MLB Draft 2013: Scouting the 10 Best Hitting Prospects
Because the 2013 MLB draft class lacks overall depth, it's especially important to distinguish between the best hitting prospects. There might not be enough talent later on to compensate for ill-advised early round selections.
The most talked-about position players in recent months have been college stars Colin Moran and Kris Bryant. Both third basemen seem to be surefire top-10 selections; they could even sneak into the top five. That said, high schoolers like Clint Frazier and Dominic Smith are expected to go in the first round as well.
The following 10 guys vary in terms of position, body type, baseball experience, etc. But of chief importance is their potential offensive value to major league teams and the likelihood that they'll reach that potential.
Experts from Bleacher Report and all across the industry know what to expect from these players. By continuing to read this article, so will you.
**The "through May 29" disclaimer has been used for players whose 2013 seasons haven't ended yet.
10. OF Billy McKinney, Plano West HS (Texas)
2012 stats: .446/.569/.786, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 7/14 SO/BB in 20 G.
Fortunately for Billy McKinney, this list isn't interested in players' fielding ability. He doesn't have much.
However, hardly anyone boasts smoother hitting mechanics. His consistent left-handed swing could make him an All-Star at the highest level, as there's potential for both an impressive batting average and strong power numbers.
One concern about McKinney—noticeable in the above video—is his habit of loading his hands deep before swinging. This creates a longer path to the ball, and that might affect his strikeout rate in the pros.
At 6'1"/6'2", McKinney is slightly undersized. Nonetheless, his great balance, hip rotation and upper-cut swing almost assure that he'll make it to the majors in some capacity.
9. Of Aaron Judge, Fresno State
2013 stats: .373/.461/.663, 11 HR, 36 RBI, 47/31 SO/BB in 52 G.
ESPN Insider Keith Law praises Aaron Judge for his "30-homer potential" (subscription required). The caveat regarding this Fresno State outfielder is his tendency to strike out.
Judge puts on an entertaining show in batting practice thanks to his raw power, though his lengthy swing could have trouble catching up to elite fastballs during actual games. His awesome bat speed partially compensates for that.
There frankly aren't any comparable major league players who tip the scales at 255 pounds with above-average athleticism and a right-handed swing. The best way to describe him is a beefier Jason Heyward from the other side of the plate.
8. 3B Eric Jagielo, Notre Dame
2013 stats: .388/.500/.633, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 33/35 SO/BB in 56 G.
Our own Adam Wells is of the opinion that Eric Jagielo is "a polished college hitter" who could be doing damage in the big leagues within two years' time.
He isn't a powerhouse like Aaron Judge, but his strong hands and forearms contribute to great bat speed (think 15-20 home runs, not 30-plus). Jagielo makes consistent contact despite holding the bat high during his stance.
Wells takes issue with his "inability to recognize and react to off-speed pitches." Impressive plate discipline should lead to Jagielo's selection sometime in the first round, nonetheless.
7. OF Hunter Renfroe, Mississippi St.
2013 stats (through May 29): .352/.445/.652, 15 HR, 54 RBI, 37/34 SO/BB in 55 G.
You know this is a special group of talent when a 1.098 OPS is the second-lowest on the list.
Hunter Renfroe is somewhat of a late bloomer. He didn't receive much attention coming out of high school (31st-round pick by the Boston Red Sox), but after three years at Mississippi State, there's an expectation that he'll be off the board midway through the first round.
As his MLB.com profile video hints, Renfroe enters the draft as a bona fide defensive stud with plenty of hitting potential. He's second only to Kris Bryant in terms of raw power. Although obviously smaller (listed at 6'1" and 216 pounds), he expertly transfers his weight by striding.
His strikeout rate has dramatically improved, yet ongoing concerns about his pitch recognition could prove problematic in pro ball.
6. 1B Dominic Smith, Serra HS (Calif.)
2013 stats (through May 29): .485/.620/1.015, 7 HR, 37 RBI in 26 G.
Finally, a first baseman!
Compared to the aforementioned hitters, Dominic Smith has more moving parts affecting his swing. His incredible baseball gifts will be for naught if everything gets out of whack. ESPN's Keith Law worries (subscription required) about his work ethic, though he insists that he's fine in terms of poise and makeup.
The swing itself is arguably the smoothest in this draft among left-handed prospects. Smith generates power from his lower half and goes through dominant stretches when he remembers to keep his weight back.
To be clear, there's a very, very high ceiling on this kid.
5. OF Austin Meadows, Grayson HS (Ga.)
2013 stats: .535/.633/.930, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 10/19 SO/BB in 24 G.
It's doubtful that Austin Meadows accepts a scholarship from Clemson considering how high he'll likely be selected in the 2013 draft. It would be surprising if he dropped outside the top 10.
The raw two-sport star will need extra time to marinate in the minors, but he will ultimately be a middle-of-the-order bat with terrific power and contact ability. Scouts expect the 200-pounder to add considerably more weight in the coming years.
Utilizing a tiny toe-tap, Meadows is very calm at the plate. His bat accelerates quickly once loaded.
At this point, he's a bit reluctant to drive pitches to the opposite field. Adding more of a stride might improve his ability to cover the outside part of the plate.
4. 1B/3B D.J. Peterson, New Mexico
2013 stats (through May 29): .411/.525/.823, 18 HR, 70 RBI, 32/46 SO/BB in 53 G.
Keith Law (subscription required) draws attention to the fact that New Mexico's home ballpark is at a high altitude, thus inflating power numbers. In reality, D.J. Peterson doesn't profile as a home-run king.
However, the corner infielder is a selective hitter who regularly squares up the baseball when deciding to pull the trigger. Our own Mike Rosenbaum is drooling over his "superb bat-to-ball ability" that should expedite his journey through the farm system.
Peterson's future is bright, but his potential finite so long as there isn't much leverage in his swing. Right now, best-case scenario would be a Michael Young-type career (not that there's anything wrong with being a seven-time All-Star and batting champion).
3. OF Clint Frazier, Loganville HS (Ga.)
2013 stats: .485/.561/1.134, 17 HR, 45 RBI in 32 G.
MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo says that scouting Clint Frazier is "almost like scouting a college hitter"—a testament to how advanced his skills are.
Frazier actually had gaudier offensive stats as a junior (24 HR and 58 RBI), but he opted for a more aggressive approach this past spring. No reason to take a first-pitch fastball when you possess the best bat speed in the nation, right?
Much like Hunter Renfroe, he'll need to get better at identifying breaking balls. While Frazier can tattoo mistakes over the wall, he regularly looks foolish against off-speed stuff thrown low and away.
No pressure or anything, but Dave Perkin of SI.com compares his skill set to Andrew McCutchen's.
Coming from the same region of Georgia as Austin Meadows, Frazier has known him for nearly half as life, according to MLB.com. They watched Nickelodeon together, and now they'll get rich together.
2. 3B Colin Moran, North Carolina
2013 stats (through May 29): .357/.485/.579, 13 HR, 84 RBI, 20/55 SO/BB in 60 G.
Via Twitter, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports was the first to report that Colin Moran is a serious candidate to be selected by the Houston Astros with the No. 1 overall pick.
Adam Wells attributes that to his "advanced approach."
Much of what Moran lacks in athleticism, he makes up for with his consistency and experience at a top-flight baseball program like North Carolina.
But that doesn't cure all ills. Moran sets his hands unusually deep, which exposes him to high velocity on the inner part of the strike zone. Many suspect that he'll eventually settle in at first base, where his 20-homer power wouldn't be so special.
With all that said, the team that selects Moran will get a very safe prospect who makes plenty of hard contact. Perhaps he'll become Kevin Youkilis someday.
1. 3B/OF Kris Bryant, San Diego
2013 stats (through May 29): .340/.500/.860, 31 HR, 62 RBI, 40/62 SO/BB in 58 G.
According to Mike Rosenbaum, "[Kris] Bryant is the only prospect in this year’s draft class with 80 power." ESPN's Keith Law raves about Bryant, whose home run ability is "virtually unparalleled" in by other amateurs. He feels certain that it will translate to plenty of extra-base hits on the major league level.
Bryant has a desirable combination of size, hip rotation and swing trajectory. Even if everything goes wrong during his development, there's a high likelihood of a decade-long career.
He'll cause headaches with the occasional hat trick. Bryant's bat speed isn't exceptional, which explains why his contact rate doesn't stack up to those of the two next-best college hitters. His batting average will suffer as a result.
Bryant looks like a nice fit for the Colorado Rockies at No. 3 overall.