The first weekend of the 2014 college baseball season is in the books, and if there was one running theme, it was dominant pitching. The hitting wasn’t too shabby either, but the arms were outstanding, especially some familiar names. This is my first post of college players who have improved their stock with great performances. This week, I decided to focus on players I had ranked in my initial top-100 list. (Rank is in parenthesis.)
Brandon Finnegan, LHP, TCU (18)
The stuff is never questioned with Finnegan. His size, however, often is. At 5’-11” and 185 pounds, he doesn’t have the ideal frame to be a frontline starter at the next level. Able to hit the upper 90s with his fastball, along with a plus slider, some have compared him to former closer Billy Wagner. On Friday, he showed why he will be given every chance to remain a starter. Over seven shutout innings against Jacksonville, he allowed three hits and struck out 13 with three walks.
Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt (2)
I’ve seen Beede ranked all over the place on draft boards. I have had him second to Carlos Rodon for a while now, and on Friday, he showed why. After a bit of a shaky start in the first, he settled down and retired the last 13 batters he faced, seven via strikeout. Over five innings, he allowed just one hit while striking out seven to no walks. He showed off his four-pitch mix headlined by a mid-90s fastball with life and a plus curveball that buckles hitters. His change-up was on and he had control of all of his stuff.
Matt Imhof, LHP, Cal Poly (51)
A guy I was hoping the Chicago Cubs could potentially target with their second-round pick, the 6’-5”, 220 pound southpaw may not last past the first round if he pitches the way he did against 18th ranked Kansas State on Friday. Over seven shutout innings, he allowed just two hits while striking out a career high 14 to three walks. His fastball sits in the 89-92 mph range and can touch 94 due to his smooth, effortless delivery. He adds solid secondary stuff and knows how to mix his pitches well. Imhof will be just 20 years old come draft day, making him one of the youngest collegiate players available.
Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State (24)
Considered one of the best bats in the 2014 MLB draft, the 6’-2”, 215 pound right-hander has been on fire out of the gate. After going 0-for-4 in the opener, he has gone 7-for-10 over his last three games with two doubles, a triple, 11 RBI and has drawn six walks to no strikeouts. Conforto’s ability to wait on his pitch and utilize his excellent bat speed allows him to spray the ball to all fields.
Erick Fedde, RHP, UNLV (37)
The 6’-4”, 190 pound right-hander was brilliant in his first start of the season. On Friday against Central Michigan, he went 7.1 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit. He added 11 strikeouts to no walks as he baffled opponents all game with his stuff. His best pitch is his mid-80s power slider that shows plus potential. He adds a 90-93 mph fastball and a solid change-up to his arsenal. He has great mound presence and was a member of Collegiate Team USA.
Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State (13)
The MVP of the Cape Cod League after hitting .346 over 35 games, Pentecost has been one of the most talked about 2014 MLB draft prospects for awhile. Over his first three games, he has gone 8-for-13 with three doubles, two walks and no strikeouts. His offensive potential alone makes him a projected first-round pick. His ability to remain at catcher, along with developing power, could land him in the upper half of the first round.
J.D. Davis, OF, Cal State Fullerton (43)
Known for his plus power, the 6’-3”, 215 pound right-hander showed he should be one of the best overall bats available in the 2014 MLB draft come June. On Saturday, he went 4-for-6 with two triples and a home run, showing off some wheels in the process. Overall, he is 5-for-13 with four extra-base hits in three games. He drew 31 walks to just 37 strikeouts as a sophomore and has an advanced approach at the plate. He also has a canon arm and is playing right field this year for the Titans.
Chris Oliver, RHP, Arkansas (78)
I had Oliver ranked at 78 in my top-100 prospects list. After his first start, he should be moving up. Working mostly out of the pen his first two years, the 6’-4”, 185 pound right-hander allowed just one run on one hit over five innings on Saturday. He struck out five to no walks in picking up the win against Appalachian State. His fastball can touch 97 mph and he adds a mid-80s power slider. With his size, easy delivery and stuff, you should hear a lot about him going forward.
Luke Weaver, RHP, Florida State (17)
The 6’-2”, 190 pound right-hander was unhittable Friday night — literally. Over six innings, Niagra failed to record a hit and Weaver added seven strikeouts to one walk. Projected as a mid-first rounder, he has the potential to go top-10 if he continues to show the stuff he had Friday night. His fastball sits in the low/mid 90s and he adds a change-up that flashes plus.
Brian Anderson, 2B, Arkansas (82)
A great hitter with an advanced approach at the plate, the 6’-3”, 190 pound right-hander hit .325/.448/.488 as a sophomore with 41 walks to 33 strikeouts. He also has a plus arm and the range instincts to stick at second base. Over his first three games, he has gone 7-for-14 with two doubles and a stolen base. Another kid you should hear a lot about and could end up being a first round pick.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @DanMKirby for 2014 MLB draft updates, college baseball news and Chicago Cubs ramblings.