With the MLB draft this week (Thursday, June 6) it’s time to take a closer look at where some of the top prospects are likely to land.
In this edition of the mock draft, I’ll focus on a few college sluggers that have dominated at the collegiate level and look poised to make a big splash in the professional ranks.
While college pitchers will dominate the first round and high school prospects always offer the most intrigue and mystery, these college sluggers could have a short journey to the big leagues.
1. Houston Astros: Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma
Mark Appel may be the top prospect, but he’s proven to be difficult to sign in the past, something the Astros may want to avoid. Besides, Gray is hardly a shoddy backup plan—he has been fantastic for the Sooners this year, going 9-2 with a 1.55 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 110 innings.
2. Chicago Cubs: Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
Whereas the Astros may hesitate to deal with Appel, I doubt the Cubs will hesitate. Appel was very strong again this season, going 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 106.1 innings. He’s a strikeout machine and a future ace—the Cubs will snag him without reservation.
3. Colorado Rockies: Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, San Diego
You want power? Kris Bryant has power.
Arguably the top hitter in this class and easily the prospect with the most power, Bryant hit .340 with a remarkable 31 home runs and 62 RBI for San Diego this season. He’ll probably need to move to the outfield in the big leagues, but given his pop, who cares?
Yes, the Rockies need arms. But it’s hard to see Colorado passing up on the draft’s premier power hitter.
4. Minnesota Twins: Kohl Stewart, RHP/OF/3B, St. Pius X HS (Texas)
This is a risky pick for the Twins, as Kohl Stewart is one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation and has already committed to Texas AM to play football and baseball. But he’s the best high school pitcher in this draft, hands down, and an excellent athlete on top of that. In other words, he’s worth the risk.
5. Cleveland Indians: Austin Meadows, OF/1B, Grayson HS (Georgia)
Austin Meadows has five-tool potential and could go as high as No. 3 to the Rockies. The Indians will gladly snatch him up and hope he develops into an elite outfielder.
6. Miami Marlins: Trey Ball, LHP/OF, New Castle HS (Indiana)
Ball is another high school pitcher that could make the transition to another position if he can’t cut it on the mound. Fans might want to see the Marlins pick a more established college player that could quickly reach the majors, but Ball is the best player on the board at this point.
7. Boston Red Sox: Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina
Colin Moran doesn’t have many weaknesses as a player. He was the ACC Player of the Year, hitting .357 with 13 home runs and 83 RBI (which led the nation).
Oh, and he’s also a good enough fielder to remain at third base, which seriously increases his value.
Moran doesn’t have the home-run pop of a Bryant, but he’s a mechanically sound hitter that should hit for an excellent average and drive in a lot of runs. If he can indeed stay at third, he’ll be a stud for years to come.
8. Kansas City Royals: Clint Frazier, OF, Loganville HS (Georgia)
Clint Frazier grades out pretty similarly to Meadows, sacrificing a little bit in terms of potential but coming with more polish to his game already. The Royals will be getting a very promising long-term project here.
9. Pittsburgh Pirates: Braden Shipley, RHP, Nevada
It’s no secret that the White Sox like college arms and in Braden Shipley they’ll be getting one who went 7-3 with a 2.77 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 107.1 innings this season for Nevada. Don’t be surprised if Shipley is one of the first players from this draft in the big leagues.
10. Toronto Blue Jays: Austin Wilson, OF, Stanford
Though a college player, Austin Wilson is a bit of a project and didn’t have a great year in 2012, hitting .288 with five home runs and 26 RBI. However, given his size and athleticism, it’s hard to see him dropping very far down the board.
11. New York Mets: Aaron Judge, OF, Fresno St.
Aaron Judge may be a baseball player, but he sure looks like he belongs on a basketball court.
Standing at 6’7″ and weighing 255 pounds, Judge is quite the anomaly for an outfielder and a physical specimen. He also has a rocket for an arm and hit .369 with 12 home runs and 36 RBI this season, so he backs up his large frame with plenty of production.
He’ll swing and miss plenty, sure, but with his arm and power, he has right field written all over him. Some may think this pick to be a reach, but the Mets will have a hard time passing up his potential.
12. Seattle Mariners: Ryne Stanek, RHP, Arkansas
Ryne Stanek may not have been the ACC Pitcher of the Year this season—that honor went to North Carolina’s Kent Emanuel—but he easily could have been after going 9-2 with a 1.40 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 90 innings. Solid pick here for the Mariners.
13. San Diego Padres: JP Crawford, SS, Lakewood HS (California)
JP Crawford may be a major league-ready fielder, as he’s a whiz a shortstop. However, he’ll be a project behind the plate, where he has plenty of room to grow. For a team that really needs to plug a hole at shortstop, the wait makes sense.
14. Pittsburgh Pirates: Reese McGuire, C, Kentwood HS (Washington)
Reese McGuire is the top catcher on the board and the rare breed at the position that both hits for power and swings from the left side of the plate. Like any other high school catcher, he’s a project, but also quite the steal for the Pirates at No. 14.
15. Arizona Diamondbacks: DJ Peterson, 1B/3B, New Mexico
DJ Peterson makes a strong argument for being the top slugger in this class after hitting .411 with 18 home runs and 70 RBI for New Mexico this season. He’ll probably need to play first base or in the outfield at the next level, but he has the sort of power that overshadows that fact.
16. Philadelphia Phillies: Jon Denney, C, Yukon HS (Oklahoma)
The Phillies need to find a long-term replacement for the aging Carlos Ruiz. Jon Denney, come on down!
17. Chicago White Sox: Sean Manaea, LHP, Indiana State
Another in a long list of nasty college arms, Sean Manaea has wicked stuff and is a tall, smooth lefty. He didn’t have his best season, however, which probably cost him a top-10 selection. Still, he finished 5-4 with a 1.47 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 73.1 innings, so I don’t see him dropping out of the top 20 selections.
18. Los Angeles Dodgers: Chris Anderson, RHP, Jacksonville
Expect college pitchers to dominate the first round. And expect Anderson to join the party before long. With a fastball that reaches the upper-90s, four pitches he commands well and solid control overall, it’s no secret he went 7-5 with a 2.54 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 104.2 innings.
19. St. Louis Cardinals: Jonathon Crawford, RHP, Florida
Oh look, another college pitcher. Jonathon Crawford didn’t have a great statistical season (3-6 with a 4.03 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 80.1 innings this season), but he has nasty stuff and a ton of upside.
20. Detroit Tigers: Billy McKinney, OF/1B, Plano West HS (Texas)
Billy McKinney is a gamer, pure and simple. Scouts love his competitive fire and smooth, easy stroke, two things that bode very well for his future.
21. Tampa Bay Rays: Marco Gonzales, LHP, Gonzaga
The Rays are another team that likes college arms and Marco Gonzales is a good one, showing off with an elite changeup and solid command. He finished 7-3 with a 2.80 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 106 innings for Gonzaga this season and shouldn’t have a lengthy stay in the minors.
22. Baltimore Orioles: Ryan Eades, RHP, LSU
On a stacked LSU team this season Eades stood out, going 8-1 with a 2.70 ERA and 71 strikeouts in the tough SEC. With nasty stuff that has been tested against one of the top leagues in the country, Eades is an excellent value at No. 22.
23. Texas Rangers: Ian Clarkin, LHP/1B/OF, James Madison HS
The hope for Ian Clarkin will be that he remains at pitcher, since smooth lefties don’t exactly grow on trees. But he’s a plus athlete and could transition to an everyday role as well, making this versatile prospect a safe investment for the Rangers.
24. Oakland Athletics: Bobby Wahl, RHP, Ole Miss
Bobby Wahl was an absolute stopper for Ole Miss this season, going 9-0 with a 1.99 ERA and 76 strikeouts. He’ll probably transition to the bullpen at the next level, where his plus fastball and slider will be a handful for hitters.
25. San Francisco Giants: Dominic Smith, 1B, LHP, OF, Sierra HS (California)
Like Moran, Dominic Smith doesn’t have a ton of home-run power but will drive in plenty of runs since he peppers the gaps. He’s also a solid fielder, making him a nice, well-rounded prospect.
26. New York Yankees: Andrew Thurman, RHP, UC Irvine
Look for the Yankees to invest heavily in pitchers this draft. Andrew Thurman boasts four solid pitches and the results to back up his potential, going 6-4 with a 3.23 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 100.1 innings for UC Irvine this season.
27. Cincinnati Reds: Hunter Renfroe, OF, Mississippi State
Hunter Renfroe is a complete offensive player (.362, 48 runs, 15 home runs, 51 RBI, nine stolen bases), though he’ll whiff quite a bit. Still, the ex-catcher has a strong arm and a strong offensive skill set, meaning he could be off the board even sooner.
28. St. Louis Cardinals: Phillip Ervin, OF, Samford
Phillip Ervin is a future lead-off hitter. He hit .337 with 58 runs, 11 home runs, 40 RBI and 11 stolen bases this season for Samford, so between his solid fielding and ability to generate runs, he’ll be a valuable commodity for the Cardinals.
29. Tampa Bay Rays: Tim Anderson, SS/OF, East Central CC
The Rays tend to target two types of projects—college arms or “toolsy” players with a lot of upside. Tim Anderson fulfills the latter, a slick shortstop who doesn’t have much downside.
30. Texas Rangers: Ryan Boldt, OF, Red Wing HS (Minnesota)
Ryan Boldt is definitely a project, but he’s a five-tool project, which is the type of prospect you want to draft at the end of the first round.
31. Atlanta Braves: Oscar Mercado, SS, Gaither HS (Florida)
Oscar Mercado is another shortstop prospect that can rally field the position but will need to seriously grow as a hitter to reach the next level. Still, the potential is there and the Braves will be getting a very nice player at this slot.
32. New York Yankees: Phil Bickford, RHP/1B, Oaks Christian HS (California)
The focus on pitching continues. Phil Bickford already boasts three solid pitches and will be a nice get for the Yanks at No. 32.
33. New York Yankees: Hunter Harvey, RHP, Bandys HS (North Carolina)
One more pitching project for the Yankees, and this one comes with quite a pedigree, as Hunter’s father Brian was an All-Star closer and his brother Kris is currently in the minors. Not a bad haul for the Yankees in the first round.