It’s Saturday night, so it’s time to cover the best draft-eligible college hitters, though a few of the better college pitchers made their starts tonight as well. Last night we covered the pitchers that made their Friday start and earlier today, we got some bad news on a pitcher that wasn’t able to make his weekend start. Check out Friday’s draft coverage for the pitching results and some important links regarding the draft.
First off, the pitchers that made their start on Saturday and we begin with the name that has been connected to the Pittsburgh Pirates the most often. Sean Newcomb from Hartford has seen a recent surge, so he may no longer be a Pirates option, but going into this weekend, he still had a couple starts left, so they are worth watching. Newcomb faced Lowell on Saturday and went six innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and two walks, with six strikeouts. I’m sure that isn’t the results most were hoping for from the big lefty going up against a smaller baseball school. That could help the Pirates, because recent rankings/mock drafts have had him as high as ninth overall and many placed him in the teens.
LSU’s Aaron Nola went up against Alabama on Saturday and dominated. He threw a complete game shutout, allowing four hits, no walks and he had nine strikeouts. With a couple major pitchers going down to injury(see link above), this start almost assures him of a top ten pick. LSU third baseman Christian Ibarra was selected by the Pirates last year, but decided to return to school for his senior season. He went 0-for-2 with a hit-by-pitch in Nola’s start. Ibarra is hitting .252/.393/.356 in 46 games.
Kyle Freeland also threw a complete game shutout on Saturday, although his was a seven inning game due to the ten run rule. He helped beat Illinois State 12-0 by giving up four singles, no walks and he struck out five batters. Keith Law recently had Freeland ranked 24th overall, right where the Pirates make their first round pick, though it should be mentioned that most sources have him ranked much higher.
On to the college hitters and we start with Kyle Schwarber, who went to the Pirates in Baseball America’s first mock draft. On Friday against Penn State, he went 2-for-4 with a triple, walk and three runs scored. Schwarber was 1-for-3 with his ninth homer of the season and a walk on Saturday. Indiana first baseman Sam Travis is a likely second round pick this year. He was 1-for-4 with a walk, three runs scored and his eighth homer of the season on Friday. On Saturday, he homered again, going 2-for-5 while driving in two runs.
Oregon State’s Michael Conforto was the latest college hitter to be featured in our weekly draft preview. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and run scored on Friday against UCLA. Conforto is hitting .399/.546/.614 in 44 games and leads his teams in runs, doubles, homers, walks, average, OBP and slugging.
First baseman Casey Gillaspie from Wichita State was featured in our first weekly draft preview after he was mentioned as a possible pick for the Pirates. On Friday, he was 1-for-3 with a walk and a solo homer, his 14th home run of the season. On Saturday he was 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. He has a .394 average and a 1.203 OPS in 51 games.
Bradley Zimmer from San Francisco went 1-for-4 with a single and strikeout on Friday night against St Mary’s. On Saturday, he was 1-for-3 with three walks and a stolen base. Zimmer was the top ranked college bat for the last month or so, but some have put Conforto ahead of him, while others think Trea Turner has regained the top spot. Zimmer should still be off the board before the Pirates pick.
Catcher Max Pentecost from Kennesaw State had a big game Friday night against Northern Kentucky, going 3-for-5 with two stolen bases and an RBI. On Saturday, he had a double and two RBIs in five trips to the plate. His recent hot streak has had him closer to the top ten than he is to the Pirates with the 24th pick.
NC State shortstop Trea Turner was mentioned in yesterday’s recap, having a quiet 0-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts in his team’s nine run performance. On Saturday against Wake Forest, he finished the day 1-for-4 with a double, walk and two runs scored. Turner has been bouncing around the first round all season, so a slow month down the stretch could drop him to the Pirates.
Derek Fisher from Virginia is back in the first round after showing he has recovered well from his hamate injury earlier in the season. His weekend against Georgia Tech has started off rough, going 0-for-3 with a walk on Friday. Fisher went 1-for-6 on Saturday, with a single and run scored. The two teams meet again on Sunday.
First baseman Mike Papi and reliever Nick Howard are two more players of interest on Virginia. Both could be selected before the second round is over. Papi was 2-for-4 with two RBIs on Friday, then 1-for-3 on Saturday, drawing three walks. Howard started at DH on Friday and ended up getting the save. He threw a scoreless ninth, striking out two batters. He did not play Saturday. Howard has 16 saves, a 1.11 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 24.1 innings.
Finally, we end with another bad note on the pitching end. Prep pitcher Scott Blewett, who we have talked about often here, missed his last start with shoulder stiffness. Pitching up in New York, he got a late start to his season. Blewett has looked good early on, but missing a start this close to the draft isn’t a good sign for his draft stock. He has been mentioned near the Pirates range all season.