The 2013 MLB Draft gets started in less than a week, beginning next Thursday evening. Here is a look at story lines to watch over the next week, along with some additional names to be aware of beyond the obvious players at the top of the draft.
WHO WILL THE ASTROS TAKE FIRST OVERALL?
For the last few weeks, it has been generally assumed that the Houston Astros would select either University of Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray, or Stanford University right-hander Mark Appel, with the first-overall selection. Now, rumors are spreading that the Astros are instead looking strongly at University of North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran.
Keith Law of ESPN, in his most recent mock draft released yesterday, has Moran in the first spot, which would have ripple effects all down the draft.
The idea here is that Moran could be willing to sign for less money than Gray or Appel, money which the Astros could then use lower in the draft to bring in high-ceiling talent with later picks. They used this strategy last year to good effect with the signings of Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers, and Rio Ruiz. Will they adopt the same strategy this year? Stay tuned.
MARK APPEL'S SIGNABILITY
If the Astros pass on Gray and Appel in favor of Moran (or someone else), the next thing to watch will be how far Appel falls. As a senior he has much less leverage than last year, but Scott Boras is still his advisor and if he falls too far things could get complicated. He refused to sign with the Pirates last year at eighth overall, and while it seems extremely unlikely that he would fall past that slot again, it isn't impossible.
RIPPLE EFFECTS IN MINNESOTA AND COLORADO
If the Astros go with Moran at one, many observers believe that the Cubs would likely select Appel at two, with the Rockies going for either Gray or University of San Diego slugger Kris Bryant at three. The Twins at four are strongly linked to a desire for more pitching, with Texas prep right-hander Kohl Stewart supposedly at the top of their list. But would that change if college arm Gray and is 100 MPH fastball is available?
GEORGIA PREP OUTFIELDERS
Loganville, Georgia, has produced two outstanding high school outfielders this year who are certain first round picks: Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows. Frazier is a very good athlete with unreal bat speed; Meadows has a broader tool set than Frazier but his bat doesn't have quite the same upside, though scouts still see him as a major league regular. Either or both should go in the top ten picks, but the exact placement is still unclear and will depend at least in part on what happens ahead of them, especially if there is a ripple effect with the Astros pick.
POTENTIAL SURPRISE NAMES
There are always some surprise names even on the first day of the draft. Here are four players who could get into the first round although they haven't received quite as much attention as other names. We'll be looking at more players like this at Minor League Ball in the coming days, as well as a middle-round picks to watch.
Billy McKinney, OF, Plano West HS, Plano, Texas: McKinney is one of the best pure hitters in the draft, with a mechanically-sweet swing, an eye for the zone, and plenty of bat speed. He's be a very early pick if the rest of his tools weren't just average, but even without Meadows or Frazier-level tools, he still has a good shot at going in the back part of the first round.
Tyler O'Neill, C-INF, Garibaldi SS, Maple Ridge, British Columbia: Scouts aren't sure what position O'Neill will play; he's not a great catcher and might wind up at second, third, or the outfield. They are certain he will hit, given his combination of bat speed and polish. Being from Canada and having a positional question has kept him out of the first round in most mock drafts, but that might not be true in real life for a team that covets his impact bat.
Blake Taylor, LHP, Dana Hills HS, Dana Point, California: Scouts love live-armed lefties and Taylor fits that mold, already throwing in the 90s and showing a promising curve and change. He is inexperienced and his control needs work, but his arm is fresh. Someone in love with his projection who feels he is moldable could take his name off the board quickly.
Jordan Paroubeck, OF, Serra HS, San Mateo, California: A switch-hitter with power and speed potential, Paroubeck is family friends with Barry Bonds but would stand out for his tools even without that connection. He's received less attention than some of the other prep hitters until just recently, but scouts are certainly aware of him and he could be chosen in the back of the first round or just after.