For his latest scouting report, Jeff Ellis breaks down the matchup between Kent State and Buffalo from earlier this week.
Before I go into any reports for this game, I have to mention how Buffalo is losing its baseball program at the end of the season. If you want the full story, Baseball America did a great piece on it. I would recommend going to read it. It really stinks for those players, but it’s also bad for the MAC, which loses its second team in three years, after Akron’s program was shut down.
Buffalo had a smaller program in the MAC to begin with, but had been surprisingly effective at producing at least one drafted player every year since 2012, including Tom Murphy, who has been in the majors as a catcher with Colorado. It is harder for Buffalo, in terms of the MAC, because of how far away they are from the rest of the schools in the MAC. This means more time and cost for transport. In a perfect world, they would be in a closer conference. Still, I am saddened every time a baseball program closes.
I scheduled myself to go to the Saturday game for Kent against Buffalo. I wanted to see Zach Willeman and was intrigued by Charlie Sobieraski, who is a big kid who was primarily a batter as a freshman. The game on Friday was rained out so, instead, I saw Eli Kraus vs Alec Tuohy on a day that was 39 degrees and cold.
Touhy has struggled during his senior year. His strikeout rate is up this year and his walk rate is still low, but he is getting hit. His hits per nine is up over 14.5, which is one of the highest I have seen. He is a 6’1” right hander who throws in the mid 80’s, so the draft was a bit of an uphill battle, but the numbers this year are doing him no favors. It was cold, but I had him peak at 86 in the game and sitting more 82 to 85.
I did not get a chance to see the top Buffalo prospect for the draft, Logan Harasta. Harasta is a 6’7” 235 pound right hander from Webster, New York. I was kind of hoping they would give him a chance to start this year, after his strong performance a year ago. The problem for him has been his control. Harasta has always had mid 4’s in terms of his walk rate. This year, it’s up to 9.6. The positive is his strikeout rate has also jumped to over 13, from the low 8’s a year ago. I talked with someone from the Buffalo program who told me that his highest charted velocity this year was 95, against Nebraska. Harasta is raw. Yet, I think he might end up in the top five rounds. The potential for growth is so high when you look at all the factors. He is a very young junior, as won’t turn 21 until August. He is a cold weather arm, both in college and in high school. He has only ever worked out of the pen, and he comes from a small program that is being folded. On top of all of this, you add in the fact that he is 6’7” and you have a player that is very easy to talk yourself into.
Now on to the Kent players.
Eli Kraus was named a preseason second team All American by Collegiate Baseball newspaper. The lefty stepped into the Friday starter gig that was previously filled by Eric Lauer, who was taken in the first round a year ago. Kraus was the Sunday starter last year also, behind Andy Ravel, who was drafted in the ninth round in 2016. This year, as the Friday starter, Kraus has been the same guy he was a year ago. He is a 6’1” left hander, who sat in the 80’s during the game I saw. His change was his best pitch I saw; it was a high 70’s to low 80’s pitch. He is not a strikeout guy, mostly pitching to contact. He has posted strong control numbers in the minors, but has also been prone to the long ball. Kraus is your basic control lefty. He is coming from a program which is known for its ability to produce pitchers. Kraus has the pedigree and, more importantly, the left handedness to give him a chance to be drafted after the 10th round. He has a chance to go higher, if you think his stuff might play up in the pen.
Patrick Dayton took over for Kraus. Dayton is a six foot lefty, whose ¾ quarters slot almost looks like a side arm pitcher at points. The fastball was hitting 92 in the game and his curveball was 81, which was freezing batters in the game I saw. The big separation on the pitches made him the most effective pitcher I saw that day. He had multiple strikeouts looking. He has only pitched 18 innings in college, but his performance in that game made me think the lefty could be a late round selection. Teams are always looking for lefties, so even one with a limited track record will get attention on draft day. I would still think that he is likely to be back at Kent for his senior year, though.
I will go into the Kent batters in the next article, as I saw Kent face Youngstown State a few days later. Since it was a midweek game, the pitchers were mostly underclassmen.