2014 MLB draft: 10 college players on the rise — week 9

We are getting closer and closer to the 2014 MLB draft, with the first two rounds taking place on June 5. There is still plenty of time for players to raise their draft stock over the next seven weeks until draft day. Here are 10 college players who have impressed as of late:

Max Pentecost is the best catching prospect in the 2014 MLB draft.
Max Pentecost is the best catching prospect in the 2014 MLB draft.

Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State

Pentecost had himself a week. Over five games, he went 12-for-23 (.522) with three doubles, two home runs, eight RBI and two stolen bases as Kennesaw State won all five games. The 6’-1”, 190 pound right-hander is now hitting .380/.435/.572 over 39 games with 15 doubles, five home runs, 11 stolen bases and 15 walks to just 18 strikeouts. He continues to be one of the best bats in the 2014 MLB draft, and he also should remain at a premium position. Could go top 15.

Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville

I’m running out of words to describe Freeland’s performances. He had 15 strikeouts for the second start in a row and now has 74 K/4 BB over 57 innings. If you include his Cape Cod League totals, he has 122 K/8 BB over his last 97 innings. At 6’-4” and 190 pounds, the southpaw is one of the best power/control arms in the 2014 MLB draft as his fastball can touch 96 mph and he adds a plus slider. He still has upside due to his size and easy delivery, and you could argue he has been the best pitcher in college over the past month. He is 6-1 with a 1.74 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and an 11.84 K/9 ratio through eight starts. I could see him going in the 15-25 range easily.

Carlos Rodon, LHP, North Carolina State

The Rodon is back! Or maybe he never really left. Aaron Fitt at Baseball America tweeted that Rodon was sitting 94-96 mph and was touching 98 with his fastball in his last start. He also was showing his plus/plus slider, above-average curve and cutter as he struck out 12 to three walks over 7.2 innings against Duke on April 11. He now has a 2.29 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 72 K/21 BB over 63 innings. He has hit 10 batters and thrown four wild pitches, however, and his command has not been as sharp as in the past. That said, he is a stud who makes hitters uncomfortable at the plate, and he has a full arsenal to go with a big frame. Won’t last past pick three.

Kyle Schwarber, C, Indiana

Indiana has gone 9-1 over its last 10 games and Schwarber is a huge reason why. During that stretch, he has gone 19-for-42 (.452) with three doubles, a triple, three home runs and nine RBI. The 6’-0”, 240 pound left-handed hitter is now hitting .357/.461/.605 with eight doubles, six home runs and 23 walks to just 14 strikeouts. He has added three triples and four stolen bases, showing very good athleticism for his size. Aside from his tremendous power potential, he also has a great approach at the plate and should hit for a high average at the next level. Has the tools to stick at catcher, but even if he moves to first base, the bat will more than play well. A near lock for the first round.

Erick Fedde, RHP, UNLV

Fedde just keeps dealing. On April 11 against San Jose State, he struck out eight to two walks over seven innings, allowing one run on three hits. He now has a 1.69 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 69 K/18 BB over 64 innings, holding hitters to a .183 batting average. The 6’-4”, 190 pound right-hander features a plus slider, a hard sinker and a fastball that can touch the mid 90s. Like Freeland, there is still upside due to his size and fast arm. He has top-10 stuff and should be gone by pick 20.

Alex Blandino, 3B, Stanford

I haven’t really talked about Blandino this year, but he definitely merits consideration as one of the purest hitters in the 2014 MLB draft, and he has shown power this year — something scouts wanted to see. He has the arm to stick at third, now he is showing the power to remain there. Through 28 games, the 6’-1”, 190 pound right-hander is hitting .320/.412/.490 with six doubles, five home runs and 13 walks to just 11 strikeouts, showing an advanced approach at the plate. With a well-balanced, smooth swing, to go along with his patience and bat speed, he could contend for batting titles at the next level. Stanford hitters tend to get a bad rap when it comes to the MLB draft, but Blandino is a great hitter with a solid track record. He is a borderline first-round pick right now.

Andrew Suarez, LHP, Miami (FL)

Suarez had a lot of hype coming into this season as he added 8 mph on his fastball and was sitting 91-95 mph in the fall. He also showed a plus slider that sat 82-85 mph and his change-up was also flashing plus. At 6’-0” and 205 pounds, the southpaw may like the size you want in a frontline starter, but he definitely has the stuff. He also has great command of his pitches. On April 12, he tossed nine scoreless against Pittsburgh, striking out nine to one walk. For the season, he now has a 2.66 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 48 K/11 BB over 64.1 innings. If teams can look past his size, he should go on day one.

Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU

Nola carved up Arkansas on April 11, striking out 13 to two walks over seven innings, allowing two runs on four hits. The 6’-1” right-hander has been sensational this year, posting a 0.70 ERA, 0.69 WHIP with 84 K/13 BB over 64 innings, allowing just 31 hits for a .143 BAA. He has always been known as a masterful control artist, but this year he is showing a lot more power and swing-and-miss to his stuff. His 11.8 K/9 ratio is among the leaders in the nation and he has topped 10 strikeouts five times this year. He features a low-90s fastball with nasty sink, a deceptive change-up that freezes hitters and an above-average slider. Should be a top-20 pick.

Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Wichita State

The Shockers baseball team may not be enjoying the success the basketball team had this year, but don’t blame Gillaspie. The 6’-4”, 240 pound switch-hitter is among the leaders in nearly every offensive category as he is hitting .394/.500/.674 over 35 games with eight doubles, nine home runs, 35 RBI and 28 walks to just 16 strikeouts. Aside from his tremendous power from both sides of the plate, he also has a great approach at the plate. As a sophomore, he drew a ridiculous 62 walks over 66 games and added 16 doubles and 11 home runs. A great hitter with a great track record, he will be gone on day one.

Mac James, C, Oklahoma

I wrote up James a couple of weeks ago and he just continues to impress. After getting just nine at-bats as a sophomore, he has been arguably the biggest surprise of the college season. Through 36 games, the 6’-1”, 200 pound right-hander is hitting .377/.455/.546 with 13 doubles and three home runs. He has drawn 15 walks and has struck out — get this — four times. Aside from his offensive prowess, he is showing the tools to remain behind the plate and his stock should rise due to the lack of catching prospects in this class.

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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