Draft Preview: Bryant Continues To Hit Homers

The fourth weekend of the college season is about to get under way. The Pirates have the #9 and #14 picks in the upcoming June amateur draft. Throughout the college/HS season, leading up to the draft, we will cover the interesting players that are being discussed in the Pirates draft range. There will also be daily notes on past picks by the Pirates who went unsigned. For a recap of the third week, check out our article posted here. Our preview of the draft can be read here.

Stanford VS  UNLV

Mark Appel, the Pirates first round pick from last year, will go Friday night for the 10-2 Cardinal, winners of eight straight. He struggled in his opening start against another unsigned pick of the Pirates, Austin Kubitza(7th RD, 2010). Appel bounced back with a strong performance his second time out, allowing one run in a complete game victory, with 11 strikeouts. His third start was even better, a complete game shutout with 14 strikeouts against a ranked team. While Appel isn’t expected to fall to the Pirates again, the Cardinal do have another interesting prospect. Outfielder Austin Wilson has the potential to be a big bat in right field. He has also had some injury problems as of late. He missed time last year with an oblique strain and this season he left his first game with a muscle strain just below his elbow and hasn’t played since. He was listed as day-to-day at first, then we heard late last week he could miss 6-8 weeks. Aaron Fitt from Baseball America has an update on his injury last week, saying he expects Wilson to be back sometime in March, possibly next weekend. He was ranked #9 by BA among college players and with a healthy/strong showing once he comes back, he could be someone the Pirates look at with their second pick in the first round.

North Carolina VS Wake Forest

Third baseman Colin Moran leads the 1st ranked Tar Heels(11-0) into action this weekend as the play on the road against Wake Forest. Moran was ranked fourth overall by Baseball America among all draft-eligible college players. He’s a strong left-handed bat, that could be available when the Pirates pick in the #9 spot. Through 11 games, he is hitting .341, with an .875 OPS. While he has drawn 14 walks and only struck out twice all year, Moran has just one extra base hit, a double. North Carolina also has Kent Emanuel, the 19th round pick of the Pirates in the 2010 draft. Emanuel threw a complete game shutout on the first Friday night of the season, then followed it up with one earned run over seven innings, with eight strikeouts. He matched up against Austin Kubitza in his third start, a battle of Pirates draft picks from 2010. Emanuel allowed just one run over seven innings, with five strikeouts in the no-decision. North Carolina also has home games on Tuesday against Gardner-Webb and Wednesday against High Point.

San Diego hosts the USD Tournament

Another third baseman to watch is Kris Bryant from San Diego. At 6’5″, 215 he is a little bigger than Moran, and Bryant is a right-handed hitter. Besides the hot corner, he has also played some outfield and first base. Bryant has gone on a home run streak as of late, running his season total up to six with homers on Friday, Sunday, two on Tuesday and one on Wednesday. He is hitting .378 through 13 games, with a 1.430 OPS. San Diego will take part in the round-robin USD Tournament against Holy Cross, Saint Louis and Michigan this weekend, playing four games. San Diego also has starting pitcher Dylan Covey, a first round pick of the Brewers in 2010. His stock has dropped a little, though he is still in the 2nd round range right now.

Florida VS Indiana

Pitcher Jonathon Crawford will lead the Gators as they play three games this weekend against Indiana. Crawford pitched 3.2 innings in his opener against Duke, allowing two runs. In week two, Crawford bounced back with 5.1 no-hit innings, but took the loss. He gave up two runs on two walks and two hit batters. Scouts at the game noted that Crawford lost about 3-4 MPH on his fastball(now 89-92) from last year, which is concerning because his delivery isn’t a smooth one. In his last outing, Crawford went six innings, throwing a career-high 103 pitches. He allowed two runs on eight hits, three walks and he hit a batter, while striking out three.

Other Players To Watch

Sean Manaea, a LHP from Indiana State, and Ryne Stanek, a RHP from Arkansas, are rated just below Mark Appel among college players and neither is expected to be around when the Pirates pick. Things could change before the draft though, so early on they remain to be players to watch. Indiana State plays South Dakota State this weekend. They have had their last four games canceled due to weather and Manaea hasn’t pitched since Feb 22nd. On the year, he has allowed one run over ten innings, recording 16 strikeouts. Arkansas plays four games against San Diego State beginning tonight. Baseball Prospect Report posted a video of Stanek as a freshman and broke down his delivery. The report, which can be read here, wasn’t good. For comparison sake, here is a video from Stanek’s start last weekend. Through three starts, he has pitched a total of just 12.2 innings, allowing four earned runs on 11 hits and five walks, while striking out 11 hitters.

On the other side of the coin, are players that are rated just below the Pirates range, but could move up into consideration. They include Bobby Wahl, a RHP from Ole Miss, who will take on Lipscomb tomorrow night. Wahl impressed scouts during his first game, throwing 6.1 scoreless innings and reaching 95 MPH on the radar gun. His second start wasn’t as good due to poor control. He walked six and hit a batter, though he limited the damage by allowing one run in five innings. His stock dropped a little more in his last start, allowing four runs and 12 baserunners over 5.1 innings against Florida International. There is word that he had issues with a finger on his throwing hand, but he hopes they have passed.

Phillip Ervin, an outfielder from Samford, will play three games this weekend against The Citadel on the road and then one game on Tuesday against Jacksonville State University. Ervin collected seven base hits during his first weekend, with three of them being homers. Through 14 games, he is hitting .327, with six homers and 13 RBI’s. D.J. Peterson from New Mexico plays four games this weekend against UC-Riverside at home, then one game on the road against Arizona State on Wednesday. The 3B/1B went 3-for-5, with a double against LaSalle on Tuesday and 3-for-6, with a homer and double yesterday. On the year, Peterson is hitting .395, with 16 RBI’s and a 1.374 OPS in ten games.

Marco Gonzales from Gonzaga has opened some eyes recently, moving up the draft charts. Last Friday, he threw a complete game shutout against 2nd ranked Arkansas, allowing eight hits, no walks and he struck out nine. He is 2-1, 2.45, with 22 strikeouts in 22 innings this season. Gonzales was recently ranked 11th overall among draft-eligible college players by Baseball America. He has an advanced feel for pitching with 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. Gonzales will face the University of Hawaii tomorrow night in Honolulu.

Finally, Aaron Judge, a 6’7″ outfielder from Fresno State has turned some heads recently. Conor Glassey did a feature on him, highlighting his pure hitting ability that could translate to a ton of power in the pros. Judge is hitting a team-leading .370 in 11 games, with two homers and a 1.017 OPS. Fresno State plays four games at California this weekend, starting this afternoon.


High School Notes

A week after hearing that Keith Law and scouts in attendance were down on Oscar Mercado, Nathan Rode from Baseball America has a feature for subscribers on the shortstop from Florida. He also included a video highlight reel. Mercado has the ability to stay at shortstop, but so far his hitting(and effort at times) has been down. Through seven games, he is hitting .278/.458/.389

BA also released their lists of the top 26-50 High School prospects on Tuesday and the top 1-25 list was released today. While the focus should be on the top 1-10 or so for the Pirates first round picks, good HS players can move up the draft board quick. So things can change drastically in the next three months.

A new name was thrown into the draft class just recently. Drew Ward, a HS shortstop from Oklahoma, was able to reclassify, so he will graduate this year instead of 2014. He doesn’t profile as a future shortstop, but he is intriguing due to his strong hitting from the left side and the fact he will be a year younger than most HS players graduating, giving him extra room to grow as a pro.

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