Chicago Cubs 2013 MLB Draft: Projecting Their Top 5 1st-Round Targets

Jared DwyerCorrespondent IIIMay 24, 2013

Chicago Cubs 2013 MLB Draft: Projecting Their Top 5 1st-Round Targets

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    Last November I posted a slideshow with a self-explanatory title, “Cubs’ Top 5 Draft Targets in the 2013 MLB Draft.”  All five draft targets were collegiate starting pitchers.

    Not much has changed since then regarding what position the Cubs need to target with their first-round selection, No. 2 overall.  However, while the forthcoming updated list is still compiled entirely of pitchers, the players they should consider have somewhat changed.

    Still included in the list are Mark Appel (the projected No. 1 overall pick), Ryne Stanek and Sean Manaea.  New to the list are Jonathan Gray and Marco Gonzales.

    Legitimately, the Cubs should only consider Mark Appel or Jonathan Gray with their first-round pick.  But with the wheelin’ and dealin’ front office the Cubs have, anything's possible.

    Coming up, Jonathan Gray and Marco Gonzales will be presented with an in depth scouting report; but in the cases of Appel, Stanek and Manaea, there will be links to my original scouting reports from last November along with applicable updates.

Mark Appel: Starting Pitcher, Senior, Stanford University

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    Little has changed in the way Appel is believed by most baseball news outlets to be the projected No. 1 overall pick.  In SI.com’s Dave Perkin’s MLB Mock Draft, Appel is slotted to go to the Cubs at No. 2 behind Jonathan Gray.

    In his breakdown, he believes the Astros could go with Gray. Perkin hints at finances being the reason:

    …so [Houston Astros GM, Jeff Luhnow] may try to copy last year's strategy by drafting a player they can sign easily and still have plenty left over for their other top picks. The slot amount for the number one pick is $7,790,400. Houston will probably try to draft and sign a player for around $5 million and then use the remainder to lure other players selected in later rounds into signing. 

    Not to be repetitive, but as stated in the Mark Appel slide of my “Cubs’ Top 5 Draft Targets in the 2013 MLB Draft” slideshow, part of the reason Appel was not selected No. 1 overall in 2012 was due to Appel and his agent, Scott Boras, essentially pricing the stud pitcher out of the Astros’ spending range. 

    But at that time Appel was a entering his senior season; allowing him to demand maximum compensation.  This year he does not have that luxury.

    If you consider what Dave Perkin believes to be the Astros’ plans, then it is possible Appel could be available when the Cubs place their selection. 

    And with being close to major league-ready, Mark Appel has the stuff and ability to follow a path similar to Stephen Strasburg:  Sign in August (or earlier) and make his MLB debut in June of the next year.

     

    **To view the Mark Appel scouting report, click here.

Jonathan Gray: Starting Pitcher, Junior, Oklahoma University

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    Like Mark Appel, Jonathan Gray is close to MLB-ready—maybe not quite as close as Appel.  And also like Appel, Gray has the potential to be a top-flight, long-term, front-end starter.

    At 6’4", 240 pounds, Jonathan Gray is a big kid with a big arm. 

    According to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com and Mark Anderson of Baseball Prospect Nation, Gray sports a plus-plus fastball that runs in the upper-90s and has been clocked in the triple digits late in his starts, to go along with a nasty power slider in the mid- to upper-80s, a good changeup and a developing curve.

    Nick J. Faleris of Baseball Prospectus holds Jonathan Gray in high regards, as well.  Because of his plus-plus fastball and plus slider—potentially plus-plus, too—he sees a bright future for the hard-throwing righty:

    Gray would be a potential number one overall selection in any draft class, but particularly so this year.  His pure stuff is elite, he maintains his velocity and quality slider late in starts, his build is strong and durable, and his performance this spring has been lights out…Gray is almost certain to come off the board in the first three picks and profiles as a front-end starter with true ace upside.

    By all accounts Gray has good overall mechanics, but in his breakdown of Gray, Faleris points out that while “Gray is generally clean through his motion…the biggest hiccup [comes] on his plant and running through release.”

     

    The “run through release”—as I’ve come to understand it—basically means after the ball leaves his right hand his momentum carries him toward the first base line.  That “run off the mound” led Mark Anderson to close his summation of Gray’s delivery and mechanics with two words:  “won’t field.”

     

    But Faleris does not necessarily see the hitch in Gray’s mechanics as much of a problem.  In fact, Faleris says, “[w]ith some slight improvements in flexibility and smoothing out in his landing and release, a drafting org could see another bump in Gray’s stuff, as well as in his command and already solid control.”

Sean Manaea: Starting Pitcher, Junior, Indiana State University

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    Ranked as the ninth overall draft prospect by MLB.com’s 2013 Prospect Watch, Sean Manaea is the highest ranked full-time left-handed pitcher in this year’s MLB draft—Trey Ball is ranked No. 8, but along with being a LHP he is also an outfielder.

    After having an amazing stint in the Cape Cod League last summer, in a February 20 article Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com wrote that “Manaea took a leap forward and is considered by many scouts to be the favorite in an unsettled field to go #1 overall in June.”

    But according to Jonathan Mayo, “[H]e hit a bit of a stumbling block, struggling with a hip issue and scuffling on the mound at perhaps the most inopportune time, making teams with picks in the top part of the first round pause.”

    Still, Manaea had one heck of a 2013 season with the Sycamores.  According to the stats listed for the lefty on MLBDraftInsider.com, as of May 15 in 11 starts Manaea has a 1.58 ERA with an opponent’s batting average of .184.

    Not too shabby for a pitcher that struggled with an injury.

     

    **To view the Sean Manaea scouting report, click here.

Ryne Stanek: Starting Pitcher, Junior, University of Arkansas

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    There isn’t much of an update for Ryne Stanek between November’s posting and this one.

    His fastball has been upgraded to a plus pitch, and he has been able to maintain that velocity throughout each start, according to Jonathan Mayo.  However, both Mr. Mayo and Joshua Vadeboncoeur of BaseballNewsSource.com believe Stanek’s mechanics will lend the power pitcher to a future in the bullpen.

    If he does find himself in the bullpen, for whichever team that may be, they would have themselves a “nearly MLB ready…wipeout reliever”, according to ScoutingBook.com

     

    **To view the Ryne Stanek scouting report, click here.

Marco Gonzales: Starting Pitcher, Junior, Gonzaga University

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    Many of the mock drafts and draft-eligible prospect rankings place this kid as coming off the board late in the first round.  He’s not flashy and isn’t dominant, but is still somehow one of the best pitchers in the college game.

    And while Sean Manaea has drawn a slight comparison to David Price by Dave Perkin in his MLB Mock Draft, in the same article Perkin has compared Marco Gonzales to being a lefty version of Jeremy Hellickson.

    According to Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt, Gonzales “is one of the most polished pitchers in the 2013 draft class…”

    Gonzales has a well-stocked arsenal including what John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall.com believes is “possibly the best [changeup] in the college ranks.”  

    “Gonzales has a four-pitch mix,” Dave Perkin says of the lefty, “changes eye levels and can move the ball to both sides of the plate with advanced breaking pitches.”

    From the previously mentioned Baseball America article by Aaron Fitt:

    Gonzales worked in the 88-91 mph range with his fastball, and he used his disappearing 76-80 changeup—one of college baseball’s best secondary pitches—to induce plenty of weak contact against right-handed hitters. He mixed in a 76-79 breaking ball as a get-me-over pitch, and he featured a short 81-82 cutter against lefties.

    His talents may not lend himself to being a No.1 or 2, but being the No. 3 or 4 behind Samardzija and Wood would not be too terrible for the Cubs.

Where’s Kohl Stewart?

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    Intentionally not included in the preceding slideshow is Kohl Stewart.  It is my personal opinion that the Cubs should not draft a high school pitcher.

    Frankly, I do not believe their arms are prepared for the throwing programs of even Low-A baseball.  And even if the Cubs do draft the high school prospect with one of their hypothetical first-round picks, he could opt to go play football at Texas A&M and cause the Cubs to wait until the 2014 draft to recoup that pick.

    I would much prefer the Cubs draft a pitcher that is more emotionally and physically mature.  His omission is not an indictment of his talents because, well, he is talented.  But rather his exclusion is due to a personal belief that MLB clubs should not draft high school pitchers in the first round.