2013 MLB Draft: Five names to know
The college baseball season is starting to swing into gear and this means that it is the time when draft boards start changing and names start to rise and fall.
I have done two pieces on guys who were the consensus top players or guys I viewed as top players in this draft before any games being played. This time I wanted to focus on some names to watch, a few guys who are rising, players I really like, or are from schools the Indians tend to mine in the draft. My goal for this year is to go beyond focusing on Tribe targets and make this a go to place for draft information.
It is very early in the season but there is one player who is making major waves. Jonathan Gray from Oklahoma is a big, hard throwing right handed pitcher. He has shown a jump in velocity this year and has been sitting in the mid to high 90's, and it has been reported that he has gotten up to 100 MPH. When you add in a slider that flashes plus, well, it is easy to see why Gray is rising so quickly.
Gray is a known guy who was drafted out of high school and again as a draft eligible sophomore, and this year he looks like he is well on his way to being a top five pick. A lot of people are moving him up to behind Appel as the second best arm in the draft. This all means he is a guy to watch this year, and a possible target by the Tribe.
If the draft were to be held tomorrow though, I think Gray would be a top three selection. In a draft a lot of people have knocked, it is huge to see a player stepping up and emerging as a blue chip type of talent. I have yet to see him pitch this year but on reports alone I am incredibly intrigued to see Gray and what he brings to the mound. His rise is very important to the Indians as it means there is another top tier talent from which the Indians to choose from.
Matt McPhearson is one of my favorite players in this entire draft. He first came to my attention when I was reading up on the draft, and he was widely considered to have the only legit present 80 level skill in this draft. He has legit 80 speed, and outside of Cincinnati he would be the fastest player in the system of any team he joined. The reason I am so high on McPhearson is that on top of the speed he also has excellent bat speed. As an Indians fan it's hard to not watch him on tape and think about Kenny Lofton. The left handed bat speed, and ability to make contact seem like a special player to me.
The major knock on him is he plays in Maryland which is not a baseball hot bed, the level of competition he has faced is viewed as subpar, and that he needs to improve his pitch recognition skills. Still, at the end of the day, his speed makes him a game changer to me. Outside of Keith Law no one else has him as a top 100 guy. While I agree with Law and love McPhearson, I hope he's wrong. It would be nice if he was still on the board when the Indians drafted in round three.
DJ Peterson is a guy who does not fit the Indians draft profile. Since the Indians changed their draft approach in 2008 they have had a pattern to their picks in the top ten rounds. They have taken 40 players in that time and all but one player, Jordan Smith, were up the middle players. Every player was a pitcher, centerfielder, catcher, second baseman, or shortstop.
Peterson is a first baseman which is always a major knock on any draft eligible player. He has never been drafted, and his limited skills mean he has always been discounted. He doesn't scream athlete, and nothing about him on the field is eye popping, hence why he has the limited label. Yet it's hard to overlook his numbers: an OPS of 1.223 (.490 OBP, .734 SLG). Those numbers are video game like, and it is why he will garner first round attention.
I find him very interesting because he has a contact swing, yet thanks to his strength he still generates huge power. He doesn't strike out, he has huge power, and he gets on base. The question is are his skills enough that he can translate this to the majors, or is he another guy who puts up big numbers in college but is just too limited to be a major leaguer. David Cooper was released by the Blue Jays this week, and he was a first round pick in 2008 who put up huge numbers everywhere yet could not make the transition to the majors. This is what teams will fear, but someone will take a chance on his power and just pure production.
Samford University has turned into one heck of a baseball program. They had seven players drafted last year, and four drafted in 2011. The Indians have drafted a player from Samford in the last two drafts talking Grant Sides in the 12th round in 2011 and Josh Martin in the 10th in 2012. Sides has turned into a potential back end pen arm, and Martin is a guy the Indians view as a potential back end starter.
The Indians have scouted the program heavily and there is no way they could miss Phil Ervin during the last two years. Ervin has been an excellent college hitter, showing good power, great bat, solid eye, and even a little speed. He is viewed by some as a potential five-tool player at the corner. He really turned heads last year in the Cape, only being over shadowed by Sean Manaea. He flashes above average skills in all areas. He doesn't have massive upside, but he could compare to a player like Shin-Soo Choo as someone who does everything well, but nothing well enough to generate huge notice.
The knock on him is where he plays, as for as good a job as Samford has done it is not one of the big time programs, and it does face lesser competition. Can you live with his numbers knowing that they came against lesser talent? I think Ervin will really help cement Samford University as a baseball factory when he ends up being the school's first first round selection this summer.
Bobby Wahl should be a familiar name to any Tribe fan who follows the draft. The Indians drafted him in the 39th round of the 2010 draft. The Indians made a major run at him as at the time one of the rumors was that the Tribe had offered near seven figures but he turned it down to go to Ole Miss. I can't confirm that but I remember hearing about it and being shocked as I wasn't on Wahl that much at the time.
Well it turns out the Indians scouting department was right to try and sign Wahl. Three years later and many project him as not only a first rounder but as one of the most ready arms in this draft. There was some talk that he could even pitch in the pen this year for a team, but to me it would be best to just let him stay a starter and see how quickly he can get to the majors as a starter. Wahl has a solid three pick mix, and while he lacks the front of the rotation upside of the top arms in this class, he feels like a safe bet for a team that is looking for help soon. It sure seems to me that he is going to go 38 rounds higher this year and should be a mid first round pick for some team.
These are the five guys I have been watching and tracking of late. They might not be top prospects or even guys the Indians have a chance of drafting, but it doesn't change the fact that for different reasons I think everyone of these players is someone that does something which makes them intriguing to me, and could make them names to know as possible future major league baseball players.
Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org