Editor’s Note: Every Monday through the draft we will have a Full Count Trends piece running here on SCOUT. This will be a way to showcase draft prospects who might not get a capsule this year. It is also a way to keep abreast of players whose capsules I have already done or ones yet to come.
Every weekend I will look at three players who had a strong weekend and two who had a down week or had their draft stock impacted by something negative (health or otherwise). I am looking at a full count from the hitter's perceptive, so players on the rise will be in the three-balls category and those who have had negative performances or health news will be in the two-strikes category. Think of this feature as a running stock watch on draft prospects. A player in the two-strikes category may recover in plenty of time before the draft commences. You will also likely see names jump into the three-balls category that may not have a high profile yet but will be worth watching in the lead-up to the draft.
Without further adieu, onto the first Full Count Trends.
This was a weekend with a lot of breaking news that will affect the 2015 Major League Baseball draft. But before we dive into the weekend’s trends and how it is impacting player’s draft stock, I need to acknowledge that Oregon State’s Drew Rassmussen threw a perfect game – striking out 10 – versus Washington State on Saturday. He is only a freshman, so he is not draft eligible; however, it is a great college baseball story. Rasmussen is an undersized right hander, which hurt his draft stock coming out of high school, but he still managed to be drafted late by the Arizona Diamondbacks a year ago.
Kyle Funkhouser RHP Louisville – In a college class where it feels like almost no one is stepping up, it was nice to see Funkhouser’s start on Friday. He went seven strong innings against Purdue, striking out eight, allowing four hits, and only walking three. Funkhouser started the year in the top-10 on many boards. His fastball is a plus offering and he has two solid secondary pitches. The issue for him has always been his command. This was a game showing the promise that Funkhouser possesses. He has front-of-the-rotation potential if he can sharpen up his command.
D.J. Stewart OF FSU – Stewart has shown on-base skills his whole career at FSU. He was a former all-state running back and his build leads one to believe there should be more power in his bat. During his first two years, that power never really showed. Few players were better getting on base, but Stewart played like a centerfielder in the body of a leftfielder. I wrote a capsule about him earlier and was a bit down him because in spite of his production I wasn’t sure the bat would transition in the pros to leftfield or first base, where he will surely end up. This weekend Stewart exploded. FSU faced number seven ranked Virginia and future top-10 pick Nathan Kirby on Friday. Stewart was 0-2 with three walks. He reached base 60% of the time and it was easily his worst game of the weekend. On Saturday, he came back and was 2-3 with two walks and a homerun. He followed that up on Sunday by upping his game, going 3-4 with two homeruns and two walks. For the weekend, he was 5-9 with seven walks and three homeruns.
Last year, Stewart had a career-best seven homeruns in 194 at-bats. This year, he is already at nine in just 79 at-bats. If the power can keep coming then Stewart will rise up boards thanks to a very weak college bat class. He looks like the fourth-best college bat right now in this class, and could be a target for a team like Oakland, which tends to lean towards college bats earlier in the draft.
James Kaperielian RHP UCLA – Kaperielian did not make my last mock, but he will be in the next one. There have been numerous injuries to high-profile pitchers eligible for this year’s draft. Meanwhile, Kaperielian has stayed his typical steady self. He has a 2.13 ERA, 46 strikeouts to only eight walks over 38 innings. He continued his dominance on Friday, going 6.2 innings and striking out seven while walking three. He gave up a single unearned run. The fact he walked three made it a down night for him, as that was more than 1/3 of his walks on the year.
Kaperielian is maxed out physically. He never added the velocity many assumed he would add as a prep arm. He is not a player who is going to lead your staff, but there might not be a safer pitcher in this year’s class. He should move quickly. I could see him in the majors by next August, if his drafting team has that need. An aggressive team should have him start next year in Double-A. Kaperielian may not be a pick that gets a fanbase excited, but a quick moving, back-end starter us a very valuable commodity for any team.
Left-handed starters – When I woke up on Saturday the first news I saw was that a trio of possible first-round picks had suffered injuries that could impact their draft status. Below is a look at those pitchers who were injured, in the order of least to most serious.
Mac Marshall LHP Chipola JC – Marshall was viewed as a hard sign a year ago with a commit to LSU. This supposedly scared some teams off and he fell to 21st round. Then he surprised everyone when he de-committed to LSU and switched over to Chipola JC to be draft eligible in 2015. Marshall was the player the Astros were trying to sign if they saved more money on number one overall pick Brady Aiken. Marshall left his last start for Chipola JC early because of a thumb injury. Finger injuries are scary, as they can often be reoccurring. The Cleveland Indians famously experienced this first hand with former top prospect Adam Miller. I had Marshall at the end of my last mock, and will need to see the seriousness of this injury but this could knock him out of my next first-round mock.
Kolby Allard LHP San Clemente HS -- Before this weekend, Allard was very clearly the top prep arm in this draft. He was being compared consistently to Brady Aiken from a year ago. The news broke on Friday that he was being shut down for a two months because of back injury. Previous to the injury, Allard was viewed as a safe, fast-moving prep arm, and to me was one of the safer picks in the top-five. Allard is not big at 6’1” and does not throw all that hard, two factors you often expect when you see back injuries. There have been more than few careers that have been cut short because of back trouble. By all reports, this is a one-time injury and something he should recover from with no issues. Still, I don’t think I am alone when I say a back injury scares me. I had Allard ranked number two in my last mock. The question is how far will he fall? I doubt he falls out of the top-10 but no longer seems like a top-5 lock.
Brady Aiken LHP IMG Academy -- Aiken was the top pick last year and has a chance at going that high yet again. He was supposed to throw 40 pitches in his last start for IMG, but instead he threw just 12 before being removed for injury. His velocity was down over those 12 pitches. I find his situation the scariest because of the elephant in the room of his medicals from last year. The Astros basically ended up passing on him, and losing multiple picks, rather than sign him. They figured two the next year was worth the loss of Aiken and Jacob Nix and the lost development. (For more on this situation, click here.) In his first chance to pitch in 2015, he was yanked so early for health reasons, which is troubling. In some respects, the best thing might be to find out he needs surgery and get it out of the way. If Aiken has Tommy John surgery, he may very well still go in the top-10. Until then, there has been so much smoke around Aiken’s health everyone has to assume there must be fire.
Non-LHP Edition: Harrison Bader OF Florida – I wrote a capsule this past week on just how hot Bader had been to start the year. I talked with some people who thought he was in the middle of a breakout and could be a top-40 pick. My capsule was more conservative and said that he is more of a round four or after player with the potential to be a righthanded fourth outfielder or platoon guy. On Friday, he went 0-4 with a strikeout, which was better than the first game on Saturday, where he went 0-5 with three strikeouts. Saturday night they played a second game because of impending bad weather and Bader improved going 1-4 with a walk. Still, by the end of the weekend, Bader was 1-13 with a single, a walk and five strike-outs. This was basically the polar opposite of the weekend Stewart had for Florida State. Bader was due to cool off, but needless to say, I don’t think anyone expected him to fall off a cliff like he did this weekend.