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Draft Prospect Watch: Phil Bickford Puts Up Big Strikeout Numbers, Jake Lemoine Gets Knocked Out Early


Today, we take a look at the best draft-eligible pitchers across college baseball. Yesterday, we took a first look at some high school pitchers who are near the top of draft charts. The draft begins on June 8th and the Pittsburgh Pirates have the 19th and 32nd overall picks. The Pirates will have the 11th highest draft bonus pool.

Vanderbilt had their Friday night game against Arkansas postponed, setting up a doubleheader for Saturday, with Carson Fulmer and Walker Buehler scheduled to start. Fulmer did not do well in the opener, giving up five earned runs over six innings. He allowed five hits, walked two, hit a batter and picked up seven strikeouts. Despite the stats, the stuff looked great according to multiple people at the game, so this outing likely won’t hurt his draft status.

Walker Buehler pitched game two against Arkansas and went six innings, allowing one run on a solo homer. He gave up four hits, one walk and struck out seven batters. Buehler threw 80 pitches, 56 for strikes and multiple sources had him hitting 95 MPH. Prior to this outing, he gave up one run over six innings in his two abbreviated starts. Buehler is working his way back from elbow soreness that caused him to miss his first two starts.

Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson went 2-for-3 with two walks, two runs scored and a sacrifice bunt in game one on Saturday. In game two, he went 0-for-3 in the 9-1 victory, but walked twice, reached on a hit-by-pitch and scored a run. Swanson has been hitting well all year and will likely end up as a top ten pick.

Dillon Tate from UC Santa Barbara doesn’t seem to be letting up this season, as he switches from the bullpen to a starting role. On Friday against Wichita State, he went eight innings, allowing one run on four hits and no walks, with six strikeouts. He threw 98 pitches, 64 for strikes. He has a 1.00 ERA in 36 innings, giving up just 19 hits, while posting an 11:41 BB/SO ratio.

UCLA’s James Kaprielian threw seven shutout innings on Friday against Washington. He struck out ten batters, but despite those results, his outing could have been worse. Kaprielian allowed five hits, walked two and hit two batters, but kept Washington off the board. On the season, he has a 2.59 ERA, with 39 strikeouts and a .233 BAA in 31.1 innings. Last weekend, Kaprielian versus Carson Fulmer was the big match-up in college ball. I’ve included a recent video of Kaprielian at the bottom, courtesy of Moore Baseball.

Lefty Nathan Kirby from Virginia went 7.1 innings against Virginia Tech. He gave up one run on five hits and four walks, with six strikeouts. Kirby came into the game with a 10:37 BB/SO ratio in 25.1 innings. He has an 0.83 ERA and a .203 BAA.

Duke’s Mike Matuella threw four shutout innings against Georgia Tech on Friday. He was on a 40 pitch limit last week, bumping it up to 63 pitches during Friday’s outing. Aaron Fitt had him sitting 91-93, with a solid curve that was in the 79-82 MPH range. Matuella had a strained forearm that caused him to miss his second start and return on a limited pitch count in each of his last three games.

Phil Bickford from Southern Nevada went on Saturday against Salt Lake Community College. He gave up one unearned run on one hit and two walks in five innings. Bickford threw 85 pitches and struck out 12 batters. In 35.1 innings, he has 12 walks and 73 strikeouts.

Louisville had their Friday night game against Boston College postponed. That set up a doubleheader featuring Louisville starter Kyle Funkhouser and Boston College right fielder Chris Shaw. Funkhouser went seven innings, allowing two runs on three hits and four walks. He had seven strikeouts and threw 111 pitches, 60 for strikes. Head-to-head with Shaw, Funkhouser retired him all three times. Shaw finished the first game going 0-for-5 with a strikeout. In game two, he had a horrible time, going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. He came into the day with a .245/.367/.510 line through 14 games.

Zach Lucas was the Pirates 23rd round pick last year, but decided to return to Louisville for his senior year. He went 1-for-5 with an RBI double in game one, then collected another RBI double in the second game. He finished the game 1-for-2 with two walks and a run scored. Coming into Saturday, Lucas was hitting .234 with one double in 17 games.

Houston starter Jake Lemoine faced Buffalo on Saturday and had his worst outing of the season. He lasted just 1.2 innings, giving up three runs on three hits, a walk and a hit batter. Lemoine threw 36 pitches, 19 for strikes and struck out one batter. He now has a 4.50 ERA through five starts.

TCU lefty Alex Young is going on Sunday this week against Baylor. His teammate and closer Riley Ferrell, threw a perfect ninth on Friday for his sixth save. That gave him a 1.04 ERA in 8.2 innings, with one hit allowed and a 5:12 BB/SO ratio.

Kentucky’s Kyle Cody goes on Sunday against South Carolina, in what should be a strong test for the big righty. South Carolina has won the first two games of the series and they are ranked #6 in the nation and #7 according to Baseball America’s rankings.

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John Dreker
John Dreker
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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