All things being equal...
It's a phrase you hear a lot when you begin to discuss draft theory. All things being equal, I'd prefer a pitcher over a hitter. All things being equal, we should avoid a high school arm in the first round. All things being equal, I'd rather have a lefty than a righty. All things being equal, I'd like to avoid a Scott Boras client. All things being equal, I think I'd like to have the pizza tonight instead of the salad.
Of course, all things are not equal. All things are almost never equal, and if you doubt it, sit down with TCB's staff while we discuss the first-overall pick in the 2013 draft.
We debated the relative merits of the top baseball prospects heading into the 2013 season in an effort to put together our initial Draft Board. And then we debated some more. Ten people can look at a prospect and see ten different things. Ten people can have ten different draft philosophies. So in an effort to build a consensus, we put it to a vote.
It should be noted that this is our Draft Board as it stands right now. If the draft were held today. As it happens, the draft is not held today, so this board will change as the season progresses and we continue to get more information on the prospects.
As the conversation began to take shape, it ultimately boiled down to a Top Six, and then a whole lot of guys fighting to be in the conversation.
The top six - RHP Mark Appel, LHP Sean Manaea, RHP Ryne Stanek, 1B/3B Kris Bryant, and Georgia high school OFs Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier - all have champions on our staff, and they all have people that aren't sold on them yet. Five of the six (Stanek being the exclusion) were ranked in everyone's Top Ten.
What follows, then, is TCB's inaugural 2013 Draft Board Top Ten:
1. Sean Manaea, LHP, Indiana State.
Sean Manaea enters his junior season at Indiana State as the top player on TCB's draft board. Manaea, who was undrafted out of high school, has seen his stock skyrocket after a dominating performance in last summer's Cape Cod League. He followed up a modest, if not solid, sophomore season (3.34 ERA in 17 starts, 115 Ks in 105 innings) with a 1.22 ERA in eight Cape League starts, with 85 Ks in 57.1 innings. His 85 Ks broke the Cape single-year record. Manaea's numbers have certainly helped him reach the top of the board, but his projectability is a huge plus, as well. At 6'4" and a little over 200 lbs., Manaea has the size and frame that you look for in a future ace. The real kicker, though: He's a lefty who sits roughly around the mid-90s with his fastball and has some knee-bending breaking stuff, especially to left-handed hitters. His motion is smooth and easy from the scouting reports we've read, and he tucks the ball nicely during his windup to deceive hitters. The only concerns we have with Manaea are breaking pitches that still need refinement, and a relative sense of newness among mainstream draftniks and fans. He's not Mark Appel, who's been on MLB draft boards since high school, but at this point, he's definitely a more exciting player with an even bigger upside.
2. Kris Bryant, 3B/1B, San Diego.
Bryant has a premium right-handed bat, without a premium position. He has power to all fields, and hits to all fields to go with a patient approach. He has the arm for third base, but as he continues to grow into his lanky 6'5" frame, he may need to move to first base or a corner outfield position.
3. Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford.
From a scouting perspective, there's a lot to like about Appel. His arsenal includes a mid-90s fastball that can touch 99 at times, a changeup that has plus potential, and a slider that may very well be his best pitch, all while possessing sound mechanics and a huge pitcher's frame. On the flip side, up to this point he's lacked consistency with his location, movement with his fastball and change, and the overall dominating results that you would expect from a pitcher with his repertoire. If he can take another step forward this year in those regards, he should once again be considered going 1.1, with the wildcard being signability, even with the apparent lack of leverage.
4. Austin Meadows, OF, Grayson (GA).
The outfielder from Georgia is one of the most-hyped prospects in the draft at this point. That's because he blew away the workout circuit last summer, running fast and hitting the ball hard. Smooth left-handed stroke with some good power potential. At 6'3", 200 lbs., he may have some room to grow in his frame. Opinions on his future potential are mixed, though, with questions around his bat and whether he'll ever develop an elite future skill. Still, could be average across-the-board in MLB skills, which would be great anywhere else in the first round besides 1.1.
5. Clint Frazier, OF, Loganville (GA).
Austin Meadows may be viewed as the top prep outfielder in the draft as of now, but expect his counterpart, Clint Frazier, to give him a run for his money this season, especially since there are fewer question marks regarding Frazier's bat. Frazier is a hard-nosed five-tool outfielder with a great arm, and a swing that generates a ton of bat speed. Some of the critiques at this point are that he relies on his wrists and doesn't use his lower body enough at this point, and that he has a developed frame that could cause him to move off of center field should he add more weight in the future. His stock could easily rise with a solid senior season this year.
6. Ryne Stanek, RHP, Arkansas.
A tall, lean pitcher that has some projection and needs some work on his mechanics. He works his fastball in the low-to-mid-90s, but his best pitch is a slider that comes in around the mid-80s and grades out as a plus. he also throws a changeup that runs in on right-handed hitters, but it is only an average pitch right now.
7. Austin Wilson, OF, Stanford.
Drafted by St. Louis in the 12th round of the 2010 draft, Wilson chose to forgo the Cardinals' offer and fulfill his commitment to Stanford. Even though Wilson stands 6'4" and 235 lbs, he is very athletic and shouldn't have any issues sticking in right field, where he profiles best, given his strong arm. Give his size, Wilson has huge power potential, but also has contact issues, and has had problems handling offspeed pitches. If he can improve upon the contact deficiencies, then he has a good shot at being drafted in the top ten this draft.
8. Justin Williams, OF, Terrebonne (LA).
Maybe the most power potential out of any bat in the draft, Williams really wowed scouts on the workout circuit last year, regularly putting balls out of the park in both Petco and the Metrodome. He profiles as a corner outfielder, but his bat is where he's most special. He showed potential to not only hit for average, but make enough contact against sinkers to be effective. Should be an average runner, and could have a good enough arm to stick in right field.
9. Kohl Stewart, RHP, St. Pius X (TX).
Generally thought to be the best pure high school arm in the draft, Kohl is also the only local talent in the top ten. A 6'3", 195 lb. righty from St. Pius X in Houston, Kohl throws a very easy 93-95 with a wipeout slider. He has has verbally committed to play both baseball and football (QB) at Texas A&M. Stewart, who touched 97 on the gun at the Under Armour Games in San Diego this summer, is believed to be a difficult sign. He also sustained an injury to his shoulder playing football, and is currently rehabbing.
10. Chris Rivera, SS, El Dorado (CA).
Rivera is a defense-first shortstop right now, and projects to stay at the position easily, with good range and arm. He has potential to hit for average, but still needs work. He lacks power potential, outside of a few homers, but will primarily hit doubles. He doesn't have much speed, either.
Naturally, there was a lot more noise in the back end of our Top Ten. In addition to Wilson, Williams, Stewart, and Rivera, we discussed Trey Ball, Jon Paul Crawford, Jan Hernandez, Robert Kaminsky, Reese McGuire, Oscar Mercado, Brett Morales, Colin Moran, Bobby Wahl, Karsten Whitson, and Trey Williams. Each falls behind our Top Six for now, but will continue to try and gain traction in the months leading up to the draft.
Thanks to conroestro (Appel, Frazier, Wilson), subber10 (Bryant, Stanek, Rivera), David Coleman (Meadows, Williams), illinibob (Stewart), and leistomania409 (Manaea) for the prospect profiles