Draft Watch: Top prospects jockey for position
Scouting directors getting multiple looks as they size up potential selections
At this point in the Draft season, scouting directors are getting second and third looks at the amateur class, honing in on who might be a candidate for their first or second picks. With each passing week, MLB.com's Top 100 Draft prospects takes on a different look as prospects move up and down the list based on how they are performing down the stretch.
Top matchup: Appel vs. Williams
There isn't much more to say about Mark Appel at this point. He's still at the top of the Top 100, and for good reason. Appel's outing against Arizona State only cemented that as he went 7 2/3 innings and struck out 13. It might be a coin flip whether a team likes him or Jonathan Gray at Oklahoma, but Appel certainly hasn't done anything to hurt his chances as a top-pick candidate.
ASU's Trevor Williams got to play the role of "other guy" facing Appel. And he played it relatively well, though his line doesn't necessarily reflect that (six innings, nine hits, five earned runs, three walks, seven K's). Williams' fastball sat in the low 90s, as it typically does, and he threw a good changeup as well. He showed a decent slider at times.
While Appel's name is bandied about at the top of the first round, Williams isn't quite in that stratosphere, but at least one scout who saw him on Friday thought he'd make a pretty good big leaguer one day. The scout stopped short of calling Williams a sure-fire first-rounder, though it's quite possible a team with multiple picks could nab him in the first and potentially save some money for future use in the Draft.
Indiana State lefty Sean Manaea was back on the mound this past weekend, but his appearance on Saturday didn't exactly answer the questions that have been hovering over the potential top pick. He did strike out five in four innings, but he also walked four and his stuff, by all accounts, was down. Manaea was moved down a notch on the Top 100 as a result. There's time yet for him to show he's healthy (he's been dealing with a hip issue) and that he's capable of throwing like he did last summer on the Cape.
Nevada's Braden Shipley continues to throw well, albeit with some lofty pitch counts. He threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings, though he gave up eight hits and three walks while striking out only two. Still, Shipley moved up a few notches in the Top 100, on the cusp of the Top 10.
Aaron Judge may have picked himself a good time to have a strong weekend. A number of decision-makers -- scouting directors and national crosscheckers -- were in Las Vegas to see Judge take his hacks against UNLV. He responded by going 5-for-9 with a double, triple and home run, while showing good athleticism in the outfield. Judge could very well find his way into the middle of the first round.
Another college hitter many of the teams who have interest in Judge will be looking at is Austin Wilson. The scouts who were in Arizona to see Appel and Williams were certainly watching Wilson, who missed a good chunk of this season due to injury. Wilson went 3-for-14 on the weekend, though he did homer and drive in five. The toolsy outfielder remains a bit of an enigma, with scouts still feeling they need to see more before Draft Day.
High school arms
If you got stuck in traffic in New Jersey on Saturday, it might have been because of the amount of scouts who came in to get a look at talented lefty Rob Kaminsky. The high schooler got somewhat mixed reviews in his start, with one scouting director feeling his stock would take a hit. Others weren't quite as critical, though they said Kaminsky didn't necessarily wow anyone with his outing.
Some of that is the nature of the time of year. Scouts, as mentioned above, are coming in for second and third looks. If a top prospect doesn't do something extraordinary, he's going to get "dinged" if he's simply just OK. Kaminsky battled and showed a very good curve, but he will continue to have to prove people who worry about his size wrong.
One high school lefty who won't have to worry about those questions is Trey Ball. The two-way standout appears more and more likely headed to a career on the mound should he choose the pro route right away. Ball has done nothing but improve his stock since his season in Indiana got going, and he continued to help himself with his last start. His name is being mentioned in the rarified air of the top 10, potentially as high as No. 4. As a result, Ball is been moved up into the Top 10 of our Top 100 rankings.
Ball is just one spot behind Kohl Stewart, who's been the presumed top high school arm in the class for most of the spring. He still could very well be that guy. Stewart threw very well in his most recent outing as well, and it's fairly clear that teams up top looking at Ball continue to think about Stewart, who does have the opportunity to play football at Texas A&M if he wants to go down that path.
Blake Taylor won't reach the top-third of the first round like Stewart and Ball, but his name was quietly gaining some steam as he continued to perform well in Southern California. He has some pretty solid stuff, showing a pretty advanced ability to spin a breaking ball. Taylor is projectable and, yes, he's left-handed. His helium moved him up to No. 62 on the Top 100.