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.
I have been leading these reports off with Jordan Sheffield and his streak the past few weeks, so instead, let’s lead off with Eric Lauer, who is on a streak of his own. In a game that was rather meaningless for Kent State, Lauer pitched just 5.2 innings, but not because of performance. Just a week ago, Lauer was one error short of a perfect game. This week, he gave up just one hit. So if you’re keeping track at home, over the last two starts he has gone 14.2 innings and struck out 20. He has allowed just two base runners during that time, a single and a base runner thanks to an error. Until giving up a hit in the third, he had gone over 11 innings without allowing a base runner through any fault of his own. Lauer seems to be turning it up to another level over the last month and is a top-30 lock.
Kyle Nowlin is another former Ohio prep player. He now plays at Eastern Kentucky. The senior outfielder also happens to lead the NCAA in home runs. He currently has 21; there are a few players tied for second with 19. Over the weekend, he went deep twice, and his other two hits were doubles. Nowlin, for the past two years, has been one of the top power hitters in the NCAA. He was an unsigned 30th-round pick a year ago by the Phillies. As a senior sign, I expect someone will call his name in the middle rounds. Nowlin walks and strikes out a lot, but the right-handed power potential is worth a cheap lottery ticket for some team.
Justin Dunn continues to see his value rise. He has started just six games this year, and was mostly used the last three years in the bullpen for Boston College. Dunn might be the biggest pop-up player this year. He was seen as a reliever with a big fastball, and now there is some Dillon Tate to his game. Over the weekend, he pitched a complete game, allowing one run on six hits and a hit batter. He walked none and struck out nine, while facing a Georgia Tech team that has been solid all year and has a draft eligible hitter of note in Kel Johnson. Dunn is not Tate. If he was, then he would be the top pick in this draft. He is not the same caliber of athlete, nor is his secondary stuff as strong. Yet the ceiling is extremely high and Dunn seems to be a likely first rounder now, which is something no one would have expected back in March.
I have been talking about Jon Duplantier for weeks; well, this was a weekend to forget for Duplantier and Rice. They got swept by Louisiana Tech. Duplantier went just 4.1 innings, allowing nine runs on seven hits, three walks, and two hit batters. He did manage to strike out eight, so even on an off-day, he was still cutting down his opponents. What stood out about this outing was how hard Duplantier got hit. He gave up three home runs and two doubles. For those who aren’t great at math, he gave up seven hits and five went for extra bases. He will have more chances to pitch and, hopefully, he will rebound in his next outing.
While Duplantier might have more chances to pitch, T.J. Zeuch will not. He went out on a high note for Pittsburgh, facing Duke on Thursday. He pitched a near complete game, allowing just one run on eight hits and two walks. He struck out 12, which was a new career high. Pittsburgh ended up losing in the 10th inning. so, despite the stellar outing, no win for Zeuch. Zeuch and Lauer were part of the 2013 Ohio prep draft class which somehow saw only one prep player taken of note, but, after a few years of college, produced at least three first rounders and another two to three second to third rounders. Zeuch and Lauer competed to be the best prep pitcher in the state in 2013, along with Zach Farmer. Now, they will compete to see who the first pitcher off the board in round one will be.
Lastly, I have to mention Corbin Burnes, who has been a force all year for the St. Mary’s Gaels. He faced Portland on Friday and pitched a complete game, allowing two runs on four hits and no walks. He struck out 11 on the day. Burnes is a smaller school guy and with the number of name arms in the draft, he gets forgotten at times. This would be a big mistake, as Burnes is more than likely going somewhere in the second round. He has four pitches and is a plus athlete. While St. Mary’s is a great program, one has to wonder if there might be more growth than one finds in your typical college junior.
A Pair of Fallen Arms (Alec Hansen, RHP, Oklahoma and Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville)
I know this is cheating, but there is some room for comparison here, as both pitchers were projected in some places as top-10 talents in this draft, when the college season began. Then they both imploded, to the point where one had to wonder if they would go in the top three rounds.
I will start with Hansen, who was on the not so hot side of this article a week ago. On Friday, Oklahoma faced Austin Peay, a smaller, but respected program, and Hansen had his best appearance since February. It was just his second or third good start of the year and only his second win of the year.
He went six innings, allowing just one run, which was scored via a balk after a triple. He allowed three hits and walked three batters on the day, while striking out 10. He threw 115 pitches over six innings, 72 of those pitches for strikes.
This was a big outing because, with his size, velocity, and stuff, teams are looking for reasons to draft a talent like Hansen. This was a great outing for him. He was dominant and kept the ball in the strike-zone, avoiding the wildness that has plagued him this year. It only takes one team, but I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see him slide back into the top-50 picks.
Funkhouser has had similar issues this year, and, after a rough start, has found a lot of success for Louisville as their Sunday starter. It is not often that you see a player who has had first-round talk in that role, but Funkhouser has stepped in and, of late, stepped up. This weekend, he went seven innings, allowing three earned runs on four hits, a walk, and a wild pitch. He struck out 10 on the day.
Funkhouser turned down somewhere between $1 to 2 million a year ago. He is not going to see that type of money this year. He has a chance, though, at getting close to that million dollar total and could sneak back into the early second round if he can continue to perform and put those negative memories from earlier this year out of scout’s minds.
Dakota Hudson, RHP, Mississippi State
Hudson has rebounded back from what appeared to be a dead arm period about a month ago. There had been concerns spoken by some, myself included, that after being a reliever his entire career that he could run in difficulties. Well, the last few outings have caused me at least to put those concerns aside.
On Thursday, he was facing Arkansas and pitched a shutout. He allowed five hits and two walks while striking out 11 batters. He did also uncork three wild pitches, but it was another dominating performance for Hudson.
This time last year, Hudson was an erratic reliever with good stuff. Now, he looks like a very possible top-10 pick, who is going no later than the top 15.
Matt Thaiss, C, Virginia
One of the hottest college hitters right now, in terms of talk, is Thaiss. People are becoming a lot more bullish on his bat all of a sudden, while becoming less sure about his defense. I think he can be a below-average defender at catcher, whose bat is enough of a carrying tool to look past his defensive woes. Over the weekend, he went 7-13, with a strikeout, two doubles, and a homerun.
On the year, Thaiss has struck out just 4% of the time, and 8% for his career. He has average power and a slightly above-average hit tool, which would make him a top-10 player at catcher pretty easily. This class has its issues, but Thaiss is not part of that, and will be a first rounder.
Will Craig, 1B, Wake Forest
Craig has seen his power production tail off over the last month or so. A lot of his power was against Wake’s weaker non-conference schedule and, when you combine this with his performance in the Cape Cod League, it is easy to see why there are some concerns of late for Craig.
http://www.scout.com/mlb/story/1644678-scout-s-2016-mlb-draft-central?s=304 This weekend, facing Louisville, Craig had a very rough go. He was 2-12, with four strikeouts and no walks. Wake ended up being swept by Louisville, but still qualified for the ACC tournament. Craig, despite his power struggles, has still shown an above-average hit tool and plate discipline. One has to wonder what he will be able to do when he finally gives up pitching and focuses on hitting full-time. I mentioned the concerns with his production and he will probably have a bad body label by some scouts. Yet, look at the stellar numbers; he was hitting over .400 heading into the weekend, and walks more than he strikes out.
I am still a fan and think he is one of the top-20 players in this class.
Anfernee Grier, OF, Auburn
Speaking of players I am a fan of, Grier had a rough weekend. The centerfielder from Auburn has seen his stock take a bit of a hit after his very hot start. His name has been dropping on some boards, and he seems to have gone from potential first rounder to a second or third round player.
Over the weekend, Grier and Auburn faced Vanderbilt and their excellent staff. Over the first two games, Grier was 0-5, with three walks and three strikeouts. On Saturday, he rebounded in a big way, going 3-4, with two homeruns and a walk. So, in all, he was 3-8, with four walks and two home runs, which is a pretty solid weekend. So why did he make this list?
Well, as I stated, the first two games were not good for Grier, but the bigger issue is that Auburn lost all three games to Vanderbilt. This meant that they did not qualify for the SEC tournament, which meant the end of the year for Auburn and Grier.
Ending on a huge game is a positive for Grier, but one game can’t erase the last month, which has seen Grier’s stock take a tumble.