This weekend, I made two separate trips to Kent State to see a pair of games in sub-freezing temperatures. As I sit here, writing and watching the snowfall, it seems hardly fair to be well into April and still dealing with this much cold. I wanted to make this point because we often see hitters struggle in the bitter cold. Not surprisingly, while I took in a pair of games, most of the batters I wanted to see struggled.
On Tuesday, I went up so I could see Ohio State face off against Kent State. I have talked at length about the players from Kent State that caught my eye last game and I wanted to add another player to the list.
Luke Burch is a redshirt junior who hit leadoff for Kent State. On a day of near freezing temperatures, he hit a pair of ropes to the deepest part of the park. Kent State’s centerfield goes to 415, so it is not a small place. On top of that, he showed plus speed down the line. The kid could really move. A team that needs a fourth outfield type in the minors could take a shot at Burch, who, in his two years at Kent State, has hit well and posted high BABIP. He’s a name to know who could get called on day three.
I posted video of the top four hitters for Ohio State from this game, as I think all four could go in the top-10 rounds of the MLB draft. There were four scouts there that night and I am sure they were there for the Ohio State players. On a Tuesday night, with weather that bad, it was a sure sign a scout was there to see the visiting team.
The top draft prospect from Ohio State is Ronnie Dawson. He looks like a middle linebacker, but shows plus athleticism and really moved well in the outfield. The best tool I saw all game was Dawson’s arm, which was clearly plus. I would say it looked like a 65/70 grade arm. He also ran well out of the box and his speed is another above-average to plus tool. He didn’t do much with his bat in the game, but has performed well all three years at Ohio State.
Dawson has posted excellent on base numbers in college and has shown more power in his game this year. The tools are certainly there for Dawson to go in the top five rounds. I would expect to see him somewhere in the third to fifth round.
Troy Montgomery is an undersized centerfielder who profiles as a plus defender there. He also has plus speed and set an Ohio State record for steals a year ago. I noticed more than one scout tracking his speed down the line. He has shown surprising pop the last two years, but it is unlikely it would ever be an average skill. His defense and speed give Montgomery two plus tools. This should be enough to see him drafted in day two of the draft.
Jacob Bosiokovic is a big dude at 6’6” and, this year, his size has allowed him to generate good power numbers. Before this weekend, he had the highest home run per game rate of any hitter who had played in more than 15 games. His power has tailed off since he returned from injury. On Tuesday, I never saw a strong swing from Bosiokovic. I am not sure I saw him hit a ball out of the infield. His size, along with a natural athleticism, should allow him to hit for power. A redshirt junior, he is a bit of a lottery ticket, but one I expect a team will take a chance on in day two.
The last player I wanted to note from Ohio State was Nick Sergakis. Sergakis is a senior who has been mostly known as a defensive wizard at Ohio State. If not for Montgomery, he would be the best defender on the squad. He is an above-average to plus defender at third. I am not sure if his defensive presence would have been enough to get drafted, but this year, his offensive game has matured. His average has been near .400 all season. His homerun total this year is equal to the last three combined and his strikeout rate has been cut in half. When you combine with the defense and ability to play multiple positions on the infield, I expect Sergakis to be a senior sign on the second day of the draft. Of all of the Ohio State hitters, he had the best performance, making hard contact and hitting the ball to all fields.
On Friday night, it was snowing, but that did not bother Eric Lauer in the least. Before I get into the report, I have to give the numbers he put up that night. He pitched a complete game shutout on 106 pitches. He gave up two hits and walked none, while striking out 10.
Now, I first must state that he was facing a weaker University of Toledo team (6-24-1 this year) that is, offensively speaking, the worst in the MAC. Yet, he did what you expect to see from a great pitcher -- he dominated his opponent.
It has been a good year for Lauer; his walk and home run rates are up, but his hit and strikeout rates are improved. Statistically, he has stayed the dominant arm in the MAC that he was as a sophomore.
I have seen Lauer three times over the last two years and will see him one more time in May. This was the complete game I had been hoping to see for a while. Lauer is a plus athlete with three above average pitches. His slider was his best showing and flashed plus throughout the game. His slider was an effective out pitch for him all game, with nice break that should allow it to be a weapon versus left handers. In the games I have seen, he sits 92-93 and hits 94 a few times. On Friday, he repeated his delivery well. I have seen games where he slips a bit and his pitches start to drift up or out of the zone. This is when he gets into trouble.
I was starting to think Lauer might be a second rounder. However, finally seeing a good outing where Lauer was able to keep it together for a full game eased my concerns. Here is an athletic lefty who has been one of the best strikeout pitchers in college baseball. It is hard not to see him going in the top 50 picks.