Today’s installment of Scouting the Draft looks at five collegiate infielders with early-round hopes. This is easily the weakest cross-section of draft-eligibles in the 2013 draft class, with the highest concentration coming at the corners (and first base in particular). As a reminder, the goal of this series is not to cover every name worth knowing for next June; we have plenty of time to bring you full reports on the top draft-eligible players for 2013 over the next seven months. This is meant to serve as an introduction to the draft class for those who have not yet begun to follow the action and to pool in one place a rundown of some of the top performances in the months leading up to the draft before we start parsing the class in more detail.
Kris Bryant | CIF/OF | University of San Diego
The Basics: 6-foot-5, 215-pounds; right/right profile; draft day age 21y 5m
Brings to the table: Two plus tools in his raw power and arm strength. Bryant has easy power to all fields due to a leveraged swing and big strength. Because he isn’t particularly compact to contact and because his swing can get long and grooved, he can fall into ruts wherein he punishes balls waist-high/middle-out but struggles mightily with good sequencing and location. His approach is solid, so the question facing evaluators is whether the swing can be mechanically refined without losing its benefits. Defensively, Bryant has soft hands and a strong arm but lacks looseness and flexibility, which could hinder his ability to stick at third base long term. He could find a home at first base eventually, but the first move could be to right field where his arm and adequate foot speed could play.
Made a name for himself when: He followed-up strong freshman and sophomore campaigns with the Toreros by leading the USA Collegiate National Team in slugging this summer (.876). His lengthy swing was exposed a bit with wood, and he will need to avoid the pitfall of working uphill while tapping into his raw power. Overall, though, it was a successful summer that gave evaluators reason to believe the bat might play as an impact weapon at the pro ranks.
Figures to get attention: On Day One of the draft in June, though the particular slot will be determined by his spring performance. The dearth of college bats could push him as high as a top ten pick, though his profile generally fits more comfortably in the mid-first Round.
Conrad Gregor | 1B/OF | Vanderbilt University
The Basics: 6-foot-3, 220-pounds; left/right profile; draft day age 21y 3m
Brings to the table: Left-handed power and a solid control of the strike zone. Gregor’s swing is simple and direct, though he currently emphasizes a pull-side approach. A strong core and good hands help him barrel the ball, and with further reps and development he should have no trouble learning to drive the ball the other way, as well. He is a below-average runner that is passable in an outfield corner due to solid athleticism and a respectable first step but projects at the three-spot long term.
Made a name for himself when: He triple-slashed .329/.466/.550 for Orleans over 44 games and 150-plus plate appearances on the Cape this summer. Gregor also launched eight homeruns and impressed with his actions in the field. Since high school Gregor has put easy raw power on display pre-game, and this summer evaluators finally saw it emerge in-game. He needs to give away fewer at bats, but the Vandy junior will have a lot of eyes on him come spring, in no small part due to his efforts this summer.
Figures to get attention: Each and every weekend, as scouts flood the SEC seats to see the talent-laden Vandy squad and their various SEC opponents. Gregor’s biggest tests will come against potential top ten draft arms with the Gators (Jonathon Crawford and Karsten Whitson), Razorbacks (Ryne Stanek), and Rebels (Bobby Wahl). His limited track record and offense-only profile probably find him in the second-to-fourth round right now, but he could move up quickly if he’s able to carry over his summer success.
Colin Moran | 3B | University of North Carolina
The Basics: 6-foot-4, 205-pounds; left/right profile; draft day age 20y 8m
Brings to the table: A potentially plus hit tool and third base profile. Moran does a good job of matching pitch plane with his barrel, allowing him to find the ball consistently. He’s still a slightly more consistent hitter with metal than he is with wood, though he hit a solid .314 in the offense-heavy Cape Cod Baseball League this summer. At his best, he is a tough out at the plate with a knack for squaring-up the ball and provides steady, if unspectacular, glove work at third.
Made a name for himself when: He put together a solid summer on the Cape, triple-slashing .314/.379/.503 over 39 games and 150-plus plate appearances. Moran’s focus on driving the ball back up the middle sometimes led him to defensive at-bats, which he will need to avoid once he faces more advanced arms and better sequencing at the professional ranks.
Figures to get attention: Throughout UNC’s ACC schedule and, prior to that, at the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park where the Heels will take on Rice, Texas A&M, and California. Moran has the makings of a first round pick but would greatly help his chances by showing a little power this spring. As with Bryant, his ultimate slotting could come earlier than his profile might suggest due to the thin collection of college bats this year.
Dan Palka | 1B/OF | Georgia Tech
The Basics: 6-foot-2, 220-pounds; left/left profile; draft day age 21y 7m
Brings to the table: Lefty power. Palka is a one-tool pony, but the tool will get some attention on draft day due to the diminishing number of power bats making their way to the majors. Palka comes to his power more through strength than bat speed, which causes his hit tool to lag behind a fair amount. The swing can get long, and his ability to make in-game adjustments has thus far moved inverse to the quality of pitching he faces. That said, the Tech slugger can punish mistakes and has shown progress at the plate over the past 18 months. He is bottom-heavy and a below-average runner, likely solidifying his future home at first base or DH.
Made a name for himself when: He finished third in home runs (11) this summer on the Cape and put together a three-hit performance (including a double) in the league’s All-Star Game. Palka doesn’t have a sexy set of tools, but the power he put on display this summer did not go unnoticed.
Figures to get attention: Throughout the spring. To a certain extent, the heat Palka receives later in the scouting cycle will depend on his performance early in the spring. He currently profiles as a third-to-sixth rounder, but his strong summer combined with a hot start this spring could drive high-level evaluators to Tech to gauge his contact ability and the odds the plus power will show up against more advanced arms. If he can show a tighter approach, the power will bring in the decision-makers.
DJ Peterson | 1B/3B | University of New Mexico
The Basics: 6-foot-1, 195-pounds; right/right profile; draft day age 21y 5m
Brings to the table: Right-handed power with a chance to boast an average or better hit/on-base skill set, as well. Peterson has a simple load, relatively tight bat path, and good extension through contact, giving him a nice foundation upon which to build an offensive game at the next level. He will struggle at times with secondaries but is generally advanced in his approach and in his ability to make in-game adjustments. He offers little in the way of defensive value; his lack of lower-half mobility could quickly land him at first base after draft day.
Made a name for himself when: He belted 17 homeruns this spring for the Lobos and led the USA Collegiate National Team in the same category with four. Peterson made consistent hard contact this summer, giving evaluators reason to believe his game can translate to wood. Because he is likely tied to first base, his bat will need to carry him.
Figures to get attention: April 12-14 when Peterson’s Lobos face-off against Fresno State and Aaron Judge, another of the top collegiate bats in the draft class. High-level evaluators have seen a lot of what they need to already, so much of Peterson’s draft day profile will likely be built off regular reports from the area scouts monitoring his progress. The early-April match-up against Judge should draw plenty of cross-checkers and scouting directors and might be the best opportunity Peterson has to get his name into early Day One consideration.
College Right-Handed Pitchers
Nick J. Faleris is a practicing structured finance attorney and Sports Industry team member in the Milwaukee office of Foley & Lardner LLP. The views he expresses in Baseball Prospectus are his own, and not necessarily those of the law firm.