Draft Prospect Watch: Keep an Eye on Kentucky’s A.J. Reed

Some draft news and notes, plus the Saturday round-up of the college bats mentioned in the first round.

In his last regular season game, Casey Gillaspie went 2-for-3 with two walks and his 15th homer. The Wichita State first baseman has been mentioned often in the Pirates range, going to them in multiple mock drafts(see below).

Casey Gillaspie hit his 15th homer on Saturday- Photo Credit: Wichita State
Casey Gillaspie hit his 15th homer on Saturday- Photo Credit: Wichita State

In their last regular season game, Virginia lost 4-3 to Wake Forest. Outfielder Derek Fisher was 1-for-5 with a single. First baseman Mike Papi went 1-for-3 with a solo homer, two walks and a stolen base. The homer was his tenth of the season. Designated hitter Nick Howard also homered in five trips to the plate. All three could be drafted in the first round, although Howard will be picked as a reliever.

We didn’t mention Bradley Zimmer in last night’s recap, but the San Francisco outfielder has been moving down the draft board. Most had him in the 8-12 range not long ago, but he has slid a little. It’s still doubtful that he would fall enough for the Pirates to be able to select him. Zimmer went 3-for-5 with a double and triple on Friday against UC Santa Barbara. On Saturday, he went 1-for-4 with a single, as his team got shutout. Zimmer still has two regular season games left.

North Carolina St shortstop Trea Turner finished his season with a 3-for-14 weekend, walking twice, hitting a double and stealing a base. Turner was ranked in the 10-15 range recently, moving up a few spots after slipping early on. It’s doubtful a slow weekend will hurt his stock enough for him to slip to the Pirates. Pittsburgh selected him in the 20th round in 2011 out of high school.

Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost faced North Florida this weekend to wrap up his regular season. He has probably cemented himself as a pick in the 10-15 range, where he is mentioned often. Pentecost went 6-for-13 with a double and RBI over the three game weekend series. One of the North Florida pitchers is Bryan Baker, who was drafted in the 40th round by the Pirates last year. He pitched great on Saturday, throwing three shutout innings in relief. He allowed one hit and retired Pentecost on a fly ball in their only meeting.

One name to watch for is A.J. Reed from Kentucky, who is usually ranked just outside of the first round. He is a power-hitter that will play first base in the pros, plus he is also a strong lefty starter. Reed homered on Friday and Saturday, giving him 23 on the season, the highest total in Division I baseball. On Thursday, he threw eight shutout innings and picked up four hits. That weekend performance could help his draft stock, especially for teams who see him as a strong hitter that could always fall back to pitching if things don’t work out on the offensive side.

News and Notes

One bit of bad news from prep pitcher Scott Blewett, who was getting early mentions in the Pirates range. He is still out with shoulder soreness and hasn’t pitched since May 2nd. According to Blewett, the rest was precautionary and right now he is just strengthening the muscles around the shoulder. He said that he threw a bullpen on Friday and “felt 100% fine” afterwards. His season started late in upstate New York and this lost time won’t give him much of a chance to pitch in front of scouts once he does return. Right now he seems like someone who will be taken between the Pirates first and second round picks.

Jonathan Mayo has an interesting column with updates on a few pitchers of note. He mentions that Kodi Medeiros looked strong in his last start, touching 95 MPH. We posted a video/scouting report of Medeiros recently worth checking out because he is someone mentioned often in the Pirates range. Mayo also has updates on Sean Newcomb and Brandon Finnegan, plus pitcher Luis Ortiz, who has been rated in the 10-15 range, but had questions to answer about his health.

Baseball America has an in-depth article(with video) of prep second baseman Forrest Wall. He was part of our last draft preview, where you can check out a scouting report and view a second video.

Right-handed prep pitcher Cameron Varga has run off an impressive streak recently, striking out 32 consecutive batters. Prior to the streak, Keith Law ranked him #47 on his top 100 draft prospect list. Varga likely won’t move too far up the list, so he will likely not be a first round option, but should be gone before the Pirates select again with the 65th overall pick. Varga has some question marks that hold him back, including a high effort delivery that produces 90-92 MPH velocity and he is just three months shy of his 20th birthday, which is very old for a prep pitcher.

If you missed the three mock drafts over the last couple days from top sources in the industry, they are linked below.

Keith Law

Baseball America

Jonathan Mayo

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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John: Reed has had a great year in the SEC, which I consider the best and most competitive college baseball conference. However, if we are going with a college player in the first round, I still favor 1B Casey Gillaspie of Wichita St. and if he is not available, Nick Burdi, the Closer at Louisville who has 30 Saves the past two years and a K/W of 116/21 in 67 IP, and ERA’s of 0.76 in 2013, and 0.58 so far in 2014. Both only turned 21 in Jan 2014, so not much older than what you might get out of a HS player/pitcher. I know we seem to have 1B solved with Ike Davis and now Andrew Lambo, but Gillaspie is a premium talent with tremendous power potential and an excellent eye at the plate, and I think he is a switchhitter.

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