WARNING: The Draft is still two trimesters away. A lot can change.
For the second consecutive year, the Houston Astros own the first pick in the MLB Draft. 2012 was considered a weak overall class, and 2013 is considered even weaker. It’s not until 2014 when the “next big thing”, Carlos Rodon, is expected.
Despite the weak 2012 draft class, Jeff Luhnow’s flawless approach to the new spending system netted the Astros four of their top 10 prospects (Correa, McCullers, Ruiz and Fontana), and I expect similar mastery in 2013.
Here are the five candidates I like as the potential first overall pick:
1) Sean Manaea, LHP, Indiana State (Age: 21)
Highest upside of top 3 pitchers, dominated Cape Cod League, deceptive delivery, lefty, great frame, should sign for well below slot. Delivery carries injury concern, but not enough to deter a team from taking him. His feel for pitching and secondary stuff isn’t as polished as Stanek or Appel.
2) Ryne Stanek, RHP, Arkansas (Age: 21)
Number one starter stuff, projectable frame, good secondary stuff. Some injury concern, somewhat struggled in Team USA exhibitions (small sample size).
3) Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford (Age: 21)
The safest of the top 3, frontline stuff, little-to-no injury concern, solid frame, good mechanics. Money and ability to get swings-and-misses minor concerns.
4) Clint Frazier, OF, HS (Age: 18)
5-tool-player, nice upside, plays extremely hard, voted most likely to run through a sliding glass door to get to the hot tub. His frame is a little smaller than you’d like and his upside isn’t as high as a guy like Buxton.
5) Austin Meadows, OF, HS (Age: 17)
Also a 5-tool-player, good frame, nice upside, but unlikely to become a superstar.
Darkhorses: Kris Bryant and Colin Moran
Much like 2012, there’s no clear-cut number one pick, which – under the new bonus program - actually works to the Astros’ advantage. It allows them to identify a handful of players they feel worthy of the number one pick, select the one who will sign for the least amount of money, and draft superior talent, relative to draft position, in the later rounds.
As of right now, the top 3 pitchers are lumped together pretty tightly. Choosing between the three is like flipping a three-sided coin. You either get ‘safe’, ‘upside’ or ‘I can’t decide, so I’ll take a scoop of both.’
If money weren’t an issue, Appel is probably the pick, but he doesn’t set himself apart from Staken or Manaea enough to spend money, that can be used elsewhere, on him.
The top of the Astros system is more hitter-heavy than pitcher-heavy, and there aren’t any bats in this class worth writing home about. Maybe one of the top 3 pitchers will emerge from the pack in the coming months, but as of right now, I’d select the one who agrees to the least amount of money.