Two weekends ago I was able to attend a matchup between the University of Akron and Miami University. This matchup might not have had the big names that the last local scouting matchup had in Eric Lauer and Zach Plesac, yet it did have some of the better draft prospects this year in the MAC. The names aren't guys who will go in the first two days, but players who have draft potential and could end up surprising teams down-the-line.
Last year, Akron had a player I was very high on in Devan Ahart. The athletic outfielder was a 16th-round selection of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is in High-A this year and did very well in the minors last season after being drafted, posting an OPS of 835 across 288 at-bats and three levels of the minors.
This year, there are a trio of names that stood out at the forefront of draft-eligible players for Akron. I was able to see all three of those players on Saturday: outfielder Joey Havrilak, pitcher Pat Dyer and pitcher J.T. Brubaker.
Dyer was the player I knew the most about entering the year. The 6'9" senior left-hander has been an effective pitcher for Akron during his career. This was Dyer's second appearance since he was hit in the head with a line drive against Davidson early in the year. He had started just four games before the injury. Dyer is more of a command-control lefty despite his size. Yet thanks to that size and the long arms that go with it, he has some deception on his pitches with his later release point. If he had been healthy and put up another year like he had as junior, he would have been an interesting senior sign.
The combination of his size and production should have found him a home in the first 10 rounds, I believe. He is coming back now and has a chance over the last two months of the season to reestablish his value. There is potential there as a left-handed reliever who might be able to get out more than just lefties. His secondary stuff was solid and actually was better than his fastball when I saw him. His changeup was his best pitch. Dyer showed a solid curve but it did come and go a bit, which makes sense after his time off.
Joey Havrilak is another senior for the Zips. The red-shirt senior has some of the best numbers of any player in the MAC this year. Entering the weekend, his slash-line was .359/.455/.550. He has done a little bit of everything this year for the Zips. He plays right field for the Zips and on Saturday he made a nice play where he showed some speed and took a good route to the ball to take a hit away. On Friday, he hit a homerun and hit another one into the wind on Saturday. This is a bit of a feat in Akron, which has a major league-sized stadium that is 330 in the corners and 400 to dead center. It was his fifth of the year and his 15th extra-base hit of the year.
Havrilak is also nine-for-nine in steals and when you see the triples numbers, it is apparent that he has some speed along with pop. He will be viewed as undersized at 6'0" and 185, yet I would be surprised if he is not at least a minor league free agent signee. His numbers are some of the best in the conference. That, along with his athletic ability, should find Havrilak with a team by the end of June.
J.T. Brubaker is the player from Akron who seems the most likely to be selected first in this year's draft. He is a 6'4" right-handed junior. Brubaker is only 170 pounds and could add some more muscle and weight to his frame which could end up adding some velocity to his pitches. His numbers prior to this start were a 2.40 ERA, 46:14 K:BB, and averaging 6.2 innings a start.
He has some nice movement on his pitches, but unfortunately for him, on Saturday he could not control that movement. He was working mostly in the bottom of the strike-zone but was missing low. Brubaker had one pitch hit five feet in front of the plate. It was easily his worst start of the year for Brubaker, who had been nothing short of fantastic all year. He showed a typical three-pitch mix. I picked the Saturday game to attend as I wanted to see Brubaker. He has the size teams look for and, as a cold weather arm from a small school, he has a chance to go in the top-10 rounds because of his potential as a back of the rotation starter. The fact he is a cold weather arm, a small school guy, and needs to get bigger all lead to more possible potential than a typical college arm.
Miami was a team with a lot of high expectations this year and things have not gone well for the Redhawks. They were expected to contend and that has not happened. It has been thanks to injuries and some disappointing performances. They were 6-28 on the year entering play on Saturday. Despite the struggles, they still have some interesting prospects but the only one I got to see was Max Andresen, the catcher. The other players who should be on the radar of some scouts are Ryan Powers, a right-handed pitcher, and Matt Honchel, an outfielder.
Andresen is a defense-first catcher. He looks like what team wants their catchers to look like. He is 6'2" and 200 pounds with a strong arm behind the plate. Andresen showed some framing skills on Saturday and his pop-up on steals was very quick to the eye. I didn’t have a timer set when the situation arose, so no exact times. A year ago it was a bit surprising he went undrafted. On top of the defensive skills, his slash-line was .314/.359/.451. His doubles, in particular, jumped a year ago. This year has been a different story and Andresen has struggled. His slash this year is .189/.250/.311. When you are a good defensive catcher, you always have a chance to be drafted, but the numbers are really going to be hard for Andresen to overcome.
Honchel made the Baseball America list a year ago as one of the top-10 draft eligible players in the MAC. He struggled as a junior and ended up going undrafted. Struggle is a relative term for a player who in his worst year still hit .305. He did attend the Cape Cod League before that season and did very well. He did what he does, which is hit. He has rebounded well this year. His slash-line is the best of his career: .367/.445/.482. I did not get to see Honchel because I got a little turned around and missed the opening half inning. In that first inning, Miami scored multiple runs and Honchel got hurt. He was pulled with a leg injury.
Honchel is interesting because of his numbers. His ISO jumped this year, which is due to him in part hitting his first homeruns of his college career. His numbers don’t show a ton of power or speed. Honchel’s walk-to-strikeout ratio is near even, however. All Honchel does is hit. Over 781 at-bats, he has an average of .353. He works counts, walking and striking out in equal measure. He walked more than 8 percent of the time he came to the plate. Honchel should have a chance this year as a senior to be drafted. He has the on-base skills to intrigue a team and it helps he has done it at Miami and in the Cape.
Powers is the pitcher I missed by going to the game on Saturday. The senior is the Friday starter for the Redhawks and was a 22nd round pick of the Phillies a year ago. He is a 6’5” right-hander who sits in the low- to mid-90’s. His ability has never quite matched up with his performance. He gives up nearly a hit an inning and walks nearly 3.6 hitters per nine. This year, Powers’ hits are down, which is obviously good, and his strikeout- to-walk rate is up again, also a good sign. He is a big kid who has shown a little heat. Since he is a small school player, teams might think there is more to unlock. Specifically, I would bet any team that drafts him would forecast that his stuff would play up more in the bullpen. There is a chance for a velocity jump there which would make him an interesting bullpen arm.