The 2013 Major League Baseball draft is upon us, with several questions at the top and many more to follow after the Houston Astros make the first pick.
With so much volatility and uncertainty, things figure to get very interesting on Thursday night when Bud Selig steps up to the podium. As we anxiously await what will happen, it is the perfect time to rank the best players in this class.
Going position by position, there is clearly a gap between pitching, particularly right-handers, and everyone else. This doesn't look like a deep draft on paper, but there are plenty of future big leaguers to be found throughout this class.
Here are the best of the best at each position in the 2013 MLB draft. Players are ranked based on where they are most likely projected to play, not necessarily their listed position in high school or college.
No. 1 Jon Denney, Yukon (Okla.) HS
A premium offensive catcher with a gorgeous swing and bat speed, Denney just has to prove that he can stay behind the plate. His receiving and blocking skills are still very raw, though he does have a plus throwing arm.
No. 2 Reese McGuire, Kentwood HS (Wash.)
Most likely the top catcher taken, McGuire has the best combination of offensive and defensive skills. He has a great arm behind the plate, athleticism and power projection.
No. 3 Nick Ciuffo, Lexington HS (SC)
Ciuffo is probably the best defensive catcher among the top three in this class. He is very natural behind the plate, with good receiving skills and an improving ability to block balls in the dirt. His bat is a question thanks to a load where his hands start near his ear, move up slightly and then he rotates through the zone, giving him some length.
No. 4 Andrew Knapp, California
After the first three catchers, there is a huge drop in talent this year. Knapp is a borderline prospect as it is, despite being a four-year college player. He is a solid defender with some arm strength and receiving skills, but very few offensive skills.
No. 5 Dom Nunez, Elk Grove HS (Calif.)
Nunez is one of those prospects who has a solid all-around package but nothing that stands out. That will likely push him into the second or third round, where he won't come with as much risk and could end up as a steal in this class.
No. 6 Chris Okey, Eustis HS (Fla.)
Okey could easily wind up as the best catcher in this class, so I can say that I may be conservative in putting him sixth. He does have some risk, particularly on defense, where he is still trying to figure out the intricacies of the position. Okey's bat is improving and he has good speed for a catcher, though his power is likely to be modest, at best.
No. 7 Jacob Nottingham, Redlands (Calif.) HS
Nottingham, listed at 6'3", 220 pounds, is a great athlete but isn't natural behind the plate. His receiving skills are below-average. That could necessitate a move to the outfield, but his value rests as a catcher where his raw power is an asset.
No. 8 Stuart Turner, Mississippi
Plus arm strength and very good footwork behind the plate give Turner an excellent chance to be drafted in the first five rounds of the draft. He spent two years at a junior college before moving to Mississippi this year, where he has put up a very impressive .374/.444/.514 line in 62 games.
No. 9 Victor Caratini, Miami Dade Junior College
Built with a prototypical catcher frame at 6'1", 210 pounds, Caratini's raw tools have gotten him on the draft radar. He has a good line-drive swing and shows the ability to hit the ball to all fields. The biggest question remains about how advanced he is after facing mediocre competition.
No. 10 John Riley, Willow Glen HS (Calif.)
Riley has a stocky catcher frame at 6'0", 210 pounds. His arm is adequate and he shows enough skills to be an average defender behind the plate, though his lack of athleticism could hurt him when blocking balls and moving around. He generates power in his swing with natural strength more than bat speed, which could leave him susceptible to good velocity and won't allow him to hit for much average.
No. 1 Dominic Smith, Serra HS (Calif.)
A rare first-round, first base-only prospect, Smith is a tremendous athlete with a great arm (that he won't get to use much) and one of the best-looking left-handed swings in the draft. He is a premium defender at a position that doesn't demand it, as well as a high-upside hitter—both for average and power—who can be a star in the Adrian Gonzalez mold.
No. 2 Rowdy Tellez, Elk Grove HS (Calif.)
Already listed at 6'4", 225 pounds at 18 years old, Tellez's body will push him to the infield. But the bat profiles well there, as he has shown tremendous raw power and a good feel for hitting with patience and discipline.
No. 3 Drew Ward, Leedey HS (Okla.)
Ward is an interesting player, as his arm strength suggests he could play third base, but his big body and lack of athleticism are likely to make him a first baseman. He does have the power you want from a corner infielder, though he is still raw as a hitter and lacks bat speed to turn on good velocity.
No. 4 Ryon Healy, Oregon
One of the Pac-12's most consistent performers, Healy has an average offensive profile with a solid hit tool and power projection. He doesn't hit enough to be a star at the position, but is good enough to carve out some sort of big league career.
No. 5 Zack Collins, American Heritage HS (Fla.)
Collins has shown very good tools, particularly on offense, to the point where he could sneak into the first five rounds. He has bat speed, above-average raw power and a good enough glove for first base. He has a long load that will lead to a lot of strikeouts and could hurt the amount of power that plays in games.
No. 6 Brian Ragira, Stanford
Despite not being a great athlete with virtually no speed, Ragira could go relatively early on the second day of the draft as a first baseman with some bat speed and power. He has an undisciplined approach that will have to improve if he wants to make it past Double-A.
No. 7 Jake Bauers, Marina HS (Calif.)
Bauers does show the kind of raw offensive skills you want in a high school player limited to first base. He has a great idea of the strike zone, bat speed and power to drive the ball into the gap to all fields. Eventually it will translate into over-the-wall pop and could make him a decent big leaguer.
No. 8 Matt Oberste, Oklahoma
Injuries have taken their toll on Oberste's body, though that doesn't mean he won't have a big league future. He is actually a very good all-around hitter, even if he doesn't have the power profile for the position. He is very quick to the ball and should be able to hit for average with some on-base skills.
No. 9 K.J. Woods, Fort Mill HS (S.C.)
The first thing you look for in a first base prospect is power. Obviously the hit tool is important, because if you can't make contact with the ball, you can't show off your power. Woods has a ton of power in his 6'4", 215-pound frame, though his ability to make contact with velocity is going to be an issue thanks to a big swing and not a lot of bat control.
No. 10 Mason Katz, LSU
Nothing about Katz's physical profile suggests a big leaguer, especially not at first base. He is 5'10" and 188 pounds, slightly bigger than Dustin Pedroia or Jose Altuve. Yet he led LSU in homers (15) and extra-base hits (31). I don't think he will hit for much average thanks to a long swing, but should make enough contact to show off his surprising power.
No. 1 Tim Anderson, East Central Community College
There is a decent chance Anderson stays at shortstop—he is guaranteed to be drafted as one—but his fringy arm could push him to second base. He is still developing as a hitter and will have to prove he isn't succeeding by going up against soft competition, but shows decent rotation in his swing and is a plus-plus runner.
No. 2 Hunter Dozier, Stephen F. Austin
Dozier is big for a shortstop, where he plays at Stephen F. Austin, and will be one of the biggest second baseman in the big leagues at 6'4", 220 pounds. He does have the arm strength to play third base, as well. His offense is an asset wherever he plays, showing a very good approach and above-average power.
No. 3 Cavan Biggio, St. Thomas HS (Texas)
One of the more popular players in this draft thanks to his dad, Cavan Biggio will be selected in the second round on merit and not nepotism. He isn't a great all-around athlete and will be limited to second base, but he has a great approach to hitting with control of the strike zone and good pop.
No. 4 Riley Unroe, Desert Ridge HS (Ariz.)
While not the most physical player—he's listed at just 6'0", 180 pounds, Unroe has skills that play up thanks to an incredible feel for the game. It also helps that he has electric bat speed and above-average speed. He could play shortstop in pro ball, with a strong arm and some range, but his athleticism and agility would make him a strong second baseman.
No. 5 Jacoby Jones, LSU
Though he doesn't always show it in games, Jones has some of the best tools of any player who projects to be a second baseman in pro ball. He has a very good frame at 6'3", 200 pounds, plus speed and range. The questions are about how much he will hit, as his slash line of .283/.382/.417 this season doesn't inspire a lot of confidence, and he is very long through the zone.
No. 6 Adam Frazier, Mississippi State
Frazier stands out more for his instincts on the field than tools, as he doesn't really show anything plus. He could be an adequate shortstop with some range and soft hands. His offensive game will rest on being able to make contact and hit a lot of singles, since he is just 5'11", 174 pounds with no power. Think of him as a Jamey Carroll-utility type of player.
No. 7 Jack Reinheimer, East Carolina
Reinheimer's profile is very similar to Frazier's. He doesn't have one above-average or better tool, but does have some instincts that can carry him to a utility role. His bat doesn't profile well at second base, with little bat speed and no power, but he isn't a good enough defender to stay at shortstop.
No. 8 Ty Young, Louisville
If you watch Young before games, it is easy to fall in love. He has a very good, balanced swing and makes solid contact. The problem is he doesn't project to hit for any power because he is undersized and doesn't have much loft to elevate the ball. His above-average speed and instincts will give him good range at second base.
No. 9 Jamie Westbrook, Basha HS (Ariz.)
Bat speed is an asset that will carry Westbrook in this draft, though he probably won't be taken until after the fifth round. He isn't a physical specimen at 5'11", 175 pounds, but makes it work by making hard contact and really driving the ball, though he may not have more than fringe power against big league pitchers.
No. 10 Carlos Asuaje, Nova Southeastern HS (Fla.)
A high-risk, high-reward player, Asuaje shows very good bat control and feel for the strike zone that help his other skills play up. He is still learning to play the infield, but has enough range to be an average defender at second base.
No. 1 Kris Bryant, San Diego
Arguably the top position player available in this year's draft, Bryant has true plus-plus power with a very simple, quiet swing. He might swing and miss more than you like thanks to average bat speed, and there is a chance he moves to right field, but the pop is legit and a rare commodity in today's game.
No. 2 Colin Moran, North Carolina
Moran has the most polished bat in this year's class, with an incredible eye and approach that has led to an incredible 60-22 BB-K ratio for the Tar Heels. With that kind of bat and good frame, he should increase his power production to above-average or, in an ideal scenario, plus.
No. 3 Eric Jagielo, Notre Dame
Jagielo is one of the most consistent college performers in the country. He has been a star at Notre Dame the last two years, hitting over .300 and improving his approach. He doesn't have an elite tool, but is solid in all aspects of the game.
No. 4 Travis Demeritte, Winder-Barrow HS (Ga.)
It is dangerous to bet so much on a player as raw as Demeritte this high, but he is a tremendous athlete with some of the best bat speed in the draft. He is nothing special as a defender, so his offense will have to carry him into the first round.
No. 5 D.J. Peterson, New Mexico
Peterson is a bat-only prospect who may end up moving to first base, though his ability to hit, control the strike zone and above-average power could make him one of the fastest-moving players in this class.
No. 6 Chad Pinder, Virginia Tech
There is something to be said for the steady performer without a high ceiling. Pinder is an exceptional defender at third base with range, soft hands and a very good arm. His offense is limited due to the fact he doesn't project to hit for much power, though he does have a good feel for the strike zone and good bat speed to keep his average up.
No. 7 Dustin Peterson, Gilbert HS (Ariz.)
A polished high schooler, Peterson—the younger brother of D.J.—could sneak into the competitive balance round with a very good offensive profile thanks to plus bat speed, very little movement in his swing and athleticism. He will move to third base in pro ball, where his arm and glove project as above average.
No. 8 Ryan McMahon, Mater Dei HS (Calif.)
Showing power already and growing into more as his 190-pound frame adds more bulk in the coming years, McMahon is sneaky good. His defense is crude and will take time, but he can drive the ball to all fields and will eventually present plus pop with the bat.
No. 9 Drew Ward, Leedey HS (Okla.)
Ward is in an interesting state. He isn't a good athlete and very limited on defense, though if you want to dream, you may be able to see a fringe third baseman with some lateral quickness and arm strength. His offense is a bit more exciting than that, but he will have to prove his power will develop with just adequate bat speed.
No. 10 Jan Hernandez, Beltran Academy (Puerto Rico)
Hernandez will likely end up at third base by default, as his lack of athleticism and lateral range limit his overall prospects. His offensive ceiling, while not great, does present some intrigue since he can slap the ball to all fields, even though he will strike out a lot, and run.
No. 1 J.P. Crawford, Lakewood HS (Calif.)
Easily the top shortstop in this class, Crawford brings a solid package to the shortstop position with a decent swing that should allow him to hit for average but not generate much power. He does have a plus arm, range and shows good speed in the field and on the bases.
No. 2 Tucker Neuhaus, Wharton HS (Fla.)
It takes some dreaming to keep Neuhaus at shortstop, but he is a great athlete with good footwork and soft hands, making for a better than non-zero chance he stays there. His bat profiles well at the position, as he makes solid contact with a short, compact swing and has some power.
No. 3 Garrett Hampson, Reno HS (Nev.)
With plus speed and range, Hampson could be the second true shortstop taken in the draft—depending on how much you think Neuhaus can stay at the position. He won't have much power, but does bring good bat speed and offensive upside thanks to his ability to get down the line.
No. 4 Oscar Mercado, Gaither HS (Fla.)
If there were any clear sign that Mercado could at least hit for average, since his frame and swing are not going to produce power, he would be a first-round pick. That's how good his glove is, as he has great range, soft hands and tremendous instincts.
No. 5 Trae Arbet, Great Oak HS (Calif.)
Arbet uses quick actions to make up for his average arm strength. His range is very good thanks to plus speed. On offense, he is going to hit a lot of doubles and strike out a lot thanks to an impatient approach.
No. 6 Trever Morrison, Archbishop Murphy HS (Wash.)
Even though Morrison doesn't have great tools, his ability to stick at shortstop with a plus arm and good actions makes him a likely candidate to go in the first three or four rounds. His swing is a bit messy, as he gets out on his front foot too often, but he has some bat speed and can generate some line drives.
No. 7 Tyler Wade, Murrieta Valley HS (Calif.)
Wade has a very good shortstop profile with good instincts and above-average arm strength. His swing is problematic, as he starts wide open and just sets his lead foot down, leaving his upper body to generate most of the power. That requires much better bat speed than Wade has.
No. 8 Stephen Alemais, Elev8 Sports Institute (Fla.)
Alemais' only plus tool is arm strength, and he will have to prove his arm is not going to be a problem, especially with the bat, after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum last year.
No. 9 Chase Jensen, Oklahoma City University
Jensen is an unpolished college player who struggles with the bat against advanced pitching and will take a lot of time to develop. He does have solid actions at shortstop and a decent arm that could keep him there, but his bat is going to be a significant question mark.
No. 10 Bret Boswell, Heath HS (Texas)
Instincts and feel are the two words that best describe Boswell as a prospect. He does have some natural ability, like decent bat speed and control, but he is such a smart player that his average (at best) tools tend to play up.
No. 1 Clint Frazier, Loganville HS (Ga.)
The battle for the top spot is incredibly close, but Frazier gets the edge because of his elite bat speed and present plus power, even though he lacks the physical projection of Austin Meadows. He may not stick in center field, but his above-average speed and plus arm strength give him a decent chance.
No. 2 Austin Meadows, Grayson HS (Ga.)
Meadows is very quiet and smooth at the plate and in the field that he may not always impress you with his skills. He generates bat speed with good hip rotation and is very quick through the zone. He also has plus speed and a better chance to stay in center field than Frazier, though he comes with more risk.
No. 3 Hunter Renfroe, Mississippi State
Renfroe has finally put all his tools together this season for the Bulldogs, putting him in the mix for a top-10 to -15 pick. He has plus-plus speed and power, is a sure center fielder and plays above-average defense. He is unpolished for a college player, knocking him down ever so slightly.
No. 4 Billy McKinney, Plano West HS (Texas)
If you only project to be a left fielder in professional baseball, you have to be able to hit. A lot. That's exactly what McKinney can do, with one of the prettiest swings you will see in this draft. He is quick to the ball with very little stride and excellent hip rotation through the ball. He may not have more than average power, but it would be a shock if he isn't a consistent .300 hitter.
No. 5 Austin Wilson, Stanford
Wilson's stock is all over the place right now, as he missed time early in the season thanks to an elbow injury that really prevented him from showing what he is capable of. At his best, Wilson is one of the top college hitters in the country with a solid idea at the plate, big power and more than enough range and arm strength for right field.
No. 6 Aaron Judge, Fresno State
Judge is another player with big-time power potential, though he hasn't really tapped into it because it is easy to expose his holes down in the zone. Standing at 6'7", he will have to prove he can make contact with balls low to keep his average up and drive the ball out of the park.
No. 7 Josh Hart, Parkview HS (Ga.)
While not an incredibly exciting prospect, Hart does a few things really well that put him squarely in the second-round mix. He is virtually all upper body with his swing, starting from a wide-open base and closing in time to let his bat speed drive the barrel through the zone. He has speed and a feel for hitting, though his lack of power and fringy arm strength are negatives.
No. 8 Matt McPhearson, Riverdale Baptist HS (Md.)
McPhearson is a true center fielder with plus-plus speed that gives him range and a good throwing arm. His offensive polish and game are another story, as he starts his hands very low and could struggle to really drive the ball out, though there is enough bat speed to see him hitting for some average.
No. 9 Cord Sandberg, Manatee County HS (Fla.)
Sandberg is a two-sport star committed to Mississippi State to play quarterback, though his upside could make him an early first-round pick and get him enough of a signing bonus to forego college. He's a great athlete with plus speed and arm strength. He doesn't use much of his powerful legs in his swing, leaving it up to his arms and torso to generate some power.
No. 10 Ryan Boldt, Red Wing HS (Minn.)
Boldt remains on the list despite suffering a knee injury that prevented him from playing virtually any games this spring. Prior to the injury, he had plus speed and some decent pop, enough that his bat would play in center field. He has a commitment to Nebraska and could honor it, hoping to get more money in three years if he stays healthy.
No. 1 Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
The top player, pitcher or position in this class, Appel has looked even better this year than when he was the No. 8 pick in the 2012 draft. His combination of plus stuff, including a mid-90s fastball, slider and improved changeup, as well as polish and delivery make him a candidate to move very quickly through the minors.
No. 2 Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma
Gray has been the talk of the draft world for the last 48 hours, when Keith Law of ESPN reported that the Oklahoma righty failed a pre-draft drug test for Adderall. That minor headache aside, he is still a potential stud with one of the best fastballs in the draft and a much-improved slider. He can sit along with Appel, though Gray's lack of track record and slightly lesser command make him the No. 2 pitcher.
No. 3 Kohl Stewart, RHP, St. Pius X HS (Texas)
Other than Gray, no pitcher has a higher ceiling than Stewart. (Appel has a high ceiling, but not quite at the level of Gray or Stewart, though he has a higher probability of reaching his than they do.)
Stewart also has a commitment to play quarterback and baseball at Texas A&M. The odds of him making it to college are slim, as a team isn't likely to pass on an 18-year-old with a plus-plus fastball-slider combination and a good feel for pitching already.
No. 4 Braden Shipley, RHP, Nevada
Unlike most college pitchers, Shipley has the advantage of being relatively fresh since he didn't start pitching full time until his sophomore season. Of course, that also means he is a little more raw than the typical college arm. He can bring the heat with a mid-90s fastball and one of the best curveballs in the draft.
No. 5 Trey Ball, LHP, New Castle (Ind.) HS
Despite being a two-way player right now, Ball and his fastball that touches 92-93 mph and projectable 6'6", 180-pound frame will be on the mound when he enters pro ball. He also has some feel for a curveball and a delivery that, while it does have some effort, isn't likely to cause him problems.
No. 6 Alex Gonzalez, RHP, Oral Roberts
One of the big movers of this draft season, Gonzalez's ceiling as a very good No. 3 isn't going to knock you over, but he is so valuable because of his really good four-pitch mix, including a fastball that he can cut or sink, pitchability and feel.
No. 7 Ryne Stanek, RHP, Arkansas
Thought to be among the top two-three pitchers in this class, Stanek has struggled with consistency at times this year. When he is right, the Arkansas star will flash a plus fastball and slider that can miss bats against professional hitters.
No. 8 Phil Bickford, RHP, Oaks Christian HS (Calif.)
A late surge has Bickford in the mid-first-round mix at this stage. He has big velocity already, but lacks consistency and feel for anything else. If you love projection, it is not hard to see a No. 2 starter if the off-speed stuff and command come around.
No. 9 Ian Clarkin, LHP, Madison HS (Calif.)
Clarkin's delivery is a bit worrisome, as he is very stiff and has a lot of moving parts. But finding a lefty who can hit 92 with projection and feel for a curveball is a luxury that teams will work with to make sure he makes it.
No. 10 Hunter Harvey, RHP, Bandys HS (N.C.)
If you want projection, Harvey is the pitcher for you. He has a lean 6'3", 175-pound frame right now with the body to add a lot more muscle in the future and some velocity to an already above-average fastball. He will also spin a breaking ball, but lacks consistent feel for the pitch right now.