Grading on the Curve 2013 MLB Mock Draft Part 1


The day of the MLB Draft is finally here. Baseball’s draft is a different animal from the other major sports, with no players going straight to the major leagues and most never making the majors at all. At the same time, though, there’s a quality about baseball’s draft that makes it special. It’s much harder right after the draft to grade the “winners” and “losers”–each pick is an exciting possibility and the only way to see what happens is to make a commitment to following these prospects and see what they become. Tonight, we’re going to see players who may very well become the stars of tomorrow. But no matter what happens, they will give us hours and hours of enjoyment watching them play and that’s what really matters–at least to the “prospect watchers.” For everyone else, the questions will be simple: who did my team get and are they good? And at the end of it all, which teams will look at this draft as a turning point and which will view it as a missed opportunity? Let’s attempt to find out as we begin our Grading on the Curve Mock Draft.

1st Overall: Houston Astros

It seems hard to believe right now, the Astros haven’t always been this bad. This is only their second straight 1st overall selection and as recently as 2009 their first pick was at 21st overall. But after a disastrous season in 2012 and only worse performance in 2013, Astros fans want to see tangible proof that their franchise is going in the right direction. They want to know that all of this losing is at least creating building blocks from the future through the draft. After shockingly selecting Carlos Correa with the first pick of the draft last season, signing him to a below-slot bonus, and using the saved money to draft and sign Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz, the Astros have to out-do themselves again. As it turns out, events have fallen right in their favor.

For the second straight year, Stanford right-hander Mark Appel is on the board for the Astros as a tantalizing option. Once again, though, he will not be their choice. Evaluators have been back and forth between Appel and Oklahoma RHP Jonathan Gray about who should is the draft’s top prospect, but the top prospect was not necessarily going to be the Astros’ pick as they considered once again going with a player that would sign for less money so they could get multiple quality prospects instead of just one great one. Now, their choice has gotten a lot easier as Gray has tested positive for Adderall, something that is viewed as a one-time mistake but should also lessen his bonus demands significantly. It will be strange to see the Astros select a player who just tested positive for what’s basically a performance-enhancing drug (although it certainly has its legitimate uses for people with ADD), but if the Astros can find their way to Gray and another top prospect instead of say just Appel, they could care less about the PR. The Astros still could have selected another top prospect like Colin Moran with this pick, but now they get the chance to select a player who is a legitimate number one pick yet get another frontline talent to go with him.

Gray, who is 6’4″, 239, features the most explosive stuff in the draft, tossing his fastball consistently in the mid-90’s and hitting triple-digits when he reaches back for something extra. Its movement isn’t that substantial, but he has learned to locate it down in the zone extremely well and can make hitters look helpless as long as he hits his spots. Gray pairs his fastball with a high-80’s slider from the same arm slot with devastating downward action. What distinguishes his slider isn’t just its velocity and sharp break but also the tremendous depth of its movement, so much that some scouts call it a curveball. You’re not going to find too many pitches at 88 MPH being called a curveball. Gray sometimes gets too enamored with his slider and overuses it, something that will get him behind in counts to more advanced hitters, but that is something that a pro pitching coach should be able to correct without a problem. Gray also throws a solid changeup and even a get-me-over curveball that’s a huge change of pace from his hard stuff. Gray throws all his pitches for strikes and continues to improve at locating all his pitches down in the zone consistently. He has true number one starter stuff and could be an ace for the Astros to build their rotation around in their rebuilding process. Positive test or not, Gray has everything you want from a number one selection and no one will second guess them if they make this pick.

The Pick: Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma

2nd Overall: Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are picking one selection behind the Astros, but they describe themselves as one step ahead in their rebuilding process. The Cubs have themselves several core players who will be foundation of their franchise for years to come. Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro are just 23 years old but already major parts’ of the Cubs’ lineup, and prospects like Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, and Albert Almora should not be far behind. But while the position player crop is coming all, pitching remains a serious question for the Cubs. Chicago aggressively pursued pitching in the offseason, but they can be sure of only Jeff Samardzija as a mainstay in their rotation with Edwin Jackson struggling, Matt Garza recovering from injury and set for free agency following the year, and signees like Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva only signed for the short term. The Cubs did draft a couple potential impact pitchers in last year’s draft in Pierce Johnson and Duane Underwood and acquire Arodys Vizcaino in the Ryan Dempster trade, but Vizcaino is hurt and there is still no dependable, frontline pitcher beyond Samardzija that can anchor their staff. Luckily for the Cubs, that problem should soon be addressed.

If the Astros go any direction other than Gray or Appel, the Cubs have an interesting choice between the two dominating right-handers. But with Gray likely coming off the board with the first pick, the Cubs should know their pick in a heartbeat. Appel features a fastball in the 93-95 MPH range touching 97 with sink and run away from right-handed hitters when he’s at his best. Like Gray, his second pitch is an overbearing slider, although Appel’s stays more around 84-85 MPH than the high-80’s. Appel gets dynamic break on it and is able to use it both as a put-away pitch and for called strikes early in the count. Appel rounds out his repertoire with a mid-80’s changeup that has made tremendous strides in his senior season, featuring improved arm action and movement mirroring his fastball before disappearing with great bottoming-out action. Appel has not only incorporated it into his arsenal but gained confidence in it to hitters from both sides. Heading back to school after turning down $3.8 million from the Pirates last year was a controversial decision from Appel, but it most certainly has paid off. His stuff has always been electric, but now his changeup has emerged as a third plus pitch and he’s doing an excellent job using his 6’5″ frame to get a downward angle on his pitches and locate everything down in the zone. He’s extremely polished and will zoom through the minors, although presumably a team like the Cubs would let him take his time. Appel has the ability to become a true ace in the major leagues with alacrity. The last time the Cubs had the number two overall pick, they selected a USC right-hander named Mark Prior. Appel’s upside may not be quite at that level, but after the Cubs experienced that false start looking for a franchise-altering ace, Appel has the talent and the refinement to be the pitcher that actually gets there.

The Pick: Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford

3rd Overall: Colorado Rockies

The Colorado Rockies are feeling pretty good about themselves right now. They have cooled off of late after a hot start, yet they enter Draft Day at 31-28, just 2.5 games back in the NL West. But they know right now that they aren’t the 2008 Rays who have entirely broken through–and they’re not going to be true contenders without finding reinforcements fast. The Rockies would love if Gray or Appel were to fall to them because finding quality pitchers to pitch their home games at Coors Field is a daunting task. But with Appel and Gray gone and no other pitcher worth their time at this spot (although Kohl Stewart might deserve a look), the Rockies will stick with tradition and draft another topflight hitter.

As Rockies legend Todd Helton limps his way to the finish line, the Rockies dream of finding that player who could be a similar type of cornerstone at first base. Of course, those types of players don’t come along too often–we have all heard the refrain “there’s no such thing as a first base prospect”–with the last first baseman selected in the first five picks of the draft being Eric Hosmer to the Royals at third overall in 2008 (with Yonder Alonso following four picks behind to the Reds). But if the Rockies do want a player who could remind them of Helton at least a little bit, North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran is their guy.

Helton did have two 40-home run seasons, but he always stood out more for his pure hitting and plate discipline. Unless Coors stops using the humidor, Moran is never hitting 40 home runs. But he is the best pure hitter in the draft, shows remarkable patience and pitch recognition at the plate, and while we’re at it, he features a relatively similar physical profile to Helton (6’3″, 215 versus 6’2″, 220). Moran has an unorthodox stance and swing but compensates with excellent bat speed and a gap-to-gap approach and flashes of power. Moran will never be a player who strikes out very much because he makes a ton of contact when he swings yet he isn’t a hitter who makes too much contact and sabotages himself in the process. Moran is a special for an amateur prospect in the way he can make contact yet draw plenty of walks, and he has a real chance to be a player who will walk as much as he strikes out as a pro. Moran is going to have be a little more aggressive and learn to pull the ball more often in order to harness some more power and profile as a more prototypical corner infield regular, but even if that doesn’t entirely happen he can still be a very valuable hitter. Defensively, Moran has great hands and an excellent arm but may not have the quickness and reflexes to profile well at third base, meaning that there is some chance he ends up a first base long-term, where he could emerge as a Helton-type of player. Moran isn’t an explosive prospect, but he gets the most out of his offensive tools with his excellent plate discipline and his bat should play wherever he ends up defensively. That’s a nice player and it would be cool for Colorado to draft him and make the Helton comp, but is that really the guy you want to be drafting third overall?

If you’re looking for that third baseman who could hit 35 or 40 homers a year and start doing it relatively soon, Kris Bryant stands out among the crowd. The UNC junior can put in displays in batting practice then take his power into games with tremendous rotation, strength, and loft in his swing to take the ball out to all fields. He has a very short stride at the plate as his power is significant enough that he doesn’t need to do anything crazy to bring it out, helping his timing at the plate quite a bit as well. However, Bryant comes with his inherent flaws. His bat speed is good but not great, which is going to lead to some strikeouts, and while he’s a patient hitter, his pitch recognition and overall approach at the plate aren’t anything special either. Bryant does have a solid two-strike approach and is willing to hit some balls the other way when down in the count, something that will help him avoid striking out out too much, but he’s not a player who’s going to hit .300 and his power will have to carry him. Luckily, that should not be much of a problem–there’s nothing wrong with a player who hits .270 with 35 home runs and a solid OBP. Defensively, Bryant features a strong arm and decent speed when he’s under way, making him a good candidate for a corner outfield spot. His arm and solid hands make him worth a look at third, but he could be a much better defender in the outfield and certainly will hit for enough power to profile there. Bryant’s power is going to be a calling card, and while he isn’t perfect, combining his incredible power with his solid all-around abilities gives him a chance to be an All-Star at third base or right field.

If you’re the Rockies, who would you select here? The consensus has been Bryant, and it’s hard to disagree. Moran would be a cool selection because of his comparison to Helton, but he’s an unorthodox third baseman and doesn’t have the star power you want this early in the draft. In Bryant, the Rockies would add another impact hitter to their organization, a player who could team with Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and the rest of their offense to strike even more fear in opposing pitchers.

The Pick: Kris Bryant, 3B, North Carolina

4th Overall: Minnesota Twins

This past offseason, the Twins decided to trade for pitching, acquiring prospects Alex Meyer and Trevor May along with major leaguer Vance Worley for Denard Span and Ben Revere. Will the Twins continue to look for pitching or will they shift back to offense with this 4th overall pick? The Twins showed last year that they couldn’t care less about their needs when the right player comes around as they passed on Mark Appel when they desperately needed a pitcher, selecting Byron Buxton instead. Could Kohl Stewart prompt them to make a similar choice?

Stewart, a right-hander out of St. Pius X High School in Houston, could very well have the highest upside of any pitcher in the draft, even greater than Gray and Appel. Stewart  is a projectable 6’3″, 180 with a fastball the currently ranges from the low-to-mid-90’s, topping out around 96-97 MPH. Stewart gets excellent sink and run on it when he’s right, and it could be a devastating pitch when Stewart fills out and gets it up into higher velocities more often. But Stewart stands out for far more than just his fastball, in fact throwing three other standout pitches. Stewart’s mid-80’s slider looks like his fastball out of his hand before tight late break makes hitters swing and miss by a foot. Stewart can only really use his slider as a chase offering consistently at this point, but he also throws a nice 11-to-5 curveball that he does a better job locating for some called strikes. He finishes off his arsenal with a solid changeup that’s still developing. Stewart has been a two-sport player up until this point, starring as a quarterback and committed to Texas A&M to play both baseball and football, and that has lead to quite a bit of rawness despite his outstanding stuff. His stuff is outstanding but he struggles to control and command his pitches and had times when nothing was working and he got hit pretty hard. But with more experience and more fine-tuning, Stewart has a chance to become a true ace, not something you can say about too many pitching prospects.

The Twins have some options with this pick. They could draft another player in the Buxton mold in Clint Frazier or they could do with a safer pick like Reese McGuire (who would save them money to use elsewhere in the draft) or Colin Moran. But with the Twins looking to dig themselves out of the hole they have fallen into the last couple of years, it’s the gutsier selections that may make all the difference, and Stewart is the best player available, especially from an upside standpoint. And, even though the Twins have acquired some pitchers, who ever said that there’s such a thing as too much pitching?

The Pick: Kohl Stewart, RHP, St. Pius X High School

5th Overall: Cleveland Indians

Last year at the time of the MLB Draft, the Indians were 28-25, just 2.5 games back in the AL Central. The fact that they’re drafting 5th overall this year tells you how the rest of the season went. This year, they’re 30-29, once again just 2.5 games back in the AL Central. This time, though, they’re a little more optimistic, with the additions of players like Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn making Indians fans believe that 2013 could truly be their year. After the Indians deviated from their typical draft strategy by taking Francisco Lindor 8th overall in the 2012 Draft, if they believe they’re back to contending, a college player not all that far from the major leagues should be the choice here. A possible goal could be to solidify a position that is currently up in their air and two positions immediately rise to the forefront: third base, where Lonnie Chisenhall has not developed as expected, and starting pitcher, where Cleveland still needs to find reliable options behind Justin Masterson. Moran is certainly an option for the Indians here as a polished college bat from the third base position who could make an impact in the major leagues within a couple of seasons, but if the Indians decide to go with a pitcher, Braden Shipley could be their selection.

Shipley, a right-hander out of Nevada, is a converted position player whose arm immediately caught everyone’s attention once he took the hill. Shipley’s fastball stays in the mid-90’s with great life down in the zone, and Shipley does a great job repeating his delivery to throw it for strikes. His best pitch, though, may actually be his changeup in the 83-85 MPH range, which comes out of his fastball arm slot with great arm action and excellent late sink. It’s pretty rare for a college pitcher to have such a good changeup, but unfortunately having the changeup has taken away from Shipley’s breaking ball, which is a relatively raw pitch at this point that Shipley will have to develop in pro ball. In addition to refining his breaking ball, Shipley has work to do commanding his pitches down in the zone. Shipley clearly has plenty of talent as a pitcher, and the best may have yet to come considering how inexperienced he is on the mound and how we don’t know how good his curveball could be down the line. Shipley will not be fastest-moving college pitcher, but he would give the Indians a frontline rotation option in a system without many explosive arms behind Masterson and Trevor Bauer and help turn around a rotation that has been among the most enigmatic in baseball the last few years. After their pitching staff’s struggles negate much of their team’s offensive prowess, the Indians have an opportunity to start changing that by drafting Shipley.

The Pick: Braden Shipley, RHP, Nevada

6th Overall: Miami Marlins

Last year, thinking they were set to contend for years to come, the Marlins selected Oklahoma State lefty Andrew Heaney. Now, the Marlins’ situation is quite a bit different after the blockbuster trade with the Blue Jays, and a return to their previous gameplan of selecting high school players, albeit safer ones as opposed to being high-risk and high-reward. Especially with Shipley off the board in this scenario, a great fit for the Marlins could be Grayson High School (GA) outfielder Austin Meadows.

Meadows, 6’3″ and 210 pounds, stands out most for his smooth swing and nice athleticism from a big frame. Meadows shows excellent bat speed complemented by good patience and pitch recognition for a high school player, giving him a chance to be a .300 hitter down the line. Meadows does have quite a bit more work to do bringing his very good raw power into games as his swing doesn’t feature much lift at this point and that will have to change. Especially with his power not there yet, Meadows has to do a better job using the whole field and refining his two-strike approach. On the basepaths, Meadows has above-average speed although he may lose a step moving forward, but in any event he has the instincts to be a decent stolen base threat. Defensively, Meadows’ future position is a big question mark as he covers a good amount of ground and shows nice instincts in the outfield but could very well lose a step or two as he fills out. Meadows doesn’t have a great arm, so left field may be a more landing spot for him than right field if he can’t handle centerfield moving forward. All that being said, Meadows has what it takes to make the necessary adjustments into his swing to make him a potential 25-30 homer guy someday and live up to the power required of a corner spot. Meadows has development needed to be done at the plate and his defense is still up in the air, but at the end of the day he’s a talented hitter with good power potential and a little speed who could do a lot to help a team even out of an outfield corner. There’s certainly risk involved with selected Meadows, but he fits the bill of a “safer” high school pick and would make a Marlins outfield picture already loaded with talent even better.

The Pick: Austin Meadows, OF, Grayson High School

7th Overall: Boston Red Sox

The 2013 season has been much kinder to the Red Sox than 2012 and according this 7th overall pick may be the last time the Red Sox draft this early on for quite a while. With that the case, they better take advantage of it, and even with a player like Moran on the board in this scenario, don’t think they’re going to draft conservatively. Two players the Red Sox could look at here are Loganville (GA) High School outfielder Clint Frazier and New Castle (IN) High School lefty Trey Ball.

Frazier, 6’1″, 190, is the top five-tool talent in this year’s draft with the tool that especially stands out being his power. Frazier rides premium bat speed, quick wrists, and great lift in his swing to big-time raw power, seeming to drill the ball whenever he connects. He has a short stroke with power to all fields, showing an excellent amount of usable power for a prep product. However, Frazier’s bat speed doesn’t translate to a great hit tool because he is overaggressive at the plate and has issues identifying pitches. Frazier swings for the fences every time, and while that wouldn’t be an issue because of his bat speed, he misses badly too often on even mediocre breaking balls. Strikeouts may always be part of Frazier’s game but he has enough power that he’ll hit a lot of balls out of the park even If his pitch recognition is never great. Frazier shows nice speed that he uses well on the basepaths and also in centerfield, where he has nice range although he needs plenty of work on his reads and routes. He has a very good arm that would work in right field. Meadows is a tantalizing all-around talent, although it’s always concerning when the most questionable tool is the hit tool.

Ball, a projectable 6’6″, 180 left-hander, is an excellent prospect both as a pitcher and an outfielder but his future appears to be on the mound. Ball has gotten his velocity up into the 91-94 MPH range with more to come. He flashes good late life down in the zone on his fastball when he gets on top of it. His curveball needs more work but flashes sharp 1-to-7 break when he has it right, and even his changeup shows flashes of great arm action and late sink. Ball takes advantage of his height to drill the ball in the bottom part of the zone when he finishes his pitches, although that’s something he will have to learn to do more consistently. Ball has a relatively smooth arm action, but does have some effort in his delivery, something the team that drafts him may try to eliminate. Ball has a ton of different things to work on and may take a while to develop, but if everything comes together he could be a topflight pitcher. That profile could make him intriguing to the Red Sox considering their system features mostly more polished pitchers and fewer ones with upside, and their starting depth also would allow them to give Ball however much time he needs. Jon Lester wasn’t quite as tall as Ball at 6’4″, but he was another projectable lefty high school lefty who had a fastball, curveball, and changeup that didn’t crack the Red Sox’ rotation until his sixth pro season. It remains to be seen whether Ball could have Lester’s potential, but he could be the Red Sox’ next high school pitcher to groom and see whether that could truly be the case. Frazier is a high-upside player, but Ball just seems like an excellent fit as another tall lefty for the Red Sox and their fans to dream on.

The Pick: Trey Ball, LHP, New Castle High School

8th Overall: Kansas City Royals

Things have really fallen apart lately for the Royals. After beginning the season with such high expectations, the Royals find themselves in last place in the AL Central. Such a big part of that has been players like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer falling to proceed in their development and playing the roles they would have to play for the Royals to win. With all the instability abound in the organization, maybe it’s time for the Royals to alter their draft strategy and go a little less for upside and more for some players they can rely on to make an impact. With Colin Moran on the board here, he seems like an excellent fit as a mature hitter who could zoom through the minors (see above pick #3). With the Royals’ lineup being primarily free-swingers at this point, Moran could be a great change of pace and maybe even rub off positively on the Royals’ other hitters. Even with the Royals needing a hitter, Moran is just too good to pass up if he’s available here. And when Mike Moustakas comes back from Triple-A and becomes the next Alex Gordon playing right field, maybe Moran could take over at third base.

The Pick: Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina

9th Overall: Pittsburgh Pirates

This is the pick that the Pirates received after failing to sign Appel at 8th overall last year. Just like 2012 proved to be one year too early for Appel to sign, it also proved to be one year too early for the Pirates to contend as they fell apart in the second half to finish below .500 for the 20th straight season. This year, though, things are different as the Pirates are 35-25 with confidence as high as ever, and they have to believe that this is the year that everything works out. But just like their success this season after signing Russell Martin first, they’re going to have to add a catcher here to make everything happen.

The Pirates have Russell Martin signed through the end of next year and have former first rounder Tony Sanchez and last year’s second rounder, Wyatt Mathisen, both coming up through the minor leagues. But with a player like Kentwood (WA) High School catcher Reese McGuire on the board, the Pirates would have an awfully hard time passing him up. Martin is likely only a temporary solution, Sanchez may never be more than a backup, and Mathisen carries plenty of risk. McGuire certainly carries risk himself, but he also has as much of a chance as anyone to be the Pirates’ first All-Star catcher since Jason Kendall in 2000. McGuire is easily the best defensive catcher in this year’s draft class, showing an excellent arm, unbelievably quick actions behind the plate, and as good receiving and game-calling ability as you’ll ever ever see from a high school catcher. McGuire is almost a guarantee for a Gold Glove today–if he hits enough to be a starting catcher. McGuire’s offense isn’t nearly as advanced as his defense, but the good news is that there is plenty of reason for optimism. McGuire shows nice bat speed and solid raw power, providing hope that he could end up being a well above-average offensive catcher when it’s all said and done. However, questions surround his approach at the plate, with a toe tap making his timing inconsistent and McGuire getting into trouble selling out for power, and McGuire will also need plenty of work improving his patience and pitch recognition. With McGuire’s work ethic and Baseball IQ, though, you have to like his chances of becoming at least a serviceable enough hitter to be a defense-first starter if not more. McGuire is an excellent prospect with sky-high potential defensively and things to like at the plate as well, but the kicker with selecting him is that he’s a player who could very well sign for slot money or below, giving the Pirates more money to play with for another pick. That’s something the Pirates will heavily consider taking advantage of when they pick next at 14th overall.

The Pick: Reese McGuire, C, Kentwood High School

10th Overall: Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays live for upside, and now they need more of it. After depleting their system through the blockbuster trades with the Marlins and Mets, the Blue Jays will hope in this draft to start restocking their organization with the type of high-ceiling talents that they have become known for. And on the board right now in this mock draft is exactly the type of player they can start doing that with, Clint Frazier (see 7th overall). Frazier carries risk because of his pitch recognition deficiencies, but his potential is as high as any position player in the draft and the Blue Jays need to take gambles like this if they want to reestablish their system as one of the best in baseball.

The Pick: Clint Frazier, OF, Loganville High School

11th Overall: New York Mets

One of the most burning questions for the Mets right now is whether the team should demote Ike Davis after he has hit just .164 in 196 plate appearances to the begin the season. Should the Mets give up on Davis? No, not yet. He has shown several times in the major leagues how good he could be, and the Mets will try to improve his plate discipline and help him cut down on the strikeouts so he hit for a higher average and bring his power back out. At the same time, though, the Mets have reached the point where they need to have other options available if Davis doesn’t work out, and that’s what they will hope to accomplish with this pick. Two highly-touted first base prospects available for the Mets here are Sierra (CA) High School’s Domonic Smith and New Mexico’s D.J. Peterson.

Smith would not give the Mets a do-over on Davis, but he might give them a chance to find Ike Davis 2.0. Smith features the prototypical power for a first baseman, showing great raw power mostly in the form of hard contact to the gaps right now but flashing big-time home run pop when his timing is right. He’s still adding muscle at 6’0″, 195, but the power is clearly there and its only a matter of time before it comes out in earnest. But Smith actually stands out more for his pure hitting, in sharp contrast to Davis. He shows excellent bat speed, slamming line drives everywhere and barreling everything when he’s on. He does, though, need to work on keeping balance in his stance to keep his timing right and make him more consistent overall. Smith has a patient approach at the plate, but he will need to keep working on his pitch recognition. Defensively, Smith has the makings of a plus defender with great reflexes, soft hands, and a strong arm, although first base is the only position he can play well. Smith comes with risk, but there is enough in him to imagine an excellent hitter for both average and power and the number three or cleanup hitter than Davis never could become consistently.

Peterson may not have the highest upside, but if the Mets want an impact bat who can rise up through their system quickly, Peterson could be a good fit. Peterson doesn’t exactly fit the mold of a power-hitting first baseman, but he still could be a dangerous major league hitter before long. Peterson features a simple stroke with outstanding bat speed and great strength from his 6’1″, 205 frame, leading to plenty of hard contact all over the field. He has excellent pitch recognition skills and does a good job finding pitches to hit. He will not be a hitter who will strike out a ton moving forward. The issue, though, is that his swing is almost too compact, limiting his ability to harness his power and making him more of a 20-homer threat moving forward. If Peterson hit .290 with 20 homers, that would still be impressive, but you definitely want to see him hit for more power than that. The team that drafts Peterson could try to adjust his swing mechanics or make him more aggressive at the plate, but doing so could cause the rest of his game to fall apart. Peterson is almost like the anti-Ike Davis at first base, being a nice pure hitter with just good enough power for first base. Would the Mets rather have a hitter like that in their lineup in two or three years or hold out for a prospect like Smith with more potential?

While it’s tantalizing for the Mets to get a first base prospect and expedite his journey to the major leagues, they’re not contending right now and sacrificing potential is the last thing they should be doing. The Mets have begun drafting for more upside in recent years under Sandy Alderson after being committed to drafting college players before that, and that is one of the reasons that their system is slowly but surely starting to improve significantly. Domonic Smith could be next in line.

The Pick: Domonic Smith, 1B, Sierra High School

12th Overall: Seattle Mariners

The Mariners could very well describe themselves as in a similar position to what we just talked about with the Mets considering how Justin Smoak has not developed as expected. Peterson also was selected by the Mariners back in 2010 as a 33rd round pick out of high school, showing that they do have a history with him and regard him highly. But the Mariners need is more a significant power bat than specifically a first baseman, and another player they’ll have to consider is Mississippi State outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

It’s never very often that you find explosive five-tool players coming out of college (George Springer out of Connecticut is the last one to come to mind), but that’s exactly how Renfroe could be described. Renfroe stands out most for explosive raw power coming from good bat speed, excellent strength, and a stride towards the plate that puts all his power into every swing. With that, though, comes strikeouts. Renfore has done a much better job making contact this year and using the whole field after both of those had been problems in the past, but his pitch recognition remains and it’s unlikely that he ever rectifies his propensity to swing and miss. But if you mitigate that tendency just enough, Renfroe could be a star. Defensively, he moves well enough to be a 20-stolen base strength and for a team to at least try him in centerfield, and he has the excellent are strength and of course the power needed from him if he moves to right field. The Mariners haven’t developed many power hitters–of their team’s five leading home run hitters this season, just one was homegrown–but Renfroe has the ability to change that as part of an outstanding all-around game. He comes with risk, but the Mariners did well with a player who has a similar profile but less power in Michael Saunders and Renfroe could be the next player they hope can emerge as a critical part of their offense. Peterson is an interesting player, but Renfore has more upside and much more impact if he succeeds, and the Mariners need to take a shot on a player like him.

The Pick: Hunter Renfroe, OF, Mississippi State

13th Overall: San Diego Padres

The Padres are an organization known for their pitching and understandably so–they do play in Petco Park after all. Right now, however, the Padres’ rotation features plenty of question marks as does their crop of pitching prospects behind 2012 first rounder Max Fried, with players like Casey Kelly and Joe Wieland on the mend and Robbie Erlin having just returned. It seems like this time a college pitcher could make sense, and two options on the board are Arkansas right-hander Ryne Stanek and Oral Roberts righty Alex Gonzalez.

Stanek, 6’4″ and 190 pounds, suffered through an uneven senior season (in terms of stuff if not results) that took him from a potential top five pick to a player more likely to be available at this point. When Stanek is right you can see evidence of three plus pitches; when he’s off, you have to wonder why you regarded him so highly in the first place. Stanek’s fastball sits in the low-to-mid-90’s, but it’s relatively straight and Stanek leaves it up in the zone too often, leading for much more hard contact than you would expect for a pitch hitting 96 MPH. Stanek then throws two breaking pitches that have flashed plus, his curveball and slider.  Stanek’s curveball features big 11-to-5 break while his slider in the mid-80’s shows sharp, tight action when Stanek gets on top of it, but Stanek overthrows his curveball, blending the two pitches together as an ineffective slurve, and causes his slider to flatten out by throwing it too hard. Stanek’s has also shown some potential with a changeup, although it’s still a ways away. Whichever team drafts Stanek will work with him to try to harness his height better to command his pitches down in the zone and commit to one breaking ball to develop moving forward. Stanek could be a topflight starter when it’s all said and done, but the question is whether you believe he’ll ever get there.

Gonzalez, 6’3″, 200, may not have Stanek’s upside but has considerably more polish and still quite a bit talent. Gonzalez’s fastball ranges from the 91-94 MPH range with excellent late movement down to make its velocity play up. Gonzalez does a great locating it down in the zone to force plenty of contact on the ground and a good amount of whiffs, and while it may not be best described as a sinker, it plays perfectly into Gonzalez’s slider. Gonzalez’s mid-80’s slider looks like his fastball out of his hand before showing sharp action down in the zone, especially perplexing to the hitter because Gonzalez fastball has some cut itself. He’s also willing to throw it harder and more like his fastball with additional action down when he wants a groundball double play. He finishes his arsenal with a solid changeup that is still improving. Gonzalez features a clean arm action and the durability to be an innings-eater down the line. The question is whether his fastball is overpowering enough for him to be a number two starter or end up as more of a number three, but he’s a polished pitcher with the ability to move quickly through the minors leagues and become a rapidly become a reliable pitcher.

The Padres have a bit of a quandary here as their current rotation options beyond Fried aren’t the bunch with the most upside yet despite all their depth, they don’t really know that they have in a lot of their guys because of either inexperience or injuries. Gonzalez would give the Padres a nice rotation lynchpin with a good combination of talent and maturity, and help turn the Padres’ rotation back into one of the best in baseball.

The Pick: Alex Gonzalez, RHP, Oral Roberts

14th Overall: Pittsburgh Pirates

We’re back to the Pirates at 14th overall, and with some money to save this could be the time where they take a shot. Selecting Appel didn’t go well last year, but with two picks this early on they have an opportunity to select a highly-touted player who dropped and sign him for above-slot cash. Two players that could be just that for the Pirates are Stanek and Indiana State lefty Sean Manaea.

Manaea, who is 6’5″, 235 is another player who has seen his stock take quite a dip recently as he has been sidelined with a hip injury that has reduced his stuff significantly. When he has been healthy, though, he has the type of repertoire teams can’t possibly ignore. At his best, Manaea shows a fastball in the mid-90’s out of a deceptive three-quarters arm slot that blows hitters away between its velocity and late bite. He combines it with a mid-80’s slider that flashes sharp break right as it arrives at the hitter, and he also throws a split-change that mirrors his fastball’s movement extremely well before great bottoming-out acton. But Manaea’s hip injury has made his fastball velocity fluctuate wildly, with his velocity hitting the 80’s as much as the 90’s in some starts, and that isn’t his only problem. Manaea gets into trouble when he throws it too hard, causing it to flatten out at some times and look nothing like a strike at others. He also throws his changeup too hard, especially given his recent velocity drop, and has trouble locating it. Manaea’s control and command have gotten out of whack as well, and he’ll go from locked in one second to leaving plenty of balls up in the zone the next. But if teams believe that Manaea can get healthy and regain his previous fastball velocity, he’s a potential ace-in-the-making and the player who could be the steal of the draft. For the Pirates, he’s an excellent pick both because of their available money and because the presence of Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon at the upper levels of their system will allow them to take their time developing Manaea and seeing just how good he can be. Manaea could be the perfect lefty complement to Cole and Taillon and give the Pirates a devastating top three in their rotation with enough time.

The Pick: Sean Manaea, LHP, Indiana State

15th Overall: Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks have believed for years that they have the makings of a dominant rotation. With Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson flashing dominance and pitchers like Patrick Corbin, Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill, and Brandon McCarthy joining the fold, Arizona had the makings of a starting staff among the best in baseball. That may still be the case after Corbin has started to look like an ace and Tyler Skaggs and Archie Bradley could be two more, but it seems like whenever one pitcher comes on another falls apart, and it may be be time for the D-Backs to replenish their pitching depth again. Stanek would give the Diamondbacks yet another topflight pitching prospect and not one who is a long time way from the major leagues if whichever team drafts him can get it in sync. After the Kennedy-Hudson-Cahill top three did not go as planned, Bradley-Skaggs-Stanek could be the next trio for the D-Backs to dream on. Stanek could be a perfect fit for the D-Backs as their depth won’t necessitate them to rush him but his talent is something that their rotation always seems to be looking for.

The Pick: Ryne Stanek, RHP, Arkansas

We’ll stop here with the first half of our mock draft and we’ll resume in a couple of hours.  Thus far we have seen plenty of explosive talents and tough calls for the selecting teams, and it will be exciting to see how the draft will play out tonight.