Owasso (Okla.) HS righthander Dylan Bundy is the best high school pitcher in this draft, and he may not even need the "high school" qualifier. "Bundy has a better package than any of the college guys," one scouting director who has a pick among the top 10 said. "He has better body control and makeup than any of them. His feel for pitching is unbelievable."
After getting better with each outing late in the spring, Broken Arrow (Okla.) HS righty Archie Bradley may be the second-best high school pitcher in this draft. Bradley threw a two-hit shutout with 14 strikeouts to beat Owasso for the Oklahoma 6-A state title on Saturday, hitting 101 mph on the scoreboard radar gun. Bundy, who pitched in the semifinals on Thursday, didn't take the mound in the finale.
As much as clubs covet pitching, there was more than a little sticker shock on Monday when Bundy's and Bradley's asking price circulated. Bundy, who has a scholarship from Texas, is seeking a six-year, $30 million major league contract. Bradley, who has committed to Oklahoma and also would play quarterback for the Sooners, wants a five-year deal worth $20 million.
To put those numbers in perspective, the largest contract in draft history belongs to Stephen Strasburg, who received a $15.1 million pact from the Nationals as the No. 1 overall pick in 2009. The biggest deal given to a high schooler is $7 million, first by Josh Beckett (No. 2, Marlins, 1999) and later matched by Rick Porcello (No. 27, Tigers, 2007).
How will this play out? Neither Bundy nor Bradley will top Strasburg's contract. However, it wouldn't surprise me if Bundy equaled or surpassed Beckett and Porcello, or if Bradley topped the $5.25 million two-sport deal that quarterback/righthander Zach Lee got from the Dodgers in 2010.
Draftees don't get paid what the consensus says they're worth. They get paid what the team that selects them believes they're worth, and they often get selected by the club that values them the most. Setting an exorbitant asking price is one way to try to make sure Bundy and Bradley fall to that team.
I don't remember if I ever actually wrote that, but it does sound like something I would have said, so I'll own it. The best third-base prospects entering each of the last two seasons were Pedro Alvarez (2010) and Mike Moustakas (2011), and Rendon's all-around game and ability to remain at the hot corner would have put him ahead of both of them.
Since 2000, there have been 18 different third basemen who ranked among the 25 best prospects on our annual Top 100 Prospects lists. In chronological order, they were: Sean Burroughs, Michael Cuddyer, Drew Henson, Hank Blalock, Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera, Andy Marte, David Wright, Ian Stewart, Dallas McPherson, Alex Gordon, Ryan Zimmerman, Andy LaRoche, Evan Longoria, Brandon Wood, Pedro Alvarez, Mike Moustakas and Lonnie Chisenhall.
Rendon projects as a .300 hitter good for 25 or more homers annually in the big leagues, while also providing above-average defense. Of the group mentioned in the paragraph above, only Blalock, Teixeira, Cabrera, Wright, Gordon, Longoria and Alvarez had the same kind of ability to produce for both power and average. Add in Rendon's quality glovework, and that narrows the field to Wright and Longoria.
I'd rank Rendon third, behind Longoria (who's more physical) and Wright (who's built along the same lines as Rendon but already was doing damage in the majors at the same stage of their careers). If scouts hadn't underestimated Zimmerman's power, he'd rank between Longoria and Wright for all-around ability.
Rendon has barely played in the field this season at Rice because of a strained shoulder, which has cost him bat speed. Add in getting constantly pitched around and using less-performing bats, and he hasn't matched his numbers from his first two college seasons. The unavailability of medical reports to detail exactly what's wrong with Rendon's shoulder is making teams skittish, but my belief in his talent hasn't changed.
I would be surprised if any catchers were selected among the first 10 picks this year. There's going to be a run on college pitchers, with eight candidates (UCLA's Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, Virginia's Danny Hultzen, Georgia Tech's Jed Bradley, Vanderbilt's Sonny Gray, Texas' Taylor Jungmann, Connecticut's Matt Barnes, Kentucky's Alex Meyer) to go in the top 10. None of the best position players (Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon, Kansas high school outfielder Bubba Starling, Florida prep shortstop Francisco Lindor, Connecticut outfielder George Springer) are catchers, either.
The scarcity of catchers often means they get drafted higher than expected, but the two best backstops in this draft (Blake Swihart from New Mexico, Austin Hedges from California) are high schoolers with signability questions. They're both expected to be first-round picks, but their asking prices could knock them down a round or two. The best college catching prospect, Oregon State's Andrew Susac, also should factor into the first round but more toward the back end.
Neither C.J. nor Kevin Cron figures to remain behind the plate. C.J. hasn't caught this spring at Utah because of a shoulder injury that likely will require surgery, and even with a healthy arm, his size (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) and receiving skills are less than ideal for a catcher. He'll still go in the first round as a first baseman, because he has one of the most dynamic bats in the draft.
Kevin is a high school version of his brother, with the same offensive potential, same body and same questions about his receiving. He'll become a first baseman down the road as well. After setting Arizona state single-season (27) and career (59) home run records at Mountain Pointe HS in Phoenix this spring, he projects as a fourth- to sixth-rounder.
I wouldn't pull the plug on Martin's mound career just yet. His lack of control and his inability to repeat his mechanics are an obvious concern. Still, he'll show a mid-90s fastball and a devastating curveball at times, and he has a loose arm with a clean delivery. I'd hate to give up on that kind of arm, though I'm beginning to think the best-case scenario is that he becomes a late-inning reliever rather than a frontline starter.
Though Ankiel has carved out a major league niche for himself and Brian Bogusevic has made it to the big leagues, it's much more difficult to switch from pitcher to hitter than vice versa. It's easier to translate arm strength into mound success than it is to make up for losing years of at-bats. Though Martin was the first high school pitcher drafted (15th overall) in 2008, he entered the year more highly regarded as a power-hitting third baseman with a strong arm. I'd try him as a position player as a last resort, but I question how he'd be able to handle pro pitching after not swinging a bat for three years.
Givens only has 212 pro at-bats, so it's early to read too much into his .231/.322/.316 career line. However, I bet his future will be on the mound. When he came out of high school as a second-rounder in 2009, Givens had impressive raw tools as a two-way player, but few refined skills. I think it's a lot easier to polish up a pitcher than a hitter, and Givens since has been passed by Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop on Baltimore's middle-infield depth chart.