It’s the sixth weekend of the college baseball season and like every Saturday night, we will focus on the best college hitters that are draft eligible this year. Yesterday, we took a look at the Friday night college starters. The 2014 draft begins on June 5th. 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.
On Friday, Keith Law posted his list of the top 50 draft eligible players and the highest ranked college bat was in the 12th spot, Bradley Zimmer from San Francisco. On Friday night against BYU, he homered and finished the game 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a stolen base. On Saturday, he was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and a stolen base. He is hitting .427 this season in 21 games, with five homers, 11 stolen bases and a 1.171 OPS.
Catcher Max Pentecost had a huge game on Friday against Lipscomb, which should help his draft ranking. Some scouts and experts have been down on him early because of his results against mostly weak competition. They are worried that he isn’t dominating the competition and his bat might not be as good as most thought going into the season. On Friday, he went 3-for-4 with a home run, double and he drove in six runs. On Saturday, he had a down day, going 1-for-5 with a single. Pentecost is hitting .333/.408/.481 in 26 games, with ten doubles and two homers.
Michael Conforto and Dylan Davis from Oregon State, take on Arizona State this weekend. Neither OSU outfielder picked up a hit on Friday. Conforto had a walk and run scored, while Davis had a walk and RBI. On Saturday, Davis was 2-for-4 with an RBI, while Conforto singled in four at-bats.
Cal State Fullerton with third baseman Matt Chapman and first baseman J.D. Davis, take on Long Beach State this weekend. On Friday, Chapman was 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs. Davis had a double and scored a run. Chapman has been getting first round talk all season. His average is just .259 and with only eight walks and average power numbers, his .791 OPS is below average for a star player in that conference. Davis has a .937 OPS and he also pitches occasionally, while playing multiple positions, including third base and outfield when he isn’t at first base or on the mound.
Hartford starter Sean Newcomb didn’t make his weekly start until Saturday against Binghamton. He went eight shutout innings, giving up four hits and three walks, while striking out seven batters. Newcomb allowed a double, which was amazingly, the first extra-base hit in his five starts. He has allowed just one run in 32.1 innings and it was unearned. Newcomb has gone to the Pirates in a few early mock drafts, but he seems to be moving up the charts for most people.
Miami and Virginia was supposed to be the game to follow on Saturday, but Miami starter Andrew Suarez is going in the Sunday game, so we wait until tomorrow for the big match-up. As for Saturday, outfielder Brandon Downes was back in the lineup for Virginia after sitting out two mid-week games. He went 0-for-4 in his return. Mike Papi could be the first Virginia player off the board if team’s pass on Derek Fisher, who is currently out after surgery on his broken hamate bone. Papi went 0-for-1 with two walks and a hit-by-pitch. First baseman Nick Howard was 1-for-4 and drove in the team’s only run. Second baseman Branden Cogswell is the fifth Virginia player that expects to be off the draft board before the fifth round is over. He was 1-for-4 with a single. Miami outfielder Dale Carey was a Pirates pick in 2010 and is one of the top college seniors this year. He went 1-for-5 with a stolen base.
Indiana squares off against Michigan this weekend. First baseman Sam Travis went 1-for-4 with an RBI in the Friday opener. Indiana’s top hitter is catcher Kyle Schwarber, who got the star treatment on Friday, getting walked four times in five trips to the plate. On Saturday, Schwarber went 1-for-2 with two walks, a run scored and a stolen base. Travis had the same line as the first game, going 1-for-4 with an RBI. Despite being one of the top power hitters in the country, he hasn’t homered in his first 20 games.
Stanford’s Alex Blandino is a third baseman to keep an eye on. He was mentioned early in the year here, but his team just went 12 days without a game, so the news on him has been quiet recently. On Friday against USC, he went 1-for-4 with a single. Through 16 games, he had a .357/.431/.500 slash line, with five doubles and a homer.
Third baseman Taylor Sparks from UC Irvine, went up against Grand Canyon this weekend. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and strikeout on Friday and 2-for-4 with a triple and RBI on Saturday. He is hitting .318 with four doubles, four triples and two homers. Coming into the year, the knock on Sparks was his plate patience and contact skills. In 85 at-bats this year, he has seven walks and 28 strikeouts. The strikeouts are something to worry about, but the seven walks are actually a large improvement over last year when he walked six times all season.
Finally, A.J. Reed from Kentucky is a new name here. The first baseman is 6’4″, 240 pounds, throws and bats from the left side and he is also one of Kentucky’s best pitchers. Reed is 4-1, 2.20 in six starts, but his future is probably at first base, since he doesn’t throw that hard and has picked up just 22 strikeouts. He is hitting .392/.538/.823 in 23 games, with nine homers, 19 walks and 32 RBIs. Reed was ranked 50th by Keith Law among draft eligible players, so he might be a stretch with the first round pick of the Pirates, but possibly he could be a solid second round pick if he slips. Of course, if he keeps putting up solid numbers on offense, he might not be a bad choice when that first pick comes along.
High School Stars Square Off
One high school match-up of note and the news wasn’t good for one of the players. Nathan Rode from Prep Baseball Report attended the game between the teams of first baseman Braxton Davidson and pitcher Alex Destino. Both players are possible late first round picks, with Davidson usually rated higher.
Destino didn’t help his case on Saturday, walking six batters and hitting five others before leaving in the fourth inning. Coming into the game, he had a 1.75 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 16 innings. While his control wasn’t perfect in his first three starts, he had only eight walks and one hit batter prior to Saturday’s game. Davidson reached base all three times against Destino and he also closed on the game on the mound, striking out the side.
Davidson was recently named in a mock draft as the Pirates pick and he is constantly mentioned in their range. So far this season, he has shown the power and bat that would make him an excellent pick in the 24th spot.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
Any more word on Connor Goedert?
No buzz at all with him. I’ll have an update on his stats in tonight’s article