Draft Prospect Watch: Pair of Prep Lefties Making Waves

Some mid-week draft news and notes to hold you over until the weekend action picks up. Just a reminder, the Pittsburgh Pirates picked 24th overall in the first round of the 2014 amateur draft, which starts on June 5th. For information on some of the best players in this draft class, check out our four-part draft preview2014-Draft

UC Irvine’s Taylor Sparks played against Aaron Brown and Pepperdine on Tuesday night. Pepperdine took home the victory with a 6-0 win. Brown was 2-for-4 with a triple, RBI and run scored. The former Pirates draft pick has excelled on the mound and at the plate this year. Sparks had a quiet game, going 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. He has been hitting the ball well this year after a slow first two weeks, but the contact/plate patience questions are still there. In 78 at-bats, he has six walks and 25 strikeouts.

Cal State Fullerton took on UNLV on Tuesday and neither of their top players had a day to remember, but they still came away with a 2-1 win. Third baseman Matt Chapman was actually at shortstop for this game. The first time he has started there this year. He went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and an error. J.D. Davis started at first base and he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and an error. He finished the game on the mound, where he struck out the last two batters of the game. Chapman went 2-for-4 with a double, walk and RBI on Sunday against St. Mary’s.

South Carolina had their game against The Citadel on Tuesday postponed. There is talk recently that one of their star players, Joey Pankake, looks like a 2nd/3rd round pick. He plays third base, left field and can fill in at shortstop, so he could be someone the Pirates look at in the 65th or 74th spots. In 17 games this year, he has a .286/.403/.397 slash line. He has four doubles, one homer and nine walks, while striking out six times.

Kennesaw State took on Georgia Tech on Tuesday. Catcher Max Pentecost went 2-for-3 with a walk, RBI double, stolen base and three runs scored. In 24 games, he has a .323/.400/.434 slash line, with eight doubles and one homer.

News and Notes

**Jonathan Mayo has news and notes on high school pitcher Brady Aiken, shortstop Jacob Gatewood and some injury updates. Aiken is one in a long line of prep pitchers that look like first round talent. There will likely be some strong choices dropping out of the first round due to the sheer number of them, which could be good news for the Pirates with their second pick. On Tuesday night, reports were that the lefty Aiken was hitting 95 MPH early. He pitched 4.2 no-hit innings with 12 strikeouts.

**Virginia’s Derek Fisher had successful surgery on his broken hamate. He should return to action in 4-6 weeks.

**Baseball America has the stats from week five for the top college players. They also have notes on Nick Howard, Taylor Sparks and Brandon Finnegan, all players that we have followed closely here.

**Also from BA, news and notes from around the high school ranks. Of note is an upcoming Saturday match-up between first baseman Braxton Davidson and pitcher Alex Destino. Both could end up in the first round.

**Dan Kirby has his weekly recap of ten high school players on the rise. We talked about Tyler Kolek and his amazing early season run, which includes hitting 102 MPH with his fastball.

**Speaking of Kolek, Chris Crawford has an article for insiders about Kolek possibly moving to the top spot in this draft. Also in that link is a story on prep catcher Alex Jackson from Keith Law. Jackson could be the first prep bat off the board in the draft.

**Another name to watch is prep LHP Mac Marshall, who threw five no-hit, no-walk innings in his last start, picking up ten strikeouts. Most early rankings had Marshall in the second round range, but he could move up with a good showing. He hits 94 MPH from the left side and he has two average off-speed pitches, both with plus potential. Big League Futures has a scouting report and video on Marshall worth checking out. I’ve also included a second video below courtesy of Baseball America.

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.

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