The 2013 MLB first-year player draft is scheduled to commence on Thursday afternoon, as many of the nation's biggest college and high school stars will anxiously await the arrival of their name being called out as a first-round pick.
Much of the banter surrounding this year's draft falls with the Houston Astros, who hold the top selection and have a choice between a talented array of prospects which include pitchers Jonathan Gray and Mark Appel and position player Colin Moran.
Looking at the top 10, we start to see more high school players enter the radar, including Texas native Kohl Stewart and Georgia buddies Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows, all of whom are looking to secure a place inside MLB's draft "lottery," if you will.
With only a matter of hours before these young players become professional athletes, here's a last-minute look at the way the first round might play out on Thursday afternoon.
1. Houston Astros: 3B Colin Moran, North Carolina
There's a growing sense that playing this thing close to the chest would signal someone other than Jonathan Gray or Mark Appel being taken with the No. 1 overall pick, and in this mock, that's exactly the case with North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran.
One of the best all-around hitters in college this season, Moran is UNC's single-season RBI leader and has totaled 85 such knocks during the 2013 campaign in Chapel Hill.
Although his potential isn't quite up to snuff with respect to his overall value, he's a high-quality college bat who should make the transition to the pro level rather quickly.
2. Chicago Cubs: RHP Mark Appel, Stanford
Stanford star Appel was the No. 8 overall selection in the 2012 MLB draft before heading back to school for one more year, and he's in the rare list of guys who improved upon their lottery status (even by just a few picks) by risking the money and playing one more season in college.
Stating to ESPN's Tim Keown that he has no regrets about a decision to return to Stanford, that decision will be vindicated if he falls somewhere inside the top three.
The Cubs can make that happen by taking Appel, who had 130 strikeouts during his final collegiate season.
3. Colorado Rockies: RHP Jonathan Gray, Oklahoma
Considered to be one of two pitchers with an ace ceiling, Gray lit the world on fire at Oklahoma this year and is very much in play for the top pick with the Astros on the clock.
It's unclear whether Gray's positive test for Adderral (via ESPN's Keith Law) will affect his draft stock, but the power pitcher won't fall out of the top five even if teams decide the recent news is somewhat concerning.
A power pitcher with a plus fastball, Gray could be in the majors very, very soon.
4. Minnesota Twins: 3B/OF Kris Bryant, San Diego
Minnesota is probably expecting the top three picks to pan out like this, which would give the franchise a choice between San Diego star Kris Bryant and young Texas high school ace Kohl Stewart.
While Stewart makes sense for a franchise looking for pitching help, Bryant is one of the best hitters in this draft after picking up 31 home runs during the 2013 season—a number that dwarfs the rest of college competition.
Although he wasn't playing against the best pitchers the NCAA has to offer, it's hard to hit 31 home runs at any level of play, and Bryant has caught a number of eyes with his power potential. A choice is still going to linger for Minnesota until the pick comes in, but right now I would lean more toward Bryant.
5. Cleveland Indians: RHP Kohl Stewart, St. Pius X High School (Texas)
Although Stewart has a chance to go play backup quarterback at Texas A&M behind Heisman winner Johnny Manziel next season, he also has a chance to cash in big by being a top-five pick in the draft this year.
His two-sport status being turned into one sport likely depends on it.
As noted by Houston Chronicle reporter Keith Calkins in his preview of Stewart and what Texas A&M is likely going to lose when the draft commences, there's little chance that he chooses to forgo a huge signing bonus for a short stint with the Aggies, but stranger things have happened.
The Indians won't let him slip past No. 5, and they will need to put their negotiation pants on in a hurry to ensure he doesn't dip back into the draft pool next year.
6. Miami Marlins: RHP Braden Shipley, Nevada
One of the most electric arms in the 2013 draft class, Braden Shipley will likely go anywhere between No. 6 and No. 15 if you look at the way that some are projecting the first round to pan out.
This is likely a best-case scenario for the Wolfpack star, with Miami needing help at all positions on the field and there being little doubt that Shipley is one of the top-five arms in this class without question.
Once the team's shortstop during his freshman season, a move to the mound paid dividends that should reap this young man a nice payday by being a top-10 pick.
7. Boston Red Sox: OF Clint Frazier, Loganville High School (Ga.)
Frazier is one-half of the well-chronicled duo of himself and Austin Meadows, both of whom hail from Georgia and both of whom will likely be top-10 picks in the draft when it's all said and done.
Frazier is the prospect with less risk surrounding his name, as his Loganville days produced a scouting report that includes positive selling points on his bat speed, raw power and the amount of home runs he put up as a high schooler.
Although a center fielder now, Frazier projects as a prototypical corner outfielder, and the Red Sox could really build for the future in the grass by taking him off the board at No. 7.
8. Kansas City Royals: RHP Ryne Stanek, Arkansas
Ryne Stanek is another pitcher who went back to school to improve his game, and that's exactly what happened with another season under his belt for the Razorbacks in 2013.
Posting a 10-2 record with an impressive 1.93 ERA this year with the Hogs, Stanek doesn't have the kind of raw strikeout numbers that some other pitchers in the first round do, but he has a clear command of his pitches and the Royals aren't a team that would say no to that kind of production moving forward.
9. Pittsburgh Pirates: C Reese McGuire, Kentwood High School (Wash.)
Finding a young, stud catcher is high on the list for the Pirates in this draft, and the cards falling to where Pittsburgh could draft high school star Reese McGuire would be a dream come true for Neal Huntington.
The Pirates' GM flew to Washington twice to scout McGuire, according to Anthony Witrado of Sporting News, and he would be a great fit as the Pirates look to bolster this part of their farm system for the future and in a short-term outlook.
10. Toronto Blue Jays: OF Austin Meadows, Grayson High School (Ga.)
Some mock drafts have this young left-handed outfielder going as high as the top five, but concerns about his power output and lack of intensity on the diamond have left Meadows slightly behind Frazier on draft boards.
Toronto won't mind that at all, as the Blue Jays will be eager to add this young man to the mix right away and see whether his skill-set is better suited long-term in center field or one of the corner outfield spots.
11. New York Mets: OF Hunter Renfroe, Mississippi State
After a disappointing junior season at Mississippi State, Hunter Renfroe quietly became one of the best outfielders in college for the Bulldogs during his senior year.
A team like New York won't be saying no to pitching or hitting help in this draft, and Renfroe's 15 home runs and 58 RBI this year prove that he has staying power at a high level if the transition is smooth sailing.
12. Seattle Mariners: 1B/3B D.J. Peterson, New Mexico
Taken by the team in the 33rd round of the 2010 draft, Peterson instead chose to go to New Mexico, where he would refine his game and avoid having to work his way up the ladder after being a high-round draft prospect.
That's exactly what Peterson did at New Mexico, and there's little doubt the Mariners would be interested in bringing him back in the fold if the Mets, Blue Jays and the rest of the top 11 fail to do so.
13. San Diego Padres: RHP Phil Bickford, Oaks Christian High School (Calif.)
Phil Bickford has the fastball to be taken in the first 10 picks, but there's no reason that he should be upset if the first few teams decide to reject his place in their organization moving forward.
With a 96 mph fastball and a developing set of secondary pitches, this California kid has picked up steam and is a high-rising prospect. As noted by Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Times, his 18-strikeout performance has turned a lot of heads, and the Padres would get a promising young arm at No. 13 with this pick.
14. Pittsburgh Pirates: 1B Dominic Smith, Serra High School (Calif.)
Another California high school prospect garnering a lot of attention, Dominic Smith is a smooth, left-handed first baseman who also shows promise on the mound.
Although he's only listed at 6'0, 195 pounds right now, there's plenty of room for growth into a bigger, stronger frame, and once that transition happens, there's no telling what kind of power numbers Smith could put up.
After getting their catcher needs taken care of with pick No. 14, adding Smith to the mix as a potential replacement for Garrett Jones would not be a bad pick at all.
15. Arizona Diamondbacks: LHP/OF Trey Ball, New Castle High School (Ind.)
With a fastball that touches 93 mph and frame that is downright imposing (6'6", 190), Trey Ball is the premier two-way player in the first round of this year's draft, and that could prompt teams to be unsure about which way to develop him at the next level.
Not that it will stop him from being drafted early—Ball is a lock in the middle of the first round after being Indiana's high school baseball player of the year and earning a commitment to Texas.
The general consensus is that Ball's future lies on the mound, but there's a case to be made that he could make a splash as an outfielder, too.
Arizona affords Ball the chance to do what he does best (pitch) and if he develops a quality breaking pitch, he could wind up being one of the best pitchers in the entire draft when we look back.
16. Philadelphia Phillies: RHP Alex Gonzalez, Oral Roberts
The 2013 Southland Conference pitcher of the year, according to TulsaWorld.com, Alex Gonzalez quickly became a name to watch after he won six games and posted a 2.30 ERA in 2012.
He continued that success into his next season and already had a track record of success well before he ever starred for Oral Roberts—Gonzalez was drafted in the 11th round in 2010.
The decision to pursue college turned out to be a wise one for Gonzalez, who winds up as a more-polished first-round pick and will get a chance to perform well for a team like the Phillies in his first couple of minor league seasons.
17. Chicago White Sox: SS J.P. Crawford, Lakewood High School (Calif.)
If a team ahead of Chicago at No. 17 decides it wants to address shortstop depth earlier in this draft, then J.P. Crawford will be coming off the board far sooner than this slot.
As it is, the young, well-rounded Crawford would be a welcome addition to Chicago's farm system, as many project the team to address the position with the pick regardless of whether Crawford is on the board when it is being made.
18. Los Angeles Dodgers: LHP Ian Clarkin, James Madison High School (Calif.)
Another tall, lanky left-handed pitcher in this draft, Clarkin is a California prep star who consistently hits 90 on the radar gun and should hover around that mark during the majority of his MLB career.
The only drawback right now on Clarkin's place in the first round appears to be the idea that he is still deciding between MLB and college, where the University of San Diego is anxiously waiting a decision on his future.
As noted by Craig Malveaux of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Clarkin is holding out for a nice payday in the form of a signing bonus, and if he slips much further down the board than No. 18, it's unclear what his decision might be.
The Dodgers could certainly use a new prospect to bolster their pitching staff in the future, and a California prospect like Clarkin would fit the bill at this point in the draft.
19. St. Louis Cardinals: SS Tim Anderson, East Central Community College (Miss.)
The Cardinals are likely looking at both Crawford and Anderson when it comes to top-tier shortstops in the first round, but they won't bat an eye if one is gone and another remains at No. 19.
Tim Anderson is a guy that is far from being a polished professional, but his bat and athleticism after playing his senior year at East Central in Mississippi provides enough evidence to suggest he can grow into an all-around star later on with three or so years in the minors.
20. Detroit Tigers: LHP Sean Manaea, Indiana State
A standout at the Cape Cod Baseball League in 2012, Manaea might have lost some shine from his strong showing at that event, but his stuff is electric when working properly and there's a reason some considered him a No. 1 overall candidate earlier in the spring.
Some struggles at Indiana State have moved him down the board, but the Tigers could find a left-handed steal in Manaea if he does indeed fall past the first 19 selections.
21. Tampa Bay Rays: C Nick Ciuffo, Lexington High School (S.C.)
A South Carolina recruit, Nick Ciuffo makes a lot of sense as a candidate to one day stabilize Tampa Bay's catching situation in the very near future.
A standout at his high school in South Carolina, Ciuffo is a left-handed hitter who has a strong arm behind the plate and throws with his right hand. The second of three catchers slated to be candidates to go in the first round, Ciuffo would have a clear-cut path to the majors if his strong high school play carried over to the bigs.
22. Baltimore Orioles: OF Austin Wilson, Stanford
Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle noted back in 2011 that Wilson had the tools to be a five-tool player one day in the majors, and those notes have come in handy when looking ahead to what he's become after a couple of seasons at Stanford.
Now that it seems like Wilson is ready to make the jump from college to the pros, it's important to understand how his development with the Cardinal has made him a power hitter to watch during the early part of his pro career.
With a huge arm, a better bat and a body that is already imposing in the batter's box, Wilson will make an MLB team very happy if he can adjust to major league pitching quickly. Baltimore makes sense, and Wilson landing in this range makes sense, too.
23. Texas Rangers: RHP Hunter Harvey, Bandys High School (N.C.)
Harvey has big-league bloodlines in father Bryan Harvey, and his place as one of North Carolina's top prep pitchers also has him as an automatic candidate to wind up being a first-round pick on Thursday afternoon.
Listed at 6'3", 175 pounds, Harvey has some work to do before he's ready to compete at the next level and follow the success of his once-closer father, but the tools are there to turn talent into production under the right coaching.
Bill Kiser of MLB.com noted that Harvey is champing at the bit to get his pro career underway, and there are few places right now where pitchers are turning into stars quickly than in Texas, where young guys like Justin Grimm and Nick Tepesch have already been given chances.
24. Oakland Athletics: RHP Chris Anderson, Jacksonville
Another large right-hander with front-line pitching prowess, Chris Anderson has been the ace at Jacksonville for the past couple of seasons and has the skills to develop into a fringe No. 1, clear-cut No. 2 rotation guy in the majors.
Although his win-loss record at Jacksonville doesn't indicate the value he could bring to the table at the next level, his ERA and ability to go deep in games are huge plus marks for teams looking for those characteristics in pitchers.
Oakland has always favored the numbers, and a guy like Anderson would be able to refine his command and continue to improve his pitch selection while making a splash in the minors early on.
25. San Francisco Giants: LHP Robert Kaminsky, St. Joseph High School (N.J.)
Pitching on the East Coast in high school, Rob Kaminsky is a guy you should pay attention to on draft day. Although his size doesn't project well for the next level, his stats certainly do—including a 0.14 ERA for his high school squad.
A spark plug of sorts because he doesn't have the extra few inches that make left-handed arms into No. 1 starters, Kaminsky has an advanced feel for his pitches at a young age and could wind up being a first-round guy who defies the odds despite not having traditional numbers in his favor.
For San Francisco, getting a kid like this late in the first round shouldn't be overlooked, especially with some of the other top left-handed names already heading to new teams above.
26. New York Yankees: OF Billy McKinney, Plano West High School (Texas)
Hailing from one of Texas' best baseball school districts, Billy McKinney is a corner outfield prospect who is getting some serious looks from teams wanting a guy to develop at the position on the farm.
With an ability to hit for average and power in high school and a swing that should produce power once his frame fills out, McKinney could be a steal for the Yankees at No. 26 in a few years once his power starts to come full circle.
27. Cincinnati Reds: OF Aaron Judge, Fresno State
One of the biggest position players in the draft, Aaron Judge is another player who turned down the bigs at a young age (2010 draft) to head to college for a shot to prove his worth.
His time at Fresno State did just that, as he managed to show off a live arm in the outfield, underrated speed because of his long strides and a bat that has power hidden beneath a swing that is still developing.
Keith Law of ESPN expects Judge to move from center to right field if he made a big league roster someday, and that's a spot that would likely fit in Cincinnati's plans within the next few seasons.
28. St. Louis Cardinals*: RHP Alex Balog, San Francisco
Somewhat of a draft-and-stash prospect right now, Alex Balog has impressed scouts with his size, his use of three pitches, and not much else.
Inconsistent would be a good word to describe him heading into Thursday, as his 3-3 record during the 2013 season at San Francisco would indicate.
The Cardinals are in no position to truly gamble on talent, but with the emergence of guys like Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha, there's no reason to think Balog wouldn't have ample time to harness his skills consistently.
29. Tampa Bay Rays*: RHP Ryan Eades, LSU
After addressing the catcher position with their first pick, the Rays get back to drafting what we know them for with pick No. 29—pitching.
LSU ace Ryan Eades might not last until pick No. 29, especially if franchises above are leaning more toward college talent than the exciting potential that a high-schooler would bring to the table.
Posting an impressive record at LSU this year and becoming a go-to guy in all situations for the Tigers, Eades can set himself up to be a lock as a rotation guy in the future if he continues to show the consistency and high velocity that made him a star at LSU.
30. Texas Rangers*: LHP Marco Gonzales, Gonzaga
The consensus on one of Gonzaga's best two-way players in the last few years is simple: Although upside is limited on his ability to improve velocity or breaks on his pitches, he's already a polished name who will be able to move through the minors with ease.
Posting 19 wins in his first two seasons with the Zags, Gonzales followed that effort up with another seven wins in 2013 and hit .311, to boot.
His future is clearly on the mound, where he commands three pitches and has the potential to be in Double-A before we blink. Texas took a pitcher at No. 23, but getting a guy like Gonzales at No. 30 would show excellent scouting skills from management to pull the trigger.
31. Atlanta Braves*: 3B Eric Jagielo, Notre Dame
Atlanta looks set at a number of major positions for the future. One position that still flies under that claim is third base, where the reality of how great Chipper Jones really was will likely rear its head soon enough.
Enter Eric Jagielo, a standout three-bagger from Notre Dame who had a very good college career—the 2013 Big East Player of the Year posted nine home runs and 53 RBI this season.
Although questions about defense remain, his bat is outstanding and adding some depth at this position would be a nice start for the Braves on Thursday.
32. New York Yankees*: C Jon Denney, Yukon High School (Okla.)
Denney is expected to be the second or third catcher off the board, pending the results of the first two names mentioned above. Possible destinations for his services include a few of the teams above (Cincinnati, Tampa Bay and Texas) pending how the first part of the first round shakes out.
With back-to-back picks at the bottom of the round, the Yankees can really comb through the players left on the board to find those who both fill a need on the farm and could turn into steals at this point in the selection process.
A strong young man with a defensive mentality, Denney would help the Yankees bolster a position of weakness on the farm right now while also providing value at the bottom of the round.
33. New York Yankees*: RHP Kyle Serrano, Farragut High School (Tenn.)
With the final pick in the first part of the first round, the Yankees get their third selection of the round by taking Kyle Serrano off the board at No. 33.
A commitment to Tennessee and father/future head coach Dave Serrano might be a roadblock to Serrano joining a big league club early on, but a team like the Yankees would offer a guy like Serrano to prove his worth in the command and durability department early on.
*Denotes compensation pick.
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