2013 MLB Draft Bits: Gray and Appel Clear at the Top, Leverage, and the Cubs’ Targets

gray appelAmateur 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.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

78 responses to “2013 MLB Draft Bits: Gray and Appel Clear at the Top, Leverage, and the Cubs’ Targets”

  1. TWC


    I was thisclose to buying tix for tonight’s Stanford game, but the wife invited a bunch of people over for dinner. Hopefully I’ll make an Appel start soon.

    1. SirCub

      I’m gonna check out Kent Emmanuel this afternoon against Duke. Not a top tier guy, but potential early-rounder.

      1. #1lahairfan

        I’m hoping to get him in the 2nd or 3rd round in the draft.

        1. #1lahairfan

          Hopefully 3rd round.

          1. SirCub

            Yea, that’s around where he was going into the season, but he’s been lighting up the stat book, and, allegedly, the radar gun. So he may have risen up the board some.

      2. TWC


        As a total aside, check out Stanford’s ballpark (enormously long hyperlink below). Doesn’t is seem like there is way, WAY too much green space between the diamond itself and the grandstands? The dugouts themselves look to be 100′ away from home plate.

        Just thought that was kinda odd.


        1. SirCub

          Huh, that is strange. I think part of the reason it looks a bit off is that the grass extends all the way to the dugouts. Usually there’s a strip of dirt that runs along the outside, in front of the dugouts, no?

          1. TWC

            Agreed. Usually all down the sides of the field, too. It still seems to be farther than what is typical, though.

            1. hansman1982

              Very weird, but the dugouts are further back than Wrigley (not saying much there).

              Stanford is 71′ from home to the corner of the dugout

              Wrigley is 51′

    2. JulioZuleta

      ….That sounds like even more of a reason to go to the game.

      1. TWC

        Tell me about it…

  2. ETS

    Couldn’t Appel go play Japan ball and make great money for 2 years then come back as an FA and sign a huge deal?

    1. JulioZuleta

      He could, but they use starters there in a very weird way. They throw once a week and regularly approach 150 pitches a start. Not sure that would be in his best interest to prepare for an MLB career. Plus, don’t underestimate the Japan leagues, he wouldn’t be a star there yet.

      1. ETS

        I’m not sure he’d have to be a “Star” to sign a huge deal, since he wouldn’t be restricted by international signing bonus restrictions. Just being a free agent with that kind of ceiling, that young you would see some crazy offers.

        Of course he could always flake out in Japan, but that’s the gamble he is taking by refusing to sign whatever offer he gets this year.

        1. BT

          Wouldn’t he be subject to an international draft at that point, on the chance one has been instituted by then?

          1. ETS

            No, he’d be 23 and have 2 years of pro experience. He’d be free agent. (I think)

    2. Anonifan

      I see this as an exceptionally unlikely thing to happen for a few reasons. First, the reason it takes players time to develop in the minors has nothing to do with conditioning their bodies, it has to do with exposing them to professional coaching, and adjusting to a new level of competition. This causes two issues; first Japanese coaches while very good, are not quite as good as their MLB counterparts. Second, unless Appel speaks fluent Japanese there will be a language barrier to slow his development. So taking time in Japan would slow his development as a player. Another point is that Japanese teams would only give him big bucks if they could develop him and then KEEP him. No one in Japan is going to give him big money if he is only going to be there for two years while he is learning the ropes.

  3. SirCub

    I’d like to see the Cubs grab one of the top lefties. But, you know, the whole “best player on the board” thing.

  4. GeorgeHermanLahair

    Gray is the guy that I want, but I think he goes to Houston. I do not mind Appel either though.

    1. On the Farm

      I wouldn’t mind Appel or Gray, but if Appel does fall to us at #2 he should know that this organization has already dealt with one player thinking he is the “hammer” and not the “nail”. I hope he doesn’t, but if he did do the aforementioned 11th hour bit and messed with our ability to sign the late guys, he better be the real deal, because a lot of Cubs fans are dealing with 2012, 2013, and 2014 a seasons where we can be really excited about our draft choices.

      1. Coop

        Theo has a pretty good working relationship with Scott Boras. Hopefully that history might prevent the sort of dick move that Jim Callis alludes to.

    2. BluBlud

      I don’t want Appel. The guy will be a solid starter in the bigs, and pretty soon. However, he’ll top out in my opinion as a #3 pitcher, and if you are drafting a guy with the 2nd pick, you want more then a #3 pitcher. Gray is the guy I want. If he is taken by Houston, go position player and Take Kris Bryant.

      1. Chad

        It really depends how the cubs want to go here. I think either is a good choice. If you get Gray you may get more upside, but I don’t know about his control and other pitches. He may need more time to develop. Appel seems more like a sure thing. He may only be a 3, but the cubs could use that. If they somehow got Price with Samardzija then Appel would make a great #3. Both good options. I’d rather have them go with Appel than Manaea who seems like more of a wild card than a sure bet at #2.

        1. BluBlud

          True. But would you rather have a #3 pitcher as your #3 pitcher?

          Or would you rather have a “Ace” as your number 3 pitcher.

          If Price happens, Price, Shark and Gray could potentially give you 3 Aces.

          1. Chad

            Or Gray could flame out and be a good reliever to never making it. I just don’t know enough about the kid. I’m just saying I’m good either way, but if he really is that good, then the Cubs won’t have the chance to draft him. I personally would draft Gray, assuming he has 2 other pitches to compliment that fastball.

          2. On the Farm

            While its not always the case, you could say that history is doomed to repeat itself. By taking Appel and getting a guy who is close to MLB ready and turns out to be your #3 would be a win in the history of first round arms. I have actually never been an Appel fan until recently, and that is mainly because I am accepting the reality he might be the guy the FO selects in June and I would rather be excited than disappointed. For the record I would be happier with Gray, or Manea (What happened to Stanek’s stock?)

            Bryant would be a nice pickup because he could theoretically move through the system quickly and we could have Almora, Soler, and Bryant all ready fairly quickly. If other OFs like Jackson, Ha, Szczur are already in the majors, we can make some trades with some young cost controlled players. Either route I would be happy with our pick.

  5. Kukini

    Maybe it’s just me, but Appel looks eerily like Prior…

    1. JulioZuleta

      Mark, Mark, California righties… #2 picks if the Cubs take him…If it happens there would be so many terrible articles making those comparisons.

      1. Kukini

        Exactly. But even the physical resemblance is stunning. Here’s to hoping he never hurts his shoulder…

  6. cedlandrum

    Correa wasn’t viewed as the number 1 pick at this time last year. A lot of this is still very fluid. Should be fun to watch as things develop.

  7. terencemann

    Either way, having a high ceiling arm who should move quickly through the system could be a bit of a game changer for the Cubs. I’m more interested in what players look like 2nd round picks at this point since it’s assumed that Gray or Appel will land with the Cubs.

  8. Mr. Gonzo

    OU’s head coach Sonny Galloway was my 7th grade PE teacher, literally the year before he was hired onto OU’s baseball staff. Great guy. Born and raised a Sooner, I hope the Cubs get J. Gray. And, although I’m bias, he appears to have an easier ego to manage, and it seems like he would sign without causing everyone to sweat bullets til the final hour. Plus, I can’t but help love that Roger Clemens comparison in the article. Good stuff as always Brett!

  9. SoonerACub

    I have seen Gray a number of times this year. I cannot speak to the “103 mph” that Heyman quotes a scout with this year, but I remember one of his starts I went to he went the distance in a 1-0 game, whiffed 12, walked no batters, scattered five hitters across the nine innings, and on the final pitch of the game it was a fastball that hit 100 mph on the house gun.

    That was on the 112th pitch of the game.

    The guy is the best collegiate pitcher I have ever seen and that includes guys like Barrett Loux, Michael Wacha, Chance Ruffin, Taylor Jungmann, Andrew Heaney, and many others over the last 10 years. Quite honestly, its not even really all that close for me either.

    I obviously have a biased opinion because I have seen Gray pitch more than a handful of times, but I would take him over Appel no question.

    Also, I don’t really see Gray as a “flash in the pan” type of pitcher because he had his struggles last year because of OU’s pitching coach Jack Giese. Giese is the same coach Clayton Kershaw had in high school and he is a guy that gives a lot of credit to Giese to this day (When he accepted the Warren Spahn Award for the best left-hander in MLB last year, he personally thanked Giese for helping him with his mechanics). I think Gray is more a wild card, but given his stuff I would say he has more upside.

  10. Stevie B

    All I know is it feels GOOOOOD to be picking this high. I know, I know….we’d rather be picking 28th-30th,,,,but if you didn’t win the series, be at the top, or damn close to it!
    I HATED watching Bundy go off the board, It was truly agonizing….

  11. Jp3

    I don’t like picking this high but I love getting a player with this potential at #2. Unfortunately it looks like we’ll be picking again next year too in the top 3 or 4. All I can say is pitching and more pitching…

  12. Jp3

    Hey how about Appel this year then Gray goes back for his senior year because he wanted too much money then we take him Next year in the top 3😊???

  13. Stevie B

    I’m going to look at the top 10-15 pitchers in MLB and see where they were drafted. Should be an interesting find.
    I’ll bet, taking away international signings, the top pitchers were not top of the draft picks…let’s see…….

    1. Jp3

      David price

    2. On the Farm

      Matt Garza #25
      Jared Weaver #12
      Adam Wainwright #29
      Ian Kennedy #21
      Kershaw #7
      Matt Cain #25
      Madison Bumgarner #10
      Matt Harvey #7

      1. Noah

        And I know that at least Weaver was considered the number 1 talent in his draft but fell due to signing demands.

        1. On the Farm

          Dang Scott Boras..

    3. hansman1982

      It would, probably be a better study to look at the top pitching choices in the draft and see how they compare, WAR-wise, with guys selected later in the draft.

    4. Jp3

      Wha??? I’d say the majority of the “Aces” in the league and most of the #1s are probably 1st round picks… Can’t say Shark wasn’t considered a 1st round pick, he just went later because he had to be talked out of playing football.

  14. Jp3

    Justin verlander, 1st round (2nd pick). There is no guarantees but that’s 2 pretty good ones off the top of my head

  15. Jp3


  16. X The Cubs Fan

    I honestly don’t know how much money the Cubs will have but I do know most of these are possible. This is my dream 2015 scenario.

    Cubs draft: Kris Bryant

    Cubs trade: Javier Baez, Daniel Vogelbach, Brett Jackson, Chris Rusin, Dillon Maples and Josh Vitters

    Rays trade: David Price and Jesse Hahn

    Samardzija 6yr/ 100 mil
    Price: 7yr/ 190mil

    Over 2 offseasons:

    Re-sign: Matt Garza 5yr/ 100 mil

    Robinson Cano: 8yr/180mil

    Clayton Kershaw: 10yr/275mil

    Pablo Sandoval: 6yr/108mil

    2015 rotation:

    Clayton Kershaw
    David Price
    Jeff Samardzija
    Matt Garza
    Edwin Jackson

    LR: Alberto Cabrera
    LR: Starlin Peralta
    LR: Lendy Castillo
    MR: Rafael Dolis
    MR: James Russel
    SU: Juan Carlos Panigua
    Closer: Arodys Vizcaino

    1B: Anthony Rizzo
    2B: Robinson Cano
    3B: Pablo Sandoval
    SS: Starlin Castro
    C: Wellington Castillo
    LF: Kris Bryant
    CF: Albert Almora
    RF: Jorge Soler

    Util: Logan Watkins
    OF/3B: Junior Lake
    OF: Matt Sczur
    SS: Gioskar Amaya

    1. hansman1982

      “Clayton Kershaw: 10yr/275mil”

      Didn’t Kershaw just sign a mega extension with the Dodgers?

      1. X The Cubs Fan

        Didn’t sign yet

        1. terencemann

          Yes, but he’s going to. I think Cano will be extended, too. The owner of his new agency is one of the biggest NY fans in the world….

          1. Noah

            Also, no one can sign Sandoval to a six year deal starting at age 28 thinking he’ll be able to finish it at the hot corner.

    2. On the Farm

      You might need to wake up if we are signing Kershaw, Cano, Sandoval and resigning Garza, Shark, and Price after we have acquired him. Not even the Cubs can afford the two best LHP, the best 2B in the game, and still find lots of money for Panda, Garza, and Shark, and then on top of those contracts, find money to lock up Rizzo..

    3. Noah

      There is so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to start. Oh wait, yes I do: you’re adding $126 million in payroll for the 2015 season for 5 players, not even thinking about the draft implications (the moves you have the Cubs taking in 2014 would probably remove them from a protected pick, so they’d be giving up BOTH their first and second round picks for 2015.)

      Other issues: Almora hasn’t played above short season A Ball, and you have him as the Cubs’ starting center fielder in 2 seasons.

      Gioskar Amaya is currently struggling in Low A Ball, and yet you have him on the active roster in 2 years.

      Kris Bryant is currently playing in college, and you have him, after a season and a half of pro ball, as the Cubs starting left fielder.

      And that bullpen COULD be truly, truly terrible.

      1. On the Farm

        I agree about about all of your points. Even the fact about Almora and Soler reaching the bigs by 2015, their production won’t be as good as say their third, fourth, and fifth years in the bigs. Not to mention every team would love its chances to win the game from the 7th inning on.

      2. X The Cubs Fan

        When’s Bryants drafted he’ll be in double A. Almora will be up sometime in 2015.

        1. On the Farm

          The FO has said that they want prospects to have at least a years worth of ABs at the AAA level. Now while their are circumstances that would allow a guy to jump form AA to MLB or just a short stint in AAA before MLB, I would have to imagine even if a guy starts out at AA, Theo and Jed would want him to get a lot of ABs at both AA and AAA, that’s assuming he would in fact start at AA, as opposed to maybe A+.

        2. Noah

          According to who? Only the very most advanced college hitting prospects start at Double A. Odds are he starts 2014 at High A, wherever he’s drafted.

      3. X The Cubs Fan

        Everyone in that bullpen has pretty good upside and the SU and Closer duo could be sick.

        1. On the Farm

          Yeah they have good upside, but of everyone you listed in the bullpen (aside from Russell) have less than 50 IP combined.

    4. Ben (BG2383)

      The Rays would never agree to that trade. The Cubs would do that in one second if they could. Baez, a DH type, a 4th OF, a possible #5 guy and a dude that has barely pitched in the pros for Price and another useful piece
      That is dreaming. I would be very excited if that happened.

  17. Stevie B

    As i thought…only a few were at the very top….

    Verlander 1st round- 2nd pick
    Strasburg 1st- 1st pick
    Clayton Kershaw 1st- 7th pick
    J Weaver 1st -12th
    Matt Cain 1st -25th
    Cole Hammels 1st – 17th
    Wainwright 1st 29th
    Kimbrel 3rd round

    1. On the Farm

      Well Lincecum is still a two time Cy Young winner (10th)
      Price won a Cy Young (1st)

    2. Noah

      Craig Kimbrel is a closer. He may be the best closer is baseball, but he’s still only as valuable as a solid number 3 starter.

      1. Kyle


        1. Noah

          You’re right, I overstated here. Looking at WAR he’s more like a pretty good 2. But a closer should never been considered in a “who are the most valuable pitchers in baseball” discussion.

          1. X The Cubs Fan

            So Mariano Rivera is not one of the most valuable pitchers of all time?

            1. Noah

              No. He has 38.7 career fWAR, 54.3 rWAR. According to FanGraphs, he is the 109th most valuable pitcher of all time. B-R lists him as the 230th most valuable player of all time (their all time WAR leaderboard doesn’t break down as well as FG’s), directly behind Kevin Appier.

              Mariano Rivera is one of the most valuable postseason performers of all time. But there is a big difference between the two.

              Oh, and bar none Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer of all time and deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. But the greatest closer of all time does not deserve to be in the same conversation as the likes of Maddux, Koufax, Gibson, Randy Johnson, Seaver and Carlton.

    3. EvenBetterNewsV2.0

      That is because you have usually 3 or so years before they make it (Strasburg being rare). Then not every top pick goes to a pitcher. Look at the drafts before the last couple of years and you will notice certain things. Teams like the Pirates draft at the top every year and pay way underslot. Reasoning, they don’t want to pay for the top prospects. The Pirates were notorious for that. Only recently did the Royals and Pirates who are always at the top start paying talent. In your world you view all teams as equal and the team with the best pick takes the best talent. Wasn’t that way until recently (within 5 years at best).

      1. Noah

        Also, if you are looking at one position player and one hitter you think are essentially equivalent, all other things being equal you should probably take the position player. Far less likely to have the career derailed by injuries.

  18. Stevie B

    I meant….the VERY top of the draft. Like#1 #2 #3….
    Looks like the 1st round has produced a lot of top-tier pitching.

  19. Zachary

    I would rather have gray cause I think he can become an elite pitcher. From watching him his only has an occasional problem hitting his fastball on the outside corner. He has a nasty back door slider to lefties and jams righties pretty well. I would t mind Appel either. He is pretty solid all around and see him being a good # 2 or a really good #3

  20. John

    Is Appels ceiling really a #3? That seems low

    1. JulioZuleta

      No, that may be his floor. (Of course everyone’s floor is a total bust with injuries and what not).

  21. Die hard

    Wasn’t a kid named Stanek higher ?

    1. Cedlandrum

      stock has dropped a little bit. Little inconsistent in his delivery.

  22. Zachary

    No not at all. I don’t think it’s a #1 tho. He is prolly going to be a Jordan Zimmerman type rather the a Strasberg . Zimmerman might be a little stretch but wouldn’t be surprised.

  23. Jeff1969

    The people on this blog are so smart that I feel like when I comment I really have to do some research so I can make an intelligent opinion. Here’s my take after researching these top of the draft guys for 2013: Appel (looks more grown up than other players, like he’s from a higher league on film, dominates top competition) Gray (reminds me of Curt Schilling with more speed on his fastball, his ball moves), Mananea (not dominating weaker competition, not bad, but should be better, his fastball seems slower than in Cape Cod), the Outfielders, Frazier & Meadows seem like guys who are going to need 4 years in the minors & just to me, watching them on film, seem like they need to add a lot of strength. Frazier kinda reminds me of Almora but a little skinnier. That’s all.

  24. DL Huyck

    Jon Gray seems to be the guy if he falls to us. Im thinking the stros take Appel #1 overall.

    1. Jp3

      I don’t care which pitcher falls to us, seems both are probably great gets. Gray’s ceiling is higher but I believe Appel’s floor is higher if that makes any sense.