Ranking the 10 Fastest-Rising 2013 MLB Draft Prospects

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2013

Ranking the 10 Fastest-Rising 2013 MLB Draft Prospects

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    The 2013 MLB draft class, from top to bottom, is a mixed bag. It looks a lot like last year's class--heavy on college pitching and light in every other area. 

    But as we know, the evaluation process for talent is constantly evolving. A player can go from just another face in the crowd to potential top-10 pick in the blink of an eye. Case in point: Indiana State's Sean Manaea lit up the Cape last year, but has fallen back to earth a little bit this season. 

    As we enter the second full month of games in the college baseball season, and high school teams all across the country finally start playing games now that the weather is getting better, teams are deep in the process of lining up their draft boards. 

    Here is a look at the 10 players who have helped their stock the most this spring, both in college and high school. 

    Note: College stats courtesy of NCAA.com unless otherwise noted. High school stats courtesy of MaxPreps.com unless otherwise noted. 

No. 10: Hunter Renfroe, OF, Mississippi State

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    2013 Stats (Through April 10)

    AVG OBP SLG H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB
     .411  .482  .804  46  10  2  10  38  16  18  8  

     

    Scouting Report

    Renfroe has all the tools to be an impact corner outfielder in professional baseball. He has bat speed, a clean swing with loft that helps him drive the ball, big raw power, above-average speed and plus arm strength. 

    The one knock on Renfroe is track record, as this is the first year his tools have shown up in games. He struggled against SEC competition last year, and his approach left a lot to be desired. He hit just .252/.328/.374 with 51 strikeouts and just 21 walks in 61 games.

    This year, he has looked like a completely different player, finally showing all that potential he has had in games. There is a serious lack of impact hitting in this draft class, especially from the college ranks, so don't be surprised to see him sneak into the back half of the first round. 

     

    Projected Pick: Late first round or supplemental first round.

No. 9: Marco Gonzales, LHP, Gonzaga

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    2013 Stats (Through April 10)

    G(GS) W-L IP ERA CG SHO SV H ER HR BB K BAA
     9 (8)  4-2  56.0  2.89  1  1  1  51  18  0  11  51  .244

     

    Scouting Report

    Marco Gonzales is one of the most interesting pitchers in this draft. His stock is incredibly high, to the point where he will likely end up going in the first round, but he does it in a way that usually gives evaluators some pause. 

    Working with a fringe-average fastball from the left side, usually in the 86-89 mph range, Gonzales is not going to blow opposing hitters away. But he has such a good off-speed repertoire, with a plus changeup, above-average curveball, as well as a cutter, above-average command of everything and a great feel for pitching that the Gonzaga ace can get away with less velocity on his heater. 

    Because the fastball is going to be average, at best, Gonzales doesn't have a high ceiling. He could end up as a solid No. 3 or, more likely, No. 4 starter in the big leagues. With his pitchability and command, it should not take him long to arrive after he is drafted. 

     

    Projected pick: Late-first round. 

No. 8: Jake Sweaney, C, Garces Memorial High School

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    2013 Stats (Through April 10)

    AVG OBP SLG H HR RBI R 2B 3B
     .462  .520  .920  30  6  27  25  7  2

     

    Scouting Report

    This has been a great season for prep catchers. Jon Denney is going to be a top-10 pick, Reese McGuire could go in the top-20, and now Sweaney is making his mark with a strong senior season. 

    A tremendous athlete, Sweaney plays football and baseball. His future lies in the latter, as he projects to stay behind the plate with a 6'2", 175-pound frame that he will fill out a bit as he gets older. 

    As far as tools go, his two best are raw power and arm strength. He has the athleticism to move behind the plate. Obviously, game-calling and receiving are going to be the biggest things he has to work on moving through the ranks. But a young catcher with 20-homer upside is worth a look on the second day of the draft. 

     

    Projected pick: Late-second round

No. 7: Chad Pinder, 3B, Virginia Tech

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    2013 Stats (Through April 10)

    AVG OBP SLG H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB
     .365  .450  .511  50  8  0  4  29  13  18  5  

     

    Scouting Report

    Evolution is the biggest thing that you look for in a player leading up to the draft. You want to look and see that someone is getting better month after month and year after year. 

    Pinder is that kind of player, going from afterthought as a freshman to one of the better college bats available in this year's draft. He hit .317/.368/.510 in 2011, improved to .325/.380/.538 in 2012 and now is at .365/.450/.511 through 34 games. 

    Listed at 6'2", 192 pounds, Pinder has the frame and muscle mass to handle third base in the pros. He is very quiet at the plate, with a free and easy swing. He has solid pitch recognition and uses his quick-twitch action with his wrists to generate above-average power. 

    At the hot corner, Pinder's arm is strong and accurate. He doesn't have great lateral range but moves well enough to be at least average. 

     

    Projected pick: Mid-Second Round

No. 6: Connor Jones, RHP, Great Bridge High School

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    2013 Stats (Through April 10)

    Jones' stats not available, as Great Bridge has not released them. 

     

    Scouting Report

    I had the luxury of seeing Connor Jones during the Under-Armour All-American Game in Chicago last August, and he also took part in the World Wood Bat Championships in Florida, so this report is a mix of what I saw last year and his performance in that event. 

    Jones gets by with basically one pitch right now: An average fastball that plays up because of his arm action and natural movement. He comes from a three-quarters slot and you can see the pitch really move, especially to his arm side, generating soft contact. 

    In order for Jones to make it in the pros, his changeup and curveball have to show vast improvement. The former will flash plus thanks to good arm speed and late fade so that it drops off the table. His breaking ball is a mess, but he is just a high school pitcher and the ability to generate groundballs with a moving fastball does help ease a lot of concerns. 

     

    Projected pick: Mid-Second Round

No. 5: Eric Jagielo, 3B, Notre Dame

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    2013 Stats (Through April 10)

    AVG OBP SLG H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB
     .392  .515  .667  40  7  0  7  28  19  19  2  

     

    Scouting Report

    Eric Jagielo is a third baseman right now, but he could end up shifting to first base or a corner outfield spot in the pros because he doesn't have the softest hands or the most accurate throwing arm. 

    Regardless, what Jagielo does really well is hit. He controls the strike zone well, thanks to good pitch recognition, solid hand-eye coordination and plus bat speed. He also projects to hit for plus power. 

    Even if he has to move to the outfield, Jagielo's bat fits the profile. He may not have ideal power for the position, but he can hit for average and provide 20 home runs. 

     

    Projected pick: Early-Second round

No. 4: Hunter Dozier, SS, Stephen F. Austin State

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    2013 Stats (Through April 10)

    AVG OBP SLG H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB
     .413  .515  .789  45  14  0  9  28  23  19  10  

     

    Scouting Report

    As you can see just looking at the picture, Dozier is a big kid and will end up at third base in professional baseball. But that doesn't take away from his increased status heading into the draft. 

    Dozier's swing is long, which could give him problems against velocity on the inner half of the plate as he moves up the ladder, but he manages to make it work thanks to plus bat speed. He also has good loft in his follow through and projects to have above-average power. 

    While he isn't a burner on the bases, Dozier is a smart runner and can find 10-15 steals per season if he wants to. He profiles as an above-average defender at third base, with plus arm strength and soft hands. 

     

    Projected pick: Early-Second Round

No. 3: Hunter Harvey, RHP, Bandys High School

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    2013 Stats (Through April 10)

    G (GS) W-L IP ERA H ER BB K HR
     7 (6)  5-0  31.2  0.44  14  2  8  70  0

     

    Scouting Report

    Another participant at last year's Under Armour All-American Game, Hunter Harvey has an athletic, projectable frame with a fastball that is already above-average and could potentially be a plus offering if he can consistently throw it in the 93-96 range he has shown at times. 

    The right-hander also throws a curveball and changeup, the former a lot more than the latter. He will need to improve the command and feel of his breaking ball and get used to throwing the changeup in games, but the upside is there for him to be a late-first rounder. 

    When teams are drafting a high school pitcher, they are looking for present stuff and projectability. Harvey has that, with a good fastball, curveball that can flash above-average, and more room to add muscle on his frame. 

     

    Projected pick: Late-First Round

No. 2: Braden Shipley, RHP, Nevada

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    2013 Stats (Through April 10)

    G(GS) W-L IP ERA CG SHO SV H HR ER BB K BAA
     8 (8)  4-1  58.2  2.30  1  0  0  43  1  15  16  57

     .211

     

     

    Scouting Report

    Perhaps I am overstating just how much Shipley has moved, because he was already one of the top college pitchers on the board, but it is also a testament to how high I am on him. 

    Shipley has added a half-grade to his fastball, which now sits in the 92-95 mph range, and his command of the pitch has gotten much better. He can spot it where he wants and it explodes out of his hand. 

    He complements that with a changeup that is above-average right now and has the potential to be plus if he can consistently command it. Shipley also throws a hard slider that projects as an above-average pitch. 

    A great athlete, Shipley could turn into a No. 2 starter in the big leagues when he learns to throw his two off-speed pitches for strikes more consistently. 

     

    Projected pick: Mid-First Round

No. 1: Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma

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    2013 Stats (Through April 10)

    G(GS) W-L IP ERA CG SHO HR H R ER BB K BAA
     8 (8)  6-1  60.1  1.19  2  1  1  34  10  8  11  71  .167

     

    Scouting Report

    There was a time when it looked like Mark Appel would have no competition as the top player, college or high school, available. He was in the mix for that spot last year before falling to Pittsburgh with the No. 8 pick, then was unable to come to terms with them on a deal that allowed him to return to Stanford for his senior season. 

    Along comes Jonathan Gray, who was in the mid-first round mix when the season started, showing a fastball that has jumped an entire grade to plus-plus, plus slider and an average changeup. Now the debate for the No. 1 pick has gotten much louder. 

    Gray fits the bill of a very good No. 2 starter with his combination of stuff, size and clean delivery. He has shown much better control this season, though his command will need work. He tends to let his velocity carry him, but his fastball shows movement when he takes a little something off. 

    Appel will probably be the No. 1 overall pick to Houston when all is said and done, because he is having a terrific season with Stanford and has the longer track record of success. But when the Chicago Cubs go on the clock, it will be hard to pass on Gray. 

     

    Projected pick: Early-First Round

Notables on the Decline

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    Ryne Stanek, RHP, Arkansas

    Before Jonathan Gray stormed out of the gate, Arkansas' Ryne Stanek was in the mix for the No. 2 pitcher on the board. He was coming off a season in which he went 8-4 with a 2.82 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 92.2 innings. 

    This season, while the stats have been fine (3-2, 1.90 ERA, 38 K in 42.2 IP), the consistency from inning to inning and outing to outing just isn't there. I saw him in Arizona in February against Arizona State when he was hit-and-miss, with his fastball velocity increasing as the game went on and a slider that had bite before he was taken out of the game. 

    That has been a lot of what Stanek has done. You can see the upside when he is out there, because the raw stuff is so good. There are just times when he loses his release point and the fastball flattens out. 

    Stanek could still be a top-10 pick, but he will need a strong finish to creep back into the top three or four picks it looked like he would be two months ago. 

     

    Sean Manaea, LHP, Indiana State

    If there was a breakout star in the Cape Cod League last year, it was Sean Manaea. The 6'5" left-hander won the awards for best pitcher and pro prospect at the prestigious summer showcase league thanks to a 5-1 record, 1.22 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 51.2 innings. 

    The stuff matched the results, as Manaea was throwing his fastball in the mid-90s and showing a knockout slider. A left-handed pitcher with that kind of stuff has a strong case as the No. 1 pick. 

    Unfortunately, the stuff has not held through to this season. Manaea's fastball is playing down a grade, in the 89-93 mph range, and a slider that isn't as hard or sharp as it was last year. He can command his fastball in the zone, but will need to find a consistent release point with the off-speed stuff. 

    No longer a top-10 prospect, Manaea could end up going in the 15-20 range as a mid-rotation lefty. Nothing to sneeze at, though certainly not where he wanted to be after last year's breakout. 

     

    Oscar Mercado, SS, Gaither HS (FL)

    If you show that you can play shortstop in high school or college and project to play it in professional baseball, odds are good that you will be a very high pick just because it is so hard to find talent at the position. 

    Oscar Mercado certainly has the natural skills to play shortstop in the big leagues. He has plus range, good hands, a good glove and a strong, accurate throwing arm. 

    The problems come when you look at his offensive profile. At just 6'2", 175 pounds, he has a slight frame and doesn't project to add much weight as he gets older. His swing is very compact, geared for line drives and hitting the ball into the gap. But it is unclear if he will be strong enough to even do that. 

    Unless you are a special defender at shortstop--think Boston's Jose Iglesias or Atlanta's Andrelton Simmons--you have to be able to hit a little bit. Mercado doesn't have that kind of glove, and therefore could fall out of the first round. 

     

    Austin Wilson, OF, Stanford

    One of the biggest stories for the college season was the elbow injury that kept Austin Wilson, the top college hitter in this class entering the year, out from the middle of February until April 5. 

    This draft class is weak on hitting, especially in the college ranks, so Wilson has a chance to really cash in just based on being the best of an otherwise mediocre bunch. 

    That is not meant to slight Wilson, who has a tremendous eye at the plate, bat speed and plus power. He projects to be an everyday right fielder in the big leagues. 

    Unlike the two other college players on this list, Wilson's decline isn't due to poor performance on the field. He just has to come back, prove he is healthy and produce close to the level that is expected of him. 

    But until Wilson does that, his stock is going to be down. He is still a first-round talent, though he may find himself taken in the middle or back half of the round instead of in the first six or seven picks. 

     

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