Stanford right-hander Mark Appel is No. 1 on Keith Law's initial Future 50, and the general belief among senior scouts is that he is the top talent in the 2013 draft class. With that said, there's no such consensus that the senior will be the first selection.
Last June, the Houston Astros selected prep shortstop Carlos Correa with the top overall pick after a spring full of buzz saying the club would select and sign Appel. Whether or not the Astros are considering going down that road again remains to be seen, but the chatter at recent high-profile events is that Appel probably doesn't last past the Chicago Cubs at No. 2.
The Cubs, who are run by president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, have a solid working relationship with Appel's adviser, Scott Boras, leading a decent handful of clubs believing Appel will land there and sign. It's early, however, and it's just talk, but it suggests Appel is presently the clear top player and if he falls at at all, it won't be very far.
Appel continues his onslaught Thursday night at Washington State after dominating Utah a week ago without his best stuff or command.
What to Watch
• Perhaps the top pitcher-hitter matchup of the weekend will occur Thursday in Reno when Nevada right-hander Braden Shipley faces Fresno State's Aaron Judge. Shipley kept New Mexico's D.J. Peterson at bay last weekend with two flyouts and a groundout, though he wasn't at his very best.
Shipley enters the weekend at 3-0 with a 2.53 ERA, 44 strikeouts and 12 walks in 42 2/3 innings. Judge is batting .313/.394/.542 with four home runs, and his lack of production of late has brought the slugger's status back to where it started in the spring when scouts wanted to see the batting practice power show up in games more. It really hasn't, at least not yet, and the few extra-base hits he does have appear to have come at the expense of his batting average. Keith Law will be there for Insider and will write a full report.
• Peterson will visit San Diego State in a three-game set starting Thursday, looking to build upon his .392/.496/.876 line, including 22 extra base hits and a 17-12 walk-to-strikeout ratio.
• The draft's top left-hander, Indiana State's Sean Manaea, is still looking to have the big breakout start, and he will get that shot versus Missouri State on Friday night. Manaea is 3-1 with 41 strikeouts and 10 walks in 32 innings and is coming off seven shutout innings last weekend.
• Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray will face Kansas on Thursday and southpaw Dillon Overton will go Friday. Gray went all nine innings last weekend, fanning 12 and throwing 80 of 121 pitches for strikes. He's overpowering most hitters with 94-98 mph velocity, but the slider is a legitimate weapon with two strikes.
• Jacksonville's Chase Anderson gets Mercer on Thursday, after a 10-strikeout performance last weekend, which improved the right-hander's strikeout-to-walk ratio to 60-8 for the season.
• University of San Diego slugger Kris Bryant gets Oregon State senior left-hander Matt Boyd Thursday night, looking to heat up again after his torrid start and subsequent fade. Bryant leads Division I with 12 long balls and barring unforeseen signability issues, figures to be off the board in the top half of the first round, perhaps in the top eight.
• Jon Denney, the top prep catcher in the class, will lead Yukon (Okla.) HS into the Enid Tournament this week after drawing mixed reviews at the Best of the West Tournament in Arizona. Generally speaking, scouts liked the bat and questioned Denney's defense.
• Serra HS (Gardena, Calif.) first baseman Dominic Smith is off for spring break, but he has the best pure hit tool in the draft among prep players, and enters his vacation having made a very positive impression on all nine clubs I've asked. Smith could be in the mix as high as the 10-15 range.
• Clint Frazier of Loganville (Ga.) HS plays the first of a home-and-home versus Apalachee (Ga.) HS on Friday with its conclusion coming Monday afternoon.
• Grayson (Ga.) High School star Austin Meadows is in Cary, N.C. with his teammates participating in the National High School Invitational. Despite the lack of fireworks early on at the tourney, scouts maintain that Meadows is a top-10 talent.
• Denney's top competition for the No. 1 high school catcher in the class, Reese McGuire, is drawing rave reviews for his work in the gym and behind the plate, showing progress with his receiving skills. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound McGuire is a left-handed batter from Kentwood HS (Kent, Wash.) who controls the strike zone well and is an above-average runner with a plus throwing arm. We collected some scouting video here.
• Houston's St. Pius X High School will get its star back early next week when right-hander Kohl Stewart returns from a suspension stemming from incidents that occurred last spring. Stewart has the physical makeup of a premium prep arm and could be selected in the top 10 with a strong spring. Indications, however, are that he's leaning baseball over playing quarterback at Texas A&M.