Draft Prospect Watch: News Around the College and Prep Pitching Ranks

Today we look at some draft names in the news, with less than six weeks until the draft begins. 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.

We start with some links of interest, followed by two injury updates for players who have gone to the Pirates in mock drafts this year. Just a note on this article being all about pitchers. That wasn’t planned ahead of time, but these were just the most interesting links and notes I found over the last few days and only realized afterwards that every player I mentioned is a pitcher.

The first link is from D1 Baseball (subscription required) and is a feature on Justin Dunn’s draft stock soaring. If that sounds like a familiar topic, well that was the focus of our article on Monday. The interesting part of this article is that D1 Baseball had Dunn ranked 57th in this draft class (for college players only) when they did their mid-season updated rankings. Now they believe he is a potential first round pick. The question with Dunn is stamina, though he may have answered that by sitting 94-96 over six innings in his last game. Prior to moving to the starting role three weekends ago, his draft stock was built up on the fact he hit 98 MPH out of the bullpen. Now teams will have to decide if they can develop him as a starter, or spend a high pick on someone they can fast-track in the bullpen.

Also is that link is a report on Louisville’s Kyle Funkhouser, who has really seen his draft stock plummet after returning to school for his senior season. He pitched well last weekend, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Funkhouser was sitting 87-91 with his fastball, and his curve wasn’t as sharp. He has basically gone from a power pitcher during the first half of last year, to more of a finesse pitcher, who has experienced some control issues as well this season. He was the 35th overall pick last year by the Dodgers, but he now seems more like someone who could fall into the third round.

Prep Baseball Report (subscription required) has some new scouting reports on pitchers around the country. Of note is lefty Cameron Beauchamp out of Indiana. He threw a complete game two-hitter, with 15 strikeouts in his last outing. The previous time they saw Beauchamp, he hit 91 MPH once, but was mostly 88-89 with his fastball. In this last game, he hit 92 MPH multiple times, showing good movement on the pitch. His curve also showed some potential with good downward movement and late bite. He is ranked a little lower than the next two names I’ll mention, but a late increase in velocity usually gets a pitcher noticed at draft time.

They also got to see New York lefty Jeff Belge, who is 6’5″, 220 pounds. That’s down 20 pounds from last year, as he put in the work to get into better shape. In his 14 strikeout game last time out, he touched 95 once with his fastball, while displaying an improved curve/slider combo. Prep Baseball had him ranked 60th overall among high school players earlier in the year, but the better conditioning, to go with increased velocity and improvements on both of his breaking balls, will likely move him more than a few spots up the draft charts. A big lefty, who can already touch 95 MPH in high school, is going to get a lot of attention.

The last update of note is on right-handed pitcher Reid Schaller. He is a highly rated pitcher who will probably head to college. He just returned from an injury described as “tricep tenderness and elbow inflammation”. He is also a Vanderbilt commit, which is usually a pricey college to try to buy players away from. Schaller threw 30 pitches in his return, working all fastballs in the 90-93 range. Some team that takes him will be really betting on the upside with the likely cost and injury concerns attached to him. He has been someone Prep Baseball Report has followed since his freshman season.

Now a couple more injury updates of note. California’s Daulton Jefferies still hasn’t returned to action since being listed as day-to-day with a calf strain nearly a month ago. He is throwing on the side now and says that he feels the best he has felt since the injury according to his coach, but he still won’t make a start this weekend. The biggest concern with Jefferies coming into the draft was his size, at 6’0″, 180 pounds, he is undersized for a right-handed pitcher. The issue was also with his durability, and missing at least four weeks won’t help his draft status. He was pitching terrific before the injury and he was ranked in the 20’s by most people who did draft rankings or mock drafts. If Jefferies returns next week, he would have five starts before the draft to show he is healthy and regain that draft status. He may not be ready to throw 100+ pitches his first week back, so there might some limited outings to get him stretched back out.

Prep pitcher Reggie Lawson is done for the season. His coach sent a letter to scouts explaining that he tweaked something in his side and won’t be able to make another start before his season ends. A month ago, we featured Lawson in an article (link includes video) after Scout.com had the Pirates taking him in a mock draft. Here is the write-up from that article on Lawson’s pitching:

“a right-handed prep pitcher out of California. Lawson is 6’4″, 185 pounds and sits low-90’s with his fastball, mixing it with a mid-70’s curve that has some inconsistencies. Sometimes the curve gets a little slower and loopy, while other times it can get to 77 MPH and has a sharp break.”