Mercer University Athletics

College baseball preview: match-ups to watch for week of 5/16

It's the final weekend of regular season play in the NCAA baseball season. Where are the top MLB Draft prospects playing this weekend? Joe Becerra previews three match-ups.

Finally! With the MLB Draft right around the corner and with the college season wrapping things up this weekend, we will be taking a look at what's going on around the NCAA in its final weekend of the 2015 season. This week, I will be focusing primarily on guys who will hear their names come off the board in the first round, along with a couple guys who won't be far behind.

Matchup: #1 Florida vs #10 LSU

Coming into the season as the top college prospect and presumptive first overall pick in June's Draft, Florida's ace left-handed pitcher, A.J. Puk, has done nothing to diminish his chances as being the top overall player selected in just a few weeks.

Things started to look a little murky for Puk, as, back in April, he was shut down for a couple weeks when he was dealing with a back injury, causing some to question his durability. However, since coming back from the injury, Puk has quickly reminded the baseball world why he makes the most sense for the Philadelphia Phillies to take him with the first overall selection. On the season, Puk has taken the ball on the hill for 12 starts and has a 2-3 record with a 2.88 ERA. Those are good numbers, obviously, outside of the 2-3 record. In his case, the record doesn't do justice to just how dominant the 6'7” lefty has been. He has 82 strikeouts in just 56.1 innings pitched, and has displayed the downright filthiness that has had scouts drooling all season long. At this point, it's almost inevitable that Puk will become the top overall pick in June.

As for LSU (who, by the way, is a very good team, as well), the Tigers are headlined by outfield prospect Jake Fraley. Fraley has become one of the best offensive threats in the SEC this season, particularly on the base paths. Hitting a solid .325, with just two home runs and 26 RBI, the speedy Tigers outfielder demonstrates his worth on the on the base paths, as evidenced by his 24 stolen bases. It's also worth noting that Fraley does have eight doubles and five triples to add to the resume, and is a solid guy at the top of any lineup. Fraley seems more like a second or third round pick at this point.

Chris Daigle

Matchup: #5 Louisville vs Wake Forest

In one of the most underrated match-ups this weekend, we will get a good look at two of the draft’s top hitters in the class, as well as possibly the best closer in the draft, when Louisville meets up with Wake Forest.

The obvious headline name in this group is the potential five-tool stud roaming the Louisville outfield, slugger Corey Ray. Ray is a do-it-all type of player and has been punishing pitchers in many different ways all season.

On the year, Ray is hitting .327 with 13 home runs and 55 runs batted in, as well as knocking around 16 doubles, to boot. Where Ray also excels on the baseball field is the ability to steal bases at will, with 36 stolen bases so far. Ray has a legitimate threat to be a 20/20 guy in The Show, in the not too distant future.

Another elite prospect to watch out for this weekend for Louisville is their closer, Zack Burdi, who has premium velocity on his fastball and slider. Burdi, whose brother, Nick, is a top pitching prospect for the Minnesota Twins, has been blowing hitters away in late games. With a fastball that has ability to hit triple-digits routinely, and a slider that can top out at 90 mph, Burdi has all the makings to become the one premier closer out of this year's draft. On the season, Burdi is 1-2, with a 2.25 ERA and 42 punch-outs in 24 innings pitched. He has also racked up nine saves in the process. He looks on track to be yet another first-rounder for this Louisville Cardinals squad.


For Wake Forest, they bring to the table one of the better overall hitters coming out this year in 1B/3B, Will Craig. Some say that Craig is one of the more advanced and polished hitters in this year's class, hitting .417 with 13 home runs and 56 RBI, to go along with 15 doubles. Many believe that Craig will go somewhere in the middle to end of the first round. 

Matchup: Mercer vs. UNC Greensboro

This matchup really only features one guy in particular that is on anyone's radar. Thus, I think it's appropriate to cover him now, rather than earlier in the year, because of the competition and level of play he goes against on a weekly basis.

Kyle Lewis is arguably the best hitter in this draft. He comes with possibly the highest ceiling of any hitter coming out, and many believe he will follow up Puk in June, and be taken second overall by the Cincinnati Reds. The talent is there. The makeup is there. The stats are there. The one knock on Lewis is that he plays for Mercer and has the Southern Conference for competition. When you watch Lewis play, you say to yourself, "this is a can't miss guy". He has plus power to all parts of the field. He has a fantastic approach inside the batter’s box, and has the ability to spray the ball all over the field. The stats speak for themselves. In the last two seasons, he has hit 34 home runs combined (17 apiece), and has driven in 110 runs (64 this season). At 6'4” 200 pounds, the Mercer slugger has the physical makeup to become a lethal hitter in the middle of any lineup, and would go straight to the top of any organization’s prospect list.

This weekend, Lewis and the Mercer Bears take on UNC Greensboro, and the winner of the series will ultimately take home the Southern Conference title.

You can comment or follow me at @JoeBecerrra on Twitter.

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