Editor’s Note: Every week 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.
Another week, another week of player performances. Let’s dive in.
The Ronnie Dawson extra base hit watch is on for another week. On Friday, he went 3-3 against Hofstra, with a pair of triples and a homerun. I hope that this production will continue for the Ohio State outfielder when his team starts conference play and faces higher level competition.
Willie Abreu has been a known player since high school and, while his time at Miami has not gone completely as planned, he had a big night Friday facing Kyle Funkhouser. Abreu went 2-4, with a pair of homeruns. Abreu has slid down the Miami lineup this year and needs a few more performances like this so he can move up and make a bigger impact on scouts. He looks like a 3-5 round player right now, if not later.
Speaking of the Miami versus Louisville game, Funkhouser had another forgettable game. He went five innings, walked five, struck out four, and of his 101 pitches thrown, just 54 were for strikes. He turned down more than a million dollars a year ago and I can’t see how he is going to get anywhere near that much this year. Instead of showing progress, he seems to be regressing and the free fall has begun.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention a pair from Auburn who faced off against #3 ranked Texas A&M. Anfernee Grier has been getting a lot of talk so far, thanks to his hot start. Over the weekend, he went 5-14 with a homerun and a walk. He is not the biggest kid, but between improved plate discipline and more power at the plate, Grier is rising up boards and generating first round talk.
Josh Palacios is a junior college transfer who, statistically, is playing as well as Grier so far. Palacios was 8-14, with two triples, two doubles, two stolen bases and a walk. He will be draft-eligible this year and, between his performance and bloodlines (his uncle played in the majors), Palacios is a name to watch in later rounds on day two.
Eric Lauer, LHP, Kent State
Lauer plays 30 minutes from my door. I have been familiar with him for years and have been tracking him as a player. I was hoping Lauer would come out strong after a solid summer on the Cape. He did not have the strongest of starts, but he has rebounded in his last two starts. He has performed against Radford and Liberty the past two weeks. On Friday, he pitched 8.1 innings, striking out 13, allowing just one walk and three hits. The previous week, he went 7 innings, striking out six, walking one, hitting two batters, and allowing five hits.
Over the last two weeks, Lauer has not allowed a run while going deep in games. I wish we had seen this earlier in the year, when he was facing better competition. Lauer, by and large, has been the same guy I saw a year ago. He can get a little too fine around the strike zone and this can lead to problems with control. He has mid-rotation potential, but he was missing from my last board because of concerns about performance this year. If he can show improvement and continue to pitch well, he has a chance to make the next big board.
A.J. Puk , LHP, Florida
This year has seen the top of the draft take multiple hits, which has really hurt the value at the top. I have stated it and will continue to state it -- I can’t recall a weaker top of the draft ever. There is not a single player I would put in the upper tier. While I do like Jason Groome a lot, I am not sure he quite fits that elite type of tier. So far this year, Puk has been a bit of a disappointment. He has not stepped up as many had hoped. He has not been struggling, but, instead of a leap, he was posting rates similar to a year ago.
On Friday, Puk faced Tanner Houck (a likely top-10 pick in a year) and Missouri. Puk finally had the dominant performance we have been waiting on. He went seven innings, striking out 11, allowing three hits, and walking one. He threw 107 pitches, 70 of them for strikes. His command has been a concern, but on Friday, he had no issues at all. Florida is starting to enter SEC play and Puk will be pitching in the best conference in the country. If he can continue to show improvement, then I think there is a very good chance for him to be the first college pitcher off the board. As a matter of fact, I am not sure if he has any competition for that role.
Dakota Hudson, RHP, Mississippi State
Hudson is one of the most interesting players in this class. He has pitched just three fewer innings this year as he had in his entire college career coming into the season. After struggling with his command these last two years, Hudson has made a seismic leap this year. I also want to bring up how little his arm has been used the last two years because after such a limited performance in the past, his coaches decided to leave him out there for 126 pitches on Friday. Hudson has a chance to be a first-rounder; for his coaches to leave him out there was beyond reckless. I saw the reports that said he was hitting 94 with his fastball in the ninth; that is immaterial when talking about a player who pitched just 16.2 innings a year ago.
For the game itself, Hudson was facing Vanderbilt and was great. He went nine innings, striking out eight, allowing four hits, walking two, hitting two, and allowing a wild pitch. Hudson has gone from a wild reliever to one of the top starters in the country. He faced one of the top teams in the country and shut them down over nine innings, so his team could get the win in extras. I think he has a chance to go in the latter half of the first round.
Alec Hansen, RHP, Oklahoma
Cal-State, Bakersfield is a program that is certainly on the rise. Since 2010, CSUB has had 16 players drafted; before then they had just two players drafted. The program has yet to have a major league player and the highest drafted player from Bakersfield went in the 8th round. I say all of this because on Friday, Andrew Henson, a freshman from Bakersfield, went toe-to-toe with Hansen. One would expect a potential top pitcher in the draft to step up and dominate a weaker division team. Instead, Hansen went 4.1 innings, allowing four hits, three walks, a wild pitch, a hit batter and striking out six.
Hansen barely made my last top 30 and, while I recognize he is likely a first-rounder, I just know I would have no interest. There are too many issues to look past just in the name of upside. When there is a laundry list of issues, a player should probably not be a high pick. I am having flashbacks to Sean Manaea, Jeff Hoffman, and Mike Matuella the last few years, in terms of stuff-over-production arms.
Bailey Clark, RHP, Duke
At the start of the year, Clark was pitching as well as any pitcher in the country. On Friday, he faced Zac Gallen, who has been as good as anyone this year. Gallen got the upper-hand and continued to excel. For Clark, it marked his second weak start in a row. On Friday, he went five innings, walking three, allowing four hits, and throwing one wild pitch while striking out five. It was not a great start, but we have seen much worse performances by starters this year. Clark apparently has had enough of these weaker outings. According to reports, he has shaved his beard, hoping to change his luck of late.
Clark is one of the many righties competing to go early. He is likely a second-to-third rounder, but could see his stock slide if this stretch of negative play continues. I have stated before that there are so many right handers that one really needs to separate themselves, or risk falling down the boards.