The sixth weekend of the college baseball season has come to a close and we saw some strong pitching from the college arms near the top of this year’s draft class. After adding LSU’s Ryan Eades last week, when he was ranked 15th overall in this draft class by Keith Law, this week we added another top starter to the mix. While Jonathon Crawford is working his way out of consideration, Chris Anderson from Jacksonville University has been getting some good press recently. Among college bats, Kris Bryant, Colin Moran and the injured Austin Wilson still seem to be the top three of most lists. This year’s draft will take place from June 6-8 and the Pirates pick #9 and #14 in the first round.
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.
Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford – Appel and Stanford had off last weekend so he made this Friday’s start on two weeks rest. Against Utah, he went eight innings, allowing two runs on six hits, one walk and he struck out 11 batters. Appel gave up his first home run of the season in the second inning. Bleacher Report has a live recap of the game here. Going over his previous starts, he threw a complete game against Fresno State, allowing just one run on three hits, with 11 strikeouts four weeks ago. He did even better the next time out, throwing a complete game shutout, striking out 14 against 22nd ranked Texas at home. Two weeks ago 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. 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 38 innings, giving up five earned runs on 23 hits, seven walks and he has 54 strikeouts. Most mock drafts have him going somewhere in the top four this year, along with Sean Manaea and two HS bats, Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier.
Sean Manaea, LHP, Indiana State- Manaea had a big match-up last 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. The ankle was obviously okay, as on Friday, he threw seven shutout innings against Southern Illinois. He allowed three hits, two walks and he struck out eight batters. Manaea threw 100 pitches, 69 went for strikes . In his start weeks ago 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 3-1, 0.84 record in five starts, with 41 strikeouts in 32 innings . ESPN had an interesting article on him a week ago, which can be read here.
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. That changed this week when he threw a complete game against sixth ranked South Carolina. Stanek allowed three hits, one walk and he struck out seven batters. He was sitting 94-96 MPH early. Against Ole Miss last 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. Three 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 four 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 before Saturday, he had thrown just 21.2 total innings.
Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina- He went 7-for-14, with two doubles and four RBI’s this week. North Carolina was rained out yesterday, so they played just three games this entire week. Moran went 9-for-20, with two homers, seven RBI’s and two walks over the five games played last week. On the year, he is hitting .395 in 22 games, with five doubles, four homers, 29 RBI’s and 32 runs scored. There are some questions as to whether he can stick at third base in the pros. It seems to be an even split between scouts who think he will be steady/average at the spot, and ones that think he may have to move. So far this year, Moran has made three errors in 47 chances. His team is 21-1 and ranked first overall.
Jonathon Crawford, RHP, Florida- Crawford remained winless with a loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday. He allowed six runs in six innings, giving up 12 base hits. The only bright side, was no walks and seven strikeouts. Crawford was pushed back a day in the rotation two weeks ago 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 two weeks against Indiana. The right-hander took the loss, allowing four runs on nine hits, with one walk and six strikeouts. Three 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, he 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, Crawford is 0-4, 5.67 with 26 strikeouts in 33.1 innings. In the past he got good results with a delivery that wasn’t smooth, plus showed great velocity, so that kept his stock high. He needs to pickup the pace or he will fall out of the first round at this rate.
Kris Bryant, 3B, San Diego- This week, the marquee match-up in college was Friday night, when Bryant faced off against Marco Gonzales from Gonzaga(see below). It pitted the batter that some have ranked at the top of all college hitters, against a pitcher ranked in the top 5-6 for many. Bryant won the battle with two hits and a walk in four plate appearances. On the week, he went 4-for-11, with a double, triple and three walks. Bryant had just three games last 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 23 games, he is hitting .383, with 12 homers, 27 RBI’s, seven doubles, 35 runs scored and 29 walks. Bryant has a 1.492 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. Recent reports ranked his third base defense as slightly below average, while he should be able to handle himself in right field.
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 two weeks ago. 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. Last weekend, Wahl gave up just one run over seven innings against Arkansas. He was hitting 92 MPH and flashing an above-average slurve, though his control wasn’t at it’s best. This weekend, Wahl was on his game, allowing one run on seven hits in eight innings. He walked none and struck out nine. He is now 6-0, 1.58 in six starts, with 45 strikeouts in 45.2 innings.
Phillip Ervin, OF, Samford- Ervin went 6-for-12, with three walks in three games against Furman this weekend. He also had a mid-week game against Alabama in which he went 0-for-1, with two walks. Last week, he went 4-for-12 against Georgia Southern, with a couple walks and a HBP. He is hitting .391 this year(second on his team) over 25 games, with eight homers, 20 RBI’s, 26 runs scored and a team-leading 1.281 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. Most early rankings have him ranked between 4-6 among all college hitters.
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 would return by this weekend. Wilson never did play, so that second 2-4 week estimate on his return, turned out to be wrong. Still no word on when he will return.
D.J. Peterson, 3B/1B/OF New Mexico- Peterson had a slow week, going 4-for-21, with three walks and a homer over his five games. Last week 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 the week before 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. Four weeks ago, he went 5-for-13, with a double, triple and homer. He is hitting .392, with 11 homers, 32 runs scored, 34 RBI’s and a 1.372 OPS , through 23 games.
Marco Gonzales, LHP, Gonzaga- Going up against Bryant and San Diego, Gonzales allowed one run in seven innings, on five hits and three walks, while striking out nine. Two of the hits and one walk were to Bryant. Last Friday, he threw eight innings against San Francisco, allowing two runs on four hits, one walk and he recorded six strikeouts. Two weeks ago 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 4-1, 2.00, with 42 strikeouts and eight walks in 45 innings this season. Gonzales also plays 1B/DH and he is hitting .350 this year through 60 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.
Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma- The 6’4″ RHP hit 100 MPH during his start two weeks ago against UCLA, getting instant attention from everyone following the draft. 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. The next 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. That led up to this week when he hit 100 MPH for the third straight start, this time against TCU. Gray went nine innings, allowing one earned run on three hits, one walk and he struck out twelve. He was still hitting 97 MPH in the middle of the ninth inning when he passed the 120 pitch mark. Gray was considered a late first round pick to start the year, but in one recent poll, they had him going second. On the year, he is 4-1, 1.41 in 44.2 innings(six starts), with 51 strikeouts and a .168 BAA.
Ryan Eades, RHP, LSU – He had decent results in his win over Auburn Saturday night. Eades went 6.2 innings, giving up one run on seven hits and two walks, while striking out four. Last 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 six starts, Eades is 5-0, 1.63 in 38.1 innings, with 40 strikeouts.
Chris Anderson, RHP, Jacksonville – At 6’4″ 225 lbs., he has the build of a workhorse pitcher, and the stats to back it up. Anderson has been rated as high as tenth in this draft class recently. This weekend against USC Upstate, he threw 8.1 scoreless innings, allowing eight hits, one walk and he struck out ten batters. He is now 4-1, 0.96 in six starts, with 60 strikeouts in 47 innings and a .177 BAA. Baseball America didn’t even have him in their pre-season top 100 draft-eligible college players list, so he has really shot up the draft charts.
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Friday Marquee hitter/pitcher match-ups
Saturday Stanek’s gem
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