2017 MLB Draft: Full Count Trends 3-3

The college baseball season is now three weeks old. 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.

No time to waste, we’re three weeks into the division one college season. The JUCO ranks have been going for longer and there’s warm climate high school baseball to discuss as well. So many players, too little space, so let’s dive into the good.

3 Balls

David Peterson, LHP, Oregon

Peterson had himself quite a game on Friday night, one for the ages as a matter of fact. Peterson went eight innings, allowing no runs on three hits and a wild pitch. He struck out 17 of the 29 batters he faced from Mississippi State, including Jake Mangum. Mangum is a centerfielder to watch for this year’s draft. The 17 strikeouts were a new school record, beating Tyler Anderson’s total of 14 in 2011. 

Peterson’s first two starts had not been as strong, so it was nice to see him come out and dominate. The big lefty has had a big jump in his strikeout rate this year, with a walk rate that has plummeted. At the same time, he has just three starts and, when you strikeout 17 in eight innings in one of those starts, your strikeout rate is going to jump. At the same time, Peterson’s signature game is going to mean more eyes his way this spring. 

Peterson is a big lefty, 6’6”, with a long college track record. His stuff has not been overpowering but, when talking with people, there has always been a feeling that his velocity could tick upwards, which would change his ceiling. This college starter class is very deep and Peterson is in that group fighting to go in round one. His size and being a lefty, along with surprising athleticism, will keep him in that discussion.   

Keegan Thompson, RHP, Auburn 

Now, if you have been reading these articles for a while, then you know I love to keep track of streaks. Thompson is on quite a streak; so far this year, he has pitched 21 innings and hasn’t given up a run, earned or otherwise. This is quite good for a player who missed last year after injury. Normally, I expect rust and issues with command and control, but Thompson has shown none of this.

This weekend, he faced Lipscomb, and before you say “of course, he pitched well”, look at who he faced. Lipscomb has Michael Gigliotti leading off and patrolling centerfield. Gigliotti is a potential first round pick and is listed among the top ten college bats in the draft class this year. Thompson went seven innings, allowing one hit, walking two, and striking out five. He has been this year's Zac Gallen.

This comparison makes a lot of sense, as Gallen started out on fire a year ago as well. Both pitchers are undersized right handers with low 90’s velocity. Gallen ended up being a third rounder a year ago and I could see the same for Thompson this year. His small stature and lack of overpowering stuff puts a cap on how high he can go, especially in a pitching class this deep. 

Brendon Little, LHP, State JC of Florida

I am breaking the rules here for Little. Instead of going over what he did this week, I want to comment on his year so far. I had Little’s name come up in a few conversations and he is generating a lot of attention. 

Little was a known arm in Pennsylvania in 2015. He had a strong commitment to North Carolina and fell to the 36th round. Little, as a freshman, got to pitch in all of four innings, so he decided to transfer to a JUCO program in order to be draft eligible this year and not have to sit out. Little pitched out of the pen in the Cape and that was where he really got noticed. So far this year, Little has started six games, pitching 32 innings and striking out 55 for a strikeout per nine of 15.47. He has also walked 15 during that time, which gives him a walk per nine of about 3.56, which is not ideal, but not bad either. 

Little is a left hander who hits 97; that alone gets him on the first round bubble. Then, when you add in the past pedigree from his prep days and the performance on the Cape, his profile just keeps rising. Then he has come out so far this year and been a strikeout machine, which has led to even more talk about him. Little is 6’2”, which puts him under the ideal height. I’ll avoid the obvious pun here. He also has some small issues with command and control and is a very raw player. Now to some, this rawness is a bonus, as a team can draft and mold him into a potential starter. The risk is higher here, but Little is trending up and I would not be shocked if he goes in the top 20 picks.  

2 Strikes

Alex Lange RHP, LSU

Lange burst on the scene as a freshman at LSU and then was not as dominant as a sophomore, but still pitched very well. At least, this is the common refrain one hears with Lange. The interesting thing is, statistically, he was basically the exact same pitcher, but his home run rate increased and he had a slight uptick in hit rate. This is what caused his ERA to balloon, but his walk and strikeout rates were very close to the previous year.

Lange faced TCU Friday, with less than stellar results. TCU has been the best team in the country this year, so many pitchers struggle when facing them. Lange went one and two thirds of an innings, giving up six earned runs on five hits and three walks. He recorded two strike outs. 

Pitchers from LSU have been a bit of a mixed bag over the last few years. There have been some big name failures and two notable successes, in Gausman and Nola. If one is looking for upside in Lange, there would be room to compare him to Nola. He has the chance for multiple above average pitches, though he doesn’t have overpowering stuff. Lange is likely a first round pick, but I don’t see a top ten pick.

Dalton Guthrie SS, Florida

I swear I think very highly of the Florida baseball program. When people ask me about the top programs in the country, I always put Florida in the top five in terms of development. So it's just bad luck and performances that have a Florida player in this section for the third week in a row. 

Dalton Guthrie is a sure shortstop and the son of former Major League pitcher Mark Guthrie. He has been a solid hitter for Florida the last two years. Over this weekend, while facing Columbia, Guthrie went two for eight, with a pair of walks and a stolen base. It was not a bad weekend but, when facing Columbia, one hopes for a bit more from their leadoff man.

This class is very weak on college bats. Shortstops always rise up the draft and Guthrie is viewed as a safe one. He has hit well in college, has bloodlines, and comes from a top program. All of this has combined to push him up boards this year. I see more of a future utility player, as I don’t see any skills that are more than average and his power is well below average. I would label him a second round talent but, because of position, I could easily see him going in round one. 

Other Notable Performances

  • Griffin Canning was the last cut from this list. I had been hearing a lot of talk on him before his performance on Friday. He faced Michigan and went eight innings, giving up no runs on three hits and three walks. He struck out 12 batters. Canning is pushing his way into the first round with his performances. I know there are a lot of fans of his right now.
  • JB Bukauskas faced Long Beach State and went seven innings, allowing one run on six hits and a walk. He struck out nine and UNC didn’t win, because the pen faltered. Bukauskas has over a 13 strikes per nine, with an ERA of .45 and a walk per nine of 1.35. He has been amazingly good, the only knock is his height. Oakland feels like a floor for him, in my view. They have gone arm heavy of late, have no fear with height, and love power arms.  
  • Kyle Wright was talked about as one of the top arms this year, but it has been a bit of a struggle early on. He was facing California State Northridge and went five innings, allowing three runs on six hits, two walks, and a wild pitch. He struck out eight batters. When a player is considered in the running for the top pick, one expects to see dominant performances. Wright has plenty of time to prove why so many of us viewed him as a potential top five pick.
  • Alex Faedo was my number one player heading into this season. After his rough first start, Faedo is back to his usual excellence. While facing Columbia on Friday, he went seven innings, giving up no runs on two hits and two walks while striking out nine batters. Faedo is still my top player in this draft, because of his mix of upside and safety.
  • Seth Romero is another name I have heard a bit more of late. Romero pitched eight innings on Friday against Cal State Fullerton. He gave up three runs on seven hits and one walk. He struck out ten batters. Romero has been a strikeout machine in the early going, with a strikeout per nine of 15.5. The left hander has always shown excellent control numbers in college and is looking more and more like a first round pick.
  • Tanner Houck finally had the start that people expected from him when he was discussed as a possible top ten pick. He was facing the University of Illinois Chicago, a team which faced Kyle Wright last Friday and took two out of three from Vanderbilt. Houck went six innings and didn’t give up a run. He allowed just four hits and hit a batter. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out seven. The big thing in this stat line was the zero walks; after his early season control problems, it was great to see him perform well. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Houck had a strong performance when his control was back to what it had been the previous two years.
  • Keston Hiura was another near miss from the upper portion of this article. The UC Irvine DH was facing Portland University and went 5-9, with three doubles and three walks. Hiura had an elbow issue, which is why he is still playing DH. He has played second and outfield for Irvine. If he could handle second, it's a big change to his outcomes. He is likely a left fielder, though. Hiura has a potential plus hit tool and gap power. In this class, he is likely a top five college bat and a first round pick.
  • Garrett Mitchell is a high school player, but his performance this week needs to be mentioned. I was talking to people in California who saw his performance against Hans Crouse and Hagen Danner. While he was solid against Danner, he really excelled against Crouse. The reports from that game had Crouse in the low 90’s, but the people I talked with who were there that day came away impressed with Mitchell. Mitchell has potential plus power and speed. It will be interesting to see if he can continue to perform, and if he can push his way up in a crowded prep outfield group. 

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