Draft Day is finally upon us, Indians fans. It’s time for the team to reap the harvest that was planted the day after the Justin Verlander game last year, when the club started the epic collapse that found them picking 5th overall in the first round tonight. That collapse and the corresponding top-10 pick did allow the Indians to sign two marquee free agents and “only” lose their sandwich and 2nd round picks as opposed to their 1st round pick in this year’s draft, so I suppose we can use tonight as a silver lining for the horror we all endured watching Chief Wahoo’s Tribe tailspin towards the bottom of the American League standings last season.
In case you missed my more in-depth profile of the players that the Indians will be considering with the #5 pick tonight, you can find it here. Today, I’m going to sketch out for you how I think the top 1/3 of the draft is going to go, including the only pick we really care about, the Indians selection at #5. Here’s hoping for another Lindor or Sabathia and not another Beau Mills or Michael Aubrey.
1. Houston Astros: Jonathan Gray, RHP-Oklahoma
The Astros strategy with the #1 pick last year was to draft a talented but signable player and use the savings later in the draft. After his positive test for Adderall, the uber-talented Jonathan Gray might just be that player. He’s a candidate for 1-1 based on his talent alone, and now that the Astros will have some leverage in negotiations, they could snag the draft’s best player at a discount. It’s a perfect world scenario for the hapless Astros and their fans. If Gray makes it known that he won’t sign at below slot for 1-1, look for the Astros to take UNC 3B Colin Moran
The safest pick in the draft, Appel doesn’t repeat last year’s slide down the 1st round. Appel will be the 1st player drafted in 2013 to make it to the majors, and could be a mainstay in the Cubbies rotation as soon as next season. Gray might have a slightly higher ceiling, but Appel has a much higher floor and is already close to a finished product. Cubs fans will be too drunk in the bleachers at Wrigley to notice, but Theo Epstein will make this pick with a smile on his face.
3. Colorado Rockies: Kris Bryant, 3B-San Diego
Kris Bryant’s raw power unleashed in Coors Field? Sign me up to watch that show. Providing Bryant can make a couple of minor tweaks to his swing, he could hit 40 HR annually in the thin Denver air as soon as 2015.
4. Minnesota Twins: Kohl Stewart, RHP, St. Pius X High School (Texas)
This is pretty much the only player I’ve seen them on in mock drafts all spring. Naturally, that means they’ll probably take someone else, but I’m sticking with the concensus on this one. The old Twins probably would have taken Shipley here, but these aren’t your older brother’s Twins anymore. No longer do they prefer “safe” picks like Ohio State’s Alex Wimmer. Pitchability and changeups are relics of years gone by, and the Twins are focusing on radar gun readings and upside. Stewart and his high-90’s fastball fit that bill, so it’s easy to see him heading to the Twin Cities with the #4 pick here.
So here’s the pick we really care about. Scouts are torn on Frazier’s eventual ability to stick in CF. Some see him as a surefire CF down the road, and some see a shift to an outfield corner. His proponents see a classic gym rat; a guy who plays all-out, 100% on every play, who has enormous tools and will always get the most out of his talent. His detractors see a tweener, a guy who’s undersized for the rigors of a big league season and an eventual LF. Put me in the pro-Frazier camp. I see the next Grady Sizemore, hopefully this time without all of the injuries. He has the best bat speed in the draft, and that’s a talent that simply can’t be taught. He’s a tireless worker, a plus runner and has a plus arm. Even if he does have to shift to RF, he has the potential to be an impact player in the middle of a major league batting order. He’s not the “safe” pick here and he won’t be able to help the Indians in the near future, but Frazier has the highest superstar potential of anyone on my hypothetical board here at #5 overall. If Frazier is on the board and Gray/Appel/Bryant are all gone, I hope the Indians pull the trigger on the young Georgia outfielder.
If the top 4 picks shake out like I’ve predicted here, the Indians will also be considering Shipley and Moran in addition to Frazier.
6. Miami Marlins-Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina
Moran is an advance bat who will stick at 3B as a professional. Whether or not the skinflint Marlins want to pay enough to sign him is another story, but he’s the best player available in our scenario, so I’ve got him going to South Beach. But now that Jeffrey Loria has his taxpayer funded (empty) stadium, he’ll probably have his baseball people under a strict budget, and they might be the first team in history to pass on a 1st round pick entirely because of the cost.
7. Boston Red Sox-Austin Meadows, OF-Grayson High School (Georgia)
Meadows is a crosstown rival of Clint Frazier, and has a pretty high upside in his own right. He’s a potential monster in the middle of a lineup, and has the size and strength to hit 40 HR in The Show someday. Like Frazier, he’s still very raw and won’t be gracing Fenway Park anytime soon, but is a potential all-star if he does refine his approach and work his way up the ladder to the major leagues.
Royals fans would have to be thrilled with this scenario, as one of the top-3 college arms in the draft falls to them at #8 overall. Shipley is a converted SS, an excellent athlete who still has a lot of room to grow as a pitcher. He’s already an impressive arm, working in consistently in the mid-90’s with his fastball and complimenting it with one of the best changeups in the draft. He has only scraped the surface of his talent on the mound, and could end up as a solid #2 starter when all is said and done. Kansas City needs pitching in the worst way, and Shipley would be both BPA and fill a need at #8 overall.
9. Pittsburgh Pirates-Reese McGuire, C, Kentwood High School (Washington)
I’ve seen the Pirates on McGuire pretty much exclusively this spring. He’s an incredible catch and throw guy behind the plate, a guy who is getting an 80 grade with his arm as a high schooler. That’s nearly unheard of, and the fact that he’s popping sub-1.90 to 2nd is incredible. He’s not nearly as advanced as a hitter, but the Pirates are hoping that will progress at the plate with more experience. This is an unprotected pick that the Pirates received when they were unable to sign Mark Appel last year, so they absolutely have to sign whoever they choose here. McGuire is both talented and signable, and that fits the bill for the Buccos here at #9.
10. Toronto Blue Jays-Trey Ball, LHP, New Castle High School (Indiana)
Ball is the top player in the entire Midwest this year, a 6’6” lefty who throws a fastball in the mid-90’s. He’s a great athlete and was a two-way star in high school, to the point where some teams are considering Ball as an outfielder. That kind of velocity from a lefty tends to stick on the mound though, and he’s a very Toronto type of player so I see them taking him as a pitcher here at #10. There are some mechanical inconsistencies in his delivery that need to get cleaned up, but the athletic Ball should be able to make those corrections under the tutelage of a professional pitching coach.
So that’s how I see the top 10 going tonight. I think the Indians will end up with Frazier, Moran or Shipley, and I’ll be pretty happy with any of those three. I think Frazier has the highest upside of those three, but he also has the most risk. Chris Antonetti and company are looking for the best player available in the first round, and they’re going to have to select an impact talent because the Indians won’t be picking again until the #79 slot (the 5th pick in the 3rd round).