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Gray keeps rising, Appel still No. 1

3/25/2013
Oklahoma's Gray is moving himself into consideration for a top-five pick. AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff

Winter has officially passed, which means that things are starting to heat up on the scouting path for the 2013 draft. This week we saw the first start of the season by one of the best arms in the class, the dynamic-duo from Georgia continuing their quest for world domination, and the collegiate bats doing whatever the opposite of world domination is.

• One of the most impressive things about Jonathan Gray's current run of dominance is that he's done it against quality competition, and this weekend he was facing another solid lineup in TCU. Once again, Gray was up to the challenge. The Oklahoma right-hander struck out 12 and gave up just one earned run in his nine innings of work, and didn't give up a hit until the sixth inning. Gray once again hit 100 mph on guns, and his wipeout slider kept the Horned Frogs off-balance all day.

Mark Appel was making his first start in two weeks -- Stanford was off for spring break last week -- and the Cardinal right-hander did show some rust. In a 6-4 victory against Utah, Appel gave up just one run and struck out 11 over his eight innings, but did give up six hits and the secondary offerings weren't as good as they have been for the most of the year.

"(Appel) certainly wasn't as good as he was against Fresno State or Texas, but that's a tough standard to live up to" a National League scout said. "The velocity is there, the command is so much better than last year and with respect to [Gray], he's the best player in the class and it isn't even close."

• TCU's decision to make Andrew Mitchell their closer may have solidified the Horned Frogs bullpen, but the decision also meant that one of the most talented arms in the 2013 class was relegated to only 11 innings pitched this season. Thankfully, Mitchell was moved into the rotation Sunday, and the right-hander showed why he's so highly regarded. Mitchell went only 4 2/3 innings, but he struck out six and all six hits the right-hander gave up were singles. With a fastball that can get up to 97 and a good curveball and change, Mitchell has a chance to go in the top half of the first round come June.

• If there was a chief concern teams had about Arizona State's Trevor Williams coming into the season was an inability to miss bats despite having above-average stuff. The Sun Devil right-hander got off to a solid start, but has really struggled over his last two outings in conference play. After giving up 13 hits and seven earned runs against Washington State last week, Williams was generally ineffective against Oregon State, going five innings and giving up three runs and seven hits.

"I'd say he's one of, if not the most, frustrating pitchers in the class," an AL East scout said. "I don't know if it's a case where he's just not trusting his stuff against better competition, but it sure seems like something is going on. Two weeks ago he'd be a guy I'd recommend in the top 10. Now I'm not so sure."

• There was good and bad news regarding Ryne Stanek's start on Saturday against South Carolina. The good news is that Stanek did throw strikes, giving up no walks and striking out seven in a complete game victory. The bad news is that he was allowed to throw 125 pitches on short rest. Even with six days between starts, that's on the high side, and adding unnecessary stress on the 21 year-old's right arm.

Hitters

• The Austin Meadows-Clint Frazier on March 12 had the hype of a heavyweight fight in scouting circles, and popular opinion after Frazier hit two mammoth homers was that Frazier had passed Meadows on draft boards.

Not so fast my friend.

Meadows has been red-hot lately, going 8-for-11 over his last three games with two homers and three doubles. In addition to the scorching hitting, the left-handed hitting outfielder has been a force on the bases with 11 stolen bases in his ten games so far.

"Meadows would certainly go ahead of Frazier for me, and I say that with all due respect" an NL Central scout said. "He's going to play center field, he's going to steal 30 bases, and he's going to hit. I like
Frazier a lot, but he's a corner outfielder and he doesn't have the projection that Meadows does. It would be a mistake to take (Frazier) over Meadows."

Frazier hasn't exactly been chopped liver at the plate, himself. The right-handed hitting outfielder hit his seventh homer of the season on Tuesday, and no player has more bat speed in this year's class. Even as a guy who's future is more than likely at a corner outfield position, Frazier has a chance to go high, thanks in part to his offensive upside and the lack of any semblance of depth in the collegiate ranks.

Keith Law and I were in Tempe to see New Mexico third-baseman DJ Peterson last Wednesday, and the results were mixed at best. This weekend, Peterson faced what will likely be the toughest pitcher he'll see all year in Nevada right-hander Braden Shipley. Peterson failed to accumulate a hit against the Wolfpack right-hander, flying out twice and grounding into a double play.

"For me, it's simply a matter of scouting with stats on Peterson" an AL scout said. "I can't take a one-tool guy who's going to more than likely end up at first base on day one unless he's got 70-80 power, and (Peterson) doesn't have it. The numbers are great, but if you put [San Diego third baseman Kris] Bryant on that team, then the numbers would be even wackier."

Peterson is hitting .392/.496/.876 on the year, but the Lobos play in one of the great hitter's ballparks in all of college baseball.

• While there's almost no chance of him catching Jon Denney, Reese McGuire (Kentwood HS, Covington, Wash.) has solidified himself as the second-best prep catcher in the class. The left-handed hitting backstop has put up a .562 on-base percentage to start the season, while continuing to show the best catch-and-throw skills of any prep catcher available this year. The power numbers haven't shown up yet, but scouts believe that as he fills out his frame the pop will come, and McGuire is absolutely a day-one candidate this year.

• Finally, it is worth nothing that Trey Ball from New Castle (Ind.) HS. -- who ranked No.11 on Keith Law's Future 50 -- will get his season underway today when New Castle takes on Hagerstown. Ball is the best two-way prospect in the class, and while most prefer him in the outfield, a team could fall in love with his size (6-foot-6, 190 pounds) and projection on the mound.