Draft Prospect Watch: Strong Reports For Hudson, Robinson Shows Plus Defense

Today we take a look at a few weekend recaps from college ball, along with some notes on prep players making news. The Pittsburgh Pirates own the 22nd and 41st picks this year. The draft begins on June 9th and lasts three days, with the first two rounds selected on day one. You can view our draft preview here, which covers many of the names who fall in the Pirates’ range. It also focuses in on players who fit the recent draft strategy of the Pirates.

We start with right-handed pitcher Robert Tyler from Georgia, because he was ranked 22nd overall in this draft class for the second week in a row. We posted an in depth report on Tyler here after Baseball America had him #22 in their updated rankings. On Friday night, he faced Kentucky and had major control issues, despite allowing just two runs over five innings. Tyler walked seven batters and had six strikeouts, running his pitch count up early. He touched 98 MPH in the first inning and sat mid-90’s throughout the contest. On the season, he has a 3.42 ERA over 26.1 innings, with a .179 BAA and 39 strikeouts. He has walked 11 batters, which tells you that he has had excellent command this year prior to Friday night.

In that same game, Tyler was opposed on the mound by Zack Brown, who pitched a complete game. Aaron Fitt from D1 Baseball covered the game and noted that Brown looked better than the stat line. Early in the year, Brown was a possibility for the first pick of the Pirates, but now he looks more like someone they could consider with that 41st overall pick. He had command issues in his first four starts, which weren’t around on Friday, when he gave up five runs on eight hits and one walk in eight innings. Brown pitched a complete game, kept his pitch count under 110, and had seven strikeouts. He was hurt by a couple bad calls that ended up costing him a pair of runs and raised his pitch count. He was sitting 90-93 during the outing and effectively used a power curve that Fitt said was a lot better than what he saw from Brown earlier in the year.

Nick Banks from Texas A&M was ranked high by most sources early in the season, then dropped after a slow start and a back injury kept him out a week. I actually didn’t mention him in our draft preview because the rankings and tools suggested he was going to remain a high pick. Baseball America rated him 24th overall in their updated ranking, then Jeff Ellis from Scout.com also had him 24th this week. Banks went 3-for-9 with two doubles and a HBP in a doubleheader against Auburn on Saturday. He had two hits and drove in two runs on Sunday. Going into this weekend, he was hitting .295/.340/.477 in 11 games. Banks has a plus bat, above average speed and a strong arm, to go along with power and defense that would rate at least average, making him a potential five-tool player.

On Saturday, we talked about a pitching match-up between Dakota Hudson from Mississippi State and Jordan Sheffield from Vanderbilt. Both pitchers did well by not allowing an earned run, but Hudson went nine innings and showed better control. Reports after the game were glowing for Hudson, with one person saying he pitched like someone who would be a #1 overall pick. Hudson is intriguing to watch because he has been ranked by multiple sources in the range of the Pirates’ first pick. Kendall Rogers has this article(subscription required) covering his performance, which also makes mention of Sheffield battling well through his command issues, while showing off a plus cutter that sat 89-92 MPH. Hudson held his velocity throughout his performance, hitting 94 MPH on his 126th(and last) pitch. If this is the Dakota Hudson who shows up every start, he will be off the board well before the Pirates make their pick.

Two juniors were drafted early last year and decided to return to school. Kentucky’s Kyle Cody was taken 73rd overall, and Louisville’s Kyle Funkhouser was drafted 35th. Both might be rethinking that decision after poor performances this weekend. Neither had looked good coming into the weekend, and they did nothing to help their draft case for this year. Funkhouser gave up three runs on four hits and five walks in five innings this weekend against Miami. He now has a 4.40 ERA and 21 walks allowed in 28.2 innings, plus his velocity has been a couple MPH lower than last year. Cody allowed six runs on seven hits in 3.2 innings, raising his season ERA to 8.06 in 25.2 innings. He has allowed 32 hits and 12 walks.

High School Happenings

Nathan Rode tweeted about a scrimmage thrown by prep pitcher Ian Anderson in which he threw three innings and hit 94 MPH, sitting in the 89-91 range by the end. I wrote about Anderson in our draft preview, pointing out that he comes from a cold weather state(NY), which means he has a lot less experience than some of the other prep pitchers in his class. Some scouts see that as the player having a much higher upside and fresher arm, since they see so little time on the mound. Anderson is know to throw strikes, possessing a solid three-pitch mix, with a fastball that has hit 95 in the past.

A name to keep an eye on is shortstop Colton Welker from Florida. Prep Baseball Report has covered him twice this season already and it sounds like he could move up the draft charts in a hurry. He hit two line drives and homered the first time they saw him, plus he made an excellent diving play. This week, he hit the ball well twice and displayed good tools in the field. PBR also mentioned that Welker has grown a couple inches recently and filled out his 6’2″(might be 6’4″ now?) frame by getting into better shape. He has quick hands, both at the plate and in the field, flashes a strong arm and he’s very athletic. He sounds like the type of player who would interest the Pirates, especially if he’s still available when their second pick comes up.

Robinson Flashes Plus Defense

Finally, Ole Miss shortstop Errol Robinson showed why he is considered a plus defender this weekend. He made some great plays, including this bare hand catch and throw for an out shown below. He is still off to a slow start at the plate, hitting .243/.345/.338 in his first 19 games and he hasn’t used his plus speed on the bases much to help his team, going 2-for-4 in steals so far. The defense, speed and past ability to get on base will keep him ranked high in the draft, but he may not be someone the Pirates consider with their first two picks if the offense doesn’t pick up.

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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If Dakota Hudson was still around when we pick I would be ecstatic. Same thing with Sheffield.

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