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College baseball preview: match-ups to watch for the week of Feb. 29

Which NCAA baseball match-ups offer the most intriguing storylines for the MLB Draft this weekend? Joe Becerra breaks down three key match-ups to watch.

After spending last week covering some of the draft’s best hitting prospects, this week I will be focusing on a few top pitchers in this year’s Draft, as well as a couple of position players who could start to rise up some boards with a solid showing this weekend.

Matchup: Oklahoma vs #21 UCLA

I’m looking forward to this matchup mainly because I would like to see how Oklahoma fireballer Alec Hansen rebounds from a rocky start to his year. Hansen has all the makeup of a true #1 ace in the big leagues. However, command seems to be his biggest issue. His fastball sits in the mid to upper 90’s and can top out close to triple digits. Once considered a 1:1 entering the year, he is going to need to reign in the command a bit to go in the upper half of the first round. As of right now, Scout MLB Draft Expert Jeff Ellis has Hansen going #2 overall to the Cincinnati Reds. I have a feeling Jeff will be updating Hansen's status in his next mock draft.

Justin Hite - Scout

When it comes to UCLA, they are an interesting case. Most of the guys whose names are attached to UCLA and the 2016 draft are either still in high school (Mickey Moniak and Blake Rutherford), or guys who aren't eligible this year. There is one Bruin who is draft-eligible this year that catches my eye, and that is 6’9’’, 235 pound righty Tucker Forbes. Forbes, who is primarily a sinker-ball pitcher with a developing slider, can be useful in the rotation or coming out of the bullpen. Many see Forbes as a reliever in the big leagues, thanks to his stature on the mound and that sinker barreling down on opposing hitters. It’s said that his sinker sits in the low 90’s, so I think to be an effective big league reliever he's going to need to bump that up just a bit. Right now I see his draft stock somewhere in the first 10 rounds. It should be noted that if he can get his sinker ball in the mid 90’s consistently, he could be a fast riser through the minors.

This game will be played at Dodger Stadium, in Los Angeles.

Matchup: #2 Vanderbilt vs Stanford
When I see this one, the first guy who stands out the most to me is Vanderbilt right-hander Jordan Sheffield. Sheffield displays a mid to high 90’s fastball with a plus slider and a plus circle change. He was once widely considered to be a first-round guy coming out of high school in 2013, but he needed Tommy John surgery. The Boston Red Sox took a chance on him in the 13th round before he decided to stick to his commitment with Vandy. If you can pick out a couple negatives with him, they would be his command and his smaller stature on the mound. Sheffield stands only 6’0’’ tall and has a smaller, 185 pound frame. His brother, Justus, was taken in the first round by the Cleveland Indians in the 2014 Draft. Jordan is probably one of my favorite pitching prospects in this year’s draft and, based off of arm talent alone, should end up going in the first round.

Bryan Reynolds is the offensive guy to watch in this matchup this weekend. When I take a look at Reynolds, there isn't just one tool or one part of his game that pops out at me. He is about as solid as it comes across the board. He does everything well, but nothing great. Reynolds is a solid hitter and can hit to all parts of the field. He projects as a 10-15 home run guy in the majors and his speed is adequate. He is listed as one the top outfielders in the Draft, but I view him more as a high floor, low upside type of guy at the next level. He is one of the safer players in this draft and should go in the first round and could fly through someone’s minor league system. Ellis had Reynolds going #10 overall to the Chicago White Sox in his last mock draft.

On the Stanford side of things, the must see player to watch is ace Cal Quantrill. Cal, who is the son of former big leaguer Paul Quantrill, has a variety of pitches in his arsenal. Quantrill, like Sheffield, is also coming off of recent Tommy John surgery. The Stanford starter is looking to get back to his former self. His fastball sits in the mid 90’s and has both a curve and a slider along with a changeup. Being the son of a former major leaguer, Quantrill handles himself on the mound in a professional manner, as his mound presence is one of the best in the draft. Many scouts are anxious to see how quickly Quantrill progresses as the spring rolls on and he starts showing his full potential. Right now, his draft stock sits around the 2nd round range but, as mentioned, if he regains his sharpness to his pitches he could fly up draft boards. He is shown going #15 overall in Ellis’ most recent mock draft.

Matchup: Wright State vs Georgia

I had to work this one in because it’s not often you see a top prospect from such a small school go up against one of the better pitchers for a major program. Sean Murphy is considered the Draft’s top catcher by Ellis. Murphy’s best quality is his defensive prowess and his ability to handle a pitching staff. His hit tool is still coming around and he has added some power to his game, as evidenced by his three homers in the early going. Right now, he is likely to go in the second-round range, but could squeak into the first round if his hitting continues to improve.

Courtesy Wright State Athletic Department

The reason I picked this matchup in particular is because Murphy is unlikely to see any of the draft’s top-shelf pitching prospects, outside of Georgia’s Robert Tyler.

Tyler’s electric fastball has him as one of the tougher pitchers to face in college baseball. The fastball (which can sit in the mid 90’s and can touch as high 97) has lots of movement and can be devastating to opposing hitters. He also displays a power curve and a changeup, but struggles to throw both for strikes at times. The one negative with Tyler is that he is much more of a thrower than he is a pitcher. If he can make better use of his stuff, he can develop into one of the better pitching prospects in the draft. In Scout’s most recent mock draft, Tyler is going #29 to the Washington Nationals, who are known for taking high-upside pitching talent, such as Lucas Giolito a few years ago.

My sleeper for this one is Stephen Wrenn, the speedy centerfielder from Georgia. Wrenn led his team in batting average, hits, home runs and stolen bases a season ago and looks to continue his rise among draft boards. Another guy who does many things well and doesn't hurt himself with one glaring weakness, Wrenn has a chance to leap into the top two or three rounds of the draft this year with another solid season. 


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