Draft Watch is back for another exciting week of amateur baseball action. The days are starting to dwindle for teams to evaluate and line up their Draft boards. As we move forward with our coverage, Draft Watch will not only look at the most recent action, but will branch out to include some of the buzz around the scouting industry, about who is rising and falling, from week to week.
Top matchup: Eades vs. Stanek
It's not often that the best college pitching matchup of the weekend comes on a Saturday. Typically, the top arms get the ball each Friday, but it was a different story in Fayetteville, Ark., this past weekend.
Draft Watch wrote about LSU's Ryan Eades in last week's edition, and while his numbers in this start against the University of Arkansas weren't anything special -- four innings, eight hits, five earned runs, three walks, five strikeouts -- one scout in attendance said he threw OK.
It was clear, though, that the day belonged to Ryne Stanek. The right-hander went 6 2/3 scoreless frames, allowing just four hits and three walks while striking out five. This comes on the heels of throwing eight innings of shutout ball against Alabama the week prior. Stanek was 92-96 mph with his fastball and coupled it with a plus slider, throwing both from a very good angle. The word used most often to describe him against LSU was "electric." One scout thought he had Top 10 stuff. Stanek's always been highly thought of among the college pitching set, and if he continues to turn it on like he has in his past two starts, the top third of the first round certainly seems highly plausible.
Other college arms
For much of the spring, Jacksonville's Chris Anderson has had as much helium as any Draft prospect, streaking his way to the top parts of organizational Draft boards. But that progress has slowed a bit of late.
The latest was Friday night's start against Kennesaw State. The big right-hander gave up seven earned runs on nine hits over just 4 1/3 innings. It hasn't been his only shaky start of late. Two weeks before that, Anderson was rocked by Mercer, giving up nine runs (eight earned) on 11 hits over six innings.
Against Kennesaw State, Anderson wasn't missing bats at all and was leaving everything over the plate, leaving some to believe that he's wearing down. The questions teams must answer, and how he bounces back from a stretch that hasn't seen him dominate since March 22 will help, are: How do you balance how good Anderson was early with how bad he's been lately? How much of this slide is due to overuse and very high pitch counts for much of the spring? There's time for Anderson to turn it around, obviously, and teams who feel he's the guy who was as good as anyone in the nation early will still be very interested.
For this week, it's a junior college bat, one that's been creating a good amount of buzz and has had scouts pouring into East Central Community College in Mississippi.
Shortstop Tim Anderson is an intriguing talent who can do a lot of things on the baseball field. A lot of teams like toolsy, athletic players, and Anderson fits that description. The fact that it's not a great year for shortstops certainly doesn't hurt him.
There appear to be a variety of reports and opinions on just what Anderson brings to the table. One scout described him as a plus plus runner, another report had him as not quite at that level speed-wise. Still, clearly Anderson's legs are his best tool. He has some bat speed with some pop, but there are some concerns about his ability to hit a breaking ball.
Then there are the questions about the glove. Scouts seem unsure whether Anderson can stick at shortstop or whether a move to second or perhaps center field, a la an Adam Jones. There are some who feel he could stay at the premium infield position, or at least should be given the chance to stay there until he proves otherwise, even with some stiff actions and an arm that might be a bit short for the spot.
Wherever Anderson plays long-term, there's no question scouts will be watching him closely through the end of East Central's regular season, which concludes at the end of April, and into the junior college postseason, which wraps up just prior to the Draft. It does seem likely that Anderson will be the first JUCO player taken, with a good shot at going in the Draft's opening day on June 6.
High school bats
Draft Watch finishes up by taking a look at a pair of high school infielders, one on the rise and one who might be fading a bit.
J.P. Crawford has been known for quite some time, a smooth-fielding shortstop who has made the rounds on the showcase circuit. He's been high on Draft lists for this year's class for some time now. And there's no question about Crawford's ability to stay at the position defensively. He has a strong arm, good hands and enough range to play shortstop long-term. The concerns, and the reasons for Crawford's slide, are with his bat. His up-the-middle profile will certainly help him on Draft day, but if teams fear he's not going to hit enough to be an everyday player, that could impact his stock quite a bit.
On the flip side of that coin right now is Arizona high schooler Riley Unroe. The son of Tim Unroe, who spent parts of five seasons in the big leagues, he's another prep middle infielder. Unroe is a switch-hitter who's fairly well-rounded. He has above-average to plus speed with good bat speed from both sides of the plate. While Unroe has been coming on strong with the bat, what might really be helping his stock is more teams believing he can stay at shortstop for the long haul. Scouts have always liked his offensive tools and his lineage. If they think Unroe can play every day at short, he'll keep moving up Draft boards.