Let the summer commence!

As 2013 Draft picks are signing left and right, it’s time to start looking at the Draft class of 2014. And there are plenty of places to look. As I mentioned in my story about the Class of ’14 and the summer schedule, it’s already beginning. The Perfect Game National Showcase starts today in Minneapolis and scouts are flocking to the Twin Cities to check out the annual kickoff event of the summer for the high schoolers.

At the same time (well, yesterday), the college summer season is underway, with the Cape Cod League starting on Wednesday. I’ll try to update regularly here on how the summer is looking. In Wednesday’s openers, it appeared the pitching was ahead of the hitting on the Cape. Some highlights:

  • Erick Fedde, RHP, UNLV: 6 2/3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K
  • Kyle Kubat, LHP, Nebraska: 6 IP, 2 H, 2 R (1 ER), 3 BB, 3 K
  • Brandon Finnegan, LHP, TCU: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K
  • Andrew McGee, LHP, Monmouth: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K
  • Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford: 6 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 6 K

That’s just a smattering, obviously. But it was a good day for lefties. Much, much more to come.

The Draft wild card that is Sean Manaea

We’re winding down here, with less than a week before the Draft. As always, I’m efforting to figure out who goes where. Some may call it a fool’s errand, but so be it.

Perhaps the one player making it the most difficult to figure out the first round is Sean Manaea. Once thought to be a potential No. 1 pick, the big, hard-throwing lefty struggled for much of this season, a hip flexor the biggest issue. Given his health issues, he has a big question mark around his name right now, making figuring out a mock draft really tough. You’ll see I put him 19th (Cardinals), but that’s not based on any solid information. I just felt someone would roll the dice on Manaea and St. Louis hasn’t shied away from taking college pitching that slides to them later in the round.

It’s all going to depend on the medical reports. There was a little talk of shoulder stiffness coming from when Manaea was supposed to start in his conference tournament, but was scratched after three warmup pitches. I don’t know if the medical report will have information on the shoulder — it’s extremely possible that whatever shoulder discomfort he felt was because of trying to overcompensate for the hip.

See? A lot of questions to be answered. One thing I can tell you is that whoever takes Manaea should not expect a discount. I’m guessing that the Manaea camp will feel it’s a temporary issue and teams should plan accordingly. Manaea was a guy who was a top of the Draft arm before the hip got in the way, that feeling goes.

Teams will take a look at the medical report, once they get it (if they haven’t done so already). If they see that it’s a non-permanent hip thing, and there are no issues with the elbow or shoulder, then they might be willing to roll the dice and take the big lefty. When healthy, stuff-wise, he belonged in conversations at the top of the Draft.

Buyer beware? Or at least buyer, be aware. Just because Sean Manaea drops does not mean he’s going to sign for that pick value (Pick No. 19, by the way, is $2,055,800).

I’m hoping to get a better sense of what might happen with the lefty as teams get a look at that all-important medical report.

High school hitters in context

As you all know, we’re running full-tilt on 2013 Draft content — just check out our 2013 section to see what I mean — currently going through our postional breakdown stories. Today’s breakdown is on high school pitchers, with a spotlight feature on Hunter Harvey (yep, that’s Bryan’s kid).

But I wanted to hop on here quickly because someone asked me a good question on Twitter (I know, shocking, right?). It comes from “The Minor League Guy” (@TMLGSports). The question basically was: Where would you put Clint Frazier on a list of high school prospects from the last five years?

I couldn’t answer that one in 140 characters so, with his permission, I wanted to tackle it here. Took me a few days longer than I had hoped, but here goes.

For the sake of this exercise, I’m sticking to high school hitters. I’d rather not try to contextualize Frazier with, say, Dylan Bundy. The biggest issue I’m finding is one of hindsight. A guy who’s been playing in the Minors and has had success — it’s had to go back to thoughts of him as an amateur, but I did my best. First, lets look at the high school hitters taken in the first round since 2009 (2009-2013 being the five-year period).

2009 (9 total)

Donavan Tate (No. 3, Padres)
Bobby Borchering (No. 16, D-backs)
Jio Mier (No. 21, Astros)
Randal Grichuk (No. 24, Angels)
Mike Trout (No. 25, Angels)
Nick Franklin (No. 27, Mariners)
Reymond Fuentes (No. 28, Red Sox)
Slade Heathcott (No. 29, Yankees)
LeVon Washington (No. 30, Rays)

2010 (9)

Manny Machado (No. 3 pick, Orioles)
Delno DeShields (No. 8, Astros)
Jake Skoke (No. 15, Rangers)
Josh Sale (No. 17, Rays)
Kaleb Cowart (No. 18, Angels)
Kellin Deglan (No. 22, Rangers)
Christian Yelich (No. 23, Marlins)
Chevy Clarke (No. 30, Angels)
Justin O’Connor (No. 31, Rays)

2011 (6)

Bubba Starling (No. 5, Royals)
Francisco Lindor (No. 8, Indians)
Javier Baez (No. 9, Cubs)
Brandon Nimm0 (No. 13, Mets)
Blake Swihart (No. 26, Red Sox)
Jake Hager (No. 32, Rays)

2012 (12)

Carlos Correa (No. 1, Astros)
Byron Buxton (No. 2, Twins)
Albert Almora (No. 6, Cubs)
David Dahl (No. 10, Rockies)
Addison Russell (No. 11, A’s)
Gavin Cecchini (No. 12, Mets)
Courtney Hakwins (No. 13, White Sox)
D.J. Davis (No. 17, Blue Jays)
Corey Seager (No. 18, Dodgers)
Stryker Trahan (No. 26, D-backs)
Clint Coulter (No. 27, Brewers)
Lewis Brinson (No. 29, Rangers)

Before I try to make heads or tails of this, a couple of things stand out:

  1. The 2012 Draft was a good year to be a high school hitter (12 first rounders)
  2. Boy, the Angels and Rays like prep bats.

OK, so, now to the question. How do they rank, and how does Clint Frazier, the highest ranked high school hitter in the 2013 Draft class, figure into the mix? Here’s my best crack at ranking the top 10, openly admitting that that ol’ hindsight is playing a part:

1. Mike Trout

2. Manny Machado

3.  Byron Buxton

4. Christian Yelich

5. Francisco Lindor

6. Carlos Correa

7. Javier Baez

8. Clint Frazier

9. Addison Russell

10. Bubba Starling

 

This leaves off some very, very good names — Franklin, Almora, Dahl — come to mind, with some others right behind them. Highly unscientific, completely subjective and, admittedly, done without consulting scouts on the matter. But perhaps fun for debate. I think you could make an argument that Frazier doesn’t belong in the top 10, perhaps a testament to the overall strength (or lack thereof) of this Draft class. I also think, with his bat speed and power and overall tools, you could argue he belongs up a touch or two higher.

What does everyone think?

 

 

Watching Jean Segura

Tonight, I’m getting the chance to step out of my normal environment and cover a big league game. I’m filling in, covering the Brewers tonight here at PNC Park. One of the best things about my job is getting to see the guys I’ve written about as prospects excel at this level.

Jean Segura was a prospect for a while with the Angels, even if he didn’t enter national consciousness until he was sent to Milwaukee as the key to the Zack Greinke deal. He was brought up last year and kept his head above water, impressive considering his age and that he was jumped from Double-A. This year? Well, this year he’s the talk of the early part of the season, isn’t he (he’s gone 2-for-3 thus far tonight to accentuate the point).

It made me wonder what we had written about him in the past. We started Prospect Watch in 2011, when we only did Top 10 per organization (instead of our more robust 20 now). That year, Segura was the No. 2 prospect on the Angels’ Top 10. Here’s what we had on him at the time:

Segura can do just about everything on the baseball field. In his first full season, Segura was a Class A Midwest League All-Star, hitting for average, showing some extra-base pop, and stealing 50 bases. He’s got enough arm for short, and the Angels are trying him over there with Class A Advanced Inland Empire this season, though hamstring issues have hampered his development.
He had played mostly second base in the early part of his career, but it wasn’t because he didn’t have the arm for it. I remember that 2011 season, when the goal was to have him play short all year, but that hamstring issue kept him from seeing too much of the field. Guess he’s made up for that, huh?
In that 2010 season, Segura hit .313/.365/.464 in the Midwest League, finishing with 50 steals and 46 extra-base hits. It looks like that was a harbinger of things to come. People who weren’t paying attention back then, or didn’t click on that link above may wonder: “Who could have possibly been a better prospect in the Angels’ system then?”
That, of course, would be none other than Mike Trout. Trout and Segura were teammates on that 2010 Cedar Rapids club (not fair, right?). Trout got promoted after 80 games, but left his mark: .362/.454/.526 with 45 steals. He was the leadoff hitter while there, with Segura largely hitting third. When Trout was promoted, Segura took over in the leadoff spot and he seemed to like it as well. He hit .353/.402/.563 in 54 games as the Kernals’ leadoff man.
Perhaps it’s something Trout and Segura can discuss if they meet up in New York for this year’s All-Star Game.

Golden Spikes Watch List from a Draft point of view

Yesterday, USA Baseball released it’s Watch List of 60 amateur players for this year’s Golden Spikes Award. It’s a rolling list, meaning players can be added/subtracted, until May 28, when the group of 30 semifinalists will be announced. The Golden Spikes Award winner will be announced on MLB Network on July 19 (simulcast live on GoldenSpikesAward.com and USABaseball.com). The release states that 28 players have been added to the list from the initial watch list of 32 that came out back in February.

The watch list has amateurs from a variety of classes, but obviously, I was interested in the Draft-eligible guys on the list. With that in mind, here are the Golden Spikes watch list guys who are on MLB.com’s Top 100 Draft Prospects list. Guys in bold are the ones who are a part of the 28 who were added. I’m listing them in order of where they are on the Top 100 — it does not reflect any kind of Golden Spikes-related ranking.

1. Mark Appel, RHP, Senior, Stanford, Pac-12
2. Jonathan Gray, RHP, Junior, Oklahoma, Big 12
5. Kris Bryant, UTL, Junior, San Diego, West Coast
6. Sean Manaea, LHP, Junior, Indiana State, Missouri Valley
7. Colin Moran, IF, Junior, North Carolina, ACC
9. Ryne Stanek, RHP, Junior, Arkansas, SEC
10. D.J. Peterson, IF, Junior, New Mexico, Mountain West
15. Chris Anderson, RHP, Junior, Jacksonville, Atlantic Sun
16. Braden Shipley, RHP, Junior, Nevada, MWC
17. Marco Gonzales, LHP, Junior, Gonzaga, West Coast
22. Phillip Ervin, OF, Junior, Samford, SoCon
24. Aaron Judge, OF, Junior, Fresno State, Mountain West
28. Bobby Wahl, RHP, Junior, Mississippi, SEC
29. Tom Windle, LHP, Junior, Minnesota, Big 10
30. Kevin Ziomek, LHP, Junior, Vanderbilt, SEC
35. Eric Jagielo, IF, Junior, Notre Dame, Big East
37. Aaron Blair, RHP, Junior, Marshall, C-USA
41. Jason Hursh, RHP, RS Sophomore, Oklahoma St, Big 12
44. Michael Lorenzen, OF/RHP, Junior, Cal State Fullerton, Big West
45. Corey Knebel, RHP, Junior, Texas, Big 12
51. Trevor Williams, RHP, Junior, Arizona State, Pac-12
66. Andrew Knapp, C, Junior, California, Pac-12
68. Kent Emanuel, LHP, Junior, North Carolina, ACC
73. Matt Boyd, LHP, Senior, Oregon State, Pac-12
81. Trey Masek, RHP, Junior, Texas Tech, Big 12
94. Hunter Renfroe, OF, Junior, Mississippi State, SEC
100. Buck Farmer, RHP, Senior, Georgia Tech, ACC

A total of 27 Top 100 guys on the watch list, including five who have been added since that February list. Fifteen on this watch list are in the Top 30 Draft prospects, for whatever that’s worth.

Top April prospect performers

The first month of the season is in the books, so it’s time to take a look at which prospects performed the best over the opening weeks of the season. Small sample size? Sure, but it’s fun to see who broke out of the gates well among the prospects on the Top 100 list.

Hitters (It’s good to be a Twins fan)

OPS

Byron Buxton, Twins (No. 19 overall, No. 2 on Twins Top 20) — 1.194
Miguel Sano, Twins (No. 12 overall, No. 1 on Twins Top 20) — 1.183
Nick Franklin, Mariners (No. 45 overall, No. 4 on Mariners Top 20) — 1.1161
Nolan Arenado, Rockies (No. 60 overall, No. 2 on Rockies Top 20) — 1.059
George Springer, Astros (No. 55 overall, No. 3 on Astros Top 20) — 1.056

Home runs

Sano — 9
Springer — 8
Courtney Hawkins, White Sox (No. 65 overall, No. 1 on White Sox Top 20) — 7
Joc Pederson, Dodgers (No. 81 overall, No. 3 on Dodgers Top 20) — 6
Javier Baez, Cubs (No. 16 overall, No. 1 on Cubs Top 20) — 5

RBIs

Mike Zunino, Mariners (No. 23 overall, No. 3 on Mariners Top 20) — 26
Sano — 24
Arenado — 21
Buxton — 21
Springer — 20

Stolen bases

Billy Hamilton, Reds (No. 11 overall, No. 1 on Reds Top 20) — 15
Buxton — 9
Gregory Polanco, Pirates (No. 62 overall, No. 4 on Pirates Top 20) — 9
Luis Sardinas, Rangers (No. 80 overall, No. 3 on Rangers Top 20) — 8
Francisco Lindor, Indians (No. 14 overall, No. 1 on Indians Top 20) — 7
Pederson — 7

Pitchers

ERA

Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks (No. 24 overall, No. 2 on D-backs Top 20) — 1.26
Taijuan Walker, Mariners (No. 5 overall, No. 1 on Mariners Top 20) — 1.55
Jesse Biddle, Phillies (No. 58 overall, No. 1 on Phillies Top 20) — 1.74
Michael Wacha, Cardinals (No. 79 overall, No. 5 on Cardinals Top 20) — 1.86
Gerrit Cole, Pirates (No. 9 overall, No. 1 on Pirates Top 20) — 2.32

Strikeouts

A Bradley — 43
Biddle — 40
Jake Odorizzi, Rays (No. 43 overall, No. 3 on Rays Top 20)– 36
Zack Wheeler, Mets (No. 8 overall,  No. 2 on Mets Top 20)– 36
Chris Archer, Rays — 35 (No. 44 overall, No. 4 on Rays Top 20) — 35

Batting average against

Biddle — .114
Walker — .150
Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays (No. 34 overall, No. 1 on Blue Jays Top 20)– .170
Wacha — .184
Jarred Cosart, Astros (No. 85 overall, No. 4 on Astros Top 20) — .190

Astros looking at six for top pick in the Draft

With the Draft about six weeks away, the Houston Astros — owners of the No. 1 overall pick for the second straight year — have narrowed their focus for the top pick down to a half-dozen main candidates. Four of them hail from the college ranks and two are high schoolers.

Most in the industry have felt Houston would be looking pitching, and college pitching in particular, with the top spot. And three of the six candidates do fit that description. Stanford’s Mark Appel, a No. 1 pick potential a year ago, is back and pitching better than he ever has in his Stanford career. He’s joined by Oklahoma ace Jonathan Gray and Indiana State lefty Sean Manaea.

The Astros have one college bat on that final list: San Diego third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant, who has been raking for most of this season.

Finally, there’s the two high school outfielders from Georgia, Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier, to round out the half-dozen.

There might be a couple of players on the periphery — a Colin Moran from North Carolina, perhaps — but those six appear to be the main candidates. All are in the top 10 of MLB.com’s Top 100 Draft prospects list.

Expect the list to stay more or less the same up until Draft time. Don’t be surprised if Houston keeps its options open in case it wants to be creative at the top, like it was with Carlos Correa a year ago.

 

Get to know your new big leaguers

One of the things I like best about Prospect Watch (and I’m not just saying this as the primary content-producer for it) is that you can read up on players before they get to the big leagues. Or, if you hadn’t done it ahead of time, when a guy gets called up, you can go and read up and then know about the guy when he’s there.

And there have been some intriguing prospects making their debuts lately. For example:

Allen Webster, No. 4 on the Red Sox’s Top 20 and No. 71 overall, got called up to pitch the back end of Sunday’s doubleheader in Boston. The right-hander seemed to manage the emotionally charged day well, allowing three runs (two earned) over six innings. Of the 18 outs he recorded, five were by strikeout and seven were by groundout. That shouldn’t surprise those who read his entry on Prospect Watch:

Webster’s best pitch is his fastball, but it’s not just because he throws it up into the mid-90s. His heater has plus life with a ton of sink, which has enabled him to get a ton of groundball outs along with swings and misses. His changeup also has sink to it and he has a pretty good feel for it.

Anthony Rendon, No. 1 on the Nationals’ Top 20 and No. 28 overall, made his big league debut on Sunday as well, coming up to replace the injured Ryan Zimmerman. He went 0-for-4, but made a very nice defensive play at the hot corner. There should be more of that to come and he has plenty of offensive potential as well:

Rendon still has all of the terrific hitting skills that made him one of the top college hitting prospects in recent memory, with bat speed to spare and an approach that should let him hit for average and power. He’s an above-average defender at third, even with the loss of some speed and perhaps a tick off of his arm following his shoulder issues.

We can even look ahead a little bit. Jonathan Pettibone, No. 4 on the Phillies’ Top 20, makes his Major League debut tonight at home against the Pirates. He hasn’t thrown well in his two Triple-A starts this year, but that’s not exactly a big sample size. Evidently, he’s struggled with his command. Typically, though, that’s a big strength. Here’s the blurb on what he brings to the table:

In terms of pure pitchability, no one matches Pettibone in the Phillies’ system, though others might have better pure stuff. With a tall, lanky frame, the right-hander has used a solid three-pitch mix with an advanced feel for pitching to reach Triple-A in a hurry. Pettibone throws downhill with an average sinking fastball that gets a ton of groundball outs. He can reach back for more if he wants to, though he’s happy to pitch to contact. His changeup is his best secondary offering, an above-average offspeed pitch he’ll throw at any time with good sink. His slider is fringy, but he has above-average control and command of all three, allowing his stuff to play up. His ceiling might be in the middle of the rotation, but he’s just about ready for that task.

In other words, if he can command the baseball like he has throughout most of his pro career, he can have success against the Pirates tonight and against other big league teams in the future. If that continues to be an issue, it could be a long night, and a relatively short stay this time around, for Pettibone.

So, wrapping up. Be sure to check out Prospect Watch and, of course, MLB Pipeline, often so you can seem smarter than all of your other baseball fan friends.

Top Prospects Weekly Leaders

Greetings all prospect fans. I’ve been using this space to run down top performances by our top prospects. Typically, that’s meant the Top 100.

Today, I’m going to expand it a bit, taking a look at the week that was (April 8-14) and who excelled across not just the Top 100, but the Top 20s for each team as well. Always remember to check out for news/updates on your favorite prospects over on MLBPipeline.com.

First, the hitters (rank by OPS for the week in parentheses). It was a good week in the Rockies system.

Rosell Herrera, SS/3B, No. 12 Rockies prospect (5th): 1.538 OPS
Andrew Susac, C, No. 16 Giants prospect (9th): 1.438 OPS
Charlie Culberson, 2B, No. 14 Rockies prospect (12th): 1.429 OPS
James Ramsey, OF, No. 17 Cardinals prospect (22nd): 1.338 OPS
Corey Dickerson, OF, No. 16 Rockies prospect (26th): 1.318 OPS
Michael Taylor, OF, No. 12 A’s prospect (27th): 1.318 OPS
Jeff Kobernus, 2B/OF, No. 15 Nationals prospect (30th): 1.308

It’s a little tougher with pitching, with no OPS for the week at the ready for them. So I picked out some (definitely not all — I used only guys who gave up no runs of any sort) of the top performers from the week instead.

Archie Bradley, RHP, No. 2 D-backs prospect (No. 24 overall): 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 K
Aaron Sanchez, RHP, No. 1 Blue Jays prospect (No. 35 overall): 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K
Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, No. 2 Rays prospect (No. 44 overall): 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K
Max Fried, LHP, No. 2 Padres prospect (No. 53 overall): 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K
Yordano Ventura, RHP, No. 3 Royals prospect (No. 59 overall): 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 K
Tony Cingrani, LHP, No. 3 Reds prospect (No. 66 overall): 8.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 12 K
Jarred Cosart, RHP, No. 4 Astros prospect (No. 88 overall): 5 IP 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 K
Erik Johnson, RHP, No. 3 White Sox prospect: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K
Adam Morgan, LHP, No. 7 Phillies prospect: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K
John Gast, LHP, No. 10 Cardinals prospect: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K
Alex Colome, LHP, No. 12 Rays prospect: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K
Sam Selman, LHP, No. 12 Royals prospect: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K
Luke Jackson, RHP, No. 13 Rangers prospect: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K
Austin Wood, RHP, No. 14 Angels prospect: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K
Asher Wojciechowski, RHP, No. 15 Astros prospect: 9 IP, 1 H, o R, 3 BB, 7 K

Jordan Sheffield to undergo Tommy John surgery

Jordan Sheffield (@jordan_sheff), one of the top high school arms in the Draft class of 2013, will undergo Tommy John surgery on Thursday morning, MLB.com has learned.

Dr. James Andrews will perform the surgery on the talented right-hander. Sheffield, the nephew of former big leaguer Gary Sheffield, was ranked No. 47 on MLB.com’s most recent Top 50 Draft prospects rankings, but this turn of events leaves his immediate future up in the air.

“I haven’t gotten to speak with him, but talking to his brother and dad, he was upset obviously at first,” said Brad White, Sheffield’s coach at Tullahoma High School in Tennessee. “Obviously, his high school career is over. I know he’s thinking, ‘I’ve got the best man in the business doing the surgery, that’s the best I can hope for. And I’ll have a new arm when this is over with.”

Sheffield hadn’t pitched since March 12, when he came out of his start after 73 pitches because of forearm tightness. He originally rested and rehabbed his arm, acting as the team’s designated hitter in the interim. He didn’t even return to his normal non-pitching position, shortstop, until Tullahoma’s opening game at the National High School Invitational at the USA Baseball National Training Complex on March 27.

He was slated to pitch the following day, but was shut down again after warming up pre-game. Sheffield had an MRI when he got back to Tennessee the Tuesday after the tournament, then saw Dr. Andrews this Wednesday morning. Surgery was scheduled for the following morning. The right-hander is committed to Vanderbilt University and one scouting director said that he was already considered to be a tough sign because of that commitment. The surgery, the scouting director said, “sealed his fate.”

More to come in a full story on MLB.com.

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