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Way Too Early 2013 MLB Draft Big Board – Hitters Explained

We’ll talk more about Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier in a separate post, but a few words on every other position player listed on the top 100 from last week can be found below. Here we go…

I currently have Kris Bryant listed as an OF/3B, a fairly significant change from the 3B/1B designation he entered school with. I’m totally buying in on Bryant’s athleticism playing in an outfield corner, at least for the first few years of his professional career. His body looks much better now than it ever did in high school — he managed to pull off the stronger yet leaner look that I’ve spent my whole adult life trying to figure out — and his arm is plenty strong enough to play in right field. There remains an above-average chance he sticks as a playable third baseman for the foreseeable future. His bat works anywhere, so determining his long-term defensive home is more of a matter of how great his future can possibly be than whether or not he will make it in pro ball. All of the standard developmental caveats apply, but the range of outcomes for Bryant look like this: upside of star-caliber player at third to steady, contributing bat at first, with something in-between those two if he winds up in right.

Colin Moran serves as an interesting counter-point to Bryant’s offensive profile. Bryant does it with power while Moran does it with patience. Both are good enough prospects that there is plenty of overlap — Bryant’s approach has made ridiculous progress in the last calendar year while Moran’s future power is, at worst, average – but the contrast is still something fun to talk about nine months before the draft hits. Moran is such a gifted natural hitter with a disciplined, mature approach to his craft. I feel like this comp makes too much sense not to throw out there before everybody catches on: Colin Moran is the 2013 draft’s Chase Headley.

Austin Wilson and Aaron Judge are like the college version of Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier. Both Wilson and Judge are way ahead of any 2012 college outfielder. The most direct comparison would be Victor Roache and Mitch Haniger, the two best power outfield bats in last year’s class. Milwaukee did well in nabbing both Roache and Haniger this year, but the Brewers may not get the chance to get either in this year’s draft with their current early-teens selection. That’s just a long way of saying the following: if all goes well for both Wilson and Judge in 2013, they’ll both be top ten picks next June.

If any prep player can knock off Meadows/Frazier from the top spot, it could be Oscar Mercado. Mercado is an extremely well-rounded young player with no clearly below-average future tool. The popular Elvis Andrus comp makes a lot of sense. Also, for what it’s worth, I think Mercado is further ahead than Francisco Lindor was at the same stage of development.

Continuing with the up the middle theme is catcher Reese McGuire. I’ve said before how fascinated I am by the different catching archetypes out there: you’ve got your big arm/big power catchers, your great athlete/raw glove/converted infielder catchers, your defense-first/questionable hit tool catchers, and then your solid all-around with no standout tool catchers. McGuire falls under the plus athlete with superstar upside umbrella. Jeremy Martinez is the defense-first/questionable hit tool poster boy for 2013, Zach Collins, Nick Ciuffo, and Corey Simpson are all hitters first and arguably catchers in name only, and Chris Okey and Jonathan Denney lead the solid all-around pack. The group is so closely bunched that you could put their names in a hat and pick a new order without being wrong. Hey, for all you know that’s exactly what I did to come up with my order, right?

It is hard to figure out which players I like more or less than consensus, so forgive me if I’m off the mark in believing I’m higher on the college quintet of Mark Payton, Hunter Dozier, Chad Pinder, Adam Frazier, and Jeff Roy than others. The order each player fell on the list is less important than the fact that each guy actually wound up on a list like this. Payton’s speed is a weapon that helps him on the base paths and in center field. He’s undersized, but with more than enough pop to keep pitchers honest as he advances in pro ball. Roy is a similar prospect (i.e. lots of speed and top of the line CF range) to Payton, but trades in a little bit more power for a little less pure hit tool and strike zone discipline. Frazier, yet another up the middle prospect, reminds me some of last year’s underrated all season (at least until draft day) Nolan Fontana. Frazier won’t wow you with the glove — some have him moving to 2B due mostly to an iffy arm, but I think he’s just steady enough to stick at SS for now — but he’s an on-base machine with a relatively high floor. Besides the potential switch off of shortstop, I do worry some about a lack of natural strength/in-game power.

Dozier and Pinder are both third basemen from programs that aren’t typically associated with big-time college baseball. Dozier is relatively new to the position, but showed enough last year to have me believe he has a long-term future at the position. He’s a good runner for a big man (6-4, 220 pounds), so, like Kris Bryant, he has a future in RF before the scary possibility of moving to 1B has to be mentioned. In either 3B or RF, his bat could be an asset. Pinder is more of an upside play – his raw tools are intriguing, especially on defense, but his plate discipline needs an overhaul if he wants to keep mashing as a pro. I can sometimes get stuck on comps, so take this for what it’s worth…but I’ll always remember the popular comp of Pinder to Ryan Zimmerman dating back to Pinder’s summer before matriculating at Virginia Tech.

Michael O’Neill is another projection pick based largely on the strength of his outstanding speed, right field arm, and athleticism. I’m not sure how he’ll eventually stack up against some of the many prep outfielders, but, for now, I like him as a potential starter with the right coaching adjustments at the next level. DJ Peterson could see a CJ Cron kind of rise in his junior season. I’m notoriously difficult on prospect destined for first base, so it’s hard to get too excited about Peterson as a prospect. Another big year with the bat could change that — his kind of hand speed as a hitter is hard to find — as could any improvement at third base.

Joey Martarano is all about athleticism and raw power. There’s a great deal of projection left in Connor Heady’s bat, but his defense at short and speed are both loud tools. You can flip a coin between two high school speedsters that I like a lot, Matthew McPhearson and Josh Hart. Both guys are crazy fast, but, more importantly, both guys know how to use their speed. Riley Unroe reminds me of a high school version of 2012 first round pick Deven Marrero. I don’t think Unroe climbs to quite those heights, but any prospect who you know will stick at shortstop and give you at least a little something with the bat is worth some attention.

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