One of the strengths of this year's Draft class is its depth, particularly when it comes to college pitchers. But although there might be quantity, there hasn't been quite the quality, at least as far as separation is concerned.
Don't misinterpret that statement. There are many college arms who are sure-fire first-rounders. But there haven't been as many who have moved themselves into elite status, and some have slid. (See last week's Draft Notebook for an item about Chris Beck.)
One big exception has been Mississippi State's Chris Stratton. Stratton has been as consistent as any college starter all season and, perhaps more important, he's been saving his best for his most recent outings.
"He's helped himself a lot from a month, month and a half ago," a scout said. "He's got pretty good stuff, his numbers are good. There are not a lot of Friday night starters way up there in the country."
Stratton lost his last start on the road against a very good Florida team, but he still only gave up two earned runs (four total) in seven innings. Over his last four starts, he has allowed just three earned runs spanning 32 innings, for an ERA of 0.84. He's given up just 22 hits and three walks while striking out 29 in those outings.
But although those numbers are impressive, especially in the ultra-competitive SEC, results alone do not create helium. Scouts have been more impressed with how he's achieved those results. In that start against Florida, Stratton was up to 95 mph early, then settled in to the 91-92 range. His changeup was plus at times, and his breaking ball was solid average.
"His stuff is better than advertised," the scout said. "[Georgia Southern starter Chris] Beck was supposed to be that type of guy, but he slid back. Stratton has climbed up. Having a good year is not going to get your attention. Having great stuff and a good year will."
Lead balloon update
Maybe the balloon isn't 100 percent lead for high school catcher Stryker Trahan, but there does seem to be some gravity affecting him as the Draft draws closer.
It's not that Trahan, who helped solidify his prospect status with solid showings at various showcases, has been awful, but he hasn't quite performed up to expectations. One scout who has seen the Louisiana high schooler called him "passive" at times.
Scouts still like Trahan's offensive potential from the left side of the plate, especially his plus raw power. They like his speed, his frame and his overall athleticism. The biggest contributor to any drop in stock, though, has been evaluations of him as a catcher of the future.
There never have been any question that Trahan is a bat-first backstop right now. But as the spring has progressed, it appears that fewer teams view him as someone who can stay behind the plate, even though he does have a plus arm. Though he has the tools to be successful someplace else -- the outfield, in all likelihood -- his value would obviously be greater as a catcher.
Not every team has given up on Trahan as a catcher, and this isn't a free-fall, as some believe he'll go in the first round. The team that takes him is likely one that will at least give him an opportunity to stay behind the plate, hoping he could develop into an offensive-minded backstop in the Brian McCann mold.
"I'd have to let Trahan catch," one scout said. "If he can catch, he will be better than McCann."
On the shelf
It was supposed to go much differently for Georgia Southern's Victor Roache.
The junior outfielder was viewed as one of the top college bats in the 2012 Draft class. Power was his calling card, having hit 30 home runs in 2011, then performing well and being named a Cape Cod League All-Star.
He was off to a flying start this season, going 7-for-17 with a pair of homers in his first six games. Then he broke his wrist, and he hasn't played since.
The chances of Roache suiting up for Georgia Southern again seem somewhat remote, but he is definitely on the mend, returning to health with no setbacks to date. He is slated to have his final doctor's appointment this week, and assuming that goes well, he should be able to start swinging the bat again soon.
It might be too late for Roache to help his college team, but the ability to take batting practice could help him considerably come Draft day. If he can work out for teams, he could easily reclaim some of his stock, especially given the lack of college bats in this class.
Week in review
Some notes from around the amateur scene in the past week:
Georgia lefty Alex Wood continues to help his own cause, even though he lost to South Carolina on Friday. He went the full nine innings, allowing three runs on nine hits, walking none and striking out six.
Another lefty, Florida's Brian Johnson, might be going in the opposite direction. The two-way player hit on Friday but came out late in that game. He then missed his scheduled Saturday pitching start because of a hamstring issue. He did, however, return to DH in Sunday's game. He's hitting .315/.346/.479 for the year. More probably saw him as a pitcher coming into the year, but he's gone 5-4 with a 4.29 ERA.
High school lefty Max Fried was shaky for a second straight outing for Harvard-Westlake. Scouts reported he was throwing in the 86-87 mph range for much of the start after starting out the first inning at 90-93 mph. Fried does have a tendency to try to do too much on the mound at times and it's unclear if his issues are mechanical or perhaps he's a little fatigued after playing two ways all year. With the regular season over, teams will be watching how Fried fares in Harvard-Westlake's postseason.
Sleeper of the Week: Kevin Plawecki, Purdue
Some college catchers have struggled this year, but put an upwards-pointing arrow by Plawecki's name. The junior went 6-for-12 in a weekend series against Michigan, with a home run and five RBIs. For the year he is hitting .368 with five homers and 40 RBIs. He has a .459 OBP and .562 SLG, and most feel he can stick behind the plate.