Editor’s Note: Every week through the draft we will have a Full Count Trends piece running here on SCOUT. Every weekend I will look at three players who had a strong weekend and two who had a down week or had their draft stock impacted by something negative (health or otherwise). I am looking at a full count from the hitter's perceptive, so players on the rise will be in the three-balls category and those who have had negative performances or health news will be in the two-strikes category. Think of this feature as a running stock watch on draft prospects. A player in the two-strikes category may recover in plenty of time before the draft commences. You will also likely see names jump into the three-balls category that may not have a high profile yet but will be worth watching in the lead-up to the draft.
Only two more weeks left in the college baseball regular season. We are seeing teams start to clinch conference crowns and lock up a place in the College World Series.
As I have been doing for the last three weeks, I need to talk about Jordan Sheffield, who finally saw his streak of 32 innings without giving up an earned run broken. He gave up a run in the second inning on Friday night, while facing Florida. Most pitchers struggle when facing Florida and it was the weakest start we have seen from Sheffield in weeks. He ended up going seven innings, but giving up four runs on five hits, three walks, hit a batter, and threw a wild pitch while also striking out five. For Sheffield, it was the rare off outing for a player whose height is going to be much talked about leading to the draft and overshadowing the brilliance we have seen from him all year.
Sheffield was facing Logan Shore, who had a very Logan Shore outing. He pitched a complete game, allowing just two runs on six hits, no walks, and a hit batter. He struck out six. Shore faced one of the top lineups in college and continued his dominant run this year. There is no starter who is closer to the majors in this draft than Shore.
J.B. Woodman just keeps hitting for power. After starting the weekend 0-4, he followed it up by going 3-4 with a HR and 2-3 with a HR. The last three weeks, I have talked about the late power surge for the very athletic Woodman. While he didn’t have any multi-home run games, Woodman seems to have taken a step up in the last month. Woodman is a special athlete who could have been a division one quarterback, and I expect to hear more about him leading up to the draft.
Ronnie Dawson and Ohio State had a big weekend, sweeping Michigan. Dawson himself had one really good game on Saturday. He went 2-3, with a strikeout, walk, triple, and a homerun. The home run gives him double digit home runs this year. He has just one home run fewer this year than the last two years combined. He was not a par- time player either of those years, either. Dawson has been a full-time player since the first day he got to Ohio State, and has performed well. The step up his power has taken has gotten him more attention. I think Dawson is a likely second or third rounder this year.
Zac Gallen got back to how he pitched at the start of the year. He faced Notre Dame and possible early round pick, Cavan Biggio. Gallen went eight innings, walking one and allowing just two hits. It is going to be hard for Gallen to go on day one. He is undersized, doesn't throw hard, and it's a deep class for pitchers. Still, his production this year has been enough to take him from after-thought to top-five round selection.
Jon Duplantier of Rice had another double-digit strikeout game. I have talked about him at length. I just wish Rice was in a conference where he faced better competition, so we could truly judge his talent.
Heath Quinn and Samford faced Citadel, and Quinn put on a show. Over the course of the weekend, he was 8-12, with one strikeout, three walks, three doubles, two stolen bases and a homerun. Now, Citadel is one of the weakest teams in the Southern Conference, though their pitching is more middle of the pack. It is a hitter’s conference, by and large, though Quinn has put up numbers that exceed what one has come to expect, even in Southern.
I will end the quick hits by mentioning A.J. Puk. On Saturday, he went just six innings and threw 110 pitches. The numbers were quite good, outside of the high pitch count for such a relatively low inning total. He allowed just one run on two walks and three hits and faced 23 batters, stricking out 11 of them. The command and control issues are still there, but the electric stuff and ability are, as well. Everyone has Puk going at one, and his worst case scenario at this point is either seven or eight in this draft.
Eric Lauer, LHP, Kent State
I am leading off with the pitching performance by the left-hander from Kent State. This weekend, he faced off against Bowling Green and recorded a no-hitter while matching a career-high, striking out 13. He moved into the number two spot all-time for Kent State in total strike-outs. Much like last weekend, when I wrote about a college no hitter thrown by Texas A&M’s Kyle Simonds, Lauer did not walk anyone. The only base-runner was via an error.
I have little doubt that if Lauer stayed at Kent State, he would rewrite the record books, but that is not going to happen. I have written about him at length, and have yet to see him pitch without at least three scouts in the crowd.
Lauer is going in the top-30 picks. The value he brings as a left-hander who has performed as well as he has, not just at Kent State, but also at the Cape Cod League, will be too hard for teams to look past in this weaker draft class. Lauer has some issues and he is not a future front of the rotation starter, but he is an excellent athlete with a clean and easy delivery. I have seen him at his best and worst this year. I know I would be very comfortable drafting him, knowing how high the floor is for him and just how good the mechanics are.
Sheldon Neuse, SS, Oklahoma
If someone had said in February that the first player taken for Oklahoma would be Neuse, they would have been called mad. Now, I think most people who follow such things would shrug and say that makes sense. This is no knock on Neuse, who was drafted in the 38th round by the Rangers in 2013, but more a statement on his growth and other’s falls.
Neuse had been a solid player, but his numbers across the board have jumped up. His walk and power rates, in particular, are what have made Neuse a name to watch, and possibly the top college shortstop off the board on draft day. Even so, he will likely move to third in the pros.
In a rivalry series against Oklahoma State, Neuse was 6-13, with two strikeouts, two walks, two doubles, and a stolen base. On Sunday, he also pitched a perfect ninth for his fifth save of the year and closed out a series win by the Sooners over the 18th-ranked Cowboys.
Neuse’s strong arm is an asset and is why many think he will move to third in the pros. A guy who has been on the radar since high school, he has shown big improvement this year and plays well in the infield. He should hear his name no later than the second round on draft day.
Brett Cumberland, C, California
I have been guilty of not mentioning Cumberland enough this year. The catcher class, while lacking star power, is very deep in terms of top-three round players. If I just was to stick to college players, off the top of my head are Sean Murphy, Max Thaiss, Chris Okey, Jack Rogers, Logan Ice, Zack Collins, and I am sure many others I am forgetting.
Cumberland is closer to Collins in that group. I am not sure he can stick at catcher, but the bat will play anywhere. He has hit extremely well all year and has shown the ability to hit for power while still being a patient hitter at the plate.
Over the weekend, facing Northwestern, Cumberland went 6-10, with one strikeout, three walks, and three home runs. On Saturday, he had a multi home run game. He is a switch-hitter, and I was informed by Carrier Camaro (@carriecamaro) that those home runs came from each side of the plate.
Teams are always looking for catchers who can hit. When you add in his youth (he won’t be 21 until after the draft), it gives him more value. The bat will play and, when I tweeted about his performance, a lot of people came out of the woodwork to tell me how good a hitter Cumberland is. If he can be just a slightly below-average defender, then he should have a future in the big leagues. If he can’t, his bat will allow him to play first.
Alec Hansen, RHP, Oklahoma
The only game that Oklahoma lost against Oklahoma State this weekend was the one where Hansen got the start. He was given a chance to start after a few weeks in the bullpen. Instead of a nice long start, he basically stayed in for the same length of time he would in a typical relief appearance.
Hansen lasted all of 2.1 innings, throwing 71 pitches on Saturday. He allowed five earned runs on six hits and two walked batters. He faced 16 batters, so half of them reached base. For me, the bigger concern is that, for all the great stuff and velocity that Hansen has, he has been very hittable this year, and generally so over his entire career. It often doesn't matter how hard you throw if it is easy for the hitter to pick it up.
There is no bigger wild card in the draft this year than Hansen. I have no clue where he could fall. He is a big guy with big velocity, but, for a guy who turns 22 this year, he is also still more of a thrower than a pitcher, and is going to take some time to develop, if he does at all.
Corey Ray, OF, Louisville
I can’t recall the last time a consensus top-three overall player made my not so hot sheet as often as Ray. The numbers for him this year have been very good, so this makes me think he is a streaky performer. I wrote on how he is kind of an odd player; it’s hard to find a statistical comp for him since the year 2000, which is why Ray Lankford has been the name tied to him. Lankford retired in 2004 and made it to exactly one All Star game. This is the problem with the top of this draft class. I think Ray is a solid player, I also think he would not have gone in the top-10 last year. He would not have gone higher than Benintendi at seven, and his first conceivable landing spot would have been Cubs at nine. Yet, he could go number one and will go no worse than third this year.
Over the weekend, Louisville faced 10th ranked NC State and swept them, mostly thanks to excellent pitching performances, including the continued resurgence of Kyle Funkhouser. Ray, on the other hand, struggled until a solid performance on Sunday. Still, overall he was 2-10, with a pair of walks, a strikeout, and a double.
Ray is going second or third in the draft and I, for one, am pretty happy to see a sub-six foot outfielder going that high. After fighting the fight on height for years, the fact that it never gets mentioned for Ray has been a great sign for the overall change in this belief.