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.
It’s hard to believe this is the last Full Count Trends piece of the year. This weekend we saw a lot of teams finish up their seasons. Most major conferences had their conference tournament. The notable exception was the Pac-12, which does not have one. For more than a few players, this was the last chance to perform and make an impression on scouts before the draft which is two weeks from today.
This year I have focused on some players more than others and wanted to try and include some new names. So again this week I am going to cheat a little. I have three who performed well and three who struggled.
Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt – I am not sure what more he can do. It was interesting to see Swanson named a second team shortstop in the SEC behind Alex Bregman this year. I would think by nearly every offensive measure Swanson had a better year. As crazy as it might be, I think Swanson’s greatness this year has been overlooked a bit. I know I am guilty. I mean 13 homeruns, 20 doubles, 36:37 walk-to-strikeout ratio, and a slash line of .353/.440/.656. Over the weekend, during the conference tournament, he helped lead Vanderbilt to the championship game. He went 4-13 with a walk, four runs scored, a double and a homerun. He is going to go one or two in the draft. It is clear to see why. He has done a little bit of everything this year. He shows average to above-average skills all over the board and should stick at short. He is a safe pick with the ceiling of a future All-Star at shortstop that can hit at the top of the lineup. It’s a rare skillset for the position. Swanson is number two on my board and will remain there.
Kevin Newman, SS, Arizona – I had to write about Newman when I saw he went deep in the first inning of the final game of his college career. He hit a shot down the line and it went out. It was his second of the year and the second of his career. He hit his first homerun also at home back on April 12th. Newman wrapped up another solid year. He can hit, although his power (even doubles power) is lacking. If Newman could show just below-average grade power he would be a sure top-20 selection. I talked about Swanson’s numbers above. Over three years, Newman has only five more extra base hits than Swanson has this year. There is a chance Swanson could pass him with a good post season. Despite the lack of power, the bat and the fact Newman can stick at short should see him go in the 20-35 range in the draft this year. Over the weekend he was 6-12 with a homerun, four runs scored, a double, and a stolen base.
Cody Ponce, RHP, Cal Poly Pomona – Ponce is one of the few lesser division guys still playing. He has had a solid year but not as good as one might expect for a player with his stuff at the level he is playing. He has shown good command but I expected a few more strikeouts. On Sunday, he went seven innings, allowing two earned runs on eight hits and two walks. He struck out eight. Ponce is a player in the 18-35 draft range. I have heard him connected with just about every team in California. His biggest problem might be guys like Kyle Funkhouser sliding who will still likely go higher than him, which in turn could push him down. Ponce has a solid track record. There was an injury issue to start the year, but he has shown no signs of anything since then. He is a big, 6’5” kid, who should have a floor as a solid bullpen arm. He needs to develop a third pitch, but Ponce is certainly a name to know this year.
Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville – It has felt like Funkhouser has backed his way to end to the first round. He faced Clemson on Thursday and really struggled for the third time in his last four starts. He has been facing top teams like Clemson and Florida State but that hasn’t helped his case. There were rumblings this weekend that he might be the third best arm on Louisville behind closer Zach Burdi, whose brother Nick was a second rounder last year, and Brendan McKay. Funkhouser has literally cost himself close to a million dollars over the past month. He went from a guy in the picture to go number one to a player who might fall out of the top 20. Funkhouser had looked like a guy who had figured it out and turned it around. Now, however, he has looked like the inconsistent player who had left teams frustrated the past two years.
Brandon Lowe, 2B, Maryland – Lowe is a guy I have yet to mention this year. He is a redshirt sophomore from Maryland. I heard more than a few people I trust tell me to check him out. He has been a highly productive bat the past two years. Lowe walks more than he strikes out, which is something I always look at. He has shown some gap power this year and his homerun total jumped up to nine from one the year before. His doubles totals have gone up, as well. In such a deep class of up-the-middle talent, a guy like Lowe is being over-looked a bit. I am not saying he is a first-round talent, but I think he is a mid- to late-second round guy. Lowe will be knocked for being just 5’10”, but he has been so productive as an up-the-middle talent I think he is a guy to watch. Maryland lost in the Big Ten conference championship. It was surprising they made it that deep after the weekend Lowe had. He didn’t do well during the tournament going 1-12 with a walk. It was not the performance you want to leave in teams’ minds, as you end the year.
Ryan Burr, RHP, Arizona State – Burr is a reliever I like in this year’s draft. Now when I say a reliever I like that means I give him a third-round grade. I don’t believe in giving high grades to relievers. They will never be in my top-50 players because of relative value and the fact that more than a few good relievers were first starters. He has struck out 68 batters in only 40.1 innings. Burr’s strike-outs per nine is more than 15 this year. He has been the closer since his freshman year and has racked up 37 total saves. He has been hit a bit more this year and his walks, while down, are still high. Despite that, it’s hard to not see backend potential in the 6’4” frame on Burr. In a tight game against USC over the weekend, he came in with two on, walked the bases loaded and then gave up a bases-clearing triple. He didn’t record a single out, giving up two runs on a walk and a hit. He came back on Sunday night and went 1.1 innings, walking one and allowing no one else to reach base. This is the Burr people expect to see. The concern with Burr is going to be command. The stuff is there but the command needs refinement.