Several days ago, Scott covered draft prospects who play the "middle" positions: second base, shortstop, center field, and catcher. Generally speaking, these players are valued for their gloves more often than for their bats. In this preview, I'll breakdown some of the top corner position players who are expected to be picked within the range of the Rays' first several picks. While these players can still provide value with their gloves, most of their worth lies in their offensive production.
Dominic Smith, California H.S. (LHH, 6'0, 195 lbs.)
Best Tool: Smith possesses the best hit tool among prep hitters in the draft.
Analysis: For a first baseman, Dominic Smith lacks tremendous size. However, his immaculate swing allows him to consistently produce hard contact that should lead to plus power down the road. With his offensive ability, Smith is about as safe of a bet as a high school bat can be in the draft. Defensively, Smith is masterful, combining a strong arm with great instincts and range. About the only knock on him is that he at times comes off as a little too relaxed, but scouts still rave about his makeup (for whatever that is worth).
Stock: Smith is a very solid bet for a high schooler to become a starter on an MLB team, and if he reaches his ceiling, he could be a year in and year out all-star. This makes him likely to go within the top 20 picks, though if he slips, the Rays budget and dearth of first base prospects could prompt them to make a move.
Rowdy Tellez, California H.S. (LHH, 6'5, 235 lbs.)
Best Tool: Rowdy Tellez is the best power hitting high school prospect in the 2013 draft.
Analysis: The winner of the 2012 Perfect Game National Showcase home run derby, Tellez uses his size and strength to launch home runs. Tellez is far from a one trick pony though; he rarely strikes out in games because of an all-fields approach and impressive feel for hitting. He is not a great defender, but he has worked hard to make his defense average.
Stock: Tellez is definitely within the range of the Rays first several picks. Baseball America rated him the 59th best draft prospect while Keith Law left him off of his top 100 (only one first baseman made his list). Matt Garrioch of Minor League Ball rated him the 99th best prospect in the draft in his most recent ranking. Using a first round pick on Tellez may be an overdraft, but he could go anywhere from the second to the fifth round.
Ryon Healy, Oregon (RHH, 6'5, 225 lbs.)
Best Tool: Healy is a contact oriented hitter who should post high averages in professional baseball.
Analysis: Probably the best college first baseman available in the draft, Healy has solid power along with great contact skills. His athletic prowess has been questioned, but some consider him an underrated athlete. He does not have a very high upside, but Healy could become a solid first baseman.
Stock: With the new draft rules, it can be impossible to predict where a polished college player like Healy will go. While his talent makes him about a second round pick, he could be drafted earlier and signed for a below slot deal.
Eric Jagielo, Notre Dame (LHH, 6'3, 215 lbs.)
Best Tool: Jagielo's lack of explosive tools is more than compensated for by his polish.
Analysis: Jagielo has a very solid game all around, featuring above average power, hitting, and defense. The only below average facet of his play is his running. If everything pans out, Jagielo could be a solid defender at third base with a mid .300s on base percentage and twenty home runs per year.
Stock: Jagielo is expected to go in the teens or the early twenties, so he could be available for the Rays' first pick.
Chad Pinder, Virginia Tech (RHH, 6'2, 192 lbs.)
Best Tool: Pinder lacks a standout tool, but both his plate discipline and hit tool are well regarded.
Analysis: In many ways, Pinder is very similar to Jagielo. Both are refined college hitters who lack significant upside. Pinder is the lesser prospect, however, because of his lack of power. He has failed to eclipse the 20 home run plateau in his entire college career combined. At the most, he projects to hit about 15 home runs per year.
Stock: Rated in the 50-100 range by most resources, Pinder should be selected in the early rounds.
Trey Michaelczewski, Oklahoma H.S. (Switch hitter, 6'3, 210 lbs.)
Best Tool: Michaelczewski is a terrific athlete who also excelled in football.
Analysis: One of the best prep draft prospects in Oklahoma, Michaelczeski has an exciting package of tools. He has solid power from both sides of the plate adequate hitting skill. While he is a gap-to-gap player now, his home run production should increase with time. Defensively, he is above average at third base.
Stock: If taken in the first five or so rounds, he should sign. He is rated anywhere from the 60th best prospect to around 300th.
Phillip Ervin, Samford (RHH, 5'11, 190 lbs.)
Best Tool: Phillip Ervin has the potential to be a 20-20 player from the corner outfield spot.
Analysis: Once a center fielder, injuries have pushed him to left field, where his bat profiles solidly. He lacks much projection and will probably never see an All-Star game, but his above average defense in left field combined with his bat make him a solid player. His swing is short and compact, producing hard contact. Though he is not overly big or strong, his swing allows him to take full advantage of his power.
Stock: His stock has slipped because of injuries and the move to left field. He should be available in the late first round, but not by the Rays second round pick.
Billy McKinney, Texas H.S. (LHH, 6'2, 195 lbs.)
Best Tool: McKinney has a sweet swing that rates among the best in the class.
Analysis: An offensive minded player, McKinney projects to hit for a high average and solid power thanks to his swing and disciplined approach. His value lies strictly in his bat though as his defense grades out poorly; his arm and his speed are both below average. However, most scouts agree that his bat is powerful enough to carry him.
Stock: McKinney is rated the 27th best prospect by Baseball America and the 28th by Keith Law. He should be taken right around the Rays' second pick.
Austin Wilson, Stanford (RHH, 6'5, 245 lbs.)
Best Tool: Austin Wilson has all the raw attributes of a star hitter, including plus-plus power.
Analysis: One of the top draft prospects three years ago out of high school, Wilson fulfilled his commitment to Stanford. Unfortunately, he has disappointed; instead of blossoming into a star, he has struggled with inconsistency. Despite his incredible bat speed and power, Wilson's swing mechanics have held him back (the infamous Stanford swing). Scouts are confident the issues can be corrected in pro ball. Defensively, Wilson is a plus right fielder who moves very well for his size and has a cannon for an arm. Though he can also play some center field, his future home is in right.
Stock: Wilson's rankings put him right in line with the Rays' first and second picks.
Aaron Judge, Fresno State (RHH, 6'7, 255 lbs)
Best Tool: Only Kris Bryant has raw power comparable to that of Aaron Judge in the 2013 draft.
Analysis: With his immense stature, physical comparisons to Blake Griffon of the NBA are popular popular. Despite his size, Judge is surprisingly mobile, possessing above average range in right field with a plus arm. His calling card is his power, which is an easy 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Though he can put on a show in batting practice, Judge's power is, interestingly enough, often absent in game. This year, he has only hit 11 home runs, a total too low for a player with his raw power. For being such a big and powerful player, Judge's swing is short; however, more expect him to only hit around .250 and rack up strikeouts.
Stock: There are reports and comments calling Judge the most overrated prospect due to his lack of performance while others name him the most underrated due to his physical tools. The consensus seems to be that Judge will be drafted somewhere from pick #15 through the end of the first round.
Cord Sandberg, Florida H.S. (LHH, 6'3, 215 lbs.)
Best Tool: A Mississippi State commit to play quarterback, Sandberg is one of the best athletes available in the draft.
Analysis: Sandberg's tools and athleticism are considered on par with Austin Meadow's, who is one of the two best prep positional players in the draft. If Sandberg can learn to take better routes, he may stay in center field with his above average speed. Both his raw power and bat speed earn rave reviews. The main issue with him is his lack of experience in baseball as he has split time between football and baseball.
Stock: Sandberg is expected to be taken in the second to third round. His elite athleticism makes him a high risk high reward type of gamble.