In this week’s edition of ‘What to Watch For,’ I will be focusing on several of the lesser names being talked about in this year’s MLB Draft. As is typical with the MLB Draft and draft prospects, guys can rise and can fall in a matter of weeks. So this week, I will focus in on some players who have come out of nowhere and are making names for themselves this season and should be rewarded come June.
Matchup: #1 Florida vs #7 South Carolina
In the nation’s top matchup this weekend, a good amount of scouts will be back down in SEC country to check out this one, with three probable first round picks set to take the field.
For Florida, we will be welcoming back left-handed ace, A.J. Puk, who has missed the last couple of weeks with a back injury before returning to the mound last weekend. On the season, Puk is 2-2, with a 3.07 ERA in 41.1 innings pitched, to go along with 55 strikeouts. Puk still has a good chance to go top 10 in this year’s draft, as he can dazzle a crowd with his upper 90s fastball and plus offerings. It will be good to see him back out there in hostile territory against a top-10 team.
On Friday night, we will be getting the chance to see the other half of the dynamic duo for the Gators on the mound, as Logan Shore takes the hill. Shore has been as steady as anyone in the country this season. Shore is 8-0, with a 2.14 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 63 innings and has won every game he has started, except for the two no-decisions he factored into so far. Shore doesn't display the “stuff” that Puk does, however; for Shore, it’s all about location and mixing his pitches. Shore is a good bet to go off the board within the first 34 picks.
Another Florida Gator that should go in the first round this June is speedy outfielder, Buddy Reed. Reed entered the season as one of the top college offensive players that is draft-eligible and he has a solid season going so far. Reed is hitting .297, with three home runs and 25 RBI to go along with 19 stolen bases. The one thing that Reed is going to need to improve as he gets to the higher levels is that he is going to need to cut down the strikeout rate, especially if he wants to remain at the top any lineup. Reed, with his speed, should still be able to hit for a decent average and will be a terror on the base paths.
For South Carolina, their top draft-eligible prospect is RHP Wil Crowe. Crowe is 3-4, with a 4.91 ERA and 59 punch outs in 51.1 innings pitched. Crowe displays a hard fastball that can sit around 94 MPH, with a good mix of off speed pitches. His ability to strikeout hitters will be his bread and butter. I wouldn’t be surprised if Crowe returns to South Carolina for his senior season next year, but only time will tell.
Matchup: Stanford vs Oregon State
We go up to the Pacific Northwest for this week’s matchup between two of the top teams in the Pac-12. One of the top catching prospects this year is Logan Ice, who has really come on this season and has put his name on a lot of boards this spring. Ice is hitting .368, with six home runs and 34 RBI this season. Ice is known more for his defensive prowess, but has really busted out this year with the bat. He’s not likely to go in the first or even the second round this year, but he should prove to be pretty good value in the third or fourth rounds of the draft.
Another guy to keep an eye on for the Beavers is shortstop Trever Morrison. On the season, Morrison is hitting .301, with one home run and 19 RBI. Morrison has the ability to hit the ball to all parts of the field, but doesn't show much, if any, power. Morrison is more of a traditional defensive shortstop who won’t kill you with the bat. Drafted in the 38th round by the Boston Red Sox in 2013, Morrison should be taken anywhere somewhere in the 10-15 round range this year.
For Stanford, their top draft-eligible player has yet to take a step on the field this season. Cal Quantrill, son of former big leaguer Paul Quantrill, has been recovering from the dreaded Tommy John surgery he had last season. Quantrill is an interesting prospect, though, as he displays first round stuff and some team will likely take a chance at drafting him in hopes they he signs with them as he completes the full recovery process. There is a chance that Quantrill returns at some point this season, but if I were him, I would not chance it. It’s hard telling where he could go in the draft, though he surely will be drafted and will likely be a guy who signs for well over slot money.
Matchup: Houston vs Tulane
This is an interesting matchup that features two teams and a couple of players who aren’t talked about a whole lot.
We start off with the top prospect for Houston, 6’1’’ right-hander Andrew Lantrip. Lantrip has had an excellent season, with a 5-5 record and a 1.82 ERA to go along with 68 strikeouts in 74 innings pitched. Lantrip, although a slim frame at only 170 pounds, can really throw the fastball, which sits comfortably at 90-92 and can top out at 94 MPH. To me, Lantrip is a guy who can go anywhere from rounds three to five, as he should prove to be good value at those spots.
For Tulane, the guy to watch this weekend is shortstop Stephen Alemais, who is having a solid junior season. Alemais doesn't offer much power to his game, however, he has good bat control and is a plus defender. Hitting .339, with one home run and 18 RBI on the season to go with nine stolen bases, Alemais is another one of those traditional shortstops. Alemais is a guy who should go anywhere from rounds 5-10 this June.