Last weekend, I made a trip out to Youngstown to see Wright State play. The Horizon League is not as strong as it has been in years past, and the loss of teams over the years has not helped. The conference is currently made up of just seven squads and Wright State has been the powerhouse in conference the last few years.
It was not a good day for baseball. About halfway through the second game, it started to rain a lot. I have never seen a game played in so much rain. They waited for the game to go seven innings before they called it. I was unable to take video for the second half of the game because the rain made my touch screen unusable. It was pouring rain, but they had to get the game in, so the players dealt with it.
For Youngstown, there was one player that I had hoped to see, Kevin Yarabinec, a reliever who had gotten some run before the year began. I did not get to see him pitch in either game of the double-header. He is a depth player who should get to hear his name called in rounds 11-40.
I did see Jared Wight, a 6’5” left hander who I noticed some scouts did come out into the rain to get radar readings on. The numbers have been ugly, with an era over 7.20 for his college career, but he’s a lefty with size and he could get drafted as a cheap senior sign or a late round pick.
The main reason for me to go was to see a trio of players from Wright State, and more specifically, a possible first-rounder in Sean Murphy, the catcher from Wright State. I will save my report on him for last, as he was the most interesting player I have seen in person this year.
A quick note: I did miss game one, the negative effect of having a day job. So I did not get to see Jesse Scholtens, the senior pitcher for Wright State, who transferred there from Arizona a few years ago. He will be a top-10 round pick this year as a preferred senior sign. He is a big innings eater type who pitched a perfect game earlier this year, the first in Wright State school history.
Mitch Roman, SS/2B
Roman’s position and ability to play multiple infield positions will be his ticket to getting drafted. On the day, I didn’t see anything that stood out or any detractions; he looked like an average shortstop with an arm that should allow him to stick there. In some ways, his average performance is more impressive, because he had to deal with a soaked baseball and a wet field. He didn’t have any issue getting rid of the ball or getting to it despite the conditions.
Offensively, he has hit well at Wright State. However, when you look at his strikeout to walk rate and consider the level of competition, the numbers aren’t as impressive as they might seem at first look. He does have some speed, though, and that has shown up in stolen bases and triples in the stat line.
Still, I see a potential post 10th round player who can bring speed and the ability to play multiple positions on the infield which, at worst, teams will value as a utility/backup player, which is always a need in the minors.
Ryan Fucci, OF
A year ago, Fucci was thought to be a player that would be drafted as a highly productive college junior. He played centerfield while showing power from the right side. Now, he is likely to move to a corner and his strikeout total was one of the highest I have seen. This is even more concerning when you consider that he plays in a lower level conference. This year, his power is down and everything else is pretty near the same.
Now, getting to see him in person, he ran well, but it is clear he will move to the corner. He also hit everything hard that day, despite the weather. He was the second most impressive hitter I saw on the day. I think he has a chance to be a senior sign to save money or a post 10th round selection. His ability to play either corner and bring some right handed power should see him drafted this year.
Sean Murphy, C
Murphy started the year hot then missed over a month with a hamate injury. Hamate injuries can typically affect power and swings in general, so it was nice just to see Murphy back so quickly, let alone playing well.
Murphy’s calling card is defense. He is one of the best defenders in the draft and is the top defensive catcher in the draft this year, and I don’t think it's really up for debate. His arm is one of the better non-speed tools in this class. It is an elite tool and his defense alone gives him a floor as a backup catcher.
When I saw him, he moved extremely well, not just well for a catcher. He has average speed and quick feet in general. His hands are quick, too, and I think with the right team, he could be a player with positive pitch framer grades.
I have to mention the conditions again from Friday. They were constantly changing up the ball during the game, but it was still a wet ball. Also, the rainfall was constant and heavy, which affects line of site. I saw him hit an opposite field shot, which he legged into a triple. It was his second hard hit ball of the day.
He has a very patient approach at the plate, taking several pitches per at bat. His walk rate this year is very high but, for his career, has been over 11%. His strikeout rate, which is also higher this year, is 13% for his career. So, he has struck out or walked nearly a quarter of the time he has come to the plate in college. I think he will always be a high strikeout player, but he balances it out with the high walk rate.
I have seen a pair of potential first rounders this year in Eric Lauer and Sean Murphy. Murphy was the most impressive of the pair. It is rare to see a catcher who moves so well and, when you combine the defense and athleticism with his size and frame, it's hard to not get excited for his upside.
This visit confirmed for me that Murphy is a first rounder. He is not healthy, yet, and was hitting the ball hard and showing a complete game. He might never post a high average and might strikeout a lot, but the skills are there for a top-10 player at the catcher position down the road.