The third weekend of the 2014 college baseball season is in the books, and with the weather starting to warm up around the country, so are the bats. Here are 10 players who stood out for me and have increased their 2014 MLB draft stock because of it. Included is their ranking in my initial top-100 prospects list in parenthesis:
Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina (3)
It’s hard to say Hoffman is rising considering he is already projected as a top-three pick. With his latest outing, however, he could be challenging Carlos Rodon for the top spot by the end of the year. Against Western Kentucky on Friday, the 6’-4” right-hander was brilliant, striking out 14 to one walk over eight innings. He allowed one unearned run on five hits in the no-decision. He had been showing off his ridiculous repertoire all year, but this time the results matched the stuff. With four pitches that grade out to at least above-average, along with his size and effortless delivery, the Justin Verlander comps are looking legit. Hoffman now has 26 K/6 BB over 21.1 innings, allowing just 14 hits.
Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville (29)
After getting roughed up a bit (4 IP, 4 ER, 7 H) in his last start, Freeland was masterful against Western Illinois on Friday. Over nine shutout innings, he allowed just two hits while striking out nine to no walks. He threw 98 pitches, 71 of them for strikes. He was one of the better pitchers at the Cape over the summer, striking out 48 to four walks over 40 innings while displaying a plus slider and low/mid-90s fastball. He isn’t going to face great competition this year but his stuff is first-round material.
Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Wichita State (93)
Over his last five games, the 6’-4”, 240 pound switch-hitter has gone 9-for-17 (.529) with two doubles, a triple, a home run and he has drawn seven walks to no strikeouts for the Shockers. He is currently fifth in the nation in hitting at .526 and 11th in OBP at .640. An on-base machine, he hit .299 over 66 games as a sophomore with 16 doubles, 11 home runs and drew a whopping 62 walks. With tremendous power and an advanced approach from both sides of the plate, his bat is his calling card, and he probably won’t last past the second round of the 2014 MLB draft if he keeps hitting the way he is.
Austin Cousino, OF, Kentucky (NR)
One of the more exciting players in college, the 5’-10”, 185 pound left-hander makes up for his lack of size by doing a little bit of everything on a baseball field. Over his last six games, he has gone 13-for-27 (.482) with four doubles, a triple, four stolen bases, two HBP and hasn’t struck out. He is the ultimate “sparkplug” player who sets the table on offense and plays great defense in center field. For the year, he is hitting .438/.500/.667 over 11 games.
Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State (13)
On Sunday against Jacksonville State, Pentecost showed what a special talent he is and how many ways he can impact a game. He went 0-for-4 but drew two walks, was hit by a pitch twice and added a sacrifice fly in a 17-inning marathon that Jacksonville State won 9-8. He also caught the whole game. Over 14 games, he is hitting .339/.414/.475 with five doubles and a home run. The power still hasn’t shown up as some expected, but he is showing an advanced approach at the plate, athleticism and the defensive abilities to stick behind the plate. A likely first-round pick and rising.
Chris Diaz, LHP, Miami (FL) (NR)
On Friday, the 6’-1” southpaw out-dueled projected first-round pick Luke Weaver and Florida State, beating the ‘Noles 3-1. Diaz allowed one unearned run on four hits over seven innings, striking out six to two walks. He is now 3-0 on the year with a 1.90 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 16 K/5 BB over 19 innings. Not a power pitcher, he relies on his ability to keep hitters off balance with a fastball/change-up combo and he commands both of them well. Posted a 1.64 ERA, 1.17 WHIP with 78 K/27 BB over 109.2 innings.
Grayson Greiner, C, South Carolina (57)
The 6’-5”, 220 pound right-hander has been tearing the cover off the ball for the Gamecocks all year. He has been getting even hotter as of late, going 9-for-22 (.409) over his last six games with two home runs, 11 RBI and has drawn four walks. On the year, he is now hitting .359/.468/.641 with three home runs and 18 RBI over 11 games. He has a plus arm (1.81 POP times) and is very accurate with it. He is a good athlete for his size and most believe he can stick behind the plate. There were some questions about weather the power was going to show up in games and he is answering those so far. One of the best leaders around.
Jordan Brink, RHP, Fresno State (68)
The 6’-1” right-hander wowed scouts when he was hitting 96 mph with his fastball this fall. He adds a low-80s slider that has looked plus this year and his change-up is rapidly improving. In his latest brilliant outing, Brink out-dueled Daniel Mengden and Texas A&M, allowing just one hit over seven shutout innings, striking out five and walking three. On the season, he has now allowed one run on six hits over 21.1 innings, striking out 15 to seven walks. He has been mentioned as a possible first-round pick by some experts.
Mike Papi, OF, Virginia (54)
You don’t see too many 6’-3”, 230 pound first basemen batting leadoff. Over his last four games at the top of the order, Papi has flourished in that spot. He has gone 5-for-9 with a home run, three RBI and has drawn seven walks to no strikeouts. For the season, he is now hitting .405/.560/.622 with two doubles, two home runs and he has drawn 12 walks to just three strikeouts. He put his name on the map after hitting .381/.517/.619 over 176 at-bats as a sophomore with 45 walks to just 25 strikeouts. Arguably one of the better hitters in the 2014 MLB draft, there will be a lot of pressure put on his bat if he is relegated to first base.
Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco (12)
Zimmer just keeps impressing. Over his last three games, the 6’-5” left-handed hitter has gone 8-for-14 (.571) with a home run and three stolen bases. He is now hitting .420/.453/.640 over 11 games with three doubles, two home runs and four stolen bases. A gifted athlete, he has a chance to stick in center field and he is showing the power that many thought would be coming. Already a projected first-round pick, he has a chance to go in the upper half due to his size, canon arm, speed and power potential.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @DanMKirby for 2014 MLB draft updates, high school and college news, as well as Chicago Cubs ramblings.