2014 MLB draft: 10 college players on the rise — week 10

There is another shake-up at the top of the 2014 MLB draft. Pitchers are still dominating but some emerging hitters  could make for some great value picks in the early rounds. With less than two months until the draft, here are 10 more players who have been impressing:

Jeff Hoffman is right back in talks for first-overall pick.
Jeff Hoffman is right back in talks for first-overall pick.

Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina

And just like that, Hoffman is back in first-overall talks. On Thursday, April 17, he struck out 16 to one walk over eight shutout innings, allowing three hits against Middle Tennessee State. The 6’-4” right-hander showed off his electric stuff headlined by a mid-90s fastball with great action. He has shown the ability to maintain velocity deep into games and he adds a plus change-up, plus slurve and that delivery is a thing of beauty. Over his last four starts, he has a 1.54 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 33 K/3 BB over 29.1 innings.

Brandon Finnegan, LHP, TCU

After a couple of so-so starts, Finnegan was back to his dominant self as he struck out 11 to one walk over eight shutout innings against Texas on April 17. It marked the sixth time in 10 starts that he registered double-digit strikeouts. Through 10 starts, he has a 1.56 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 95 K/18 BB over 69.1 innings. His 12.34 K/9 and 5.3 K/BB ratios show his power and command. His fastball can touch triple-digits and he adds a plus, wipe-out slider. He’s a top-15 pick despite his size (5’-11”, 185 pounds.)

Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State

Over his last 18 games, Turner is hitting .284/.377/.608 with four doubles, a triple, six home runs and seven stolen bases. He has drawn 11 walks to 14 strikeouts, so his sudden power surge isn’t effecting his approach too much. It’s hard to place him in the draft because his season has been a bit weird. He isn’t stealing as many bases as most thought he would, and the power is coming in short spurts. I still think he is a top-10 pick based on his plus speed, approach, ability to stick at shortstop and developing power.

Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville

I’m actually getting tired of talking about Freeland but he just keeps putting up gaudy numbers. In his most recent start on April 18 against Dallas Baptist, he struck out 12 to no walks over seven innings, allowing two runs on seven hits. His last four starts have gone as follows:

  • 7 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 12 K/0 BB
  • 8 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 15 K/0 BB
  • 9 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 15 K/1 BB
  • 8 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 10 K.1 BB

That’s 52 K/2 BB over his last 32 innings. He now has a 1.83 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 87 K/4 BB over 64 innings and, if you add in his performance at the Cape Cod League, he has 135 K/8 BB over his last 104 innings. He isn’t facing elite competition but you can’t do much better than he has, and the stuff is legit. The 6’-4”, 195 pound southpaw can touch 96 with his fastball, and he adds a plus slider and a solid change-up. A likely first-round pick at this point.

A.J. Reed, 1B/LHP, Kentucky

On April 20, Reed hit his 16th home run and drove in his 53rd run of the season. He now has more home runs and RBI than the San Diego Padres with 11 and 47, respectively. Through 40 games, he is hitting .372/.489/.784 and has drawn 25 walks to 28 strikeouts. He has also been a stud on the mound for the Wildcats as he is now 7-1 with a 2.41 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 46 K/18 BB over 71 innings. At 6’-4” and 240 pounds, the left-hander seems to have equal value as a power-hitting first baseman and a power arm from the left side. He is more raw on the mound but has upside due to his size and mid-90s fastball. He should be gone on day one.

Matt Imhof, LHP, Cal Poly

On April 17, Imhof shutout a high-powered Cal State Fullerton offense, striking out nine to four walks over 6.1 innings, allowing two hits. He now has a 1.87 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 97 K/26 BB over 67.1 innings, holding opponents to a .173 batting average. His 12.97 K/9 ratio is tops in the nation among starters. At 6’-5” and 220 pounds, the left-hander just knows how to miss bats, even though he doesn’t have the power of guys like Finnegan and Hoffman. 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. He is a top-40 pick and could go in the 25-35 range.

Aaron Brown, LHP/OF, Pepperdine

Like A.J. Reed, Brown is a two-way player and has been a stud both on the mound and at the plate for the Waves this year. Through 39 games, he is hitting .342/.380/.606 with 11 doubles, three triples, eight home runs and 35 RBI. On the mound, he is 8-1 with a 2.39 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 75 K/19 BB over 71.2 innings. He is super aggressive in the outfield, as well as the plate — evidenced by his 6 BB/31 K. His upside is on the mound where he can touch 94 mph with his fastball and adds a sharp slider and solid change-up. At 6’-1” and 225 pounds, the southpaw still has projection once he focuses on pitching full time.

Daniel Gossett, RHP, Clemson

Gossett has been dealing this season, and the 6’-1”, 185 pound right-hander was at his best on April 19 against Pitt, tossing a three-hit shutout, striking out seven to one walk. He now has a 1.80 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 57 K/19 BB over 60 innings, holding opponents to a .183 batting average. He fastball sits 89-92 with sink, and he adds an above-average curveball with late break. His change-up is still developing, and he has solid command of his stuff. His size suggests he could still add velocity as he matures, and he profiles as a solid mid-rotation starter at the next level.

Austin Byler, 1B, Nevada

In a class weak on college bats, Byler should benefit as he has some great power potential from the left side. At 6’-3” and 225 pounds, he is a very good athlete who has a chance to stick at third base but could end up at first where his bat would play well. Through 37 games, he is hitting .326/.416/.631 with nine doubles, five triples, eight home runs and 30 RBI. He has drawn 17 walks to 30 strikeouts, showing a solid approach and has added five stolen bases. He is projected to go in rounds 2-3.

Max Murphy, OF, Bradley

After hitting .279/.359/.459 with six home runs and two stolen bases over 48 games as a sophomore, Murphy has put it all together this year and has been showing all five tools. At 5’-11” and 195 pounds, the right-hander runs a 6.7/60 and his arm has been clocked at 91 mph from the outfield. Through 36 games, he is hitting .328/.446/.590 with 13 doubles, six home runs, nine stolen bases and has drawn 20 walks to 32 strikeouts, showing a solid approach at the plate. His size limits his upside a bit but he has solid skills across the board and can play all over the outfield.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @DanMKirby for 2014 MLB draft updates, high school and college news, as well as Chicago Cubs ramblings.

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