Kohl Stewart Rumors

Prospect Rumor Roundup: Early Draft Returns

The 2013 amateur draft is now fully in the rearview mirror and a new wave of talent has filtered into the professional ranks. Some of the '13 draftees have been riding the buses for more than a month now, while others have only recently pulled on their spikes. Below is a look at first round picks who are off to impressive starts with their new organizations. Standard warnings about reading too much into small sample sizes apply.

Mark Appel, RHP, Astros (1st overall): The top selection in the 2013 draft has made four starts in the minors and has already earned a promotion, moving from the New York Penn League to the Midwest League. Despite a bit of a layoff between the college season and his first pro appearance, the Stanford alum has displayed good control with just one walk in 13 innings while striking out 13 batters. Curt Rallo, writing for MiLB.com, recently caught up with Appel and spoke to him about the adjustments he's making as a professional baseball player.  

Kohl Stewart, RHP, Twins (4th): The highest drafted prep product, 18-year-old Kohl has acclimatized well to his new life as a pro ball player. Stewart, a Texas native, features a 1.80 ERA with nine strikeouts in 10 innings of work over four appearances (two starts). 

Clint Frazier, OF, Indians (5th): The 18-year-old Frazier is stinging the ball through his first 18 pro games. He's hitting more than .300 with nine extra base hits. On the down side, he's whiffed 24 times, including nine strikeouts in his last four games. Clearly, he has some further adjustments to make if he hopes to see continued success on the diamond.

Hunter Dozier, SS, Royals (8th): The Royals' first pick received a lot of attention for being an overdraft so the club could later afford pitcher Sean Manaea, who slipped out of first round consideration due to injury concerns. Dozier, though, is making the decision to pick him eighth overall look inspired. He has an .856 OPS and 20 of his 37 hits have gone for extra bases during his time in the Pioneer League. Dozier has also walked more than he's struck out (19-16). His first professional baseball club, the Idaho Falls Chukars, recently published an audio Q&A with the first rounder.

D.J. Peterson, 3B, Mariners (12th): Peterson was promoted from the Northwest League to the Midwest League on Tuesday and he will leave behind some impressive numbers. The third baseman popped six home runs and posted a .915 OPS in 29 games. He also showed solid contact skills with a strikeout rate of just under 15%, which is impressive given his power output.

Reese McGuire, C, Pirates (14th): The Pirates had two first round selections in 2013 and McGuire has gotten off to a quicker start than his new teammate Austin Meadows. The young catcher is hitting more than .400 with a 1.012 OPS through his first 15 games. He's also impressing behind the plate by catching 50% of base runners attempting to steal. John Lembo of the Bradenton Herald spoke to both McGuire and Meadows about their thoughts of growing up in the Pirates organization.

J.P. Crawford, SS, Phillies (16th): Philadelphia has been snakebitten over the past few years when it comes to their first round draft picks, and the organization is clearly hoping for bigger and better things from Crawford. He's off to a good start in Rookie ball where he's compiled 25 hits and seven walks in 18 games, good for a .427 on-base percentage. By getting on base at such a good clip, it should allow him to pile up some steals thanks to his above-average speed.

Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox (18th): Anderson is the third shortstop on this list who's off to a quick start to his career. Playing in low-A ball, he's getting on base at a solid clip (.371 OBP) while nabbing 12 bases in 15 attempts through the first 32 games of his pro career. One red flag, though, is his strikeout rate of 25%, especially given that power is not a big part of his game right now; an improvement in his contact rate would likely help him improve his on-base percentage even further. Anderson could move quickly through the Sox system, which could help to explain why the club may be willing to part with incumbent shortstop Alexei Ramirez. Michael Teague of MiLB.com spoke to the young prospect shortly after he was named the top junior college athlete in the country for 2013.

Jonathon Crawford, RHP, Tigers (20th): Crawford has opened his pro career in the New York Penn League and he's expected to be one of the first college-groomed draft picks to reach the Major League level. Through six appearances, he's looking good with a 2.03 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings of work. He was downright unhittable in three of those appearances (totaling six innings). Lynn Henning of the Detroit News spoke to Crawford's manager in Connecticut about the recent draft pick's positive start to his career.

Billy McKinney, OF, Athletics (24th): After batting just .242 with a .558 OPS in June, McKinney has heated up in July and currently has a .367 average and .861 OPS. The left-handed-hitting Texas native has improved his game in part by making more contact and lowering his strikeout rate. He's also holding his own against southpaws, which is impressive to see from such a young hitter.


Twins Sign Kohl Stewart

The Twins have issued a press release to announce the signing of No. 4 overall pick Kohl Stewart. The 18-year-old prep right-hander is advised by Darek Braunecker of Frontline Athlete Management. Stewart signed for the full slot value of $4,544,400, according to Jim Callis of Baseball America (on Twitter).

Stewart was a consensus Top 10 talent in this year's draft, ranking fourth overall according to ESPN's Keith Law, fifth according to Baseball America and seventh according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. Law wrote that Stewart has four legitimate pitches, two of which have a chance to end up as 70-grade offerings on the 20-80 scouting scale. Those would be his 92-94 mph fastball (which touches 97) and his 85-88 mph slider with late break. In the above tweet, Callis notes that Stewart has drawn comparisons to Justin Verlander when pitching at his best.

Stewart had a football commitment to Texas A&M, where he would have served as a back-up to Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel at quarterback. He is the second consecutive high school player drafted by the Twins. Minnesota selected outfielder Byron Buxton with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2012 draft.

With Stewart's signing, 23 of this year's 33 first-round selections have agreed to terms or signed with their first professional organization.


Twins, Kohl Stewart Nearing Deal

The Twins are nearing a deal with prep right-hander Kohl Stewart, the fourth overall pick in the draft, and an announcement could come today, La Velle E. Neal of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Sunday. Indeed, a look at Stewart's Twitter account reveals that he flew to the Twin Cities yesterday (Twitter links).

Baseball America reported in April that the assigned pick value for the No. 4 overall selection is $4,544,400. Stewart was a consensus Top 10 talent in this year's draft, ranking fourth overall according to ESPN's Keith Law, fifth according to Baseball America and seventh according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. Stewart has a football commitment to Texas A&M, where he would back up Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel at quarterback, but the industry expectation is that the Twins will be able to sign him.



Draft Notes: Bickford, Royals, Stewart, Twins

We've already had one post's worth of draft news today, and now here's the latest…

  • Other teams believe that the Royals have reached a deal to take right-handed high schooler Phil Bickford with the eighth overall pick, Peter Gammons reports (Twitter link).  Bickford, who is committed to Cal State Fullerton, hasn't been evaluated as No. 8 pick material — Baseball America ranks Bickford as the 20th best prospect in the draft, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo has him at No. 26 and ESPN's Keith Law (Insider subscription required) has him all the way down at No. 55.
  • The Twins will take right-handed high schooler Kohl Stewart with the fourth overall pick, a source "with a stake in the Twins' draft" tells Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com (Twitter link).  The source says that Stewart, a Houston native, won't be taken first overall by his hometown Astros and that Oklahoma righty Jonathan Gray won't fall to the Twins at #4.
  • The Twins would be "pleased" if Gray or third baseman Kris Bryant made it past the first three picks, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.  It isn't as certain if the club would be happy if Stanford right-hander Mark Appel was still available, as Appel is advised by Scott Boras and would likely be a tougher sign.
  • The Twins were one of the last teams to do extensive medical research on pitching prospects but scouting director Deron Johnson tells 1500ESPN.com's Phil Mackey that the team have been much more thorough over the last three years.  Four MInnesota pitchers taken in the first- or supplementary round between 2008-10 have undergone arm surgeries, three of them Tommy John cases.
  • Several Red Sox executives, including GM Ben Cherington, have scouted high school outfielders Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports.  Abraham predicts the Red Sox will take Meadows with the seventh overall pick unless Stewart or possibly Colin Moran are still available.
  • Since the Padres have a number of good arms in their minor league system, MLB.com's Corey Brock predicts the team will take a position player with the 13th overall pick.

Twins Notes: Draft, International Free Agents

Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN has a tremendous amount of information on the upcoming MLB draft in the most recent edition of his weekly "Scoops" column. Here are some highlights from his highly informative piece (though there is much more to see in the full column)…

  • Twins VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff spoke with Wolfson at length Wednesday afternoon and said that the team's draft board for the No. 4 overall pick is down to four players: "We have enough guys we have no problem taking," Radcliff said. "Dollars, risk, creativity, we can go many ways."
  • Wolfson adds that at least one of the potential players would be someone the Twins could sign well below slot value, in order to spend more heavily on their second- and third-round picks. He adds that that player is likely high school catcher Reese McGuire, as has been rumored occasionally over the past few weeks. Asked about McGuire, Radcliff side-stepped the question a bit: "Well, we want a catcher every draft," he said. "Looking for a star catcher is the hardest thing to find."
  • The Twins have had a scout in attendance to see "every pitch" from Kohl Stewart over the past couple of years. Radcliff and scouting director Deron Johnson have seen him multiple times.
  • The Twins have a great relationship with Matt Sosnick and Adam Karon, who are advising McGuire and Nevada right-hander Braden Shipley. They're believed to be more interested in McGuire than Shipley. Sosnick, the agent for current Twins Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit, also advises high school arms Matt Krook and Andrew Church, plus San Francisco right-hander Alex Balog and Cal infielder Andrew Knapp. Each of those prospects ranks in the Top 100, per Baseball America.
  • Johnson has seen Arkansas righty Ryne Stanek numerous times, and the Twins have done more work on him than any team in this year's top 10.
  • High school lefty Hunter Green, who ranks as the draft's No. 31 prospect (per BA), is among the prospects who will attend a workout for the Twins on Monday. High school outfielder Austin Meadows did not attend a recent workout the team held for Georgia-area prospects.
  • The Twins aren't likely to pursue Minnesota high school outfielder Ryan Boldt with their second pick (No. 43). They will look at another hometown product in Gophers lefty Tom Windle at that spot, however. Boldt was considered a first-round talent before a meniscus tear ended his season. He hopes to be ready to play by August. 
  • The Twins have the fourth-largest pool to sign international prospects this year, and Radcliff says they will be "major players" in this year's market. Wolfson adds that the Twins very much like Dominican outfielder Lewin Diaz.
  • The team didn't have scouts in attendance to watch Japanese hurlers Shohei Otani and Masahiro Tanaka in Japan this past week.

Draft Notes: Gray, Manaea, Ball, Twins

Oklahoma pitcher Jonathan Gray's strong performance in the Big 12 conference tournament increased the likelihood that the Astros will pick him No. 1 overall, ESPN.com's Christopher Crawford writes (Insider-only). Crawford also quotes a scout who says that Indiana State's Sean Manaea — thought to be a top pick before the season — is "not a first-round prospect to me," and suggests Manaea may be best served by not signing and returning to school. Manaea was pulled from a recent start with shoulder tightness. Crawford's piece also contains details about Mark Appel and many of this draft class' top hitters. Here are more notes on the draft.

  • Indiana high-schooler Trey Ball tops the list of two-way players available in this year's draft, Baseball America's Jim Callis says. Teams now prefer Ball as a pitcher, and it looks likely he'll be selected in the first 10 picks or so. Another two-way player is Cal State-Fullerton's Michael Lorenzen, who will be drafted as a center fielder, Callis says.
  • If the Twins wish to avoid Scott Boras with the No. 4 overall pick in the upcoming draft, their best bets are high school pitcher Kohl Stewart or high school catcher Reese McGuire, ESPN1500's Darren Wolfson tweets. Stewart is being advised by Derek Braunecker and McGuire by Matt Sosnick, Wolfson says.

Draft Notes: Marlins, Rockies, Bryant, Padres

The new draft slotting system essentially allows teams to "trade down" with themselves, writes Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. Cameron uses the Astros' selection of Carlos Correa last year as an example, stating that by saving money on the No. 1 overall pick and re-investing their draft pool later on Lance McCullers Jr. and Rio Ruiz, the team employed the same philosophy that NFL and NBA teams do when they trade down: increase the quantity of good talent rather than focus on one elite player. Cameron adds that such a tactic is highly risky, as the No. 1 overall slot has produced significantly more value (in terms of WAR) than even the No. 2 and No. 3 spots in the draft, historically speaking. He does concede that in years without a consensus No. 1 talent, the strategy can make a lot of sense. Here are Wednesday's draft-related tidbits…

  • The Marlins are likely to focus on college players early on, specifically position players, writes Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. Spencer writes that the Fish will likely select San Diego third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant or UNC third baseman Colin Moran if either is available at No. 6. If both are gone, they could shift to Nevada right-hander Braden Shipley and target a bat later on.
  • The Rockies are also eyeing Kris Bryant at the No. 3 spot, tweets Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Bryant, regarded as the most powerful bat in the draft, has been popping up in rumors more and more as the draft nears. Some feel he has No. 1 overall potential.
  • After focusing heavily on high school pitching in last year's draft, the Padres are likely to focus on bats, assistant GM of player personnel Chad MacDonald tells Chris Jenkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Particularly, the Friars will be looking for middle infield help.
  • MacDonald has scouted prep right-hander Kohl Stewart, and the Padres are enamored with his "electric" talent, but he's very unlikely to be on the board by the No. 13 selection. "He's the best high school arm in the country," said MacDonald.