Today we take a look at a fast riser in the college ranks, along with some notes from the weekend. 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 range of the Pirates. It also focuses in on players who fit the team’s recent draft strategy. On Saturday, we took a look at a recent mock draft and potential picks for the Pirates.
When D1 Baseball released their mid-season rankings of the top 100 college players in the draft, they had Boston College right-handed pitcher Justin Dunn ranked 57th. When you add in high school players to the draft rankings, that would have put Dunn in the 3/4 round range. For that reason, I didn’t plan on writing about Dunn unless the Pirates drafted him.
Things changed this weekend, as Dunn was creating a lot of buzz in his start against a strong Louisville team. As you may know from reading past draft articles, I am a Louisville fan, so I didn’t appreciate what he did. Dunn allowed one run on six hits and a walk in six innings, striking out four batters. Louisville has one of the top players in this draft, outfielder Corey Ray. I haven’t mentioned him here because he’s always ranked somewhere in the top ten and has held that rank since the preseason. Ray went 0-for-4 in this game with three strikeouts.
Dunn was sitting 93-96, touching 97 MPH. Perhaps the most impressive part of that velocity is that he was a reliever three weeks ago, so he wasn’t built up to put in starter innings. In three starts and nine relief appearances, he has a 1.57 ERA, with 30 strikeouts and a .240 BAA in 28.2 innings. Dunn is listed at 6’2″, 184 pounds. He has just 88.1 innings over his three seasons of college, so a jump like this from a fresh arm, might be very intriguing to some teams. If they feel he can be a starter in the majors, he could easily move up to the first round. I’ve included a video of Dunn from this start, located at the bottom of this article.
In that same game as Dunn, Louisville reliever Zack Burdi hit 102 MPH and was sitting 99-100. He’s strictly a reliever, which will likely hold him back, but D1 Baseball had him 22 spots ahead of Dunn in their mid-season rankings. He has usually topped out at 99 MPH this season and 102 is a new high.
Around college ball this week, I’ll start with a couple names that keep coming up in our comment section. Kent State lefty Eric Lauer was ranked 41st overall recently, matching him up to the second pick of the Pirates. There were some nice things being said about his start this weekend against Ohio. He went 6.2 shutout innings, allowing four hits and two walks, striking out six batters. In ten starts this year, he has an 0.81 ERA over 67 innings, with a .158 BAA and 80 strikeouts.
Wake Forest third baseman Will Craig has been one of the top college bats this year. People have mentioned that he doesn’t face the best competition and has piled up stats during the mid-week games, so they want to see what he can do against top pitching. He got that chance against North Carolina this weekend, facing J.B. Bukauskas, who was a top draft prospect going into the 2014 draft, before pulling him name from the draft because he was committed to going to college. The sophomore hurler struck out Craig on three pitches in the first inning. In the fourth, they battled for ten pitches before Bukauskas again won the battle with a strikeout on a 3-2 slider. In their final meeting in the fifth, Craig was disposed of on four pitches, striking out for the third time.
Some other quick recaps from the weekend:
Florida’s Logan Shore threw a complete game shutout against Georgia, giving up two hits and one walk, while striking out six batters. He needed just 101 pitches to complete his masterful performance.
Georgia’s Robert Tyler has been rated near the first pick of the Pirates more than anyone this season. He went 8.1 innings against a very strong Florida team, allowing one run on eight hits and a walk, with nine strikeouts.
The Thursday game in Tennessee had a lot going on, with Vanderbilt’s Justin Sheffield on the mound facing Nick Senzel. They could both possibly go in the first 15 picks, while Vanderbilt outfielder Bryan Reynolds went to the Pirates in a recent mock draft. Sheffield won the battle on this day, keeping Senzel out of the hit column (0-for-4) while throwing eight shutout innings. He gave up three hits, a walk, and had four strikeouts. Reynolds had the big hit in the game, a three-run homer in the first inning, his third home run of the season.
One final note and it’s on prep pitcher Joey Wentz, a 6’5″ lefty out of Kansas, who sits low 90’s with his fastball, mixing it with a curve and a change-up that both show potential. He is rated as the fifth best high school player by Prep Baseball Report. I don’t like mentioning a lot of high school stats because you have no idea about the competition level, unlike college, where you if they are facing another Division I school, you know the level of play is at least decent. That being said, I’ll post this tweet from Nathan Rode of Prep Baseball Report, just so you can see how Wentz has performed this season.
No joke…Wentz starts:
3/22: 4 IP, 0 H, 6 K, 2 BB
3/31: 6 IP, 0 H, 13 K, 0 BB
4/9: 7 IP, 0 H, 16 K, 1 BB
4/19: 6 IP, 0 H, 13 K, 2 BB
— Nathan Rode (@NathanRode) April 22, 2016
Here is the Justin Dunn video from this weekend.
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.
John: Thank you for the Eric Lauer line and now I will give you 2 names you will not see in this year’s draft because they are both Freshman.
Last year in the highest HS Class in Tennessee 2 teams that are next door to one another in Knoxville met for the state championship. Farragut is always one of the best and is a fertile breeding ground for Vanderbilt. Hardin Valley is a new school cut out of Farragut about 6 or 7 years ago. Patrick Raby was the SP for Farragut and Will Neely was the SP for Hardin Valley. HV won in extra innings.
Yesterday in Knoxville, UT beat Vanderbilt (big upset) behind Will Neely who went 6 IP, 6H, 2 ER, 5K/2W. On the other end, but not getting the loss was Patrick Raby who started for Vandy and went 5 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 5K/2W. Unless something unusual happens, both of these kids will be big names in the 2018 Draft – Raby coming from Vandy and already a weekend SP will be in the Top 10.
Why ignore HS players in the write ups? Sure competition might not be the same as college but some of these guys go in the first round, so I am sure the industry knows who the better players are. If any are in the Pirate range I would like to hear about them. I complained about last years draft regarding it as nothing to get excited about but Newman can hit and so can Hayes, so maybe, well probably, I was wrong. Hard to admit when you are wrong but I like the HS kids with potential like Cole Tucker as opposed to the Newman types. Lets see which one of them becomes the starter in the Burg.
I’ve mentioned plenty of HS players, I said I don’t like mentioning specific stats because it tells you nothing about them. Some HS hitters bat .600 and go nowhere, some hit .333 and they are absolute studs. If I mention stats for them, then you’re getting a false sense of what they are doing. High school competition levels are all over the place. If that Wentz kid pitched in some areas of Texas, California or Florida, he may have half the strikeouts, given up ten runs and still pitched exactly the same. Would that make him a worse pitcher? No, but you wouldn’t be as excited as hearing a pitcher threw four no-hitters in four starts
The Pirates drafted a kid named Matt Dermody out of HS in Iowa in 2009 after he put up incredible stats. He’s currently a 25-year-old reliever in High-A, while the kid they drafted in 2010 out of Texas who had so-so stats is now their top pitcher in AAA
Doctors should immediately begin searching for the velo gene in the Burdi family blood line. Zack’s brother Nick, a seconder rounder out of Louisville last year, routinely tops 100mph himself. That’s insane.
Drafting relievers in early rounds has been close to sacrilegious for “smart” teams, but I wonder how much that still holds true. Sure, failed starting prospects always have the fallback of becoming relievers, and the reciprocal cannot be said, but those conversions usually come after 5+ years of development time. With the Pirates about to lose Melancon, and Watson shortly thereafter, I could buy an argument that popping a guy like Burdi in the second or third round and having him contribute in the back end of a bullpen by 2017 makes sense.
Seems like this could be something to at least consider, though I think it’d be more of a thing you pull the trigger on when you have a guy you really really like as opposed to just every few years with a high velo guy.
But Burdi is a guy i’d do it with if he’s there at our 2nd pick. High end velo, paired with a good slider. Each report has things like “fastball command is key”, huh wonder what organization preaches that 24/7.
That was for you and when I heard about it coming up, I said I have to include it in this article. Sorry it didn’t work out better, but it was a good test for him and created quite the buzz among draft followers