With the fourth weekend of the college baseball season in the books, it is again that time to look back at the players who have been dealing, both on the mound and at the plate recently. Here are 10 players who have impressed me and have seen their 2014 MLB draft stock rise:
(Ranking in my initial top-100 2014 MLB draft prospects list in parenthesis)
Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU (11)
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Nola has been the best pitcher in college this year. Through his first four starts, he is 4-0 and hasn’t allowed a run over 27 innings. He has 36 strikeouts to just two walks and has allowed 13 hits. Dating back to last season, he now has a streak of 53 innings without allowing an earned run. The 6’-1” right-hander features a plus, low-90s fastball with nasty sink to it. He offsets his fastball with a deceptive change-up that freezes hitters. An incredible control artist, he now has 247 K/27 BB over 242.2 career innings. He has a date with Tyler Beede and Vanderbilt on March 14 that is a can’t miss game.
Ben Wetzler, LHP, Oregon State (NR)
It says a lot about Wetzler’s ability to focus and block out off the field issues the way he has pitched this season. In his second start on March 7 against NIU, he allowed just one hit over eight shutout innings, striking out 12 to two walks. If you aren’t up to speed on his story, Aaron Fitt of Baseball America wrote a great piece on it here. Over two starts, he is now 2-0 with a 0.58 ERA, 0.51 WHIP and 17 K/3 BB over 15.2 innings. Wetzler doesn’t have overpowering stuff. His fastball sits in the 89-91 mph range and he adds a slider and change-up — both quality offerings. He attacks hitters and mixes his pitches well, commanding all three.
Matt Imhof, LHP, Cal Poly (51)
The 6’-5”, 225 pound southpaw just continues to blow away hitters. On March 7 against Seattle, he had 15 strikeouts to three walks over eight shutout innings, allowing four hits. Over four starts, he now has a 1.33 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 41 K/9 BB over 27 innings. He is second in the nation in strikeouts behind TCU southpaw Brandon Finnegan (45) and is third among starters with a 13.7 K/9 ratio. He will only be 20 years old come draft day, making him one of the youngest college players in the draft. 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. Looking more and more like a first round pick with every outing.
Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State (24)
Over his last six games, Conforto is hitting .563/.720/.875 with three doubles, a triple, 11 RBI and has drawn nine walks to one strikeout. The 6’-3” left-handed hitter is proving to be one of the best bats available in the 2014 MLB draft and could go in the first half of the first round due to his ability to rake to all fields. He has yet to hit a home run this season, but with a .396/.570/.566 slash line over 17 games, including 21 BB/5 K, few have been better offensively.
Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt (2)
Beede has answered his critics through his first four starts. In his latest start against Winthrop on March 7, he struck out nine to no walks over seven innings, allowing one run on six hits. He is now 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA, 0.64 WHIP and 33 K/5 BB over 25 innings. He is holding opponents to a miniscule .129 batting average. As a sophomore, he had a 5.6 BB/9 ratio over 101 innings. This year, he has a 1.8 BB/9 ratio, showing incredible improvement in his command and responding to the only knock on him by scouts.
Aramis Garcia, C, Florida International (NR)
Over his last five games, Garcia has gone 8-for-21 (.381) with two doubles, four home runs, nine RBI and has drawn four walks to one strikeout. Over 16 games, he is now hitting .424/.521/.763 with five home runs, ranking among the leaders in all four categories. At 6’-2” and 220 pounds, the right-hander has an easy swing with plenty of power behind it. As a sophomore, he hit .321/.378/.522 with 11 home runs. Scouts love the bat more than his defense right now, but with a canon arm and very good footwork, he has a chance to stick behind the plate.
A.J. Reed, 1B/LHP, Kentucky (NR)
Over his last six games, Reed has reached base 19 times. He has gone 7-for-15 (.467), has drawn eight walks and has been hit by a pitch four times. He has added two home runs and driven in 10 runs over that span. On the season, the 6’-4”, 240 pound left0hander is now hitting .436/.579/.945 (1.524 OPS) with eight home runs, 28 RBI and has drawn 15 walks to nine strikeouts. He has been the best offensive player in the nation and he can sling it on the mound, as well. Over four starts, he is 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 14 K/9 BB over 26 innings. Some think he has more upside on the mound, but if he keeps hitting the way he has, he could be a first round pick due to his bat.
Austin Cousino, OF, Kentucky (NR)
I had Cousino on my list last week and he just keeps hitting. Over his last six games, he has gone 14-for-27 (.519) with three doubles, two triples and has driven in five runs. On the season, he is now hitting .443/.500/.657 with eight doubles, two triples, a home runs and is a perfect 7-for-7 in stolen base attempts. The 5’-10” left-handed hitter is good defender in center field and has shown some extra pop in his bat this season as he ranks among the leaders in SLG. He also leads the nation in hits with 31.
Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford (15)
The 6’-5” southpaw has been extremely consistent this year. His first three starts have gone as follows:
- 5 IP 0 ER 3 H 9 K/3 BB
- 5.2 IP 0 ER 3 H 6 K/3 BB
- 7 IP 0 ER 2 H 8 K/3 BB
With a loose frame and easy delivery, he can touch the upper-90s with ease and he adds a slider that shows plus potential. He still needs to work on his command but he has great swing-and-miss stuff. His size, power from the left side and mechanics will have him off the board in the first half of the first round.
Trent Gilbert, 2B, Arizona (NR)
Over his last four games, Gilbert has gone 11-for-19 (.579) with five doubles, two triples, a home run and 10 RBI — and that includes an 0-for-5 game. Over 17 games this season, he is now hitting .406/.468/.667 with 12 extra-base hits, 16 RBI and has drawn six walks to seven strikeouts. With a short, compact swing from the left-side, Gilbert has shown developing power from his 6’-1”, 180 pound frame and he has an advanced approach at the plate.
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