Looking ahead to June 2013, I would not dare say that college position players are a major strength of this draft class. There are certainly some players of big value available in the earlier rounds, but even then, there are not a great many blue chip-type hitting talents coming out of the college ranks. There will likely be more outfielders going early than any other position with the middle infield and catcher crop being particularly weak this year. Corner infielders are probably the next most-full tier of solid talent available next June. Players 8 through 15 will be coming this week.
- Kris Bryant, 3B/1B (San Diego): As a prep bat in 2010, the infielder took a backseat to the Bryce Harper show in the state of Nevada, even with polish and legitimate power. In 2013, he could very well be the best college bat available after 3 years at San Diego. With a wide stance and a quick (for being 6’5″), quiet right-handed bat, he generates tons of power. At the same time, he has shown a patient approach with improving contact rates, especially during his most recent sophomore campaign. If Bryant can convince teams that he can stick at 3rd (which will be hard), he stands a good chance of being the top college bat as things stand right now.
- Colin Moran, 3rd (North Carolina): He didn’t have quite the big sophomore year some expected, but nonetheless still showed a lot to like at the plate. Moran is one of (if not the) best pure hitters available out of the college ranks. He will definitely hit, and post solid contact rates as a pro. If anything, I think questions revolve more around his overall power output and where he ends up in the field. Some have him ticketed for 1st, but with his arm strength he probably ends up in RF first. Either way, his ability to produce at the plate should allow him to slide into most any corner spot. I’m eager to see what he does in a full junior year, as long as he doesn’t run into any injuries like he did in 2012.
- Philip Ervin, OF (Samford): He will need to hit a ton again this year at Samford to convince teams he is worth the value of a high(er) pick. And he most likely will do just that. Ervin definitely opened some eyes with a strong display in Cape Cod play this summer with a solid power/speed mix. He appears to have a very quick bat, which combined with decent-enough on-base skills should make him enticing to teams as a offensively-gifted center fielder. It also doesn’t hurt that he is actually a legitimate defender there as well. I would be very surprised to see him not go in the first round (barring a total implosion/injury this spring).
- Aaron Judge, OF (Fresno State): As far as power goes, I don’t think the 6’7″, 250 lbs. hitter has much to worry about. Well, not in batting practice anyways. It’s no secret Judge has tons of raw power; he just needs to be able to tap into it. In his sophomore year, the outfielder made big improvements to his approach at the plate, nearly doubling his walk rate. If Judge can manage to combine his patience with his power in games, there’s tons of run-producing potential to be had. There is plenty of concern with a guy this long-limbed in terms of extension, but when he does, the results are just plain scary. His bat doesn’t appear to drag through the zone that terribly long, either for what it’s worth. Also scary- he’s had time in center, where his bat would be ridiculously above-average. Long-term he sticks in a corner though.
- Austin Wilson, OF (Stanford): Speaking of outfielders, Wilson has long been on the radar for June 2013. Heading into Stanford, he was known for big raw power and lots of arm strength, setting himself up rather well for a role in right. The Stanford coaching staff may or may not have done much for the 20 year old in terms of his approach, as he’s only made moderate improvements to his plate discipline in his two years there. We also have yet to see him hit for the kind of power that most were expecting out of him, either. He still belongs near the top of most draft boards on pure potential/tools (power, glove, speed, arm) alone, but it would not shock me to see him fall behind some of these other names if he underwhelms in the spring.
- DJ Peterson, 1st (New Mexico): Don’t doubt the bat. Feel free to doubt the glove, but don’t doubt the bat. He is in a similar situation to Ervin in that he will need to have a repeat performance of his excellent sophomore numbers this coming spring. Peterson did show power with Team USA this summer and a good walk rate, but struggled to make solid, quality contact. It remains to be seen if he will end up anywhere else but 1st or left field as a professional. Either way, I would have a hard time seeing him going outside of the first unless he really regresses a lot in his junior campaign.
- Michael Lorenzen, OF (Cal State Fullerton): The center fielder will likely accumulate more value as a defender than at the plate as a pro. He has a cannon for an arm, and has the glove and range in center to stay there long term with good numbers. The main question with Lorenzen is how much he will hit. He may end up being more of a line-drive, empty average doubles hitter as he is not the most patient hitter in the world. Even still, it may not take much for him to be a league-average hitter in center. He would really have to struggle with the bat (mainly let down in terms of hit tool, to some degree in power) to fall out of first round consideration since he’s so valuable defensively.