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College baseball preview: match-ups to watch for the week of March 7

Marquee pitching match-ups highlight the NCAA baseball games this weekend to watch for MLB Draft implications.

Now that the college baseball season is in full swing, more and more marquee match-ups are popping up. It’s no secret that if you want to build up your farm system with young talented pitchers, this year’s draft might be the one to do it. With the majority of the top players eligible being pitchers, my focus will be on pitching and six of the top 50 college players in the country this season.

Matchup: #9 Oregon vs #20 Mississippi State 

We start off this one with the headline names being Oregon’s left-handed starter, Matt Krook and Mississippi State’s right-handed starter, Dakota Hudson.

Krook, who many believe is one of the top left handed pitchers in the entire draft, is off to a fantastic start this season. Krook is coming off of Tommy John surgery last year and is just getting things back on track. He has scouts drooling once again with his early-season performance. With six shutout innings (including 12 K’s) in his last outing, Krook has displayed the dominance he has shown in the past, before his elbow surgery.

Krook has a fastball that can sit in the lower 90’s and can touch as high as 95 MPH with good movement, and a dominant curve that has shown to be his out-pitch. He also has been developing a changeup that scouts say can be major league average. The biggest thing for Krook is to show scouts that he can stay healthy. After being drafted 35th overall by the Miami Marlins in 2013, he decided not to sign due to a disputed post-draft physical. I would say that the start to his 2016 season is just what he was looking for.

In the opposing dugout, and someone who might face off against Krook, is MSU’s right-handed ace Hudson. Hudson, who stands at a tall 6’5’’ on the mound, can offer three plus pitches with his slider possibly being plus-plus. His fastball can sit in the mid 90’s and can get as high as 97 MPH. He also displays a good curveball and a good changeup that are both improving. However, his best pitch is his devastating slider that has a ton of bite to it. The slider can sit in the high 80’s and, as mentioned, has a ton of late break on it. He is a bit of a raw prospect and can lose control of his pitches in spurts. In my opinion, he is a projected mid-rotation starter, but if that doesn't work out, he could be a very effective closer at the next level. 

Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Matchup: #18 Virginia vs Duke

This matchup may feature the best pitching matchup of the week, with Virginia’s ace Connor Jones and Duke’s ace Bailey Clark, both right-handed pitchers.

Jones’ national profile rose significantly last year at the College World Series, and he is one of the better right-handers in this entire draft. He may not have the ceiling of Krook (Oregon) or Alec Hansen (Oklahoma), but he may also be one of the safest pitchers to take. Jones has good size and build for a starting pitcher, 6’3’’ 200 pounds. He has a variety of pitches in his arsenal, with his slider being his best and most dominant pitch. Much like the Hudson profile, Jones’ slider sits in the mid 80’s and has a lot of break to it at the end. With his consistent approach in between starts, Jones could be one of the top 10-15 players taken this year, as he tries to buck the trend of failed Virginia starters in the major leagues.

On the other side of the bump is Duke’s Clark. The 6’5’’, 200-pound big, tall righty has been Duke’s go-to man for the Blue Devils this season. He has shown two possible plus pitches, with his fastball that sits in the mid 90’s and his slider that usually runs in the mid 80’s. Much like the other pitchers described in this article, Clark’s pitches can have a ton of movement on them, making it hard for opposing hitters to get out in front of his pitches. Right now I would say that Clark would be a third or fourth round pick, depending on what the selecting team sees as his future. The question many scouts ask is whether or not he is a starting pitcher or a reliever at the next level? I think that if he can continue to improve on his secondary pitches, he may have a chance to stick in the rotation and could end up as a mid- to back-end rotation guy. If, however, he does go to the bullpen, his rise through the minor leagues could be a rapid and successful one.

Matchup: Pittsburgh vs #6 North Carolina 

The matchup that most intrigues me this weekend is in the ACC, and features two pitchers who are making up a ton of ground in the scouting world and on draft big boards.

Zac Gallen, the strikeout machine for the #6 Tar Heels, has been turning many heads with his ridiculous strikeout numbers in his outings so far this year. Coming into this year, I was a bit leery on Gallen. I wasn't sure whether he was a guy who was going to stick in the rotation in the big leagues, or a guy who was better suited for the bullpen. At times, I saw Roy Oswalt in his game, and at other times I saw David Riske. Ultimately, I think Gallen falls somewhere in between, with Oswalt being his absolute highest ceiling, of course. Gallen displays very good command on his pitches and one of his best qualities is his ability to work inside and out around the plate. He has a fastball that sits in the mid 90’s and has been his go-to pitch when he wants an easy punch-out. He also displays a good curveball and a good changeup. In the end, I see Gallen as a second round pick, but I will admit with the year he is having so far, he may find himself in the back end of the first round.

On the Pittsburgh side of things, one player you can miss, and I mean that literally, is 6’7’’, 215 pound T.J. Zeuch. Zeuch, the Ohio native, is one of the better prospects to come through Pitt in some time. He has a four-pitch repertoire, with his slider and his 12-6 curve being his two best offerings. Being so tall, it makes it harder for guys in the batter’s box to know what’s coming, with every pitch coming at a downward plane. The Panthers ace is one of the more consistent pitchers in this year’s draft. Although he doesn't have the accolade-laden college career that some others have had, Zeuch is a solid prospect and should settle in at the back-end of someone’s rotation in the major leagues. I predict he will be drafted in the top 5 rounds of this year’s draft.

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