Stanford's Mark Appel has a chance to be the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, but is he the top pitcher on the board?
While the overall depth in the 2013 Major League Baseball draft is lacking, the one area of strength is pitching.
In particular, the right-handed pitching in this class appears to be very strong. There are some high-quality southpaws with tremendous upside available, but you will find a ton of righties who go early and often.
Obviously, everything starts with Stanford's Mark Appel and Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray. The former started the year as the consensus top player available in the draft, but Gray has arguably been the most impressive performer from both a statistical and stuff standpoint.
With draft day rapidly approaching, it is time to breakdown the best of the best arms that this class has to offer. Here are the top 10 pitchers available in the 2013 MLB draft.
Strengths: Harvey has a very projectable frame, currently listed at 6'3", 175 pounds and is already showing average velocity. By the time he fills out and matures, he should add another grade to his fastball. His curveball will flash above average, and the changeup could be average when he gets a better feel for it.
Weaknesses: Command of all three pitches is well below average. That's not unusual for a high school pitcher, but you would like to see him show more consistency with his stuff. The two off-speed pitches range from below average to average. He tends to be stiff with his mechanics, not always pushing off with his lower half and using more of his arm than he has to.
Overall: There is a lot to like about Harvey's future, not the least of which is that he has yet to commit to a college and appears ready and willing to sign a professional contract the second he gets drafted. His stuff and projection give him the ceiling of a very good No. 3, possibly even a No. 2 if the command comes around.
Strengths: Anderson has shown plus velocity at times this season. He has an excellent frame and can carry the workload of a 200-inning starter. His fastball is a little too flat at times, but he gets such good extension out front that it can explode on hitters and be difficult to pick up. His slider is big league ready right now, with sharp tilt and good velocity (81-85).
Weaknesses: Performance this season has been all over the place. He has faded down the stretch, though some of that can be attributed to being worked like a dog early in the year. Command and control is still a work in progress.
Overall: If Anderson's velocity from the beginning of the season returns in pro ball, he could be a quality No. 3 starter. If it doesn't, he is likely a back-end starter who can eat innings and miss a few bats. He could find a spot in the back of the first round or, worst-case scenario, in the supplemental round.
Strengths: Advanced stuff and feel for all three pitches (fastball, curveball, changeup). Polish is very good for an 18-year-old and he could have success at the lower levels of the minors right away. Kaminsky will flash plus velocity with the fastball and generates good arm speed. Deception in delivery thanks to a delayed stride to the plate that doesn't hurt control.
Weaknesses: Lacks the projection of a typical high school pitcher, as his 6'0" frame has already filled out. He won't add velocity to his heater, so he is basically a what-you-see-is-what-you-get arm right now. His size also limits the plane he gets on his fastball, making him a candidate to move to the bullpen down the line.
Overall: As a high school pitcher with three average or better pitches right now with solid command and control, Kaminsky comes with much less risk than a lot of players his age. Yet because he lacks that projection, he is not likely to rise above the No. 3 starter ceiling he has right now.
Strengths: Gonzales is one of the most polished and advanced arms in this draft. He features a four-pitch mix that he uses to keep hitters off balance. His changeup is the great equalizer and is a 60-65 offering. His command is well above average, allowing him to manipulate the ball to get weak contact.
Weaknesses: Despite having a good arsenal to choose from, Gonzales' fastball rarely tops 90 mph. He is able to keep it down in the zone, but big league hitters will be able to square it up, thus limiting his ceiling. He's rather slight of build, listed at 6'1", 185 pounds.
Overall: There is something to be said for a high floor player who can move quickly through a system and should be able to give you 180 innings of average performance. Gonzales won't be taken high in the first round, but his pitchability and feel makes him a good option to go in the first 33 picks.
Strengths: Serrano comes from a baseball family, with his father coaching at the University of Tennessee (where Serrano is committed to if he doesn't sign after being drafted). His delivery is tremendous, with great arm speed, no wasted motion and balance throughout ending with a powerful push from his lower half. He also flashes plus velocity on the fastball and an advanced curveball.
Weaknesses: There are concerns about Serrano's size—he is listed at 6'0", 185 pounds—that does hinder his ability to really drive the fastball down in the zone. While not a real knock on him as a player, it could be difficult to get him away from a college commitment to play for his father.
Overall: Another polished high schooler, Serrano has a higher ceiling than the aforementioned Rob Kaminsky thanks to a better breaking ball and a very good changeup that projects as a plus pitch. He could move quickly, at least by normal standards for an 18-year-old, thanks to an advanced feel for pitching and command.
Strengths: Excellent command of a three-pitch mix. Manaea may not be the pitcher he was last summer, but he will show three above-average or better offerings on a given day and remind you that he is still a very good left-handed starter capable of doing big things in the big leagues. His delivery can get a little whippy, but he can get the ball on hitters quickly with a big stride toward the plate.
Weaknesses: Manaea's stuff has regressed this year. He has battled hip and shoulder injuries, lowering his stock late in the season. His fastball could bump back up to the mid-90s offering it was last summer, and his slider could regain the sharp bite it had when he returns to full strength, but that is a lot of questions about a potential first-round pick.
Overall: There is no greater question mark among the top pitchers in this class than Manaea. If he finds his Cape Cod League form, he could pitch at the top of a rotation. If this year is more in line with what he is, he is a No. 3-4 starter who can eat innings.
Strengths: Big, durable frame with an explosive fastball that jumps out of his hand thanks to a long stride to the plate. Plus velocity on the fastball and has good life when it reaches the hitting zone. His slider has good velocity and will flash plus.
Weaknesses: Results this season have left something to be desired. His command and control tend to fade in and out. His fastball will stay up in the zone a little too much because he will sling the ball from a three-quarter slot rather than try to push it. While he does have feel for two breaking balls, neither one of them is consistent right now.
Overall: Given the fact that Stanek has plus velocity on the fastball, has shown two above-average or better breaking balls and makes good use of his wiry frame in his delivery, he has the tools to develop into a No. 2 starter. But he has to show better consistency and attack the zone much more in pro ball to come close to reaching it.
Strengths: Ball has a great frame already, standing at 6'6", 180 pounds, and plenty of room to fill out. He can add more bulk in the future, which will add velocity to a fastball that can already touch 93-94. His delivery is clean enough, even though there are times when he uses too much of his upper half and shoulder. Ball also shows some feel for a curveball right now.
Weaknesses: While the arsenal is very inspiring, Ball's command is well below average right now. He is much more of a thrower than a pure pitcher, though that can be attributed to the fact he plays the outfield as well and hasn't been able to completely dedicate himself to pitching. There is a lot of dreaming involved with Ball to get him to reach his ceiling.
Overall: Even though he could be drafted as an outfielder, Ball's best course of action would be on the mound. There just aren't a lot of left-handed starters capable of hitting the low 90s with a fastball and plenty of projection. Plus, if the pitching doesn't work out, he can always go back to hitting. His upside is that of a No. 2 starter with a plus fastball-curveball combination.
Strengths: Stewart has the best combination of present stuff, polish and projection among all the high school pitchers in this class. His fastball is already a plus pitch and is backed up by a wipeout slider. He also features a good curveball that he may not have to use, as well as a solid-average changeup. His arm speed is incredible, which isn't a surprise since he is also a quarterback with a scholarship to Texas A&M.
Weaknesses: For all the good that Stewart can do on the mound, and there is a lot, he is not without red flags. His delivery requires a lot of effort from his upper half, as he stays upright throughout and doesn't make good use of his legs. That also hinders his command, as he tends to throw the ball rather than glide it to the glove.
Overall: As long as Stewart forgoes his football scholarship, he has a ceiling and upside similar to that of Jonathan Gray and Mark Appel. He comes with much more risk than those two and will need at least four years of development, but he has the stuff and frame to be a very good No. 2 starter.
Strengths: Shipley features plus-plus arm strength and athleticism after playing shortstop for the first year of his college career. He has found a bright future on the mound with a fastball that shows plus-plus potential thanks to mid-90s velocity and solid movement. He features a very good changeup that has late fade down in the zone. His delivery is solid, with very controlled movement and then his arm explodes forward.
Weaknesses: While he features a curveball, Shipley is still getting a feel for it. He will have to throw it a lot more in pro ball to start throwing it for strikes and at least getting opponents to respect it. He is still relatively new to pitching, which means his mechanics will, at times, collapse on him and lead to inconsistent command.
Overall: With tremendous athleticism, three plus or better pitches and an improving feel for pitching, Shipley has the upside of a No. 2 starter. Worst case he probably winds up as a quality No. 3. He won't make it out of the first 10 picks.
Strengths: Gray has been the biggest riser among draft-eligible pitchers this year. His stuff has seen a full-grade improvement, with his fastball touching triple digits and a great slider. He is built like a horse and capable of eating 200-plus innings at his peak. His delivery works well as he maintains his balance throughout, strides long to the plate and gets explosive life on the heater.
Weaknesses: With two plus pitches, Gray won't need a great third pitch to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. That said, his changeup is still an inconsistent offering that is a little too firm out of his hand and can find a lot of barrels. His command will abandon him at times, but he controls his pitches so well that he should be able to succeed early on waiting for it to come around.
Overall: Gray might have a more exciting package than any other pitcher in this draft, but consistency and track record are two things that can't be understated. He has true No. 1 starter potential with three plus pitches and good control.
Strengths: Arguably the top player available in last year's draft, Appel has not missed a beat this season. In fact, if anything, he looks much better. His stuff is much crisper, with his plus-plus fastball playing up thanks to better command, a knockout slider and an improved changeup. His delivery is clean and simple. He repeats it well and understands how to pitch.
Weaknesses: There are very few things that you can pick apart with Appel right now. Everything you could have wanted him to change in the last 12 months to get better, he did. He still doesn't dominate, at least in terms of swings and misses, the way that you would like to see, but his strikeout rate has increased from 9.5/9 IP last year to 10.8 this year.
Overall: Appel is the best player, not just pitcher, available in this draft. He is a safe bet to reach his lofty ceiling as a No. 1 starter because of the improvements he has made from year to year. He may not go No. 1 overall just because the Astros might want to try and spread money around, and it is doubtful that Appel will sign for much less than the nearly $7.8 million the top spot is slotted at.
If you want to talk about the draft, or anything else baseball related, feel free to hit me up on Twitter.