We’re putting the finishing touches on our first of our two Draft Preview issues, which means that our steady flow of draft information will become an avalanche by week’s end, highlighted by our Top 100 Draft Prospects list (complete with scouting reports) and our initial (and way-too-early-to-be-terribly-accurate) first-round projection. Between then and the draft, we’ll expand the Top 100 to a Top 250 and then a Top 500 and we’ll present at least four more first-round projections. So if you love the draft, that love won’t go unrequited at Baseball America.
The consensus is that 2013 is a relatively weak draft for top-end position players, especially from the college ranks. To put things in perspective, where would you have ranked San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant and Georgia high school outfielders Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows in the 2011 and 2012 drafts?
Bryant, Frazier and Meadows are the three best position prospects in this year’s draft crop. We’re still playing with the rankings, but they likely will be 3-4-5 in that order when we post our Top 100 Draft Prospects list on Friday. Bryant has 23 homers this spring, six more than any other player in NCAA Division I. Frazier and Meadows play for rival high schools in Loganville, Ga., with the former displaying a more electric bat and the latter having better all-around tools.
A year ago, all three of them would have ranked behind high school position players Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa, the top two players in BA’s final rankings and the top two picks in the draft. Mike Zunino, the No. 3 selection, also would go ahead of this year’s top three with his all-star potential at catcher.
Bryant, Frazier and Meadows would have ranked along the fourth-best position player from 2012: Albert Almora, who doesn’t have the same offensive ceiling but has a higher floor as well as Gold Glove skills in center field. That would put this year’s best position players in the 8-11 range a year ago.
The 2011 draft was loaded. In this millennium, the only crop more highly regarded on draft day was the 2005 group. Our final rankings again featured a position player (Anthony Rendon) at the top. Bryant, Frazier and Meadows would have fallen in behind Rendon, as well as Bubba Starling. (If we knew Starling’s hittability would be in this much question today, his stock would have taken a hit, but he was more highly regarded at the time).
As with Almora in 2012, this year’s big three would have been in the same group with a dazzling up-the-middle defender with a lesser offensive ceiling but a solid floor: Francisco Lindor. In that case, Bryant, Frazier and Meadows would have been in the 7-10 area, which seems odd because the 2011 draft was so much better than 2012.
Third baseman Garin Cecchini has done almost everything offensively that the Red Sox could have wanted over the last two years. He’s absolutely tearing up high Class A right now. But he’s already 22 and has played only a month of baseball above low Class A. What kind of a ceiling does he have?
Garin Cecchini enjoyed some success in low Class A in 2012. Now he’s tearing it up in high Class A. There’s some question as to his power and maybe his glove. Is he putting himself on the legit prospect map, or is this just a hot streak?
Cecchini was one of my favorite prospects in the 2010 draft. One of the best pure hitters available, he blew out his right knee early in his senior season at Barbe High (Lake Charles, La.). The injury and his asking price dropped him to the fourth round, where the Red Sox signed him for $1.31 million.
Cecchini’s 2011 pro debut was truncated by a broken right wrist, but injuries are the only thing that has stopped him from hitting. He’s batting .374/.466/.636 at high Class A Salem this year, boosting his pro slash stats to .314/.405/.475. He has an excellent eye and approach at the plate, which should allow him to hit for high averages, and the bat speed and strength to grow into average power. He already has three homers in 26 games this season after totaling four a year ago.
Though he’s only a fringy runner out of the box and more average underway, Cecchini’s savvy on the bases has led to 73 steals in 85 attempts in 176 pro games. He won’t approach the 51 swipes he had in 2012 at higher levels, but he should reach double digits. He’s also a sound defender at third base, where he moves well and has a solid arm.
Add everything up, and Cecchini has the ingredients to become a solid regular with the ceiling of an all-star. He may not claim the third-base job in Boston, however, with Will Middlebrooks already there and Xander Bogaerts perhaps destined for the hot corner. Assuming he develops power, Cecchini could fit well on an outfield corner.
Don’t worry too much about his age. Had he not been hurt in 2010 and 2011, he’d already be in Double-A. He might arrive there in the near future anyway.
How promising a prospect is outfielder Adam Walker for the Twins?
St. Louis Park, Minn.
The Twins have the minors’ best power prospect in third baseman Miguel Sano, who led the low Class A Midwest League with 28 homers last year and already has slugged 10 this year in 29 games in high Class A. He might not be the best overall prospect in their system, however. That honor may belong to Buxton, BA’s top-rated player in the 2012 draft.
While Buxton should have at least plus power, he doesn’t have as much raw juice as Walker, Minnesota’s third-round pick last June. In fact, Twins scouts thought Walker had the best raw power in the entire 2012 draft. He helped back that belief by smashing 14 homers at Rookie-level Elizabethton in his pro debut last summer.
Walker has hit six more longballs in the MWL, where he’s batting .288/.351/.558. He might have been a first-round pick if not for his tendency to pile up strikeouts, but he has cut down his whiffs from one every three at-bats last year to one every four in 2013. He has solid speed and a fringy arm, though ultimately it’s his bat that will determine his future.