We start this weekend’s coverage by taking a look at some of the top college pitchers in this draft class. The Pittsburgh Pirates own the 22nd and 41st picks this year. The draft begins on June 9th and lasts three days, with the first two rounds selected on day one. You can view our draft preview here, which covers many of the names who fall in the Pirates’ range. It also focuses in on players who fit the recent draft strategy of the Pirates.
Kyle Funkhouser from Louisville got off to a poor start this season, with back-to-back subpar outings. On Friday, he had a strong showing against Princeton, with the biggest key being his improved command. Funkhouser allowed two runs over seven innings, issuing one walk, while picking up 12 strikeouts. He was the 35th overall pick last year, but he decided to return for his senior season.
I didn’t expect to talk about Cole Irvin from Oregon that often this season, mostly because he lasted until the 32nd round last year. He was a pick of the Pirates, who they tried to sign, so he was going to get some mentions during the season. That planned minimal coverage was before he started with 21 strikeouts and two runs allowed over his first 14 innings this season. Irvin is better than your normal 32nd round pick, but an injury and struggles last year, dropped him in the rankings. He continued to look good this Friday versus UC Santa Barbara, with no earned runs over eight innings. He allowed five hits, one walk, and struck out six batters. The lefty Irvin has been hitting 92 mph this year with excellent command.
I mentioned last week that Jordan Sheffield was someone who a lot of people are split on He ranks very high for some, while others think he will end up as a reliever, which would make him a lower pick. The Vanderbilt starter threw seven shutout innings last week, after allowing one run over five innings in his debut. He couldn’t follow up strong this week, giving up three runs(two earned) on nine hits in five innings against Stanford on Thursday. He lost to Tristan Beck, who was covered here last year while he was in high school. Baseball America listed Beck as the second best freshman this year. Since he isn’t draft-eligible, don’t expect to hear much about him until the 2018 draft.
Logan Shore from Florida is ranked a little lower by some, but his early season performance will get him some notice. He followed up nine shutout innings last week, with one hit and no walks over seven shutout innings this week against Dartmouth. He picked up eight strikeouts, which ties his career best.
Kentucky’s Zack Brown is another pitcher who has experts split, with some ranking him right in the Pirates’ range, while others felt he was more of a second round pick. For the first two weeks this year, he was pitching more like a late round pick. Brown turned things around this week with one unearned run over seven innings. The control could use a little work with four walks, but the results were there against Buffalo. He will need more starts like this one to remain as a possible pick for the Pirates at the top. He could be someone who looks better with that 41st overall pick.
Everyone was out to see 6’5″ right-hander Dakota Hudson from Mississippi State on Friday night take on UCLA. In his first two starts this year, he allowed two runs over 11 innings, with 17 strikeouts, though he walked seven batters. I’m sure we will get some reports from this start, as every draft source seems to be covering it live. Hudson’s fastball was hitting 96 mph with some command issues early, so he was relying on his cutter for results. He went seven innings, allowing two runs(one earned) on five hits and three walks, with six strikeouts. Hudson ranks somewhere between the Pirates’ top two picks due to four pitches that rate at least average(FB/cutter rank as plus pitches), with decent command when he is on his game.
Links and Notes
** D1 Baseball has a preview of this week(subscription required), outlining some of the top match-ups to follow over the weekend. One of the ones they mentions is the Oregon series, featuring Cole Irvin and Matt Krook, who will start on Saturday. Krook is a likely first round pick. We will have a recap of his start on Monday. If you have a subscription, also check out their prospect recap from last week.
** We mentioned Nick Banks from Texas A&M last week in our hitter recap. He missed the weekend with a back injury, after hitting .200 the first week of the season. Banks returned to the lineup on Friday, so it’s unlikely the missed time will have any effect on his draft spot. We will recap his entire weekend on Monday.
**The 3rd Man In has an interesting article on Pacific outfielder Gio Brusa. You might remember him from our coverage early last year. Brusa was highly rated by some, while others had him lower due to a high strikeout rate. He ended up starting slow last year, then got injured, then didn’t get drafted until 23rd round. He shunned the Cardinals’ offer so he could return to school for his senior year, where he will try to build back up to his draft status going into last season.
**We usually don’t have any high school news early, unless it’s bad news. That’s because most prep players aren’t playing yet, with a few still more than a month away from their first game. The bad news is that lefty Jesus Luzardo has a UCL injury and an appointment with Dr. Andrews for a second opinion on March 21st. Baseball America rated him as the 13th best high school prospect. so he was definitely someone we would have followed this year. Luzardo has topped out at 97 mph in the past.
**Another big injury of note is Vanderbilt’s Kyle Serrano, who is likely looking at Tommy John surgery. He may be able to avoid the surgery, but he is still out for the year. The right-hander was a high profile player out of high school in 2013, though he dropped in the draft due to the Vanderbilt commit. His ties to the school are strong, since his dad is the head baseball coach there. Serrano came into the year looking like a late second round pick. Now he will most certainly return to school next year.