Top draft debuts: Honorable mentions
By Jake Seiner/MiLB.com
Over at MiLB.com, I wrote about some of the top offensive performers from the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, noting which players had the best debuts after signing. In that article, I tried to scatter my selections across different types of draftees — after all, expectations are different for a polished college senior than for a 17-year-old who just graduated high school. Comparing the former’s performance in Class A Advanced or higher to the latter’s showing in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast or Arizona League is an apples and oranges task, so instead I tried to pick the best from a few different categories.
When trying to whittle the list down to the best seven or eight performers from the entire Draft, there were, of course, a number of standout performers who didn’t make the cut. Below is a somewhat more exhaustive list of players who shined in their first taste of pro ball with some notes and thoughts on their debuts.
Top-notch high schoolers
MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo placed 28 high school hitters on his pre-Draft Top 100 list, and three of them were highlighted in today’s MiLB.com article — Pittsburgh’s first-round duo of Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire as well as Colorado second-rounder Ryan McMahon. Here are some other early selections who shined not far removed from senior prom.
Clint Frazier — First round (fifth overall) by Cleveland:
Frazier was almost unanimously considered the most promising high school bat in the Draft, rolling in at No. 4 on Mayo’s Top 100. Mayo touted Frazier as having an advanced approach with good bat speed, and that showed in his debut. The 19-year-old batted .297 with five homers and 21 extra-base hits in 44 Arizona League games. His .868 OPS was fourth in the league and he was named a postseason All-Star.
Dominic Smith — First round (11th overall) by NY Mets:
Rare is the high school first baseman with a bat so prodigious that he makes his way into the first half of the first round, but in Smith, the Mets may have found a special left-handed hitter. The Los Angeles native showed an advanced approach in his debut, hitting .287 with a .384 on-base percentage and .791 OPS in the GCL. The 6-foot, 185-pounder slugged only three homers in 48 games but figures to add more power as his frame fills.
J.P. Crawford — First round (16th overall) by Philadelphia:
The Phillies love drafting toolsy position players, and Crawford fits the bill as a typical high-upside play by Ruben Amaro Jr. and his front office. A relative of Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford, the Philadelphia shortstop hit .345 in 39 GCL games, posting a .908 OPS while stealing 12 bases in 17 attempts.
Billy McKinney — First round (24th overall) by Oakland:
The A’s sent McKinney, a center fielder out of Plano, Texas, to the AZL for his debut, where the 19-year-old hit .320 with a .798 OPS and seven steals in as many tries. He played eight games with short-season Vermont at season’s end and shined in the aggressive promotion with a .353 average, one homer and a .964 OPS.
The college collection
Today’s MiLB.com article featured extended notes on Cincinnati’s Phillip Ervin and Kansas City’s Hunter Dozier — both first-round picks who excelled and perhaps exceeded expectations in their pro debuts. The duo below also were first-round picks and improved their stock with excellent debuts.
Kris Bryant — First round (second overall) by the Chicago Cubs:
Bryant was by far the most sought after college bat in the Draft and showed why in his pro debut. The third baseman hit .354 with a 1.108 OPS and four homers in 18 short-season games with Boise, then moved to Class A Advanced Daytona, where he batted .333 with a 1.106 OPS in 16 games. The University of San Diego product has probably raised his stock more than any draftee and only adds to the Cubs’ stellar logjam of sterling infield prospects.
D.J. Peterson — First round (12th overall) by Seattle:
Though his power doesn’t quite match Bryant’s, Peterson boasts similar — if not more promising — hitting abilities. He showcased those talents this summer, debuting with short-season Everett before bumping up to Class A Clinton. Between the levels, the 21-year-old hit .303 with a .918 OPS and 13 homers. The University of New Mexico product had his season shortened by a fastball to the face in late August but tweeted recently that he was cleared to resume baseball activities.
After two long months finally got cleared for full activity. Very thankful for all those who wished me well. Excited to get back. #blessed
— DJ Peterson (@godj33) October 14, 2013
The late-round discoveries
Everybody loves a nice Draft Day steal, and while a strong debut is no guarantee for future performance, it certainly can put a hop in a scouting director’s step when a late-round pick makes an encouraging first impression in the pro ranks.
Michael Ratterree — 10th round by Milwaukee:
The Brewers popped Ratterree and signed him for a meager $25,000 as a senior coming out of Rice. The immediate returns were promising as the outfielder earned Pioneer League MVP honors behind a .314 average and .976 OPS with 12 homers and seven steals. The 22-year-old is likely going to be limited to corner outfield duties as he matures, putting pressure on his bat to develop. More numbers like what he produced with Helena would make the Houston native a steal. As a bonus for Brewers’ fans, 2013 eighth-rounder Brandon Diaz also had a stellar debut, posting a .395 OBP with 21 steals as an 18-year-old in the AZL.
Cal Towey — 17th round by the LA Angels:
As a 23-year-old in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, Towey should have been expected to perform, but even in that context, his debut was noteworthy. The left-handed hitter batted .317 and posted a .492 OBP behind a 59-to-67 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Baylor product belted eight homers and stole 13 bases.
Kyle Wren — Eighth round by Atlanta:
Wren’s father is Frank Wren, who spent five years as a Minor Leaguer before embarking on a front-office career that’s led to a job as Braves general manager. Kyle Wren was a management major at Georgia Tech and may one day follow pops into the front office, but right now, it looks like the center fielder may have a good chance to surpass his dad’s on-field accomplishments. The younger Wren hit .335 across three levels with an .863 OPS and 35 steals in his debut. The Braves also are very excited about his defensive tools in center, where his excellent speed makes him an asset.