MLB Draft Update: Theo watches Appel battle; Scouting Report on Jonathan Gray

Saturday morning means draft update time.  We'll start it off with an updated top 50 by Baseball America.  To nobody's surprise, the top 2 are Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray.  Clint Frazier is 3rd.  We have an update on all 3 players today.  Biggest surprise is hard-throwing Texas prep RHP Kohl Stewart at #5. It's also interesting that BA has Reese McGuire moving up past Jonathan Denney in the battle to become the first catcher taken. That's not a big surprise to us, however. Cubs Den contributor Kevin Gallo has maintained that McGuire is the better prospect for a while now.

Another week, another couple of good performances from Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray, though neither was at his best last night.  Sometimes, though, you learn the most about a pitcher when his stuff isn't quite there and both pitchers seemed to adjust very nicely.

  • Mark Appel didn't have his best stuff according to Stanford coach Mark Marquess.  Appel agreed.  Heck, even an objective source like the radar gun would attest to that.  So did Appel get bombed?  Well, no.  He pitched 8 2/3 innings, nearly finishing the game until walking his last hitter on a 3-2 count -- his first walk of the game -- and being taken out once he approached his pitch count (114).  He gave up 7 hits and 2 runs while striking out 7.  As for those radar gun readings, Appel was his normal self early, sitting at 95-97 but fell to 93-95 in the sixth, then 91-93 in the 7th.  Appel adjusted, pitched to contact and worked efficiently -- then bounced back in the 8th and started throwing 96 again.  The guy seems as tough as nails. Aaron Fitt of Baseball America also seems impressed, "Had a great conversation with Mark Appel after the game - just a real class act, great mental outlook, easy guy to root for.  Oh, by the way, not that this should be a shock to anyone, but Theo Epstein was in the stands tonight.

Here is some video on last night's game from Bullpen Banter

  • Jonathan Gray went 6 2/3 innings tonight and gave up 7 hits and walked 2 batters but did not allow a run.  He struck out 8 batters.  Speaking of Gray, Kevin Gallo wrote up this scouting report...

Pitcher name: Jonathan Gray

HT: 6’4

WT: 234lbs

Position: RHP

Draft status: Oklahoma Junior

B/T: R/R

Physical:  He is a Big Pitcher with a strong lower and upper body.  He has rounded shoulders and a frame that can handle a heavy workload.

Mechanics: Gray positions himself in the middle of the rubber.  In the windup he stands at a 45 angle off the rubber.  He takes a small side step before he rocks into his delivery and drops his hands to his belt and up to his chest before positioning himself to make the pitch.  He has a high leg kick with a good drive from his back leg.  He gets good extension on his landing and lands with a slightly bent knee.  He keeps his is lead shoulder closed allowing him to hide the ball longer.  Gray shows a nice clean arm action from the ¾ arm slot.  He also shows good arm extension on his release of all of his pitches.

Fastball:   Gray’s fastball is easily a plus pitch.  His fastball sits comfortable at around 95 to 97 and hits triple digits at times with good tailing action.

Secondary Pitches:  Gray’s slider is an above average pitch now but could be a plus pitch later on.  It sits 85 to 87 with a tight hard 11 to 4 break.  He can sometimes leave it up but it shows a ton of potential.

Change up:  Gray’s Change up is at best an average pitch right now.  It sits around 84 to 82 with tailing action and it shows some promise.

Command:  Gray shows great command of his fastball moving the ball all over the zone.  His command of his other pitches isn’t as good but they aren’t that far behind.

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.

  • Clint Frazier is having himself quite a year.  Last night he went 2-for-3 with another HR, his 10th and also stole his 13th base. Overall Frazier is hitting .561/.638/1.246  over 18 games and 57 ABs.
  • Keith Law profiled Austin Meadows and likes him a bit more than Clint Frazier, but says that he could see the argument for picking Frazier ahead of him. He said neither is that advanced as a hitter but that Frazier shows more present power. Meadow may be more likely to stick in CF, but he's also no sure bet to stick either as he fills out and gains weight.
  • Ryan Stanek is starting to rebound a bit after a slow start.  He had his second straight strong outing, going 8 scoreless innings and giving up just 4 hits.  Most importantly for him, he did not walk a batter, though he only struck out 5.
  • Kris Bryant was rather ordinary for a change in last night's game against Loyola Marymount.  He was the DH and had a single in 4 ABs.  He's hitting .365/.529/.875 on the season with 14 HRs.
  • Jacksonville RHP Chris Anderson has put himself into top 10 consideration with his hot start but he has since cooled off a bit.  Not that he's been terrible or anything.  Anderson gave up 4 runs in 6 2/3 innings though only one of those runs were earned.  He walked one and struck out 5.
  • We've talked a little about athletic, hard-throwing RHP Braden Shipley.  He's a potential top 10 pick this year and he was on the mound tonight against San Diego State.  Shipley was solid with a line of 8 IP, 3H, 2R, 3W, and 5K -- but for those of you already looking toward the 2014 draft, he was outdueled by SDSU's Michael Cederoth, who reportedly was clocked between 96 and 100 mph last night.  He pitched 8 scoreless innings, walked one and struck out 14.

That's it for now.  We'll continue to keep you updated through the weekend.  It's off to Kane County again for me this afternoon and I'm excited to see Jose Arias after some strong performances down in instructs this past fall.


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  • I sw at Shipley's game last night and was a little disappointed at what I saw. His velocity dropped o around 90 to 91 in the 4th inning. His secondary pitches looked good but his Fastball looked a itte flate. He started pitching off of his Change up when his velocity dtropped but he looked very hit able to me.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    He's not going to factor in the Cubs pick but a team around the #10 range or so will have to decide on whether to gamble on his projection. He's obviously not as good as Zimmer, but I seem to remember Zimmer having some issues sustaining velo as well for a stretch last season. I think he may be a good gamble for a team with a proven track record of development once the big names are off the board.

  • Kris Bryant is going to be facing Scoot Friazer of Pepperdine next Friday so, it should be a good challege for him. I will be at the game next friday.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Nice. Looking forward to that.

  • One concern that I have for the Cubs future is the need for lefthanded hitters. Rizzo and Vogelbach play the same position. Jackson may or may not be able to play everyday. Watkins? Schierholtz will be getting too old. All our best position core playrrs except Rizzo hit from the right side as well as our top prospects. My question is that a factor in this years draft?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    They won't address that kind of specific need with their first pick. They're going to go BPA and let everything sort itself out.

    If it were a case where they were leaning hitter and they had an equal grade on Meadows, Frazier, Bryant, and maybe Moran. Then, they'd probably consider the lefty situation. Meadow and Moran are the top lefty hitters in the draft with Meadows having edge in upside and position value while Moran is by far the more polished hitter but, despite good size, hasn't shown the power you want from a corner guy -- and he's no sure bet to stick at 3B either.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    I don't think teams think about that until the major league level. First, these guys have to actually establish themselves as major league hitters before we can worry about handedness.

    Between Vogelbach, Baez, Soler, and Almora, I guarantee at least one of them will not be a average or better major-league starter and will disappoint/wash out. Which one? I have no idea, but even top prospects just are not sure things, not when they haven't reached AA yet.

  • If we take Keith Gallo's thoughts on the two HS OF's as a starting point, that "...neither is advanced as..." hitters, that to me a relative novice tends to place them towards the fringe of the consideration set for the number two pick. That would seem to leave us w/ a choice of Appel, Gray and Bryant at the time being.

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    In reply to Good Captain:

    Barring major injuries, moves, or upsets, I foresee us taking a college pitcher with that first pick.

    I prefer Appel, but the Astros probably do as well

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    Probably, with a heavy lean toward the pitchers. Colin Moran is a good college hitter too, likely a top 10 guy but definitely not a 2 pick unless you think he can stay at 3B and develop power.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, what class is Cederoth in, and is he a potential1st round pick this year, or is he more likely down the road? Is he coming from the same college Strasburg attended?

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    He is part of the 2014 Class and yes is attending SDSU.

  • Just curious if there's any sort of data available on the type of hitters Appel & Gray seem to be dominating? i.e., how have they fared against legit prospects vs. guys that will be entry level management hires for Enterprise rent a car?.... Not that there's anything wrong with working at Enterprise.

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    John, you mentioned in your last article how Luis Flores has somehow advanced through our system to AAA, despite injury/suspension (and oh yeah, his .206 career minor league batting average). This probably says more about the abysmal state of catching in our system than it does Luis Flores.

    How soon do you think the Cubs will address that in the draft?

    Some scouts like Wilton Contreras, and Justin Marra had a nice rookie season, but those guys are at low-levels. We have nothing above A-ball at this point, other than emergency-type catch and throw guys

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Flores has shown very brief flashes of natural ability, which is another reason why he's probably still around. Most of the Cubs catching prospects are grinder types.

    I like Marra as a hitter but I'm not sure on the rest of his game. Not the most athletic guy, even for a catcher.

  • I am a little disappointed by Appel's line USC is a very young team. I figured he would carve them up.

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    It does kind of seem like Gray and Appel are separating themselves from the pack. Nice to have the #2 pick.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think there are 5 or 6 players that could go at #2 and I would be happy.

  • I like when they struggle a bit and show they can get out of jams. Appel put up a great line considering he was 'off' by some people. I was watching Bobby Wahl against Vanderbilt and saw him work his way out of some really tough jams. It's nice to see them overpower everyone, but you need to see how they react under tough situations. Appel has great mound presence and showed he doesn't have to rely on striking everyone out to get a win.

  • In reply to Dan Kirby:

    My concern is team he struggled against.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I just think people are starting to reach about criticism. An 8.2 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 7 K/1 BB line is pretty damn good. USC is still a DIv 1 team and Stanford was on the road. He pitched better than most of the other elite prospects and still gets the most criticism. Everyone has a bad day, and if that was his, I'll take it.

  • In reply to Dan Kirby:

    USC is a very young and I figure even with not his great stuff. He would have been better.

  • If Houston takes a hitter, what factors should be considered in
    taking a pitcher. I would only take Appel if Boras is not a factor.

  • John and company,
    Where do you think these guys will fit in MLBs Top 100 prospects? Does Appel or Gray become the Cub's #1 prospect or slide somewhere in the top 5?

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    I was wondering this as well considering where they would be going in the draft...

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    They would be in the top 2.

  • If it going to be pitcher lets hope they consider his makeup besides
    just talent.

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    Yuck and double yuck on the Cougars game. Embarrassing in that it's another young team doing this to us.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:


  • Being a softball coach, I can't evaluate baseball pitchers very well except on the numbers. But I have an observation for you coaches out there about the Stanford catcher. You will observe most catchers on the balls of their feet, toes out, when receiving a pitch. Physiologically it is impossible to drop to block a pitch without raising your weight up first. So the catcher makes a quick pop movement to get the weight off the toes, then drops. This takes extra time. This catcher's feet are the TRUE proper position, weight on the entire inside edges of the feet. The catcher can then kick the feet backward instantly without any lift, and drops at least 50% faster. It also provides a strong block against which to push out to the sides to block pitches that are not in front. It literally increases extension to the sides quite a bit. Too many catchers just roll over that lead toe and drop a knee.

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    One has to wonder, if the Astros do take Appel, might the Cubs take Gray anyways? I've heard nothing on a potential breakup between Boras and Appel since it was briefly mentioned earlier this week when Cano announce he was leaving Boras for Jay-Z. This might be one time I'm rooting for a player to have himself represented by Scott Boras.

    John, glad your niece did well in Bloomington. I hope she is heavily recruited by schools near Cubs minor league affiliates for your sake. Tennessee and Florida have good gymnastics programs I hear.

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