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.
Last week I did an all hitter’s piece talking about who has been trending recently in regards to the draft. This week, it is time for the pitchers. It’s the same format as all year in this article, but I am doing more of a summation piece. This article will return to the week-by-week format next week.
Without further adieu, here are the five arms with the most heat positive and negative of late. When players are close, I am going to mention the player who I have spoken about the least. This way, I can give some spotlight to players who have not be given it this year.
Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt – No one has been talked about more of late in terms of pitchers than Fulmer. Ever since Red Sox GM Ben Cherington was seen on TV watching a Fulmer start, Fulmer has been mentioned everywhere. His numbers are off-the-charts: 1.52 ERA, 101:28 strike-out to walk, 45 hits in 71 innings. Those are some of the most dominant numbers I have seen this year or really any year. If Fulmer was 6’2’’ instead of 6 feet, I think he would be in the top pick discussion. Fellow top pitching prospects Dillon Tate and Kyle Funkhouser are both 6’2”, for a comparison. I had this fight last year with eventual Kansas City Royals’ pick Brandon Finnegan. I had it again in 2011 with Sonny Gray and 2012 with Marcus Stroman. Heck, in 2013, I was much higher on Rob Kaminsky than most. I have this fight every single year. Undersized is not bad. Just being smaller doesn’t mean the player will bust. The odds might be against them but once they have succeeded on higher levels, they have typically been fine. I know some still say Fulmer is a reliever mostly because he is small. I have him higher than Funkhouser on my board and expect to see Fulmer go in the top-10 picks.
James Kaprielian, RHP, UCLA – Kaprielian has been on the first round bubble since he was in high school. He is one of the arms in this draft everyone has seen a ton of over the years. He was expected to go to college and gain some extra velocity and it just didn’t happen, until it did this year. This spring, Kaprielian has been inconsistent. Some games he looks like a backend starter sitting low 90’s with average stuff. Then other games the reports are he is sitting 93-95 and his stuff is playing up. People have been waiting for Kaprielian’s stuff to make this jump. The fact it is happening, even if it’s inconsistent, has made him rise a bit. It shows some unlockable potential for him. He has gone from a backend starter with solid stuff to a guy who has some mid-rotation potential. His improvement, as inconsistent as it might be, should cause him to rise a bit on draft day.
Donny Everett, RHP, Clarksville HS (TN) – I wondered earlier this season if teams should try and poach arms that go to Vanderbilt. No program has done a better job producing arms of late. If they like a high school kid then maybe pro teams should pay more attention to that arm. Everett is kid from in-state that more than likely will never see the campus at Vanderbilt. He is like an unmolded ball of clay as a pitcher. Everett is an athletic kid with extreme velocity but not much else. He has hit 100 MPH and he sits 92-96. His control needs work. His delivery needs work. His secondary offerings need work. I think you get the idea. His athletic ability and velocity will be enough to see him go in the first round. His listed size is identical to Kyle Funkhouser’s. Everett has a frame of a guy who should be able to pitch a lot of innings. The team that drafts him has a potential front-line starter, but they need to have a lot of faith in their ability to develop Everett.
Nathan Kirby, LHP, Virginia – Kirby was considered a likely top-10 selection entering the year. He was considered the safest player in the draft. Kirby showed two plus pitches from the left side. I called him this draft’s Aaron Nola. However, it was recently announced that he would miss the next 6-8 weeks with a lat issue. His college career is more than likely done now. This was horrible timing for Kirby, who has not been as strong this year. The numbers are okay: 2.28 ERA, 75:30 strikeout-to-walk, and 50 hits in 59 innings. The problem is the numbers were much better a year ago, and outside of the ERA, the other numbers cause more concern. He is walking more, striking out less, and giving up more hits. One has to wonder how much he might have tried to pitch through his lat injury and the effect of the injury on his performance. If I knew this injury had been an issue most of the year, Kirby would be 10 spots higher on my board. If we could see the a lefty with three above-average pitches, Kirby would be a top-20 pick, if not top-10.
Brady Aiken, LHP, IMG Academy – I wrote a few weeks back how the best thing for Aiken could be surgery because at least people would know what was wrong. The elbow injury was fixed and now he should be a top selection anyways, much like Hoffman a year ago. I thought I was done with Aiken talk until draft day. Then the rumors started. What is being put out there now is that the surgery was not your typical Tommy John surgery. The worst rumors say he will never been the same and use words like career-threatening. The best say he is much more likely to have added injury issues. There has been a lot of talk about TJ surgery this year. The number of players who need the surgery and the numbers of players who end up having issues down-the-line have been talking points. We know the Astros made themselves look bad and lost two players over what they saw in x-rays a year ago. We know Aiken had surgery but that’s about it. Now the rumor mill is turning and everyone seems concerned. I have him 26th on my big board, the last pick in the first round and have no idea if I could risk drafting him if I had a team. I would look for a team with multiple picks to take the risk on Aiken, who is right now the greatest unknown in this draft. His upside, if it was a typical TJ surgery, is as high as any pitcher in this draft.