The 2013 MLB draft class has proved to be difficult to read for teams, scouts and analysts, but a couple of pitchers out there are can't-miss prospects.
Pitchers seem to dominate the top of draft boards every year, and this year is no exception. Some of the elite prospects in the class are aces who will transform the franchise that picks them.
Let's take a look at the pitchers who will come off the board early. A team can't go wrong with these aces.
Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
All of the talk about Stanford ace Mark Appel going No. 1 overall is well-warranted. The right-hander is one of the best pitching prospects to come out in years.
Appel spent three years playing for the Cardinal despite being drafted at No. 8 overall in last year's draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He turned down the Pirates' offer and decided to go back to school.
Now, Appel is regarded as the top overall pick in the draft and for good reason. He's been pegged for some time as one of the new-age pitchers along with Stephen Strasburg, who is three years his senior at age 24.
Appel would have been picked No. 1 overall in 2012 had it not been for signability concerns over his return to Stanford. Now that he's surely coming into the league, no team can pass up on him with the first pick, and that includes the Houston Astros.
Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma
It's unfortunate for impressive right-hander Jonathan Gray that he's coming out in the same class as Appel. Otherwise, he'd be a shoe-in for the top overall pick.
In fact, there's still some buzz that Gray could go No. 1 overall, according to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.
Whether the Astros, Cubs or any other team near the top pick him, Gray will turn into a great MLB ace with the ability to assume a team's No. 1 spot for a decade or more. Unless it's for Appel, no team should pass up on nabbing Gray.
Gray worked his way up from a 13th-round pick in 2010 to a 10th-round pick in 2011. And now, he's looking at a potential No. 1 overall pick.
Hard work does pay off, and Gray is a prime example of that. He has blossomed at Oklahoma into a pitcher who can carry the load on any MLB team.
Sean Manaea, LHP, Indiana State
Sean Manaea is the perfect example of a great player coming up through the Cape Cod Baseball League, a well-known summer league in New England that breeds MLB talent every year.
At Indiana State, Manaea wouldn't have been able to plant himself this high on MLB draft boards without the exposure he received while playing in Cape Cod. And it was well-deserved exposure, as Manaea looks like one of the best left-handers to come out in recent memory.
This big-bodied southpaw can overpower batters with a fastball around 94-96 mph, and his long stride makes for a deceptive pitch that most batters struggle to get used to. He also has a tricky slider in his arsenal.
Don't count out Manaea for the No. 1 overall pick, either. He could come in and steal the spot away from both Gray and Appel, according to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart.
With these three future stars available for the No. 1 overall pick, the Astros are sure to have their hands full with a tough decision.