2014 MLB draft: 10 college players on the rise — week 5

Week five of the 2014 college baseball season is in the books, and it’s again time to look at those who has impressed lately and improved their 2014 MLB draft stock along the way. Here are 10 players who caught my eye:

(Ranking in my initial top-100 2014 MLB draft prospect list in parenthesis)

2014 MLB draft
Michael Conforto has been crushing the baseball this season for Oregon State.

Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State (24)

Conforto has been reaching base at a torrid clip all season and just seems to keep getting better. Over his last six games, he has gone 10-for-18 (.556) with two doubles, a triple and a home run — his first of the year. He has also drawn eight walks over that span and has a .714 OBP. On the season, he is now hitting .400/.582/.600 over 21 games with nine extra-base hits, 30 RBI and a silly 26 walks to just seven strikeouts. The 6’-3” left-hander is starting to look like a top-15 pick in the 2014 MLB draft based on his bat alone.

Mike Papi, 1B/OF, Virginia (54)

When projected first-round pick Derek Fisher went down with a broken hamate bone in a series against Duke, Papi let the team know he could carry the load by responding with his bat. In the next game against James Madison, he went 2-for-4 with two home runs and three RBI in a 13-2 win on March 11. Already a gifted hitter with a great approach from the left side, the 6’-3”, 215 pound junior is showing off the power most thought would come with his size. Through 18 games, he is hitting .338/.470/.600 with five home runs and has drawn 16 walks to 11 strikeouts. He is starting to gain late-first round attention. Fisher is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

Mac James, C, Oklahoma (NR)

The biggest surprise this year in college baseball has been James. After getting just nine at-bats as a sophomore, the 6’-1”, 200 pound right-hander has been taking advantage of every one this year by absolutely mashing the baseball. Over 20 games, he is hitting .459/.512/.662 with nine doubles and two home runs, and he has struck out only twice. He is drawing rave reviews for his receiving skills and is another guy who should benefit from this year’s lack of catching prospects.

Connor Joe, C/OF/1B, San Diego (NR)

It’s not so much what Joe has been doing lately, it’s what he has been doing all season. Over 19 games, the 6’-0”, 210 pound right-hander is hitting .364/.474/.649 with five doubles, five home runs and 25 RBI, and he has drawn 11 walks to 11 strikeouts. He has shown the ability to play behind the plate, in the outfield and first base if needed. He is new to catching but the arm plays well and he has been getting praise for his receiving skills. The power is real and he has a solid approach at the plate. As I mentioned above, the  catching crop is weak this year and if scouts believe he can remain behind the plate, he could hear his name early on day two due to his power potential.

Matt Imhof, LHP, Cal Poly (51)

The 6’-5”, 220 pound southpaw was at it again on March 14, striking out 14 to three walks over eight innings against Wagner. That gives him three starts (out of five) in which he has at least 14 strikeouts. He now has a 1.29 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 55 K/12 BB over 35 innings for a 14.1 K/9 ratio. He is looking more and more like a first-round pick and has projection left as he will be one of the youngest college players available in the 2014 MLB draft. He features a low-90s fastball and solid secondary stuff, and he knows how to mix it up.

Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt (2)

Beede has been a regular on this list, and he just seems to keep getting better. In a highly anticipated match-up against Aaron Nola and LSU, Beede may have taken the loss, but he was brilliant in defeat. Over 7.1 innings, he allowed no earned runs on just three hits. He added seven strikeouts to one walk and wasn’t hit hard all night. He again showed his unique ability to miss bats with his four-pitch mix, and the command was once again on point. He now has a 0.84 ERA, 0.62 WHIP with 40 K/6 BB over 32.1 innings, holding opponents to a .128 batting average. Looking like a top-five pick.

Jace Fry, LHP, Oregon State (NR)

Another Beaver to make the list, Fry has been ridiculous of late. Over his last two starts, he has allowed three hits over 18 shutout innings, including a no-hitter against NIU on March 8. For the season, he now has a 1.56 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 25 K/6 BB over 40.1 innings. At 6’-0” and 200 pounds, the southpaw isn’t a power arm but knows how to use his stuff. His fastball sits in the 89-93 mph range with late movement, and he will use his slider to both sides of the plate. He adds a change-up and adds/subtracts to keep hitters off balance. He has great command of his stuff, as well.

Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco (12)

Zimmer is another guy who just keeps impressing, showing off all five tools this season. Over his last six games, he is hitting .417 with two home runs and four stolen bases. He is now up to .403/.446/.636 over 18 games with four doubles, four home runs and eight stolen bases. At 6’-5”, the left-handed hitter is showing what scouts wanted to see this year — in-game power. With his athleticism, speed and plus arm, he should stick at center field and might be the best power/speed prospect in the 2014 MLB draft.

Carson Baranik, RHP, Louisiana-Lafayette (NR)

The 6’-3”, 215 pound right-hander has finally found a home and is starting to show the stuff that made him one of the top pitching prospects coming out of high school back in 2011. After playing his freshman season for LSU, he transferred to Miami Dade College before enrolling at Louisiana-Lafayette this year. Over five starts this season, he has a 0.70 ERA, 0.62 WHIP and 30 K/8 BB over 38.2 innings, holding opponents to a miniscule .128 batting average. He features a low/mid-90s fastball, a low-80s slider with plus potential and he adds a developing change-up, as well as a spike curveball. Louisiana-Lafayette is currently ranked eighth in the nation at 18-2 and Baranik is a huge part of its success this season.

Aaron Mizell, OF, Georgia Southern (NR)

Like James, Mizell is a huge surprise this year. Tied for the national lead in home runs with nine, the 6’-1” left-hander has been posting video-game numbers this season. Over 19 games, he is hitting .392/.432/.823 with five doubles, nine home runs and 28 RBI. A JUCO transfer out of Gordon State College, where he hit .348/.449/.572 over 54 games last year, Mizell generates a ton of power from his quick wrists and also shows a solid approach at the plate. Definitely one to keep an eye on for the rest of the year.

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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