1. I think the ongoing Austin Meadows vs Clint Frazier debate remains too close to call. I wish I had a stronger opinion on the matter than that weak take, but it’s the truth – I won’t pretend that one has the clear cut advantage at this point because they really are as close as it gets. I do think the two guys have gotten engulfed in a little bit of easy narrative typecasting — not that there’s anything wrong with that as it is a narrative (Meadows is tools/upside/flash, Frazier is advanced/hitter-ish/red-haired) that I have used to describe the two to the bored people in real life who can’t run away in time — but the differences between Meadows and Frazier are really what makes the comparison so damn compelling. It’s worth noting that the the one obvious edge often given to Meadows — the combination of speed/athleticism/instincts that presently allows him to effectively roam center field — isn’t as much of a sure thing going forward as the narrative may have you believe. If you can guarantee Meadows will play an above-average center through at least his late-20s, then I think he’s the pick. If both are right fielders professionally, then the door is very clearly open for fans of Frazier to proclaim him the best high school hitter in all the land.
Also, very important hair comp that came to me at the ballpark watching Phils/Mets on Wednesday: Frazier is Justin Turner 2.0. This realization helped me relate the draft, a topic I rarely broach in real life despite what I may have written earlier, to my old man. “There’s a high school guy from Georgia in this year’s draft who should go in the first few picks with hair that looks a lot like that (points to Phan-A-Vision when Turner was announced as a pinch-hitter).” The last time I brought up the draft to my dad was when talking about Nick Noonan’s Utley-like swing many years ago. Pretty sure my Frazier/Turner comp will stand the test of time a little better.
2. One thing that I don’t think has been discussed enough (by me, mostly) with respect to this specific draft class is the depth of quality prep arms likely to be available outside of the first round. I know, I know…with so many available arms and so many different team scouting perspectives on pitching, there’s never a bad year for prep pitching. We’re talking guys like Kaminsky, Clarkin, Krook, Brentz, Gonsalves, Wesely, Williams, Puk, Kohler, Alexander, Keys, McKinney, Taylor, Green, Burnett, Allen, Kilichowski, Moss, Bowden, Flores, Brady, Farmer, Jackson, Rogers, Wright, Gilson, Nicely…and those are just a fraction of the lefthanders with top ten round draftable stuff. Typing out the names of the righties would take all weekend. I’m guilty of not writing enough about high school guys, especially the non-first round prospects, so I’ll do what I can to shift the focus on some of the mid- to late-round potential steal types over the coming weeks.
3. I really, really wanted to do a mock this year. It’s been a few years since my last one and I’ve grown antsy. I started to write one on New Year’s Day, but scrapped it in favor of a few other more pressing projects. Long-time readers of the site know my stance on mocks by now: outside of Jim Callis’, mocks as predictive tools are pointless. That doesn’t mean I don’t love them, of course. Mocks are a lot of fun, and, when treated right, can be a great way to learn about the draft’s top players. Mocks can also serve as an exercise in recalibrating one’s self with the pro game. You can’t discuss Houston’s pick without going into their most recent draft classes, their current big league setup, and, most importantly, the emerging talent biding time down in the farm. Well, I guess you can just write “Houston – Mark Appel” and call it a day, but what’s the fun in that? Long story short, I may yet do a mock, but I already feel we’re too late in the process to make it worth the while. Since my mocks aren’t based on real sources — Jim Callis, I ain’t — they read best before teams begin to make their real deal short lists for each pick. For fun, here were some of the high notes from that 1/1/13 mock…again, this is NOT a current mock (note the dated draft order in places) and shouldn’t be treated as such.
1. Houston Astros | Indiana State LHP Sean Manaea
2. Chicago Cubs | Arkansas JR RHP Ryne Stanek
3. Colorado Rockies | Grayson HS (GA) OF Austin Meadows
4. Minnesota Twins | Loganville HS (GA) OF Clint Frazier
5. Cleveland Indians | Stanford SR RHP Mark Appel
6. Miami Marlins | Lakewood HS (CA) SS JP Crawford
7. Boston Red Sox | Florida JR RHP Karsten Whitson
8. Kansas City Royals | Florida JR RHP Jonathan Crawford
9. Pittsburgh Pirates | Stanford JR OF Austin Wilson
10. Toronto Blue Jays | San Diego JR OF/3B Kris Bryant
11. New York Mets | Red Wing HS (MN) OF Ryan Boldt
12. Seattle Mariners | Kentwood HS (WA) C Reese McGuire
13. San Diego Padres | St. Pius HS (TX) RHP Kohl Stewart
14. Pittsburgh Pirates | New Castle HS (IN) OF Trey Ball
15. Arizona Diamondbacks | Gaither HS (FL) SS Oscar Mercado
16. Philadelphia Phillies | St. Joseph Regional HS (NJ) LHP Robert Kaminsky
17. Milwaukee Brewers | Mississippi JR RHP Bobby Wahl
18. Chicago White Sox | Terrebonne HS (LA) OF Justin Williams
19. Los Angeles Dodgers | Woodford County HS (KY) RHP Clinton Hollon
20. St. Louis Cardinals | Cathedral Catholic HS (CA) LHP Stephen Gonsalves
21. Detroit Tigers | North Carolina 3B Colin Moran
22. Tampa Rays | Junipero Serra HS (CA) 1B Dominic Smith
23. Baltimore Orioles | Fresno State OF Aaron Judge
24. Texas Rangers | Riverwood HS (GA) OF Terry McClure
25. Oakland Athletics | James Madison HS (VA) SS/3B Andy McGuire
26. San Francisco Giants | Washington HS (IA) LHP AJ Puk
27. New York Yankees | St. Thomas HS (TX) 3B Cavan Biggio
28. Cincinnati Reds | Gonzaga LHP Marco Gonzales
29. Washington Nationals | Riverdale Baptist HS (MD) OF Matthew McPhearson
Supplemental First Round
30. St. Louis Cardinals | LSU SS/OF JaCoby Jones
31. Tampa Rays | Wenatchee HS (WA) RHP Dustin Driver
32. Texas Rangers | Yukon HS (OK) C Jon Denney
33. Atlanta Braves | Parkview HS (GA) OF Josh Hart
34. New York Yankees | LSU JR RHP Ryan Eades
35. New York Yankees | Venice HS (FL) 1B Nick Longhi
36. Washington Nationals | Elk Grove HS (CA) 1B Rowdy Tellez
Competitive Balance Lottery Round A
37. Kansas City Royals | Vanderbilt JR LHP Kevin Ziomek
38. Miami Marlins | Virginia Tech JR 3B Chad Pinder
39. Arizona Diamondbacks | Samford OF Phillip Ervin
40. Baltimore Orioles | James Madison HS (CA) LHP Ian Clarkin
41. Cincinnati Reds | King HS (FL) RHP Brett Morales
42. Detroit Tigers | Arlington County Day HS (FL) C Brian Navaretto
For good measure, here’s what I wrote up about the Houston pick…
1. Houston Astros | Indiana State LHP Sean Manaea
Houston has done an admirable job of restocking the organization’s hitting depth, but remains short on starting pitchers worth getting excited about. Lance McCullers, Mike Foltynewicz, and Nick Tropeano are a good foundation to build on, but that one starting pitching prospect who blends big league readiness with front of the rotation stuff remains elusive. I get that this could be said about 29 other farm systems — hey, did you know ace starting pitching prospects are rare? — but the lover of team building in me appreciates a projected rotation so much more when pitchers are slotted in where they “should” be. Sean Manaea as the future staff ace knocks all those other arms down a peg, and that’s something my brain appreciates. I know I shouldn’t get that caught up in Number 1 Starter, Number 2 Starter, Number 3 Starter, Number 4 Starter, Number 5 Starter designations, but it is something that helps increase my fandom rather than decrease my ability to discuss prospects. Anyway, if the Astros decide to hone in on pitching then it will almost certainly restrict their search to college arms, specifically the big three of Manaea, Ryne Stanek, and Mark Appel. I’ve gone back and forth on all three guys since last June, but am now pretty confident that Manaea is the pick to click. No pitcher in this class — or any others for the foreseeable future, despite what I’ve read a few fellow indy draft writers write about Carlos Rodon — compares to Stephen Strasburg, the ultimate in amateur pitching prospects in every possible way. However, if pressed to choose one name that even gave some kind of outside resemblance to the Nationals ace, I’d go Manaea. Part of the reason for such a silly comparison is based on each guy’s respective transition from soft bodied high school afterthought to top of the prospect class after just two years of collegiate life. Just another example of how often we, myself included, tend to overrate prospect accumulation while underrating player development.
Back to that hitting depth for a minute: potential above-average regulars Jonathan Singleton, George Springer, and Delino Deshields should join Jose Altuve in Houston within the next year or so. Last year’s draft prizes, Carlos Correa and Rio Ruiz, offer legit star upside. Lottery ticket Domingo Santana remains intriguing, as does the cadre of steady yet unspectacular future contributors like Tyler Heineman, Preston Tucker, Matt Dominguez, Nolan Fontana, Jonathan Villar, and Robbie Grossman. Adding a young outfielder like Austin Meadows or Clint Frazier would further strengthen the Astros collection of up the middle talent: you’d have MIFs Correa, Deshields, Altuve, Fontana, and Villar, as well as CFs Springer and Meadows/Frazier. That would be fun.
As I’ve said before, I have heard that certain high-ranking decision makers within the Astros front office like JP Crawford a ton. If I had to name one “sleeper” to go first overall — we’ll define sleeper as not being one of the big three college arms (Manaea, Stanek, Appel) nor one of the two hugely hyped prep outfielders (Meadows, Frazier) — then Crawford would be the easy pick. Choosing Correa and Crawford back-to-back with number one overall selections would be some kind of ballsy.