Last year's leaders in overall WAR (wins above replacement) for pitchers and hitters were Detroit right-hander Justin Verlander and Los Angeles outfielder Mike Trout, respectively.
Both were first-rounders.
Last year's batting champion was San Francisco's Buster Posey. His division rival, Clayton Kershaw, led all of baseball with a 2.53 ERA.
Both were first-rounders.
In fact, the major league league leaders in hits (Derek Jeter), doubles (Alex Gordon), runs (Trout), stolen bases (Trout...again), wins (Gio Gonzalez), strikeouts per nine innings (Max Scherzer), innings (Verlander), strikeouts (Verlander...again) and games started (Zack Greinke) were all former first-round selections.
These days, projecting success for a first-round selection is easier than ever.
Rare are the Kyle Lohses (29th round, led MLB in win-loss percentage) of the world. So rare, in fact, that it's hard to find another pitcher or hitter who led the league in any statistical category that wasn't picked in either the first or second round.
As such, when projecting future stars of the 2013 class, it really only makes sense to stick to the prospects we know—the Mark Appels and Clint Fraziers of the world. These are the guys who will develop into the strikeout champions, the home run king and the Gold Glovers.
So, without further ado, let's see if we can project which players have those kinds of superlatives in their future.
One wouldn't know it from his 18 career home runs, including just four this season, but Stanford outfielder Austin Wilson has some prodigious power.
There's a reason he's always drawing comparisons to Giancarlo Stanton.
Yes, they both have the size thing going for them (Wilson is 6'5", 245 lbs; Stanton is 6'5", 248 lbs), but they both also possess true "light-tower" power.
And while Wilson has only hit multiple home runs in a single game once (2012, at San Jose State), he's as good a bet as any to pull of the nearly impossible feat of hitting four home runs in a contest.
That's assuming, of course, that he can hit his way through the minors, where he'll be fighting an uphill battle against his career 37-to-105 walk-to-strikeout ratio. Usually, those numbers get worse upon a graduation to the professional ranks.
Taking into consideration the fact that only eight of the 26 pitchers who have thrown a complete-game no-hitter since 2000 were drafted from the college ranks, it seems a likely bet to project a member of this year's high school class as the next pitcher to toss a no-no.
Unfortunately, this year's crop of prep hurlers is one of the weakest in recent memory. No Dylan Bundys or Archie Bradleys. Not even a Max Fried or a Lucas Giolito.
As such, we'll have to settle for Texas fireballer Kohl Stewart of St. Pius X High School in Houston.
Stewart is widely regarded as the top high school pitching prospect in the 2013 draft—and for multiple reasons.
For starters, he possesses an elite fastball, one capable of hitting 97-98 mph on the radar gun. He sits more comfortably in the 91-94 mph range, but he can reach back for a little extra when the occasion calls for it.
Toss in a lethal slider that is easily the best of any high schooler in this year's class, and Stewart already has a strong two-pitch combo that should allow him to dominate at the lower levels of the minors.
Development of a third pitch, likely his changeup, will be key to his ascension through the upper levels.
Assuming he can master a changeup while honing his slider and improving his fastball command, Stewart could be in the big leagues by 2017.
And don't forget that 18 of the 236 no-hitters thrown in the modern era (post-1900) have been tossed by rookies.
Jonathan Gray of Oklahoma has been a strikeout machine this year. He's struck out more at least 10 batters in more than half of his starts, and his K/9 rate is a ridiculous 10.4.
There's no question that if anyone from this draft class has a decent shot at breaking the single-game strikeout record, it's going to be him.
Oh yeah, did we mention that Gray has a fastball that can touch triple digits?
Toss in a great breaking ball, and it's no wonder Gray has rocketed up draft boards—to the point that many think he, not Mark Appel, could be the player the Astros select with the No. 1 overall pick.
A few months ago, Clint Frazier of Loganville High School in Georgia was at the head of the pack trying to catch fellow Georgian Austin Meadows, who was widely regarded as the top overall prospect from the high school class and possibly the top prospect overall in the 2013 draft.
Fast forward to the end of April, and Frazier has not only caught up to Meadows, he very well may have passed him, wowing scouts with five tools and an insatiable love for the game that on tape very much resembles another young phenom: Bryce Harper.
Like Meadows, Frazier has become a must-see attraction for scouts from every organization. His combination of power, speed and defensive ability is rivaled only by his in-state nemesis, and in a head-to-heard matchup earlier this season, it seemed as though scouts much preferred Frazier, even if they recognize that he'll need more polish.
Thanks to his incredible speed on the basepaths, no-doubt-about-it power and his knack for putting bat to ball, Frazier should be an extra-base hit machine as a professional, and it wouldn't come as a total shock if he had multiple cycles to his name by the time he hangs up his cleats.
Anyone who has missed out on watching D.J. Peterson during his three-year run at New Mexico has missed out on one of the most impressive, and complete, hitters to come through the college ranks in quite some time.
He doesn't get as much love as Colin Moran or Kris Bryant, but he does nearly twice as much damage—so much so that he's starting to rise up draft boards as we inch closer to the event. If the draft took place today, he might end up as a first-round selection.
Pretty impressive for a guy who's all bat. That tells you how special his hitting ability is.
The third baseman has racked up 36 homers in three season while maintaining a .378 average. Over the past two seasons, in 98 games, Peterson is hitting .415 with 41 doubles, six triples, 30 homers and 130 RBI.
He's become such a feared hitter that he's started getting the Anthony Rendon treatment, drawing 64 walks in that same period to just 46 strikeouts.
As mentioned above, Peterson will never be mistaken for a Gold Glover. As such, his entire stock rests in his bat. It's going to take the kind of player who produces 40-homer seasons to earn his keep.
It's not too often one comes across a player like Ryan Boldt of Red Wing High.
Overcoming a broken left elbow as a nine-year-old, a blow that convinced him to switch to throwing right-handed, Boldt has emerged as one of the top all-around prospects in the 2013 draft class.
And while he is a man of many talents, his most impressive is his speed.
Boldt's wheels were on full display last summer for Team USA. In a contest against Colombia, Boldt set a Team USA record with five stolen bases in an 11-1 victory. He also shined in the gold-medal game, notching two hits and scoring two runs against Canada.
Minnesota isn't known as a hotbed for prospects, its last great product being Joe Mauer, but Boldt has the speed to become one of the top base stealers in the professional ranks, assuming his bat is good enough to play in the big leagues.
One can't delve too deep into the 2013 MLB draft class without covering Stanford right-hander Mark Appel.
Appel famously turned down a lucrative offer from the Pirates after being drafted eighth overall in last year's draft following months of speculation that he would be the top overall selection. So back into the draft pool he goes, hoping the Astros will do in 2013 what they weren't willing to do in 2013: pony up some big money for arguably the top pitcher in college baseball.
As good as Appel was last year, he's been even more dominant this year. He has seemingly put last year's draft snafu, as well as his disastrous performance against Florida State in the College World Series, behind him.
He's already racked up wins in eight of his eleven starts, giving him 26 for his career at Stanford. There's no reason to think he won't chalk up another five victories down the stretch, meaning he'll leave Stanford as one of the winningest pitchers in school history.
Victories aren't the primary reason that scouts are once again drooling over Appel, however. It's his combination of size and stuff, a mid-90s fastball and and impressive breaking ball, not to mention his experience.
If any pitcher from this class has the total package to put together a 20-win season, it's Appel.
Lost in all of the attention over his home run hitting ability is D.J. Peterson's incredible knack for hitting at a freakishly high clip.
Since last year, Peterson is hitting a remarkable .415. And as further evidence that he's not just a one-trick pony, take into account that he has 41 doubles and six triples during that same period.
As Peterson graduates to the professional ranks, expect him to be challenged more than he has been this year by pitchers out to prove they're better than he is. All of which should give him just one more opportunity to show how impressive his pure hitting ability is.
Batting title impressive.
Prior to the 2012 college baseball season, Georgia Southern right-hander Chris Beck made a name for himself in the Cape Cod League. Beck flashed dominant stuff and looked like a sure-fire top-10 pick. After a solid but not spectacular season, Beck ended up going 76th overall to the White Sox.
Indiana State left-hander Sean Manaea is this year's Chris Beck. Like Beck, Manaea hails from a small school. He too had a sensational run in the Cape Cod League last summer, and despite posting a 1.57 ERA in nine starts, he has yet to really wow scouts like he did last year.
Whether or not he ends up suffering a similar fall in this year's draft, Manaea has the stuff and the polish to reach the big leagues and be, at worst, a back-end starter. Chances are, however, he'll be much more.
Built like a horse, Manaea is bred to eat innings—something he surprisingly hasn't done this year. After some big league coaching, however, it's likely he'll be one of the leaders in innings pitched each season. And with more innings come more strikeouts—something scouts should be drooling about considering he has 77 of them in just 61.1 innings this year.
San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant is one of the top hitting prospects in this year's draft. While, on the surface, he appears to be one of the most complete hitters to come through the draft since Anthony Rendon, he's got a few holes in his swing that have led to some pretty ugly performances during his time at USD.
In three seasons, Bryant has struck out in more than 22 percent of his plate appearances, including in nearly 30 percent of his at-bats as a freshman.
A major reason for why Bryant is likely to be strikeout-prone as a professional has nothing to do with his ability, though. Rather, it's the fact that he's such a big guy. At 6'5'', 210 pounds and growing, he fits the mold of the usual "I'm such a large individual that my strike zone is enormous" whiffer.
Other guys his size include Adam Dunn (6'6'', 285), Chris Davis (6'3'', 235), Pedro Alvarez (6'3'', 240), Josh Hamilton (6'4'', 240), Mark Trumbo (6'4'', 220) and Giancarlo Stanton (6'5'', 248), all of whom are known for their proneness for the punchout.
Of course, his proclivity for the swing-and-miss doesn't mean he won't slug 30-35 home runs each season.
Who is Dan Slania, you ask?
Well, for starters, he is arguably the best closer in all of college baseball. He is also a right-hander who pitches for Notre Dame, and he should be drafted in the top two or three rounds in the 2013 MLB draft.
He's also a really, really big dude, checking in at 6'5'' and 275 pounds.
While intimidation is definitely a part of Slania's game, it's his stuff that does most of the talking.
His fastball can touch 96 mph, and his slider is about as wicked as any you'll ever see. He utilized both pitches to perfection during a dominant sophomore campaign in which he saved 13 games and struck out 37 batters in 31 innings, an eye-opening run in the prestigious Cape Cod League—for which he was named the circuit's Reliever of the Year—and for this year's performance for the Fighting Irish.
In 19 appearances, spanning 36 innings, Slania has allowed just 23 base hits and a singular earned run. He's struck out 27 batters and issued just six walks. Thanks to his 10 saves and his minuscule 0.25 ERA, he's practically a shoe-in for the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award.
While his impressive two-pitch combo has some thinking he could make the jump to starting as a professional, it's more likely that Slania will remain a reliever. Not only could he reach the majors faster, but guys his size aren't usually able to repeat their delivery consistently enough to stick as starters.
Flash back three months and Grayson High outfielder Austin Meadows was the talk of the 2013 draft.
Offering plus speed, incredible raw power and insane athleticism, Meadows was hands down the No. 2 guy in the entire draft class behind the proven commodity that was Mark Appel.
So what happened?
It's not like Meadows hasn't had a strong season. He had an impressive performance in front of a national audience when he squared off against fellow top prospect and in-state rival Clint Frazier, but he was overshadowed by Frazier's two long blasts that propelled Loganville High to a 14-4 victory.
And while Frazier might actually be the superior prospect, there's no denying that Meadows is the more polished of the two.
Thirty-thirty campaigns are hard to come by in professional baseball, which is why only a handful of players have accomplished it. Despite that, Meadows has the speed and power to put together such a campaign.
While he doesn't have the pure speed of, say, Matt McPhearson or Ryan Boldt, and he trails Justin Williams or Rowdy Tellez in terms of pure power, he easily has the best combination of the two traits of any player in this year's class.
Anyone who has witnessed Michael Lorenzen head from his spot in the outfield, where he plays Gold Glove-caliber defense, to the mound, where he offers mid-90s heat, to finish out a game for Cal State Fullerton knows this kid's arm is special.
In 15 appearances for the Titans, Lorenzen has converted 13 save opportunities. In the outfield, he's gunned down four runners attempting to advance on the basepaths.
While it's still too early to tell whether or not Lorenzen's future will be on the mound (as a reliever) or in the outfield, there's no doubt that if he does try to make it as a position player, he'll bring instant credibility to his team's defensive ability.
This year's shortstop class is incredibly weak, but that doesn't mean there aren't gems to be found.
Arguably the best and brightest is Lakewood High's J.P. Crawford.
While he has a seasoned bat (for a high schooler), Crawford should make his mark at the professional level on defense. Possessing above-average speed, arm strength and defensive range, he has all the makings of a future Gold Glove-winning shortstop.
What's more, Crawford realizes his potential to be one of the best defensive players in the game, and he takes pride in that, spitting in the face of those who would sacrifice defense for a couple of extra home runs per year.
Crawford should be the first shortstop taken in this year's draft.
Whoever came up with the idea to move Loganville High's Clint Frazier from third base to the outfield has a nice spot waiting for them in baseball heaven.
Since making the move, Frazier has flashed all the tools one would expect from a future Gold Glove-winning center fielder.
Frazier has been clocked as high as 98 mph from his spot in the outfield. Check!
BP grades him with 60 speed on a scale where 60 is tops.
Combine 'em all, toss in the fact that at 6'1'', 190 pounds and Frazier doesn't have much growing left to do, and take into account his hard-nosed, all-or-nothing style in the outfield: He's a sure-fire Gold Glover in the making.
For every superstar that the University of North Carolina produces, it also churns out a massive bust.
For every Matt Harvey, there's an Andrew Miller. For every Brian Roberts, there's a Dustin Ackley. For every Kyle Seager, a Daniel Bard. And so on and so forth.
As such, it's hard to determine what to make of the most recent product of the baseball factory at Chapel Hill, Colin Moran.
On the surface, Moran is bursting with potential. He's in the midst of a career year, hitting .388 with 12 homers, 75 RBI and an astounding 42-to-11 walk-to-strikeout ratio. He's put together one of the most prolific careers of any Tar Heel hitter ever, which is saying something in itself.
He should be one of the first college hitters off the board on draft day—and for good reason. As evidenced by his sensational season, Moran is an above-average hitter across the board. His power doesn't compare to fellow third baseman Kris Bryant's, but his pure hitting ability and plate discipline are both superior.
As is his defensive ability. He's bounced around from first to third base, but he should be a capable defender at both spots—or in the outfield if he ends up there.
Moran's greatest tool, however, is his bat. It's a special one, capable of producing extra-base hits by the boatload. As such, it isn't hard to envision him having a lengthy, productive big league career—aka the career that should have belonged to Dustin Ackley.
Even if Stanford's Mark Appel ends up getting leap-frogged by Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray, there's little doubt that he's going to go on to have a successful big league career.
And while getting popped by either the Astros or the Cubs—the teams with the first and second overall selections—might seem like a death sentence, the truth is that both teams are quietly putting together a strong minor league base that should start producing big league talent very soon.
As such, Appel will likely get to play for a winning team and participate in some meaningful games.
Projecting victories for a pitcher has become pretty much a moot practice. So often, talent means little. Take as a prime example Zack Greinke when he pitched for the Royals. He had all the talent in the world, but he was still lucky to get 10 wins a season.
On the other end of the spectrum, one can find Jon Garland, who won 18 games in back-to-back seasons—not because he has great stuff, but because he pitched for a White Sox team that averaged 94 wins in those two years.
Appel has the stuff to compete like Greinke. Now, all he needs is the chance to play for a team as good as the one Garland had the fortune of playing for.
If he gets that chance, we could be looking at baseball's next 200-game winner.
Every once in a while, along comes a prospect with such incredible power that stories fail to do him justice.
Unfortunately, there isn't a player like that in this year's class. But if one had to pick a player with the most prodigious raw power, it would be Justin Williams of Terrebonne High in Louisiana.
Williams has put on some of the most awe-inspiring rounds of batting practice seen this spring, and as a result, he's practically a shoe-in to get drafted somewhere on Day 1.
If he can sharpen the rest of his tools and make consistent contact through the minor leagues, Williams could be the kind of hitter to produce 35-40 homers per season at the big league level.
As with most high school prospects, however, the odds of him reaching the majors, much less superstardom, are incredibly slim.
As a rule, high school prospects are the hardest to project to big league careers. And in a draft where fewer than 5 percent of the more than 1,000 players drafted ever reach the major leagues, that's saying something.
Still, as sketchy as the long-term prospects of most of the 2013 draft crop are, the most likely top-10 pick to "bust" out of this year's class is an easier choice that one might think.
If Dustin Ackley (Seattle, 2009), Zack Cox (St. Louis, 2010), Tony Sanchez (Pittsburgh, 2009) and, to some extent, Anthony Rendon (Washington, 2011) have taught us anything, it's that one can't always rely on the players who are widely regarded as the top college bats in their class to carry that production over to the professional ranks.
This brings us back to Kris Bryant.
While the chances are incredibly likely that Bryant will go on to have a successful big league career, there's always that chance that, like many before him, he might eventually hit a brick wall. And if he does, he won't have above-average defensive ability to allow him to be given chances to succeed, a la Ackley and Sanchez.
Eschewing the popular names such as Appel, Gray, Frazier and Meadows, let's examine the case for the lesser-known Dominic Smith of Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, California.
Owner of the top hitting packages (for average and power), Smith checks in at 6'0" and 200 pounds.
Defensively, he holds his own.
Smith has seen time at both first base and in the outfield, and thanks to a low-90s fastball, he's a prospect in his own right on the mound. He should be a rare case once he graduates to the pro ranks: a high schooler who starts his career at first base and who doesn't weight 280 pounds. His footwork grades out as above average as well, leading many to think he could be a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman.
While Smith could be a Day 1 pick as a pitcher, there's no question he's a first-rounder at the plate.
Possessing a sweet left-handed swing, Smith has an easy power stroke. He cranks them out with the best of them during BP, and he has been able to translate that raw power to in-game play during his high school career.
He should hit for a pretty high average too, having incredibly quick hands and a knack for putting the bat on the ball. A scouting report from PerfectGame.org says he has "future batting champion type tools and has the power to go with it."
Simply put, Smith is the complete package. But due to his uninspiring size and lack of five-tool ability, he'll slip into the bottom half of the first round, doing a severe injustice to his talent.
If he can reach the big leagues by the time he's 21 or 22, Smith could be in for a Hall of Fame career.