Demand high for corner infielders in Draft
Bryant, Moran lead among those who could be selected in top half of first round
It's not quite Captain Ahab and Moby Dick territory, but the search for the prototypical corner infielder in the First-Year Player Draft can be an elusive quest.
"An extra-base bat, you want a guy on the corner you think is going to hit," one scouting director said. "The defense is important, but you're looking for a guy who has ceiling to have extra-base potential with the bat."
Extra-base potential -- read power and run-producing ability -- is always in demand at third and first base, but it is often in short supply. The corner infielders in next month's First-Year Player Draft are no exception. Most believe the demand will outpace who's available.
That's more the case in terms of depth, because there are some pretty good hitters at or near the top of Draft boards. Most of them come from the college ranks -- four of the top five, to be exact -- with two advanced third basemen still in the conversation for No. 1 overall.
There were expectations for San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant to be the top-ranked hitter. He's more than lived up to it, leading college baseball by a long shot with 30 home runs entering conference tournament play. Add that to a body of work that includes strong performances both with Team USA over the summer and in previous seasons at San Diego, and it's no wonder Bryant, who is much more than an all-or-nothing slugger, is being mentioned up at the top.
"It wouldn't surprise me if he went [No. 1]," the scouting director said. "He's 6-foot-5, he can run, he has a plus arm, he really has power. Oh, and he has a really good baseball resume. And he's had a great year."
North Carolina's Colin Moran might be No. 1-A. Considered to be a better pure hitter than Bryant, he doesn't have the same power profile, though if his junior year is any indication, it's starting to come. He may not be Plan A for the Astros, who hold the No. 1 pick, but he's still somewhat in the mix with a number of other teams in the top 10 interested in the left-handed-hitting third baseman.
D.J. Peterson, after Bryant, is arguably the best college performer in this group, and maybe the best of all the position players. The New Mexico standout has hit well over .400 this season with good run-producing skills to boot. Yet his name hasn't been mentioned in the same breath as Bryant and Moran, perhaps because of some injury issues, perhaps because of concern over what his future position might be, and perhaps because some see him as being a product of his environment.
top corner infielders
"The altitude, I've heard that flying around," the scouting director said about why Peterson's name hasn't created that much buzz. "Some of it's the body. I think the big hangup is, can he play third base?"
Regardless, Peterson should hear his name called by the middle of the first round. The fourth college player in the grouping of five top corner infielders, Notre Dame third baseman Eric Jagielo, isn't projected to go as early, though the Big East Player of the Year certainly has swung the bat well. He's the kind of college performer who might end up being selected earlier than many anticipate.
"I think Jagielo is going to go better than I think people think he is," the scouting director agreed.
The lone high schooler in this top group, Dominic Smith, is also likely the only other corner infielder who will go in the first round. The first baseman from southern California ranks as one of the better pure hitters among the prepsters, with perhaps more power to come down the road.
After Smith, though, there's a bit of a drop-off among high school bats at the corners. In past Drafts, there usually have been more high school corner infielders to consider, but there doesn't appear to be anyone who comes close to approaching Smith's status.
"You have Dominic Smith, but who is the second-best high school [corner infielder] out there?" the scouting director asked.
That doesn't mean that some of the high schoolers ranked behind Smith won't go on to become big leaguers. Third basemen like Travis Demeritte and Ryan McMahon are two possibilities who scouts could look back on years from now and realize they're better than anticipated.
"[I'm sure there's] a scout out there that believes in one of those guys," the scouting director said. "It happens every year where a guy jumps ahead of a guy who's supposed to be better than him."
That kind of leap forward would help this group of corner infielders in terms of the kind of impact most believe it will make on the pro game.
"Are there a lot of loud bats out there? If there were, I don't think you'd have a lot of teams scratching their heads right now," the scouting director said.
To see which corner infielders go to which teams, tune in to all three days of Draft coverage. The 2013 First-Year Player Draft will take 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.