2015 MLB draft: 10 college players on the rise — week 11
With just over a month to go until the 2015 MLB draft, things are becoming a little clearer on who certain teams are looking at and where some players may be going. There’s a lot of baseball to be played, however, and players have plenty of time to improve their draft stock. Here are 10 college players who have been doing just that:
Tyler Jay, LHP, Illinois
Part of Jay’s draft stock is riding on whether scouts believe he can be a starter at the next level. As a closer, he still has first-round stuff. But as a starter, he could go top 10. The 6’-1”, 185 pound southpaw can touch 97 mph and adds a plus curveball and a change-up that flashes plus. On Saturday against Penn State, he threw 99 pitches in relief, 77 for strikes. He went six innings and allowed one run on six hits while striking out seven to one walk. That was a huge appearance as it showed, once again, he can maintain his stuff deep into games. His only other start was on February 15 against Lamar when he tossed five shutout innings, striking out six to no walks. For the season, he has a 0.78 ERA, 0.63 WHIP and 53 K/4 BB over 46 innings, holding opponents to a .163 BAA.
Thomas Eshelman, RHP, Cal State Fullerton
I haven’t written up Eshelman all year, and I kinda feel bad about it because he is one of my favorite players out there. He doesn’t have a plus pitch but he has unreal command and just knows how to pitch. On Friday against UC Irvine, he showed us vintage Eshelman, striking out 13 to no walks and allowing two runs on six hits over eight innings. The 6’-2”, 190 pound right-hander has a fastball that sits 86-90 mph but has a lot of movement, and he can place it wherever he wants. He also adds two solid secondary offerings in a curveball and change-up. For his career, he now has a silly 261 K/16 BB over 320.2 innings. The track record for starters who don’t regularly hit 90 mph isn’t great, but I wouldn’t bet against Eshelman.
Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville
In a season marred by starting pitcher injuries, Funkhouser has held up quite well and has shown improvement in the one area scouts wanted to see — command. He tossed a complete game on Friday against Bethune-Cookman, striking out nine to three walks. He now has a 2.24 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 75 K/31 BB over 76.1 innings. His 3.7 BB/9 is more than a full walk better than last season, and he hasn’t allowed a home run all spring — talking to you, Colorado Rockies (who are picking third overall.) The 6’-3”, 225 pound right-hander has one of the best sliders in the 2015 MLB draft and he has been hitting 97 mph late in games.
Jon Harris, RHP, Missouri State
Harris has been rocking up draft boards all spring thanks to a four-pitch mix headlined by a change-up that flashes plus and a 90-94 mph fastball with good command. Both his slider and curveball are solid offerings, and the 6’-4”, 190 pound right-hander has a great pitcher’s body. He keeps the ball down, and like Funkhouser, has yet to give up a home run this spring. Through 10 starts, he has a 2.43 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 78 K/28 BB over 66.2 innings. He is considered a pretty good lock for the first round right now.
Andrew Benintendi, OF, Arkansas
Another kid who has been soaring up draft boards is Benintendi, a draft-eligible sophomore. He has been putting up the best power/speed numbers in college this spring. Through 42 games, the 5’-11” right-hander is hitting .380/.484/.733 with 20 stolen bases and is tied for the national lead with 14 home runs. He has been on a ridiculous tear over his last 17 games, going 29-for-58 (.500) with seven home runs, 10 stolen bases, a 1.588 OPS and 17 walks to just three strikeouts. He is getting some late first-round talks due to his ability to remain in center field combined with his offensive potential.
Jimmy Herget, RHP, South Florida
I wrote about Herget earlier in the spring and he continues to impress. He is fun to watch as he changes his arm angles and actions, and he also does a very good job at changing speed. He sits 89-92 with his fastball and can touch 94. He adds a slider that flashes plus at times and a mid-70s curveball and low-80s change-up — both average offerings. The 6’-3”, 175 pound right-hander tossed a shutout against Houston on Friday, striking out 11 to three walks and now has a 2.19 ERA and 1.07 WHIP through 11 starts with 87 K/26 BB over 74 innings, holding opponents to a .199 BAA. He came into this season with a 1.48 ERA and 1.03 WHIP over 201.1 innings so the track record is there.
Ben Johnson, OF, Texas
Johnson was on my list of players to keep a close eye on this season and he hasn’t disappointed. The 6’-1”, 190 pound right-hander has reached base 20 times over his last seven games with three doubles, two home runs and six stolen bases — four of which came in his last game. He is now hitting .344/.411/.554 through 43 games with 22 extra-base hits and 14 stolen bases. He is a quick-twitch athlete with plus speed (6.4/60) and a plus arm (93 mph from outfield) and he has a shot to stick in center field. Offensively, he has excellent bat speed and has shown improved power this season.
Phil Bickford, RHP, Southern Nevada JC
Scouts remain all over the place on Bickford, but from what I hear, he is trending upward, especially with all of the injuries to arms this spring. The 6’-3” right-hander shows a plus slider and his fastball — once touching 97 mph in high school — is now sitting 90-94 but is still an above-average offering. He has good command of his stuff, as well as good size and a relatively clean delivery. He has proven no match for his peers at the Juco level as he continues to dominate hitters. Through 13 starts, he has a 1.48 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and an eye-popping 126 K/17 BB over 67 innings for a silly 16.9 K/9 ratio. He can go anywhere from 5th-30th, and his last couple of starts could determine exactly where he falls in that range.
Mikey White, SS, Alabama
I haven’t written White up much this season but he has been a favorite of mine since his prep days and as a member of Team USA Baseball. The 6’-1”, 195 pound right-hander has been enjoying a great spring and lot of people think he has a legit shot to stick at shortstop. Even if he makes the move over to second, however, his bat would still play well. Through 44 games, he is hitting .350/.444/.589 with 15 doubles, six triples, four home runs and has stolen seven bases. He is a very good athlete with good speed (6.8/60) and an extremely high IQ of the game with great instincts. He has also been plunked 25 times over the last two seasons, showing he’ll do whatever it takes to get on base. White was an All-Star at the Cape Cod League this past summer and might not make it out of the second round.
James Kaprielian, RHP, UCLA
With all of the injuries to arms this season, Kaprielian has weathered the storm and is one of the most consistent pitchers available with a great track record and a classic three-pitch mix. The 6’-4”, 200 pound right-hander sits in the low-90s with his fastball and he adds an 82-84 mph slider with good bite and a solid change-up that keeps getting better. Through 11 starts, he has a 2.61 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 85 K/20 BB over 69 innings. His 11.1 K/9 ranks among the leaders in the nation. As a sophomore, he had a 2.29 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 108 K/35 BB over 106 innings and was a member of the Collegiate National Team. He has a great chance to go in the first round.
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