Draft Prospect Watch: Top Prep Pitcher Struggles With Command in Season Debut

Many of the top pitchers in the country made their start on Saturday, so we will take a look at them today and save the weekend recap of the top hitters for Monday morning. Yesterday, we took a look at the starts from Phil Bickford and Dillon Tate, as well as a big match-up between UCLA’s James Kaprielian and Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer. On Thursday, we posted a mid-week recap, as well as numerous links covering last weekend. The draft begins on June 8th and the Pittsburgh Pirates have the 19th and 32nd overall picks. It was announced last Thursday that the Pirates will have¬†the 11th highest draft bonus pool.

On Saturday afternoon, Duke’s Michael Matuella made his third start of the season. He was on a very limited pitch count in his game last week and he is slowly returning to his normal count. He was facing North Carolina on Saturday, while on a 40 pitch limit. Matuella threw three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and one walk, with no strikeouts. In ten innings this year, he has yet give up a run and he has nine strikeouts.

Louisville’s Kyle Funkhouser really jumped up the draft charts after looking strong early in the year. Baseball America released their top 50 prospects by each class last week and Funkhouser was ranked first among juniors. That ranking will probably take a hit after his start on Saturday against #10 ranked Miami. In 5.1 innings, he allowed five earned runs on eight hits and four walks. Funkhouser struck out two batters and needed 116 pitches to get through his outing.

Louisville third baseman Zach Lucas went 0-for-5 during Funkhouser’s start. The 29th round draft pick of the Pirates last year came into the game with a .200 average in his first 12 games. In game two on Saturday, Lucas raised his average back up to .200 by going 2-for-5 with a home run. The homer was his second of the season and he drove in three runs in the 9-5 loss.

Nathan Kirby and Virginia had their weekend series against Pittsburgh moved due to weather. Playing at a neutral site in Cary, NC, he looked strong on Saturday according to those in attendance. Kirby threw seven innings, allowing one run on seven hits and two walks, while striking out 13 batters. He threw 106 pitches on the day. Kirby has given up two runs over 25.1 innings this year and he has struck out 37 batters.

Houston’s Jake Lemoine faced Texas A&M on Saturday night. He went 6.1 innings, allowing five runs(three earned) on six hits, one walk and one hit batter. He had two strikeouts and threw 94 pitches, 53 for strikes. Lemoine came into the game with a 3.38 ERA and a 2:12 BB/SO ratio in 16 innings this year.

TCU’s Alex Young faced UCLA and went eight strong innings, allowing one run on three hits and a walk. He had nine strikeouts and ten ground ball outs. Young was followed by another potential first round pick, closer Riley Ferrell. He allowed a lead-off single, then retired the next three batters on fly balls for the save. The hit was the first one allowed by Ferrell in six appearances this season. Young has given up just three runs in 21 innings this year.

In high school action, top-ranked lefty Justin Hooper made his season debut on Saturday. He went just two innings, didn’t give up any hits, but had some control issues. Hooper needed 47 pitches in his abbreviated outing. He walked three, struck out three and allowed one run. He has hit 97 MPH in the past, but on Saturday he was throwing low-90’s early and high 80’s near the end. You can read more about Hooper in our prep pitcher draft preview.

We have one link of note for subscribers to ESPN Insider. Keith Law got to see Florida shortstop Richie Martin and he has adjusted his ranking. He believes Martin looks more like a late first round pick, as opposed to someone who will go in the middle. Many scouts believe Martin will stick at shortstop in the pros and Law agrees, but rates him as an average defender. He also says that Martin doesn’t have the swing to hit the ball with authority.

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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R Edwards

I agree on Martin – looks like he may be a good SS, but doesn’t seem to offer much offensively.

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