Heading into the spring, there were a number of toolsy high school outfielder types in Southern California. Some were considered to have first-round potential. Zach Collier was not one of them. But he certainly is now.
The ball really got rolling with Collier's performance at the Urban Youth Academy showcase back in February and it's continued to roll upward for the Chino Hills High School standout. He put on quite a show at the high-profile Anaheim Lyons tournament and while he's still raw, he's been showing improvement by leaps and bounds.
So has his Draft status. While Aaron Hicks Anthony Gose and maybe even Isaac Galloway all ranked ahead of Collier as the season began, it wouldn't be surprising to see Collier's name go off the board first. While all of the players still have plenty of potential, it's Collier who's being mentioned higher up in first-round conversations. Don't be shocked if the outfielder has worked his way up anywhere from the middle to the end of the first round when Draft day arrives.
Lead balloon update
Ole Miss starter Cody Satterwhite has been a hard guy to figure out.
From a pure stuff and size perspective, there's a lot to like about the guy. He's 6-5 with a ton of arm strength that allows him to pump his fastball up to 95 mph with plenty of movement. He complements that with a pretty good slider and can throw a changeup from time to time.
Even with that kind of stuff, though, he's been extremely hittable. He didn't even enter the season as Ole Miss' Friday starter -- that honor belongs to Lance Lynn. But Satterwhite, once thought to be closer to the top of the college pitching ranks, isn't even the Saturday starter any longer, being bumped to Sundays in favor of freshman Drew Pomeranz.
Someone is still going to draft Satterwhite. His size and pure stuff is too much to completely ignore. But performance does have to figure into things and the fact he's been demoted and carries a 5.01 ERA and .292 batting average against has certainly damaged his prospects quite a bit.
Something to prove
Last week, Aaron Crow was highlighted in this spot after having a few rough outings in a row and dealing with some back spasms. How did he bounce back? He tied a Missouri school record by notching his 11th win, for whatever that's worth. The right-hander went seven innings, allowing six hits and two unearned runs. He did walk five, but he also struck out 11. Even with his "slump," he's got a 2.82 ERA and 103 Ks (against 29 BB) in 83 innings. In other words, he's just fine.
Taking this section in another direction this week, sometimes it's not just a player who's struggled who has something to prove. A player on the rise -- with helium -- if you will -- may often have to stand up to more intense scrutiny as Draft day quickly approaches.
Case in point: Stanford catcher Jason Castro, who very easily could be the subject in the "Helium Update." The left-handed-hitting catcher has used a strong Cape season last summer to catapult him to an outstanding junior season, hitting for average and power. He's answered most questions about his ability to remain a catcher and that's certainly helped his Draft stock. Any time you have an advanced college backstop who can stay there and hit -- especially from the left side -- chances are, he might get over-drafted a bit.
That, plus his performance, has moved him into serious first-round consideration, with his name being mentioned all over the top 30 picks. At this point, most teams know more or less who he is and what he has to offer. But it's extremely likely that a team considering taking him in that first round is going to send some decision-makers to see him for a second or even third look. It'll be up to Castro to prove that the early positive evaluations that moved him up into that stratosphere were not misguided. In a big series last week against Cal, Castro went 0-for-8 over the first two games before going 2-for-3 with a triple and three runs scored in the series finale. It could get even more interesting in a series at the University of Arizona this weekend.
On the Shelf
When a potential top-10 pick misses some time, it's always going to get some attention. Behind perhaps only Crow among college right-handers, Fresno State's Tanner Scheppers appeared to be in the mix to go in the top half of the first round, if not those initial 10 picks. So when he was scratched from his start last weekend, it may have raised a red flag or two.
The reason for the missed start -- Fresno State tried to back him up to Sunday, but decided to rest him altogether -- was shoulder tenderness. Scheppers is relatively new to pitching and while his innings total isn't too high this year, he had pitched in relief (two-thirds of an inning) the week prior on Friday, then started on a day's rest on Sunday, something that assuredly raised an eyebrow or two.
Initial reports were that he was fine and set to make a Saturday start at Sacramento State. Those reports were not accurate. As reported on Thursday on my blog, Geeking on the Draft, Scheppers has sustained a stress fracture in his right shoulder. He will be out for six weeks and that clearly will affect his Draft status. Thought to be a serious top 10 possibility, it will be interesting to see how much this injury will cause his stock to drop.
Where to be: The state of Arizona
There's a little bit of a lull before college conference tournaments get going in two weeks. There's some high school playoff action out there, but it's a little harder to predict. But if you head to the Grand Canyon State this weekend and are willing to drive on I-10 a bit, you could have quite a weekend.
In Tempe, Arizona State's roster should be enough for a visit, especially with Ike Davis back in action joining teammates Brett Wallace and Petey Paramore. The Sun Devils host the University of Washington (Friday-Sunday). The Huskies don't have any marquee draft talent, but they're not far behind ASU in the Pac-10 standings and should provide good competition for the Sun Devils prospects to be evaluated against.
You may, though, want to spend more time down the road in Tucson, where the University of Arizona hosts Stanford (Saturday-Monday). The Wildcats have pitchers Ryan Perry, Preston Guilmet and Daniel Schlereth, all of whom will work to give the aforementioned Jason Castro a good challenge.
Play it right and you can get a heavy dose of baseball: Washington-ASU on Friday, then stay for Saturday's game. Watch ASU's Sunday game at 1 p.m. before high-tailing it (safely, of course) to Tucson for Arizona's 6 p.m. game against Stanford. Stick around until Monday to watch the finale of that series, giving you five games in four days.