Posted: Fri May 10, 2013 12:56AM; Updated: Fri May 10, 2013 2:16PM

MLB Mock Draft: Gray looks like best bet at No. 1 -- for now

By Dave Perkin, SI.com

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Jonathan Gray
Jonathan Gray may not be the most talented player available but he could still go No. 1 overall.
Ken Inness/ZumaPress.com

This year's MLB Draft is unusually difficult to handicap.

The best player available, Georgia high school outfielder Clint Frazier, will probably not be the first pick. He's a little undersized and that fact, coupled with his being a prep position player, is historically a bad combination for players hoping to go first overall. If Frazier were a little bigger, he would be a slam dunk as the first choice.

The best pitcher available, righthander Mark Appel of Stanford, will probably not be the first selection either. He is represented by Scott Boras, meaning contract negotiations figure to be contentious, consummating in the last minute of the last hour of the July 12 signing deadline. Last year, similar contentiousness over his contract prevented Appel from signing with the Pirates, who had taken him eighth overall.

If all this sounds like the plot to a Quentin Tarantino film, don't worry. Predictability is often a bore, and unlike this year's NFL Draft, which featured a seemingly endless parade of obscure offensive tackles, the 2013 MLB Draft promises to be exciting and packed with unexpected developments.

NOTES: There are 33 picks because of various compensation rules. The Pirates failed to sign Appel after drafting him last year and are thus given a pick one slot below where he was taken in 2012.

Under a new system this year tied to compensation for lost free agents, teams would gain a first-round draft pick if a player to whom they had made a qualifying contract offer rejected that offer. The Yankees therefore received two picks at the end of the first round as compensation for losing Rafael Soriano (to the Nationals) and Nick Swisher (to the Indians) in free-agency.

Three teams -- the Nationals (for signing Soriano), the Brewers (for signing Kyle Lohse) and the Angels (for signing Josh Hamilton) do not have first round selections because they signed players who had turned down qualifying offers from their old teams. The Cardinals, Rangers and Rays gain additional picks for losing Lohse, Hamilton and B.J. Upton, respectively. The Braves lost their pick for singing Upton but added it back when Michael Bourn signed with the Indians. For a more detailed breakdown of the rules behind this new system, click here.

On to the Mock Draft, version 1.0:

 
1
Jonathan Gray
RHP Oklahoma
R/R6-4239
   
Sources say that Houston GM Jeff Luhnow has yet to make a decision on this year's first overall pick, though he is not without options. If Luhnow seeks a college bat, he can choose from San Diego's Kris Bryant or North Carolina's Colin Moran. High school pitcher Kohl Stewart is a possibility, and prep outfielders like Frazier and fellow Georgia native Austin Meadows provide additional temptations.

Luhnow realizes that one player will not turn his franchise around, so he may try to copy last year's strategy by drafting a player they can sign easily and still have plenty left over for their other top picks. The slot amount for the number one pick is $7,790,400. Houston will probably try to draft and sign a player for around $5 million and then use the remainder to lure other players selected in later rounds into signing.

Gray may best fit these parameters. Gray is a near major-league-ready power hurler with an upper 90's fastball and a vicious slider. He projects as a long-term staff ace but has a maximum effort delivery that could lend itself to a closer role.

If the Astros pass on Gray, watch out for Reese McGuire, a high school catcher from Washington State. Granted McGuire is a darkhorse, but Luhnow likes surprises (as he proved by taking high school shortstop Carlos Correia number one overall last year) and McGuire is a perfect fit financially for Houston's first pick criteria.
 
2
Mark Appel
RHP Stanford
R/R6-5215
   
Team president Theo Epstein continues to slowly rebuild the Cubs and he learned in Boston that every contender needs an ace. Scouts harbor a distinct weariness with Appel because it seems as if he's been draft eligible forever. Yet he is the best candidate in this year's draft to be the staff ace that Epstein craves. Appel profiles as a lynchpin because he has the mechanics and the delivery of a workhorse who can command pitches and maintain velocity.
 
3
Kris Bryant
1B University of San Diego
R/R6-5225
   
With Todd Helton's career winding down, Colorado may seek a big first base bat to replace him. A perfect fit would be Bryant, the premier hitter available this year. Bryant could team with hot rookie third baseman Nolan Arenado to give the Rockies a tandem of power hitting corner infielders.
 
4
Clint Frazier
OF Loganville High (Ga.)
R/R6-1190
   
The Twins are building an excellent core of young position players in Trevor Plouffe, Aaron Hicks, Chris Parmalee and last year's number two overall pick, outfielder Byron Buxton. Adding Frazier could give Minnesota the best and most athletic outfield in the majors in five years time. He has legitimate five-tool talent, possesses electric bat speed and is tremendously fast, which allows him to steal bases and be an outstanding defensive player. His closest major league comparison is probably Pirates star Andrew McCutchen.
 
5
Kohl Stewart
RHP St. Pius X High (Texas)
R/R6-3190
   
The Indians have quickly repositioned themselves as a contender after a series of drab seasons. Current minor leaguer Francisco Lindor profiles as their shortstop of the future. Stewart, who features an array of power pitches, could soon fit as Cleveland's number one starter, if the Indians can convince him not to head to Texas A & M, where has a scholarship to be a quarterback on the football team.
 
6
Reese McGuire
C Kentwood High (Wash.)
L/R6-1190
   
Last year's fire sale has all but guaranteed that Miami will be the only real challenger to Houston for next year's No. 1 overall pick. Until then, the Marlins should still be able to grab a solid building block piece this year. The aforementioned McGuire is the draft's foremost "foundational" player because he has exceptional above-average catch-and-throw skills and is a good athlete with a chance to be an above-average hitter.
 
7
Colin Moran
3B North Carolina
L/R6-3215
   
Advanced lefthanded hitters who possess the ability to tattoo the Green Monster are always prized in Red Sox Nation. That, and his other skills at the plate, makes Moran an ideal fit for Boston.
 
8
Austin Meadows
OF Grayson High (Ga.)
L/L6-3200
   
The Royals annually have a single digit draft choice, a trend they hope ends soon. Meadows, a multi-tooled prep star from Georgia, could conceivably fill the void left by the trade of Wil Myers to Tampa Bay. He has great athleticism and runs well but does not have a good arm. He profiles as a solid corner outfielder and No.3 hitter.
 
9
Sean Manaea
LHP Indiana State
R/L6-5235
   
Despite recent struggles, Manaea could eventually round out a future Pittsburgh rotation headed by Gerrit Cole and Jameson Tallion. A lot of comparisons about Manea were made early to Rays ace David Price, but that's a bit of a stretch. He needs to establish a consistent downward plane in his delivery before he should be talked about in the same breath as the reigning AL Cy Young award winner. Being tall and lefthanded are huge advantages for Manaea, and he has a mid-90s fastball with a sharp curveball.
 
10
Ryne Stanek
RHP Arkansas
R/R6-4190
   
The Jays want and need pitching and at this spot many hurlers are available. Stanek, a power-armed righty, started poorly in 2013 but has since improved. He's not aesthetically pleasing because of a stiff delivery, but he has improved his command and has a body size that makes him easily projectable.
 
11
Jon Denney
C Yukon High (Okla.)
R/R6-2205
   
Former A's stat whiz Paul DePodesta runs the Mets drafts and his last two first round picks, both high schoolers, were harshly criticized by the New York tabloids. "DePo" tunes out critics and makes the decision he feels is best. Jon Denney, a power hitting catcher, could revive Mike Piazza memories in Queens.
 
12
DJ Peterson
1B/3B New Mexico
R/R6-1205
   
The Mariners are justifiably proud of the surplus of talented young arms in their organization but they are still starved for bats. The power-hitting Peterson could be one remedy. Sources say that a sleeper for this spot is Rowdy Tellez, a massive lefthanded hitter with power from the Sacramento area.
 
13
Ian Clarkin
LHP Madison High (Calif.)
L/L6-2190
   
One of the youngest -- and sharpest -- scouting directors in the business, Billy Gasparino will head up his first draft for the Padres. Local lefty Clarkin, possessor of the draft's nastiest curveball, would be a natural fit.
 
14
Hunter Renfroe
OF Mississippi State
R/R6-1216
   
Delighted to have two early picks, the Bucs figure to obtain one arm and one bat. The bat could very well belong to Renfroe, a late blooming prospect with thunderous righthanded power.
 
15
Braden Shipley
RHP Nevada
R/R6-3190
   
Trevor Bauer's quirkiness caused the D-backs to jettison the 2011 No. 3 overall pick after just four major league appearances. That means Arizona is still on the prowl for a future ace, which could lead them to Shipley. Despite being inconsistent this season, he is extremely promising because he only converted to the mound after getting to college and is still far from a finished product.
 
16
Trey Ball
LHP New Castle High (Ind.)
L/L6-6180
   
As their once vaunted starting staff slowly crumbles, the Phillies will need to rebuild it. The first building block could be Ball, a tall, athletic lefty with, as is often heard in the scouting industry, huge "upside." He has a buggy-whip delivery with natural movement that is an enormous plus. Ball doesn't throw particularly hard but should add velocity as he fills out.
 
17
Dominic Smith
1B Serra High (Calif.)
L/L6-0195
   
The sabermetric revolution has yet to reach the White Sox' South Side offices. Scouting traditionalists, Chicago could land Smith, the purest high school hitter in this year's draft.
 
18
Phillip Ervin
OF Samford
R/R5-10205
   
The Dodgers traditionally love to take high school players with premium athletic ability, as they did with both Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp. Ervin may be in college but he's also a speedster who flashes electric bat speed, making him a strong fit for the latter requirement.
 
19
Chris Anderson
RHP Jacksonville
R/R6-4225
   
The Redbirds have drafted brilliantly recently, snagging top prospects Kolten Wong in 2011 and Michael Wacha in 2012. They also have a stable of excellent young pitchers and Anderson, who has created late spring buzz in the scouting community with his quality stuff and precise command, could be the next in that group.
 
20
Nick Ciuffo
RHP Lexington High (S.C.)
L/R6-1200
   
The Tigers haven't had a first-round pick since 2011 because of their forays into the free-agent market. They could use a catcher for their system and the best backstop available at this point may be Nick Ciuffo, a polished lefthanded hitting prepster with a scholarship awaiting him at South Carolina.
 
21
Michael Lorenzen
OF Cal-State Fullerton
R/R6-3200
   
The Rays enjoy players with a Ben Zobrist-like versatility. Lorenzen is a fine defender with speed and an improving bat. He also touches 96 mph as a closer. Tampa Bay attempted to sign Lorenzen three years ago after drafting him, and his overall skills may attract Tampa once more.
 
22
Oscar Mercado
SS Gaither High (Fla.)
R/R6-2175
   
Manny Machado has proven to be a sensational young third baseman for Baltimore. The Orioles may see fit to select Oscar Mercado, a dazzling young shortstop from Florida, to complement Machado and potentially solidify the left side of their infield for a decade.
 
23
Hunter Harvey
RHP Bandys High (N.C.)
R/R6-3175
   
Big arms and big tools are the Texas blueprint. One of the more scintillating arms in this draft belongs to Harvey, a young North Carolinian who has suddenly emerged this spring to challenge Kohl Stewart as the nation's premier high school righty.
 
24
Andrew Thurman
RHP UC-Irvine
R/R6-3205
   
The A's prefer mature college pitchers who pitch to contact with a varied repertoire; rarely do their starters light up radar guns. That makes Thurman a perfect fit. He's a crafty hurler with a sharp variety of pitches and an abundance of craftiness on the mound.
 
25
Bobby Wahl
RHP Mississippi
R/R6-3200
   
The defending World Series champions are built around pitching, and typically so are their drafts. A comfortable fit at this pick would be Wahl, a mature, a close-to-the-majors hurler with a drop-and-drive delivery and a wide range of pitch offerings. He has a 93 mph fastball but his out-pitch is a quality slider, which wold fit right in in San Francisco.
 
26
Phil Bickford
RHP Oaks Christian High (Calif.)
R/R6-4185
   
New York will have a pleasing variety of options with this pick and can go for a "reach" because they have two more choices in the first round. Bickford has "helium" this spring -- he began as a later round prospect but has developed into one of the top arms available. His fastball has jumped to 93 and can touch 95 with a sharp, 78-80 mph curveball. He'll need to develop at least two more pitches but the basics are there.
 
27
Aaron Judge
OF Fresno State
R/R6-7255
   
The Reds lean toward physical players with impressive tools and Judge matches that description. He combines speed, a howitzer arm and huge power. He would still be more of a gamble than a pitcher, though. In batting practice he looks like Dave Winfield but it doesn't translate into the game, mostly because he has a big strike zone and it's easy to tie him up with pitches inside.
 
28
Austin Wilson
OF Stanford
R/R6-5245
   
Wilson may be the most enigmatic player in the draft. He has colossal raw tools but has struggled to produce on the field and has battled injuries as well. St. Louis was enamored enough with him to draft him three years ago and may take a chance again.
 
29
Marcos Gonzalez
LHP Gonzaga
L/L6-1195
   
The Rays develop pitchers as well as any organization in baseball. Gonzales doesn't blow you away but is a solid overall package and could develop into a lefty version of Jeremy Hellickson, giving the Rays yet another frontline starter. Gonzalez has a four-pitch mix, changes eye levels and can move the ball to both sides of the plate with advanced breaking pitches. He profiles as mid-to-late rotation guy.
 
30
Billy McKinney
OF Plano West Senior High (Texas)
L/L6-2195
   
The Rangers prefer selecting local talent, making McKinney a perfect fit. He's a lefthanded hitter who exhibits multiple tools accompanied by a sweet swing.
 
31
J.P. Crawford
SS Lakewood High (Calif.)
L/R6-2180
   
For 20 years the Braves have been a model organization, drafting wisely and developing talent within their system. This year Atlanta has been closely shadowing Crawford, a lithe, athletic and versatile player.
 
32
Robert Kaminsky
LHP St. Joseph Regional High (N.J.)
B/R6-0190
   
New York has a long and proud tradition of homegrown lefthanded pitchers such as Whitey Ford, Ron Guidry and Andy Pettitte. Kaminsky may not have that upside but he would be an excellent fit at this spot in the draft, profiling as a mid-rotation starter.
 
33
Tim Anderson
SS East Central CC (Mississippi)
R/R6-1170
   
Unfortunately for the Yankees and for all of baseball, Derek Jeter can not play forever. New York may seek a replacement in this draft. One candidate will be Anderson, an exceptionally athletic middle infielder who has committed to play for Alabama-Birmingham next year if he stays in college.
 

Dave Perkin is a professional baseball scout who has worked for the New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers and Baseball America. His first book, "Five Plus Tools" is scheduled to be published on April 1, 2014.

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