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.
The college and high school baseball seasons are coming to an end and t,he draft is less than a month away. This weekend saw so many massive performances, so again in order to highlight all of the great weekends, I am going to do a bit of a work around from the typical format.
Please note that most of the games this week started out on Thursday and were done before Sunday so the weekend numbers include Thursday this week.
Meet the new NCAA homerun leader, as Thompson went off against Georgia Tech this weekend. He was tied last time I checked but has passed Andrew Benintendi for the lead amongst power conference players. I think he had the best weekend of any hitter this season and that was after an average Thursday. On Friday, he went deep three times and had nine RBI. I don’t like to use RBI as a stat typically but when you have nine in one game, that is a number that pops. Over the weekend, he was 7-14 with four homeruns, three walks, six runs scored, and 10 RBI. Thompson is an interesting player. He played in only 20 games a year ago because he had Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. This is something that is typically seen more in pitchers than hitters. Thompson has come back from the injury strong. He should go in the top-three rounds. He is a first baseman, which will hurt his draft value. He has played third this year but I have not heard anyone who thinks he sticks there. The hardest thing to acquire in baseball is right-handed power and Thompson has shown some this year. This draft does not have a lot of right-handed power, either, so Thompson is a guy to watch, as he is on pace to hit more homeruns than Kentucky alum A.J. Reed (now in the Astros’ chain) did a year ago.
I warned I needed a work around this week. I wanted to highlight a pair of arms that have been reported to have shown velocity jumps, which is not a common occurrence among college juniors.
Kaprielian is the only player who could challenge David Thompson for the most impressive weekend performance. He went nine innings, allowing four walks and striking out 11. His team gave him no run support, so he ended up being part of a combined no-hitter. I give a lot of credit to the UCLA coaching staff for pulling him after nine and trusting one of the top closers in college baseball, Dave Berg, after the Bruins scored in the top of the 10th. Kaprielian is going to go in the top 35 picks. He is a known player from a baseball factory. He has shown some extra velocity this year and has had a very strong year. I have heard he could go in the mid-teens, as some teams really like him as a safe starter.
Justin Jacome was a well-known arm before the season began. He was supposed to be the Friday night starter for UC-Santa Barbara but got pushed back when Dillon Tate ended up in that role. Instead of pouting, Jacome went out and pitched well this year. Jacome is widely viewed as a safe left-hander who has backend potential. He has rarely been over-powering in college but what is interesting is that I saw it reported on Saturday night that his high 80s/low 90s stuff has morphed into low- to mid-90s. He is still a guy you project as a back-end starter but the velocity jump means a better chance he gets there. He wasn’t throwing that hard on Saturday and gave up 12 hits but fought through 7.1 innings, allowing just two runs. He struck out six and walked one. I think Jacome ends up going no later than the third round to a team that wants a solid left-handed pitching option.
Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt
He started on Thursday and it was another lights-out performance for the guy who has been one of the best this year for any power college program. He went nine innings and struck out 14, walked four, allowed two hits and one run. I don’t love seeing him throw 127 pitches but by every account, he was untouchable. He was facing Alabama which has two players in Mikey White and Casey Hughston who will be top-five round picks this year, so he faced good competition. The question is who has the guts to pull the trigger on Fulmer. Every year I go to bat for an undersized arm like Sonny Gray, Marcus Stroman, Rob Kaminsky and Brandon Finnegan. Every year those guys go later than they should because of size. I get the concerns with Fulmer. His delivery is very high effort. I don’t feel as strongly about him as the four guys I mentioned before but still Fulmer is a clear top talent in this draft who will go later than he should because of size concerns. His stuff and stats are as good as anyone in this draft and he was holding his velocity through the entire game on Thursday, which is not something a lot of guys in this draft can do with his type of velocity.
Thomas Eshelman, RHP, Cal-State Fullerton
I have a friend who has never watched a college baseball game. He has no interest, but every Saturday morning we discuss the latest Eshelman start. This weekend Eshelman pitched a complete game shutout, allowing five hits and striking out 12. He walked no one because he never does. He has walked six batters in 105.1 innings. Over 46 starts and 345 innings of his college career, he has walked 17 players. Kyle Funkhouser walks that total in about four games. This is not a knock on Funkhouser; it just shows how unbelievable Eshelman has been when it comes to commanding his pitches. I get it: the stuff is average but at what point can 70 grade command mean that a guy has potential to be a solid pitcher? He should move very quickly, as his stuff is refined and his command is exceptional for any pitcher. He is 6’3”, 190 pounds, so he can get bigger and possibly add some velocity. I can’t wait to follow his career. Eshelman is the test case for how important command and control versus pure stuff is. He will be in my next top 50; that’s a promise.
Duggar was considered a possible first-rounder before the year began. He has all the tools a team could fall in love with. His antithesis is his teammate Matthew Crownover, who despite being undersized and over-looked as been an excellent pitcher all year and threw another gem on Thursday. Duggar has plus speed and a cannon arm. He should be able to hit for average power, as well, as he has a big strong frame. He struggled at the start of the year and the industry just seemed to collectively give up on Duggar after years of waiting. Yet something very interesting is happening this year, and I doubt I am the only one to notice. In the past, Duggar has struggled as a free swinger who was prone to high strikeout rates. His first two years in college, he had 50:97 walks to strikeouts rate. This year its 49:38 walks-to-strikeouts rate. He is going to walk more this year than he had the first two years combined and his strikeout-to-walk has gone from 1.89 last year to 0.78 this year. It’s like he is a completely different batter. His power totals are up, as well.
Duggar looks like a plus defender to me with plus speed who all of the sudden is an on-base threat. This weekend, Duggar was 3-10 with four walks, five runs, a homerun, and two stolen bases. I think he goes in the second round to a smart team that sees a potential leadoff hitter with plus defense. If I was running a team, I would draft him and put him in centerfield and hope he continues with the growth he has shown this year.
D.J. Stewart, OF, FSU
I feel bad for Stewart. He has been a great player for Florida State for three years. He is an on-base percentage machine. Yet he is clearly sliding a bit on boards. The Benintendis and Deweeses of the world have passed him by. I think he is more than likely a sandwich pick or later now, maybe even a second rounder. He will get hit with being a bad body type, which isn’t fair, he is just a thick kid. I don’t mean that as a euphemism either. He was an all-state running back and you can see that. His arm and speed aren’t great so he is a left fielder or a first-baseman which again hurts his value. Then you add in that he is undersized and it makes team concerned about his power potential, so you can see the issues. This weekend, he was 4-12 with a run, double and homerun. I am still a fan. It’s hard to look past the fact that he has walked 62 times in 54 games. I think the floor is high for him. Players who show anywhere near his level of command of the strike zone as a hitter have a better chance of finding their way to the majors.
Happ actually had a pretty good weekend. He was 6-14 with a walk, two doubles, a homerun and two runs scored. Yet his stock is sliding. I considered him a lock for the top-10 because of the weakness of the college bats. I still believe in the bat and he is going to stay in my top-10 on my big board. Yet now some places he is sliding out of the top-20 picks. He is considered the fourth or fifth best college bat in some places, as well. He is the third-ranked college bat for me because of positional value. I like the bat more than sure top-10 picks Dansby Swanson or Alex Bregman. Swanson and Bergman look likely to stick to short and Happ has bounced from second to the outfield this year. This is hurting him and someone like Andrew Benintendi has a chance to pass him on some boards, because he is an up-the-middle player. Happ has the best current hit tool in this class and it projects as a plus hit tool. He is a switch-hitter with a chance to stick at second base with average power. He walks as much as he strikes out. If Happ does slide out of the top-15 whatever team drafts him will get a downright steal in my eyes.