This week, I will be focusing solely on some of the better bats in this year’s class. This draft obviously has very good depth and is stocked with several good pitchers, many of them within the SEC. However, this week’s ‘What to Watch For’ will focus on offensive players -- some who will be in the top half of players selected in the first round and a couple who are making names for themselves this spring.
Matchup: #16 Clemson vs #9 Louisville
We start off with a matchup featuring one of the top outfielders in college ball, Corey Ray, who could very well be the first outfielder plucked away in this year’s draft. As stated before, Ray is a superb athlete and a tremendous hitter. Ray is hitting .321/.390/.606, with nine homeruns and 39 RBI to go along with a staggering 28 stolen bases. There is much to like about Ray’s potential as a future big leaguer. One of the things many wanted to see was how well he would develop power as part of his offensive skillset. Knocking one out every 15 at bats this year, he has answered that question very definitively.
With Clemson, the name to watch is catcher Chris Okey. Okey is considered by many to be one of the top two or three catchers in this year’s draft. Typically, one would think that catcher wouldn’t be much of a high impact position within a lineup. However, this year’s class has a few really good catchers. This year, Okey is hitting .352/.465/.570, with six home runs and 31 RBI. Already known for being a pretty good defensive catcher, Okey has shown he can more than hold his own with the stick.
Matchup: #11 LSU vs Missouri
The key guy to watch in this matchup is LSU outfielder Jake Fraley. The Tiger centerfielder has been a key cog at the top of the LSU lineup, using his athleticism and eye at the plate to pester opposing teams. Fraley is hitting .313/.413/.450, with a home run and 15 RBI thus far this season, to go along with 17 stolen bases. Fraley displays a very good eye at the plate as evidenced by his 21 walks to only 14 strikeouts. I look for Fraley to be selected within the first 3-4 rounds in June.
The prospect to watch for Missouri this weekend is shortstop Ryan Howard. Howard is better known for his glove than he is for his offense. He is more of a prototypical shortstop than the new-age guys who can hit for both average and power. Howard is hitting .279/.377/.419, with three home runs and 18 RBI, to go along with nine stolen bases this season. I look for Howard to be taken anywhere from the 5th round to the 10th round.
Matchup: Auburn vs Tennessee
On paper, this matchup features two sub-par teams, with three wins a piece in SEC play. That’s not the case when looking at prospects coming out in this year’s draft.
The top prospect and best player for the Auburn Tigers is centerfielder Anfernee Grier. Looking up and down prospect rankings, you could make an argument that no player is shooting up the boards faster than Grier, a potential 5-tool slugger. He’s hitting a blistering .421/.506/.641, with seven home runs, 27 RBI and 16 stolen bases. Grier is someone to keep an eye on going forward and could be taken possibly at the end of the first round or somewhere in the second round in this year’s Amateur Draft.
Going from one potent bat to an even more potent one, Tennessee slugger Nick Senzel is looking more and more likely to be the top bat off the board this June. To say that Senzel is tearing the cover off of the baseball may very well be an understatement. The Volunteer infielder is hitting .361/.484/.605, with four home runs and 44 RBI. He also has the ability to steal bases, swiping 11 bags to only one caught stealing. Senzel already is a known commodity to college baseball and scouts around the country. At this point, he is just adding to his resume and will make some team very happy when he is selected early on in just a couple months.
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