There are two elite prospects in the 2013 draft class, and both are college pitchers. Stanford ace Mark Appel is the top talent for the second straight spring and Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray has burst onto the scene with huge velocity, an out-pitch slider and sustained performance. The second tier, however, is a solid group, led by right-hander's Ryne Stanek (Arkansas), Ryan Eades (LSU) and left-hander Sean Manaea (Indiana State).
All three have questions that have yet to be answered. Stanek and Manaea have not shown consistent stuff and command this season, and Eades, who has been very consistent, needs to show a bit more dominance. As Keith Law wrote earlier this week, Eades fizzled a bit down the stretch last spring and with a labrum injury in his past a strong month of May could go a long ways to show that his shoulder, nor general durability or stamina concerns, are valid reasons to let him slide down (and potentially out of) the first round.
Based on talent and value alone, all three could be taken off the board in the top 10, and it may not shock anyone if Manaea went in the top seven, with the Colorado Rockies (No. 3) Cleveland Indians (No. 5) and Boston Red Sox (No. 7), viable landing spots. There are some whispers, however, that the southpaw may be a summer wonder, having flashed more velocity, a better slider and consistent command in the Cape Cod League in 2012.
I took mini-poll of crosscheckers and scouting supervisors to gauge the MLB potential of this trio, and while none see a No. 1 starter in this group, the opinions varied beyond that.
"At worst, for me, Stanek is a closer," said one national crosschecker. "He could be a lot more than that, too. The stuff screams No. 2 guy. Eades is the safest pick; if he's healthy he's going to be solid, I don't see a lot of doubt with that."
What about Manaea? "He has a chance to be the best of the three," the senior scout continued. "The problem is there's more hope involved. When your'e drafting a college pitcher that high, usually the preference is to avoid a lot of risk like that."
Key starts for the trio during the season's final full month start this weekend.
• Eades gets the ball Saturday in the Tigers' series finale versus Florida, who are expected to go with potential Day 1 pick in right-hander Jonathon Crawford.
• Manaea will face Evansville after a failing to impress last week with 5 1/3 innings against Illinois State that produced nine strikeouts, but also spotty command, serving as another piece of evidence that perhaps Manaea isn't quite as polished as some of the other college pitchers in the class.
• Stanek, whom many scouts believe has turned a corner over the past month, takes on Kentucky in Lexington. Some evaluators have opined that Stanek has solidified his spot in the top 20, but can move into the top 10 with a great finish.
• Appel will be in Tempe to face Arizona State and right-hander Trevor Williams, who could be a Day 1 selection in his own right. Appel pitched well at Oregon last week, but didn't have "his best bait," as one scout put it. Keith Law will be there to scout this match-up for Insider and will file a full report.
• Gray was very good again last weekend versus Texas Tech and shouldn't have problems versus West Virginia this week. The right-hander is almost certain to record strikeout No. 100 on the season in what will be start No. 12.
• Nevada's Braden Shipley struck out just one batter in seven innings last Friday against Air Force and hasn't been quite as firm with the fastball in a few of his latest outings. With a lack of ideal stature -- 6-foot-2, 185 pounds -- Shipley could help himself by rebounding right away and putting together another streak of top-end results.
• New Mexico third baseman DJ Peterson is batting .403/.520/.811 with 13 home runs and will get another chance this weekend to pad his numbers in his hitter-friendly home confines. Peterson generally receives high grades for his ability to square up pitches, but if he has to move to first base may not profile well there in terms of power production. I've heard second round grades on him, but it's a thin class for college hitters, creating an opportunity for Peterson on Day 1. He'll face Air Force this weekend.
• Fresno State outfielder Aaron Judge may be slipping after a lack of performance the past few weeks, including last weekend versus San Diego State when three of his four hits in the series came off the Sunday starter and he failed to put together quality at-bats Friday and Saturday in front of a large group of national scouts that were there to see him.
• In most of my conversations over the past week or so, clubs appear to want to draft positions players, and in some cases it seems they may reach a little bit to get one, rather than taking a pitcher.
This means a lot of teams in the middle of the first round could end up targeting the best position player available. The result of that may be that prep arms such as St. Ignatius Prep (San Francisco) lefty Matt Krook, fall to clubs like the Atlanta Braves at No. 31, the fourth pick in the sandwich round.
• One of, if not the biggest, opinion splits this year is with Kentwood (Wash.) High School catcher Reese McGuire. There are high-ranking scouts that see him as a surefire top-10 talent and those that appear to prefer someone else takes him. Still, the floor appears to be somewhere in the 16-21 range, while the high side starts at No. 4 with the Twins. The Pirates have seen McGuire extensively and have two picks, one at No. 9 for failing to sign Appel a year ago, and the No. 14 pick.