The Major League Baseball draft is littered with uncertainty, which puts the onus on teams to find sturdier talents who won’t live to become cautionary tales.

For every Clayton Kershaw, there are three Matt Andersons. There’s occasionally a Justin Upton or Bryce Harper sitting on top of the big board, but Tim Beckham and Matt Bush also went No. 1 in previous years.

Many prospects offering the highest upside often come with a great deal of doubt. This forces general managers to ask whether they want the unpolished high school prospect or the solid athlete poised to morph into a dependable contributor.

This year’s draft class does not feature many can’t-miss stars, but a few of the top names will provide teams with a high ceiling alongside a relatively low floor.

Expect these first-round draft candidates to become major league stalwarts down the line.


Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina

Stat-heads and traditionalists alike can all drool over Colin Moran’s potential as an impact bat.

Scouts swoon over his blazing bat speed, and sabermetricians will quickly fall in love with his uncanny plate discipline. He drew 55 walks for the Tar Heels in 2013 while striking out just 20 times.

His control over the strike zone led to an eye-popping .357/.485/.579 slash line. That power, however, might not translate completely to the majors, as some project him to be more of a doubles hitter.

Even if that’s the case, nobody will complain about a 15-to-20 home run total if it comes with a .300 average and .400-plus on-base percentage.

The 20-year-old is this year’s most big league-ready position player. Moran could emerge as a poor man’s Joey Votto for the lucky squad that snatches him up within the draft’s top 10 picks.


Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford

Oklahoma’s Jonathan Gray is the only other player warranting serious No. 1-pick consideration, but despite his sky-high upside, Stanford’s Mark Appel is still the safer bet.

Appel‘s ready now, but the Stanford senior was also ready last year. Most mock drafts projected the Houston Astros to select him with the first pick, but they passed due to signability concerns.

Can you really blame them? After falling to the Pittsburgh Pirates with pick No. 8, Appel, with the advice of agent Scott Boras, returned to school after failing to receive a desired $6 million bonus.

Appel also can’t be faulted for the strategy that is about to pay off big time. The tall righty is all but a certainty to go in the top two picks, and it’s easy to see why. He displayed his impeccable command by walking 23 batters through 106.1 innings pitched, and that came with 130 strikeouts.

Armed with a fastball that hits the mid- to high 90s and four years of college experience, Appel will probably be the first player from this year’s class to reach the majors.


Reese McGuire, C, Kentwood HS (Wash.)

High schoolers are typically not synonymous with safe, but Reese McGuire’s defense behind the plate makes him a stable choice.

His bat is far from a sure thing; it’d be a win for whomever drafts him if he develops into an average hitter. That’s fine, however, considering his potential as a Gold Glove catcher.

McGuire possesses a cannon for an arm, and his receiving skills have also improved over the year. And for all the talk of his glove, he can offer a little pop as well.

There is a growing group of power-hungry catchers, but this is still the position where it’s most acceptable to sacrifice some offense for defense. Even if his bat does not flourish, McGuire can at least derive some value with his glove.

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