Les Johns

2017 MLB Draft:Full Count Trends 2-24

The College Baseball season has just begun. Jeff Ellis breaks down who is on the rise and who is falling in his latest Full Count Trends of the year.

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.

The college baseball season has begun and so it's time for a new edition of Full Count Trends. I am going to try and not let this article get away from me this year. I knew it would end up with 10 or more players brought up. So instead, at the end I will highlight a few players who did not make the cut this week.

The college baseball season is two weeks old, so it's time for a new edition of Full Count Trends. I have two players appearing for the second week in a row--one whose performance turned around and one who has continued his early woes.

3 Balls

Ricky Thomas LHP, Fresno State
Thomas is a name that only big draft fans or Fresno State fans might be familiar with but, with more starts like the one he had on Friday, that will surely change. The first batter Thomas faced doubled and, after that, he never surrendered another hit. Thomas went seven innings, giving up no runs on one hit, two walks, and a hit batter. Thomas also had the first balk of his career on Friday. The big number, though, was Thomas recording 15 strikeouts while facing 24 batters from UC Riverside. In a classic example of why pitching wins are so flawed, Thomas got a no decision as the pen proceeded to blow a three run lead and then lose the game in extra innings.

Thomas is a player to take note of for a few reasons. Last year, he pitched 104 innings over 15 starts. Over those innings, he walked just 16 total batters, which would be a walk per nine of about 1.38. On top of this, Thomas also struck out 108 batters last year, which means his strikeout to walk ratio was an outstanding 6.75.

Ricky Thomas is a smaller, 6’1”, left hander with a high 80’s to low 90’s fastball. He mixes in a change, which is his best pitch and should be an above average offering. His also has a curve that should work as a third pitch. Thomas is also a very good athlete, which enhances his value. His size and velocity, along with the level of competition, will be the knocks on Thomas this summer. For teams that value control and players with a track record, Thomas should start to get consideration in the second round. His performance and being left handed make him a likely future major leaguer in the pen, if nothing else.

Alex Faedo RHP, Florida
After noting the struggles of Alex Faedo a week ago, I had to come back and point out his success this week. Faedo has pretty much owned the University of Miami during his career at Florida. On Friday, he continued this dominance, going 8.2 innings and allowing no runs on two hits and a walk. He struck out eight as well.

After his double knee surgeries this fall, Faedo was going to be one of the most scrutinized players in the country this spring. After the start last week against weak competition, I had already seen talk online about there being something wrong with Faedo. This week, he told everyone to forget about it.

Faedo might not have explosive stuff, but he was second in the country in strikeouts a year ago. As long as he stays healthy, I can’t see any way that Faedo is not a top five pick this spring. While he might not hit 98, he still looks like a potential ace starter, with two plus pitches and top level performances.

Gavin Sheets 1B, Wake Forest
This weekend, Wake Forest faced off against USC, and put on quite the offensive show. The Demon Deacons scored 15, 9, and 18 runs over there three matchups and Sheets was at the center of that offensive production.

On Friday, Wake Forest faced Mitch Hart, a right hander who has been on the radar since his high school days. Sheets had little trouble with Hart. He went 4 for 5, with three home runs, a double, a walk and nine RBI. There were a few other players who had very strong Fridays but, unlike the rest, who I will mention below, Sheets stayed scalding hot. His total numbers for the weekend were 10 for 13, with four home runs, two walks, two doubles, and 14 RBI. I normally don’t mention RBI, but his totals were quite impressive.

Gavin Sheet’s dad, Larry, played eight years in the majors, mostly as a starting outfielder for the Orioles. Sheets has progressed every year at Wake so far, showing improved power and eye at the plate. He is a big kid, at 6’5” and 235 pounds, and as one would expect, his power is his best tool. His size, power potential, and bloodlines should see Sheets drafted in the top three rounds.

2 Strikes

Tanner Houck RHP, Missouri
This week, the University of Missouri and Tanner Houck faced another weaker squad, this time against Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and Houck struggled yet again. This week, he went 4.1 innings, giving up four earned runs on six hits, three walks, and a wild pitch. He did manage to strike out five batters. His struggles with control the past two weeks are surprising, as his walk rates had been excellent the previous two years.

Houck entered the year on my top ten. There were three main reasons I had him so high. The first is that he has a fastball that has been clocked in the high 90’s. The second reason is his youth. Houck won’t be 21 until after the draft. For comparison sake, he is just 17 months older than Alex Scherff, who is a current high school senior. The last reason, and maybe the most important, has been Houck’s performance in the SEC. He has shown strong control, with an ability to strike out batters in the best conference in the country.

Houck has been viewed by some as a likely reliever, because of his delivery and his secondary offering being behind. Every year, we have seen a top ten pitcher fall apart and fly down boards. I hope Houck can turn it around, as I never like to see it when a player struggles. Yet, every year, players rise and fall and it ends up costing, or making them, hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

JJ Schwarz 1B, Florida
Florida might have swept Miami this weekend, but Florida was not able to add much from their cleanup hitter this weekend. Schwarz played first base on Friday and Saturday, before moving over to catcher on Sunday. Over the course of the series, Schwarz went 0 for 10, with six strikeouts and a walk.

After a big freshman year, Schwarz was viewed by some as a candidate to be the first overall pick in 2017. Last year, Schwarz’s power took a major hit, though his walk rate nearly doubled. He splits time at catcher with Mike Rivera. Rivera is a strong defender whose bat has been an issue. Schwarz hasn’t had much of a chance to catch because Rivera is a much stronger defender.

Schwarz was viewed as one of the top five prep catchers in his class. His freshman year built unfair hype that Schwarz has not been able to build on. If teams were sure he could catch, Schwarz would be a likely first rounder and, to many, he still is one. I am just not one of those right now, based on performance and likely positional outcome.

Other Notable Performances

  • I have to start here with Jared Poche’, who followed up his seven inning near perfect game with eight innings of one hit baseball. He did walk two batters, hit another, and threw a wild pitch. He was facing a Maryland team with potential first round pick shortstop Kevin Smith. It has been quite the performance to start the year for the LSU lefty.
  • Jeren Kendall and Vanderbilt faced the University of Illinois-Chicago and he was one of the players I referenced earlier in this piece. He started strong on Friday, going 2 for 5 with a double, walk, and a home run. The rest of the weekend, he went 0 for 9 with five strikeouts. Kendall has such obvious tools, but people are taking more notice of his strikeout totals. As of now, I don’t think it's going to be a huge issue but, when combined with his size, it might cause him to slip a little.
  • The other player who had a big Friday, then struggled on Saturday and Sunday, was Brock Deatherage. Yes, I agree his best tool is his 80 grade name. On Friday, facing Austin Peay, Deatherage went 4 for 4 with a double, walk, and a homerun. The next two days, Deatherage went 0 for 8 with four strikeouts. Deatherage is the leadoff hitter for the Wolfpack and a potential top three round pick, thanks to his athletic ability.
  • Dylan Rosa is a Kent State player I have watched the past two years. He was their cleanup hitter a year ago. On Friday, while facing Florida International University, he was a double short of the cycle, going 3 for 6 with a stolen base, home run and a triple. Rosa is a name to watch for the later rounds, as he showed some power potential a year ago.
  • Keegan Thompson missed all of last year after requiring Tommy John surgery in 2015.  On Friday, Thompson was facing Holy Cross and put up his second strong performance in a row. He went eight innings, allowing one hit, a walk, and a hit by pitch while striking out six. Thompson has yet to surrender a run this year. Thompson’s value is limited by his lack of size and low 90’s velocity. He projects as a back end starter type and should go much higher than the 985th selection that he was a year ago.
  • JB Bukauskas just keeps on dominating. He went seven innings, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out 11, while facing Radford. So far this year, he has 21 strikeouts to just two walks. I have little doubt that, if Bukauskas was 6’5” instead of 6’, that he would be the favorite to be the top player in this entire draft.
  • Griffin Canning is who we will end with. Canning, facing Gonzaga, went seven innings, allowing two hits, three walks, and a wild pitch. He struck out 12 of the 26 batters he faced. UCLA has built a strong reputation as a strong pitcher development school. Canning should be a top two round player this year, as a polished pitcher with potential to be a backend starter sooner rather than later.

Alex Faedo Jacob Bukauskas Griffin Canning Dylan Deatherage Colin Poche Jeren Kendall Keegan Thompson J.J. Schwarz Tanner Houck

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