Though it's nowhere near the three-day, bell-ringing, commissioner-hugging, TV juggernaut that is the NFL Draft, the MLB Draft (or Rule Four Draft, as it's officially known) is slowly becoming more and more familiar to the casual baseball fan. This year's draft kicks off on Thursday, June 6, and concludes on June 8. Once again, first round coverage will be televised and provided by MLB Network.
One thing that makes the MLB Draft unique (even though every professional sporting league's draft is like this in a sense) is that it is notoriously difficult to predict. Unlike the NFL, the evaluation process for major league clubs is much less in the public eye. Baseball fans aren't able to turn on the TV every Saturday to watch live games of top draft prospects and learn about their favorite pre-game breakfast from in-depth profile pieces. Still, though, the draft is just as important an aspect of building a baseball team as it is a football team. You may not have heard of Bryan Bullington, but I bet you've heard of Justin Upton. Both were first overall picks. The moral of the story? Draft wisely and you could wind up with the cornerstones of your franchise for years to come.
Even though the evaluation process of the MLB Draft is generally less accessible to fans, hat doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of places nowadays to find out about baseball's top prospects. You can find a YouTube video of a cat meowing to Beehtoven's "7th Symphony," therefore there's a good chance you'll be able to find some video of Kris Bryant taking batting practice. Hooray, Internet!
That being said, for this year's draft, I've decided to try my hand at projecting the top ten. As I mentioned before, baseball drafts are notoriously difficult to mock unless you're some sort of wizard. Seeing that I'm not a wizard or an insider "in the biz," this mock is based purely off of what I've read, the video I've watched, and the research I've done on the following players. Because remember, the Internet is for opinions! (I read that on the Internet)
1. Houston Astros - Kohl Stewart (RHP, St. Pius X HS, TX)
As we learned last year, the Astros' new regime led by GM Jeff Luhnow won't be easy to predict on draft day. For the second consecutive year, Houston owns the first overall pick and once again, nobody really knows where they'll end up going. This is exactly why I have them taking local prep righty and Texas A&M football commit Kohl Stewart. Stewart's arsenal on the mound includes a power fastball, good slider, and developing changeup. At 6'3", 205 lbs., Stewart's athleticism (combined with his natural stuff) is what gives him the potential to be a future ace. At this point, he's still very raw and is much more of a thrower than a pitcher (something that's evident when watching video), but with some tinkering to his mechanics, Stewart could become dominant at the pro level. With Stewart added to the fold, and fellow Texan Lance McCullers, Jr. from the 2012 class, the Astros could eventually have two local prep stars anchoring the top of their rotation.
2. Chicago Cubs - Jonathan Gray (RHP, Oklahoma)
Most of what's been written about the Cubs' draft strategy entering this year has essentially been "they'll take the pitcher that the Astros don't take between Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray." Well, guess what! Because of my crazy idea of Houston taking Kohl Stewart with the top pick, now they get their choice of either! I think that in this scenario, Gray could very well be the pick. I've graded the life on Gray's upper-90's (occasionally 100+ mph) fastball as STUPID, and you should, too. He's got all the tools to become a future ace and Chicago is dying to get more pitching into their system. In addition, Gray's recent Adderall incident even gives him a 90 grade for his Focus tool.
3. Colorado Rockies - Mark Appel (RHP, Stanford)
Last year, the Appel fell pretty far from the tree, if the tree is the first overall pick where many expected Appel to be drafted. But after Scott Boras-ing his way out of Pittsburgh, Appel returned to Stanford for his senior season. In 16 starts for the Cardinal, Appel posted a 2.56 ERA and struck out 130 in 123 innings of work. Appel is one of the elite players in this class and I think it's highly unlikely that we see any drop like he experienced last year. The Rockies would probably be surprised if Appel fell to them and wouldn't hesitate to take him if he was still on the board.
4. Minnesota Twins - Kris Bryant (3B, San Diego)
Let me give you a brief history of a third baseman from the University of San Diego. Discovered by the German scouts in 1904, they named him "Kris Bryant," which of course in German means "a whale of a hitter." Alright, that's enough jokes for this capsule. Third baseman Kris Bryant was not discovered by German scouts, but instead will hear his name called very early on draft day this Thursday. Bryant has light tower power and his 31 home runs this season were tops in Division I by a wide margin. By adding Bryant to the system, the Twins would make a case for having three of the top twenty prospects in baseball with Bryant, Miguel Sano, and Byron Buxton.
5. Cleveland Indians - Colin Moran (3B, North Carolina)
It seems like North Carolina keeps churning out "pure hitters" year after year, and Colin Moran is one of them. There have been rumors of the Astros considering Moran with the first overall pick and while I'm sure Houston has done their homework on each of the players in the top five, I don't think Moran is on the "elite" level of the players above. The Indians have liked drafting advanced college bats in the past and Moran has the potential to move quickly through the system.
6. Miami Marlins - Clint Frazier (OF, Loganville HS, GA)
Add the sixth overall pick to the list of grievances that the Marlins can file against the baseball gods. With five "elite" prospects in the draft, there's a chance that the Marlins will have to make their selection with all five of those players off the board. That in no way means that the Fish can't find a great talent to add to their system. Clint Frazier is a great talent. Frazier has five-tool potential in the outfield and has some of the highest upside of any player in this class. What stands out when you watch video of Frazier is his absurd bat speed, something that could translate to big power at the professional level. The Marlins haven't been hesitant to draft prep bats before and I gotta admit, a potential future outfield of Marcell Ozuna, Frazier, and Giancarlo Stanton sounds awfully impressive.
7. Boston Red Sox - Braden Shipley (RHP, Nevada)
It's unclear where Boston will go with the seventh overall selection but "best player available" seems to be the most likely scenario here. Nevada righty Braden Shipley is the best pitcher left on the board at this point in the mock. Shipley has a nice fastball-changeup combo, although he'll need to improve his command if he's going to be successful at the pro level.
8. Kansas City Royals - DJ Peterson (3B, New Mexico)
I wrote words about Peterson potentially going to the Marlins at number six last week (link here) but what do you know, things have changed! Peterson has put up an absurd slash line this season and is one of the most underrated college bats in this class. The power and how it'll translate at the pro level is the only question and because he's likely to only be average defensively, he could potentially have the opportunity to DH for an American League club. One report I read compared Peterson to current Royal Billy Butler. The Royals already have a Billy Butler. Now they can have two and two is always better than one (unless you're golfing).
9. Pittsburgh Pirates - Reese McGuire (C, Kentwood HS, WA)
Reese McGuire stands out as a catching prospect primarily for his incredible defensive skills and it's part of the reason he probably won't make it out of the top ten. The Pirates have drafted well in recent years and adding McGuire to the system would be an even bigger boost. The only thing that could go wrong for the Pirates' draft this year is if Mark Appel fell to them and they took him again. That would be awkward.
10. Toronto Blue Jays - Austin Meadows (OF, Grayson HS, GA)
Another Georgia prep star, Austin Meadows' power potential make him worthy of a top ten pick and the Blue Jays would likely be thrilled if he made it to this spot. His athleticism makes you believe that he can stick in center field, which makes him even more valuable if he's able to reach said power potential. Fun fact: Meadows' school (Grayson) and Frazier's (Loganville) are just 5.3 miles apart. Not so fun fact: that fun fact means absolutely nothing when it comes to figuring out where the two players will be drafted on Thursday.
There you have it, folks. My first Fish Stripes mock draft. I hope you all enjoyed these predictions that will be proved wrong in just about 48 hours from now. In the meantime, be sure to keep checking back all this week for more of our 2013 MLB Draft coverage, which I assure you will be outstanding. I promise that this article contains my first and last Kris Bryant/San Diego/"Anchorman" joke, so you can rest easy, friends.