In prospect evaluation, it's often necessary to compare a young player to a past or present major leaguer as a means of projecting his overall future potential.
A prospect is typically assigned two distinct comparisons: one that reflects his physical state and projection, and another that reflects his performance ceiling.
For this series, however, I combined them to come up with a single, unique comparison for each of the top 25 prospects listed in my final pre-draft rankings.
Here's an in-depth look at big league comparisons for the top prospects in the 2013 draft class.
At 6’7”, 255 pounds, Fresno State outfielder Aaron Judge is an absolute physical specimen with surprising athleticism and loud tools.
As one might expect, the right-handed hitter boasts plus-plus raw power to all fields and has shown the ability to utilize it more consistently this spring. Like most long-limbed sluggers, strikeouts will always be part of his game, as his swing can get long at times and he struggles to drive pitches at the bottom of the strike zone.
On the other side of the ball, Judge’s above-average range and plus arm are ideal for a career in right field at the next level.
Given his monster frame, robust power and corner outfield profile, Judge continues to draw comparisons to Dave Winfield and Giancarlo Stanton.
Considering the lack of legitimate power prospects in this year’s draft class, he should come off the board sometime in the first round.
In a draft class that’s thin on impact bats, Eric Jagielo stands out for his potential to hit for both average and power at the next level.
At 6’3”, 215 pounds, the left-handed hitter has refined his approach over the last year, as he now chases fewer pitches out of the zone and demonstrates a feel for driving the ball the other way. Meanwhile, power will always be his calling card thanks to his strong wrists, above-average bat speed and leveraged swing through the zone.
The only real concern is whether he’ll be able to remain at third base; his glove and arm strength may be suitable for the position, but below-average speed and a lack of quickness result in fringy range.
Due to his strong build, swing plane and power potential from the left side of the plate, Jagielo has drawn comparisons to Jim Thome.
Regardless of whether he sticks at the hot corner, his offensive potential makes him a sure-fire candidate to be drafted in the first round.
In a draft class that’s thin on projectable catchers, Jon Denney stands out for his potential on both sides of the ball.
A 6’2”, 205-pound right-handed hitter, he has a quick bat and solid bat path that allows him to make hard contact consistently. Meanwhile, his present raw power and ability to drive the ball with backspin carry suggest he’ll feature plus power in his prime.
Behind the plate, Denney is an average defender with room to improve as both a blocker and receiver. His plus arm strength is currently his best tool and should aid his quest to remain at the position.
Given his profile as a bat-first catcher, Denney has drawn comparisons to Carlos Santana.
Although his draft stock has slipped due to an inconsistent spring season, he's still a safe bet to be selected in the first round. However, now it’s a question as to whether he’ll receive enough money to forgo his commitment to the University of Arkansas.
Undrafted out of high school in 2011 and once again following his freshman season at East Central Community College in 2012, a strong case can be made that shortstop Tim Anderson is the most improved player in this year’s draft class.
At 6’1”, 180 pounds, he was previously viewed as more of an athlete than a ballplayer despite the obvious potential for multiple above-average-to-plus tools.
One of only a few shortstops in the draft class believed to be capable of remaining at the position, Anderson is a plus runner with quick feet and an instinctual first step that lends to his above-average range. The only real concern regarding his defensive projection is whether the average arm strength will translate at the next level.
At the dish, the right-handed hitter is still somewhat of a work in progress with a swing geared toward contact and inefficient weight transfer that obstructs his already below-average power potential.
Given his athleticism, speed and potential as an up-the-middle player, Anderson has drawn comparisons to Jose Reyes.
If a team believes he can stick at shortstop, it’s conceivable that he’ll be off the board within the first 50 picks.
The son of former All-Star closer Bryan Harvey, Hunter has a projectable 6’3”, 175-pound frame with plenty of room to add strength as he develops.
As a result of playing for a local team during the summer, the right-hander’s draft stock has flourished this spring with many scouts laying eyes on him for the first time.
While his inconsistent mechanics result in a delivery with too much effort, it hasn’t impeded Harvey’s ability to work in the low 90s with his fastball while reaching back for a few extra ticks as needed.
Although it lacks a consistent shape and pace, the right-hander’s curveball is easily his best secondary offering, as he throws it in the 74-78 mph range with plenty of depth and some natural deception. Harvey does have a changeup, but like most dominant prep pitchers, it’s a raw and underdeveloped pitch due to a lack of necessity at the high school level.
Beyond the obvious projectable frame, Harvey has drawn comparisons to the Athletics’ Jarrod Parker due to his momentum-gathering pause at the height of his delivery and gliding action towards the plate with his front leg.
In any other year, Harvey’s lack of a college commitment may have worked against him and caused him to fall out of the first round. But due to the lack of impact talent in this year’s draft class, he should be one of the first prep arms to come off the board.
Because he’s spent his college career carving up hitters in the Southland Conference, there’s a common misconception that Oral Roberts right-hander Alex Gonzalez’s success is a result of facing inferior competition.
However, the fact of the matter is that the 6’3”, 200-pounder has a legitimate feel for pitching with a four-pitch mix of average-to-plus offerings.
Employing a simple yet efficient delivery that utilizes his strong lower half and clean arm action, Gonzalez pounds the zone with a 91-94 mph fastball with significant sinking action and run to the arm side.
The right-hander complements his heater with a plus slider in the mid-to-upper-80s that induces both whiffs and weak contact. He’ll also mix in a changeup periodically, though it’s only an average-at-best offering and serves as more of a “show-me” pitch to keep opposing hitters off his fastball and slider.
Due to the similarities in their frame, arsenal and aggressive approach on the mound, he’s drawn comparisons to Matt Cain.
While he doesn’t have as high of a ceiling as the Giants right-hander, Gonzalez has the makings of a No. 3 starter in the major leagues.
Due to the lack of projectable talent behind the plate in this year’s draft class, Ciuffo’s stock has gained steam throughout the spring thanks to his potential on both sides of the ball.
At 6’1”, 200 pounds, he’s an excellent receiver with a soft glove and the ability to frame pitches better than most prep backstops.
While he has the arm strength for the position, his armstroke can be inconsistent, and he’ll need to learn how to streamline his throws.
At the plate, Ciuffio offers above-average power potential from a premium position thanks to a short, simple swing that allows him to turn on the ball with authority.
Due to his upside as an above-average defensive catcher with left-handed power, he best compares to the Tigers’ Alex Avila.
Coming off a strong showing in the Cape Cod League last summer, Austin Wilson suffered a stress reaction in his right elbow in Stanford’s opening series against Rice.
However, since returning to the field in early April, the 6’5”, 245-pound outfielder has showcased his usual blend of athleticism and tools and, more importantly, revived his prospect stock.
Although he’s physically strong with plus bat speed, Wilson features the quintessential Stanford upper-body swing that’s geared toward contact. But with improved use of his lower half, the right-handed hitter should be able to tap into his robust raw power. On defense, he has all the makings of a big league right fielder with average range and plus arm.
Due to his sheer size, loud tools and corner outfield projection, Wilson has been compared to Giancarlo Stanton and Dave Winfield.
As a raw but high-ceiling college player, he may need some additional seasoning in the minor leagues, but the final product could be an All-Star-caliber player.
Left-hander Ian Clarkin’s draft stock has taken off over the last year thanks to vastly improved secondary pitches and a strong showing last summer on the showcase circuit.
Beyond his projectable 6'2", 190-pound frame, he stands out for his fearless approach and overall feel for pitching.
The southpaw’s fastball sits consistently in the low 90s with deceptive arm-side run and scrapes 93-94 on occasion. Meanwhile, his impressive command of the pitch aids its effectiveness, as he throws it to both sides of the plate with conviction.
Clarkin’s breaking ball has been a revelation this spring after he made a few adjustments last summer and now stands as a legitimate plus offering with tight spin and swing-and-miss downer bite.
Although he sells his changeup with fastball-like arm action, it’s merely a usable pitch at the moment that flashes average potential.
Given his upside as a mid-rotation starter and potential for above-average command of three pitches, Clarkin has drawn comparisons to Mark Mulder.
But with concerns about his signability due to a strong college commitment to San Diego, don’t expect the left-hander to sign unless the money is right.
No high school pitcher has shot up the draft board this spring as dramatically as Phil Bickford.
At 6’4”, 195 pounds, the right-hander has the type of projectable frame that makes scouts drool.
Working from a three-quarters slot with fluid arm action, Bickford will sit in the low 90s with his fastball and can reach back for 95-96 as needed.
While he’s already shown a distinct feel for spotting it to both sides of the plate, the pitch stands to improve through the addition of some downhill plane.
Due to the dominance of his fastball at the high school level, Bickford’s secondary offerings are noticeably less advanced.
Though it has some bite, the right-hander struggles to consistently get on top of his slider, and he also throws a very raw changeup that will need to be developed as a professional.
Given his ideal frame, present arm strength and ceiling of a frontline starter, Bickford has already drawn comparisons to the Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija.
Despite a strong college commitment to Cal State Fullerton, it’s doubtful that he’ll ever step foot on campus.
A third-round draft pick of the Mariners in 2010, Stanek instead chose to honor his commitment to Arkansas, where he’s emerged as a no-doubt Day 1 selection after three seasons.
With a projectable 6’4”, 190-pound frame, the right-hander features a plus fastball, as well as a curveball and slider that both flash at least above-average potential.
However, despite the impressive three-pitch mix, his inability to miss bats remains a legitimate concern.
Additionally, his high-effort and inefficient delivery suggests the potential for a future injury and will need to be cleaned up as a professional.
Based on his frame, the nature of his delivery and his projectable arsenal, Stanek best compares to the Cubs’ Edwin Jackson.
Even though he’s drawn mixed reviews with his performance this spring, the right-hander should still be one of the first pitchers drafted in June.
It’s not often that a prospect who projects to be a first-base-only player receives serious first-round consideration. However, that’s only a testament to the upside tied to Dominic Smith’s bat.
A 6'0", 195-pound left-handed hitter, he has an effortless swing with above-average bat speed that allows him to explode through the zone.
Beyond his projectable hit tool, Smith possesses plus raw power to all fields that should continue to improve as he develops.
Although he’ll be limited to a career at first base, he is an above-average defender with soft hands, plenty of arm strength and impressive footwork around the bag.
Given his present ability to use the entire field and overwhelming potential as a middle-of-the-order run producer, Smith has drawn comparisons to the Rockies’ Todd Helton.
Due to the lack of impact bats in this year’s class, he's a safe bet to be selected in the first half of the first round, and he could be an easy sign if he’s selected by the right organization.
Regarded as the top shortstop in the 2013 draft class, J.P. Crawford, who is a cousin of Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford, is an impressive athlete with a 6’2”, 180-pound frame and the potential for four average or better tools.
Defensively, he showcases smooth, fluid actions with above-average range in all directions, as well as a strong, accurate arm.
At the plate, the left-handed hitter will need to fine-tune his swing in the minor leagues but should hit for a solid batting average at the next level
Given his present ability on both sides of the ball and overall projection, Crawford has drawn early comparisons to Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro.
He’s far from a finished product, but Crawford has the upside of an everyday big league shortstop in his prime.
Although D.J. Peterson’s stocky 6’1”, 205-pound frame lacks physical projection and may restrict him to a career at first base, he’s arguably the best pure hitter in the 2013 draft class.
A right-handed hitter, Peterson’s quick wrists, level swing and innate bat-to-ball skills suggest the potential for a plus hit tool at the highest level, and his ability to control the strike zone and draw walks should always allow him to reach base at a high clip.
Peterson was a doubles machine with average over-the-fence pop when he arrived at New Mexico in 2011, but he has showcased improved power frequency in each subsequent season.
Despite his ongoing development as a third baseman, Peterson lacks the quickness and range to remain there long-term and will likely need to move to first base.
Taking that into consideration, as well as his potential to hit for both average and power as a professional, the most realistic big league comparison for Peterson is Paul Konerko.
Day 1 of the draft could also be a special day for D.J.’s younger brother Dustin, a prep shortstop in Arizona who’s also receiving first-round consideration.
Mississippi State outfielder Hunter Renfroe is a rarity in that he’s a late-blooming, high-ceiling college player with a collection of plus tools and plenty of room to develop.
At 6’1”, 216 pounds, he’s loaded with strength from head to toe and showcases top-flight athleticism on both sides of the ball.
A right-handed hitter, Renfroe has plus power that emerged in a big way last summer and has carried over into his impressive junior campaign.
Despite the fact that he finally is making consistent contact this season and has cut down on the strikeouts, fringy recognition of secondary pitches may impede the development of his hit tool at the next level.
On the other side of the ball, he has the potential to be an above-average major league outfielder with plus speed and an accurate plus arm.
Due to his overall athleticism and power-speed profile, Renfroe has elicited comparisons to former National League Rookie of the Year Raul Mondesi.
In a weak draft class that lacks impact bats, he’s a safe bet to come off the board within the first 15 picks.
The top two-way player in the 2013 draft class, Trey Ball is as impressive and projectable on the mound as he is in the outfield.
At 6’6”, 180 pounds, he is a remarkable athlete with an ideal frame for adding strength.
On the mound, the left-hander features an above-average fastball that could sit in the low-to-mid-90s at maturity, as well as an inconsistent curveball and changeup.
As a hitter, Ball showcases above-average bat speed and keeps the barrel in the zone for an extended period of time. While he does possess raw power, the left-handed hitter is just starting to tap into it.
Although he’ll likely be developed as a center fielder, Ball’s plus speed, above-average range and strong arm project favorably at all three outfield positions.
As a pitcher, he’s drawn comparisons to Nationals left-hander Ross Detwiler due to his wiry frame and promising arsenal, while his profile as a left-handed-hitting outfielder invokes memories of Shawn Green.
With his strong commitment to the University of Texas for the 2014 season, the team that drafts Ball will need to offer him a flattering signing bonus in order to change his mind.
In a draft class that’s thin on catching prospects, Reese McGuire stands out for his advanced defense and near-elite arm strength.
Presumably a lock to remain behind the plate, the 6’1”, 190-pound backstop has opened eyes this spring with a smoother swing and improved power frequency and has seen his draft stock soar as a result.
Given his athleticism and defensive prowess, McGuire is best compared to the Nationals’ Kurt Suzuki, though he’s expected to offer more with the bat at the next level.
Although he’ll need considerable time to develop in the minor leagues, McGuire has the ceiling of an All-Star and Gold Glove-caliber backstop in his prime.
The definition of a high-ceiling, projectable prospect, everything Austin Meadows does on the baseball field appears effortless.
At 6’3”, 215 pounds, he has the potential for four average or better tools, including a plus hit tool thanks to a smooth, level left-handed swing. But for that same reason, there is also some doubt as to whether he will hit for power at the next level.
A natural center fielder, Meadows is expected to remain at the position as a professional—though there’s always a chance that he’ll move to a corner spot if he ultimately loses a step.
Given his ability on both sides of the ball, Meadows has already drawn comparisons to the likes of Jay Bruce and Colby Rasmus at the same age.
He doesn’t have the physical maturity or impact tools of his good friend Clint Frazier, though Meadows undoubtedly gives more to dream on down the road.
A 6'3", 215-pound left-handed hitter, Colin Moran possesses arguably the best combination of hit-tool projection and plate discipline in the entire 2013 draft class.
The nephew of former All-Star outfielder B.J. Surhoff, he’s adept at using the entire field and already controls the strike zone as well as many major league hitters, though there is some uncertainty as to whether his above-average power will translate at the next level.
He’ll never wow anyone with his defense at third base, but his overall consistency should help him remain at the position long-term.
Due to his ability to hit for average and get on base at a favorable clip, Moran best compares to the Mariners’ Dustin Ackley, who also attended North Carolina.
Given his track record and mature approach, Moran could enjoy a similar rapid ascent to the major leagues.
A shortstop during his freshman season at Nevada, Braden Shipley became a full-time pitcher in 2012 and has since ascended to the top of the draft class.
The cousin of former NFL wide receiver Jordan Shipley, Braden is an outstanding athlete with smooth mechanics, a fast arm and a projectable arsenal that have drawn comparisons to Boston’s Clay Buchholz.
The 6’3”, 190-pound right-hander has enjoyed a velocity spike this season that’s pushed his fastball as high as 97-98 mph, while his plus-plus changeup is arguably the best in the entire draft class.
Shipley is a rarity in that he’s a successful college pitcher with little mileage on his arm and is just beginning to tap into his potential.
The top prep pitcher in the 2013 draft class, Kohl Stewart is committed to Texas A&M as a two-sport athlete and is regarded as one of the top pro-style quarterback recruits in the country.
A 6’3”, 215-pound right-hander, Stewart has a low-to-mid-90s fastball that has touched 97 mph, a slider that should serve as an out pitch at the next level and a raw, underused changeup.
Given his Texas background, projectable frame and plus fastball, Stewart best compares to Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller.
His delivery requires some effort, and his mechanics will need to be cleaned up as a professional, but he has the makings of a high-end No. 2 starter.
Beyond his shaggy mop of red hair, Clint Frazier stands out with his blinding bat speed, which is easily the best in the draft class.
The 6’1”, 190-pound outfielder has the potential for a plus hit tool in the major leagues, and he already possesses the physical strength to hit for power at the next level.
Although his overall future potential shouldn’t be compared to Mike Trout’s, the two players have a similar build, as well as elite bat speed.
He’s currently a center fielder, though his average range and arm strength may ultimately force him to either right or left field.
At 6’5”, 215 pounds, the University of San Diego’s Kris Bryant is the top power hitter in this year’s draft class.
In addition to out-homering every other NCAA Division I player this season, the right-handed hitter has also out-homered most Division I teams.
Due to his physical size and high ceiling as a middle-of-the-order hitter, Bryant has drawn comparisons to Troy Glaus at third base and Matt Holliday in the outfield.
There’s some uncertainty as to whether he’ll remain at third or move to a corner outfield position as a professional, but his robust power should make him an impact player either way.
Jonathan Gray has shot up the boards this spring thanks to a velocity spike into the upper 90s and even 100 mph at times, and he has shown vastly improved command of his slider and changeup.
At 6’4”, 239 pounds, the right-hander is the epitome of a power pitcher with the frame and stamina to work deep into games.
Given the combination of his size, stuff and bulldog mentality on the mound, Gray has drawn ongoing comparisons to Roger Clemens.
He has the stuff to immediately dominate at the next level, and it may not take him long to reach the major leagues.
After turning down $3.8 million from the Pirates last June, Mark Appel once again ranks as the top prospect in this year’s draft class.
At 6’5”, 215 pounds, the right-hander repeats his delivery well and features a three-pitch mix of above-average-to-plus offerings. Appel has drawn comparisons to Mark Prior for his clean, repeatable mechanics and mature arsenal.
He has the makings of a frontline starter in the major leagues but may be challenged upon turning pro after dominating college hitters for the last two seasons.