Jody Demling

2017 MLB Draft: Trends Runneth Over 3-10

In his first Trends Runneth Over piece of the year, Jeff Ellis breaks down the best of the rest as he analyzes some of the week's top performances from players who didn't make it into his Top 5.

As promised, here are the rest of the notable performances from the previous week that stood out in my eyes. 

Pavin Smith, 1B, Virginia  

Virginia played UNC in ACC conference play this weekend. Pavin Smith went 2-11 with a double and a walk. Smith has had a strong start to the year and is very high on most lists. His power is up, which has been the biggest concern for Smith, who has never had a double digit home run season. I should note that he does play in a home park that suppresses power. Smith is not in my top 50, though, because of the history of Virginia players struggling once drafted. The program, which is one of the top college programs, has produced one player with a WAR over nine for their career, Ryan Zimmerman. The second highest WAR in school history goes to lefty reliever, Javier Lopez, and fifth all time belongs to Brandon Guyer, a platoon player. It might not be fair but, for me, I just can’t trust Virginia players for now.

Brendan McKay, LHP, Louisville

McKay took last week off after suffering from a strain. He came back strong this week, going seven innings of shutout ball. He allowed just two hits, walked two, and threw a wild pitch. He struck out 15 of the 25 Pittsburgh batters he faced. McKay is in the running to be the top pick in this year’s draft. He has such a long history of stellar performance that, while he might not have the same ceiling as the other top tier arms, his floor is so much higher. Not much else to say except that, barring injury, McKay is a surefire top ten pick. 

Kyle Wright, RHP, Vanderbilt

Wright faced St. Mary’s on Friday, going four innings and allowing five runs on 10 hits, a walk, and a walk pitch. Of the 12 outs he recorded, seven came via the strikeout. Wright has had a rough start to the year. There is not enough data to make any definitive statements, but much of his rate data is the same or near as a year ago except one, batting average against. Last year, he held batters to a .238 average; this year it’s at .293. I am sure Wright will figure it out. He pitches at one of the best programs in the country, with a long history of developing pitchers. The old adage is very true when it comes to the draft, it's not how you start, but how you finish. If Wright finishes strong, he is a top five lock. 

Brock Deatherage, OF, NC State

Yes, his name does lead to him getting more attention than he maybe deserves. Joe Dunand is the consensus top position player on his team, but Deatherage is a draft prospect with a chance to go in rounds two to five. This weekend, against Wake Forest, Deatherage went 1-11, with two walks and three strikeouts. In general, he has struggled a bit since his big game a few weeks back against Austin Peay. No matter what happens with Deatherage, you can guarantee that, when he gets drafted, he will be talked about just because of his name. Not every player gets mentioned in the broadcast, but Brock Deatherage will for sure. 

Alex Faedo, RHP, Florida

Faedo continued to roll, going six strong against Seton Hall. He didn’t allow a run on five hits, a walk, and a wild pitch. He struck out six batters. Starting next weekend SEC play begins, which will be a real test for Faedo and Florida. I expect him to continue to excel on his way to being a very high pick. 

Seth Romero, LHP, Houston

Romero had another start where he recorded double digit strikeouts, this time facing off against Baylor. He went 6.1 innings and, of the 19 outs he recorded, 11 came via the strikeout. He allowed one run on four hits and four walks. Romero has been a machine so far, with a strikeout per nine of over 15.5. He has kept his walk rate low, which only helps enhance his value. The performance this year, along with being a lefty with a long track record, should make Romero the first first rounder from Houston since Brad Lincoln went 4th overall in 2006, and just the fourth first rounder in school history. 

Alex Lange, RHP, LSU

After the rough outing last week, Lange came back strong against Wichita State. He pitched eight shutout innings, allowing just two hits and no walks. He struck out nine batters as well. I was never the high guy on Aaron Nola when he was at LSU and it’s kind of the same story with Lange. His walk rate numbers were ok and his strikeout rates were good but, for whatever reason, Lange did not excite me. So far this year, his control has taken a step forward and if he can maintain this, it would change my evaluation. Even with his bad start a week ago, Lange’s rate data is improved across the board. Lange is a first rounder this year, likely in the top 25, though how high he can rise might be limited by the depth of the class. 

Tanner Houck, RHP, Missouri

Houck had another strong performance when he faced off against Appalachian State this weekend. He went 8.2 innings, allowing no runs on four hits, two walks, a hit batter, and a wild pitch. In the 9th he gave up a hit and the wild pitch, but had been cruising before then. He pitched a total of 124 pitches, which is a lot. In a game his team was winning four to nothing, one has to question leaving Houck out that long, shutout or not. Houck has rebounded nicely; the questions about his delivery and third pitch are still there, but he looks like a first rounder.

Keegan Thompson, RHP, Auburn

Well, the streak of innings without a run ended for Thompson in the third inning on Friday, while facing Presbyterian. Both of the runs in the third came with two outs, but were also unearned. He gave up his first round with one out in the fourth. So it was 26.1 innings of unearned runs to start the year for Thompson.  

David Peterson, LHP, Oregon

It was another big outing for the big lefty from Oregon. He was facing Santa Clara and went 7.1 shutout innings, allowing three hits, a walk, and a hit batter. He struck out 14 of the 27 batters he faced. If he had not broken the Oregon strikeout record the previous week, he would have tied it this week. The last two weeks, Peterson has combined for 31 strikeouts. It's been an impressive stretch for the lefty, who is bound to start getting a lot more attention.

Taylor Walls, SS, Florida State

Florida State started the year with two batters who got a significant amount of draft attention, Taylor Walls and Dylan Busby. Now those two hitters have the lowest batting average of any Seminole everyday player. For Busby it's been a disappointing start, but for Walls, his freakish walk rate is what is getting the attention. Walls currently leads the nation in walks; he has four more than the players tied for second, which includes Seth Beer, who teams have pitched around this year. If I did my math correctly, Walls is walking 33% of the time he comes to the plate. This weekend, facing BC, he went 5 for 11, with four walks, a hit by pitch, and two home runs. All four of those walks actually happened in one game. Walls is a SS, but likely will be a second baseman once drafted. He is looking like a likely second round selection. 

Jared Poche’, LHP, LSU

Poche’s is going streaking. The LSU lefty is still yet to give up a run through 29 innings. As a matter of fact, Poche has allowed just ten base runners total over those innings. He has allowed eight hits and two walks. Of those hits, just one extra base hit, a double, has been hit off Poche’. Poche’ went seven inning against Wichita State, allowing four of those eight hits and striking out three batters. One could make a case that this was Poche’s worst start of the year. I mean, he doubled his hit total in that one game. Poche’ has his limits, but the lefty is putting himself in position to be a priority senior draft pick. 

Wil Crowe, RHP, South Carolina

Crowe is a player I have been familiar with and watching for a while. Part of the reason for this is that I got my start writing on the Indians and Crowe has been drafted twice by the Indians. I feel kind of safe saying that Crowe feels like he has a floor of pick 64, the Indians’ first pick this year. While Clarke Schmidt has been the better pitcher in school, Crowe has the bigger upside. His strikeout rate has always impressed me for a pitcher who is known for a good sinking fastball. This weekend, Crowe posted strong strike out numbers against Michigan State. He struck out nine in 6.1 innings. He didn’t give up a run on three hits, three walks, and a wild pitch. I have Crowe in my top 20 players in this year’s draft. If he continues to perform, I think he will move in others as well. 

J.J. Matijevic, 1B, Arizona

Matijevic and Arizona just destroyed Hartford this weekend. Arizona scored 25, 21, and 17 runs over three games. Matijevic went 6 for 13 with a walk, two doubles, two stolen bases, and a hit by pitch. I am not as high on Matijevic as others. His lack of position and being played at first this year pushes him down the board. He gets pushed back more, but the lack of power shown in game for first base. His walk to strikeout ratio has been out of balance in the past before. This year, Matijevic is hitting and showing more balance and power. He has the potential to change my opinion and is a player I will monitor every week.   

Dalton Guthrie, SS, Florida

Apparently, you want to appear in the Two Strikes area of my Full Count Trends pieces. So far, every time they’ve appeared this year, one of those players has had a big rebound the next week. In this case, both Lange and Guthrie rebounded strongly. Guthrie hit his first homerun of the year while facing Seton Hall. He went 6 for 12 with a walk and hit by pitch. In the end, shortstops will rise but, for now, I still think Guthrie is a utility player and more of a second round value.

Evan Skoug, C, TCU

I had some one volunteer information to me that Evan Skoug was a name who they were hearing negative talk on. This weekend, while facing UC Irvine, Skoug went 1 for 9, with four walks and four strikeouts. Skoug is hitting under .200 during the first month of the year. He is playing for one of the top teams in the country, which means he has gotten a lot of exposure during his struggles. It is still very early, but the drop in power and struggle to make contact are leading to concerns with Skoug for people who already had doubts.  

Keston Hiura, DH, UC Irvine

Hiura just hit and hits. I wish he had a more defined position, but his current hit tool looks like it might be the best in this year’s draft. Hiura faced off against TCU, who was the number one team in the country heading into the matchup. He went 4 for 9, with four walks, two doubles, and a homerun. For the previous two years, Hiura hit seven home runs each; this year, he is already at five home runs in a quarter of the games. His walk to strikeout ratio has much more balance than it has in the past as well. Hiura is also hitting .458 so far. This is second best on his team, though, as through the first month, his teammate, Evan Cassolato, is hitting .490. Hiura isn’t going to face top competition throughout the year, so showing up and putting up big numbers is something that teams will go back to. The biggest thing with Hiura is going to be what he shows when he can play in the field. If Hiura shows he can play second, he could end up being the second college bat taken in this draft.      

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