For every “Roger Clemens” and “Greg Maddux” taken in the first couple rounds of the yearly amateur draft, you have many many more “Brien Taylors” and “Rick Ankiels”. Thus is the nature of TINSTAAP (see above quotation) and the volatility of the overall pool of players pitching throughout the minors and of those that have yet to be drafted to a major league team. Hindsight being the wonderful thing that it is leaves us to scratch our head at the decisions made by some organizations in the draft room (Padres taking Matt Bush #1 overall in 2004, 1 pick ahead of some guy named Justin Verlander). With the June draft quickly approaching we are gonna take a look at 5 pitchers whose names should be called fairly early on for this summers draft.
1. Mark Appel
2013 Draft Stock: Taken #8 overall in last season’s draft, the 6’5″ 215lbs righty declined on signing with the Pirates and just turned in his senior campaign at Stanford (10-4/2.91 ERA/130K’s-23BB’s in 106.1 IP) showcasing the same nasty arsenal and polished mechanics and command to warrant the talks of being taken #1 overall last year. Appel has a clean and easy delivery while working from a 3/4 arm-slot and he displays above-average posture and balance throughout trunk rotation. His fastball will consistently sit in the mid 90’s and can touch plus-plus topping out at 99mph. If he needs to slow it down and put some arm speed run too it he will adjust the grip on the fastball to a 2-seam grip. His fastball is better when he can command it to the lower part of the zone as hitters, especially last season during his junior year seemed to get an easy look at it when it was high in the zone and really drove it. His main off-speed weapon is a low 80’s slider with hard and late 2-plane movement which he can consistently paint the bottom of the strike zone with. Appel’s third pitch is his change-up which he keeps good arm speed on, however he doesn’t consistently work the change-up down in the zone enough to compensate for the lack of fade it has on it. He still has the shine and polish of a senior college pitcher that could walk into a Double-A rotation and throw shut-out ball and could challenge for a roster spot in the big leagues as soon as spring training of 2014 given the future outlook of the rotations of the top 3 teams of the draft (Astros, Cubs, Rockies).
2. Jonathan Gray
2013 Draft Stock: Gray brings an even nastier pitching arsenal and a more sturdy pitching frame (standing at 6′ 5″ 245lbs) than Appel, but lacks the consistency in throwing strikes especially with the fastball. The fastball locations mimic the inconsistencies in Grays mechanics in regards to the release point and overall amount of spine tilt Gray displays when throwing his heater anywhere from 94-101mph. And though he can consistently sit 95-98 with it, he has struggled to find the strike zone at times. Oklahoma lists his sophomore campaign of 2012 which saw him walk 42 batters in only 102.2 IP. Hammering out the inconsistencies in Gray’s fastball release point especially when he reaches back for more and hits triple digits on the radar gun will lead to improved fastball location and allow Gray to reach his ceiling as a front of the rotation ace for any team. Gray’s secondary pitch is a true out-pitch slider that often flashes plus. He can command it in and out of the zone getting hitters to chase it when he needs to or stare at it when he hits the bottom of the zone. He will sprinkle in a straight change-up and a curveball, but he didn’t need either to turn over college line-ups multiple times which speaks to how great his 2 primary pitches already are. He is a pitcher that won’t make it out of the top 3 of the draft and shouldn’t because he could be the center piece of any rotation by 2015 if he improves upon his command.
3. Kohl Stewart
2013 Draft Stock: The 6′ 3″, 195lbs high-school senior is considered by many to be the top prep arm in this draft class. He is currently committed to become lifetime backup to Johnny Football though any major MLB team should be able to entice him to forgo his commitment and make a career out of playing baseball. He has 4 develop-able pitches and a classic power pitcher body build. His best pitches are his fastball and slider with both offerings consistently flashing plus to plus-plus. His fastball will sit 92-95 but can touch up to 97 and runs in on right-handed batters. He doesn’t throw it consistently for strikes yet as he seems to cut himself off in his delivery with an inefficient path to the plate with his lift leg. This leads to him fighting across his body to get the ball across the plate. This is something that can easily be corrected once he gets into pro ball and shouldn’t prevent him from reaching his ceiling #1 or #2 starter. His hard slider is his best pitch sitting in the mid to high 80’s and with late 2-plane break away from right handers. He is still working on throwing a change-up and curveball though he will have plenty of time to work on both in pro ball. The top high-school arm of the draft shouldn’t make it out of the top ten.
4. Sean Manaea
2013 Draft Stock: The best left-hander in the draft struck up on the prospect map last summer when he was quite literally destroying everyone in the cape cod league(5-1/ 1.22 ERA/ 85K’s-7BB’s in 57.1 innings pitched) with plus velocity from the left-side (up to 96 last summer). He hasn’t showcased the same velocity coming into his junior year at Indiana State sitting regularly at 90-94 in the spring. He displays the same across the body delivery with his lift leg out of a high leg kick that Kohl Stewart has, though it is a little bit less pronounced out of the stretch. He comes in at just under a 3/4 arm slot and displays above-average posture and balance throughout his delivery which leads to his effective velocity playing up on his already plus velocity from the left side. The thing that is holding Manaea back is the fact that neither of his breaking pitches (slider/split change) profile as major league out pitches right now and would take some more time developing in the minors that wouldn’t necessarily be needed on someone like Appel or Gray. The other thing that may stray some franchises away is the fact that the delivery can get long in the back when he isn’t timing it right leading to his arm dragging behind the rest of his body during momentum shift, though if a franchise can clean up his delivery and help him recapture the magic he had on the Cape last summer they would have a very talented lefty on their hands. He is a name definitely worth tracking as he starts his career in pro ball.
5. Ryne Stanek
2013 Draft Stock: If I wrote this list before the college baseball season happened this spring Stanek would have surely been #3 behind Appel and Gray, but an inconsistent showing of command during his junior campaign at Arkansas (59K’s-26BB in 2013, down from the 83K’s-36BB’s posted during 2012) has pushed his draft stock down out of the top ten. Stanek has plus velocity from the right side sitting 92-96 but hasn’t commanded the pitch well at all this season as a more exaggerated spine-tilt at his release point has led to him actually releasing the ball further from the plate giving ground to the hitter and losing movement on his fastball. The problem is even more pronounced when he is trying to throw his slider and it causes his slider to flatten out in the zone allowing hitters to crush it. His best breaking pitch is most certainly his curveball and it profiles as more of an out pitch for him at the major league level due to his ability to actually get it to move. Stanek possess front of the rotation stuff when he is at his best though most scouts feel like the game-planning and pitch sequencing of the Arkansas coaching staff has actually led to regression in Stanek’s pitching mentality on the mound. The faster he gets into pro ball the faster the general scouting community can get a further evaluation as he is definitely worth a longer look somewhere in the middle of the 1st round.