With roughly two weeks before the 2013 MLB Rule IV Draft, which begins on June 6, each team is trying to gauge the potential interest in certain players while keeping their own cards close to their chest.
As expected, the draft board continues to fluctuate with players moving in and out of first-round consideration. At the same time, a significant number of players have solidified their status as a potential Day 1 selection thanks to a strong showing this spring.
Due to the overall lack of impact talent in this year’s class, it’s conceivable that many teams will draft as a means of addressing their current needs in the high minors or at the major-league level. And as a result, there will undoubtedly be a large contingent of players who are both overvalued and, in turn, over-drafted.
Here’s a look at the seven most overrated prospects in this year’s class.
1. Andrew Mitchell, RHP, Texas Christian
Mitchell emerged as one of the top amateur strikeout artists last season as the right-hander struck out 101 batters in 77 innings as a sophomore in the starting rotation.
But, for some odd reason, the coaching staff decided that he would be more effective as the team’s closer in 2013. Sure, Mitchell struggled with his control and command during the previous season (46 walks), but certainly not to the point where a relegation to the bullpen was necessary. Thankfully, due to a lack of save opportunities—and the fact that his power arm was going to waste in the bullpen—Mitchell’s stay in the ‘pen was only temporary, and he was subsequently moved back into the rotation.
Having said all that, I do think the right-hander’s future is in a major-league bullpen. Although he has a durable frame at 6’3”, 225 pounds, Mitchell’s short arm action and lack of explosiveness with his lower half and core doesn’t project well in a starting role. While his walk total has been tolerable at TCU, it will likely deteriorate at the next level when he faces opposing hitters with advanced plate discipline and pitch recognition.
If Mitchell is ultimately selected in the first round, then it’s safe to assume that the drafting organization plans to develop him as a starter.
2. Casey Meisner, RHP, Cypress Woods HS (Texas)
At 6’7”, 185 pounds, Meisner struggles with the same problems that plague most lanky pitchers. Due to his wiry thin frame and long limbs, repeating his mechanics and release point can be a battle for the right-hander, as it hinders his control and renders his secondary offerings ineffective.
Even though he showcased improved fastball velocity last summer in the 92-to-94 mph range, Meisner has sat consistently in the upper-80s this spring while losing a few ticks when working deep into games. He’ll mix in a fringy curveball and decent changeup when around the zone with the heater, though neither offering is particularly sharp given the aforementioned mechanical issues.
While Meisner certainly offers plenty to dream on, there’s an enormous gap between his present ability and overall future potential.
3. Ivan Wilson, OF, Ruston HS (La.)
At 6’3”, 220 pounds, Wilson has a physically mature build that requires minimal projection, though he does showcase respectable athleticism for his size. However, the right-handed hitting outfielder’s calling card will always be his robust raw power, as it represents his only chance for an above-average-to-plus tool at the next level.
The problem is that Wilson’s poor plate discipline and pitch recognition has prevented its utilization. Beyond his struggles in catching up to average velocity, decent secondary offerings (by high school standards) can make him look foolish and throw his swing mechanics even more out-of-sync.
Whether he attends college (he’s currently uncommitted) or begins his professional career, Wilson will need to transfer more weight off his backside, as his current swing is reliant on pure strength. Additionally, his point of contact is highly inconsistent and he’ll need to learn how to extend his arms and drive the ball off a firm front side.
4. Ryan Eades, RHP, Louisiana St.
A 6’3”, 200-pound right-hander, Eades pitched like a potential first-rounder to open the season, but has since seen his draft stock fall over the last month. Although he can be overpowering, Eades velocity has been up-and-down this spring and he’s lacked command of his secondary offerings.
It’s not that the right-hander doesn’t have good stuff—he does. However, that makes his inability to miss bats consistently all the more frustrating. Boasting an arsenal that includes a plus fastball (when he's at his best) in the 91-to-95 mph range and above-average changeup, Eades hasn’t shown the feel for his breaking ball—he’s thrown a curveball and slider this spring—that he did in previous seasons.
Despite his lack of success this season, Eades is still widely regarded as a Day 1 guy, especially in relation to the lack of projectable college arms in this year’s draft class. It’s also important to keep in mind that the right-hander has been slowly trending in the wrong direction dating back to his sophomore campaign. As a result, he’s emerged as somewhat of a wild card in the final weeks leading up to the draft. And at this point, I don’t think anyone knows what to expect. If they say they do, don’t hesitate to call them a liar for me.
5. Thomas Milone, OF, Masuk HS (Conn.)
Primarily a football player during his amateur career, Milone is an outstanding athlete at 6’0", 185 pounds, with baseball skills that lag well behind his raw tools. On the field, the outfielder’s lack of experience is apparent in all facets of his game.
Milone’s swing is weak and inefficient, as he’s been forced to figure things out on the fly since taking to the diamond. Currently, the one outstanding aspect of his game is his speed, which may allow him to remain in center field at the next level.
Unlike Lewis Brinson and D.J. Davis—the premier raw but toolsy prep players selected in the 2012 draft—Milone is already significantly behind the developmental curve. And while his athleticism suggests that he may be able to tap into some of that potential down the road, Milone is not a Day 1-caliber player.
6. Jake Johansen, RHP, Dallas Baptist
Besides his durable, 6’6”, 235-pound frame, Johansen stands out for his outstanding arm strength and potential plus-plus fastball in the mid-to-upper-90s. While one would expect the right-hander to dominate college hitters, he’s actually been quite hittable.
Johansen’s heater is relatively straight and easy to recognize out of his hand, while his only secondary offering, a below-average slider, tends to have more of a cement-mixer rotation and shape, and lacks swing-and-miss potential. With technically one pitch to his name, it’s difficult to envision the right-hander as anything more than a late-inning reliever at best. Although there’s still a chance that he puts everything together with the proper instruction, it would likely come at the cost of numerous seasons in the complex levels.
7. Adam Engel, OF, Louisville
At face value, the 6’1”, 208-pound Engel has the makings of an everyday center fielder at the next level thanks to his plus speed and range, average arm strength and outstanding athleticism. Unfortunately, his ongoing struggles at the dish continue to hurt his draft stock and overall projection. Engel has the strength to both shoot the gaps with consistency—and even sneak a few over the fence—but his inability to achieve a favorable point of contact and drive through the baseball raises legitimate concerns about his potential hit tool at the next level.
The one facet of his game that’s remained consistent—other than his defense in center field—is his ability steal bases; his 39 steals currently stands as the third-highest total among all NCAA Division I players.
If Engel’s bat never comes around, there’s a decent chance he won’t make it past Double-A. At the same time, hitting for a respectable average while reaching base at a decent clip could lead to a career as a fourth outfielder in the major leagues.
Honorable Mentions: RHP Jonathan Crawford (Florida), 1B Rowdy Tellez (Elk Grove HS, Calif.), RHP Brett Morales (King HS, Fla.), RHP Ryne Stanek (Arkansas), OF/RHP Michael Lorenzen (Cal St. Fullerton)