitten by bad luck. More than anything else, the Astros' system is devoid of power, power, power. With that in mind, I'll go with Kris Bryant, the Junior 3B out of San Diego. He has Plus-Plus power, good plate discipline, and probably a short minor league simmering time before he gets to the majors. Some think that as he grows (he is currently 6'5" 215 lb) he will have to move to 1st or an outfield spot, but that his bat will play anywhere. Nobody thinks that added weight in his case is a bad thing though - with his height, he's in no danger of succumbing to fatness, and added muscle would build on his already prodigious game power.
Thoughts on a position change are not unanimous though, and many scouts think he can stick at third. Most projections have Bryant being picked in the middle of the top 10, but if I'm the Astros, I'm looking for impact bats in the draft and pitching via trades and free agency to minimize risk. Bryant seems to be a guy universally praised for his offense, both present and future. I love the upside of a guy like Austin Meadows, but the Astros have some depth at outfield. Bryant is my pick. A third baseman with 30-HR potential power and average to below-average defense. The Anti-Matt Dominguez
com/mlb-bonus-baby/2012/10/15/ 3451300/2013-draft-profile- kris-bryant-1b-san-diego
Well, shoot. I was going to chime in in Bryant's favor, but Chris already made a much better case than I could have. Unless someone is an immediate-impact arm like Stephen Strasburg, I hate the idea of taking a pitcher at 1.1 - and while I'm not crazy about drafting a corner outfielder/1B type at 1.1, Bryant is a beast at the plate and power is a premium for this team.
Glenn (AKA wgr56):
I'd also prefer a hitter. Appel … didn't like him last year, and I like him less this year, which may be irrational, but there it is. I don't think he and his agent came across well in their negotiations with the Pirates, and despite his loss of leverage, I could definitely see the same damn thing happening this year. I'd much prefer to shop for pitching by taking advantage of some Dominican kids (blatant Pelotero plug), and feel the best value on draft day is to look for the lumber.
Sean (AKA native_astro):
I'll agree with everyone saying that this a little too early to have this debate, but if I had to pick right now I would go with Clint Frazier or Austin Meadows. My guess is someone will make a Kyle Zimmer or Carlos Correa type climb into the top 5 picks.
I think the point about position players being the most likely to work out is a good point and one that Luhnow shown tendency to. However, he did select Shelby Miller in the first round out of HS. Also, while bats may be the safer pick, I don't like drafting a position player over a pitcher which I feel is clearly the better player at draft time simply because pitchers carry more risk. As of right now, that's how I feel about this set of pitchers and position players.With that said, I like Bryant's bat a whole lot as well. But, I'm torn on the position side of things. I see a good athlete and smooth actions that I like for 3B but I also see a him flat-footed a lot and I don't think he'll have much range moving forward. I'll have to see more than what I've seen and his range challenged a bit this season.
For the HS group, I'm not a fan of Austin Meadows right now as I think a lot of the hype right now around him revolves from him being a lefty that has a little power and could play CF. But, I think he is more developed than his peers so he stands out. It's the projection that makes me shy away from him as I don't see a lot. I project him to be average to slightly above average in most facets of the game and to not really stand out. But, with Clint Frazier, I see more projection especially with power. I like his throwing motion better. His floor is lower than Meadows but I see the potential for Frazier to be an impact bat where I don't see that with Meadows.
Clarence (AKA Clack):
Until (or if) other players take the field in 2013 and push their way into the top spot, I would have to go with Appel. By most accounts he is the preseason favorite for 1.1, though perhaps by default. While I agree about the success rate for college hitters over pitchers in the draft, I also think there is a reason that first basemen or "hitter-only" position players historically have not been taken with the first overall pick. A 1-1 position player pick has to have defensive value or positional value; that’s one of the reasons that Correa was a good 1-1 selection last year. (Phil Nevin comes close to the "hitter-only" tag at 1-1, and, well, the Astros’ choice of Nevin over Jeter turned out be a really bad judgement.) At this point, I just don’t see any position players who are dominant choices---though that could change by draft day, of course. And, I don’t see any reason to believe that Luhnow is philosophically opposed to picking a pitcher. The rumor is that the Astros made an offer (or at least a bonus range) to Appel before last year’s draft, and the lack of any positive response from Appel’s camp likely eliminated his chances at the 1-1 slot.
At this point, the main question about Appel’s eligibility for 1.1 is his signability, agent demands, etc. I don’t think Appel will be picked at 1.1 without some fruitful pre-draft communications between Boras and the Astros. It’s completely speculative at his point, but I think that his agent, Boras, is realistic enough to know that his client’s leverage is weak. Other positive factors for a 1.1 selection: Boras’ successful negotiations with the Astros relating to McCullers and Ruiz in 2012, and Appel’s reported desire to play for his hometown team, the Astros. I could be wrong about the signability question, and if that is the case, then I could see a Manaea selection.
I'm am shocked (SHOCKED) that Sean sent in his reply with no mention of Mr. Trey Williams, former high school third baseman from Valencia, CA who enrolled in Junior College and is eligible for the 2013 draft. If there's a hitter who could emerge from the pack right now, I think Williams has a better chance than the other college hitters, because he's going to be younger than them, has a better chance of sticking at third base and can also rake.
Spencer (AKA kyuss94):
I'm going to second Chris's opinion. I've been on the Bryant train for months, if he shows the same profile he did last season at USD, I think he'll go first. It's proven time and time again that college hitters are the safest type of prospect in the first round. Bryant has the light tower power, vastly improved contact, patience, and the ability to stick at 3B. If there's a Mike Zunino-esque hitter in this class, it's Bryant.
In terms of pitchers, I'm still on the Manaea bandwagon. I know he doesn't have the clean delivery and projectability of a Stanek, but Manaea has the pure upside and was absolutely dominating in the Cape. If he can carry over that kind of success into the college season, I expect him to leapfrog Appel and Stanek.
In terms of some guys I'm looking at within the top 100 picks but aren't 1.1 candidates-
Dominic Smith- Massive offensive upside. Likely a corner guy in the future but 3B or RF are possible. Effortless power, contact ability, great athleticism. I know Singleton is in the system and 1B is Smith's likely long term home, but it's tough to pass on players like that, to me.
Conrad Gregor- Has been one of the best players on a strong Vandy team. A Swisher-y outfielder with power and patience, he could add to a relative weakness in the Astros' sytem- the outfield.
Jon Denney- I haven't gotten into high school prospects too much yet, but in addition to Smith, Denney is a guy I quite like right now. There's limited video of him, but I see great bat speed and a guy that should be able to hit with authority. His defense has been praised, and it'll be interesting to watch him battle it out for the title of #1 C with Reese McGuire and Jeremy Martinez. Phillip Ervin- The Samford Junior was one of the offensive stars of the Cape, and had a strong sophomore season. He can do a little bit of everything and is reminiscent of Barrett Barnes from the last draft.
I'm glad you brought up Justin Williams. He's still very raw, but has 70-80 type power potential on a 80 scale. He could be a guy to watch this year.
And with that we end our January discussion of the Astros number one selection in the 2013 MLB June Draft. Feel free to agree, disagree or make a case for a player you have your eye on and stay tuned, we will be revealing our TCB draft board soon.