With the new collective bargaining agreement, the deadline for draft picks to sign was moved up a month from August 15th to July 15th. As a result, we now get (relatively) meaningful samples for these players to see what they can do before having to try and review them during the offseason. This also means that you have that much more information to work with when your minor league draft comes up during the offseason. It's been nearly a month since that deadline came and went, so let's look at how the top five picks have performed so far.
Mark Appel - Houston Astros - 1st overall pick
Stats: 6 starts, 19.2 innings pitched, 20 strikeouts, 5 walks, 2.00 GO/AO ratio, 19 hits allowed, 2 HR allowed
Current Assignment: Low-A Quad Cities (Midwest League)
Appel has now made 4 of his starts in Low-A, and while he has not been as dominant as you might have anticipated the top pick being, has still pitched very well. There's no rush to move Appel super quickly to the Majors, given the current state of the Major League team and the potential to use service time early. However, from this interview with Steve Batterson of the Quad Cities Times (h/t Crawfish Boxes), it sounds like it has been discussed that he could finish his season at AA. Doing that could put him on a timeline to be up sometime during the 2014 season, which seems in line with his performance and pedigree.
For more on the Astros, check out SBNation's The Crawfish Boxes.
Kris Bryant - Chicago Cubs - 2nd overall pick
Stats: 15 games, .278/.328/.556, 3 home runs, 13 RBI, 4 BB, 15 K
Current Assignment: Short-Season Low-A Boise (Northwest League)
Bryant was the last of the top draft picks to sign, and as a result has less of a sample than some of the other picks. After a quick 2 game stint in the Arizona Rookie League, the Cubs sent him to short-season ball where he has been showing off that power that made him a top draft pick. Through Monday's games, he had 9 doubles and 3 home runs. The strikeout to walk ratio is a bit out of character with his college numbers, but it is early still, and isn't expected to be a problem. Josh Timmers of Bleed Cubbie Blue has been going through his midseason top prospects list, ranking Bryant #3 overall and providing a good report on his ups and downs so far. I can see the Cubs moving Bryant to Low-A if they want to keep him at 3B, although he could move to High-A if the team decides they are less concerned with his development than the current Low-A 3B, Jeimer Candelario.
For more on the Cubs, check out SBNation's Bleed Cubbie Blue.
Jonathan Gray - Colorado Rockies - 3rd overall pick
Stats: 5 starts, 18.1 innings pitched, 22 strikeouts, 2 walks, 0.88 GO/AO ratio, 17 hits allowed, 0 HR allowed
Current Assignment: High-A Modesto (California League)
Gray has pitched excellently so far, winning his first start in High-A with a 7 strikeout, 2 hit, 0 walk performance over 5 innings pitched last week. The more I read and hear about Gray, the more I'm starting to wonder if he may have a higher ceiling than Appel. Great quote after his first start, courtesy of Josh Jackson at MILB.com:
During Jonathan Gray's first inning at the Class A Advanced level, his fastball touched 99 mph. He didn't throw that hard again, not because he couldn't but because he didn't feel the need.
‘Oh, yeah, I can do that whenever,' Gray said. ‘That's something I can bring out whenever I feel comfortable in the strike zone. I didn't try to go with above-velocity tonight because I didn't really need it. I was hitting both corners and locating the ball down.'
Gray seems like he will be a fast mover, to the point where I would not be surprised if he arrived in Colorado by the end of the 2014 season.
For more on the Rockies, check out SBNation's Purple Row.
Kohl Stewart - Minnesota Twins - 4th overall pick
Stats: 4 appearances (2 starts), 10 innings pitched, 9 strikeouts, 1 walk, 1.09 GO/AO ratio, 7 hits allowed, 0 HR allowed
Current Assignment: Twins' Rookie Affiliate (Gulf Coast League)
Stewart has thrown just 10 innings so far as a professional, and has not pitched since July 22nd after cutting his foot at the beach rather randomly. The team put him on the 7-day disabled list, but that it was announced that he was expected to return about 4-6 days from today (h/t to Twins Daily and Seth Stohs). While Stewart is a high school draftee, the Twins have been more aggressive with recent promotions, most notably Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton both playing at two levels this year after a promotion from the previous season. As a result, I would not be surprised if Stewart started at full-season Low-A, and finished even higher.
For more on the Twins, check out SBNation's Twinkie Town.
Clint Frazier - Cleveland Indians - 5th overall pick
Stats: 26 games, .298/.356/.500, 3 home runs, 20 runs batted in, 1 for 3 stolen bases, 9 walks, 37 strikeouts
Current Assignment: Indians' Rookie Affiliate (Arizona League)
Frazier signed quickly, and started playing on the 25th of June. Since then, he's been hitting well, although with the caveat that the Arizona Rookie League is generally known as an offensive haven. He is expected to have potentially the most fantasy upside of the top offensive draftees, but is at least 3-4 years away from the Majors at this point. If the team thinks he is ready, I could see a full season assignment to start 2014.
For more on the Indians, check out SBNation's Let's Go Tribe.
I'll be taking a look at some more of the top draftees on Sunday, but if you have one in mind, let us know in the comments so we can take a look at them as well.
Jason Hunt is a fantasy baseball writer here at Fake Teams. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonsbaseball.