Draft Preview: Top Pitcher And Hitter Square Off
The sixth weekend of the college season is about to get under way. The Pirates have the #9 and #14 picks in the upcoming June amateur draft. Throughout the college/HS season, leading up to the draft, we will cover the interesting players that are being discussed in the Pirates draft range. There will also be daily notes on past picks by the Pirates who went unsigned. For a recap of the fifth week, check out our article posted here. Our preview of the draft can be read here. The draft takes place June 6-8.
Stanford VS Utah
Stanford had off last week. They have three games scheduled this weekend against Utah at home, the start of their conference schedule. Mark Appel, the Pirates first round pick from last year looks to be the best among all draft-eligible college players this year. After struggling in his opening start, Appel bounced back with a strong performance his second time out, allowing one run in a complete game victory, with 11 strikeouts. His third start was even better, a complete game shutout with 14 strikeouts against a ranked team. During his last start, he took a tough luck loss, but still struck out 15 batters. While Appel isn’t expected to fall to the Pirates again, the Cardinal do have another interesting prospect. Outfielder Austin Wilson has the potential to be a big bat in right field. He has also had some injury problems as of late. He missed time last year with an oblique strain and this season he left his first game with a muscle strain just below his elbow and hasn’t played since. There was word two weeks ago that he could be back for this series, so any updates will be posted in tomorrow’s roundup.
North Carolina VS Boston College
Third baseman Colin Moran leads the 1st ranked Tar Heels(19-1) into action this weekend as they play at home against Boston College. The teams will play two games on Saturday and one on Sunday. Moran played Tuesday against Princeton and went 4-for-6, with three singles, a double and two RBI’s. He was ranked fourth overall by Baseball America among all draft-eligible college players. He’s a strong left-handed bat, that could be available when the Pirates pick in the #9 spot. Through 20 games, Moran is hitting .397, with four homers and 27 RBI’s. He has drawn 20 walks and has only struck out six times all year. North Carolina also has Kent Emanuel, the 19th round pick of the Pirates in the 2010 draft. He has a 3-1, 1.41 record in five starts, with two shutouts. Emanuel has struck out 28 batters in 38.1 innings and has held hitters to a .220 batting average. North Carolina also has home games on Tuesday against VCU and Wednesday against Winthrop.
San Diego VS Gonzaga
Another third baseman to watch is Kris Bryant from San Diego. At 6’5″, 215 he is a little bigger than Moran, and Bryant is a right-handed hitter. Besides the hot corner, he has also played some corner outfield and first base. Bryant has gone on a home run streak as of late, running his season total up to 12, which includes a streak of homering in five straight games from March 3-9. He is hitting .386 through 20 games, with a 1.547 OPS and 33 runs scored. San Diego has three games this weekend on the road against Gonzaga, followed by a Monday game at home against UNLV, then back on the road for one day against Cal St Northridge.
Marco Gonzales from Gonzaga got a no-decision in his last start, allowing two runs over eight innings, with six strikeouts. Three weeks ago, he threw a complete game shutout against 2nd ranked(at the time) Arkansas, allowing eight hits, no walks and he struck out nine. He followed that up with four hits and one run over eight innings against Hawaii. He is 3-1, 2.13, with 33 strikeouts in 38 innings this season. Gonzales was recently ranked 11th overall among draft-eligible college players by Baseball America. He has an advanced feel for pitching with a nice four-pitch mix, topping out at 92 MPH with his fastball. His changeup is rated by some as the best in this entire draft class. Bryant and Gonzales will square off on Friday night.
Florida VS Vanderbilt
Pitcher Jonathon Crawford will lead the Gators as they play three games this weekend against Vanderbilt. He had his start last week pushed back to Saturday. Crawford looked good through five innings, then imploded in the sixth and seventh innings, allowing a total of five runs on three hits, four walks, two hit batters and he struck out just two hitters. He is 0-3, 4.94 in 27.1 innings, with 19 strikeouts. He threw 5.1 no-hit innings during his second start, but since then, he has allowed 20 hits and eight walks in 18.1 innings. Crawford had some velocity questions prior to his last start, when it was said that he sat mid-90’s, where he normally throws. While he regained velocity, his stock has dropped due to poor mechanics and recent struggles, plus the early reports of lower velocity didn’t help. He is still expected to go in the first round, though he has been passed by plenty of strong college pitchers recently.
Other Players To Watch
Sean Manaea, a LHP from Indiana State, and Ryne Stanek, a RHP from Arkansas, were rated just below Mark Appel among college players in pre-season polls and neither was expected to be around when the Pirates pick. Things have changed recently for one of the two pitchers. Manaea has held up his stock with strong performances, even during his March 9th start that was delayed eight days due to cold weather and snow. He threw a complete game last Friday, allowing one unearned run, while striking out nine, in the 2-1 win. On the year, he is 2-1, 1.08 in four starts, striking out 33 in 25 innings. Manaea has a .167 BAA and has allowed eight starts.
Arkansas(ranked 17th) plays three games against sixth ranked South Carolina on the road this weekend. Stanek has had trouble going deep in games this year and the results have just been average, dropping his stock. Baseball Prospect Report posted a video of Stanek as a freshman and broke down his delivery. The report, which can be read here, wasn’t good. For comparison sake, here is a video from Stanek’s start two weeks ago. He hit 95 MPH in his last start, and has been 96-97 MPH in prior outings. Through five starts, he is 1-1, 3.32, with 20 strikeouts in 21.2 innings. Stanek has allowed 20 hits and issued 13 walks. He will start Saturday night.
Bobby Wahl, a RHP from Ole Miss, is scheduled to pitch Friday night at home against Texas A&M. Wahl impressed scouts during his first game, throwing 6.1 scoreless innings and reaching 95 MPH on the radar gun. He had some struggles in his next two starts, due in part to a finger injury on his pitching hand. Two weeks ago, with the injury cleared up, Wahl threw six shutout innings, allowing no walks and three hits. His velocity was consistently 93-94 MPH. He went seven strong innings last Friday, allowing just one run to Arkansas. Wahl was throwing 92 MPH, flashing an above average slurve.
Phillip Ervin, an outfielder from Samford, will play three games on the road against Furman this weekend, two on Friday night and one on Saturday. This Tuesday against Alabama, he went 0-for-1, with two walks. Through 22 games, he is hitting .378, with seven homers, 18 RBI’s and a 1.252 OPS. He is a mid-first round pick that the Pirates could possibly consider with their #14 pick. D.J. Peterson from New Mexico plays three games this weekend at home against Nevada. He finished last week with a huge game, hitting two homers and driving in eight runs on Sunday. Peterson played a doubleheader on Tuesday against Missouri State, going 1-for-5, with a home run and a walk in the opener. The 3B/1B went 0-for-4, with an RBI in game two. On the year, Peterson is hitting .412, with 11 homers, 30 runs scored, 22 RBI’s and a 1.463 OPS , through 20 games.
Aaron Judge, a 6’7″ outfielder from Fresno State has got some good press recently. Conor Glassey did a feature on him, highlighting his pure hitting ability that could translate to a ton of power in the pros. Judge is hitting a team-leading .297 in 19 games, with three homers and an .888 OPS. His strikeout total, 22 in 74 AB’s is a little alarming and some scouts question whether he has the bat speed to cover his large strike zone, especially against pitchers that can work inside on him. Fresno State plays three games on the road against Air Force this weekend, followed by a Tuesday game against Sacramento St.
Jonathan Gray from Oklahoma turned some heads two weeks ago when he hit 100 MPH during his start against UCLA. He threw seven shutout innings and sat high 90’s all night. Conor Glassey has a writeup on Gray and a few other prospects, where he mentions that Gray’s slider has a chance to be just as good as his fastball. In his start last week, he pitched a complete game shutout, throwing 111 pitches, the last of which was clocked at 100 MPH. Gray has had plenty of mention as a top ten pick recently. He has a game against TCU at home this weekend.
Ryan Eades, a 6’3″ RHP from LSU will face-off against Auburn at home this weekend. He has recently moved up into the mid-first round range for a few people, thanks to his strong performance this season. He has a 4-0, 1.69 record in five starts, with seven walks and 36 strikeouts in 32 innings.
Jim Callis had a chat yesterday filled with draft info. Many of the players we follow were mention. A recap of the important notes are below, while the full link can be read here.
Kris Bryant was called a below average third baseman, but his defense in right field will be average. The fact he can play both spots, as well as first base still gives him a ton of value, even if he is weak defensively at a premium position.
Callis called Colin Moran the best pure hitter in the draft and predicted that he could stay at third base in the majors.
He still considers Oscar Mercado a first round pick, even though his bat hasn’t come around like most hoped. He has the ability to stay at shortstop and that should keep him high on most draft charts.
A prep LHP named Matt Krook has shot into the Pirates range with that #14 pick. Callis says he throws low 90’s and spins a tight curveball.
He thinks Ryne Stanek has dropped into the second half of the first round. To quote Callis on Stanek’s early season struggles, ” His stuff has been down a little and his command has been off”
Callis thinks the top two prep bats, Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier, will both be selected ahead of any college bats.
Judging by everything he said and what I’ve seen recently from others, I am led to believe that right now the top four looks Appel, Manaea, Frazier and Meadows, while the fifth spot is wide open.