With the 2013 draft in the books, the timing is ideal to take stock of how each organization’s top pick from one year ago is faring in the professional ranks. All statistics run through June 2.
The Diamondbacks have kept their top pick from last year, Louisiana high school catcher Stryker Trahan, in extended spring training so he can focus on developing his defense. Trahan hit .281 in the Rookie-level Arizona League last year and should be heading out on an assignment to short-season Hillsboro in June. The highest draftee from Arizona’s 2012 class to see the field has been third-rounder Jake Barrett, a power reliever out of Arizona State. The righthander owned a 1.29 ERA while closing games for high Class A Visalia, picking up 13 saves with 27 strikeouts in 21 innings.
Georgia prep righthander Lucas Sims (21st overall) began the season in the low Class A Rome bullpen before moving to the rotation on May 24. The Braves sought to ease him into the grind of a five-month season by having him work multiple relief innings every five days—he averaged about two innings per appearance—before turning the 19-year-old loose for longer outings. Sims struck out 16 batters and walked five during his first two starts for Rome, logging a 3.24 ERA over 81⁄3 innings.
As previous Orioles first-round pitchers Brian Matusz (2008) and Dylan Bundy (2011) had done, righthander Kevin Gausman (fourth overall) made quick work of the minors, making his big league debut the year after being drafted. The Louisiana State product made his first appearance for Baltimore on May 23, but he got hit hard in his first two outings before settling in for six, one-run innings during his third start. Gausman had no trouble with Double-A competition at Bowie, going 2-4, 3.11 in eight starts with a 49-5 K-BB ratio in 46 innings.
Boston Red Sox
Former Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero (24th overall) held his own at high Class A Salem during the first two months of the season, batting .263/.333/.368 with 12 doubles in 114 at-bats. The defensive reliability that made him a first-round talent was evident in his fielding statistics. Marrero had committed only one error through 29 games at short, having missed nearly three weeks with a hamstring injury. Boston’s second first-round pick, former Florida lefthander Brian Johnson (31st overall), logged a 4.03 ERA and 1.40 WHIP through his first nine starts for low Class A Greenville, though he had racked up 39 strikeouts in 38 innings.
Center fielder Albert Almora’s first full season has been filled with frustration. He missed a month and a half with a broken hamate bone in his wrist, then missed a few more games with a knee injury. In between, he hit .455/.510/.591 in his first 11 games for low Class A Kane County.
Chicago White Sox
Center fielder Courtney Hawkins moved quickly to high Class A, where he has continued to show excellent power. That’s the good news. The bad news is he had struck out 50 times in just 90 at-bats for Winston-Salem, showing an inability to make contact that indicates he’d be better off in low Class A.
Righthander Nick Travieso has been put on a similar path as 2011 first-rounder Robert Stephenson. Travieso spent the first two months in extended spring training before joining low Class A Dayton in early June. In his first start, he showed a 91-94 mph fastball that touched 97 and an inconsistent breaking ball.
Center fielder Tyler Naquin has had very few problems jumping up to high Class A Carolina. He has walked a little less and struck out more than one would like for a top-of-the-order hitter, but he’s also shown better-than-expected doubles power that has helped him to a .313/.371/.473 line.
Coming off a Pioneer League MVP season in his pro debut, 10th overall pick David Dahl has scarcely gotten out of the starting gate in 2013. He was sent back from low Class A Asheville to extended spring training after one game in April as a disciplinary measure for missing a flight. The Rockies let him rejoin Asheville four weeks later and he was starting to get his bat going, recording five extra-base hits in nine games, before a torn hamstring on May 7 took him out of action again.
The Tigers did not have a first-round pick, so second-round righthander Jake Thompson was the club’s first pick. He spent much of the first half of the season in extended spring training, joining low Class A West Michigan on the last day of May. He had an 0-0, 4.76 record after his first start.
No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa didn’t get off to a flying start, playing as an 18-year-old in the low Class A Midwest League, but his ability has started showing through as the season has progressed. The shortstop hit just .221 in April, but he never strayed from his disciplined approach and was second among all MWL hitters with a .349 average in May, adding 18 RBIs and a nearly even walk-to-strikeout ratio of 11-to-12.
Kansas City Royals
Righthander Kyle Zimmer was expected to move quite quickly up the minor league ladder. After 11 starts this season, he was 0-5, 5.54 at high Class A. His stuff is still good, but he needs to pitch better out of the stretch to start limiting damage and big innings.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels’ free agency largesse meant they didn’t get to make a pick until the third round, where they settled on Florida Atlantic closer R.J. Alvarez. The righthander wasn’t having any trouble missing bats with high Class A Inland Empire, racking up 34 strikeouts in 22 innings to produce a 2.91 ERA, but his control was another story. In 17 appearances, Alvarez had given out 16 walks and thrown four wild pitches.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Like David Dahl, Dodgers top pick Corey Seager was felled by hamstring problems, missing most of May for low Class A Great Lakes. The 18th player taken a year ago, Seager’s average hovered around the Mendoza line for the first couple weeks of the season, but he had starting warming up before getting hurt, having raised his slash line to .267/.333/.410 by the time he was injured on May 8. He returned to action June 2. Seager will likely have to move to third base at some point but was continuing to play shortstop for Great Lakes.
Former Oklahoma State lefthander Andrew Heaney (ninth overall) returned from an oblique injury to make his season debut for high Class A Jupiter on May 20. Through three starts he had racked up an 18-4 K-BB ratio and allowed 12 hits in 121⁄3 innings to go with a 1.46 ERA.
High school catcher Clint Coulter’s defense is supposed to be ahead of his offense. But like many young catchers, he’s found that it’s tough to make many strides offensively as you’re also trying to learn how to handle the demands of being a pro catcher. Coulter was hitting .207/.299/.345 in his first 116 at-bats for low Class A Wisconsin.
Center fielder Byron Buxton, the No. 2 overall pick last June, has been better than even the Twins could have hoped. Buxton has shown speed, power, defense and a very advanced hitting approach as he’s dominated the low Class A Midwest League. He’s arguably the best prospect in baseball.
New York Mets
The Mets followed organizational protocol in holding back Louisiana prep shortstop Gavin Cecchini (12th overall) in extended spring training. Like 2011 first-rounder Brandon Nimmo, a high school selection from Wyoming, Cecchini will head to short-season Brooklyn in June. The Mets believe this is an ideal atmosphere to develop prospects because of the Cyclones’ winning tradition and because of the team’s enthusiastic fan base. Supplemental pick Kevin Plawecki, a catcher from Purdue taken 35th overall, had no trouble adjusting to pro pitching. Through 201 at-bats he hit .343/.416/.552 with six homers for low Class A Savannah.
New York Yankees
Selecting at the back of the first round each year, the Yankees have embraced the risk of selecting high school prospects with their top pick, doing so in each draft from 2008 through ’12. They failed to sign Gerrit Cole (28th overall) in ’08, then signed in succession outfielder Slade Heathcott (29th), shortstop Cito Culver (32nd), third baseman Dante Bichette Jr. (51st) and Oklahoma prep righthander Ty Hensley (30th) last year. Hensley saw action in five games in 2012 but will miss this entire season after having surgery to repair labrum damage in his hip. Second-rounder Austin Aune, a high school shortstop from Texas, also was MIA in the first half as he participated in extend spring training.
The Athletics gave shortstop Addison Russell a challenge, sending him to high Class A Stockton, where he was the youngest player (age 19) on a California League Opening Day roster. Russell’s explosiveness showed up at times, as he had 22 extra-base hits in 47 games, including six homers, but overall it was a rough transition to facing Cal League pitching. He was hitting just .215 and struck out 59 times after 195 at-bats.
The Phillies took California high school righthander Shane Watson (40th overall) in the supplemental round, having sacrificed their first-round selection to sign free agent Jonathan Papelbon. Watson’s indoctrination to pro ball has been rough. He learned that he had Type 1 diabetes after signing last year, while this season he went 3-5, 5.26 through his first 11 starts for low Class A Lakewood, allowing 46 hits (including eight homers) and 20 walks through 50 innings while striking out 32.
The Pirates did not sign first-rounder Mark Appel, making supplemental first-round outfielder Barrett Barnes the club’s top pick to sign. His 2013 first-half has been ruined by injuries. He missed the first two weeks with an oblique injury and has been sidelined for a month with a pulled hamstring.
St. Louis Cardinals
Righthander Michael Wacha is already one of the success stories of the 2013 draft. The eighth pitcher drafted, Wacha has flown through the minor leagues, beginning at Triple-A Memphis and earning a spot in the Cardinals’ big league rotation less than a year after he was pitching at Texas A&M.
San Diego Padres
The first high school pitcher taken last year at seventh overall, lefty Max Fried had an up-and-down first half at low Class A Fort Wayne. Most of his secondary numbers were solid, as he’d struck out 43 in 44 innings to go with a .231 opponent average and 2.12 groundout/airout ratio. His highlight came on May 9, when he threw 5 2/3 no-hit innings against Great Lakes. Walks plagued him, however. He handed out 23 free passes in his first nine starts, and a couple of rough outings inflated his ERA from 2.95 on May 22 to 4.30 after he gave up six runs in less than four innings on June 2.
San Francisco Giants
While former Southeastern Conference rival Kevin Gausman raced to the majors with the Orioles, the Giants were taking it slow with Mississippi State product Chris Stratton. The righthander opened the season with low Class A Augusta, where he was pitching well but not dominating the way a pitcher of his pedigree should, going 6-3, 3.77 after 10 starts.
Catcher Mike Zunino famously got off to a torrid start, homering four times in his first five games for Triple-A Tacoma. He came back to Earth quickly, homering only once more the rest of April while his average sank to .222. He did recover somewhat in May, hitting .250 and homering six times to climb to second in the Pacific Coast League with 11. His .228 average for the year featured a huge home/road split, as he was hitting a robust .352 in 22 road games but just .079 in 21 games in Tacoma.
Part of a low Class A Hickory lineup loaded with talent but short on experience, center fielder Lewis Brinson was looking the part of a teenager with plenty of ability that will need time to develop. Brinson was tied for fourth in the low Class A South Atlantic League in home runs with 11 in 51 games. The bad news was that he had piled up the most strikeouts in the league with 88 in 205 at-bats, resulting from a swing whose mechanics the Rangers knew going in would need work. His average stood at .239 and he’d mixed in eight steals.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays evaluated Clemson third baseman Richie Shaffer (25th overall) as the best all-around hitter in the 2012 draft, but after batting .255/.302/.375 with four homers through 184 at-bats for high Class A Charlotte he hasn’t exactly lived up to that billing as of yet.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays like to take things slowly with their high school draft picks, and Mississippi prep center fielder D.J. Davis (17th) is no exception, despite his playing at three levels in his debut last season. Davis began 2013 in extended spring training and probably will head to short-season Vancouver in June. Toronto’s other first-round pick, Duke righthander Marcus Stroman (22nd overall), returned from his 50-game suspension (stimulant use) on May 19, rejoining the Double-A New Hampshire rotation. He got torched for eight runs in one inning during his third start, which ran his ERA to 8.10 through 10 innings.
California prep righthander Lucas Giolito (16th overall) will miss the entire 2013 season after having Tommy John surgery last Aug. 31. Second-rounder Tony Renda, a second baseman from California, was healthy and hitting well for low Class A Hagerstown with a batting line of .297/.366/.434 with 20 doubles in 212 at-bats.