This is the third installment of my weekly article on college players who are performing on a higher level and have seen their 2013 MLB draft stock rise because of it. Here are 10 players who have impressed me over the past week:
Kris Bryant, 3B, San Diego
Here is how the last 10 games have gone for Bryant: 18-for-34 (.529) with three doubles, 10 home runs, 19 RBI, 13 walks and a .660 OBP/1.500 SLG. Those numbers have pretty much cemented him as a top-10 pick in the draft, and there have even been rumblings about the Chicago Cubs showing interest with the second-overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft. There isn’t much to dislike about the 6’-5” right-hander offensively. Where he will end up on defense remains to be seen, but he is athletic enough to hold down a corner outfield spot.
Sean Manaea, LHP, Indiana State
Over his first three starts, the 6’-5”, left-hander had 24 K/7 BB over 16 innings, allowing just seven hits. Those are great numbers. The only problem is he hasn’t pitched into the seventh inning in any of those starts, and his velocity was down, as well as the bite on his breaking stuff. Some chalked it up to the cold weather. On Friday, in a dome, Manaea answered his critics. In a highly anticipated match-up with fellow southpaw, Tom Windle, he went the distance in a 2-1 win. Over nine innings, he struck out nine to one walk and scattered six hits. More importantly, he maintained 94 mph in the ninth inning, and his slider was in top form. Still a likely top-five pick in the 2013 MLB draft.
Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma
Gray was featured in last week’s article and earned a return visit with another dominating performance. He tossed a five-hit shutout in a 1-0 win over Northwestern State, striking out 12 to no walks. His fastball was once again in the upper-90s and he showed off his plus slider. For the season, the 6’-4”, 240-pound right-hander is now 4-1 with a 1.54 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 39 K/8 BB over 35 innings. Many feel he is a top-10 pick right now and could end up being the first pitcher taken off the board if he continues to impress the way he has.
Colin Moran, 3B/1B, North Carolina
Moran, a 6’-3”, 200-pound left-hander, came into this year with questions about his ability to hit for power. After hitting just three home runs over 41 games as a sophomore last year, there was reason for concern. Over his first 12 games of this season, he had one double and zero home runs. He had drawn 11 walks to just three strikeouts, showing a great approach at the plate, but scouts wanted more power if he was going to hold down a corner infield position at the next level. Well, over his last seven games, he has gone 13-for-27 (.482) with two doubles, four home runs and 13 RBI. Even with the recent power surge, he has kept his advanced approach at the plate by drawing six walks to two strikeouts. He is considered a mid first-round pick in the 2013 MLB draft, but if he keeps up the power display, he could go even higher.
Ryan Eades, RHP, LSU
The 6’-3”, 200-pound right-hander has been displaying a plus fastball that has touched 96 mph this year with improved movement and late life. His slurve has looked plus at times, and the same can be said about his change-up. For the year, he is 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 36 K/7 BB over 32 innings. As a sophomore last season, he went 5-3 with a 3.83 ERA and 63 K/28 BB over 94 innings. He has frontline stuff and should hear his name called on day one of the 2013 MLB draft.Ben Lively, RHP, UCF
As a sophomore, the 6’-4”, 210-pound right-hander went 9-2 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and 84 K/45 BB over 81 innings. The stuff was there as his fastball is a plus pitch that sits in the mid 90s, and he also features a curveball, slider and change-up that are all solid offerings. His control was an issue, however. He seems to have ironed out any command issues this season. Over five starts, he is 4-1 with a 0.50 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 42 K/8 BB over 36 innings. He has lowered his BB/9 from 4.82 last year to 2.00 this year. And you want to talk about a tough luck pitcher? His lone loss of the season came on March 8 when he allowed zero earned runs over eight innings, striking out 11 to one walk in an epic match-up with Jacksonville right-hander Chris Anderson.
Marco Gonzales, LHP, Gonzaga
In his season debut, the 6’-1” southpaw gave up five runs over six innings, allowing eight hits in a 9-2 loss to Oregon State. Since then, he has gone 3-0 over his last four starts with a 1.13 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 28 K/3 BB over 32 innings. He features a filthy change-up that is arguably the best in the draft and a low-90s fastball with good movement. A safe bet to be among the first 30 players taken in the 2013 MLB draft.
Jason Hursh, RHP, Oklahoma State
After red-shirting last season due to Tommy John surgery, the 6’-2”, 200-pound right-hander opened this year as the Friday-night starter for the Cowboys. He was more than rewarded them by going 2-0 over five starts and his team has won every game he has started. He has a 1.50 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 28 K/5 BB over 36 innings. On Friday, he had his best start of his career tossing a four-hit shutout in a 9-0 win against Iona, striking out 10 to no walks. He has a power arm and pinpoint control of all his pitches. He could find his way into the first round of the 2013 MLB draft if he continues to pitch the way he has.
Mason Katz, 1B, LSU
Heading into Sunday, Katz had homered in five straight games. Over those five games, he had gone 9-for-18 (.500) with seven home runs, 15 RBI and drew five walks. For the season, the 5’-10”, 190-pound right-hander is now hitting .364 over 20 games with four doubles, nine home runs, 32 RBI and a .471 OBP/.817 SLG. As a junior, he hit .320 over 64 games with 15 doubles, 13 home runs, 52 RBI and a .552 SLG.
Brandon Thomas, CF, Georgia Tech
Thomas made the list last week and returns again as he just continues to annihilate the baseball. Over his last seven games, he is hitting a ridiculous .594 (19-for-32). He has recorded at least three hits in four of those games and has scored at least a run in every one. He has added five doubles, a triple, home run and has knocked in eight runs. He has also drawn four walks and stolen two bases. For the year, the 6’-3”, 210-pound switch-hitter is now hitting .479 with a .557 OBP and .658 SLG.