The ninth weekend of the college season is about to get under way, as most teams reach the midway point in their schedule last week. This weekend we have a match-up between two top pitchers on Saturday, as well as two top batters starting a three game series against each other on Friday. The Pirates have the #9 and #14 picks in the upcoming June amateur draft. Throughout the college/HS season, leading up to the draft, we will cover the interesting players that are being discussed in the Pirates draft range. There will also be daily notes on past picks by the Pirates who went unsigned. For a recap of the eighth week, check out our article posted here. Our preview of the draft can be read here. The draft takes place June 6-8.
Stanford VS Washington
Mark Appel will starts Friday night at home against Washington. As of right now, Appel has been mentioned anywhere in the top four spots in the draft along with two HS hitters, Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier, and Oklahoma pitcher Jonathan Gray. Outfielder Austin Wilson had been out with a muscle strain below his elbow since leaving the first game. He finally returned this past weekend and started twice, playing one full game. On Tuesday, Wilson went 2-for-4, with two runs, a double and a walk. Stanford plays three games against Washington, starting Friday, and they have a Tuesday game against Pacific.
North Carolina VS Virginia Tech
Third baseman Colin Moran leads the 1st ranked Tar Heels(26-2) into action this weekend as they play three games on the road against Virginia Tech starting Friday. Moran played yesterday against Liberty and went 2-for-5, with his eighth homer and four RBI’s. On Tuesday against Elon, he went 3-for-6, with a double and three RBI’s. North Carolina also has Kent Emanuel, the 19th round pick of the Pirates in the 2010 draft, who will likely make his usual Friday night start. Emanuel is a possible late first or second round pick at this point. North Carolina also has home games on Tuesday against Coastal Carolina and Wednesday against Elon.
San Diego VS Pepperdine
Another third baseman to watch is Kris Bryant from San Diego. At 6’5″, 215 he is a little bigger than Moran, and Bryant is a right-handed hitter. He is rated by some as the best college hitter available in this draft. Besides the hot corner, he has also played outfield and first base, though he profiles best defensively in right field. He played Tuesday night against UC Irvine and went 1-for-3, with a walk. He is hitting .351 this year, with 14 homers. That is one more homer than all of his teammates combined and two more than San Diego’s opponents have hit this year. San Diego plays a three game series at home starting Friday against Pepperdine, then they are home Tuesday against UC Santa Barbara. Pepperdine has two pitchers that were drafted by the Pirates, Aaron Brown(who was drafted as an outfielder) and Jackson McClelland, who is a Freshman seeing time out of the bullpen, after being used in a starting role earlier in the year.
Gonzaga VS St Mary’s College
Marco Gonzales from Gonzaga is coming off two straight poor starts, the first coming against Loyola Marymount two weeks ago, then a rain-shortened outing against Portland this past week. Gonzaga will play at home against St Mary’s College on Friday night. Gonzales needs to turn things around quickly to stay in the Pirates range, as many college pitchers have been mentioned in the mid-first round talks recently. He is 4-2, 2.89 in 56 innings, with 51 strikeouts and a .244 BAA.
Florida VS South Carolina
Pitcher Jonathon Crawford will lead the Gators as they play three games this weekend at home against a strong South Carolina team. Last week I wrote that “It looked like he was falling out of first round consideration, but Crawford had a brilliant outing on Saturday. He threw a complete game shutout against Ole Miss, allowing just two hits and two walks. He may have stopped the free-fall, but he still needs to prove it wasn’t just a one shot deal, because he has been very bad at times this year and some scouts don’t like his delivery, which is described as not smooth.” Crawford went out and got hit hard, plus was wild against Mississippi State, so this may be his last week on the watch list, depending on how he fares tonight in the first game of the series against the #8 ranked team in the country.
Ole Miss VS Alabama
Bobby Wahl, a RHP from Ole Miss, is scheduled to pitch Friday night at home against Alabama. Ryne Stanek(mentioned below) threw eight shutout innings against Alabama this past weekend. Wahl pitched well despite control problems last week against Vanderbilt, going up against Kevin Ziomek(see below). He is 6-0, 1.57 in eight starts and his only problem seems to be wildness, which has plagued him in a few starts, limiting his innings in those games.
Indiana State VS Creighton
Sean Manaea, was rated early on by some as the top college pitcher, even ahead of Mark Appel. Recently he has fallen slightly behind both Appel and Jonathan Gray in the rankings. The left-hander has pitched under some adversity this year and he’s done well in spite of it. Manaea pitched seven shutout innings two weeks ago, throwing 100 total pitches. The most impressive part, is that he did that with a sprained ankle. He was injured on the last play of his previous start, when he had to make the tag on a play at the plate. A couple weeks earlier, he had his start pushed back eight days due to poor weather that wiped out an entire week’s schedule. This week he threw six shutout innings against Wichita State, after having his start pushed back two days due to a minor hip injury. Indiana St begins a three game series on Friday night against Creighton at home. No word as of yet when he will make his start.
Arkansas VS LSU
Ryne Stanek and Arkansas will play three games at home against second ranked LSU this weekend, starting on Friday. Arkansas is the #10 ranked team in the country. Stanek threw eight shutout innings on Friday against Alabama. He took on #6 ranked South Carolina three weeks ago and threw a three-hit complete game, allowing just two unearned runs in the 6-2 win. Prior to that start, Stanek had trouble going deep in games this year and the results were just average. He reverted back to his old ways two weeks ago, needing 92 pitches to get through just four innings in a loss to Mississippi State. Baseball Prospect Report posted a video of Stanek as a freshman and broke down his delivery. The report, which can be read here, wasn’t good. For comparison sake, here is a video from Stanek’s start a few weeks ago. He has been in the 94-96 MPH range in each of his last three starts. He will start Saturday’s game against Ryan Eades(see below).
Samford VS Western Carolina
Phillip Ervin, an outfielder from Samford, will play three games on the road against Western Carolina University this weekend, starting on Friday night. Ervin was hit by a pitch during his first game two weekends ago, and after stealing a base and scoring a run, he left the game. He pinch-hit in the next game, but sat out the next two games and then missed a mid-week game. During two games this past weekend, he was hit by a pitch and left the games early. Ervin played yesterday against Troy University and went 1-for-3. He ended up pitching an inning in relief, a role who occasionally fills. On Tuesday against the University of Alabama at Birmingham, he went 1-for-4, with a home run. Through 32 games, he is hitting .368, with nine homers, 22 RBI’s and a 1.204 OPS. He is a small, but athletic center fielder, who generates a lot of power despite his size. Samford also has a Tuesday game at home against Auburn.
New Mexico VS Fresno State
D.J. Peterson from New Mexico will play three games this weekend at home against Aaron Judge and Fresno State, starting Friday. Two weeks ago, he went 3-for-3, with four runs scored in the Thursday game, but injured a hamstring. The injury was called minor, but it still caused him to miss four straight games. He returned last weekend and went 3-for-4 on Friday night, followed by a 3-for-5 on Saturday, before ending the week quietly, with two walks and an 0-for-3 on Sunday. Peterson played a Tuesday doubleheader this week against Arkansas and went 2-for-7, with two walks. He is hitting .412, with 12 homers, 38 runs scored, 43 RBI’s and a 1.396 OPS , through 29 games. He has played both third base and first base this year, but profiles better at first base. New Mexico also has a Wednesday game against New Mexico State on the road.
Fresno State VS New Mexico
Aaron Judge, a 6’7″ outfielder from Fresno State, is rated among the top six college hitters in this draft. He will go head-to-head this weekend against another hitter in that range, as Fresno State takes on DJ Peterson and New Mexico on the road, starting Friday. New Mexico plays in a hitters paradise, where games have an average of 17 runs scored, so Judge should put up some good numbers this weekend. He is hitting a team-leading .330 in 28 games, with five homers, seven doubles and a .950 OPS. His strikeout total, 31 in 112 AB’s, is a little alarming for a polished college hitter and some scouts question whether he has the bat speed to cover his large strike zone, especially against pitchers that can work inside on him. Fresno State also plays at home against CSU Bakersfield on Wednesday.
Oklahoma VS Baylor
Jonathan Gray turned some heads a month ago when he hit 100 MPH during his start against UCLA. He threw seven shutout innings and sat high 90’s all night. Conor Glassey has a writeup on Gray and a few other prospects, where he mentions that Gray’s slider has a chance to be just as good as his fastball. In his next start, he pitched a complete game shutout, throwing 111 pitches, the last of which was clocked at 100 MPH. Then the next week, Gray reached 100 MPH for a third straight start, hitting 97 MPH still in the ninth inning when his pitch count reached 120 pitches. Two weeks ago, he threw a two-hit complete game, recording 12 strikeouts. This past week he was a little off his game, but for anyone else the outing was strong. He went 6.2 innings against Texas, allowing one unearned run on seven hits and two walks, while striking out eight batters. He was topping out at 98 MPH. Gray has had plenty of mention as a top five pick recently, some ranking him as the best in the class. On the year, he is 6-1, 1.19 in 60.1 innings(eight starts), with 71 strikeouts and a .167 BAA. Oklahoma plays three games on the road against Baylor starting Friday.
LSU VS Arkansas
Ryan Eades, a 6’3″ RHP, leads #2 ranked LSU against #10 ranked Arkansas at home this weekend, playing a three game series that starts on Friday. He will go Saturday in a match-up of two top ranked pitchers, facing off against Ryne Stanek. Eades got the win over Kansas this past week, with one run allowed over 8.2 innings. He gave up just four hits and one walk, while striking out six hitters. In a win over Auburn three weeks ago, he went 6.2 innings, giving up one run on seven hits and two walks, while striking out four. He wasn’t sharp the following week against Missouri, but he still managed to throw eight shutout innings despite allowing 13 base runners. Eades has recently moved up into the mid-first round range for a few people, thanks to his strong overall performance this season. Keith Law recently ranked him #15 overall among all draft-eligible players, while BA just ranked him #31 overall in their latest rankings.
Jacksonville VS Kennesaw State
Chris Anderson has recently been added to most watch lists. He has been rated as high as tenth in this draft class in mock drafts. Baseball America didn’t even have him in their pre-season top 100 draft-eligible college players list, so he has really shot up the draft charts. At 6’4″ 225 lbs., he has the build of a workhorse pitcher, and the stats to back it up. This past week against Stetson, he allowed four runs(one earned) over 6.2 innings, with six hits, one walk and five strikeouts. Anderson really struggled in his start two weeks ago against Mercer, but the overall numbers are still very good, especially his BB/K ratio. He is now 5-2, 2.11 in eight starts, with 75 strikeouts and nine walks in 59.2 innings and a .209 BAA. Jacksonville starts a three game series on the road against Kennesaw State on Friday night.
Nevada VS UNLV
Braden Shipley has also got some top ten mentions recently, and for good reason. The 6’3″ righty is 4-1, 2.30 in eight starts, with 57 strikeouts in 58.2 innings. Last Friday night, he went eight innings against San Diego State, allowing two runs on three hits and three walks, with five strikeouts. Last year in 15 starts, he posted a 9-4, 2.20 record. Shipley has been clocked this season at 99 MPH and his change-up is an above average pitch. Nevada will be on the road this weekend against UNLV, playing a three game series that starts on Friday.
Vanderbilt VS Missouri
Kevin Ziomek is a late addition to the watch list, recently getting mention in the mid-first round. He has been making some strong impressions recently with scouts. On Friday night, he faced off against Bobby Wahl and pitched great, allowing one run in 7.1 innings. He gave up just three hits, although his 4/3 BB/K ratio left something to be desired. He throws low-90′s with a nice slider and change-up. At the beginning of the year he was thought of as a late 1st/ early 2nd round pick, but he has moved up from that. Ziomek is 6-1, 1.81 in eight starts, with 65 strikeouts in 59.2 innings. Vanderbilt plays Missouri at home this weekend, starting Friday. They also have Walker Buehler, who was drafted by the Pirates last year, on their pitching staff. He is 2-1, 3.03 in five starts and two relief appearances.
Jim Callis had a prospect/draft chat yesterday with some interesting info about the draft. He rates Appel and Gray as the top two college pitchers, Bryant as the best bat. Callis thinks Austin Wilson will go in the second half of the first round. At one point, he mentions Manaea, Anderson and Shipley as a second tier of college pitchers behind Appel and Gray. Callis has Shipley going in the first half of the first round, Manaea going anywhere from 4-10 and DJ Peterson rated as the third best college bat. All of the chat can be read here.
For subscribers, BA has an article on Prep catcher Nick Ciuffo, who has been getting plenty of first round mentions lately. They also have another article with four rising stars in the HS ranks worth checking out.
Minor League Ball has a scouting report(with video) of Jason Hursh, the 2010 draft pick of the Pirates, who chose to go to Oklahoma State instead. As mentioned in the article, there was some buzz early on that he could go at the back end of the first round, but a recent poor outing, combined with injury history and a lower than average K rate, will probably have him in the 2/3 rounds now.
Jordan Sheffield had Tommy John Surgery today. The Prep pitcher was a possibility for the Pirates with their second pick prior to the injury and now will be out for 12-18 months. He is a Vanderbilt recruit and will likely go to college. It is doubtful any team will risk a high priced pick on him, knowing he won’t be ready until the middle of next season at the earliest.
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.