Draft Prospect Watch: Top Hitters Face Top Pitchers

The sixth weekend of college baseball started today. There was a marquee match-up tonight on the West Coast, as one of the best college hitters took on one of the best pitchers. There was another hitter/pitcher duel almost as big in New Mexico. The schedule for the top college players this weekend can be found here. Check out the draft preview posted here and the recap of the fifth week’s action here. Just a reminder, the Pirates pick #9 and #14 in this year’s June amateur draft, so for the duration of the college season, leading up to draft day, we are following the players closely that are ranked in that range. This year’s draft will be held June 6-8. 2013 draft

The big match-up tonight in college had San Diego’s Kris Bryant, who some consider the best college bat in the draft, take on left-hander Marco Gonzales from Gonzaga, one of the top college pitchers in the country. Their first head-to-head meeting between the two this year, ended with a first inning walk. Bryant singled to left field to lead off the third inning, then stole second base. The match-up was all Bryant to start the night, as he reached for a third time in a row in the fifth, this time with a single up the middle. Gonzales finally retired him on a fly out in the seventh inning. Gonzales ended the night with one run allowed over seven innings, giving up five hits and three walks, plus a hit batter. He recorded nine strikeouts. Bryant walked during his final plate appearance in the ninth inning.

There was an impressive undercard to the Bryant-Gonzales duel. Pitcher Braden Shipley of Nevada, who some rank just as high as Gonzales, took on DJ Peterson from New Mexico, who is one of the better hitters in this draft. Shipley was 3-0, 2.52, with 41 strikeouts in 35.2 innings, coming into the game. Peterson had 11 homers and a 1.463 OPS through 20 games, prior to tonight’s game. Shipley went seven innings, holding New Mexico to just three runs at home, two of the runs were earned. The Lobos were averaging just over 10 runs per game at home coming into this game. Shipley gave up five hits, walked two and struck out three. Peterson went 0-for-3 against Shipley, lining out to center field during his first AB, followed by a double play grounder and a fly out to CF. In the eighth inning, Peterson singled off a reliever.

Mark Appel had been nearly unhittable recently, but he wasn’t as sharp tonight early against Utah, his first conference opponent this season. Appel still got the job done, and got better as the night went on. He finished his outing by striking out the side in the eighth. Appel’s final line was two runs over eight innings, with six hits allowed, one walk and 11 strikeouts. He allowed his first home run of the season in the second inning. Austin Wilson was not in the lineup. There was early word that he could return for this series, but he has obviously not progressed as quickly as they hoped.

Sean Manaea from Indiana State was strong on the mound today. He threw seven shutout innings against Southern Illinois, allowing three hits, two walks and he struck out eight batters. Manaea threw 100 pitches, 69 went for strikes. He is now 3-1, 0.84 in five starts, with 41 strikeouts in 32 innings.

Jonathan Gray from Oklahoma has another big outing, as his team needed extra innings to win 3-2 over TCU. Gray went nine innings, allowing one earned run on three hits, one walk and he struck out twelve. For the third game in a row, Gray was topping out at 100 MPH, and he was still hitting 97 MPH in the middle of the ninth inning when he passed the 120 pitch mark.

Bobby Wahl from Ole Miss, took on Texas A&M tonight. The right-hander allowed one earned run over eight innings, allowing seven hits. He walked none and recorded nine strikeouts, leading his team to an 8-2 win. He is now 6-0, 1.58 in six starts, with 45 strikeouts in 45.2 innings.

The Pirates drafted Jason Hursh in the sixth round in 2010, but they were unable to sign him away from Oklahoma State. The right-hander seems to have made the right decision, as he now looks like he could go in the first round this year. Hursh threw eight shutout innings tonight, giving up five hits, one walk and he struck out eight batters. He threw 113 pitches and had a 13/3 GO/AO ratio on the night. He missed all of last year due to Tommy John surgery.

High School Notes

Nathan Rode has a recap of a head-to-head match-up between two of the best Prep left-handers in the country.  Yesterday, Stephen Gonsalves, ranked #13 among all HS players in this year’s draft, took on the 14th ranked Ian Clarkin. Both pitchers are from San Diego. Rode had Gonsalves throwing 89-90 MPH, while Clarkin was a couple MPH more all night. A full recap can be read here.

Keith Law has notes for subscribers on two of the top Prep players he scouted in the last week. Jonathan Denney is rated by most as the top catcher in the draft, while Dominic Smith has the bat to go in the top ten in the draft. Smith also hits 92 MPH on the mound, but his future is at first base. Law believes Denney can stick behind the plate, though he is raw.

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John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.

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