Friday was the day for most of the best pitchers in the nation to get their work, though two of the biggest names didn’t go until Saturday. Tonight we take a look at the best college hitters and how they fared during the first couple days of the weekend. The 2014 draft begins on June 5th. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the 24th pick in the first round this year. For more information on the top players in this draft class, check out our four-part draft preview.
Oregon State has two possible first round picks in their outfield, Michael Conforto and Dylan Davis. Conforto looks to be a mid-first round pick and Davis could sneak into the first round. On Friday night against Northern Illinois, Conforto had the big game, going 2-for-2 with two walks, a double and three RBIs. Davis went 0-for-4 with a run scored. On Saturday, they played a doubleheader and in game one their teammate Jace Fry threw a no-hitter, walking two and striking out ten batters. Conforto went 0-for-3, while Davis had the big game, going 1-for-2 with a walk and a two run homer, which accounted for all the scoring in the game. In game two, OSU won 12-2 in seven innings, with the game ending due to the ten-run rule. Conforto was 3-for-4 with a triple, a walk, two runs scored and an RBI. Davis was 1-for-3 with a run and a walk.
Cal State Fullerton had a big game against Baylor on Friday night, winning 11-0, but they did it with very little help from their big bats. Third baseman Matt Chapman went 0-for-4 with two walks and a run scored, while first baseman J.D. Davis went 1-for-6 with two strikeouts. On Saturday, neither of them had a hit in a 1-0 loss to Baylor. Chapman was 0-for-2 with a walk and hit-by-pitch, while Davis drew two walks.
San Francisco’s Bradley Zimmer went 0-for-3 with a walk on Friday night against Arkansas. Going into Saturday’s game, he had a .396/.439/.604 line in 12 games, with a team-leading 11 RBIs. Zimmer looks like a mid-first round pick at this time.
Stanford third baseman Alex Blandino had a tough weekend opener against Kansas on Friday, going 0-for-5 with an error and two strikeouts, before leaving for a pinch runner in a game that went 13 innings. On Saturday, he was 1-for-2 with a single, run scored, hit-by-pitch and sacrifice bunt. Blandino is hitting .388 in 14 games, with a 1.015 OPS. He has just three strikeouts in 59 plate appearances.
Catcher Max Pentecost from Kennesaw State has seen his stock slip a little due to underwhelming performances against lesser competition. He does get a lot of mid-first round mention due to the fact he should be able to stick behind the plate in the pros. On Friday night, he went 0-for-3 against Columbia. Things didn’t get any better during the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, while serving as the designated hitter. His team scored 15 runs in the second game, but Pentecost had a relatively quiet game, going 1-for-5 with a walk and run scored.
Indiana with catcher Kyle Schwarber and first baseman Sam Travis, have two of the bigger college power bats in this draft class. Against Jacksonville on Friday, Schwarber went 2-for-4 with a home run, two runs scored, an RBI and a walk. Travis was 3-for-5 with an RBI. On Saturday, Schwarber was 2-for-5 with a double, two runs scored and a walk. Travis went 1-for-3 with two walks, an RBI and two runs scored. He has a .304/.411/.391 in 12 games, while Schwarber has a .340/.431/.620 line and leads the team with eight extra base hits and 13 runs scored.
As for the two big pitchers that didn’t go on Friday. Carlos Rodon and NC State took on Notre Dame on Saturday and he threw a complete game win, allowing three runs on ten hits, one walk and seven strikeouts. Rodon needed 121 pitches to get through the outing. He was sitting low-90’s, topping out at 94 MPH. Trea Turner played both games of the doubleheader for NC State, going 1-for-4 with two runs scored in game one and 1-for-3 with a sacrifice bunt in game two. Turner was drafted by the Pirates in 2011. He could be the first college bat off the board in this year’s draft.
East Carolina’s Jeff Hoffman went up against Marshall on Saturday and had his worst outing of the year. Hoffman lasted just 3.1 innings, allowing three runs on two hits and seven walks. He had six strikeouts and threw 80 pitches before being pulled. Hoffman walked six batters in his first three starts combined.
Jordan Brink from Fresno State was getting a lot of positive press early, but he ran into trouble in a loss against Air Force on Saturday. He went seven innings, allowing six runs(five earned) on ten hits, four walks and six strikeouts. Brink threw 121 pitches, 80 for strikes.
News and Notes
Aaron Fitt from Baseball America tweeted about USC-Upstate pitcher Chad Sobotka and the news wasn’t good. He will miss the rest of the season with a back injury. Baseball America ranked Sobotka 36th among college players in this draft class. He had not yet pitched this season. Last year, he made 26 relief appearances, going 1-5, 3.86 with seven saves and 45 strikeouts in 37.1 innings. He was being converted to the starting role this season.
Finally, some prep news and a couple batters to watch. First baseman Braxton Davidson from Roberson HS(NC) went 3-for-4 in his second game of the season, driving in two runs, scoring three times and he hit a double. The 6’3″, 215 pound lefty has been ranked as a mid-to-late first round pick. He is going to have to really hit this year to be drafted high, because his defense/speed limit him to first base, but he has the power and approach at the plate to make him an impact bat. You can see a video of him below courtesy of Big League Futures.
The other prep bat of note is Jacob Gatewood, who homered in two straight games this weekend, including one tape-measure shot. He ranks as one of the top prep hitters in this draft class and he can play shortstop or third base. Baseball America ranked him third among all HS players in a pre-season poll. Kiley McDaniel wasn’t so high on him in the Fall, ranking him 27th among prep players. Three other rankings had him fourth among HS players, seventh among all players in the draft and a mock draft had him going sixth, so almost everyone has him as a top ten pick.
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.