Friday night is when we check on the best draft-eligible college starters, although five of the bigger names didn’t make their start today for various reasons listed below. The draft takes place just under five weeks from today. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the 24th overall pick in the first round. Below, you will find some of the more important links concerning the Pirates draft and who they might take.
Starting with the news of the two pitchers who were injured last weekend. Jeff Hoffman from East Carolina missed his start last week and won’t pitch this weekend either due to mid arm soreness. Brandon Finnegan from TCU was pulled early from his last start with mild shoulder soreness. He is tentatively scheduled to pitch Sunday. Both may need to prove their health to maintain their high draft status.
Sean Newcomb and Hartford play a doubleheader on Saturday against the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. Newcomb has been mention often in the Pirates range and he is highlighted in a few of the links above. Another top pitcher, Erick Fedde from UNLV, is being rested this weekend. His coach assured that nothing was wrong with the pitcher and he will make his start next week.
On to the few pitchers that are going tonight, starting with the potential top choice among college pitchers. Carlos Rodon took on Coastal Carolina on Friday. He dominated, going 6.2 scoreless innings, allowing five hits, two walks, he hit a batter and recorded eight strikeouts. Rodon threw 107 pitches, a low total compared to the 127.5 he has averaged over his last four starts. His NC State teammate Trea Turner is a former Pirates draft pick and could be falling into their first round range according to some sources. He had an interesting stat line on Friday, going 1-for-3 with two walks, a stolen base and five runs scored. Turner has been rated as low as 19th recently.
Evansville’s Kyle Freeland took on Southern Illinois this weekend. He had a strong outing, but couldn’t hold a 2-1 lead in the ninth. He got a no-decision, going nine innings and allowing two runs on 11 hits and a walk, while striking out nine batters. Ten of the hits he allowed were singles. Freeland threw 116 pitches. He is rated fairly high and should go somewhere in the top ten.
Aaron Nola and LSU faced Texas A&M on Friday. He threw shutout ball through eight innings, but he stayed in one inning too many. In the ninth, Nola got one out before being pulled. He allowed two walks and a single, leaving with a 4-1 lead. He ended up with three runs allowed on four hits and three walks. Nola threw 113 pitches, 73 for strikes. LSU third baseman Christian Ibarra was drafted by the Pirates last year, but decided to return for his senior season. He went 0-for-4 on Friday. Ibarra came into the game with a .269/.413/.387 slash line in 42 games.
Tyler Beede and Vanderbilt went on the road to face Missouri this weekend. He didn’t look sharp in this outing, allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks over five innings. Beede had seven strikeouts. He is still projected to go in the top ten and this start probably won’t hurt him too much, if at all.
Florida State hosts Minnesota this weekend with staff ace Luke Weaver, who was supposed to take the hill on Friday night. Their game was postponed due to weather and they will instead play a doubleheader on Saturday.
Cal Poly and Matt Imhof went up against UC Riverside on the road on Friday. He did not have a good start this week. Imhof was once being talked about in the Pirates range, but he seems to be a second round pick now and his outing on Friday probably solidified that spot for him. In three innings, he allowed five runs(four earned) on seven hits and two walks, with two strikeouts.
In the recent MLB.com updated rankings linked above, the highest rated college starter that we have no covered yet, was Chris Oliver from Arkansas. He was ranked #40, so he is probably a stretch for the Pirates with the 24th pick, although a strong finish could always change things. Oliver is the Sunday starter this week against Ole Miss. He is 6’4″, 180 pound right-hander with a 3.05 ERA in 11 starts this year. His stats aren’t overwhelming, with a .224 BAA and 41 strikeouts in 62 innings. He throws mid-90’s and could still fill out some, so there is more upside than usual for a college junior. I’ve included a video below courtesy of BullpenBanter.com
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.