The more I talk to scouts, the more I'm told that college righthanders Mark Appel (Stanford) and Jonathan Gray (Oklahoma) are establishing themselves as the top two prospects in this draft. A lot can happen in the eight weeks between today and when the draft begins, but talent evaluators say Appel and Gray have separated from the rest of the pack.
Aaron Fitt was on hand for Appel's Friday start at Southern California, and though Appel didn't have his best stuff, he still pitched into the ninth inning and earned a 4-2 victory. He's now 5-2, 1.13 after seven starts, with a 71-9 K-BB ratio and .170 opponent average in 56 innings.
Gray also survived despite being in less than peak form on Friday, when he surrendered a season-high seven hits at Texas. He still managed to get 20 outs while giving up just one unearned run, topping out at 98 mph with his fastball and relying heavily on his slider. Though eight starts, he's 6-1, 1.19 with a 71-11 K-BB ratio and a .167 opponent average in 60 innings.
If the 2008 draft could be done all over again, what would the top 10 picks look like?
Sheila Marie C. Dizon
Daly City, Calif.
I love retrospective draft questions. I previously tackled do-overs for the 2006 draft in a 2008 Ask BA and the 2007 draft in a 2010 edition. Looking back at those drafts now, the No. 1 choice in 2006 (Luke Hochevar, Royals) wouldn't go in the top 10, while the top pick in 2007 (David Price, Rays) likely would remain the same.
Tampa Bay also had the first selection in 2008, and used it on Tim Beckham. Their second option, as I wrote in a November column, proved to be the optimal choice. Below is how the start of the 2008 draft would play out if it were held today, considering only players who signed that summer (which excludes Gerrit Cole and Jason Kipnis, among others). Interestingly, three of the top four choices were drafted as catchers.
1. Rays: Buster Posey, c (originally went to Giants, fifth overall)
Posey already owns two World Series rings, a batting title and an MVP award.
2. Pirates: Brett Lawrie, 3b (Brewers, 16th overall)
Agreed to try catching but never played behind the plate as a pro.
3. Royals: Eric Hosmer, 1b (Royals, third overall)
Despite his subpar 2012 season, still has what it takes to be a star.
4. Orioles: Alex Avila, c (Tigers, fifth round, 163rd overall)
Has exceeded expectations offensively and defensively at a vital position.
5. Giants: Craig Kimbrel, rhp (Braves, third round, 96th overall)
Lights-out closer set record by striking out 50.2 percent of batters faced last year.
6. Marlins: Pedro Alvarez, 3b (Pirates, second overall)
Bashed 30 homers last year, but should be more than a career .234/.307/.421 hitter.
7. White Sox: Lance Lynn, rhp (Cardinals, sandwich round, 39th overall)
Won two postseason games as a rookie in 2011, then 18 in his first full big league season.
8. Reds: Wade Miley, lhp (Diamondbacks, sandwich round, 43rd overall)
Arizona teammate Daniel Hudson would rank ahead of Miley if not for Tommy John surgery.
9. Nationals: Danny Espinosa, 2b (Nationals, third round, 87th overall)
Has provided 38 homers and quality defense in two years as a starter.
10. Astros: Ike Davis, 1b (Mets, 18th overall)
His 59 homers are the most among members of his draft class.
Which outfield prospect has the best chance for success in the majors: Albert Almora (Cubs), David Dahl (Rockies), Yasiel Puig (Dodgers) or Jorge Soler (Cubs)?
Which is the best bet for success is easy. Almora has the highest floor among that group, with scouts considering him one of the most advanced and mature high school players to come along in years.
The No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 draft is currently sidelined with a broken hamate bone in his left hand, but Almora should speed toward Wrigley Field once healthy. I'll be stunned if he doesn't become at least an annual .275/15 homer hitter with Gold Glove ability in center field.
A more difficult question would be which of that foursome has the highest ceiling. I'll take Puig because the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder has more power than the others (edging Soler in that regard) and might have more pure speed than any of them as well. Signed to a $42 million contract last summer, Puig began this season in Double-A and may force his way into the Dodgers' lineup before long.
What do you make of Rockies outfielder Tim Wheeler after his breakout 2011 and his lackluster 2012?
I was bullish on Wheeler in the 2009 draft and thought the Rockies got tremendous value when he was still available to them with the 32nd overall pick. He justified my faith my breaking out with 33 homers in 2011, but in his other three-plus pro seasons he has batted only .268/.343/.391. At this point, I see his realistic ceiling as a second-division regular.
Wheele's raw power is his lone plus tool and outside of 2011, he hasn't gotten to it consistently during games. He swings through some hittable pitches and struggles when lefthanders spin the ball, leading to 391 strikeouts in 431 pro games. He's an average runner with a below-average arm, relegating him to left field and putting more pressure on his bat.