The Cubs will have the second overall pick in the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft on June 6th, and MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat has reported that the Cubs have cut their list of possible selections to six players. The Cubs scouted and met with both Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows, both highly-touted outfielders from Georgia high schools, while the team was playing the Braves. Epstein then went to watch highly-touted pitching prospect Mark Appel, who may become the #1 overall pick by the Houston Astros before the Cubs get their chance at him.
So, with three of the four being Appel, Meadows, and Frazier, that leaves three more players on the shortlist. Jonathan Gray of Oklahoma came out of nowhere to get into the conversation for the #1 draft pick, challenging Appel as the top arm in the draft. Infielder Kris Bryant from the University San Diego may bet he best hitter in the draft, certainly the best available college position player, so you can figure him into the mix as well. The sixth man in that group is a little more of a toss-up. Left-handed pitcher Sean Manaea has fallen down the draft boards recently, as has the righty Ryne Stanek, but either one could still be in the conversation for a higher-up pick. Manaea would currently seem to have a slight edge, though large enough that the Cubs cut at least one of the two from consideration. Of course, beyond Frazier, Meadows, and Appel this is all speculation, though it would be a shock if either Gray or Bryant were left off the list.
Coast2CoastProspects.com published a very positive scouting report on Meadows, stating that
Meadows is one of the few players in this class with legitimate five tool potential. An athlete on the bases and in the outfield, Meadows is an early favorite for a Top 10 selection in 2013 and it’s easy to see why. The second ranked high schooler on ESPN’s Super 60 list, Meadows plays with an excellent feel for the game to go along with his outstanding raw tools. Perfect Game has his 60 time as low as 6.31 seconds and he has an ideal, athletic frame. He has raw arm strength from the outfield and will definitely have plus range in the future, allowing him to profile at any of the outfield spots.
The only negative: The MLB comparison assigned to him was Tyler Colvin, who was also a first round pick, but definitely has yet to live up to the hype that surrounded him at the time.
For comparison, the same site has the following to say of Frazier:
The Georgia outfielder does everything well on the field and is an impressive all-around talent with the chance to make an impact with his bat and his legs. Despite not being a particularly big guy, Frazier has exceptional bat speed that he generates thanks to his impressive present strength and very quick hands. Accordingly, there’s a lot of raw power in his swing, but Frazier has also shown the ability to consistently square the ball up and drive it to all fields. He’s a plus runner with 60 times in the 6.5 second range and he definitely has the tools for centerfield at the next level with good range and a very strong arm.
MLB Draft Countdown has a brief but encouraging piece on Mark Appel’s skillset.
Appel has everything teams look for in an ace pitcher. He has the size, the stuff, and two years worth of positive results, save for that disastrous start against FSU. Scouts will no doubt be keeping an extra eye on him to see how he responds to all the disappointment he faced in 2012, and if he can put together another strong season, there’s no doubt he’ll end up going somewhere in the top five picks this June.
Jonathan Gray is more of a recent phenomenon, bursting out onto the big stage this year for Oklahoma. Kevin Gallo recently scouted him with rave reviews.
Summary: Gray has all the tools to become a pure #1. He has the type of arm that doesn’t come around very often. I believe that he could be ready to come out of the pen in Sept 2013 but I also believe his future is as a starter.
Gallo also cited a very good fastball, an above average slider, and a decent at best change-up, with the most important piece being his great command of his pitches.
Matt Garrioch of Minor League Ball provided a comprehensive scouting report and draft profile of Kris Bryant over the off-season. Bryant was expected to be drafted in the first or second round out of high school according to Garrioch, but fell all the way to the 18th round and opted to go to college instead.
His power is his best asset. He can hit the ball out to all fields. I saw one game where he hit a low and away pitch 420 feet to right-center with ease. He is not a dead pull guy. His long loose and easy swing has gotten shorter, quicker and is much improved from his freshman season and even more from his high school days. It is now an average to above average hit tool. He has true star level potential with the bat. His arm is good and his defense should be an asset at 1B with some work.
Garrioch also states that while Bryant could possibly play third base, seen by many as a hole in the Cubs’ organization or as a future position for Javier Baez, he is no lock to be able to stay there long-term, and may very well have a future at first base instead.
It is important to remember that teams do not (or at least should not) draft to need in the organization, but to talent instead, trying to get the best crop of prospects possible out of the draft. So even if there seems to be a logjam at first base with Rizzo and Vogelbach or at third base with Baez in the way and Vitters still around, it should not deter the Cubs from selecting Bryant if they feel that he is both the best available player and the player most likely to harness his ability and translate it on the major league level.
A lot may change in the next few months, but at least we can limit how many prospects we are obsessively following in the coming months leading up the draft now. I will be following these players and reporting any major developments as to how well they are playing or if they are healthy, etc. in the weekly minor league reports.