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June 12, 2013

Perfect Game Presents

AL Draft Recap

by Frankie Piliere

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Another draft is in the books, and while we're only a day removed from the process, it is time to take an early look as to how the teams fared. As part of a two-part series (American/National League) I'm going to provide a quick synopsis of six American League teams that at first glance look to have done a good job in the 2013 MLB Draft.

Cleveland Indians
First and foremost, the Cleveland Indians took the right player in Clint Frazier with the fifth overall selection. There was safe, and tempting college talent to be had in players like Colin Moran, but Frazier gives Cleveland a chance at an impact player.

Cleveland followed the Frazier pick with a barrage of college pitchers in many of the following rounds. Dace Kime, Kyle Crockett, and Adam Plutko are all pitchers who are not all that from big league action. Kime saw an increase in velocity this spring, as well as overall stuff, and has the look of a pitcher who could work in the middle of a big league rotation.

The wild cards of Cleveland’s class are Sean Brady (LHP) and Casey Shane (RHP), two prep arms with upside. Brady performs on the level of a college pitcher at times, in terms of command and consistency, and had slightly improved velocity this spring. This is another team that took a very balanced approach with their draft crop, and racking up an outstanding amount of quality.

Detroit Tigers
The Tigers need to be mentioned here, whether you agree or disagree with how they went about it this year. Detroit took six college pitchers in a row to start their draft, beginning with Florida right-hander, Jonathon Crawford. They also netted familiar names like Corey Knebel, and Kevin Ziomek. Strikeout artist, Austin Kubitza also went to Detroit 126th overall.

All of these players are pitchers capable of moving up the ladder at a rapid rate, something Detroit puts a premium on. But, you could also make the case that they drafted three future relievers in a row at the top of their draft class. There are two sides to that coin of course, but Crawford’s and Ziomek’s detractors will point to arm action, among other things, as reasons they may eventually wind up as relievers. The same can be said for Kubitza.

The Tigers didn’t take a high school player until the 696th overall pick, when they grabbed Tyler Alexander out of Carroll High School in Texas. They clearly had a game plan and stuck to it. And, they continued to find quality college arms in the draft like hard throwing righty, Matt Wotherspoon at 606th overall.

Houston Astros
For the second year in a row, all eyes were on the Astros, and they couldn’t have handled their picks any better. After about two years or circling him, they finally landed Mark Appel, who has a reputation that speaks for itself. He has a front of the rotation profile, and most importantly could be pitching full-time in the big leagues by next year. They followed that pick with another college righty, Andrew Thurman, who also has a chance to fly up the minor league ladder. While he can’t match Appel’s arsenal, he also has power stuff, with a fastball that touched 96 this spring, as well as a breaking ball and plus changeup.

And, for the most part, the Astros did play it “safe” with their early picks. Kent Emanuel has big league quality command, but likely profiles as a back of the rotation starter. But, the good news is that he’ll likely reach that ceiling quickly.

In terms of bats, Houston was able to buy low, so to speak, on Conrad Gregor, who showed blossoming power last summer, but didn’t build on that performance this spring. His plate discipline, defense at first base, and potential for power make him a very intriguing pick at 107th overall. East Carolina slugger Chase McDonald (347th overall) is also a major sleeper pick that could do damage as a professional.

New York Yankees
You won’t get teams to admit to drafting for need, and it’s true that they won’t necessarily do that to fill voids on the big league roster. But, there was a clear goal for the Yankees this year, and that was to get some college bats into their system to make an immediate impact on their talent pool. It wasn’t a class without risk, as they rolled the dice on 6-foot-7 slugger Aaron Judge, who is the definition of a boom-or-bust prospect. The safeness of their first pick, Eric Jagielo, allowed the Yankees to gamble on Judge, as the Notre Dame slugger gives them a bat who could rocket up the minor league ladder on the strength of his left-handed power stroke. The only question with him is whether he can remain at third base.

Toolsy Michigan outfielder Mike O’Neill (nephew of Paul O’Neill), was an excellent value at 103rd overall, as the upside is that of a quality big league corner outfielder with a combination of speed and power. In terms of pitching, prep lefty, Ian Clarkin was the big catch for New York—he’ll be brought along slowly in their system—so adding some potential fast moving college players was very important for Damon Oppenheimer & Company.

This has the look of the most balanced Yankee draft class in years, and could be one with multiple players not far off from making a big league impact. Late round picks like Cal Quantrill (if signable) could be intriguing wild cards as well.

Oakland Athletics
We’ve used this word a lot already, but “balanced” is the best word to describe Oakland’s draft class. Some of their picks may not end up being signable, but if they do ink some of them, their class looks as good as anyone’s out there. They landed pitchers like Dylan Covey, Bobby Wahl, Kyle Finnegan, and A.J. Vanegas beyond the top three rounds, and all of those pitchers has flashed at least a plus fastball in the past. Again, it’s contingent on actually get them signed, but that’s one of the best crops of college right-handers landed by any team this year.

There were a number of teams hoping to net Billy McKinney at the back of the first round, but Oakland was the team that ended up with him. Left-hander, Chris Kohler, and righty Dustin Driver also add to a solid crop of prep players. But, McKinney and his ultra-polished left-handed bat is the crown jewel, giving Oakland a prep player with the ability to hit immediately as a professional.

Oakland’s most intriguing pick, however, may have come with the 100th overall selection—Ryon Healy. Healy’s right-handed power stroke blossomed last summer on the Cape Cod, and he continued to grow as a hitter this spring. He has a large, big league body type and may have the offensive profile to start at first base at the big league level.

Toronto Blue Jays
Arms, arms, and more arms. That was the story of the Blue Jays draft class. The Jays’ scouting department reeled off four straight high school pitchers to begin their draft, and they didn’t take a non-pitcher from any level until the 10th round when they selected catcher, Garrett Custons.

Phil Bickford (10th overall) is the clear prize for the Jays, but it was their next two picks that could put this draft class over the top in the coming years. Clinton Hollon has an electric right-handed arm when he’s right, and Patrick Murphy was looking like one of the top arms in the country before having Tommy John surgery last spring. Getting Murphy at 83rd overall may end up looking like a steal in the future.

Although Toronto did some gambling on high school arms early, they loaded up on some arms from the collegiate ranks as well, taking big performers like Matt Boyd and Kendall Graveman in the top ten rounds. But, the overall trend has continued with Toronto looking to stockpile high upside young arms.

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