The 2013 MLB draft will feature a trio of prominent college pitchers who are all No. 1 overall-caliber prospects. It would not be surprising if at least two of these exciting players went on to be perennial All-Stars.
For those fortunate enough to be selecting near the top of Round 1, some clubs will be getting invaluable help for the future in terms of starting pitching—a cornerstone of most successful franchises.
Here is a breakdown of the premier hurlers this class has to offer.
Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
Less than a year ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Appel at No. 8 overall, but the Cardinal star did not sign a $3.8 million offer in favor of returning to school for his senior season.
Appel was the only one of the 32 first-round picks that didn't reach an agreement with the team that drafted him. It certainly looks like a good move now—because he may be in for an even bigger payday this time around.
Although not quite as physically imposing as the others vying for the top spot of this draft, there is room for Appel to add strength if necessary.
The numbers are extremely impressive for Appel, as he sports a 6-2 record with a 1.41 ERA, three complete games—including two shutouts—and 78 strikeouts in just 63.1 innings (h/t GoStanford.com).
A three-pitch arsenal features a fastball that can get into the upper 90s, a devastating slider and an effective circle changeup (h/t BaseballAmerica.com). That makes Appel the prohibitive favorite to go No. 1 overall, but he does face some formidable competition.
Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma
Talk about an absolute flamethrower. Gray can reach triple-digits on the radar gun with his fastball, and that alone makes him an elite prospect.
The Sooners standout made a strong impression on Perfect Game USA scout Kendall Rogers, who attended Gray's most recent start against Baylor:
Kendall Rogers @KendallRogersD1
#Oklahoma RHP Jonathan Gray. First three pitches -- 99, 98, 97. Some serious brass here scout wise. #mlbdraft @OU_Baseball @PerfectGameUSA4/12/2013, 11:49:11 PM
After a rocky beginning in that outing that featured three runners reaching base and one scoring in the first inning, Gray settled down to retire 16 consecutive hitters. Oklahoma unfortunately lost 2-1, and Gray wound up with a no-decision.
Performing that well under that type of pressure after starting poorly seems to indicate that Gray can handle adversity well—something he's sure to face as he gets adjusted to life in the MLB.
As of April 9, Gray's numbers included a 6-1 record, 1.19 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 61.1 innings, while walking just 11 batters (h/t NewsOK.com).
Armed also with a biting slider that flies at batters with a velocity that can hover around 90 mph, there is no question that Gray has all the makings of a star. If he can just develop some more secondary pitches in his arsenal, there's no telling how high his ceiling is at the next level.
Sean Manaea, LHP, Indiana State
The towering 6'5" southpaw has an enviable fastball that can reach speeds up to 96 miles per hour. Manaea makes a smooth stride toward the plate, and the ball whips quickly out of his hand.
That methodical windup may make pitching from the stretch at the next level somewhat difficult at first. However, he has time to develop and quicken that a bit without throwing off his routine or motion too drastically.
What makes Manaea special, though, is the development of his secondary pitches. He uses a slider effectively when he's ahead in the count, and his roommate Tyler Pazik tipped Manaea on how to grip a split-changeup, which he's learned to throw effectively since last year.
Tom James of the Tribune-Star highlighted an impressive accolade that Manaea just picked up despite facing inferior competition with the Sycamores than his fellow highly touted dealers have:
That is the kind of respect that Manaea demands, and he is truly a power pitcher that may run up pitch counts, but has the stamina and clearly the effectiveness to be consistently excellent. With that live of an arm, don't be surprised to see Manaea in the big leagues sooner rather than later.