The college season is in full swing, and many players are starting to break out from the pack by either justifying their present stock status for the MLB draft, or improving their draft stock with their play. Here are 10 guys who have impressed me over the first three weeks of the season:
Kevin Ziomek, LHP, Vanderbilt
The 6’-3”, 200-pound southpaw had high expectations coming into his junior season. After going 5-6 with a 5.22 ERA and 1.49 WHIP as a sophomore, he exploded at the Cape Cod League. He went 3-0 with a 1.27 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 36 K/6 BB over 28.1innings playing for the Cotuit Kettleers. He has carried that success over to this year and has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the country in the early goings. Over his three starts, he is 3-0 with a 0.82 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 33 K/6 BB over 22 innings, including a one-hit shutout against Illinois-Chicago on Friday with a career-high 15 strikeouts. With a low-90s fastball and plus change-up, he’s looking like first-round MLB draft material .
Daniel Palka, 1B, Georgia Tech
Since going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in the season opener, the 6’-2”, 225-pound left-hander has gone 19-for-35 (.542) over his last nine games. He has added five doubles, two home runs, 14 RBI and has drawn five walks to four strikeouts. One of the better college bats in the draft, Palka was hitting .300 over his 124 career games coming into this season with 37 doubles, 24 home runs, 99 RBI and a .553 SLG.
Buck Farmer, RHP, Georgia Tech
Farmer, a 6’-2”, 225-pound senior, opened the year by dominating Akron, striking out 14 over eight shutout innings, allowing just four hits and no walks. Over his three starts, he is 2-0 and has 30 K/1 BB over 21 innings. He has yet to allow an earned run and has given up just 15 hits. Most see him as a relief pitcher at the next level, but if he keeps pitching like he has to start the year, he should be given every opportunity to remain a starter.
Kent Emanuel, LHP, North Carolina
One of the better college lefties in the draft, Emanuel has been amazingly consistent throughout his career as a Tar Heel. As a freshman, he went 9-1 with a 2.33 ERA and 89 K/23 BB over 104.1 innings. He followed that up by going 8-4 as a sophomore with a 1.96 ERA and 100 K/23 BB over 110 innings. He opened up this year by tossing a four-hit shutout against Seton Hall, striking out five to no walks. On the year, he is now 2-0 over three starts with a 0.78 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 18 K/3 BB over 23 innings for top-ranked North Carolina. At 6’-4”, he is a workhorse with great command and feel for his pitches.
Tony Kemp, 2B, Vanderbilt
The 5’-6”, 160-pound left-hander has been a sparkplug for third-ranked Vanderbilt (10-1). Over 11 games, he is 18-for-41 (.439) with 16 runs, three doubles, one triple, 12 RBI and seven stolen bases hitting from the leadoff position. He has also drawn five walks and his .531 OBP reflect his strong approach at the plate. He is a Jose Altuve-type hitter who could be a steal for a team in the early rounds of the MLB draft.
J.T. Riddle, 2B, Kentucky
You can argue that Riddle has been the best hitter in college this season. He went 6-for-6 against Niagara in the second game of the season and is 20-for-38 (.526) over nine games. He has recorded a hit in every game and has also added three doubles, a triple and a home run while driving in ten runs for the Wildcats. He has drawn five walks to just one strikeout, showing a great approach at the plate, and has added three stolen bases. At 6’-3” and 185 pounds, the left-hander is a great defensive second baseman and, along with his offensive abilities, he is one of the best college middle infield prospects in the MLB draft.
Austin Kubitza, RHP, Rice
The 6’-5”, 200-pound right-hander has been making bats miss all season. He started the year by out dueling Stanford ace Mark Appel, tossing six shutout innings, striking out 12 to four walks. Over his three starts, he is 2-0 with 34 K/11 BB over 19.6 innings, allowing just one run on 12 hits. His 15.6 K/9 ratio shows the kind of power he has, but his 5.1 BB/9 ratio show he can be wild with his stuff. Both his low-90s sinking fastball and slider are plus pitches. He just needs to harness his stuff to remain a solid starter at the next level.
Eric Jagielo, 3B, Notre Dame
The 6’-3”, 215-pound left-hander has been the main offensive force for the 7-1 Irish. He has reached base in every game, and has also knocked in at least one run in every game. On the year, he is 10-for-23 (.435) with two doubles, three home runs, 13 RBI and has a .536 OBP. Jagielo’s size, power from the left side, as well as the fact that he should be able to stick at third base, are making him look more and more like a first-round MLB draft pick.
Ben Lively, RHP, UCF
The 6’-4”, 210-pound right-hander went 9-2 as a sophomore with a 3.00 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and 84 K/45 BB over 81 innings. He went to the Cape Cod League, mostly looking to improve on his command. Over 30.1 innings, he struck out 43 to 10 walks, showing signs of improvement. Over his three starts this year, he has shown great command, without losing any velocity on his mid-90s fastball. Over 21 innings, he has allowed just one run on 14 hits while striking out 20 to five walks. His fastball is a plus pitch and he also adds a solid curveball, slider and change-up to his arsenal. He is pitching his way into the early part of the MLB draft.
Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
Why would a guy many consider a top-five pick in the MLB draft be on a this list? Well, because there are also a lot of people (including me) who have questioned his ability to be consistent with his pitches and make bats miss at the next level. After a subpar season opener against Kubitza and Rice, allowing two runs over five innings, striking out three to three walks, Appel has been absolutely brilliant and looking like the top pick in the draft. Over his last two starts, he has gone 18 innings, allowing one run on six hits. He has struck out 25 to just two walks in completing both games. He has gotten ahead of hitters early and put them away with ease with his mid-90s fastball, swing-and-miss slider and plus change-up.
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