SS J.P. Crawford has emerged as the top prospect in the Gulf Coast League.
While it will be several years until most of the 2013 draft picks are ready the major leagues, that doesn’t mean we can’t get excited about the early returns from some of baseball’s brightest young players.
Thanks to an accelerated signing deadline in mid-July that was ushered in last year as part of the new collective bargaining agreement—it used to be mid-August—draft picks are now encouraged to quickly begin their professional careers. For some prospects, that could result in an ahead-of-schedule debut in the major leagues; for others, it may simply improve their chances of earning aggressive promotions to begin the following season.
Here’s a look at 10 breakout prospects from the 2013 draft class that are already destroying the minor leagues in their professional debuts.
Phillip Ervin, OF, Cincinnati Reds (No. 27 overall)
2013 Stats: .327/.426/.558, 51 H, 19 XBH (8 HR), 14 SB, 32/24 K/BB (42 G)
Despite his potential as a power-speed prospect, Ervin fell on Day 1, presumably due to his lack of physical projection at 5’11” and 190 pounds.
The 21-year-old’s tools and surprisingly advanced secondary skills have allowed for a quick adjustment to pro ball, as Ervin made quick work of the Pioneer League by posting a 1.013 OPS with eight home runs and 12 stolen bases in 34 games.
The outfielder’s performance ultimately earned him a promotion to Low-A Dayton, which says a lot, considering the Reds rarely promote recently drafted position players during their professional debuts.
Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (No. 9 overall)
2013 Stats: .313/.394/.531, 14 XBH (9 2B), 22/12 K/BB (24 G)
Drafted four spots behind his good friend Clint Frazier, Meadows has actually enjoyed the better start to his professional career, though that’s not meant as a knock against Frazier, who’s posted a .879 OPS in 27 games.
Anyway, back to Meadows—the toolsy outfielder is batting .410 (25-for-61) with 12 runs scored, 12 extra-base hits and a 10-to-9 K/BB ratio since July 20.
J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies (No. 16 overall)
2013 Stats: .381/.472/.533, 40 H, 11 XBH, 10 SB, 18/18 K/BB (28 G)
Crawford wasted no time beginning his professional career, signing on June 18 and subsequently embarking on an assignment to the Gulf Coast League. Since then, the shortstop has quickly emerged as the GCL’s top prospect, thanks to a mature approach and a feel for using the entire field.
Despite his impressive professional debut, the 18-year-old will need considerable time to develop his skills on both sides of the ball.
Still, there’s no reason to think he can’t handle the challenge of a full-season assignment in 2014.
Ryan McMahon, 3B, Colorado Rockies (Second round, No. 42 overall)
2013 Stats: .311/.406/.541, 18 XBH (4 HR), 25 RBI, 33/18 K/BB (34 G)
McMahon was one of the more underrated prep prospects in the 2013 draft class; the two-sport star (quarterback) simply didn’t receive as much exposure as his peers. However, the 18-year-old came on strong this spring, showcasing a more consistent approach and improved power as he began growing into his 6’2", 185-pound frame.
While McMahon is still rough around the edges due to a lack of experience, that hasn’t prevented him from enjoying an impressive start to his professional career in the Pioneer League.
D.J. Peterson, 3B, Seattle Mariners (No. 12 overall)
2013 Stats: .279/.349/.539, 19 XBH (10 HR), 34 RBI, 32/17 K/BB (40 G)
Viewed as the most advanced college hitter in the 2013 class, Peterson has the potential to move quickly through Seattle’s system thanks to his combination of preternatural bat-to-ball skills and an advanced approach.
After he posted a .914 OPS over 29 games in the Northwest League to begin his professional career, the Mariners promoted the 21-year-old in late July to Low-A Clinton, where his plate discipline has been slightly challenged.
Meanwhile, Peterson has silenced those who questioned his power potential by smashing 19 extra-base hits, including 10 home runs, in his first 41 professional games.
Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, Chicago Cubs (No. 2 overall)
2013 Stats: .278/.328/.556, 9 XBH (3 HR), 13 RBI, 15/4 K/BB (15 G)
Bryant commanded the largest signing bonus ($6.7084 million) in the 2013 draft class, which was appropriate after he personally out-homering a majority of NCAA Division I teams this spring.
The 21-year-old was understandably rusty during the first several games of his professional career, and even recorded the dreaded platinum sombrero (0-for-5, 5 K) in his debut with short-season Boise.
However, the 6’5”, 215-pound slugger has since settled in and is currently riding a 10-game hitting streak in which he’s batting .361 (13-for-36) with four doubles, three home runs and 11 RBI.
Hunter Harvey, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (No. 22)
2013 Stats: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 10/1 K/BB (3 GS)
The son of former MLB All-Star closer Bryan Harvey, Hunter is a wiry right-hander at 6’3” and 175 pounds with room to add strength. Beyond his projectable frame, the 18-year-old already boasts a low-90s fastball that suggests easy mid-90s velocity once he fills out. Harvey also demonstrates a natural feel for his changeup and curve, though both offerings will need considerable seasoning in the minor leagues.
Making his third professional start on August 1, Harvey struck out eight batters over three hitless innings for the Orioles’ Gulf Coast League affiliate.
Corey Knebel, RHP, Detroit Tigers (No. 39)
2013 Stats: 10 SV, 19 IP, 0.95 ERA, .143 BAA, 24/7 K/BB (19 G)
After a successful career as closer for the University of Texas, Knebel made the smooth adjustment to professional baseball that the Tigers expected when they drafted him. The right-hander has been excellent as the closer for Low-A West Michigan, using a plus fastball-curveball combination to overpower hitters. Knebel has the stuff and mindset to be a late-inning force in the major leagues, and, at his current pace, it may not be long until he arrives.
Michael Lorenzen, RHP, Cincinnati Reds (No. 38)
2013 Stats: 3 SV, 12 IP, 0.75 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .227 BAA, 10/4 K/BB (13 G)
The top two-way college player in the 2013 class, Lorenzen was drafted by the Reds as a pitcher, though it’s believed they will allow him to attempt both roles next season. For now, however, he’s working as a late-inning reliever and rising through their system in a hurry.
After making his professional debut in the rookie-level Arizona League, the 21-year-old made a brief stop at Low-A Dayton before a recent promotion to High-A Bakersfield. It’s not a surprise that the right-hander is moving quickly; he has legitimate closer stuff, including an explosive fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s and a hammer curveball.
While it may seem like a stretch, I do think there’s an outside chance he pitches out of the Reds bullpen before the end of the season.
Jason Hursh, RHP, Atlanta Braves (No. 31 overall)
2013 Stats: 18 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, .150 BAA, 14/7 K/BB (6 GS)
Hursh showed projectable stuff this spring as Oklahoma State University’s ace despite missing the entire 2012 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Assigned to Low-A Rome after signing, the 21-year-old right-hander has dominated younger hitters in the South Atlantic League with a fastball that routinely touches 94-95 mph and a pair of serviceable secondaries in a slider and a changeup, both of which will need considerable refinement moving forward.