Draft Prospect Watch: Brown Throws Eight Scoreless, Homers Twice

Today we wrap up the sixth weekend of the college baseball season by focusing on a pitcher that has moved up the draft charts and his match-up versus a strong hitting team. We also take a look at the best college relievers and some former Pirates draft picks. On Saturday night, we focused on the best college hitters and the night before we took a look at the Friday night college starters. The 2014 draft begins on June 5th. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the 24th pick in the first round this year. They also picked 65th overall in the second round and 74th, which is their competitive balance pick. For more information on the top players in this draft class, check out our four-part draft preview.  2014-Draft

On Friday, Keith Law posted his list of the top 50 draft eligible players and the highest ranked college pitcher that we had not mentioned yet, was Miami starter Andrew Suarez. On Sunday, he took on a loaded Virginia lineup and allowed two runs on nine hits over 6.2 innings. He had three strikeouts, allowed a home run and didn’t walk anyone. Miami’s Dale Carey, who was picked by the Pirates in 2010, went 1-for-3 with a walk, hit-by-pitch and run scored.

The homer Suarez allowed was to Brandon Downes, who has struggled early this year and didn’t play two mid-week games. Downes went 3-for-5 with an RBI and HBP. Second baseman Branden Cogswell led off and went 4-for-7 with an RBI in the 11 inning contest. First baseman Nick Howard had a 2-for-5 night, with a walk and RBI, plus pitched in the 11th inning. Mike Papi went 1-for-5 with a HBP and run scored. He could be the highest pick this year from Virginia, depending on how the injured Derek Fisher does when he returns from his hamate surgery.

South Carolina’s Grayson Greiner and Joey Pankake didn’t make Law’s top 50 list, but both should be taken within the first three rounds of the draft. Greiner is one of the top college catchers and is putting up the better stats of the two so far. He is hitting .338/.427/.514 in 22 games. Pankake has value as a versatile player, who can be used at five different positions and he has a good bat. He has also been on a strong streak recently, raising his stats to .307/.411/.480 in 75 at-bats. He makes good contact, striking out just six times, while also hitting three homers.

First baseman J.D. Davis from Cal State Fullerton drove in two runs on Saturday night with a double in four at-bats. Third baseman Matt Chapman went 0-for-2, though he reached via walk and hit-by-pitch and scored a run. On Sunday, Chapman had a single and sacrifice fly in his only two at-bats. Davis was 2-for-3 with a triple, walk and he drove in two runs. He has a .973 OPS with nine extra base hits and 17 walks in 21 games.

Stanford third baseman Alex Blandino went 1-for-3 with two walks against USC on Saturday. He went 1-for-4 with a walk and run scored on Sunday. Blandino batted .268 last year, almost 90 points less than this year, but he isn’t showing as much power as he did when he was a sophomore. If he shows a little more pop in his bat, he could project as a late first round pick, but he currently looks like a second rounder.

Another big college starter was moved to the bullpen this weekend. Fresno State’s Jordan Brink joins San Diego State’s Michael Cederoth in the closer role. Both were Friday night starters at the beginning of this season and high ranked among draft prospects. Brink was called on to get the last two outs on Sunday. He allowed one hit, one walk and struck out two batters. Cederoth pitched 2.1 scoreless innings on Saturday for his eighth save. He gave up two hits, walked one and struck out three batters. Both made just one weekend appearance.

The other top college reliever is Louisville’s Nick Burdi, who reaches triple figures often with his fastball. He struck out three batters in his only inning on Saturday. He has thrown eight scoreless innings in eight appearances this year and has struck out 15 batters.

Former Pirates Picks

Pepperdine has two former Pirates in their weekend rotation and one of them is one of the best two-way players in this draft class. Aaron Brown starts in center field when he doesn’t pitch and his bat has been strong this season. On Sunday, he pitched eight shutout innings, with three hits allowed, three walks and seven strikeouts. He was just as good at the plate, hitting two homers and driving in four runs. Jackson McClelland gets the Saturday assignment on the mound. He had an excellent outing this week against Santa Clara, going seven innings, with two runs allowed on six hits and no walks, while striking out six batters.

Brown was 1-for-4 with a triple and RBI during McClelland’s start. He went 0-for-4 on Friday. Brown has a .360 average and .547 slugging percentage, both lead his team. On the mound, he has a 3.93 ERA, with 36 strikeouts in 34.1 innings and a .238 BAA. McClelland has a 4.32 ERA in six starts, with just seven walks allowed in 33.1 innings.

Connor Goedert is still putting up Nintendo numbers for Neosho County Community College. The 2013 draft pick of the Pirates has won three Player of the Week awards this season. He is hitting .491 with a 1.569 OPS, 12 homers and 61 RBIs in 32 games. Last year for Neosho, he hit .326 with 11 homers over the 63 game season.

Vanderbilt’s Walker Buehler was a 2012 pick of the Pirates with a huge asking price, partly due to a strong commitment with major baseball school. In his second season, he is the mid-week starter and this week he struck out a career-high eight batters against Belmont. Buehler allowed one run over six innings, giving up four hits and two walks.

Outfielder Tevin Johnson  was taken by the Pirates in the 31st round last year out of Gulf Coast State College, but decided to return for his sophomore year. After posting a .251/.341/.408 slash line last year in 179 at-bats, he is hitting .309/.369/.521 in 94 at-bats this season. Despite the improvements, he has struck out a team-leading 23 times.

High School Star Sliding To Pirates?

Early in the year, it didn’t seem like prep shortstop Jacob Gatewood would be an option for the Pirates in the first round. Most people had him going much higher, but questions have popped up and that could benefit the Pirates. Some have questions as to whether he could stay at shortstop and while he hits for a ton of power, not everyone is sure he will have the hit tool to go along with the tremendous power.

He had a quiet last game in his team’s 4-0 win on Friday, driving in one run with a sacrifice fly. Gatewood went 3-for-3 with an RBI in his previous game. He has hit some long homers that have scouts drooling, including a 486 foot shot last week, but the questions have dropped his stock. Keith Law had him 19th in his latest ranking. Even if he can’t stick at shortstop long-term, most believe he should be able to handle third base. A corner infielder with plus power would be a valuable piece to add to the organization.

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.

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Saw Aaron Brown play on Sunday. He was locked in a pitcher’s duel with Stephen Wilson of Santa Clara University until he hit his first home run on a line drive to right center. His second homer was a line drive to left center off a different pitcher. He drove another ball almost to the wall but got under it a little – he was not pleased when he returned to the bench. On the mound he threw hard and easy, giving up only a few well hit balls. His pickoff move was very good and he picked off one runner. He also fielded his position very well. I sure wish the Pirates could have signed him.

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