Another weekend down and now there is basically one month left in the college season. A month from next week, the conference tournaments will begin. So, for many players, this is their last month to make an impression.
There is no combine, no way for these guys to make an impact other than playing well in the games. So it is extremely important for these guys to perform down the stretch.
I have to lead off with Jordan Sheffield. On Friday, he not only shut down Nick Senzel of Tennessee, who went 0-4, but Sheffield also went eight innings without allowing a run. That now makes 17 straight scoreless innings for the right hander from Vanderbilt. It is funny, before this streak of performances he had his worst outing of the year. Sheffield is the top right hander, by my reckoning, in this draft.
Zach Brown had another Friday to remember-- he went 9.2 innings. Yes, you read that right. He pitched into extras and was not the only pitcher to do that this weekend. His pitch count was 115, so, while not great, I don’t have a huge issue here. He allowed one run on six hits and two walks, while striking out six. I think he has an outside chance to get his name back into the top two round discussion, maybe even the supplemental round if he continues to pitch well.
Logan Shore threw a shutout on Friday. He allowed just two hits and walked one while striking out six. He did it on just 101 pitches. Shore has been one of the best pitchers in the country all year. He is a polished pitcher who really has nothing left to prove. If your team drafts Shore, I think he can be in the bigs in two years or less. He doesn’t need a lot of development and should be a solid back end arm.
T.J. Zeuch was one of my last cuts from my latest big board. On Saturday, the 6’7” right-hander went eight innings, allowing no runs and giving up just four hits. He struck out nine and didn’t walk anyone. A likely second rounder, Zeuch has come back from injury to excel for the Pittsburgh Panthers.
Kel Johnson is a draft-eligible sophomore for Georgia Tech who I have been waiting to write on all year. I liked him dating back to high school. As a matter of fact, he made my first big board for the 2014 draft. On Saturday, he played in a double-header and went 5-10 with a double. He is likely a first baseman, so that is going to hurt his value. The question, though, is whether it will hurt him so much that he doesn’t get offered enough money to sign this year. He has the extra leverage to go back to school and try and improve his value.
I interviewed Heath Quinn last week and he had quite the Saturday, as well. In the first game of the doubleheader, he went 0-3 and was hit by a pitch. The second game he went off, going 3-5 with a pair of home runs and a double. I don’t normally mention RBI, but when you have seven in one game, it sticks out. Quinn is up to 17 home runs on the year now. His power is obvious and should get him drafted in the first two rounds.
Will Craig had a rough Saturday, striking out four times facing potential top-10 pick next year, J.B. Bukauskas. On Friday and Sunday, Craig turned it around and went deep in each game. He is up to 13 on the year and playing well in the second-best conference in all of college baseball. If you think he could play third or outfield, I think he is a top-10 player in this class right now. I do not expect to see him get out of the top 30 picks.
A.J. Puk, LHP, Florida
I have to lead off today’s list with Puk, the player who was one of the presumptive favorites to go number one overall when the season began. Once the season started, he didn’t so much as struggle as not live up to expectations. A few weeks ago, he was removed from a start in the first inning due to back spasms. He subsequently took a week off to get healthy, which he certainly looked on Thursday night when facing Georgia.
Puk went 6.2 innings, giving up one run on three hits and one walk. He struck out 10 of the 24 batters he faced. He was cruising until the sixth, when a pair of doubles lead to a run and chased him from the game.
Puk is still in the running for the first overall pick. If he can turn it around in this last month, I think he has a great chance to go first overall. As a matter of fact, from what I have heard, I think the Phillies would prefer him there over the college bats.
Cody Sedlock, RHP, Illinois
I mentioned previously how multiple pitchers this weekend pitched more than nine innings and Sedlock was the other pitcher to do it. On Friday, he went 10.2 innings and threw 132 pitches while facing Ohio State. He allowed just five hits and walked one, while striking out 14.
I have some serious issues here with having a pitcher go almost 11 innings and throwing that many pitches. This is Sedlock’s first year as a starter. A year ago, he worked out of the bullpen for a pretty stacked Illinois team. Asking him to transition to a starter and then sending him out for that many innings and pitches is borderline abuse. It is a lot to ask for any arm to go that long, especially one who has pitched more innings this year than the last two combined.
It was still an impressive performance for Sedlock, who should be a likely first rounder this year. It was not a good look for Illinois, which was criticized a year ago for the way they handled Tyler Jay.
Jon Duplantier, RHP, Rice
Duplantier is a name many might not know a lot about. I have been tracking him for a while and waiting for a chance to talk about him. He is a big, athletic right-hander who is a very intelligent kid. His strikeout rate this year is over 11 per nine. I know there are some inconsistencies with his stuff, even throughout a game, but he can certainly spin a curveball, which is his best pitch.
On Friday, Rice picked up the loss, but no one can blame Duplantier, who struck out 10 over seven innings. He walked three and surrendered six hits, leading to two runs, but only one earned. The strikeout and walk rate are in line with his averages this year.
There is a lot to like here with Duplantier. The fact that he missed last year with injuries and pitches for Rice are major concerns that will push him down the board. I think he is a likely second rounder, but would have no issue with someone calling his name late in the first.
Matt Krook, LHP, Oregon
I was very high on Krook to start the year and he came out and pitched well. The former first-rounder had a pedigree, stuff, and performance before injury that got me very excited for his potential. Over the last few months, his performance has regressed significantly, to the point where I no longer feel like I can trust him with a first round or even an early second round grade.
On Friday he went 1.2 innings, allowing just one hit but walking five and hitting another. He struck out two batters as well. He threw 56 pitches in less than two innings, while struggling with his command, which has been the story for the last month or so.
I have mentioned many times how control and command are the last thing to return after surgery. I have preached patience in the past, but the numbers for Krook are just too ugly to ignore. His walk per nine is 8.14, which is the highest I can recall in recent memory from a starter. He has pitched in two more games but 3.1 less innings then he did as a freshman pitcher, before he suffered an injury. His walk rate is 4.5 walks per nine higher than it was then. So there is some hope that his walk rate could be more about his injury and recovery.
There is certainly upside with Krook, but at this point the numbers make it really hard to invest a lot of pool money or a high pick in a player who has struggled this much.
Top-three college bats
There are three college bats who all look like they could go in the top six picks this year. There seem to be three teams very set on college players, and unless Puk steps up, I would expect Kyle Lewis, Corey Ray, and Nick Senzel to all be gone in the first six to 10 picks. It was a weekend where all three of the big names really struggled, though.
Ray and Louisville faced Boston College this weekend. Boston College has been a little bit of a surprise in the ACC and has one of the biggest risers in the draft in right-handed pitcher Justin Dunn. Ray struggled leading off all weekend. He went 0-10, with three walks and three strikeouts. This is just one week after he led off my hot sheet. As of now I would bet on Ray to be the first overall pick in the draft, though his performance, along with how Puk performed, makes me think the gap is smaller than it was at the start of the week.
Lewis was facing Furman this weekend and it was about as bad a showing as possible. I have written at length about how exciting it was to see his improvement in terms of walk and strikeout rate. This weekend, he didn’t walk once but struck out six times in 12 appearances. This was a return to the big swing-and-miss issues that we saw in the past with Lewis. On the whole this weekend, he went 3-12 with nothing else but strikeouts. It was a weekend to forget for Lewis, though there are some concerns, as his strikeout rate has started to creep back up over the last month.
Senzel is the safest bat of the group. It was still a rough week, facing a very talented Vanderbilt pitching staff. This weekend, he went 2-11, that is it. He didn’t strikeout, walk, no extra base hits, nothing. In a way, there is something positive to be taken from this, since he faced a potential top ten pick this year and next and didn’t strike out once. Of the three players this weekend, I think he had the best bad weekend. He didn’t have the strikeouts of Lewis and at least he had a hit, which is better than Ray. It was not a good weekend for Senzel, but that is often the case with those who face Vanderbilt.