Draft Prospect Watch: Two Pairs of Dueling Aces Highlight Friday Night

It’s the fifth weekend of the college baseball season and like every Friday night, we will focus on the Friday night starters that are draft eligible this year. This week there were two huge match-ups between top tier aces in this year’s draft class. The 2014 draft begins on June 5th. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the 24th pick in the first round this year.  For more information on the top players in this draft class, check out our four-part draft preview.

Luke Weaver faced NC State on Friday night - Image Credit: Florida State University
Luke Weaver faced NC State on Friday night – Image Credit: Florida State University

Before getting into the Friday night recap, you might want to check out the preview of each game from Jim Callis at MLB.com. Also in his article is a write-up of prep shortstop Michael Chavis, a power bat that could sneak into the first round, although there are questions about his ability to stick at shortstop. He still could be a strong bat at either corner infield position. Chavis had a big day on Friday, hitting two homers.

It’s tough to top a duel between the top pitcher in this year’s draft class, going up against a likely mid-first round pick, but the LSU/Vanderbilt game was the one getting the most press going into Friday. Aaron Nola, with his 53.2 inning streak without allowing an earned run, took on Tyler Beede, who many believe will go in the top ten picks this year and possibly top five.

Nola allowed his first earned run this year, but he really shutdown Vanderbilt on the night. In 6.2 innings, he surrendered one run on six hits and two walks, while striking out twelve hitters. He threw 117 pitches on the night, 71 for strikes. Beede allowed two unearned runs in the eighth inning, in what otherwise was an outstanding game. In 7.1 innings, he gave up three hits, one walk and he struck out seven batters. LSU third baseman Christian Ibarra, who was drafted by the Pirates in 2013, went 1-for-3 on the night.

In Tallahassee, Florida State’s Luke Weaver took on NC State’s Carlos Rodon, who many believe will be the top overall pick this year. Rodon lasted 6.2 innings, allowing two runs on five hits, four walks and he struck out 12 batters. Weaver threw 6.1 innings, allowing one run on seven hits and two walks, with seven strikeouts. Trea Turner, a 2011 pick of the Pirates, went 1-for-4 with a single. His stock has dropped a little with some questions around his bat and defense, though he could still be the first college bat off the board.Turner has 22 hits in 17 games, 21 singles and a double. On Friday, he struck out for just the third time all season.

The Ole Miss-South Carolina game got lost on Friday with the two big games everyone was paying attention to, but Ole Miss pitcher Chris Ellis was taking on the nation’s best team and two decent bats in third baseman Joey Pankake and catcher Grayson Greiner. Pankake left Saturday’s game early last weekend with a hamstring issue and he missed two games since, so this was his return to action. In a recent mock draft, Ellis went to the Pirates with their first round pick. Through his first 27.2 innings coming into Friday, he had not allowed an earned run. That streak ended against South Carolina, as he allowed four runs(three earned) on ten hits and three walks in 5.1 innings. Ellis had just one strikeout. Pankake was 1-for-3 with two walks, while Greiner was 1-for-4 with a walk. Ole Miss won 6-4, handing South Carolina their first loss all year.

Sean Newcomb and Hartford, took on Sacred Heart on Friday afternoon. Newcomb went seven shutout innings, allowing two hits and three walks, while striking out eight batters. In the link above for the mock drafts, one chose Newcomb for the Pirates. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in 24.2 innings this season.

Brandon Finnegan from TCU, took on Dartmouth in the first ever game between the two schools. Dartmouth has fielded a baseball team since 1866, while TCU has had a team since 1896. Finnegan had an easy time, allowing two hits and one walk over seven shutout innings. He had ten strikeouts.

Zech Lemond from Rice is starting to make a name for himself since being moved to the Friday night spot. As the 50th round draft pick of the Pirates in 2011, he will make a huge jump in the draft, possibly to the first round. Against Florida International this week, he allowed two runs on eight hits and two walks, with five strikeouts over eight innings.

East Carolina’s Jeff Hoffman faced Tulane on Friday, trying to bounce back from a very rough start against Marshall last week. Things went better for him, but the results were still below his standards. In 6.1 innings, he gave up six runs(five earned) on seven hits, two walks and he had five strikeouts. Hoffman threw 103 pitches, 70 for strikes.

From Thursday night, Kyle Freeland from Evansville had a decent outing despite some defensive issues from his team. He went six innings, allowing four runs(all unearned) on nine hits and one walk, while striking out nine batters. In four starts, he is 2-1, 2.25 in 24 innings, with two walks allowed and 29 strikeouts.

UNLV’s Erick Fedde had a strong outing against San Jose State, going seven innings with one unearned run on seven hits and two walks, with five strikeouts. He threw just 83 pitches(58 for strikes) and left with a 14-2 lead. In 34 innings, he has allowed six earned runs and has struck out 35 batters.

Jordan Brink from Fresno State, went 5.1 innings against New Mexico, giving up four runs(two earned) on four hits and three walks, with five strikeouts. He also hit a batter. Brink was getting some positive reviews from his first three starts, but neither of his last two starts have lived up to the early praise.

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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