Draft Watch: Time to make final impressions
Oklahoma's Gray, Stanford's Appel holding strong as potential top pick
With less than two weeks remaining before the start of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, there isn't much time left for scouts to see the players they've been evaluating all spring -- since last summer, truthfully.
The Draft takes place on June 6-8, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday, June 6, at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 73 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. Rounds 3-10 will be streamed live on MLB.com on June 7, beginning with a preview show at 12:30 p.m., and Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on June 8, starting at 1 p.m.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
High school seasons are all but over, and the college baseball calendar has turned to the postseason. As most organizations plan to hold their meetings to line up their Draft boards, they will bring with them a year's worth of evaluations. But those last looks can be very important in swaying decision-makers and the discussions that take place in Draft rooms.
Last weekend, scouts flooded college conference tournaments for some of those last looks. Sure, there are NCAA Regionals to be scouted, but for the most part, general managers and scouting directors used the conference tourneys to get a good look at players they are considering for high picks before heading into those meetings.
These games are not without worth. There are good crowds, decent competition and a spot or seeding in Regional play on the line. Getting to see how players respond to pressure situations is always desirable. The better conferences in particular, like the SEC and ACC, had high scout attendance. And let's be honest. Scouts are only human. If a pitcher of interest was just lights out at a conference tournament, that's going to carry a little extra weight.
"It's give and take with the conference tourneys," one national scout said. "You would like to think it doesn't hold any more weight than a regular-season game, but it is the last thing in your mind when you go into the Draft room. It's hard to ignore that."
A number of college performers may have helped themselves with their tourney performance. Some notes from around the tournament landscape:
After a couple of so-so starts, Oklahoma ace Jonathan Gray's stock certainly wasn't falling, but those picking at the very top certainly wanted to see how he threw in the Big 12 Tournament. The right-hander started the opener against Baylor, and he promptly threw a three-hit shutout, walking one and striking out 12. Everything looks on pace for Gray to go No. 1 or No. 2 overall.
Stanford didn't have a tournament to play in, so Mark Appel took the ball on Friday night against a good UCLA team. In what was the final collegiate start of his career -- Stanford did not make a Regional -- the big right-hander gave up one run over eight innings, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out nine.
Arkansas' Ryne Stanek has been a bit up and down, but he did all he could in his tourney last look. The right-hander beat highly-ranked LSU in the SEC by going eight strong innings, allowing just one unearned run on six hits and three walks while striking out four. As one scout put it, "He kind of nailed it. It's the best some have ever seen him."
Don't be surprised if Dallas Baptist's Jake Johansen's name starts creeping up into early-round conversations. Scouts have always liked his arm strength -- Johansen has been clocked as high as 101 mph this year -- but he hasn't had consistent results. There were a lot of decision-makers in attendance at the WAC Tournament last Friday, and Johansen didn't disappoint. He was up to 99 mph in the first inning, and he was pounding the strike zone. His slider was decent and his changeup was playable. Most see Johansen as a reliever, but his size and arm strength certainly has teams intrigued.
New Mexico third baseman D.J. Peterson continued to do what he's done all year during the Mountain West Tournament: hit. Peterson went 8-for-14 with two homers during the tourney. One scout said, "He stays inside the ball so well. He's a professional hitter. He could go to Double-A right now and swing the bat."
Hunter Dozier, the shortstop at Stephen F. Austin, continues to move up boards as teams scurry to find college bats. Dozier has done nothing but perform, and the Southland Conference Tournament was no exception. The opener presented a good matchup for scouts, as Dozier faced Oral Roberts' Alex Gonzalez, also a hot name of late. Dozier hit a line drive back up the middle his first at-bat, then doubled in his second plate appearance against Gonzalez. That led many scouts to change plans and stick around for Dozier's early-morning game the next day, in which he promptly went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. He'll have to move to third, most think, but he's really swung the bat well.
Virginia Tech's Chad Pinder was the talk of the ACC Tournament. Aside from playing a surprisingly good shortstop -- most still feel he'll move over to third -- Pinder also had a hot bat going. He started the tourney going 3-for-5 with two homers and six RBIs in a rout of highly-ranked Virginia. He added two more hits the next day against Florida State and homered again against Georgia Tech before finally being held hitless in the championship game against North Carolina.