College arms bouncing back
It's been a bit of a disappointing year for a crop of college arms that many scouts were excited about when the season began, mostly because of inconsistent performances around the country. But with the regular season winding down and conference tournaments just around the corner, some of those pitchers have a chance to make very good last impressions and regain some standing heading into the Draft.
This past weekend was actually a rare down week for the two right-handers who have separated themselves, Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray. But some of the other pitchers who either were supposed to be in the same conversation or had started strongly but faded may be picking up steam at just the right time.
Last week's Draft Watch discussed Sean Manaea's struggles, both with his performance and his health (hip). He didn't exactly set the world on fire over the weekend, but it was a step in the right direction two weeks after a weekend that would have seen him skip a start if rain hadn't washed out Indiana's series. Pitching on Friday once again, Manaea went seven innings against Alcorn State, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits, walking one and striking out 11. His stuff still wasn't quite as electric as over the summer or earlier this year, but he was at 88-92 mph and touched 93 with his fastball, a nice step up from last week's outing.
Ryne Stanek is another pitcher who's had an up-and-down year. The Arkansas right-hander was very sharp against Tennessee on Saturday, tossing seven shutout innings, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out nine. It was a nice bounce-back from Stanek's start a week prior, during which he gave up three runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings.
Jacksonville's Chris Anderson's slide has been a little more pronounced. After rocketing up Draft boards with an absolutely dominant start to the season, he had scuffled over the past few weeks, with fatigue and high pitch counts perhaps contributing to the rough patch. Anderson's start on Friday against Lipscomb could be the beginning of a strong finish for the big right-hander. He went the distance, allowing just two unearned runs on six hits, walking two and striking out four along the way.
Looking for a pitcher who is doing nothing but moving up, and quickly? Then look no further than Alex Gonzalez of Oral Roberts University. The tall and lean right-hander has been performing well all spring, but he seems to be pouring it on even more now. On Friday, he was a tough-luck loser against McNeese State, giving up two earned runs (three total) while striking out 11 and allowing just four hits in a complete-game effort. Gonzalez has a nasty fastball-slider combination with excellent command. Some think he can be a Mariano Rivera-like reliever who gets to the big leagues, while others think he can start. Whatever the role, it looks like Gonzalez is working is way into the first-round picture.
It's an interesting debate this spring when looking at the top college bats in this class: Colin Moran vs. Kris Bryant. You could throw New Mexico's D.J. Peterson into the mix, too, but for the sake of this argument, let's stick to the first two third basemen.
Bryant has the power, but Moran might be the better pure hitter. They are one right after another in the top 10 of MLB.com's Draft Top 100. Over the weekend, Bryant went 8-for-17 with three homers and a triple, seven RBIs and nine runs scored, using a 5-for-7, two-homer performance to cap off the series against Portland on Sunday. Bryant now has 28 homers and an .880 slugging percentage.
Moran's weekend numbers weren't quite as gaudy, but a lot of people who saw him on Friday -- and teams picking in the top 10 were there -- liked what they saw. He homered that day and went 3-for-8 on the weekend with the one home run, a double and three RBIs. For all the concern about Moran's power, he does have 13 homers and is slugging .646. He's also hitting .385, compared to Bryant's .346, in a much tougher conference. Both look to be top 10 picks, but it will be interesting to see which advanced college bat goes first.
High school bats
The high school catching crop, as has been discussed, is a relative strength in this year's class, with as many as three prep backstops poised to go in the first round of the Draft.
It seems fairly clear that Reese McGuire is going to be the first one to come off the board, with the Pacific Northwesterner's name being mentioned in the top 10. But the guy who seemed to be 1A to McGuire's 1 appears to be sliding a bit.
Jon Denney had a tremendous summer that put him firmly at or near the top of this catching list. But he's struggled to live up to the bar he set for himself this spring and hasn't performed -- both at the plate or behind it -- up to those standards.
That doesn't mean Denney is going to slide right out of the first round. He's still big, strong and physical and has that outstanding summer experience against a high level of competition. One scouting director said Denney is the kind of player several teams will probably bring in for workouts so they can see if his relatively rough spring was just an aberration.
Newcomers to the Top 100
In addition to moving some guys up and down (Denney moving down a few spots, Mississippi State outfielder Hunter Renfroe on the upswing, for example), there are a half-dozen new names in Draft Top 100.
Joining the list are two high school pitchers -- Kyle Serrano of Farragut (Tenn.) High School and Chandler Eden of Yuba City (Calif.) High School -- catcher Dom Nunez of Elk Grove (Calif.) High School, outfielder Jordan Paroubeck from Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif., and two college position players: shortstop Hunter Dozier from Stephen F. Austin State and Kansas State outfielder Jared King. Serrano and Dozier are debuting in the Top 50.
Leaving the list are Kyle Finnegan, Jacob May, Terry McClure, Matt McPhearson, Brian Navarreto and Trey Williams.