2014 MLB draft: 10 college players on the rise — week 6
Week six of the 2014 college baseball season saw many of the top arms falter a bit in their starts, leaving draft guys arguing over who the top players are at this point. Staying away from that debate, here is this week’s 10 players who impressed with their play and have potentially seen their 2014 MLB draft stock continue to rise because of it:
(Ranking of my initial top-100 2014 MLB draft prospect list in parenthesis)
Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco (12)
Zimmer just keeps crushing the baseball and running wild on the base paths. Over his last five games, he has gone 11-for-21 (.524) with a double, triple, home run and five stolen bases. For the season, he is now hitting .427/.474/.697 over 21 games with five doubles, two triples, five home runs and 11 stolen bases. He has the best power/speed combination in the 2014 MLB draft and, at 6’-5” and 200 pounds, the left-handed hitter also has a plus arm and has a chance to stick at center field, although both the bat and arm would play well in right. He is playing like a top-10 pick.
Zech Lemond, RHP, Rice (NR)
Since being inserted into the starting rotation as the team’s Friday night starter, the 6’-4”, 190 pound right-hander has allowed just two earned runs over 23 innings with 27 K/8 BB, allowing 16 hits. His fastball sits 92-95 mph and he has been able to maintain velocity deep into his starts — a great sign. He adds a slider and curveball — both in the low 80s — and both are quality offerings. His change-up still needs refining, but with his size and easy mechanics, there is a lot of upside. He could sneak into the first round if he continues to show that he can maintain velocity deep into games.
Joey Pankake, 3B, South Carolina (53)
Pankake started off the season a bit slow but has really picked it up at the plate as of late. Over his last eight games, he is hitting 419/.500/.710 with three doubles, two home runs and four walks. Over 20 games this season, he is now hitting .307/.411/.480 with four doubles, three home runs and nine walks to just six strikeouts. At 6’-1” and 200 pounds, he has an advanced approach at the plate, a canon arm and excellent bat speed. He showed developing power as a sophomore, hitting .311/.387/.496 over 62 games with 11 home runs while drawing 29 walks to just 29 strikeouts. His arm, footwork and power should allow him to stick at the hot corner.
Tommy Thorpe, LHP, Oregon (NR)
The 6’-1” southpaw was thrust into the Friday night starter spot when sophomore Cole Irvin was lost for the season having to undergo Tommy John surgery. Although he realizes he isn’t going to be an ace at the next level, he has been one of the best pitchers in college this season for one of the best teams. Over his last three starts, he has allowed just two runs over 22 innings with 22 K/1 BB, allowing 10 hits. On the season, he is now 3-2 with a 2.23 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 33 K/10 BB over 40.1 innings. Thorpe had 11 K/4 BB over 10 innings for Collegiate Team USA over the summer.
Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State (13)
On March 21 against Lipscomb, Pentecost went 3-for-6 with two doubles, a home run and a walk while knocking in six runs. Over his last four, he is 7-for-16 with three doubles, a triple, a home run and two walks. The 6’-1” right-hander has already proven he will be able to stick behind the plate with his plus arm and footwork, but he is now showing that the power potential is real along with his hit tool. Over 27 games, he is now hitting .330/.403/.491 with 10 doubles, two home runs and eight stolen bases, showing his speed and athleticism. A near lock for the first round.
Ben Wetzler, LHP, Oregon State (NR)
If ever there was someone pitching with a chip on his shoulder, Wetzler is that guy. After another dominant performance against Arizona State on March 21, in which he allowed just two hits over seven shutout innings with eight strikeouts to one walk, the 6’-1” southpaw now has a 0.59 ERA, 0.49 WHIP over 30.2 innings with 28 K/6 BB and just nine hits. His fastball sits in the 89-91 mph range and he adds a slider and change-up — both quality offerings. He attacks hitters and mixes his pitches well, commanding all three.
Brandon Finnegan, LHP, TCU (18)
With 10 K/2 BB over seven shutout innings against Texas Tech on March 21, Finnegan now has double-digit strikeouts in five of his six starts this season. In the other one, he had nine strikeouts. With 65 K/9 BB over 43.2 innings, he has a 13.4 K/9 ratio to go along with a 1.44 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and .172 BAA. Arguably the best pitcher in college this season with a fastball that touches 100 mph to go along with a plus slider, he isn’t being considered for the top-five selections because of one thing — his size. At 5’-11” and 195 pounds, he is considered undersized to be an elite starter at the next level simply because of the track record for guys that size. There is always the anomaly, however, and if a team believes he can continue to dominate at the next level, there is no telling how high he could go.
Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville (29)
After striking out 48 to four walks over 40 innings in the Cape Cod League, the 6’-4” southpaw has carried over his dominance into this season. With six strikeouts to no walks over eight innings against Indiana State on March 21, Freeland now has 34 K/2 BB over 32 innings with a 2.25 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. With a plus slider and low/mid-90s fastball, he has a lot of upside due to his size, present stuff from the left side and easy delivery. Looking more and more like a lock for the first round of the 2014 MLB draft.
Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State (5)
While he hasn’t been collecting a lot of hits lately, having gone just 6-for-27 (.222) over his last six games, the hits he has have been hit very hard. He has homered in three of his last four games, showing the pop many were hoping to see this season. It has still been a down year for Turner, as he is now hitting .310/.386/.437 over 22 games with 12 walks to eight strikeouts and seven stolen bases. He is still considered a top-15 pick as he should stick at a premium position, and his plus/plus speed mixed with his ability to get on base in a variety of ways makes him one of the more unique players in the 2014 MLB draft. If he continues to show pop, while maintaining his advanced approach, he could be back in the mix for the top-five picks in the 2014 MLB draft.
Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford (15)
The 6’-4” hard throwing southpaw has now gone 32.2 innings this season without allowing an earned run after tossing eight shutout innings against Binghamton on March 22. Over those 32.2 innings, he has 38 K/15 BB and has allowed just 14 hits, showing the ability to completely miss bats with his stuff. With a fastball that can touch 98 mph and a slider with plus potential, the only knock on him this year has been his command. He is still a near lock to go in the first round based on his size, power arm from the left side and potential.
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