This feels like just about the busiest week of the year at Baseball America. The draft is 10 days away and our coverage continues to heat up. Tomorrow, we’ll unveil the BA 500, with the top 500 players ranked in order along with complete scouting reports and a searchable database. Our state-by-state lists will go live throughout the remainder of the week, and we’ll have the third edition of our first-round projections on Friday.
The NCAA Division I postseason is set to begin, and Aaron Fitt has been all over the conference tournament action as well as the announcement of the 16 regional hosts and 64 playoff teams. He’ll have his detailed regional previews up later in the week. Visit the College section of our website to read all of Aaron’s analysis.
Even though draft and college coverage are at their peak, we’re not forgetting about the minor leagues. We have daily prospect notebooks, the Prospect Hot Sheet on Fridays, breakdowns of all significant big league callups and transaction analysis. We also have complete statistics, along with game logs and splits.
In light of Stetson Allie’s breakout for the Pirates this year, which two-way guy in the 2013 draft has the most potential with the talent they won’t be drafted for?
Allie had the most electric arm in the 2010 draft, delivering fastballs that hit 99 mph and sliders that reached 89 at a suburban Cleveland high school. He fell to the second round of the draft because of signability concerns, but the Pirates gladly signed him for $2.25 million and dreamed of pairing him with No. 2 overall pick Jameson Taillon at the front of their future rotation.
The one worry with Allie was his command, and it proved well-founded. He walked 29 batters in 26 innings in his 2011 pro debut, then eight more while recording just two outs at the start of 2012. After that, Pittsburgh pulled the plug on his pitching career and made him a first baseman. He did show well above-average power as a high schooler and could have been drafted in the third to fifth round as a third baseman.
While he didn’t wow anyone last year with his hitting at short-season State College, Allie has broken out in 2013 at low Class A West Virginia. He’s batting .346/.425/.643 and leading the South Atlantic League in hits (64), homers (13), extra-base hits (28), RBIs (47), total bases (119) and slugging. He’ll need to tone down his strikeouts (59 in 185 at-bats) but looks like he can mash his way to PNC Park.
Enough with the Allie background and on to Nate’s question . . . The 2013 draftee with the best fallback plan is New Castle (Ind.) High’s Trey Ball, who likely will be a top-10-overall choice as a lefthanded pitcher.
Coming into the year, scouts were split on whether Ball had a brighter future as an outfielder or a pitcher. He has put that debate to rest by showing a 91-94 mph fastball and an improved curveball this spring, but he also would merit a second- or third-round selecton as a position player. He projects as an athletic right fielder with above-average lefthanded power potential and arm strength.
The next-best 2013 draft prospect with multiple career options is Cal State Fullerton’s Michael Lorenzen. There’s still some concern as to how much he’ll hit as a pro, but he’s having his best season ever at the plate for the Titans (.335/.419/.534) and he’ll get drafted as a center fielder with solid power and speed and outstanding defensive ability and arm strength. If he doesn’t make it as a hitter, he has shown a consistent mid-90s fastball and flashes of a plus curveball while serving as a closer.
Assuming the Cubs have their choice of college righthanders Mark Appel (Stanford) or Jonathan Gray (Oklahoma), who do you think they will take?
Given their stuff and performance and how hard it is to find frontline starting pitching, Appel and Gray are the top two prospects in the 2013 draft. Yet as I mentioned in Mock Draft v2.0 on Friday, there’s increased chatter that the Astros might use the No. 1 overall pick on a position player, presumably San Diego third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant or North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran.
If that does happen, I honestly don’t know who the Cubs would go at No. 2. I’m also not sure which way Houston is leaning if it does take a pitcher, and I keep going back and forth on which pitcher I prefer.
Appel has a longer track record of success and a deeper repertoire, but Gray has more electric stuff when they’re both at their best. Some scouts question Appel’s makeup, though that’s mainly the result of him turning down $3.8 million from the Pirates last year. There’s also a sense that it might be a little easier to cut a deal with Gray than Appel.
Chicago has narrowed its field to four players: Appel and Gray, as well as Bryant or Moran. Cubs president Theo Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer, senior vice president for scouting and player development Jason McLeod and scouting director Jaron Madison were on hand to see the most recent starts by both pitchers, and both were very sharp. Gray threw a three-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts and no walks against Baylor in the first round of the Big 12 Conference tournament on Thursday, while Appel fanned nine and allowed just three hits in eight innings while beating UCLA on Friday.
My sources tell me Chicago hasn’t made a decision yet. Appel’s college career is over, while Gray will pitch again against Coastal Carolina on Friday in the Virginia Tech regional. I tend to use upside to decide close calls, so if it were my call I’d go with Gray.
At 6-foot-7 and with a fastball that touches 98 mph on occasion, is Pirates righthander Tyler Glasnow working his way onto top-prospect lists? He’s 19 and racking up the strikeouts. I know it’s early in his career, but his stuff seems legit.
One of many projectable high school pitchers that the Pirates invested in when they could spend whatever they desired on the draft, Glasnow signed for $600,000 as a 2011 fifth-round pick out of Hart High in Santa Clarita, Calif. His fastball reached the low 90s at times but more often sat in the mid-80s.
Pittsburgh has brought Glasnow along slowly, limiting him to 38 innings (most of them in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League) during his 2012 pro debut. This year at low Class A West Virginia, he has yet to work more than five innings in a start. Shorter stints haven’t prevented him from becoming one of the top breakout prospects of 2013, as he has gone 3-0, 2.31 while ranking second in the minors in strikeouts per nine innings (14.3) and opponent average (.122).
I haven’t heard about Glasnow reaching 98 mph, but he has hit 96 and pitches at 91-93 with his fastball. His curveball has added bite and gives him a second plus pitch. His biggest need is to repeat his delivery better and improve his command; he has 23 walks in 39 innings.
If he keeps this up and Gerrit Cole and Taillon both graduate to the majors, Glasnow could rate as the Pirates’ best pitching prospect going into 2014. His stock has risen dramatically since he checked in at No. 19 on our Pittsburgh Top 20 in the 2013 Prospect Handbook. Kudos to John Perrotto, who wrote the Pirates section of our Handbook and noted that one club official predicted that Glasnow would be the system’s top prospect at season’s end.