The fifth weekend of the college baseball season has come to a close and we saw a big home run game from the top college hitter and a pitcher brings some major heat on this last pitch of the day. Mark Appel and Stanford had the week off, so the spotlight was on some other pitchers near the top of this class. The two third baseman we are following closely, Kris Bryant from San Diego and Colin Moran from North Carolina, both are getting on base at a high rate and now both are getting extra base hits regularly. The other two players on our watch list haven’t done anything to improve their stock recently. Jonathon Crawford hasn’t been sharp as of late, likely dropping him down the draft charts as new names emerge among college pitchers. Stanford’s Austin Wilson hasn’t played since leaving the first game with a strained muscle near his elbow, but he should be back soon. We have also added a 13th player to the list below, after Ryan Eades was recently ranked 15th overall in this draft class by Keith Law, then went out and pitched well on Saturday. This year’s draft will take place from June 6-8.
Starting at the top of the college draft class and working our way down, we will highlight thirteen players to watch as the season progresses.
1. Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford – Appel and Stanford had off this entire weekend. Going over his previous starts, he threw a complete game against Fresno State, allowing just one run on three hits, with 11 strikeouts three weeks ago. He did even better the next time out, throwing a complete game shutout, striking out 14 against 22nd ranked Texas at home. Last week the overall results weren’t as good as he took a 3-2 loss to UNLV, but just one run was earned and he struck out 15 batters. The loss broke Stanford’s ten game winning streak. In his first start against Rice, Appel struggled a bit, taking the loss against another former Pirates draft pick, Austin Kubitza. On the year, he has pitched 30 innings, giving up four earned runs on 17 hits, six walks and he has 43 strikeouts. The first round pick of the Pirates in 2012, likely won’t see the same drop in the rankings as he did last year if he continues to prove he is the top player available in this year’s draft.
2. Sean Manaea, LHP, Indiana State- He had a big match-up this week against Tom Windle, another top-ranked pitcher in this year’s draft class. Manaea won the battle 2-1, throwing a complete game. The only run scored off him was unearned. He gave up six hits, one walk and had nine strikeouts. The radar readings were a little off earlier reports, sitting in the 92-94 MPH range this time. There was some concern afterwards, when he rolled his ankle covering home plate on the last play of the game. Early reports called it sore and he had ice on it. In his last start, which was against Mercer, he picked up the win, going six innings, with two runs allowed on three hits, two walks and he struck out eight batters. Manaea had a 15 day layoff between starts due to an entire week being wiped out by the weather. In his prior to, he threw six shutout innings, with ten strikeouts and his fastball was clocked at 98 MPH. Manaea has 33 strikeouts this year in 25 innings and he has given up just three earned runs. ESPN had an interesting article on him a few days ago, which can be read here.
3. Ryne Stanek, RHP, Arkansas- It seems to be a pattern with his starts this year, flash top-notch stuff, but he’s never able to go deep into games. Against Ole Miss on Sunday, Stanek went 4.2 innings, allowing three runs on four hits and three walks, striking out four batters. His fastball was clocked at 95 MPH. In his previous start, he had a tough outing due to some control issues. Against San Diego, the righty lasted just 4.1 innings, giving up three runs on five hits, five walks and he struck out five. Two weeks ago against 25th ranked Arizona State, he gave up two runs on five hits, two walks and a hit batter. Stanek threw 85 pitches, 57 for strikes. Reports from the game had him topping out at 96 MPH, with a good slider. He lasted just three innings against Evansville three weeks ago, needing 76 pitches to get through his outing. In his first outing, he pitched well, but lasted just four innings, giving up one run on two hits. Over his five starts, he has been able to throw just 21.2 total innings. He was originally a third round pick of the Mariners in 2010.
4. Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina- Moran went 9-for-20, with two homers, seven RBI’s and two walks over the five games played this week. He is hitting .370 through his first 19 games, with a 1.073 OPS. Through the first ten games of the season, he had just one extra base hit, a double. Moran broke out in game eleven, hitting two homers against Wake Forest, driving in six runs. Since then he has hit two more homers and another double. He had 19 walks and had struck out just twice coming into this weekend, but the BB/K ratio took a hit when he drew just two walks and struck out three times this week. His team is 19-1 and ranked first overall.
5. Jonathon Crawford, RHP, Florida- Crawford remained winless with a loss to Kentucky on Saturday. He was pushed back a day in the rotation and did good early, but had a rough sixth inning, then fell apart in the seventh without recording an out. Crawford went 6.1 innings last Friday against Indiana. The right-hander took the loss, allowing four runs on nine hits, with one walk and six strikeouts. Two weeks against Miami, he threw six innings and a career high 103 pitches. Crawford gave up two runs on eight hits and three walks, striking out three batters. After going just 3.2 innings in his debut, Crawford took the tough-luck loss in his second start, throwing 5.1 no-hit innings. He allowed two runs on two walks and two hit batters. On the year, he is 0-3, 4.95 with 19 strikeouts in 27.1 innings. There were reports two weeks ago that his velocity was off by 3-4 MPH, which is very concerning, because he doesn’t have a clean/smooth delivery. Part of the intrigue with him was the 93-96 MPH velocity he was showing last year. Crawford apparently regained his velocity in his last start, and while the results weren’t good, it is a good sign. Still, his stock seems to be slipping with each start.
6. Kris Bryant, 3B, San Diego- Bryant had just three games this past week, but he hit walk-off homers in two of them. He went 5-for-12, with four homers, five walks and eight RBI’s. In the previous week, Bryant hit five homers and drove in nine runs. In 17 games, he is hitting .386, with 12 homers, 24 RBI’s, six doubles, 33 runs scored and 26 walks. Bryant has a 1.537 OPS and gets on base 55% of the time. A versatile defensive player, besides taking his primary spot at third base, he has also started in right field, center field and first base.
7. Bobby Wahl, RHP, Ole Miss- He had an impressive debut this year, going 6.1 scoreless innings, while hitting 95 MPH on the radar gun. Wahl followed it up with one run over five innings, but he had control issues, allowing six walks and he hit a batter. In his third start, he gave up four runs over 5.1 innings to Florida International. Wahl allowed nine hits and three walks, striking out four. It was said afterwards that he had an issue with one of his fingers on his pitching hand. The problems seems to have subsided, going by the results in his start last Friday. He threw six shutout innings, allowing three hits, no walks and he struck out six. His velocity was reported to be in the 93-94 MPH range early in the start. This weekend, Wahl gave up just one run over seven innings against Arkansas. He was supposed to face Stanek, before the Arkansas righty was moved to Sunday. Wahl was hitting 92 MPH and flashing an above-average slurve, though his control wasn’t at it’s best.
8. Phillip Ervin, OF, Samford- Ervin had a quiet weekend, despite a scoring barrage by his team on Saturday. He went 4-for-12 against Georgia Southern, with a couple walks and a HBP. His team scored 14 runs in a loss Saturday, but Ervin was 0-for-4 that day. He is hitting .378 this year(second on his team) over 21 games, with seven homers, 18 RBI’s and a team-leading 1.257 OPS. He is his team’s clean-up hitter and he plays center field. While he will be drafted as a hitter, Ervin has pitched four times in relief this year, striking out eight batters in 4.1 innings. He generates a lot of power from a 5’10” frame and he is athletic enough to remain in center field.
9. Austin Wilson, OF, Stanford- Stanford was off this week. During his first game, Wilson strained a muscle just below his elbow. It was described as a nagging injury, but minor and he was day-to-day. Wilson has now missed 14 straight games. It was originally said that he could miss 6-8 weeks, which would have put him at a late April return, but Aaron Fitt from Baseball America reported that Wilson could return in as early as this upcoming weekend.
10. D.J. Peterson, 3B/1B/OF New Mexico- He finished off a week that started slow, by belting two homers and driving in eight runs on Sunday during a 12-7 win over UNLV. Peterson had an offensive explosion last weekend as well. During a Saturday doubleheader, he reached base all six times with a home run and five walks in one game, and before that he went 5-for-5, with two home runs in the first game. He also had four hits on Friday, including a home run. In was a big step up from the previous weekend when he went 1-for-8, with his only hit being a three-run homer. New Mexico had their Friday game canceled that week due to weather, so he played just two games. Three weeks ago, he went 5-for-13, with a double, triple and homer. He is hitting .447, with ten homers, 29 runs scored, 30 RBI’s and a 1.556 OPS , through 18 games.
11. Marco Gonzales, LHP, Gonzaga- On Friday night, he threw eight innings against San Francisco, allowing two runs on four hits, one walk and he recorded six strikeouts. Last Friday night, against Hawaii, Gonzales allowed one run over eight innings, giving up four hits, no walks and he struck out five batters. In his previous start, Gonzales threw a complete game shutout against 2nd ranked Arkansas, allowing eight hits, no walks and he struck out nine. He is 3-1, 2.13, with 33 strikeouts and just five walks in 38 innings this season. Gonzales also plays 1B/DH and he is hitting .298 this year through 47 AB’s, but his future is on the mound. He was ranked 11th overall among draft-eligible college players by Baseball America in their pre-season rankings. He has an advanced feel for pitching, 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.
12. Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma- The 6’4″ RHP hit 100 MPH during his start last Saturday night against UCLA. He threw seven shutout innings, recording eight strikeouts, while working in the 94-98 MPH range all night. According to Aaron Fitt, who was at the game, he was showing a nice slider and changeup combo as well. This weekend, he did that performance one better against Northwestern State. On the last pitch of the game, his 111th pitch of the night, he hit 100 MPH on the radar gun. Gray struck out 12 batters in his shutout win. He was considered a late first round pick to start the year, but there is buzz now that he could be moving high into the top 10, going second in one recent poll. On the year, Gray is 4-1, 1.51 in 35.2 innings(five starts), with 39 strikeouts and a .182 BAA.
13. Ryan Eades, RHP, LSU – On Saturday night, he went seven innings during a 7-3 win over Mississippi State. Eades gave up one run on six hits, two walks and he struck out eight batters. Baseball America ranked him as the 12th best college draft-eligible player in their pre-season rankings, and Keith Law recently ranked the right-hander 15th overall in the entire draft class. In five starts, Eades is 4-0, 1.69 in 32 innings, with 36 strikeouts.
One new Prep note to mention. Perfect Game has an article on Trey Ball, the two-way prep star, who could either be a LHP or take the batting route to the majors. Subscribers get the full article but a preview is available in the link.
Daily Draft Recaps
Friday Bryant hits three homers, Meadows/Frazier comparisons
Saturday Gray hits 100 on 111th pitch
Sunday Stanek gets a Sunday start, Moran with a home run, plus updates on former Pirates draft picks that went unsigned.