With the college season wrapping up next weekend and the MLB Draft less than a month away, we dive into some guys who will surely go in the top two rounds of this year’s draft.
Matchup: Pittsburgh vs #3 Miami
We start off this week’s ‘What to Watch For’ with a match-up between two ACC opponents, featuring the conference’s best hitter and one of its top pitchers, who has really made a name for himself during the second half of this season.
For Pittsburgh, the key prospect to watch this weekend, and he's hard to miss, is 6’7'' right-handed pitcher, T.J. Zeuch. Zeuch is a giant on the mound and has three very good pitches in his arsenal. He has a fastball that sits in the 93-95 range and a high 80’s slider that is his best off speed pitch. He also mixes in a sharp 12-6 curveball that has been very effective as well. In 8 starts this season, Zeuch is 6-1, with a 3.11 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 55 innings pitched. Zeuch has been rising up the draft boards recently and could very well be a second or third round pick in a month.
For Miami, the headliner is catcher Zack Collins, who is still absolutely mashing the baseball. I have written about Collins several times this season, as he clearly is the top catcher in this draft and is one of the better hitters overall in this year’s class. On the season, Collins is hitting a robust .392, with nine home runs and 43 RBI. Pitchers often tend to pitch around Collins, as he is drawing an extremely high walk rate. He has drawn 52 walks to only 30 strikeouts. This weekend’s match-up against Zeuch, on Friday night, will be a good test for the young catcher.
Matchup: #4 Mississippi State vs Auburn
One of the best match-ups you’ll see this weekend will take place on the campus of Auburn University.
The main name coming into this match-up is Mississippi State’s right handed pitcher, Dakota Hudson. As with Collins, I have written many times about the 6’4'' righty, who is having an excellent season. On the year, Hudson has a 7-3 record, with a 2.80 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 80.1 innings pitched. This year has really done a ton to help the overall body of work that comes with Hudson. Sure to go in the first round of this year’s draft, Hudson has really put together a solid season and will soon be rewarded.
While not the headline name of this series this weekend, a guy who many could come away thinking may be the best player on the field, now and in the future, is Auburn outfielder, Anfernee Grier.
Grier is still relatively unknown to many, and very well could (and should) go in the first round this year. Drafted in the 39th round out of high school in 2013 by the Detroit Tigers, the athletic outfielder has really put his name on the map starting at the end of the 2015 season. This year he has become of the best overall players in the SEC. Hitting .390 with nine home runs, 37 RBI and 17 stolen bases, Grier can really spray the ball all over the field. He still has some raw power that has yet to develop but, in time, he could eventually become a consistent 15-20 home run guy. It should be a must-see matchup in the batter’s box between him and Hudson on Friday night.
Matchup: #23 Florida Atlantic vs #13 Rice
Now, for my most intriguing match-up of the weekend, I will be focusing on a shortstop who has really put up huge numbers this season and a pitcher who has been blowing away hitters all season long.
For FAU, the key prospect to keep an eye on is shortstop, C.J. Chatham, who is drawing some pretty high praise from many around college baseball. At 6’4”, Chatham is unlikely to stick at SS long term, as many see him moving over to third base or even a corner outfield spot. Still only 170 pounds, Chatham has a lot of filling out to do, and he should also be able to add much more power as time rolls along.
On the season, the standout shortstop is hitting .369, with six home runs and 42 runs batted in. He also has 15 doubles and four triples to further add to his outstanding resumé. One of the more interesting things about Chatham, when he was coming out of high school, was that many programs, bigger programs, wanted Chatham as a pitcher. Chatham threw 96 mph and had a plus slider coming out of high school. However, Chatham wanted to play shortstop, or anywhere in the field rather than pitch. That is how he ended up at FAU rather than some of the bigger schools like Miami, Florida, or FSU.
Based on pure talent alone, I feel comfortable that Chatham is a guy who should be drafted in the first two rounds in June, and whoever drafts him will only be tapping into his overall potential as a professional ball player.
Rice, which is known as a program more for its pitching prospects, has another one in 6’4” right-hander, Jon Duplantier. On the season, Duplantier has been dominating opposing hitters, putting up gaudy numbers in the strikeout department. With a 6-4 record and a 2.20 ERA to go along with 107 strikeouts in 86 innings pitched, the Rice ace has been putting himself back on the map.
After sitting out the 2015 season to sort of get things in order outside of baseball, Duplantier has really come on strong this season and has shown the first round potential that he flashed during his sophomore year, back in 2014. It’s easy to see that Duplantier still has that first round talent, and coming back this spring to re-dedicate himself to his craft has paid off big time. I look for Duplantier to sneak into the back half of the first round, maybe with one of the supplemental picks at the end of the first. If this kid slips into the second round, someone will surely have hit on some major value.