Friday night is when most of the top college pitchers make their weekly start, so we concentrate on that group today. Due to the holiday this weekend, many of these pitchers got their start on Thursday night. If you missed it from yesterday, we posted an article on what the Pirates could expect with their first round pick this year. The 2014 draft begins on June 5th, just under seven weeks away. 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.
Some of the best action in college baseball this week started on Thursday night, including a match-up between LSU’s Aaron Nola and Chris Ellis from Ole Miss. Nola should go in the top ten this year, while Ellis seems to be a second round talent, although he did get first round mention early in the season. Nola went 7.2 innings, allowing two runs on eight hits and two walks. He struck out seven batters and threw 121 pitches, 82 for strikes. Ellis threw eight innings, giving up two runs(one earned) on eight hits and two walks, with six strikeouts. He threw 123 pitches, 77 for strikes. LSU third baseman Christian Ibarra was drafted by the Pirates last year, but decided to return to school for his senior year. He went 1-for-4 with a walk in this game.
It looks like East Carolina’s Jeff Hoffman has put a stop to his slow slide down the draft charts. He was not sharp early on this year, but his start on Thursday was as good as they get. In eight shutout innings against Middle Tennessee, he gave up three hits, one walk and struck out a career-high 16 batters. He is almost assured of being a top ten pick now.
Brandon Finnegan from TCU pitched a gem on Thursday against Texas. He went eight shutout innings, giving up four hits and one walk, while striking out 11 batters.He threw 116 pitches en route to his seventh victory. Finnegan has a 1.56 ERA over 69.1 innings, with 95 strikeouts and a .193 BAA. He will likely go somewhere in the 10-15 range in the first round.
Erick Fedde and UNLV took on Air Force on Thursday. He had a tough outing, due partly to defensive issues behind him. Fedde went six innings, allowing seven runs(two earned) on eight hits and one walk, while striking out six batters. On the season, he has a 1.80 ERA over 70 innings, with 75 strikeouts and a .196 BAA. Some rankings have Fedde in the top ten, while others have him just outside of it.
Matt Imhof from Cal Poly, took on Cal State Fullerton, with third baseman Matt Chapman and outfielder/first baseman J.D. Davis. It was a match-up between a possible first round pick on the mound and two of the top college hitters, with Chapman being a likely mid-first round pick. Imhof won the battle, going 6.1 scoreless innings. He allowed two hits, four walks and struck out nine batters. Chapman went 1-for-4 with a single, while Davis was 0-for-3 with a walk.
Luke Weaver and Florida State went on the road to take on Wake Forest on Friday. He has dropped down in the ranking for many, but his start this week may halt that fall. He pitched a complete game, giving up one run on three hits, one walk and he struck out seven batters.
Carlos Rodon and NC State hosted Boston College on Friday. He had a solid start, giving up one run on six hits, three walks and a hit batter. Rodon went eight innings, threw 115 pitches and struck out seven batters. NC State shortstop Trea Turner went 1-for-4 with a walk and run scored. He is not only a former Pirates draft pick, but also one of the best college bats in this draft and will probably go in the 10-15 range.
Sean Newcomb from Hartford will make his start on Saturday against Albany. Along with Luke Weaver, he has been mentioned as one of the most likely college pitchers right now that the Pirates could select with their first round pick. That could change if Newcomb doesn’t turn things around, because his last two starts haven’t been great.
Vanderbilt’s Tyler Beede went on the road to face Arkansas on Friday and had a tough night. In seven innings, he allowed six earned runs on ten hits and a walk. He had six strikeouts. Beede will probably go fairly high, possibly top ten, even with a bad start this late.
Kyle Freeland from Evansville, took on Dallas Baptist on Friday. He came into the game with back-to-back 15 strikeout performances. Freeland couldn’t match that total, but still pitched well. He had 12 strikeouts in seven innings, giving up two runs on seven hits and no walks.
If you missed it from Tuesday, we posted some new draft rankings that had pitcher Kyle Freeland ranked 24th overall. The link has a video of Freeland, plus plenty of notes on high school players.
Prep righty Scott Blewett threw shutout ball on Friday night, picking up 13 strikeouts in his third start. Coming from upstate New York, his season got a late start and the early reports on his velocity were a little lower than normal. Blewett seems to be back on track, as he was hitting 95 MPH and sitting low 90’s on Friday.
Dan Kirby from Through The Fences has his weekly list of ten high school players on the rise. Many familiar names on this list and a few of them have been mentioned as possible targets for the Pirates.
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.