The eighth weekend of the college baseball season has come to a close, marking the halfway point of the season. It also means there is less than two months until the first day of the draft. Prior to last week, it looked like Jonathon Crawford was working his way out of first round consideration, then he had a great start last Saturday, keeping him on the watch list. This week, he went right back to struggling, which will likely push him out of the first round unless he turns it around quick. For now, he remains on the watch list, but he may be dropped with another poor outing in the next couple weeks. Among college bats, Kris Bryant, Colin Moran and Austin Wilson still seem to be the top three on most lists, but Bryant had a rough week this week and Wilson finally returned to action, so their spots in the draft could be switching. Last week, we added pitcher Braden Shipley and outfielder Aaron Judge to the watch list, while Kevin Ziomek from Vanderbilt gets thrown into the mix this week. This year’s draft will take place from June 6-8 and the Pirates pick #9 and #14 in the first round.
Starting at the top of the college draft class and working our way down, we will highlight seventeen players to watch as the season progresses.
Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford – Appel had early command issues last week, but was able to keep Washington State off the board the entire game. He threw a complete game shutout, allowing four hits, one walk and he hit three batters. This week against USC he had a poor fifth inning, giving up two runs, then tired down the stretch, unable to finish out the game. It was still a strong outing, as he went 8.2 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits and a walk, while recording seven strikeouts. He was sitting 95-97 MPH early and he threw 114 pitches. On the year, he is 5-2, 1.13 and has pitched 55.2 innings, with 71 strikeouts and a .170 BAA. Most recent mock drafts have him going somewhere in the top five this year, along with Sean Manaea, Jonathan Gray and two HS bats, Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier.
Sean Manaea, LHP, Indiana State– Manaea had a big match-up three weeks against Tom Windle, another top-ranked pitcher in this year’s draft class. Manaea won the battle 2-1, throwing a complete game. There was some concern afterwards, when he rolled his ankle covering home plate on the last play of the game. The ankle was obviously okay, as the next Friday, he threw seven shutout innings against Southern Illinois. He allowed three hits, two walks and he struck out eight batters. Last week he wasn’t sharp and took the loss against Missouri State, allowing three runs on seven hits and three walks, while striking out five in 7.1 innings. That led to this week, where he was pushed back a couple days due to a minor hip injury. With the poor outing the previous week and another injury just weeks earlier, his outing on Sunday was going to be watched closely. Manaea ended up throw six shutout innings, allowing five hits, no walks and he struck out nine batters. On the year he is 4-2, 0.99 in seven starts, with 55 strikeouts in 45.1 innings. Manaea has a .178 BAA and has issued 13 walks.
Ryne Stanek, RHP, Arkansas– It seems to be a pattern with his starts this year, flash top-notch stuff, but he’s never able to go deep into games. That changed two weeks ago when he threw a complete game against sixth ranked South Carolina. Stanek allowed three hits, one walk and he struck out seven batters. He was sitting 94-96 MPH early. Last week however, he was back to his normal pattern from this year. He lasted just four innings before being removed due to his pitch count. Stanek only allowed one earned run, but needed 92 pitches to get through those four innings. He had an outing this week that matched the South Carolina game. He went eight shutout innings, giving up four hits, no walks and he struck out five batters. On the year, Stanek is 3-2, 1.90 in eight starts, throwing 42.2 innings, with 38 strikeouts, 16 walks and a .204 BAA.
Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina– He went 2-for-6 this weekend, with six walks and a HBP. One of his hits was a two-run home run against Maryland. He also had a Wednesday game in which he went 3-for-5, with a double. On the year, Moran is hitting .381 in 31 games, with six doubles, seven homers, 40 RBI’s, a 1.123 OPS and 40 runs scored. There are some questions as to whether he can stick at third base in the pros. It seems to be an even split between scouts who think he will be steady/average at the spot, and ones that think he may have to move. So far this year, Moran has made three errors in 71 chances and just one error in his last 21 games. North Carolina has games tomorrow and Wednesday.
Jonathon Crawford, RHP, Florida– Crawford was in danger of falling out of the first round until a terrific start last week halted his slide. He threw a complete game shutout against Ole Miss, giving up just two hits and two walks while striking out eight. He had struggled almost all season up to that point and Florida had moved him to the Saturday starting spot instead of Friday. This week he was moved back to Friday and went five innings against Mississippi State, allowing five runs(two earned) on six hits and five walks, with four strikeouts. He needed 108 pitches to get through five, 62 went for strikes. His record now stands at 1-5, 4.37 in eight starts, with 38 strikeouts in 47.1 innings. With time running out on this season, he will need a very strong finish to get back up into the Pirates range.
Kris Bryant, 3B, San Diego– Bryant had his worst week of the season this week, striking out two times in each of the three weekend games. He went a combined 2-for-11, with two walks and a two-run triple. In 31 games, he is hitting .351, with 14 homers, 35 RBI’s, nine doubles, 41 runs scored and 36 walks. Bryant has a 1.364 OPS and gets on base 52% of the time. A versatile defensive player, besides taking his primary spot at third base, he has also started in right field, center field and first base. Recent reports ranked his third base defense as slightly below average, while he should be able to handle himself in right field.
Bobby Wahl, RHP, Ole Miss– Last week he ran into a little trouble, giving up three runs over 7.1 innings to Florida. This week his trouble was control, though he limited the damage. Going up against Vanderbilt, he went 6.2 innings, giving up one unearned run on five hits and six walks, while recording eight strikeouts. Wahl is 6-0, 1.57 in eight starts, with a .212 BAA and 45 strikeouts in 51.2 innings. His control has been off in a few games, leading to 25 walks so far. He has a nice low-to-mid 90’s fastball and throws an above average slurve.
Phillip Ervin, OF, Samford– Ervin had a doubleheader last Friday, but he left the first game early after being hit by a pitch. He pinch-hit in game two and sat out Saturday’s game. Ervin missed a mid-week game before returning on Friday. The weekend must have seemed like deja vu against Wofford. After a 1-for-4 game on Friday, he was hit by a pitch on both Saturday and Sunday and left each game early for a pinch-runner. Ervin had one hit in each game. He is hitting .374 this year(first on his team) over 30 games, with eight homers, 21 RBI’s, 27 runs scored and a team-leading 1.215 OPS. He is his team’s clean-up hitter and he plays center field. While he will be drafted as a hitter, Ervin has pitched four times in relief this year, striking out eight batters in 4.1 innings. He generates a lot of power from a 5’10” frame and he is athletic enough to remain in center field. Most early rankings have him ranked between 4-6 among all college hitters.
Austin Wilson, OF, Stanford– During his first game, Wilson strained a muscle just below his elbow. It was described as a nagging injury, but minor and he was day-to-day. Wilson ended up missing 22 straight games before finally returning on Friday night. He had two AB’s, walked and struck out, then sat out on Saturday. On Sunday, he played the whole game, going 2-for-4, with two RBI’s. He was rated top ten by nearly everyone coming into this season and he has two months to try to get back to that spot.
D.J. Peterson, 3B/1B/OF New Mexico– Last week, Peterson went 3-for-3, with four runs scored on Thursday, then injured his hamstring and left the game early. It was called a minor injury, but he didn’t play Friday or Saturday. He missed two mid-week games before returning on Friday against Air Force. He went 3-for-4 that night, followed by a 3-for-5 on Saturday, before ending the week quietly, with two walks and an 0-for-3 on Sunday. He is hitting .420, with 12 homers, 38 runs scored, 42 RBI’s and a 1.438 OPS , through 27 games.
Marco Gonzales, LHP, Gonzaga– Gonzales had a tough outing last week against Loyola Marymount, allowing seven runs on nine hits and two walks in six innings. Prior to that he was on a season long hot streak. He was unable to bounce back this week against Portland, partially due to the weather. In a rain shortened three inning game, he gave up three runs on six hits and a walk, while striking out three. Gonzales used 60 pitches to get through those three innings. He is 4-2, 3.00, with a .226 BAA, 49 strikeouts and 13 walks in 54 innings this season. Gonzales also plays 1B/DH and he is hitting a team-leading .356 this year through 87 AB’s, but his future is on the mound. He was ranked 11th overall among draft-eligible college players by Baseball America in their pre-season rankings. He has an advanced feel for pitching, a nice four-pitch mix, topping out at 92 MPH with his fastball. His changeup is rated by some as the best in this entire draft class.
Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma– The 6’4″ RHP hit 100 MPH during his start four weeks ago against UCLA, getting instant attention from everyone following the draft. He threw seven shutout innings, recording eight strikeouts, while working in the 94-98 MPH range all night. According to Aaron Fitt, who was at the game, he was showing a nice slider and changeup combo as well. The next weekend, he did that performance one better against Northwestern State. On the last pitch of the game, his 111th pitch of the night, he hit 100 MPH on the radar gun. Gray struck out 12 batters in his shutout win. Two weeks ago he hit 100 MPH for the third straight start, this time against TCU. Gray went nine innings, allowing one earned run on three hits, one walk and he struck out twelve. He was still hitting 97 MPH in the middle of the ninth inning when he passed the 120 pitch mark. In his start last weekend, Gray continued to improve his draft stock but going the distance against Kansas, allowing one run on two hits and no walks, with 12 strikeouts. This 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 during this last start. Video of the start from Jason Cole can be viewed here. On the year, he is 6-1, 1.19 in 60.1 innings(eight starts), with 71 strikeouts and a .167 BAA.
Ryan Eades, RHP, LSU – Eades got the win over Kansas this week, with one run allowed over 8.2 innings. He gave up just four hits and one walk, while striking out six hitters. Eades gave up 13 baserunners last Saturday night against Missouri, but still managed to throw eight shutout innings. He had decent results in his win over Auburn the previous Saturday night. Eades went 6.2 innings, giving up one run on seven hits and two walks, while striking out four. Three weeks ago, he went seven innings during a 7-3 win over Mississippi State. Eades gave up one run on six hits, two walks and he struck out eight batters. Baseball America ranked him as the 12th best college draft-eligible player in their pre-season rankings, and Keith Law recently ranked the right-hander 15th overall in the entire draft class. In eight starts, Eades is 7-0, 1.30 in 55.1 innings, with 51 strikeouts and a .243 BAA.
Chris Anderson, RHP, Jacksonville – At 6’4″ 225 lbs., he has the build of a workhorse pitcher, and the stats to back it up. Anderson has been rated as high as tenth in this draft class recently. This week against Stetson, he allowed four runs(one earned) over 6.2 innings, with six hits, one walk and five strikeouts. Last week he had a rough outing, allowing eight runs on 11 hits in six innings against Mercer. He did strike out ten without issuing a walk, so there was a small silver lining to the start. The previous weekend against USC Upstate, he threw 8.1 scoreless innings, allowing eight hits, one walk and he struck out ten batters. He is now 5-2, 2.11 in eight starts, with 75 strikeouts and nine walks in 59.2 innings and a .209 BAA. 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.
Braden Shipley, RHP, Nevada – He’s a 6’3″ righty, that opened his college career as a shortstop. Shipley moved to the mound last year and put up impressive numbers(9-4, 2.20 ERA, .212 BAA). On Friday night, he went eight innings against San Diego State, allowing two runs on three hits and three walks, with five strikeouts. Kendall Rogers posted an article about Shipley on Friday. This year he has moved into top ten consideration with his 4-1, 2.30 record in eight starts, with 57 strikeouts in 58.2 innings and a .211 BAA. Shipley has been clocked at 99 MPH this season and he has an above average change-up.
Aaron Judge, OF, Fresno State – Judge is 6’7″, 255 lbs with tons of power, but he hasn’t been able to put it all together yet. He is still a good hitter with a .335 career average, but he should eventually hit for more power. Judge has five homers this year and 11 in his college career, spanning 500 AB’s. He plays defense and moves well for his size, but he is limited to a corner outfield spot, so adding power to his game is imperative. Judge went 3-for-4 off Shipley last week when they met head-to-head. This week he went 3-for-12, with a home run. He is hitting .330 this year, tops on his team and he has a .950 OPS. He also leads his team with 31 strikeouts, which leads to questions about him having the bat quickness to be able to cover his large strike zone.
Kevin Ziomek, LHP, Vanderbilt – Ziomek 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.
Daily Draft Recaps
Friday Stanek’s strong outing, Wilson returns
Saturday Crawford struggles
Sunday Judge homers, Manaea’s shutout performance
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.