The college baseball season got underway Friday for many of the big schools in the country. From now until the MLB amateur draft on June 5th, we will be covering the players who look like they could be a possible pick for the Pittsburgh Pirates when they make their first selection with the 25th pick overall. We will also keep you up to date throughout the year on former Pirates draft picks that didn’t sign. Earlier this week, we posted a four-part series, covering some potential targets at this point. As the season progresses, some of these names will drop, others will shoot up the charts and many more will perform well enough to move up the charts into the Pirates territory.
Early in the year, our coverage will focus mainly on one particular player each day. Today’s focus is Luke Weaver from Florida State, a right-handed pitcher that went 20th overall in an early mock draft. Weaver’s first start was Friday night at home against Niagara and if it’s any indication of his season, he will be gone well before the Pirates pick. He threw six no-hit innings, retiring 17 of the 19 batters he faced. One batter reached via error and the other was a four pitch walk to the first batter of the game. Weaver struck out seven and was hitting 93 MPH early. He threw a total of 89 pitches, 57 for strikes.
Big League Futures has an excellent write-up of Weaver from late last year in which they believe he may have top of the rotation potential. Baseball America rated him as the fifth best college player in this draft class, while Kiley McDaniel rated him 22nd overall in the entire draft class last August. Weaver throws four pitches, combining a low-90′s fastball, with an advanced slider and change-up, plus he has excellent control and doesn’t mind throwing inside. He throws a curve ball that needs some work, but with three strong pitches and an advanced feel for pitching, he could move fast through the minors. You can view a video of Weaver below from when he pitched for Team USA this last Summer.
There was a surprising upset today as top ranked Virginia lost their opener 8-3 to Kentucky. Virginia has as many as three players that could go in the first two rounds. Left fielder Derek Fisher went 1-for-4 with a walk and run scored. He will likely go in the first round. First baseman Mike Papi also went 1-for-4 with a walk and run scored. Nick Howard was the DH and he went 1-for-4 with a double. The latter two could be possibilities for the Pirates second pick. Howard’s main position is third base.
Aaron Nola from LSU threw six shutout innings against New Orleans. He gave up four hits, didn’t walk anyone, though he did hit three batters, and he struck out six. Nola was hitting 94 MPH early. Right now, he looks like he will go in the top half of the first round. LSU’s third baseman Christian Ibarra went 1-for-4 with a run scored. He was drafted by the Pirates in the 32nd round in 2013, but decided to return to school for his senior season.
Brandon Finnegan from TCU had a huge first game, setting a career high with 13 strikeouts. He went seven shutout innings against Jacksonville, giving up three hits and three walks. Finnegan struck out the side in both the second and third innings. All three hits he allowed were singles.
Erick Fedde from UNLV pitched against Central Michigan Friday night. He went to the Pirates in a very early mock draft, so he is obviously a player we will watch close early in the season. Fedde went 7.1 innings, giving up just one hit, no walks and he struck out 11 batters. He retired the last 17 batters he faced.
Not every college pitcher in the Pirates range had a strong first game. Michael Cederoth got the Opening Day start for San Diego State against San Jose State and allowed five runs(three earned) over 3.2 innings. He gave up three hits and four walks, while picking up six strikeouts. Cederoth has great size and outstanding stuff, so he might end up going in the late first round even if his control problems persist.
Dan Kirby from Through The Fences, posted his top 100 draft picks from this year and he had prep pitcher Scott Blewett ranked 25th overall. Blewett was featured in our draft preview for prep pitchers linked above. His season doesn’t start until April 2nd.