Draft Preview, Pt. 2: High school players offer most upside

Before rounding out the top half of my rankings for tonight’s MLB draft, take a second to review players 7-12.

You’ll notice that the breakdown goes like this:

College: 5
High School: 1

Batters: 4
Pitchers: 2

That distribution of high school and college players is going to change. Again, the following six players are ranked based on my opinion of how desirable of an option the guy is for the Pirates (“Want”) and how likely he is to be either one of the Bucs’ first rounders (“Probability”).

The two numbers are averaged together to form the overall rank.

And with that reminder out of the way, let’s continue on to the draft prospects ranked 1-6:

6. D.J. Peterson, 3B/1B, New Mexico

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  • Want: 6 of 12
  • Probability: 7 of 12
  • Bio:

  • Born: Dec. 31, 1991 — College Junior
  • Bats: Right, Throws: Right
  • 6’1″ — 205 lbs.
  • Scouting Takes:

  • Just looking at D.J. Peterson’s bio, nothing screams “first-round talent.”
  • He is limited to the infield corners defensively. He’s not exactly young for a college junior. He doesn’t have the left-handed swing that is so coveted at first base. He’s stocky and doesn’t offer much projection.

    So why is he here?

    Let’s take a look at an excerpt from a May 30, 2013 Baseball America preview of the Fullerton Regional for the NCAA tournament. Aaron Fitt writes:

    The centerpiece of the [New Mexico] lineup is D.J. Peterson (.411/.525/.823, 18 HR, 24 2B, 70 RBI), the nation’s best pure hitter and an elite power threat.

    It’s tough to ignore praise like that, and it’s even more difficult to do so when Peterson’s tools and performance back it up.

    Echoing Fitt’s esteemed regard for Peterson was an A.L. West scout, who was quoted in Christopher Crawford’s May 27, 2013 ESPN Insider article.

    The scout said Peterson would be the second-best offensive prospect in the draft after Kris Bryant if he could stick at third base. The scout added that the New Mexico product is worthy of his top-10 hype because of the relatively weak class of college bats.

    The scout’s first remark is the single biggest knock on Peterson, who would have significantly less value at the diamond’s least defensively valuable position. But even if Peterson is likely to move off of the hot corner at the big league level, his bat will undoubtedly play at first.

    His short arms help him generate tremendous bat speed, strength and line-drive contact, while his pitch recognition skills are a plus. Those two attributes indicate that Peterson could be a .300 hitter who adds 20-25 homers at first base.

    Looking back at it, all his negatives can easily be spun into positives.

    He is athletic enough to play third in a pinch and be an above-average first baseman. His age and draft stock means he won’t be a tough sign. He’s still not left-handed, but his bat profiles well at first either way. His stockiness allows him to showcase a compact swing and exceptional power.

    Peterson and the no. 7 player, Hunter Refroe, could easily be flipped in the rankings. But given the Pirates dearth of first base talent and relative wealth of outfield talent, I suspect their more inclined to give Peterson the nod. The corner infielder is also a safer pick since he’s had success to point to before this season, whereas Renfroe has not.

    I would love to see Peterson slip to 14th, where the Pirates could tab him as the first baseman of the future.

    5. Braden Shipley, RHP, Nevada

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  • Want: 4 of 12
  • Probability: 5 of 12
  • Bio:

  • Born: Feb. 22, 1992 — College Junior
  • Bats: Right, Throws: Right
  • 6’3″ — 190 lbs.
  • Scouting Takes:

  • Part of Braden Shipley’s allure is his intangibles.
  • I’m not talking about “grittiness” or a “bulldog mentality,” but rather an intrinsic athleticism and arm speed. Shipley is the cousin of NFL wide receiver Jordan Shipley, so the bloodlines are strong, and he was also recruited out of high school as a shortstop, so the arm strength and fielding ability are superb.

    Athleticism in a pitcher is valuable because it lends to the idea that he’ll be able to repeat his delivery, which ensures an ability to keep a consistent arm slot, maintain release point and deter injury.

    Shipley showcases a clean delivery that eases any potential stress on his hips and generates force through his upper body. His powerful arm allows him to push his fastball up to 98 mph, but it sits in the 93-95 mph range — still plus velocity for a starter. Baseball America said he has a “feel for one of the draft’s best” change ups and the pitch sits at 83-86 mph. The curveball is behind his fastball and change in terms of development and frequency of use, but it is a hard, biting curve that Shipley throws in the upper-70s and has a decent feel for.

    There is not much going against Shipley. He is clearly the third-best college pitcher in the draft behind Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray and his arm doesn’t have the wear of a guy who’s pitched his whole life. But that mark is a double-edged sword. Though the arm is fresher because he was still a position player until he transitioned to the mound in his sophomore season, Shipley doesn’t have the same feel for the craft as a season hurler does.

    There’s almost no chance he slips to the Pirates second selection and it’s not even that likely he’ll be there at No. 9. If he does fall, however, I think Pittsburgh looks at the upside in the young pitcher and ecstatically figures to pencil him in next to Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon in a ridiculously talented rotation.

    4. Trey Ball, LHP, New Castle HS (New Castle, Ind.)

    20130606-121103.jpg

  • Want: 3 of 12
  • Probability: 4 of 12
  • Bio:

  • Born: June 27, 1994 — HS Senior (Commitment to Texas)
  • Bats: Left, Throws: Left
  • 6’6″ — 190 lbs.
  • Scouting Takes:

  • Trey Ball is the top high school pitcher in the draft and he’s also the best two-way prospect in 2013. His future is brightest on the mound, however, and teams that decide to move him off of it would be capping huge potential.
  • At 6-foot-6, 190 pounds, Ball is already huge. I imagine he’d add at least 30 pounds in the pros and fill out the lanky frame he currently has.

    A southpaw who already sits in the low-90s with his fastball, Ball has the projection to raise that average velocity to around 94 mph — a radar reading he has already touched as just an 18-year-old. His change up is unsurprisingly underdeveloped, but it flashes nice fade. Ball’s father prevented his son to throw a curveball before his junior year in high school in order to prevent possible elbow pain, but Baseball America wrote that he “already shows an aptitude for spinning the ball and has an above-average breaker.” In this interview with ESPN, the young lefty says he’s toyed with a knuckleball, though I doubt it will be part of Ball’s regular repertoire going forward.

    Despite the long limbs, Ball remains balanced throughout his delivery, finishing in line with home plate. He has a quick, clean arm action and any kinks in the mechanics can be ironed out in the pros.

    As an outfielder, Ball could go as high as the second or third round, but he won’t last that long because of his projection as a pitcher. None the less, his two-way talent is a great representation of how athletic he really is. (Here is some video of his hitting. And as a side note: who picks the music for these sessions? I’ve come across plenty of samples, and for the most part it seems like the background tracks haven’t been updated sincen 1980.)

    Scouts rave about Ball’s makeup, according to BA, making him all the more appealing for the Pirates at No. 9. I love the upside he offers as a potential No. 2 or very good No. 3 as a lefty hurler. Neal Huntington loves tall, projectable pitchers and Ball fits the mold.

    3. Reese McGuire, C, Kentwood HS (Covington, Wa.)

    20130606-130122.jpg

  • Want: 5 of 12
  • Probability: 1 of 12
  • Bio:

  • Born: March 2, 1995 — HS Senior (Commitment to San Diego)
  • Bats: Left, Throws: Right
  • 6’1″ — 190 lbs.
  • Scouting Takes:

  • The Washington Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year, Reese McGuire is the model catcher to build a franchise around.
  • McGuire has the best defense for a catcher seen in any of the past few drafts, according to Keith Law. He excels at receiving, blocking, and throwing, and has also been calling games since he was 10.

    This a great scouting video of both his defense and batting, and you can see the remarkable pop ability (he’s been clocked as quickly as 1.85 seconds) from behind the plate starting at around 55 seconds.

    But while his presence at catcher remains unwavering in its excellence, McGuire might not hit as well as you’d like a first-rounder to. He has the tools to become an above-average hitter with decent power, but Law projects him to have just 45-grade (on the 20-80 scale) hitting ability and power in the future. If he hits, he’s a no-doubt all-star. If he flails at the plate, he’s still an outstanding receiver with great athletic capabilities.

    My only issue is that I don’t want the Pirates to draft a guy whose value is tied heavily into his defense. What if an injury causes him to move from catcher? What if he’s Tony Sanchez 2.0? Thankfully I don’t have to ask the question, “What if Ronny Paulino forces him to another position?”

    Law’s latest mock draft has the Pirates taking McGuire with the ninth pick. As long as the Twins (No. 4) or Royals (No. 8) don’t scoop him before it’s the Bucs’ turn, I believe he’ll end up in Pittsburgh. The shameful thing is, though, that if guys like Braden Shipley, Trey Ball or Clint Frazier are available, I still think McGuire will be the selection.

    2. Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina

    20130606-133302.jpg

  • Want: 2 of 12
  • Probability: 2 of 12
  • Bio:

  • Born: Oct. 1, 1992 — College Junior
  • Bats: Left, Throws: Right
  • 6’3″ — 215 lbs.
  • Scouting Takes:

  • The Tar Heels entered the NCAA Tournament as the top seed and Colin Moran presided as the top player on that North Carolina squad.
  • Moran is about as safe a pick as there is in this draft, a third baseman with impeccable strike zone control and superb hand-eye coordination. He has size and strength, but is athletic and balanced enough to remain an average fixture at the hot corner with good hands and a cannon arm.

    Even if Moran were to move across the diamond to first base, his bat would still play well there. Loaded with a line-drive stroke that he uses to punish the ball across the entire field, Moran has a great shot to hit .300 with around 25 homers annually.

    I’m almost a bit naive to put him on these rankings at all, since there is about a two percent chance of him falling to the ninth pick — but, hey, I can dream. And still, part of me has a knack that if both Moran and McGuire are still somehow on the board for the Buccos, Huntington and co. will go with the high school catcher.

    There is not much more to say about Moran: he missed part of his sophomore year after he broke his hand punching a wall and he is former big leaguer B.J Surhoff’s nephew. Here is some video of his highlights. I just really hope Keith Law’s latest mock is wrong, and the Indians pass on him with the fifth pick — and the following three clubs follow suit.

    He’s definitely going to sign this year and, without much more growth in his ability, Moran is probably less than a year away from the show.

    1. Clint Frazier, CF, Loganville HS (Loganville, Ga.)

    20130606-135518.jpg

  • Want: 1 of 12
  • Probability: 3 of 12
  • Bio:

  • Born: Sep. 6, 1994 — HS Senior (Commitment to Georgia)
  • Bats: Right, Throws: Right
  • 6’1″ — 190 lbs.
  • Scouting Takes:

  • We’ve finally arrived at the top player on my list, and it is none other than the standout high schooler from Georiga.
  • Now you could take that to mean Austin Meadows, who I had ranked ninth, but Frazier stands above Meadows for reasons other than his prominent, curlicued, red mop.

    Frazier is a legitimate five-tool talent, whose most marketable asset is ridiculous bat speed. Baseball America calls it “premium”; Keith Law calls it “some of the best I’ve ever seen on an amateur player”; Matt Garrioch of Minor League Ball said, “He has massive forearms that create incredible bat speed that can launch balls 400′ with the flick of his wrists.”

    Think about Andrew McCutchen for a moment. When you watch him hit, what is it that jumps out and allows him to slug the ball? Bat speed.

    Frazier reminds me of McCutchen, who came out of high school in 2006, and I think they can have similar careers. Frazier is more likely to move to a corner outfield position, but reports of his unabashed, tenacious play says to me that this kid will work to stay in center.

    BA said he has “tremendous raw power” and a compact swing, and Law notes that his hip rotation during his swing allows him to get the type of loft power that scouts struggle to observe for Meadows.

    I actually fear that Houston could snag him with the first overall pick and pull off a Carlos Correa-type selection. And even if the Astros don’t go with Frazier, he is very prone to being off the board by the ninth pick. Minnesota is known to have special interest in the high schooler. Given that Huntington has seen the kind of impact McCutchen has on a team, I sure hope he is looking to duplicate that success and match his predecessor, Dave Littlefield, in landing a high-impact HS outfielder.

  • So there you have it. With all 12 players’ bios and reports in mind, who do you want to see the Bucs take with their two first-round picks.

    The overall distribution:

    College: 8
    High School: 4

    Batters: 8
    Pitchers: 4

    College Pitchers: 3
    High School Pitchers 1

    College Batters: 5
    High School Batters: 3

    And to conclude the suspended mock draft (I’m only doing it up to the Pirates’ pick at No. 14):

    1. Kohl Stewart, RHP — Houston Astros
    2. Jonathan Gray, RHP — Chicago Cubs
    3. Kris Bryant, 3B — Colorado Rockies
    4. Mark Appel, RHP — Minnesota Twins
    5. Colin Moran, 3B — Cleveland Indians
    6. Braden Shipley, RHP — Miami Marlins
    7. Hunter Renfroe, RF — Boston Red Sox
    8. Austin Meadows, RF — Kansas City Royals
    9. Reese McGuire, C — Pittsburgh Pirates
    10. Trey Ball, LHP — Toronto Blue Jays
    11. Clint Frazier, CF — New York Mets
    12. Dominic Smith, 1B — Seattle Mariners
    13. Ryne Stanek, RHP — San Diego Padres
    14. D.J. Peterson, 3B/1B — Pittsburgh Pirates

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