Cubs Draft Bits: Gray and Appel Dominating, a Couple Huge College Bats, and Manaea Sliding

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Cubs Draft Bits: Gray and Appel Dominating, a Couple Huge College Bats, and Manaea Sliding

Chicago Cubs

gray appelThe 2013 MLB Draft is just a touch over a month away …

  • Cubs Scouting and Player Development Chief Jason McLeod was on the radio with Jim Bowden this weekend, and apparently said that – as expected – collegiate righties Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray are the top pitchers in the Draft, and San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant and UNC third baseman Colin Moran are the top bats in the Draft. We’ve discussed the pitchers at length, and Bryant has come up before. But this is the first mention of Moran, specifically, connected to the Cubs. It’s worth noting that just because McLeod said that Bryant and Moran are the top bats in the Draft doesn’t mean they are necessarily the top positional prospects in the Draft, according to the Cubs. For example, they might have the best bats now, but there might be a high schooler – for example, outfielders Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows – whom the Cubs like better long-term. There are also positional considerations. A masher who can barely play first base isn’t as valuable or desirable as a quality hitting, but not dominant, center fielder with enormous defensive skills.
  • Bryant, whom few believe can stick at third base, and Moran each have ridiculous stats this year. Moran’s .386/.504/.631 line is almost as good as Bryant’s .346/.517/.865. Bryant’s 22 homers lead college baseball by a wide margin, but Moran’s 11 homers are more than his total strikeouts (9) this year.
  • As for those top two arms in the Draft, each started this weekend. Appel went 8.1 innings against Oregon, allowing one earned run on 9 hits and 2 walks. He struck out 9 and threw 116 pitches. Gray went 7.1 innings against Texas Tech, allowing one earned run on two hits and two walks. He struck out 7 and threw 111 pitches. Good starts by each guy, which is the norm at this point.
  • There was a time not so long ago that folks thought it a near lock that the Cubs’ pick at the top of the Draft would be Indiana State lefty Sean Manaea. That he has fallen on draft boards after failing to sustain the hype he built in the Cape Cod League last year is a reminder of why I don’t get into the draft projection game before late April or May. These changes happen every single year. (Hell, if you’d tried to project back in January, Manaea would be up at the top and Gray wouldn’t even be on your board.) A recent article out of Indianapolis suggested that Manaea remained at the top of the Cubs’ board, including an anonymous scout virtually guaranteeing that Manaea would be the pick. I didn’t really believe it when I first saw the article, and I believe it even less today. Although you’d love to get a power lefty with huge upside, Manaea comes with a few more questions than do guys like Appel and Gray. Manaea has reportedly been dealing with a minor hip issue to go along with his up and down performance this year. (But don’t get me wrong: a 1.57 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 57.1 innings is still good. The 20 walks are concerning, though.) He could wind up a stud, but it’s a big risk. And, when you’re picking No. 2, you simply can’t afford to take a guy with a ton of questions.
  • Theo Epstein to Patrick Mooney on the Draft: “But the draft class is rounding into shape where there are a couple elite starting pitchers up on top of the Draft and some interesting high school position players. I’d say there’s about half-a-dozen guys who have the potential to go first overall even, so we’ll see what happens.” That makes you feel like the Cubs are choosing from among Appel, Gray, Frazier and Meadows, but who really knows. Right now, it seems hard to see the Cubs passing on whichever of Appel or Gray is available to them with the second overall pick.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.