Yesterday we covered the best college pitchers in this draft class, so we move on to the weekend for the best college hitters tonight. If you missed it from last week, we posted an article on what the Pirates could expect with their first round pick this year.That was followed up by thoughts from GM Neal Huntington on the draft.The 2014 draft begins on June 5th, just under six weeks away. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the 24th pick in the first round this year. They also picked 65th overall in the second round and 74th, which is their competitive balance pick. For more information on the top players in this draft class, check out our four-part draft preview.
Early in the year, we only mentioned the stats for shortstop Trea Turner when covering Carlos Rodon’s starts. The two teammates from NC State were rated as the top college hitter and pitcher a couple months ago, so there wasn’t much chance either would get to the Pirates. Rodon has dropped a little in the rankings, and as was pointed out yesterday, his recent pitch counts have to be a big concern. Turner has also dropped as concerns have been raised over his power, losing a step on the bases and his defense. He is still rated high, but was recently mentioned as low as 19th overall, so he is a possibility for the Pirates, who selected him three years ago out of high school. Turner was 1-for-4 on Friday and 0-for-3 with a walk on Saturday. Through 42 games, he is hitting .293/.385/.457 with 15 stolen bases in 18 attempts.
The top rated college bat now is Bradley Zimmer, an outfielder from San Francisco. He had a quiet opener this week against Portland, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout. During the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday, Zimmer went 1-for-4 with a run scored. In game two, he was 3-for-4 with a triple in his team’s 7-0 win.
Michael Conforto from Oregon State went 2-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI on Friday. He is hitting .414/.557/.594 through 37 games. Conforto has been getting mid-first round talk recently and with strong numbers overall, he is unlikely to fall to the Pirates. His teammate and fellow outfielder, Dylan Davis, could be an option with the Pirates 2nd or 3rd picks. He went 0-for-3 with a stolen base and RBI on Friday and he is hitting .284 with a .781 OPS.
Catcher Kyle Schwarber is another mid-first round pick, who could possibly slip to the Pirates. With his below average defense, he will likely move to a corner spot in the pros. This week against Illinois, he was 1-for-5 with a triple and RBI on Friday. On Saturday, Schwarber went 1-for-4 with a walk. His teammate, first baseman Sam Travis is a possible second round pick, who wasn’t hitting for power early in the year, but has stepped it up. On Friday, Travis went 2-for-3 with a solo homer and two walks. The homer was his sixth of the season. On Saturday, he was 1-for-5 in his team’s 2-1 loss.
Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost is rated about the same as Schwarber, although he will stick at catcher in the pros. Pentecost went 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs on Friday against East Tennessee State. He was 2-for-4 with a solo homer and three runs scored on Saturday. Through 44 games, Pentecost is hitting .395/.455/.595 with 17 doubles, six homers and he is 12-for-13 in stolen base attempts, showing good athleticism for a catcher.
First baseman Casey Gillaspie from Wichita State has moved into first round talks recently, thanks to a strong showing this year. He would probably like to forget Friday’s game against Tulane, when his team lost 5-1 and he went 0-for-5 with a strikeout. On Saturday, he went 1-for-2 with his 12th double and two walks.
Third baseman Alex Blandino and Stanford, started their weekend schedule on Saturday against California. He is projected as a possible late-first round pick, though he could fall into the second round depending on his finish to the season. His team played a Wednesday game against St Mary’s and Blandino went 2-for-4 with two homers and four RBIs. On Saturday, he went 0-for-4 with a walk.
On the pitching side, Sean Newcomb from Hartford made his weekly start on Saturday against Binghamton. He threw six shutout innings, allowing three hits, two walks and he struck out five batters. Newcomb could have went at least another inning, but he left with a commanding 9-0 lead. He had a couple subpar starts early this month, but has otherwise thrown great all year and could go in the 15-20 range.
Derek Fisher from Virginia recently returned from a broken hamate and he has shown surprising power in his first few games back. He was getting mentions early as a possible pick in the 15-25 range, but after missing more than a month, he was dropped out of the first round by many. With a strong showing to end the season, he could work his way back to the same early season range. After facing Luke Weaver on Friday(see link at top), he went up against Florida State on Saturday and had a 1-for-4 night. Virginia first baseman Mike Papi is a likely second round pick at this point. He went 1-for-4 with a single and two strikeouts on Saturday
MLB.com has draft notes on four high school players and the return of Derek Fisher. Of note is a report on Scott Blewett, who has been mentioned all season long in the Pirates range.
If you missed it from Wednesday, we posted links to a draft podcast and chat from Baseball America. Both are definitely worth checking out. Each of them is full of information on some of the top prep players in this draft class.