When evaluating college hitters, especially power guys, any chance of getting a look at them against a quality arm is a big-time plus. College hitters can fatten their stats against sub-par Sunday starters or weak bullpens. So when San Diego's Kris Bryant hosted San Francisco this past weekend, many scouts were sure to see him hit against USF's Alex Balog.
It's not that Balog is a first-rounder. But he is in the Top 100 and he has a fastball that touches 93 mph, with a sharp slider at times. In other words, a better challenge for Bryant (Dylan Covey also was on the mound of San Diego).
While Balog did go seven innings, he gave up five runs. Bryant, hitting leadoff, had three hits, including a double and a home run. Those turned out to be the only hits in the series for Bryant, but the third baseman is now hitting .346 with 22 homers and a slugging percentage of .865. It's not surprising, then, that his name is still in the conversation at No. 1 overall and it should shock no one to see him go off the board in the very early stages of the Draft.
It appears that Indiana State lefty Sean Manaea's stock is taking a hit.
Indiana State's series against Tennessee-Martin was washed out by rain over the weekend. But Manaea wasn't going to pitch anyway.
The hard-throwing lefty has been dealing with a hip injury that appears to have affected his performance. It first seemed to come to everyone's attention when he didn't make his usual Friday start back on April 5, though he did toss six shutout innings on Sunday that weekend.
In his two starts since, Manaea has given up five earned runs in 12 innings on 11 hits and seven walks, while striking out 17. He's had issues with his command throughout, but the hip issue certainly didn't help.
Then came news of him not pitching at all this weekend and that the southpaw reportedly went to see the Indianapolis Colts' doctor on Thursday. Manaea has three more regular-season starts before the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. There's bound to be a ton of interest in how he throws in each of those starts.
It wasn't a great weekend overall for some of the top college arms, though Mark Appel (8 1/3 IP, 8 H, 2 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 9 K) and Jonathan Gray (7 1/3, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K) continued to show why they are the top two players in the class. Ryne Stanek (6 2/3 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 K) also threw fairly well.
Beyond that, there were a lot of reports of so-so, OK, and not so good. Nevada's Braden Shipley was "just OK," according to reports, in his start at Air Force. He was up to 94 mph with his fastball, but his secondary stuff was inconsistent pitching in a touch location.
UC Irvine's Andrew Thurman, generally thought to be on the rise, gave up 11 hits and four runs (three earned) in 7 2/3 innings against UC Davis on Friday, a victim of being up too much in the zone and not commanding his breaking stuff. Minnesota's Tom Windle, one of the top college lefties behind Manaea, was tagged for six runs on five hits and five walks in 7 1/3 innings against Iowa.
High school arms
There might not be another player moving more quickly up Draft boards than Phil Bickford. He helped himself considerably on Saturday in the Redondo tournament championship with many scouts on hand to see it.
The big right-hander threw a two-hitter with 15 strikeouts over Bonita, further cementing his status as a potential first-round pick with the outing. He has the chance to have a good three-pitch mix when all is said and done and his size and mound presence have many teams intrigued. One scout went so far to say that he's moving into Kohl Stewart/Trey Ball territory in terms of the top high-school arms in the class.
Jacob Brentz is not on MLB.com's Top 100, but he does appear on other similar lists out there, and some felt the high-school lefty's omission from the list here was an error.
Not according to one scout who saw his last outing over the weekend. He did show the arm strength that people like, touching 94 mph with his fastball, all from a projectable frame.
But he walked seven in his outing on Sunday. He didn't really have a breaking ball in this outing and that, along with overall command, has been his biggest issue. A team is bound to roll the dice on his upside and arm strength, but there's a long way to go here.
Risers, fallers and newcomers
Bickford wasn't just running up organizational Draft boards. He was a huge riser on the MLB.com list as well, moving all the way up to 26 from No. 71, now firmly in the first-round picture.
On the flip side, both Manaea and Chris Anderson have moved down the list. The Indiana State lefty only moved from three down to six, but if he doesn't bounce back, he could slide further. Anderson, the Jacksonville right-hander who shot up boards with his performances in the early stages of the season but has scuffled of late, has gone from No. 10 down to 15. He, too, could continue a downward trend if he can't finish strong.
There are three newcomers to the Top 100. High school shortstop Riley Unroe (Ariz.), son of former big leaguer Tim Unroe, debuts at No. 91. Big high school first baseman Rowdy Tellez (Calif.) comes in at No. 97, while prep lefty Blake Taylor (Calif.) is at No. 98. They replace Brett Morales, Tucker Neuhaus and Chris Oakley, all three high schoolers as well.