MLB Draft Update: Gray sharp again; Appel solid but not dominant; A look at 2nd round prep arms

MLB Draft Update: Gray sharp again; Appel solid but not dominant; A look at 2nd round prep arms

Well this is really coming down to two players for the top two picks.  There are reasons to like Mark Appel and there are reasons to like Jonathan Gray, but it's getting harder and harder to imagine you wouldn't be happy with either one of them.

  • Keith Law drew up his top 50 and in it he says that Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray are the clear #1 and #2 in this draft -- and in that order.  Some interesting rankings include Texas high school fireballer Kohl Stewart at #5.  He has Austin Meadows (3) ahead of Clint Frazier (8) but thinks Frazier will get picked first.  Sean Manaea is #4.  Top college hitter Colin Moran is on the rise again  (.396/.510/.644 with 9 HRs) and Law has him 12th, but think he could go top 5 if a team thinks he can stick at 3B, which he should.  In case you're wondering, Kris Bryant is Law's 6th ranked player.  Bryant hit his 18th HR of the year last night.  Coming into that game, he had a slash line of .341/.517/.849.
  • Depending on where you pick and what you want, there are quite a few tough decisions to make in this draft: Appel or Gray? Meadows or Frazier?  Moran or Bryant?  There may also be a race to be the 3rd pitcher taken: Manaea, Stanek, or fast rising Braden Shipley...or maybe prep arm Kohl Stewart?  It looks like the Cubs will probably have their choice made for them, though they still could consider a few players.  They are said to be looking at 5 to 6 guys right now.
  • Mark Appel faced Arizona and had a bit of a bumpy start, giving up 3 runs in the 3rd, though only 2 were earned.  He gave up 7 hits, including 2 doubles and a triple, then tired at the end and walked 2 batters with 2 outs in the 7th.  In all his line read 6.2 IP, 7H, 3R, 2 ER, 2 W, 6 Ks.
  • Jonathan Gray has outpitched Appel the last two outings and had another dominant performance last night, going 6 scoreless innings and allowing just 2 hits, no walks, and 10 strikeouts.  Oklahoma had a big lead and I'm assuming that's one of the reasons Gray was pulled early. It seems that Gray is really building some momentum and is getting national media attention now.  There were two articles on him, this profile by ESPN and this piece by Jon Heyman.  Heyman said that the Astros, Cubs, and Rockies have all been scouting Gray heavily.

Last week we looked at some college hitters that could be there for their 2nd pick, but the real prize may be getting a high ceiling high school arm who could slip because of the college arm depth in this draft.

Will try and look at different guys in the coming weeks but here are a few to keep an eye on for now...

  • If the Cubs don't pick Sean Manaea (whose Indiana State team did not play last nigh) in the first round, an interesting lefty who may be available for their 2nd pick is California high schooler Jonah Wesely.  Wesely pitched an 18 strikeout no-hitter on Wednesday.  He pitched an 11 strikeout 2 hitter in his previous start.  The 6'2" sturdily built Wesely works with low 90s fastball that can reach the mid 90s and a curveball that has plus potential.
  • Some of you may remember former MLB closer Brian Harvey and his intimidating fastball.  He was on hand at the UA game to catch his son pitch and he pretty much looks the same as he did back then.  His son Hunter Harvey has seen his stock rise a lot since that day and now could sneak into the supplemental first round.  He works with a 92-93 mph fastball and hard curve -- but at 6'2", 175 lbs, there's plenty of projection left for him to throw harder in time.
  • LHP Rob Kaminsky doesn't have great size (6'0", 190) but he has a good 92 mph fastball and a big curve, which may be the best in the draft.  He has struck out 38 batters in his last 19 innings and like Wesely, has thrown a no-hitter this season.
  • He's not a prep pitcher but one of the faster rising pitchers of late is Northwest Mississippi Community College LHP Cody Reed.  He has great size at 6'4", 220 and the mid 90s fastball to match.  He also throws a good curve.
  • LHP (noticing a trend here) Jacob Brentz has touched 97 and some say he's reached 100, but he more often pitches in the 92-94 range. He has a projectable, athletic body at 6'2", 185 lbs so he's a player who is still a work in progress -- but there's obviously a lot to work with.
  • California LHP Matt Krook had a lot of helium 2 weeks ago but a couple of rough performances and he has dropped a bit again, perhaps enough to fall to the Cubs.  Scouts like his big frame that projects well, a low 90s fastball and a curveball with plus potential.
  • Another guy I saw at the UA game, RHP Connor Jones, probably shouldn't fall to the Cubs on talent but he may be a tough sign.  If the Cubs are able to save a few bucks with their first pick, then maybe they'll see if they can sign Jones to an overslot bonus.  Jones can already reach 94 and has advanced command for a kid his age.  I can see the Cubs liking this guy if he's available.
  • High school numbers don't mean much but these are kind of fun anyway.  Hard throwing RHP Carlos Salazar, who can reach the upper 90s, struck out 14 batters in 6 innings and has a 0.00 ERA in 41.2 IP with 80Ks and 19 walks.  He is still raw even for a high school product,  so he doesn't figure to be the Cubs 2nd round pick, but if he slips into the 3rd round...who knows?


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    I'd love if Ziomek somehow fell to the second round. If not i'd be fine with another Underwood-type talent. High ceiling, high risk. Then hopefully in the 3rd round we can find a solid Pierce Johnson-esqe guy.

    Would not surprise me at all to see pitchers taken with the first 3 picks. Hell had a pitcher been the BPA for us last year we might have seen Cubs do exactly that.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I believe Ziomek will be available to the Cubs in the 2nd round. Whether they pick him is another story. They may get more upside with high school arms. Remember that they're not especially fond of the idea of taking college pitching -- it's just that that's where the talent likes at the top. I don't know if they'll take a college arm in the second round. I think they'll go upside.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    i agree, with gray and appel falling to the cubs (assuming we end up with one of them). i think it makes sense to go for high upside with the next pick. if a guy like ziomek falls to the third round for some reason, then i think u look to take him there.

    although im really liking what im hearing about contreras this year, i still think it makes sense to nab one of these high school catchers as well if at all possible. it seems at this point that the two i like most, cuiffo and denney, are going in the first round tho.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    I wouldn't call Ziomek high upside and my thought is that they may pass if he's there in favor of a prep arm with a higher ceiling.

    I don't know if there will be a catcher worth taking with the 42nd pick assuming McGuire, Denny, and Ciuffo will all be gone. That may be something they address in rounds 3 or 4.

  • what's the chance they select a catcher with their supplemental or second round pick?

  • In reply to Joshnk24:

    They don't have a supplemental pick. I think if Ciuffo somehow slips into the 2nd round then he becomes an option. I don't think he will as he's building momentum late.

    As things look right now, if the big 3 are gone, there really is no catcher worth taking high in the 2nd round, perhaps later in the draft.

  • Nice article John. I'm excited about Grays development. Mostly because we have a viable option if HOU takes Appel. I thought Manaea might be that guy, and he still may but this is good for us.

    After our #2 pick, we'll certainly load up on high ceiling arms and I'd like to grab a high ceiling backstop or two

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Thanks Hoosier. I'm not going to rule out Manaea. I'm not sure he's as special as it once appeared but LHPs who can reach the mid 90s are still pretty rare. I think he's still on the radar and there is still 6 weeks left. If his velo picks back up with the weather, he could get real interesting again.

    I do think we'll see the team load up on arms and maybe a catcher if the stars align and there's one available that they like.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I believe Felix No-Neck Heredia threw 95...

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    He did it with maximum effort because he was more pleased with radar readings than knowing how to pitch.

    Radar readings are nice, but you have to also know how pitchers get there and know a little about their general approach, delivery, and potential to maintain that velocity long term. In that sense, Heredia isn't very much like Manaea at all, other than their top radar readings.

  • I think the Cubs will have the choice of either pitcher as the Astros select Meadows. He fits their time frame and is an easier sign. It would be tough for any organization not to grab him, because of his upside.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    That's certainly possible. I could also see them taking someone like Frazier -- or they could be really bold and take Kohl Stewart.

    Whatever happens, it's good to have two big power arms at the top, so the Cubs are assured of getting one -- if that's what they want.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    We often talk about timing potential FA signings and Draft picks to coincide w/ the Cubs re-emergence on the field of play (hopefully) in the 2014-2015 time frame. What do you suppose the Astros estimate is for their return to competitive viability and how might that influence the Astros pick here in your opinion?

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    It's an interesting question and the Astros don't appear to be a pure BPA team, so that may put that kind of strategy in play.

    That said, it's easy to see Gray starting in high A, and their current top picks from last year are playing in low A, so that could time out for them. Appel will probably start at AA, so maybe that doesn't fit as well with their timetable -- but also keep in mind they have guys like Singleton and Springer who will be at AAA this year, I believe. He could still fit in if they plan on going in "waves" like the Cubs are.

  • I want Gray.


  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    I like Appel better, but I'll be happy with Gray too.

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    I have some very mild concerns that the workload is starting to catch up to Appel. It's nothing terrible, though. I still think he's the pick and I have supreme confidence in Derek Johnson to get him to the big leagues.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    You always have to worry about stuff like that. He's been kept pretty low for the most part. Haven't seen him get past 110ish until yesterday (124).

    Gray has been monitored well too. They're both big strong kids, so hopefully they can handle the load -- and, not that I condone higher pitch counts, but remember they pitch once a week, so the recovery time is longer.

  • I am a big Wesley guy. I believe he has the highest baseball IQ of any player in this draft. He is a self taught pitcher no professional pitching coach. He has learned his CB by watching Kershaw and from books. He picked up hid other pitches from other players from other players over the summer. His ability to pick things up is amazing.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Thanks for the info Kevin! He's pretty filled out physically, what do you think about his projection? Is there more in the tank or is improving going to be more of a matter of refining his stuff, command, and approach on the mound?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He is just a drop and drive guy right now. There is still more strength to be developed there. I could he him gaining 3 ticks on his FB. That would put him 94 to 95. He has a inning eater body and a very good CB. I haven't seen the Slider or CU, but I have heard some very positive things about them.

  • I've been aboard the Gray bandwagon for a while now. And the article on the scout who gave his perspective on Gray was spot-on. I mentioned he does have that Kerry Wood falloff to first base thing going on. The scout did indicate some concern with that and was nice to learn what happens (command suffers) when he does do that and being somewhat stiff. I do like Manaea for the power lefty arm he can provide. Appel is my third choice.

    The minor flaws in Grays delivery, can those be easily corrected with the Cubs coaching or will it cause him to be in the minors a little longer than anticipated?

    Thanks for the updates and added articles such as the Gray scouting report and possible arms for 2nd round and beyond.

  • In reply to Buzz:

    You're welcome. I think you can correct it somewhat. Gray isn't quite as athletic as Appel or Manaea, so adjustments may not come as easy for him. Athleticism and track record, in fact, are two reasons why I like Appel better. A more advanced change-up is a third.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    How important is a change-up to Gray? Can he survive with two plus-plus pitches like Randy Johnson based on velocity and command?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    You can survive with one pitch if it's good enough. Kevin Brown and Ramon Martinez had enough velo and movement on their 2 seamers that they could pretty much go the entire game with it and do well.

    That said, you like to have at least 3 pitches because a slider isn't ideal for opposite handed hitters because it breaks in toward them. You usually like to throw the change more in that situation. You also want more than 2 pitches in case one of them isn't working. If Gray can't command his slider, he's stuck throwing fastball after fastball -- you need something to fall back on.

  • Where-are-they-now Dept.:
    Chris Volstad (8.53 era) was optioned to AAA by the Rockies.
    He will join future Hall-of-Famer Tyler Colvin on the Sky Sox.
    They can play against Irreplaceable Tony Campana when Reno is the PCL opponent.
    Colvin is having a decent AAA spring; Campana is warming up though -- he's now 3 for 39 with 3 walks, 2 stolen bases, and 2 runs scored.

    Please make those draft picks and waiver pickups good ones.....

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Ha! See, goes to show that not everyone who leaves the Cubs becomes a star!

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Also, Bryan LaHair is .273/.324/.500 so far for Softbank Hawks

    Jeff Baker, 4 for 13 for Rangers, incl. 2-run HR

    Adrian Cardenas has not even signed a minor-league

    The 2 Blakes, Blake DeWitt and Blake Lalli, are both drawing major league paychecks, somehow....

    Hak Ju Lee is batting .419 at AAA hot start!

  • We've heard a lot about Appel and how he could be ready for the big leagues very soon. What's the time frame on Gray? Probably more like 2015?

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    I think Gray will need at least a year, and probably two in the minors so I think 2015 is realistic. His change-up is not as advanced.

  • How do think claiming so many players off wavier will work out
    in the long run.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I think they're just throwing a lot of stuff against the wall and hoping something works out. The hope is that they can find a keeper or two.

  • John, a couple of draft related questions:
    1) I was reading an article by Bill Polian the other day about how NFL teams have their board together pretty early and that a lot of people think that there are players rising and falling in the rankings around the draft but that isn't the case. Football, obviously, drafts with and works with a different timeframe than baseball. So... are players moving up and down a lot as the draft arrives as some of the rankings we see would indicate or have teams pretty much settled on rankings a month or a few weeks before the draft?

    2) We all know that the best strategy with at least the first pick or two a team has is to go with BPA. But at what point does a team say, "Well, we really need a catcher so even though we have this player higher, let's go for the highest ranked catcher here"? Or do teams draft BPA all the way through the draft? It seems not as the Cubs clearely targeted pitchers last draft and I'm guessing they might have passed over position players that might have been ranked higher. What's your thought on draft strategy?

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    I was just looking over the Dodgers team. How does Ned Colletti still have a job with that total train wreck of a roster he built?

  • In reply to Just Win:

    I agree. He spent all that money and has very little to show for it.

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    It's a lot like if Jim Hendry was given a blank check, it's such a hodge podge mess. I understand some of those guys were acquired before the new ownership and the now seemingly unlimited budget, but they have so many holes on that team and have the highest payroll in the NL by far and should be the highest in MLB next year.

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    He has a (very) small amount of wriggle room in that some of their issues are the injuries to Hanley Ramirez and Zach Greinke and that Matt Kemp has been in a terrible slump. Still, given their payroll, that isn't a whole lot to hang your hat on. But that is a very good, very veteran team. Much like Yankee teams counted out in April, the Dodgers aren't dead, yet.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Kemp's a good player as is Gonzalez. Ramirez' best days are far behind him and the rest of the infield is nothing special. Neither are Crawford or Ethier. Kershaw's a stud but the rest of the staff is just so-so, as is Ellis.

  • 1) They're more settled at this point. I think teams pretty know which players are good and the teams that draft well don't want to get skewed too much by a late sample size change. They're going by stuff/skills/tools and that isn't likely to change much at this point.

    2) BPA is key for that first pick and after that it starts to loosen up. Drafting is an inexact science the further you go in the draft, so it gradually changes. If you want a SS for example, and you pick 2nd, it's easy to see that Appel and Gray are much better than the top SS available (JP Crawford). At that point you go BPA.

    But as you get to pick 42, it's a lot less certain as to whether your 42nd player is a whole lot better than your 45th player. And if that 45th player is a catcher while that 42nd player is a 2B, you'd probably go with that 45th player at that point since that is a bigger need.

    Of course, the further you go, this becomes even more true. It's just not exact enough to say player A is definitely the BPA once you get into the mid to late rounds, so you have some leeway as to need.

  • I'm not sold completely on an arm this early in round one. Isn't it safer to pick a bat and then trade for the already developed arms when you are ready to contend? Pitching injuries are more often career ending than those to position players right?

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    Problem with that is that a developed arm - think gio, price, shields, garza - will cost you your best picks from not just one draft, but two or three. And even with that, no pitcher's career is guaranteed.

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