Every amateur draft is a crapshoot, but the MLB's parlous version puts the NFL's and NBA's versions to shame.
Bigger, longer and far less marketable to advertisers, the MLB Draft is the riskiest proposition because unlike other leagues, it allows for high school players to be selected.
The infusion of prospects makes baseball scouting more difficult and more important at the same time. These kids are younger and more raw than the talent pool in other leagues. It's nearly impossible to project how their next few years will unfold.
But taking players that raw, while risky, is also a high-upside proposition. Prospects who flash precocious skills in high school can be acquired at a bargain; years of more-advanced training might just inflate their value.
That is why some teams choose to target high school-upside players with their early picks, placing a bet for the future that their value will proliferate over time.
Here are two shining examples of that philosophy from 2013:
The Pirates used their compensation from last year's Mark Appel pick on another player who might not sign with them. That might seem like history repeating itself, but the case with Austin Meadows is actually much different.
Appel was in 2012, just as he was in 2013, a prospect with with no basement but a reasonable ceiling. He's as close to a "sure thing" as they come, and though he projects to have quality starter stuff, he won't ever win a Cy Young.
Austin Meadows, who probably shouldn't have been around at pick No. 9, has a lower basement (he is still in high school), but his ceiling is higher than Appel's ever was.
B/R's Adam Wells coined him the highest-upside high schooler in the draft and compared him to Colby Rasmus, another power-hitting lefty who can play center field. Rasmus never reached that tantalizing ceiling, but if Meadows can, he and Andrew McCutchen could be a special duo in the outfield.
Already content with their immediate future (for good reasons), Pittsburgh opted to keep playing the long game with it second first-round pick. High school catcher Reese McGuire broke convention by going in the first, but his tools behind the plate warranted his selection. If nothing else, he'll be a special defensive catcher in the pros.
His bat comes with a few question marks, but that's the beauty of taking high schoolers: We don't know if he's reached his power potential. We don't know what a college or minor league weight regimen will do to boost his slash line at the dish.
Pittsburgh took two high schoolers in the first 14 overall picks, choosing to bide its time instead of seeking immediate help. By doing so, the Pirates made a bold proclamation about the state of their organization:
They're content for the next few years and swinging for the fences past that.
Toronto Blue Jays
Just like the Pirates, Toronto chose high school players with its first two picks. But unlike the Pirates, it took two arms instead of two bats.
The arms the Blue Jays took are impressive, though, especially first-round pick Phil Bickford. The still-growing righty projects at 6'4'' (h/t Baseball America), with a lanky frame that actually aids his velocity rather than impeding it.
Bickford pitches comfortably in the 90-93 mph range and has already touched 97 on the gun. If his growth over the next five years—both physical and mechanical—can shift those numbers up three mph, think about how terrifying Bickford might be. Comfortable at 93-96 with the ability to touch 100 is Aroldis Chapman-type stuff.
He needs to work on his secondary (and tertiary) pitches, but that too can come with time. No. 10 overall is hardly buying low on a high school arm, but if Bickford's work ethic matches his tools, he might wind up being a steal at that position.
The Blue Jays doubled down on their high-upside pitching fetish in Round 2, taking Clinton Hollon, a similar pre-college arm. Hollon's fastball isn't quite as dominant as Bickford's, but in unison with a plus changeup, it might function even better.
Breaking stuff and control need to be worked on, but at such a tender age, the same can be said for almost every pitcher. That's what makes him "high-upside" not "high-present."