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Projecting the First Round: MLB Draft 2013 Middle Infield Prospects


SS: Oscar Mercado, JP Crawford (2)

I’m on board with the Mercado as Elvis Andrus 2.0 comps and was out ahead of the “hey, he’s ahead of where Francisco Lindor was at the same stage just a few years ago” talk, so, yeah, you could say I’m a pretty big fan. That came out way smarmier than I would have liked – I’m sorry. The big thing to watch with Mercado this spring will be how he physically looks at the plate; with added strength he could be a serious contender for the top five or so picks, but many of the veteran evaluators who have seen him question whether or not he has the frame to support any additional bulk. Everything else about his game is above-average or better: swing, arm strength, speed, range, hands, release, pitch recognition, instincts. The way I feel about Mercado is how many of the professionals in the business feel about Crawford, a steady riser who now sits atop the majority of big league clubs’ middle infield boards. What’s funny about Crawford’s recent rise is that so much of it is predicated on his improved defense up the middle. In my first looks at Crawford last year, it was actually his defense at shortstop that stood out to me the most. Not for nothing, but I heard down in Florida that the Astros really, really, really like Crawford. Really.

Definite Maybes

SS: Andy McGuire, Chris Rivera, Riley Unroe, Connor Heady (4)

McGuire, Unroe, and Heady all look to have the defensive tools to stay at shortstop in pro ball. Rivera could also be included in that group, but I’m part of the growing contingent that would really like to see what he can do behind the plate between now and June. A big spring could propel any of the four into the first round.


Second base prospects don’t typically crash the first round party and 2013 looks to be no exception. We’ll look a few interesting names in the interest of thoroughness and, more honestly, more baseball talk is better than less baseball talk.

Anfernee Grier, Christian Arroyo, and Dalton Dulin are currently the best bets of this year’s prep second basemen to rise into the first round. In a way, that’s damning with faint praise as being the best of any year’s top prep second basemen list doesn’t guarantee much more than the cost of the electronic paper such proclamations are printed on. Thankfully, each player listed above has a contingency plan that you don’t typically see with second base prospects. Grier could wind up as an above-average glove in CF, Arroyo has an outside shot at sticking at shortstop, and Dulin, well, Dulin is pretty much a second baseman or bust but his makeup has been so universally lauded that you wonder if he may go a few spots earlier than his talent warrants. That last one is a bit of a stretch, but that’s what you do over seven months ahead of the draft in November.


Once again we get down to the college ranks where, once again, there isn’t a whole lot to get excited about. As covered with the other positions we’ve touched on, it wouldn’t be a shock to see half a dozen or more high school players off the board before the first college guy gets selected. I’ve previously written about my appreciation for Frazier, an underrated guy with just enough tools to profile as a big league player:”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.” I felt similarly about Mazzilli prior to the draft last year: “He has a little toe-tap timing mechanism that reminds me a little bit of Mark Reynolds’ swing, only without the swing-and-miss length. Good speed, good athleticism, and good hands should keep him up the middle, and a little physical maturation at the plate could help turn him into one of those super annoying scrappy middle infielders we all know and love (or hate, depending on the player).”

Kennedy has a little bit of breakout potential now that he’s finally on a big stage at Clemson, Riddle has a strong hit tool but may be better off at 3B down the line, and Henderson could be this year’s plus athlete who steps up with a big spring. Arguably the three biggest names on the list belong to Gonzalez, Asuaje, and Alvord. Gonzalez has been a consistent producer for a big time program with more raw power than your typical middle infield, Asuaje had a great showing on the Cape and has no real weaknesses to his game, and Alvord, an Auburn transfer, has been on the radar since his high school days.

  • 2B Shane Kennedy (Clemson)
  • 2B LJ Mazzilli (Connecticut)
  • 2B JT Riddle (Kentucky)
  • 2B Demarcus Henderson (Mississippi State)
  • 2B Ross Kivett (Kansas State)
  • 2B/SS Lonnie Kauppila (Stanford)
  • 2B Carlos Asuaje (Nova Southeastern)
  • SS Justin Gonzalez (Florida State)
  • SS/2B Adam Frazier (Mississippi State)
  • SS Brandon Trinkwon (UC Santa Barbara)
  • SS Zach Shank (Marist)
  • SS/2B Zach Alvord (Tampa)
  • SS Zac LaNeve (Louisburg JC)
  • SS Tim Anderson (East Central CC)


  1. E-Dub says:

    Rob, I’m with you on Crawford’s defensive tools as I was utterly bemused by those pronouncing him a CF (likely based on assuming his playing there in some showcases meant that it was his home) over the last year. OTOH, his bat has always stood out to me. Big gap power potential based purely on repeated swing and barrel awareness. He looks like he’s already adding some man strength, so watch out. I can’t agree about Mercado being ahead of Lindor at the same stage. Mercado is a phenomenal glove, but then so was (and is) Lindor, and Lindor is simply the better upside bat for me. Whereas Lindor’s pop surprises despite his size, lending optimism that he’ll outperform his naturally slender build, Mercado just doesn’t generate much backspin or loft, and is equally likely to remain wiry as he advances. Andrus makes sense as a results comparison perhaps, but he and Mercado are dissimilar in build for me. It’s unlikely that Mercado will ever sport the same compact, muscular physique as Andrus, which is one reason I hold out hope that Andrus has a run of low double digit home run seasons in his prime. Mercado makes good hard contact, but I’ll be shocked if there’s much power at all in the tank.

    • Rob Ozga says:

      Really glad to hear from you, blackoutyears, as your’s is an opinion on the draft that I really trust. The Crawford thing had me feeling crazy for a little bit. All my notes on his defense said something along the lines of “still has work to do, but no reason to think he’s not a shortstop (actions, instincts, athleticism, arm all play).” Then I got home and started reading what some of the experts saw and I had a hard time believing we were watching the same player. I won’t say there’s a 0% chance he eventually gets moved to 3B or CF — either could be in play down the line if what I heard about Houston having him as the top prep player on their board is true — but, as you said, the bat will play no matter where he winds up. As I think I mentioned in the original piece, I actually liked his glove more than his bat the first two or three times I saw him. Can’t say that is true now, but he’s more well-rounded than I gave him credit for at first.

      Your points about Mercado are all well taken. I’m actually trying to think of a present day physical comparison and can’t think of anybody worth mentioning. It doesn’t address the good observation re: backspin/loft, but I wonder if a body comp to Andrelton Simmons makes any sense. Bigger stretches might include Shawon Dunston and Alfonso Soriano, but then we’re really getting away from a skills comp and going all teenage body type…a risky game considering the way those guys grew and Mercado may or may not. Zack Cozart, maybe? Alright, I should have quit while ahead. I also think the Mercado/Andrus performance over physical comp point you made works. The two players have very real differences in their skill set and might come about their value differently, but I could see their overall production being similar down the line. I like the swing a little more than you seem to, but am right there with you on wondering if he’ll ever put enough meat on his bones to ever hit with much authority. Kills me that plate discipline is such a hard skill to judge at the amateur level; if we knew he was advanced in that area, I’d be so much more confident in a high first grade. One of the great, too often overlooked aspects of the draft: for as much work that goes into scouting prep players, good fortune on some largely unknowable factors plays almost as great a part.

      The comparison to Lindor was made both because of present levels of skill (at the time), tools upside (ongoing), and draft buzz (at the time). The first two points are obviously very arguable — and you do a good enough job on both points that you’ve given me something to think about — but I’m pretty confident on the last one. Lindor wasn’t LINDOR until pretty late in the process, at least in terms of national attention and “expert” opinion. Of course, as I write that I’m already beginning to waver some due to a foggy memory of past drafts. Turns out my memory was a little off: BA had Lindor as the 13th best prospect and called him “a five-tool player” and “easily the top shortstop in this draft.” This was in February of his draft year, by the way. So maybe Lindor wasn’t a great draft comp after all.

      • E-Dub says:

        A Simmons comp makes a lot of sense, though Simmons has always come off as more robust physically than I expect, but if Mercado spends some time in the gym that’s an achievable build. Moreso probably than Dunston and Soriano. And don’t get me wrong on his swing: it’s very good. I think he’s a guy who should be able to hit to all fields with excellent barrel ability.

        In terms of pundit coverage, Lindor didn’t fully emerge until his draft year for many, but the fact is that Lindor was a Team USA captain and MVP on a gold-winning 16U team, was a lock as a plus defender by his junior year of HS, and was an accomplished switch-hitter who manifested power we have yet to see from Mercado. And obviously many HS players don’t fully emerge until spring of their draft year, right? Dylan Bundy was a top prospect his sophomore and junior years, but he wasn’t OMGDYLANBUNDYZ!!! until that spring, where reports from his first couple of outings charted his rise to the #4 pick in that draft (see also Danny Hultzen’s rise from back end of first expectations to #2). I skew toward HS talent, so I’m probably staking out my guys a little earlier (JP Crawford jumped up my charts last winter for instance), just as I find myself leaning on you for your unholy command of college talent. 😉

        I have no idea what people were thinking of regarding Crawford’s abiltiy to man SS as your impressions are literally mine, word-for word. Clear SS actions (feet are always in the correct position when he fields the ball, soft hands, above avg to plus arm), and I agree that the bat was behind the glove for me as his man strength hadn’t started showing up. Now that it is, resulting in some well-timed doubles and triples in front of scouts, he’s starting to look like the complete package. There are some things to clear up with the bat, but he already gets the barrel to the ball regardless of where the pitch is located. I tabbed Crawford and Reese McGuire as two guys who would rise signficantly between last winter and this one — Crawford was in the 50s and 60s on a lot of HS draft lists, and those were the high rankings — and so far so good.

        Loving the site as always. I think I’ve been reading you since you started, and I’m continually impressed with your work.

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