In an ongoing offseason quest to interview some of the more intriguing individuals within the world of baseball, a few weeks ago I reached out to Christopher Crawford, author of MLBDraftInsider.com and one of the top amateur talent evaluators in the country, and asked if he might share a few minutes with me to discuss the Nationals 2012 draft class and provide a sneak preview of the 2013 MLB Draft. Christopher started MLBDraftInsider in April 2011, and has been one of the most prominent names in the scouting community for many years. Two years ago, Christopher joined me for one of the first interviews on this site, and I am grateful he has returned to talk one of my favorite subjects, the major league baseball draft. Here is the transcript of our interview from a few days ago…
NatsGM: “Thank you so much for joining me today. Before we dive in, I wanted to get your reaction to the new draft rules in the CBA and how it affected the 2012 draft? In general, what do you think of the new draft rules?”
CC: “I’m not a fan. Anything that makes it less likely for the best talents to go and play another sport is a bad thing, in my humble estimation. As far as 2012, it definitely made an impact, and I think Major League Baseball got what it wanted. It’s just too bad that what they wanted doesn’t vibe with what would be best for the sport.”
NatsGM: “Obviously at NatsGM, we spent a great deal of time discussing the Nationals 2012 draft class… As a draft expert, I am curious of your opinion of the Nationals approach this year and your thoughts on their haul?”
CC: “I think the Nationals have done a great job in the last few years of accumulating talent through the draft, but I think no team had its draft plans changed more than Washington because of the new rules. Lucas Giolito obviously has the injury concerns, but he has a tremendous work ethic and the best stuff of any pitcher in the class. The rest of the class is sort of a collective “eh.” Tony Renda is more of a utility infielder without the ability to play shortstop, so I wasn’t a huge fan of his selection in round two. Brett Mooneyham was an interesting selection a round later, and if he can hold up physically he’s a potential middle rotation starter. The rest of the selections in the top ten were essentially easy to sign college players — and while there were no major reaches — there’s nothing to really write home about, either. If Giolito is what I think he is, then this will be remembered as a great draft, but there’s a real good chance that there’s no major contributor, either.”
NatsGM: “Okay, no more reflecting on the past, let’s start looking toward next year and the 2013 MLB draft… What are the general strengths and weaknesses in this draft class overall?”
CC: “Overall, it’s a fairly weak year. There’s some good prep position player depth, particularly in the state of Georgia (again), but on the collegiate side it’s extremely shallow in terms of day one talent. On the mound, the college pitching isn’t as good as 2011 but it’s better than 2012, but the high school pitching doesn’t have the Dylan Bundy or Giolito stand out of previous seasons.”
NatsGM: “I know the draft is months away, but as we enter to 2013, who are some names at the top of your draft board?”
CC: “The name everyone knows is Mark Appel, and he starts the year at the top of the board. Ryne Stanek of Arkansas isn’t far behind however, and may have more upside. Austin Meadows is a five-tool outfielder in Georgia with one of the better swings in the draft, and Clint Frazier — also from Georgia — has bat speed that would rival anyone in any draft class. And while the college hitting class doesn’t have much depth, San Diego’s Kris Bryant has light tower power and at least a decent chance of sticking at third base.”
NatsGM: “Funny you mention him, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about the Mark Appel situation from last summer and where you expect him to be selected next June?”
CC: “It’s tough to say this early, but I can’t see him falling out of the top five barring an injury or ridiculous demands (which he did not have last year, contrary to popular belief). He’s not a lock to be the top pick, by any means, but it’s really difficult for me to imagine him being available after Cleveland picks.”
NatsGM: “With the Nationals selecting later in Round 1 next June, could you give us a few names that might be available in that area of the draft to keep an eye on next spring?
CC: “Outside of the Giolito pick, Washington has generally gone college heavy in the first round. Since this is such a weak cop of collegiate bats — and since the Nationals won’t be picking for a while — we’re likely looking at an arm. One guy that I think could be there and would be good value is LSU’s Ryan Eades; a right-hander with a plus fastball who needs to improve his command if he wants to go in the top half of the first round. This could be the area that Karsten Whitson falls into as well, a player who many projected to be the first pick in the draft before a poor sophomore campaign and injuries pushed him back. If there was a team that I could see taking a big chance on Whitson, It’s the Nationals.
NatsGM: “Christopher, thanks so much for joining us and sharing your insights on the upcoming draft. Where can we keep up with you going forward?”
CC: “You can check out www.mlbdraftinsider.com, and also please check out the draft book, which is on sale for just a buck and I’m really proud of. Also follow us on twitter @MLBDraftInsider (www.twitter.com/mlbdraftinsider)”
Thanks again to Christopher for sharing some time with me; I highly encourage everyone to read his work about all things MLB Draft, especially his draft book, which is a must-read for even a casual draft enthusiast.
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