One bonus from the Blue Jays wretched season last year was a top ten draft pick for the upcoming MLB draft. As always the draft is deep and this year offers some interesting prospects but most scouts say the overall talent is mediocre at best.
1. ASTROS: Houston, which has the top selection for the second straight year, says it’s still evaluating seven players. Most industry sources believe Houston’s decision will come down to Appel, whom it strongly considered a year ago before taking Carlos Correa, and Gray. While Appel has less leverage this time around because he’s now a college senior, Houston won’t be able to take as much of a discount as it did with Correa, who signed for $4.8 million. The Astros’ pick is valued at $7.8 million, and whichever arm they pass on likely will be snapped up by the Cubs ($6.7 million) or the Rockies ($5.6 million).
PROJECTED PICK: MARK APPEL.
2. CUBS: Chicago has had scouts at every one of Appel’s and Gray’s starts this spring. While the Cubs insist they haven’t narrowed their focus to just the two pitchers, it will be an upset if they don’t choose whichever one the Astros leave on the board.
PROJECTED PICK: JONATHAN GRAY.
3. ROCKIES: Colorado may prefer a pitcher, but if Appel and Gray aren’t available, there’s not an obvious arm to take here. The Rockies could cut a deal with someone like Nevada righthander Braden Shipley or hope that Manaea regains his form from last summer in the Cape Cod League. Would they opt for a high school pitcher after getting burned by their $3.9 million investment in Tyler Matzek in 2009? More likely, they’ll grab the best offensive prospect in the draft.
PROJECTED PICK: KRIS BRYANT.
4. TWINS: A year ago, Minnesota badly needed pitching but used the No. 2 overall choice on outfielder Byron Buxton, the 2012 draft’s top-rated prospect. While the Twins aren’t as desperate now, they’re still looking at arms. Stewart comes with more risk but similar ceiling to Appel and Gray. Manaea and Ball are other options. Rumors persist that Minnesota could cut a deal with Washington high school catcher Reese McGuire and spend heavily further down in the draft.
PROJECTED PICK: KOHL STEWART.
5. INDIANS: Cleveland is another team searching for pitching. The Indians traditionally have been more comfortable with college arms, so they’re one of several teams trying to figure out Manaea. Shipley could allow them to move money lower in the draft, helpful for a club that lost picks by signing free agents Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher. If Bryant fell, Cleveland would grab him and focus on pitching later.
PROJECTED PICK: BRADEN SHIPLEY.
6. MARLINS: Other teams believe Florida will make a discount choice, with candidates ranging from Shipley and McGuire to New Mexico corner infielder D.J. Peterson and New Jersey high school lefthander Rob Kaminsky. If money is less important, Frazier could be a target.
PROJECTED PICK: REESE McGUIRE.
7. RED SOX: Boston has selected this high just once since 1967, getting Trot Nixon with the No. 7 choice in 1993. The Red Sox are looking to maximize their opportunity and will take a high-ceiling talent such as Frazier, Manaea or Stewart. They’re also interested in sweet-swinging North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran.
PROJECTED PICK: CLINT FRAZIER.
8. ROYALS: Add Kansas City to the list of teams on the hunt for pitching. If Stewart and Shipley are gone, that would leave the Royals considering Ball, Manaea and Arkansas righthander Ryne Stanek—who pitched his high school ball in suburban Kansas City. The Royals are known for preferring curveballs to sliders, which could help Ball’s cause.
PROJECTED PICK: RYNE STANEK.
9. PIRATES: Pittsburgh added this pick after failing to sign Appel at No. 8 last year, and it would get the No. 10 selection in 2014 if it can’t close a deal again. The Pirates were on Moran more than most teams in high school, and he’d eventually allow Pedro Alvarez to shift across the diamond to first base. Ball and McGuire also get mentioned here.
PROJECTED PICK: COLIN MORAN.
10. BLUE JAYS: No team was more aggressive than Toronto in the 2012 draft, but it has no extra picks to play with this year. Expect the Blue Jays to go all-in here and grab the highest-ceiling player still available. If Stewart and Frazier are off the board, that means Ball or Meadows.
PROJECTED PICK: TREY BALL.
Here is a scouting report on Ball:
Ball is a lean, lanky, athletic left-hander with serious projectability and intriguing present stuff. A Texas commit, his fastball has been clocked anywhere in the 87-92 range throughout the most recent showcase circuit, but most project an increase in velocity as he further fills out his frame. He has some interesting secondary offerings to go along with the fastball, highlighted by a change-up in the 80-83 range with good fade. He keeps his arm speed very well when throwing the change-up and also shows an inconsistent, but occasionally effective curveball in the 75-78 range.