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The return of Austin Wilson

4/8/2013

We're exactly two months from the 2013 MLB draft, and now is often when teams start to truly formulate their draft lists, even if they don't get finalized until days -- or hours -- before the draft. This week we saw the return of a potential top-10 selection, a potentially lingering issue for the best left-handed pitcher in the class, and an obscure shortstop who continues to impress scouts with his speed and athleticism.

• It's been a disappointing year for Indiana State left-hander Sean Manaea, and then came news that he would miss his start on Friday because of a hip strain. Manaea was able to throw on Sunday and went six shutout innings with nine strikeouts and no walks, but it created a concern with a few scouts I talked to.

"Hip injuries can just be such a lingering issue," an NL scout said. "Even if it's mild and creates just a little bit of discomfort, it's something to keep an eye on because they have this nasty habit of coming back. [I'm] not saying that it's a reason not to draft a kid, but it's more homework for a club to do and can put doubt in a club's mind."

Mark Appel had one of his poorer outings against USC on Friday, even if the line would tell you otherwise. The Stanford right-hander was one out from a complete game and gave up just two runs with seven strikeouts and two walks, but his fastball was mostly 92-94 mph, and he didn't command his slider very well. No prospect is flawless, so we'll just go ahead and chalk this one up as a rare bad day.

• The pitcher who replaced Appel was Stanford right-hander A.J. Vanegas, and his return is a welcome sight to scouts, even in relief. Vanegas worked to only one batter, but he was 92-94 and threw one plus slider as well.

"He's a huge wild card to me," an AL Central scout said. "When he's right he's got a 70 fastball and a 60-65 slider [on the 20-80 scouting scale], and those kinds of arms don't grow on trees. But he hasn't been consistent, and you're probably dreaming if you think he can start long-term. Still, the talent is immense."

• Appel's chief competition for the No. 1 draft spot, Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray, didn't put together his best statistical evening of the year, but the stuff still looked like that of a top-two selection for the most part. The Sooners right-hander went 6 2/3 shutout innings and struck out seven, but he did allow seven hits and two walks. I expected Gray to dominate a weak Texas lineup, but again, the overall body of work has been too impressive to worry about one average effort like this.

Ryne Stanek's stock has fallen considerably, but he did have one of his better efforts Friday night against Alabama. The Razorbacks right-hander went eight scoreless, striking out five and giving up just four hits. He'll need to miss more bats to get back into top-five consideration, but there's plenty of time and this was a positive step forward.

• Plenty of scouts were in attendance to watch Nevada right-hander Braden Shipley pitch against San Diego State, but Shipley's was not necessarily the name on their minds after the game. The Wolf Pack ace pitched well on Friday, giving up just three hits and two runs while striking out five in eight innings against the Aztecs, but he was clearly outpitched by Michael Cederoth.

Cederoth -- who isn't draft-eligible until 2014 -- went eight scoreless innings, giving up just four hits and one walk while striking out 14. Most impressively, the Aztecs right-hander hit 100 mph on several guns, while sitting in the mid 90s and showing above-average secondary stuff. It looks like there could be some more competition for North Carolina State's Carlos Rodon and Vanderbilt's Tyler Beede as to who the best arm in the class of 2014 will be.

Hitters

• Last week I talked about how badly this year's class needs Austin Wilson to come back from his elbow's stress reaction. This weekend, we got that return.

Wilson made his return Friday for Stanford, going 1-for-2 with a walk before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning. He was given Saturday off, then returned Sunday to go 2-for-4 with a double.

"Just seeing him back is a positive thing," an AL East scout said. "Now hopefully we see him play in the outfield soon. There's going to be some rust, but if he shows even a little bit of what he showed me in the summer, he's the best college outfielder in the class."

Aaron Judge's weekend was a great example of why scouts are so intrigued -- and so flummoxed -- by the Fresno State outfielder. Judge went hitless on Friday against UNLV, striking out three times before bouncing back on Saturday with two hits, including a long homer off potential early Day 2 selection Buddy Borden. Of all the prospects I've talked to scouts about, Judge is the one I get the most conflicting reports on.

Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows have dominated the prep outfield talk, but an outfielder who deserves more attention is Plano (Texas) High School's Billy McKinney. McKinney hit a long homer on Thursday versus Plano Senior, and his smooth left-handed swing has drawn rave reviews from talent evaluators. He's not the best athlete in the class -- and he's almost assuredly going to have to play a corner outfield at the professional level -- but a team looking for offensive upside near the bottom of the first round could covet McKinney's skill set.

• If you see a junior college player go early, it's generally a pitcher, but this year we could see a shortstop go on Day 1: East Central Community College's Tim Anderson. Anderson was the NJCAA player of the week, hitting .533 with two doubles, two triples and four stolen bases.

"I think he's the best shortstop in the class, and that includes college or high school," an AL West scout said. "He's a 70 runner, an outstanding athlete, and there's some real offensive upside in his bat. It'd be nice to see him face some higher competition, but the tools are very impressive. I'd take him on Day 1 easily."