The fourth weekend of the college baseball season has come to a close and we saw some power from one of the top draft-eligible third basemen on Saturday after he had just one extra base hit coming into the game. Mark Appel showed why he will likely go well before the Pirates make their first selection with the 9th overall pick, and then select again with the 14th pick. 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. Two other highly rated offensive players, Phillip Ervin and DJ Peterson, both had huge weekends. 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 12th player to the list below, after Jonathan Gray from Oklahoma really opened up some eyes in his last start.
Starting at the top of the college draft class and working our way down, we will highlight twelve players to watch as the season progresses.
1. Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford – Appel threw a complete game against Fresno State, allowing just one run on three hits, with 11 strikeouts two weeks ago. He did even better the next time out, throwing a complete game shutout, striking out 14 against 22nd ranked Texas at home. This 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- Just like Appel, Manaea likely will be gone well before the Pirates pick. Prior to this weekend, he hadn’t made a start in 15 days as cold and snow canceled his team’s entire weekend series last week. Manaea threw six shutout innings, with ten strikeouts on February 22nd, a day when his fastball was clocked at 98 MPH. This week 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 has 24 strikeouts this year in 16 innings and he has given up just three runs.
3. Ryne Stanek, RHP, Arkansas- Stanek had a tough outing due to some control issues on Friday. Against San Diego, the righty lasted just 4.1 innings, giving up three runs on five hits, five walks and he struck out five. Last weekend 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 two 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 four starts, he has been able to throw just 17 total innings. He was originally a third round pick of the Mariners in 2010.
4. Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina- Moran went 5-for-17, with two homers, seven RBI’s and six walks over the four games played this week. He is hitting .340 over his first 14 games, with a .986 OPS. Coming into play on Saturday, he had just one extra base hit on the season, a double. Moran broke out that night, hitting two homers against Wake Forest, driving in six runs. He has 19 walks on the year and has struck out just twice. His team is 14-0 and ranked first overall.
5. Jonathon Crawford, RHP, Florida- Crawford went 6.1 innings Friday against Indiana. The right-hander took the loss, allowing four runs on nine hits, with one walk and six strikeouts. Last weekend 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. 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 still a good sign.
6. Kris Bryant, 3B, San Diego- Bryant had six games this past week and he hit homers in each of the first four games. He went 9-for-19, with eight walks and ten runs scored. Bryant hit five homers total this past week and drove in nine runs. In 17 games, he is hitting .379, with eight homers, six doubles, 27 runs scored and 21 walks. Bryant has a 1.440 OPS. A versatile defensive player, he started in right field on Sunday and has played first base in the past as well.
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 last start this 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.
8. Phillip Ervin, OF, Samford- Ervin had a big Sunday to end his week, going 3-for-4, with a home runs, a triple, four runs scored, four RBI’s and two walks. On Friday, he went 1-for-1, with three walks. In his first week, Ervin went 7-for-15, with three homers and three walks. He slowed down a little the second week, going 5-for-20, with a homer over his team’s five games(includes a mid-week game). In week three, Ervin went 4-for-10, with two homers and three walks against Purdue. He is hitting .362 this year(third on his team) over 17 games, with seven homers, 17 RBI’s and a team-leading 1.307 OPS. While he will be drafted as a hitter, Ervin has pitched three times in relief this year, striking out seven batters in 3.1 innings.
9. Austin Wilson, OF, Stanford- 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 a week from now.
10. D.J. Peterson, 3B/1B/OF New Mexico- Peterson had an offensive explosion this week. During a Saturday doubleheader, he reached base all six times with a home run and five walks in one game, and he went 5-for-5, with two home runs in the other game. He also had four hits on Friday, including a home run. Last weekend, Peterson went 1-for-8, with his only hit being a three-run homer. New Mexico had their Friday game canceled due to weather, so he played just two games. He had a nice weekend two weeks ago, going 5-for-13, with a double, triple and homer. He is hitting .500, with eight homers, 24 runs scored, 22 RBI’s and a 1.735 OPS , through 14 games.
11. Marco Gonzales, LHP, Gonzaga- Gonzales could be making his way up the charts into the Pirates range. On Friday night, against Hawaii, he 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, 2.10, with 27 strikeouts and just four walks in 30 innings this season. Gonzales also plays 1B/DH and he is hitting .343 this year through ten games, but his future is on the mound. He was recently ranked 11th overall among draft-eligible college players by Baseball America. 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 in his start on Saturday night against UCLA. He threw seven shutout innings, recording eight strikeouts, while working in the 94-100 MPH range all night. According to Aaron Fitt, who was at the game, he was showing a nice slider and changeup combo as well. Gray was considered a late first round pick to start the year, but there is buzz now that he could be moving into the top 10 area. On the year, he is 3-1, 2.03 in 26.2 innings(four starts), with 27 strikeouts and a .187 BAA.
Daily Draft Recaps
Friday Bryant homers, Wahl bounces back, Appel strikes out 15.
Saturday Gray joins the mix, Windle throws a no-hitter
Sunday Judge with a home run, plus updates on four former Pirates draft picks that went unsigned.