Amateur seasons are in full swing, and the picture at the top of the 2013 MLB Draft – which takes place June 6, 7, and 8 – is solidifying. The Cubs pick second, behind only the Astros.
- ESPN’s Keith Law remains of the mind that collegiate pitchers Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray are the clear top two players in the draft, which is convenient for the Cubs, who sit at number two and have a dearth of advanced pitching prospects. On Gray, Law says the big righty has more power than Appel, but not the same track record of command. The ceiling could be just as high, though, and Law is adamant that there’s a big drop-off after Gray and Appel.
- ESPN has a long profile on Gray, including some interesting quotes from his coach at Oklahoma. The money quote has the coach saying, with confidence, that Gray will be drafted either by the Astros with the top pick, or by the Cubs with the second pick.
- Jon Heyman also talked to some scouts who are loving on Gray. You can expect the hype train to continue to pick up as the draft approaches, assuming he stays healthy and keeps dominating. Someone even dropped a “103 mph fastball” in the Heyman piece.
- As of a couple weeks ago, the Cubs were reportedly down to six players under consideration for their top pick, of which you’d have to figure Appel and Gray were a couple. College lefty Sean Manaea, who keeps slipping down boards, seems to be another likely consideration, together with high school bats Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows. The sixth could be formerly big-time collegiate pitching prospect Ryne Stanek, or San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant.
- Baseball America’s Jim Callis agrees that Appel and Gray are the top two players in the draft, and goes on to discuss a very interesting leverage issue with respect to Appel, a senior, who cannot opt to go back to school if he doesn’t sign (as he did last year when selected by the Pirates). Setting aside the threat to play independent ball for a year and re-enter the draft (something Appel could legitimately threaten if a team didn’t make him a substantial bonus offer to sign), Callis lays out a scenario where Appel could still hold a team’s feet to the fire by waiting until the final hour to sign. If the team had been hoping to get Appel underslot so that they could sign some later round picks to overslot bonuses, and already made those signings, Appel refusing to sign at the 11th hour would really screw a team. If he doesn’t sign, the money associated with his slot goes *poof* from the team’s bonus pool, and then they are suddenly over their cap because of the other guys they signed overslot. Teams aren’t going to want to risk that, so whichever team takes Appel is going to have to be prepared to pay him close to the slot value.
- Speaking of the leverage issue with Appel, Law had an interesting suggestion for whichever of the top two teams that take him: offer him an underslot deal, but with a promise to call him up in September. Obviously neither team is likely to be in a playoff race at that time, so they could certainly afford to call Appel up in that regard. It would be a nice bonus for Appel, whose option clock would start with the required addition to the 40-man roster, and whose service time would start as well.