By Sam Fisher
Several Stanford baseball players are expected to be selected in the Major League Baseball first-year player draft, which runs from Thursday through Saturday.
In Thursday’s first two rounds, senior starting pitcher Mark Appel and junior centerfielder Austin Wilson should hear their names called.
After reportedly turning down $3.8 million from the Pittsburgh Pirates after being selected No. 8 overall in 2012, Appel is projected as a top-five pick. Most draft experts have Appel as either the No. 1 or No. 2 prospect available, but the MLB Draft is wildly unpredictable.
Last season, most expected Appel to be drafted first overall by the Houston Astros, his hometown team. But the Astros opted for Carlos Correa — spending less money so they could afford to sign later picks — and Appel began a shocking slide.
That has made everyone more cautious when projecting where Appel will land this time around. The Astros hold the top pick again, but most expect them to again go for a cheaper option, especially considering the pitching depth in their minor-league system.
The Cubs select next, and many experts, including ESPN’s Keith Law, see them taking Appel. Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein was in attendance for Appel’s last start, bringing along former Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood.
But Epstein has also been linked to Oklahoma pitcher Jonathan Gray, widely considered to be the only prospect that a significant number of teams rank ahead of Appel. If the Cubs take Gray, Appel could slide as far as fourth to the Minnesota Twins or fifth to the Cleveland Indians, given the propensity of the Colorado Rockies, who own the third pick, to take hitters for a hitter-friendly ballpark.
Once Appel comes off the board, Wilson should be next. Coming off an elbow injury that limited his playing time, Wilson is an intriguing prospect. Some rumors have a team like the Philadelphia Phillies taking him as high as the middle of the first round, but others believe Wilson could slide into the second round. The Yankees, who have three picks near the end of the first round, have been mentioned as having a strong interest in the big slugger.
Junior first baseman Brian Ragira and junior pitcher A.J. Vanegas could come next. Baseball America has Vanegas as its 78th-ranked prospect in the draft, while it ranks Ragira 142nd. Vanegas was thought to be a potential first-round pick after wowing scouts with his velocity in the Cape Cod Baseball League last summer.
But a back injury and then mononucleosis cost Vanegas almost his entire junior season, making it much more difficult to judge his value. That will give Vanegas a tough decision. If he is not drafted as highly as he thinks he deserves, the junior could come back to Stanford for one more year.
Ragira is also a tricky case, but more of it has to do with his position. Scouts have commented that Ragira needs to show more power if he wants to make it to the majors, and might have to switch to a corner outfield position as well. Ragira did improve his power, hitting a career-high eight home runs, but teams will be looking to develop his slugging capabilities more in the minor leagues.
The remainder of draft-eligible players could land in a variety of different places in the unpredictable MLB draft. Seniors Justin Ringo and Garrett Hughes both had strong senior years after overcoming struggles in their first three years on the Farm to inflate their stock.
Senior pitchers Sahil Bloom and Dean McArdle, junior catcher Brant Whiting, junior second baseman Danny Diekreoger, junior pitcher Sam Lindquist, junior outfielder Brian Guymon, junior shortstop Lonnie Kauppila and junior utility player Brett Michael Doran are the other draft-eligible players on Stanford’s roster. Kauppila is the only one of the group ranked in Baseball America’s top-500 prospects, coming in at 361st.
The 2013 MLB Draft begins Thursday with the first two rounds, continues with rounds three through 10 on Friday and finishes with the final 30 rounds Sunday.
Contact Sam Fisher at safisher “at” stanford.edu.