2013 Draft preview: Up-the-middle bats

Northwest scout Paul Kirsch would love to pick Reese McGuire, but he'll likely be off the board - Chung Sung-Jun

These players are typically the best athletes on the field, and the Rays certainly love athletes

We've reviewed the pitchers for the upcoming draft pretty thoroughly, and I'll move onto some hitters now. I'll be covering players currently playing up the middle positions (C-2B-SS-CF), and I'll probably lean toward players more likely to stick at those positions. Since the Rays tend to target athletes, they take a lot of players from these positions. Take the big 2011 draft for example. They drafted six position players in the first round, and all of them played either shortstop or center field as amateurs. Of course Mikie Mahtook and Tyler Goeddel aren't regulars there as professionals, but it's not too uncommon for players to move from those spots.

SS Tim Anderson, East Central Community College (19 Y.O. 6'1, 190, R/R)

Best tool: Anderson has great speed and will be a true base stealing threat.

Analysis: Mississippi has been the state to find great athletes in recent years, and Anderson is no different. He has the athleticism to remain at shortstop, but he needs work there and his arm could be an obstacle. Since Mississippi isn't exactly a baseball hotbed, he hasn't been facing the best competition, and his swing needs work too. Even if his hitting improves, he's not a power threat and likely never will be. Finding true shortstops in this draft is a challenge, and that's great news for him.

Stock: Anderson should be a second round pick, but he could sneak into the first if a team really values his athleticism. His rawness could give other teams pause though.

2B Cavan Biggio, Texas H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'2, 180, L/R-committed to Virginia)

Best tool: Craig's son Cavan has a very good bat, consistently making hard contact.

Analysis: Biggio has one of the better bats in the class, and that's what's going to get him drafted because his defensive profile is questionable. He's an average athlete, so that would likely rule out center field. Third base could be a fit, but he may not have the arm strength or hit for enough power. Teams will want his hit tool though and the power potential that comes with it if he gets stronger. His bloodlines probably won't hurt either.

Stock: Biggio is probably a second rounder, especially if there's a team that believes he can profile at third base or center field.

CF Ryan Boldt, Minnesota H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'1, 190, L/R- committed to Nebraska)

Best tool: Boldt is an athlete and a really good defender in center field.

Analysis: Boldt's spring was brief. His season started late because that's the reality of playing in Minnesota, and it ended prematurely due to knee surgery. Teams will have to rely on the looks they got over the summer when he was playing for Team USA. There, they saw an athlete who can steal bases and cover a lot of ground in the oufield, and a player who's somewhat raw at the plate. He's not going to be a power hitter, and a team will have to work to make adjustments to his swing so he can square up balls consistently.

Stock: Once thought of as a potential top 20 pick, Boldt will probably fall into the second round now and get a team to offer him a bonus over slot.

C Nick Ciuffo, South Carolina H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'1, 200, L/R- committed to South Carolina)

Best tool: Ciuffo is considered to be the best defensive catcher in the draft, but his all-around game is pretty solid.

Analysis: Other catchers in the draft may have better individual skills (such as Jon Denney's power and Reese McGuire's arm), but Ciuffo is the most well-rounded. He offers advanced receiving skills and all the intangibles a team looks for in a catcher. With some tweaks to his throwing mechanics, he could become above average in handling the running game too. He hits for contact well with good bat speed, and he has the strength to become an above average power hitter.

Stock: Ciuffo has already been given to the Rays in a number of mock drafts, and he likely won't last past the first round.

SS Travis Demeritte, Georgia H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'1, 195, R/R- committed to South Carolina)

Best tool: Demeritte has projectable above average to plus power.

Analysis: While Demeritte played shortstop in high school, but he's going to have to play third base professionally. With a strong arm and solid athleticism, he could become a really good defender there. As a hitter though, he's extremely raw. It's a swing that produces line drives right now, but with his great bat speed and some tweaks, he could develop the requisite power for the position down the road. There's a lot of risk here, but the reward could be impressive.

Stock: Demeritte is probably a second rounder, but it only takes one team that really like athletes and projections for him to go higher.

C Jon Denney, Oklahoma H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'2, 205, R/R- committed to Arkansas)

Best tool: Denney's raw power to all fields is impressive, and it can profile at any position.

Analysis: Oklahoma has recently become the place to find power hitting catchers, with J.T. Realmuto in the Marlins organization and Taylor Hawkins, just drafted by the Rays last year. Unlike some other minor league catchers with raw power who can't tap into it, Denney's swing should be good enough to produce enough contact to generate in-game power. He has a strong arm, but his receiving skills have been poor this spring, leaving some wondering if he can stay behind the plate.

Stock: Even though he's raw defensively, it's hard to imagine a team not taking Denney in the first round with his bat.

2B JaCoby Jones, Louisiana State (21 Y.O. 6'3, 190, R/R)

Best tool: Jones is a bona fide Reggie Cleveland All-Star. In terms of baseball, he's a great athlete.

Analysis: Jones looks the part of a first rounder, but his performance indicates otherwise. Despite playing in a great college difference, he's raw and will need a mechanical overhaul to succeed as a professional. His speed allows him to steal bases effectively and play a good second base. His arm is probably good enough for third base too, and it wouldn't be ridiculous for a team to try him in the outfield. His bat speed is impressive, allowing him to generate average or even better power, but his swing is messy and hurts his ability to make contact.

Stock: A team will probably take a shot at Jones in the third round even if his performance has dictated he should be on the board longer than that.

C Andrew Knapp, California (21 Y.O. 6'1, 192, S/R)

Best tool: Knapp has a strong arm, not surprising since he began his college career in the outfield.

Analysis: Knapp rose to the top of the college catcher rankings with a good off-season and solid spring for Cal. He's inexperienced behind the plate though, so a team is going to have to be patient with him as he continues to learn how to catch. There shouldn't be a problem with him staying at the position in the end. At the plate, he's more of a contact guy than a power guy, not too surprising for a catcher. Even if he doesn't develop average home run power, he should be able to contribute some offense.

Stock: A year after Florida catcher Mike Zunino was drafted third overall, Knapp appears to be the top college catcher, but he'll only go as early as the second round.

CF Michael Lorenzen, Cal State Fullerton (21 Y.O. 6'3, 195, R/R)

Best tool: It's actually hard to choose, but I'll go with his arm strength because of the success he has on the mound too.

Analysis: Lorenzen was taken by the Rays out of high school in the 2010 draft, but they were unable to sign him from the seventh round because of his strong commitment to Fullerton. While flourishing as a late inning reliever for the Titans, he was inconsistent at the plate, not making consistent contact and unable to tap into his raw power. In 2013 though, things have clicked for him. His tools are impressive across the board, led by his arm that allows him to reach the high 90's in short bursts on the mound. He's a great athlete in center field, and he can use his speed on the bases too. At the plate, he has some power and has been showing he may be able to hit as well.

Stock: Current rankings seem to place Lorenzen somewhere in the middle of the second round, but I suppose if a team really believes he can hit, he'll be drafted higher.

CF Terry McClure, Georgia H.S. (17 Y. O. 6'2, 185, R/R- committed to Georgia Tech)

Best tool: McClure is a great athlete and offers some of the most intriguing potential in the draft.

Analysis: McClure's stock rose over the off-season when he showed some advanced skills and tools against other top amateurs, but an up and down spring saw his stock slip a little. Still, it's rare to find center fielders with above average to plus power potential. He already has a swing that can produce in-game power, but he has to improve his plate approach. He's prone to chasing bad balls, and his swing can get out of whack too.

Stock: Despite the inconsistent spring, McClure is still going to be taken in the first five rounds at a minimum. Some team will be impressed with the athleticism and remember the glimpses of in-game production and take him earlier though.

SS Dustin Peterson, Arizona H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'2, 180, R/R- committed to Arizona State)

Best tool: Peterson can generate pretty good bat speed with his short swing.

Analysis: Dustin's older brother D.J. will probably be a higher pick as a very productive college bat, but based on positional scarcity, it's the younger Peterson that could have a higher ceiling. He's likely not a shortstop in the end, probably a second or third baseman, but he could profile at either. He just comes up a little short of the needed athleticism for shortstop. He should hit for a pretty good average and could develop average or better power as he matures and gets stronger.

Stock: While D.J. could be a top 10 pick, Peterson is probably an early to mid second rounder.

Kirsch's club

C Iolana Akau, Hawaii H.S. (17 Y.O. 5'11, 170 R/R- committed to Hawaii): This former Little League World Series hero missed much of the season with a broken hand. His bat lags way behind his defense.

C Logan Ice, Washington H.S. (18 Y.O. 5'11, 180 S/R- committed to Oregon State): Ice doesn't stand out in any tool, but he's solid across the board. He makes good contact from both sides of the plate.

C Reese McGuire, Washington H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'1, 190, L/R- committed to San Diego): It's extremely likely that McGuire is gone by the time the Rays pick, but since he's in Kirsch's region, I had to include him.

Thanks to Minor League Ball, Baseball America, ESPN, Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com and others for info

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