Opinions can greatly differ when it comes to prospects and where they belong in the MLB draft pecking order.
That precisely is the reason why we've created the Perfect Game weekly mailbag, a feature that will run each Tuesday morning, and will highlight a hot topic in college, high school or professional baseball, or simply just questions pertaining to prospects and the MLB draft.
The weekly panel includes Perfect Game president Jerry Ford, Perfect Game managing editor Patrick Ebert, Vice President of player personnel David Rawnsley, Director of high school coverage Todd Gold, guest appearances from the astute Allan Simpson, and of course, myself.
In the first Perfect Game mailbag, we delve into the MLB draft and the top three picks come June. Though we reserve the right to change opinions before the draft arrives, here's who each member of the panel would take 1-3, in order, if the draft occurred today.
As you can see, opinions, as expected, differ.
Jerry Ford, Perfect Game President
As always, my theory is to take a chance on high school kids. If I'm right, I will store up a lot of Major League All-Star caliber players/pitchers. I would rather take my time building a championship team, than rushing to hurry up to get out of the basement.
Because we have the luxury of seeing most all the top draft picks while they were in high school, it makes it a bit easier to compare. My thought is they were all in high school at some point, and if you pick the right ones you get what you want. Of course the college players are the surest bet, but I would always go for the highest ceiling. For the most part, that has proven to be high school kids. Just check the All-Star rosters.
So keeping with that theory, especially this year where I don't see a consensus sure fire 1-1 pick, I go gambling:
1. Clint Frazier: I hate to think what Frazier would do if he went to college. We have seen all the top guys (1-1) in the past. In some ways he is better than most of them and he is similar in other ways. Others may look the part a bit more, but the tools are what separates Frazier from the pack. And he might use those tools as good as any high school player ever. This kid loves the stage and has very unusual skills.
2. Robert Kaminsky: Simply the closest to the big leagues of any high school pitcher I have seen, maybe closer than the top college guys. He can throw mid-90s now and his curveball is as good as most any at the big league level. For sure it would be hard to find anyone in this draft, left or right-hander, with a better pitch. Once again, others might look the part better, but competitiveness, make up, etc., it is all right here.
3. OK, keeping with my high school picks, I could go with someone like Kohl Stewart. I really think JP Crawford will be a star in the big leagues. Dominic Smith is another potential All Star, in my opinion, and I'm sure some scouts really like Austin Meadows. However, I have to go with Gray, Appel or one of our past PG All Americans like Kris Bryant.
David Rawnsley, Perfect Game Vice President of Player Personnel
I had the Houston Astros' No. 1 overall pick in the recent Perfect Game Mock Draft and picked right-handed pitcher Jonathan Gray from Oklahoma with that pick, so I'm already on record there.
I have no problem with right-handed pitcher Mark Appel from Stanford with the second pick, my own personal preferences at the top of the draft are with college pitchers when the right ones are available, unless there is just an impossibly dynamic high school athlete (i.e. Justin Upton, Bryce Harper ...who I know was technically in junior college).
The third pick is where it gets more complicated. Clint Frazier could well be that dynamic athlete and hitter that you want to pick at the top of the draft, and I'd hate as a scouting director to say I passed on him if he blows up as a big leaguer. But I also look at Kris Bryant from San Diego and try to put into perspective what he's done not only this spring but over the last four years and can't help to be impressed. I mean, he's hit more home runs this spring (22) than lots of teams, and has walked 58 times. Additionally, he's a better athlete from what I hear from my scouts that he's given credit for. I think I'd probably go with Bryant at No. 3 in the end with some fear and misgiving.
Kendall Rogers, Perfect Game College Managing Editor
1. Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford: Go figure the only time I've seen Appel this season (against Rice), he was less than stellar, though, showed plenty of upside. Against the Owls earlier this season, Appel was 93-96, and up to 97, with his fastball, 82-85 with a slider that typically is of the wipeout variety, and 80-84 with his changeup. Appel received plenty of heat for not signing last summer, but he's a very mature guy who handles things in business-like fashion. Appel has a pro-like, durable, frame and has been a swing-and-miss guy this season with 93 strikeouts and just 14 walks in 78 2/3 innings of work. Appel is the safest bet in the draft.
2. Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma: There's absolutely no problem at all taking Gray as the top overall pick in the MLB draft. I had a chance to see Gray a couple of times last season, and once this season, against Baylor, and the difference mentally is significantly better. Gray cratered in tough situations last season, but is doing anything but that this season. He has trimmed down a bit and has a very stocky, durable, frame, and of course, he has big-time stuff. Gray was consistently 95-98, up to 99, against the Bears, and didn't get below 94 in the contest, even touching a 96 in the eighth inning. He utilized a mid-80s slider that was a wipeout pitch, while his changeup, which is good, has even more room for improvement. Gray projects very well as a hard-throwing starting pitcher, but also take into account that this is his first dominant campaign in college.
3. Kris Bryant, 3B, San Diego: I'm with esteemed colleague Patrick Ebert on this one, Bryant's huge bat to the Colorado Rockies just makes so much sense. Bryant's collegiate career has been very interesting to follow. He's always had the power, but we've always been waiting on him to be consistent in all areas. Well, his junior campaign this season is that year. Bryant, all 6-foot-5, 215 pounds of him, is having an insane year for the Toreros, hitting .346 with 11 doubles, two triples, 22 homers and 46 RBIs. He's also slugging .865, and most impressive, has 31 strikeouts as compared to 53 walks. Bryant's position at the next level might be in question, but his offensive abilities aren't. In addition to being a powerful hitter, he also is showing this season he has total control of the plate.
Frankie Piliere, Perfect Game National Crosschecker
Indiana State left-handed pitcher Sean Manaea hasn't quite gotten on a roll this spring the way he did last summer, but he'd still be the first player on my draft board. I'm a firm believer in taking players with unique skill sets when you have the opportunity.
Many of baseball's stars are difficult to compare to their peers, and I think Manaea and his ability to miss bats puts him in that category.
I'd have to take Stanford's Mark Appel second, not because I think he's any better this spring than last, but because you just can't pass on his combination of stuff, body, and delivery.
With my third pick, I'd have to go with San Diego's Kris Bryant. His type of easy opposite field power is difficult to find, and everything about him looks like a modern day big league star. He's going to strikeout, but the way he's performed so consistently, he'd be hard to pass up in this spot.
Patrick Ebert, Perfect Game Managing Editor
When I was able to watch two of Jonathan Gray's starts back-to-back about a month ago, I thought he was the best player available in this draft. He's that good. So, he's No. 1 overall to the Astros for me as well.
Since the question asked who I would take for the top three picks, I go with Clint Frazier at No. 2. The Cubs have done a nice job stockpiling some very promising bats the past few years and Frazier would give them one more to look forward to. He could move quickly enough to debut roughly around the same time as guys like Albert Almora, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler.
Hard to argue with Kris Bryant to the Rockies at No. 3. Can you imagine the numbers he could post at Coors Field? He has ridiculous power, legitimately to all fields.
Todd Gold, Perfect Game Scouting Supervisor/Director of High Schools
1. Kris Bryant, 3B, San Diego: Has legitimate 80 raw power and the hit tool will allow it to play. While there always will be some swing and miss given his approach, I feel that the concerns about his strikeout totals have been exaggerated. I’m not sold on his ability to stick at third base, but he’s a better athlete than he’s generally given credit for, and he has a plus arm, making right field a possibility. He’s a 30-40-plus HR a year guy, and he has the kind of astronomical ceiling you don’t often find in a college position player. It’s a rare combination of upside that you typically find in the high school ranks, with the certainty of a college hitter with a track record of success against high level pitching.
2. Clint Frazier, OF, Loganville, Ga. (HS): While the profile doesn’t cleanly line up to be a 1-1 type of guy, he does have tools of that caliber. Not only do the tools jump out at you but the track record of performance is quite strong. I wish we would’ve had a chance to see what he could do in Jupiter, and a big showing there might have moved him up to the top spot for me. But based on what he’s shown when we have seen him, he’s been phenomenal. Elite bat speed, big-time power that will play at the next level, plus-plus arm and a borderline plus runner. Even if he winds up in right field, he’s still a potential impact player, though he has a chance to stick in center.
3. Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford: Difficult decision here, as Jonathan Gray’s stuff is of similar caliber and it’s very difficult to pass up a potential impact bat. But based on pure talent/stuff, Appel’s power arsenal is just too good to pass up. Also considered: Jonathan Gray, Dom Smith, Sean Manaea, and Ryne Stanek. When you start factoring in signability and positional scarcity, I think the equation changes a bit, as this draft is shallow on impact bats, but based purely on talent Appel is a clear-cut top three pick (and was strongly considered for top two spots).
Allan Simpson, Director of PG Crosschecker
1. KRIS BRYANT, 3b/of, University of San Diego: Whether he ends up at third base or in the outfield, the Astros simply can’t overlook Bryant’s impressive raw power, the best in the draft. I’m sure the Astros will again consider Stanford RHP Mark Appel, who is No. 1 on many draft boards as a college senior, but they went down this road with Appel a year ago, and passed.
2. MARK APPEL, rhp, Stanford: The rebuilding Cubs pick in this spot, and an experienced college pitcher like Appel could be in the big leagues within a year. He has the best combination of size, power stuff and command of any arm in the draft.
3. CLINT FRAZIER, of, Loganville (Ga.): I might have gone for Indiana State LHP Sean Manaea in this spot, but he’s missed a couple of starts with a hip issue, and there’s a concern over his health. So I’ll default in this spot to Frazier, a PG favorite with his wide array of tools. With the Rockies off to a hot start this season, they may not have a pressing need any longer to grab a college player who might be more of a quick fix than Frazier