Editor’s Note: Every Monday through the draft we will have a Full Count Trends piece running here on SCOUT. 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.
This week’s Full Count Trends is very heavy on pitching. We saw several stellar pitching performances and one that left a little to be desired. There are quite a few high school programs up north that have not even started yet and with a weak college bat class, it was the arms which got my attention this week.
Dillon Tate, RHP, UCSB – No one has risen higher this year on boards than Tate. He has proven himself as a starting pitcher, and with several other top arms having injury issues, Tate should be the on odds-on favorite to be the top arm taken this year. On Friday, he showed why a pitcher win or loss is not the best way to evaluate how a player performed. He was out-dueled by Long Beach State red shirt senior Kyle Friedrichs. Friedrichs went nine strong, striking out 13, walking none and allowing just two hits. For his part, Tate also went nine innings, giving up two unearned runs, walking one, and striking out 10. Tate had the second-best game score of the night on Friday; unfortunately, the only pitcher with a higher score was his opponent. As long as Tate stays heathy and keeps putting up numbers like he has already, it seems likely he will end up the top pick this year. Not bad for a guy who nearly didn’t get a chance to start this year.
Jon Harris, RHP, Missouri State – Harris missed some time at the start of the year due to injury. I have been intrigued to see what he can do for a while, as he could easily slide into the first round this year. There are a lot of teams in the compensation area who tend to target college players early. Harris nearly made the list last week, so when he followed it up with another stellar start, he was a lock to make this article. Harris went eight innings, striking out six, walking one, and surrendering seven hits. In an ideal world, there would be fewer hits and more strikeouts, but it is nice to see Harris keeping the walks down. As a small school guy he needs some refinement but the upside is intriguing.
Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt – I think Fulmer is the player in the draft who might cause the most disagreement regarding his future. In some respects, he might be the safest player in the draft, as he has a floor as a backend reliever with closer stuff. I am sure there will even be a few right-handed Brandon Finnegan comparisons, as both are undersized players who strikeout a ton of hitters and bring the heat with their fastballs. Fulmer is only 5’11”, the same height as Tim Lincecum and Pedro Martinez, but needless to say both of those guys are more the exception than the rule. Fulmer went eight strong over the weekend, striking out 12 and allowing no runs on five hits and three walks. Control and size are the main concerns with Fulmer. If he keeps performing like he has, averaging nine strikeouts a start, he is going to end up going very high on draft day. He has front-of-the-rotation potential with a floor of an elite closer.
Mike Matuella, RHP, Duke – Matuella started the year as an odds-on favorite to be the top pick in the draft despite a concern about his back. He followed this up by having issues with forearm tightness and has been on a pitch count most of the year. Matuella faced Boston College this week. The Eagles have a potential first-round bat in Chris Shaw. Matuella struggled, going 4.2 innings. He gave up six runs but only two earned. He struck out six, walked five, and gave up five hits. It should also be pointed out that the error that led to the unearned runs was also by Matuella. Shaw beat up on him, going two-for-three with a walk. Matuella is a hard guy to figure out. Injury concerns and inconsistent performance this year are going to cause him to slide, but how far? Last season, Jeff Hoffman struggled to find consistency facing much weaker competition and then needed Tommy John surgery late in the year and he went 9th. Matuella will more than likely go in the top-10 still but with the two injury concerns and the lack of performance he could be in for a major slide.
Christin Stewart, OF, Tennessee – Stewart is one of the bats in the second tier of college players. He is a left-handed hitter who projects to have plus-power. He has already set a new career-best for homeruns this year and his walks are up and strikeouts down. These were all the things scouts were hoping to see from Stewart this year. He should end up going somewhere in the first two to three rounds. This weekend against Vandy, which has the best starting pitching trio in the country in my opinion, Stewart had some difficulty. On Friday, facing possible top-10 pick Walker Buehler, Stewart went one-for-five with a run scored and three strikeouts. On Saturday, he faced the previously mentioned Carson Fulmer and went oh-for-four with two strikeouts. Stewart followed it up on Sunday facing potential top-10 pick in 2016 Jordan Sheffield. Stewart went oh-for-three with a walk and a strikeout. So to sum it up, he went one-for-12 over the weekend with a walk and six strikeouts. Stewart has worked on showing improved patience at the plate, but it was not a good weekend for him. Stewart has some nice power potential but his undersized frame and the fact he can only play leftfield are going to limit how high he can go on draft day.