All 30 Major League Baseball organizations are lining up their Draft boards, so it's time for MLB.com to do the same.
That is, in effect, what the Top 100 Draft prospect rankings are -- a virtual Draft board. The list has been doubled from the top 50 to 100 and reflects what the scouting industry is saying about the talent in the Class of 2013. This is a list based on talent, not a projection of the first round and beyond. That exercise comes later, leading up to the big event itself, held this year on June 6-8.
It all begins with the live broadcast of the Draft's opening night on MLB Network and streamed on MLB.com. Opening night will cover the first 73 picks, through Competitive Balance Round B. Rounds 3-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com from June 7-8. MLB.com's coverage will also include Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker -- a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter and joining the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Like last year, there is no clear-cut No. 1 guy in this class. The Houston Astros, picking first for the second consecutive year, are looking at six potential candidates to go 1-1. While many saw Mark Appel or Byron Buxton as the top talents in the 2012 class, Houston got creative, taking Carlos Correa and using its savings to be aggressive later on, so don't rule out something like that again.
Appel is in a familiar place a year later after opting not to sign with the Pirates last year. He was ranked No. 2 at this time last year, behind Buxton, who signed with the Twins, and it can easily be argued he's been the best performer of anyone in the class. The Stanford senior right-hander has a 1.41 ERA and .178 batting average against in his eight starts to date, walking just 10 and striking out 78 in 63 2/3 innings.
Top Draft Prospects
Top prospects eligible for the 2013 First-Year Player Draft:
Appel is joined by four other college arms in the top 10, and many scouts would put Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray on the same pedestal, or at least 1A, as Appel. Gray has a 1.19 ERA and a .164 average against while walking 13 and striking out 81 in 68 1/3 innings. Appel and Gray are joined by Indiana State lefty Sean Manaea, Arkansas right-hander Ryne Stanek and Jacksonville's Chris Anderson. Manaea is more thrower than pitcher, and Stanek started a bit slowly but has come on of late, while Anderson has been the opposite.
"I think the only two guys who have been consistent all spring are Appel and Gray," one National League scouting director said. "There are college pitchers, but [the college pitching crop] is not real, real good."
College bats, the kind that can perhaps impact a big league lineup quickly, are always in high demand. There aren't a ton of them for early consideration, but there are three in the top 15, as of now. Power-hitting San Diego outfielder Kris Bryant, who perhaps could get a chance to go back to third base as a pro, and North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran are both in the top 10, while New Mexico's D.J. Peterson, who some feel is the best pure hitter in the Draft, is just outside of it.
Part of the reason for the dearth in college hitting is that the scouting industry has done a pretty good job of identifying and signing the best hitters when they're in high school. That will likely happen again, with some very intriguing prep bats in the Top 100. It starts with a pair of Georgia high school outfielders, Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows. Both are in the Top 10 and live near each other, and you might get a different opinion of which is the better choice from each scout you talk to.
"In the Southeastern United States, you have some good athletes," the scouting director said. "Georgia's got a good class."
Indeed, beyond Meadows and Frazier, there are four other Georgia high school position players in the Top 100: Josh Hart, Stephen Wrenn and Terry McClure are all outfielders with some tools, while Travis Demeritte is an infielder. Add in right-hander Robert Tyler, and it's looking like another bumper crop from the Peach State.
Tyler is one of 11 high school right-handers on the list, which is a bit short in terms of the high-end projectable types scouts tend to like early in the Draft. Kohl Stewart, who has the added complication of being a two-sport star who can play football in college should he choose to do so, is the lone prep right-hander in the top 10. Hunter Harvey, former big leaguer Bryan Harvey's son, is the only other righty in the top 25.
If it's a lefty you want, though, there are plenty to choose from. Combining both high schoolers and the college ranks, there are 18 southpaws when two-way standouts Trey Ball and Garrett Williams are counted as pitchers. Half of them are in the top 50. Having college lefties ranked high is no surprise, but having nine high school left-handers is a little rare.
"I think there's a little more left-handed pitching than usual," the scouting director said. "I'm not just saying first-round type pitchers. I think there's a little more depth there."
There's also a little more depth to the catching crop and, again, it's largely at the high-school level. There are seven prep catchers in the Top 100. Jon Denney, Reese McGuire and Nick Ciuffo head the class and all have the chance to be taken in the early stages.
"You're probably going to have three high school catchers go in the first round," the scouting director said. "That's kind of unusual. If you ever want to miss, pick a high school catcher. You don't see them hit, or catch, Major League pitchers."
One last oddity to this class. It's not unusual to see players who have been drafted previously re-enter. Typically, it's three years later following a college experience, though there's the college senior group, as well as those who chose the junior college route who are back one year later. But this year, there are three former first-round picks back for another try.
Appel is the obvious one, but he's joined by a pair of other college right-handers. Dylan Covey, taken by the Brewers in 2010, went to San Diego after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and is in the Top 100. Karsten Whitson, taken by the Padres the same year, went to the University of Florida, but is not in the Top 100 as he's missed the 2013 season with a shoulder issue.
The Top 100 will change and shift between now and Draft day, so come back often to see how the landscape is moving. But keep this in mind: Eight of last year's top 10 actually went in the first 10 picks.