With the 2013 MLB Rule IV Draft less than a month away, droves of scouts and front office personnel are piling into college and high school stadiums across the country with the hope of identifying their future first-round pick.
While some organizations already have it narrowed down to a few specific players, other teams—especially those drafting in the mid-to-late first round—are busily checking in on some of the late risers in this year’s class.
But that’s part of the beauty and allure of the MLB draft; a player can seemingly come out of nowhere, catch the right person’s eye and then BAM! They're suddenly a first-rounder.
Because so much can and will happen between now and June 6 to alter the landscape of the first round, I would be lying if I said I knew exactly how things will unfold on Day 1.
One thing I am sure of, however, is that these four players will continue to fly up the draft boards before June.
Ryan McMahon, 3B, Mater Dei HS (Calif.)
At 6’3”, 215 pounds, McMahon has an ideal frame and build for a long career at the hot corner. His name hasn’t come up in the Day 1 discussion as often as it probably should, which is a result of his lack of exposure on the summer showcase circuit as a two-sport star (quarterback) for Mater Dei high school.
On the baseball field, McMahon’s outstanding athleticism is obvious on both sides of the ball. At the dish, the left-handed hitter showcases loose wrists and above-average bat speed, as he achieves a favorable point of contact of a firm front side and generates extension through the baseball.
While he has plenty of raw power, McMahon’s swing involves more of a line-drive path that yields rockets to all fields. But as he fills out physically and adds a little loft to his swing, he should have a chance for above-average power potential.
At the hot corner, McMahon's athleticism allows him to showcase above-average range in all directions and gets to a lot of balls thanks to his quick feet and instinctual first step. The only real knock at the moment regards his lack of arm strength across the infield. That being said, it’s still enough to keep him at the position.
It’ll be interesting to see how much hype McMahon gets over the next month, especially with a perceived strong commitment to USC. However, at least in my opinion, McMahon has emerged as a no-doubt first-round talent
Phil Bickford, RHP, Oaks Christian HS (Calif.)
If I had to make a guess about which pitching prospect will have the most helium headed into the draft, my list would start and end with Phil Bickford.
At 6’4”, 200 pounds, Bickford, a right-hander, has a tall, sturdy frame that combines present strength with future physical projection. And although there’s a little uneasiness to his delivery so as to get his long limbs and core in-sync, Bickford understands how to use his lower half to generate velocity and last deep into starts.
Working from a three-quarters arm slot, the right-hander masks each of his offerings with natural deception as he prevents the hitter from getting a clean look at his release point. Bickford’s fastball sits comfortably in the 91-to-94 mph range and he’s been gunned as high as 97 mph in the past, but it’s the consistent sinking action that he’s showing this spring that makes it a money pitch.
Bickford is more than just a one-pitch guy, too. He throws a slider that generates average depth and tilt; but his inconsistent execution of the pitch gives it a variant shape and pace. The right-hander will also mix in some changeups as he works deep into starts, which could conceivably serve as another above-average offering under the right guidance.
Although he’s committed to Cal State Fullerton next season, it’s difficult to envision Bickford stepping foot on campus. Considering how much he’s already shot up the draft boards this spring, it wouldn’t surprise me if the right-hander were ultimately selected within the first 15-20 picks of the draft.
Hunter Dozier, SS, Stephen F. Austin
At 6’4”, 220 pounds, Dozier easily passes the eye test. However, the scouting community seems to be divided about whether he’ll be able to remain at shortstop long term. An excellent athlete for his size, Dozier has smooth actions at the position as well as a strong, accurate arm. The only concern stems from a lack of lateral range; however, his instincts and first step almost negate the perceived deficit.
Regardless of the position he plays as a professional, the team that drafts Dozier will undoubtedly do so for his offensive potential. Although his swing can get long at times and impede a favorable point of contact, Dozier’s present physical strength and plus bat speed project for an above-average power and hit tool at the next level.
Dozier’s not as polished or revered as some of the other names on the board, but the lack of legitimate shortstop prospects in this year’s class could easily thrust him into the first-round discussion over the next month.
Akeem Bostick, RHP, West Florence HS (S.C.)
As one of the younger players in the 2013 draft class, Bostick is the definition of a high-risk/high-reward prospect as he’s almost entirely projection at this point. At 6’5”, 180 pounds, the right-hander has an athletic, wiry-thin frame ideal for adding strength as he develops physically. And although his delivery appears effortless thanks to his lightning-quick arm and smooth release, Bostick sometimes struggles to repeat his mechanics, and in turn relies on sheer arm strength.
Bostick’s top offering is easily his low-90s fastball that has been as high as 94 mph this spring. One thing that I really like about the right-hander—and it seems other evaluators do as well—is his ability to utilize his height and loose arm to create a consistent downhill plane.
But beyond the fastball, the only serviceable offering in Bostick’s arsenal is a changeup that has shown some potential this spring with a consistent 10 mph speed differential and slight fade. He’ll likely be taught a breaking ball further along in his development once his mechanics and release point have been tweaked, and should be able to generate tight spin with is arm speed.
Committed to Georgia Southern, Bostick is considered to be signable. He’s a safe bet to be popped early on Day 2 (at the latest), and a team looking to creatively budget their draft pool money could target him with a compensatory pick.