Aside from my weekly draft-eligible risers articles, I am also featuring freshmen and sophomores who are seeing their future draft stocks rise. With so much talent in the next two classes, I want people to get acquainted with these kids as early as possible. With that said, here are five freshmen who have impressed of late:
J.J. Schwarz, C, Florida
Schwarz is currently playing better than anyone in the country. On April 7 against Stetson, he went 5-for-6 with a double, four home runs and 10 RBI. Yes, that was one game. He followed that up with a 2-for-4 performance in his next game with a double and another home run. He then belted two more home runs two games later, giving him seven home runs and 15 RBI over a four-game stretch. This isn’t that much of a surprise as the 6’-1” right-hander is known for his bat and raw power and always puts on a show during batting practice. He is now hitting .309/.378/.669 with nine doubles, 12 home runs and 45 RBI. He ranks second in the country in home runs and his 91 total bases is among the leaders. With a couple years to refine his work behind the plate, you could be looking at the first-overall pick in the 2017 MLB draft.
Brendan McKay, LHP/1B, Louisville
There may not be a better two-way player in the country than McKay, a 6’-2” left-hander who joined the rotation a little over a month ago and has been brilliant after dominating in the bullpen as a closer. As a starter, he is 3-1 through five starts with a 2.57 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and 42 K/9 BB over 35 innings, allowing just 18 hits. He has gone seven innings in each start, showing great stamina. Overall, he has 63 K/14 BB over 47 innings, allowing just 22 hits. Offensively, he is hitting .306/.452/.408 over 98 at-bats with 25 walks to 17 strikeouts, showing an advanced approach at the plate. His future appears to be on the mound, however, as he sits 89-92 mph and adds an above-average curveball and developing change-up. He is a big, physical kid with room for added velocity.
Tanner Houck, RHP, Missouri
Houck has received comparisons to former LSU ace and seventh-overall pick last year by the Phillies, Aaron Nola, for his three-quarter slot delivery and the way he commands his stuff. That’s pretty high praise for a freshman but Houck has earned it for the way he has pitched this season. Through nine starts, he is 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 50 K/7 BB over 61.2 innings. The 6’-5”, 205 pound right-hander sits 91-94 mph with his fastball, and he adds a power slider that shows plus potential. Missouri is a top-20 team and Houck has played a vital role in their success this season.
Alex Faedo, RHP, Florida
The Gators are loaded with talent this year and looking forward to a couple of years with guys like Schwarz, Dalton Guthrie, Jeremy Vasquez, Mike Rivera and Faedo, plus all of next year’s recruits, it’s scary to think of how good this team could be. I followed Faedo a lot last year as he pitched for Alonso HS in Florida. The 6’-4”, 200 pound right-hander soared up draft boards all season as he was touching 94 mph with his fastball and a slider that flashed plus. He adds a 77-80 mph change-up with good feel and his easy delivery promises for more. Like McKay, he joined the rotation about a month ago and has been delivering. He has a 2.12 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 31 K/6 BB over 29.2 innings.
Scott Hurst, OF, Cal State Fullerton
Over his last 18 games, Hurst is hitting .339/.411/.446 and has stolen four bases, showing the kind of exciting player he is going to be for the Titans the next three years. The 5’-11”, 175 pound left-handed hitter has above-average to plus speed and a canon of an arm in the outfield. He raked at the Alaska League over the fall, hitting .429 with a .555 OBP, leading the league in both and projects to a top of the order hitter with sneaky power and the ability to rack up stolen bases. He is finding his groove after struggling to start the season and went 4-for-4 in his last game on April 12 against UC Davis. Hurst is an alumni of Team USA Baseball and has a very high understanding of the game.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @DanMKirby for 2015 MLB draft updates, high school and college news, as well as Chicago Cubs ramblings.