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2013 MLB Draft March Madness Prospect Tournament

Next year I’m going to give this idea the proper amount of effort it deserves. Until then, behold the half-baked 2013 MLB Draft March Madness Prospect Tournament unveiled just in time for March Madness to wrap up with tonight’s championship game. Seeds were determined by combing the lists compiled by the four current leaders in the industry: Baseball America, Perfect Game, ESPN (Keith Law), and Scout (Kiley McDaniel). The lists are obviously quite dated by now — Perfect Game is the oldest, and I started this before Baseball America’s most recent update — but what’s done is done. Besides (positive spin alert!), using older lists helped create some fun matchups, as well as demonstrate how much some prospects have risen or fallen in the past few months. Here we go…

West (Stanford) Region

1 Mark Appel
16 Karsten Whitson

8 Jordan Sheffield
9 Kevin Ziomek

5 Ryan Boldt
12 Billy McKinney

4 Oscar Mercado
13 Hunter Harvey

6 Phillip Ervin
11 Stephen Gonsalves

3 Colin Moran
14 Travis Demeritte

7 Chris Anderson
10 JaCoby Jones

2 Austin Wilson
15 Matt McPhearson

How interesting is that very first matchup? Prior to his injury, Whitson could have given Appel a run for his money. Well, I guess we could change that to “prior to his injury AND Mark Appel consistently showing off top of the rotation big league stuff every Friday all spring long,” but that would be a little wordy. Sheffield (future Vandy ace?) and Ziomek (current Vandy ace) give us a 8/9 “upset” made easy by Sheffield’s questionable health status. Boldt vs McKinney is a fascinating contrast of loud athletic tools (Boldt) and a bat-first prep corner outfield prospect (have heard “poor man’s Frazier” mentioned his way, though I’m not saying I endorse such talk). Mercado and Harvey give us what seems like a yearly tradition in the real deal NCAA tournament: a 4/13 upset. Talk about two players with respective arrows going the opposite directions there. I like Ervin over Gonsalvez, Moran over Demeritte (fun plus bat over plus glove battle there), Anderson over Jones, and Wilson, injured or not, over the stupid fast McPhearson.

***

South (SEC) Region

1 Ryne Stanek
16 Rowdy Tellez

8 Andrew Mitchell
9 Justin Williams

5 Bobby Wahl
12 Garret Williams

4 Reese McGuire
13 Aaron Blair

6 Ryan Eades
11 Matt Krook

3 Jonathon Crawford
14 AJ Puk

7 Eric Jagielo
10 Dustin Driver

2 Austin Meadows
15 Carlos Salazar

I swear I didn’t stack the deck to get so many big time SEC arms into one regional. Can’t say I’m too bummed out things worked out this way, though. Life is good for the SEC when it comes to most of these first round draws: Stanek whoops Tellez, Wahl topples Williams (lots of inconsistent stuff featured in that matchup), and Crawford (current Florida star) edges the underrated Puk (future Florida star?). The one matchup that gives me major pause is Eades vs Krook. A pairing that close calls for a breakdown:

Fastball: Crawford (90-94, 98) ties Krook (87-93, 95) with the latter evening things up thanks to his lefthandedness
Breaking Stuff: nasty mid-80s sliders for both, call it another tie
Changeup: big win for Crawford, who has an underrated mid-80s offering that takes care of Krook’s underdeveloped (i.e. I’ve got nothing on it) change
Size/Physical Projection/Future Role: Krook (6-4, 200) by virtue over Crawford (6-2, 200) getting dinged in the past for perhaps not having the body, arm action, and command to start in pro ball (not saying I agree)

I could keep going with categories, but it’s late so let’s call it for Krook by the skin of his teeth. Beyond the SEC, we’ll go with Mitchell over Williams (very, very close), McGuire over Blair (I just like McGuire too much, so don’t take this as a reflection on not liking Blair, who has been truly great this year), Driver over Jagielo (upside play), and Meadows over Salazar.

Midwest (Manaea) Region

1 Sean Manaea
16 Chris Okey

8 Andrew Thurman
9 Dillon Overton

5 Aaron Judge
12 Connor Jones

4 Kohl Stewart
13 Hunter Renfroe

6 Jonathan Gray
11 Andy McGuire

3 Dominic Smith
14 Chris Kohler

7 Ian Clarkin
10 Jason Hursh

2 JP Crawford
15 Conrad Gregor

This region should be proof enough that I didn’t game the results of the rankings to create interesting matchups. We’re going chalk all the way. I could maybe see arguments in favor of Jones over Judge (this goes against everything I’ll say in the next parenthetical distraction, but Jones may actually be a “safer” pick than Judge at this point) or Renfroe over Stewart (only if you a) are scared off by Stewart’s medicals/signability, or b) really don’t like risking high picks on risky high school pitchers). One nice thing about all the favorites moving on is that you get better quality matchups (in theory) in ensuing rounds. I, for one, love that Gray is lurking as a sixth seed…

***

East (because the last region gets stuck with an illogical geographical title) Region

1 Clint Frazier
16 Cavan Biggio

8 Rob Kaminsky
9 Michael Lorenzen

5 Marco Gonzales
12 Tom Windle

4 Trey Ball
13 AJ Vanegas

6 DJ Peterson
11 Colby Suggs

3 Jonathan Denney
14 Tucker Neuhaus

7 Trevor Williams
10 Braden Shipley

2 Kris Bryant
15 Hunter Green

Rob Kaminsky plays in the east, right? So the name isn’t that bad. I like the Jersey lefty over the endlessly frustrating Lorenzen. It probably doesn’t much matter as either is like a lamb to slaughter with Frazier looming large in round two. A part of me was hoping Vanegas would be a 16 seed, so we could pair him up against teammate Appel. As a 13 he’s plenty dangerous, but Ball is a touch too talented to make gambling on Vanegas a smart play. Peterson takes care of Suggs (wildly overrated, but that could just be my anti-reliever bias showing), Denney smacks down helium guy Neuhaus, and Bryant makes quick work of the interesting Green.

Speaking of Green, I would imagine anybody reading over 1,000 words on a weird draft related piece like this knows all of the names featured above. The one exception may be the little hyped prep lefty from Kentucky. Green already can hit the low-90s with his fastball and just oozes projection (gross, sorry) in his 6-4, 170 pound frame. He’s also one of the smarter young pitching minds in this class. I don’t remember which list liked him enough to get him into the tournament, but I think it was Law. Good name to know going forward.

The two unsettled matchups are our 5/12 and 7/10 contests. Shipley is on an entirely different level than Williams for me, but it stinks that an “upset” like that doesn’t carry any weight now that Shipley has emerged as a legitimate top ten threat. Gonzales vs Windle is worth a breakdown, right? Let’s close out the first round by stacking these two quality college lefthanders against one another in a blind test:

87-92 FB (94), above-average 78-84 SL (plus upside), average 80-85 CU (above-average upside), good athlete, 6-4, 210 pounds

2011: 7.62 K/9 | 41.1 IP
2012: 8.27 K/9 | 3.70 BB/9 | 4.20 FIP | 41.1 IP
2013: 8.10 K/9 | 1.62 BB/9 | 3.47 FIP | 50 IP

OR

87-91 FB (92), average 75-81 CB, plus 77-82 circle CU, plus athlete, 6-1, 185 pounds

2011: 7.80 K/9 | 105 IP
2012: 9.13 K/9 | 2.14 BB/9 | 3.34 FIP | 92.2 IP
2013: 8.12 K/9 | 1.76 BB/9 | 3.26 FIP | 51 IP

Wow, that’s close. I need to sleep on that one…

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