With the college and high school seasons set to begin later this month, scouts and crosscheckers will gradually check in on many of the players at the top of their draft lists.
This year’s crop of talent may require additional looks, though, as there’s no sure-fire, No. 1-overall prospect. Sure, there are plenty of high-ceiling, future big leaguers in the mix. However, the 2013 draft class is weak relative to previous seasons, and lacks a potentially elite prospect like Gerrit Cole (2011) or Bryce Harper (2010).
College pitchers will presumably dominate the 2013 draft. Headlining the group is the trio of LHP Sean Manaea (Indiana St.), RHP Ryne Stanek (Arkansas) and RHP Mark Appel (Stanford), who was selected eighth-overall last year by the Pirates but chose to return to Stanford for his senior season.
Of the three, Manaea arguably has the most upside, but, at the same time, has the least amount of experience and exposure. However, that doesn’t make him a lock to go first-overall in June.
Among the high-school prospects, there are some safe bets to go in the first round, such as RHP Kohl Stewart (Texas), LHP Robert Kaminsky (New Jersey) and LHP Ian Clarkin (Calif.). But, once again, none of them are deserving of top-pick consideration.
Led by Georgia high-school outfielders Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier, the 2013 draft class also has its share high-risk, high-reward hitters. Depending on their showing this spring, both of the aforementioned players could be selected within the top five.
Beyond those two players, there’s a host of intriguing hitters, such as Kris Bryant (San Diego), Colin Moran (North Carolina), Austin Wilson (Stanford), OF/3B Justin Williams (La.), 1B/OF Dominic Smith and OF/LHP Trey Ball (Ind.).
One thing that distinguishes the 2013 class is the amount of projectable, high-school catching prospects.
Jonathan Denney (Okla.) has the highest ceiling of the group, as he already showcases plus raw power with advanced defensive skills and a cannon for an arm. However, there’s a host of other players not far behind him on the draft board, including Reese McGuire (Wash.), Chris Okey (Fla.), Jeremy Martinez (Calif.) and Nick Ciuffo (S.C.).
Unlike this year’s draft prospects, the 2014 class already features a no-doubt, No. 1-overall player in Carlos Rondon. The North Carolina State left-hander has all the makings of a superstar prospect: projectable frame, deep arsenal of average-to-plus offerings and a legitimate feel for pitching.
Plus, he absolutely dominated as a true freshman last season, posting a 9-0 record and 1.57 ERA with 135/41 K/BB and 71 hits allowed in 114.2 innings.
Barring an unexpected regression or injury between now at June, 2014, it’s hard to see any other player in the class catching Rodon. At this point, the only players with the potential to be in the mix are prep right-hander Touki Toussaint (Fla.) and Vanderbilt right-hander Tyler Beede.
The 2014 draft class also boasts a more impressive crop of projectable, up-the-middle talent. While prep catcher Alex Jackson (Calif.) has the most impressive bat, shortstops Nicholas Gordon (Fla.), Jacob Gatewood (Calif.), Drew Ward (Okla.) and Jack Flaherty (Calif.) are all high-level players who’ve already drawn rave reviews for their athleticism and advanced skills, respectively.
In general, next year’s draft should produce considerably more impact players at a variety of positions. The best part is that there’s still so much time between now and then; while many of the class’s highly regarded players will inevitably sputter, the door is open for countless other prospects to make their move up the draft board.
However, they’ll still have to do something truly special in order to catch Rodon.