With the MLB First Year Player Draft under a week away, it’s time to start thinking about how long it will take for draft picks to have an effect on our favorite teams. Brandon Magee looks back at the top 10 picks of the 2013 draft to see how they are performing and how many have made it to The Show.
Player drafts in professional sports are often labeled as a crapshoot. Potential greatness does not always come to fruition, talented players suffer injuries that can flush away a career, progress comes in spurts and sometimes not at all. Unlike the NFL and NBA drafts, where top draft picks are expected to make immediate impacts with the teams that drafted them, a minor league apprenticeship is expected of nearly all players drafted into Major League Baseball. For players who have gone to college, their time on the farm could be short. For those drafted out of high school, the apprenticeship is expected to take longer.
As we look back on the top picks of three years ago, it is far too early to label any player as the proverbial bust. However, it is also clear that one player has outshined the rest of his draft class… thus far. Will the rest of the draft class be able to catch up to Kris Bryant?
Pick #1 – Mark Appel – Houston Astros
As we wrote two weeks ago, Appel is no longer with the Astros, having been traded to the Phillies in the off-season. He was placed on the 7-day DL on May 23 with a shoulder strain, after getting only two outs and allowing four runs in his start the previous night. With a 4.47 ERA over parts of two AAA seasons, Appel is clearly not where he expected to be.
Pick #2 – Kris Bryant – Chicago Cubs
The third baseman out of the University of San Diego blitzed through the minor leagues, making his first trip to the majors a permanent one in 2015. After signing a contract with the Cubs that included a signing bonus of $6.7 million, Bryant saw action at three levels in 2013 (AZL Cubs, Boise Hawks, Daytona Cubs), batting an impressive .336/.390/.668 with 25 extra-base hits in only 36 games. He then played in the Arizona Fall League, putting up an OPS of 1.184 with another 15 extra-base hits in 20 games for the Mesa Solar Sox.
Bryant began his first full season in 2014 with the AA Tennessee Smokies, smoking 20 doubles and 22 home runs in his 68 games in the Southern League. With a 1.160 OPS in Tennessee, Chicago moved Bryant westward to Iowa, where he finished the rest of the season with the AAA Iowa Cubs of the Pacific Coast League. He hit a mere 14 additional doubles and 21 more bombs in 70 games, putting up a tremendous line of .295/.418/.619 in his first exposure to the highest level in the minors. Bryant’s first full season looked like a video game: .325/.438/.661 with 34 doubles, 43 home runs, 118 runs scored, and 110 runs driven in. He also stole 15 bases for good measure.
Bryant spent seven games in Iowa at the beginning of 2015 before getting the well earned promotion to the majors. In his 201 MLB games, Kris is batting .277/.368/.494 with 41 doubles, 5 triples, 38 home runs, and 14 stolen bases. He has also earned an All-Star berth and won the Rookie of the Year Award. Just 24 years old, Bryant should be a major fixture with the Chicago Cubs for seasons to come.
Pick #3 – Jon Gray – Colorado Rockies
The Oklahoma University right-hander has also made it to the majors quickly. After signing in 2013, Gray made nine starts between Grand Junction of the Pioneer League and the Modesto Nuts in the California League, putting up a 1.93 ERA and a 0.884 WHIP in his 37 1/3 innings. In his first full season in 2014, Gray spent the entire season with the AA Tulsa Drillers, going 10-5 with a 3.91 ERA and a 1.190 WHIP in 24 starts. In 124 1/3 innings, Jon struck out 113, walked 41 and gave up 10 home runs.
Last year, he spent most of the season with the AAA Albuquerque Isotopes of the Pacific Coast League, going 6-6 with a 4.33 ERA and a 1.487 WHIP in the offense-heavy league. His peripherals were similar to what he showed in 2014 with Tulsa, striking out 110, walking 40, and gifting 9 bombs in 114 1/3 innings. Gray was called up to the majors on August 4, and pitched his final nine games of the season with the Rockies. While he showed potential – allowing one run and one hit over six innings in his second start against the New York Mets – his overall numbers were not good. In 40 2/3 innings, Gray put up a 5.53 ERA and a 1.623 WHIP. On the plus side, he did strike out 40.
Gray has shown the ability to pitch deeper into games in his second MLB season, pitching at least six full innings in five of his last six starts. While his ERA of 5.76 over eight starts is currently higher than it was last season, his WHIP has decreased to 1.324 and he has struck out 49 in 45 1/3 innings. Consistency of performance is the next task that Gray will need to tackle.
Pick #4 – Kohl Stewart – Minnesota Twins
The first prep pick of the 2013 draft, the right-handed pitcher has moved slowly but steadily through the Twins system. The 21-year-old was recently promoted to AA Chattanooga, after going 3-2 with a 2.61 ERA and a 1.123 WHIP in nine starts this season for the Fort Myers Miracle. It was his second stint in the Florida State League, having played his entire 2015 season in Fort Myers, with a 3.20 ERA and a 1.384 WHIP in 22 starts and 129 1/3 innings.
The promotion puts him in line – if all goes well – for a potential September call-up to the Twins this season or a big league debut at some point in 2017.
Pick #5 – Clint Frazier – Cleveland Indians
The second consecutive prep pick of the draft, Frazier has made a step-by-step climb up the minor league ladder. With the AZL Indians in 2013, Frazier put up an .868 OPS with 21 extra-base hits in 44 games. With the Lake County Captains in 2014, Clint batted .266/.349/.411 with 18 doubles and 13 home runs in 120 games. Promoted to the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats in 2015, Frazier put up an .842 OPS over 133 games, slugging 36 doubles and 16 homers.
With the AA Akron RubberDucks this season, the 21-year-old Frazier has put up the best overall numbers of his career, batting .314/.400/.533 with 17 doubles and six dingers in 43 games. Frazier, who was officially drafted as a third baseman, has played only in the outfield with the Indians organization. Frazier is putting up numbers this season that may earn him a promotion to Cleveland, especially now that Marlon Byrd has been suspended for the season.
Pick #6 – Colin Moran – Miami Marlins
Moran, the UNC-Chapel Hill product, was the second college third baseman taken in the draft. However, he spent only a year in the Marlins organization before being traded to the Houston Astros at the trade deadline in 2014 as part of the Jarred Cosart deal.
With the Astros, the third baseman spent the 2015 season with the double-A Hooks of Corpus Christi, batting .306/.381/.459 with 25 doubles and nine home runs. This year, he has spent most of the season with AAA Fresno, batting .291/.343/.417 with 10 extra-base hits. He was called up to the Astros in the middle of May, but had only two singles and six strikeouts in 19 at-bats before being returned to Fresno on the last day of that month.
Pick #7 – Trey Ball – Boston Red Sox
The left-handed prep star out of Indiana, Ball was a two-way player in high school, with the Red Sox choosing to keep him on the pitching mound. Ball has made it to High-A, but his inconsistency puts his future as a starter in doubt.
Injury kept Ball off the field until the end of April this season, but in his second start of the year, Ball gave up two hits in six scoreless innings against Winston-Salem. Two starts later, he pitched seven scoreless innings against Wilmington. However, in his last start on Wednesday, Ball allowed five runs in five innings of work, giving up seven hits, walking four, and not garnering a strikeout.
While his 2.31 ERA and 1.205 WHIP through seven starts are the best of his career, his lack of strikeouts (24 in 39 innings) and his relatively frequent walks (19) gives pause. Can the 22-year-old make a dramatic improvement as he continues to move up the ladder?
Pick #8 – Hunter Dozier – Kansas City Royals
Dozier, drafted as a shortstop out of Stephen F. Austin University, was soon moved to third base by the Royals. Dozier ascended the minor league ranks quickly in his first two seasons, running through Idaho Falls and Lexington in 2013 before moving onto High-A Wilmington and AA Northwest Arkansas in 2014. However, AA proved to be difficult for Hunter, as he batted only .209/.303/.312 in his first 64 games for the Naturals.
Dozier was returned to Arkansas in 2015, and continued to have difficulty hitting, batting only .213/.281/.349 with 27 doubles and 12 home runs over 128 games. Dozier finally got the measure of AA this season, putting up an OPS of 1.042 with eight doubles and eight bombs in 26 games for the Naturals, finally earning the 24-year-old a promotion to AAA Omaha. Dozier has continued to excel, putting up an .823 OPS with five doubles and five homers in 22 games for the Storm Chasers. With Mike Moustakas on the shelf, Dozier’s resurgence may see him make one more move this season, to the major leagues.
Pick #9 – Austin Meadows – Pittsburgh Pirates
The prep outfielder out of Georgia has consistently shown his hitting abilities, but lost most of his 2014 season to injuries, playing in only 45 games – three fewer than his rookie 2013 season. Last season, Meadows spent his first full season in Bradenton of the FSL, batting .307/.357/.407 with 33 extra-base hits and 20 steals in 121 games, earning a six-game cameo with the Altoona Curve in the Eastern League. He returned to Altoona this season and has put up a line of .282/.349/.455 with eight doubles and four triples in 31 games after missing most of April with injury.
Pick #10 – Phil Bickford – Toronto Blue Jays
The young right-handed pitcher decided to eschew the advances of the Blue Jays in 2013, and instead went to Cal-State Fullerton and then to the College of Southern Nevada. He was drafted again in the first round (pick #18) in last year’s draft by the San Francisco Giants. The 20-year-old is currently pitching with the Augusta GreenJackets in the South Atlantic League, where he has a 2.62 ERA, a 1.083 WHIP and has struck out 57 in 48 innings of work over 9 starts.
Pick #178 – Trevor Gott – San Diego Padres
The 12th pick of the 6th round of the 2013 draft, Gott has already been a part of two trades (San Diego traded him to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with Huston Street in July of 2014 and again last off-season when he was sent to the Washington Nationals in the Yunel Escobar trade). The reliever out of the University of Kentucky also quickly pushed his way to the majors, pitching in 48 games for the Angels last season, where he put up a 3.02 ERA and a 1.238 WHIP at the age of 22.
Gott has returned to AAA this season with the Nationals, putting up a 3.33 ERA in 21 appearances out of the Syracuse pen. Gott, who is a bit wild (averaging 3.8 walks per 9 for his professional career), has a knack for suppressing home runs, allowing only seven in his four seasons in professional baseball. Gott is a likely call-up to Washington in September, or before if injury and ineffectiveness strike the Nationals bullpen.
Three seasons after being drafted, only nine of the 39 first round picks have made an appearance in the majors, with only one establishing himself as an everyday player. While every team would like to draft a Kris Bryant with their first pick, there are no safe picks in the draft. No guarantees of success. Sometimes, the first pick will fail.
Then again, you might just make up for it with a great pick in the sixth round.
Brandon Magee is our minor league expert; he has written about minor league travel, ranking prospects, a first round draft pick, and the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Follow Brandon on Twitter @cuzittt.