A year ago today, Dustin Ackley was hitting for a very impressive .341/.482/.455 line in 44 at-bats, although he was hardly considered one of the top prospects in the draft. That’s because he had yet to homer once in those 44 at-bats. Over his next five games, Ackley went 13-for-21 with five homers, boosting him to the top of the draft class, where he would remain the rest of the season. This past weekend we saw a few people break out with huge performances, such as Bryce Harper, Deck McGuire, and LeVon Washington. Will those players follow up on their success like Ackley did last year? I guess time will tell on that one.
Here is a recap of how each player did this weekend. You can click on their name to go to their draft tracker.
Harper had a big weekend in which he went 8-for-12, although the majority of that was a 7-for-8 performance in a double header on Saturday, in which he combined for two doubles and two homers. On the season, Harper is hitting for a .408/.506/.803 line, with a homer every 11.83 at-bats, all with wooden bats. That’s starting to answer some questions, although there are still plenty of questions that remain with Harper.
Earlier last week, Buster Olney had an article comparing Harper with Tim Teabow, in the sense that Harper is hyped by the fans, but not viewed as a guarantee by the scouts. One thing Olney pointed out was the high amount of strikeouts Harper has seen. You could hardly complain about Harper’s numbers, but an alarming trend is developing. In the four games leading up to his breakout day on Saturday, Harper was walked eight times, twice each game. That would suggest one of two things: good plate patience, or that Harper is being pitched around. In his remaining nine at-bats in those games, Harper struck out five times, which goes against the plate patience theory.
Without seeing Harper play, and just looking at the numbers, I’d venture a guess that he’s being pitched around, and growing impatient, which is leading to one of two results. He either strikes out a majority of the time swinging at bad pitches, or the pitchers miss their spots, and Harper makes them pay, as we saw on Saturday. It’s kind of the Pedro Alvarez in Lynchburg theory. The only question is, will Harper adjust at the higher levels like Alvarez did at AA? I wrote on Saturday that Harper is exceeding my expectations and is looking like the number one player in the draft. However, that’s not saying he’s without flaw, or that he’s much different than most high school and JuCo players. Harper is a long ways from the majors, and far from a guarantee. The strikeout issue is one to watch, because while Harper can get by at the JuCo level with the problem, it’s one that could potentially hold him back in the upper levels against more talented pitchers.
Ranaudo missed his second straight start with his elbow injury. News came out today that Ranaudo will be sidelined for at least one more week. He’s going to have to come back strong to regain his value as the consensus number two player behind Harper.
Colon is really having a disappointing season at the plate, now hitting for a .200/.298/.300 line. In the month of March he is 1-for-16, and that one hit came on Sunday, snapping a four game hitless streak. What’s alarming is that Colon is hitting a lot of ground balls. He’s been getting on base due to fielder’s choices, but he’s hardly showing any type of power at the plate, even something as little as gap power. If the draft were today, I’d say he’d be closer to the Pirates’ second round pick than the first round pick.
Pomeranz had a strong outing against Tulane on Friday, going six innings with one run on six hits. He struck out six and walked two, giving him a 14.8 K/9 ratio and a 7.0 K/BB ratio in 17 innings this season. One cause for concern is his 1.1 HR/9 ratio, which is similar to his career numbers. Pomeranz posted a 1.3 HR/9 ratio his freshman year, and followed that up with an 0.7 HR/9 ratio last year. He’s got great strikeout and walk ratios, but it would be nice to see him cut the homers back.
McGuire is stepping up as one of my favorites for the second overall pick, assuming Harper is selected. McGuire pitched eight shutout innings against Rutgers on Friday, allowing one walk and six hits, while striking out nine. Like Pomeranz, McGuire has a strong 10.2 K/9 ratio, and a very impressive 8.3 K/BB ratio, with a 25:3 K/BB ratio in 22 innings this year. Unlike Pomeranz, McGuire has yet to allow a home run. With Ranaudo missing time, McGuire is making the most of his chance to emerge as one of the top pitchers in the college class.
Brentz has been a hitting machine all year, currently with a nine game hitting streak. His only game without a hit was the first game of the season, in which he went 0-for-2 with 3 walks. Brentz went 10-for-26 (.385) this past week, including 7-for-16 with two homers this weekend against Jacksonville State. Like the other Bryce, Bryce Harper, I have questions about Brentz in regards to the talent level. Yes, he’s hitting for excellent numbers, and I don’t think you can question whether his skills are legit. The question is, how would his skills translate against better competition?
LeVon Washington - Despite the struggles, I’m not ready to close the book on LeVon Washington as a sleeper for the 2nd overall pick, especially if guys like Colon and Ranaudo continue to lose value. Washington went 4-for-9 this weekend, thanks mainly to a 4-for-5 double header on Saturday in which he hit his first homer of the season while going 3-for-3 in game two. Washington is hitting for an unimpressive .295/.404/.432 line this season, which is unimpressive for a first round prospect at the JuCo level. However, taking out the month of February, which includes 21 at-bats, Washington is hitting for a .391/.481/.609 line this year.
Why take out the month of February? It’s because Washington started off strong in his first weekend of the season, then had his hand stepped on and missed the next six games. You could potentially chalk up his struggles in February to the injury, as it would explain how a highly regarded hitter went 4-for-21 in his return. The confirmation will be how Washington follows up this weekend. If he continues hitting like he did on Saturday, it will be a sign that the injury led to the poor stretch, and hopefully that the injury issues are behind him.
James Taillon - Taillon lost a pitcher’s duel against Moody High School senior pitcher Michael Franco. Moody defeated The Woodlands by a score of 2-0, with Taillon going five innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits, with nine strikeouts and no walks. Thanks to the Moody baseball website f
or the box score. Taillon’s counterpart, Franco, pitched a complete game, one hit shutout. Franco struck out 13 batters and walked one. He wasn’t rated in Baseball America’s pre-season top 100 high school prospects, but he might be a guy to keep an eye on for the later rounds.