Duke ace Michael Matuella was back on the mound after forearm tightness postponed his last start. He tossed one inning and looked impressive, all things considered. He was hitting the mid-90s and will be on a 60-pitch count for his next start this Friday. Vanderbilt ace Walker Buehler is cleared to pitch after some elbow soreness and will start for the ‘Dores on Tuesday, March 3. While arms are still the strength of this college class, some bats had big weeks and starts to the season. Here are my 10 college risers for week three:
Tyler Jay, LHP, Illinois
Jay continues to be insanely dominant, no matter the situation. On February 15 against Lamar, he tossed five scoreless innings with six strikeouts to no walks in his first career start. Other than that, he has been in the closer role and has thrown 15.2 scoreless with 18 strikeouts to one walk. He has allowed just five hits and one extra-base hit — a double. The 6’-1”, 185 pound southpaw has been touching 97 mph with his fastball and sits 93-95. He adds a nasty change-up and plus curveball, giving him an impressive three-pitch mix with command. He has shown the ability to be a starter and is looking like a first-round pick.
Taylor Ward, C, Fresno State
Ward is an athletic catcher with a strong arm and above-average speed, and most thought the power numbers would spike this season. The 6’-1”, 190 pound right-hander hasn’t disappointed as he is hitting a silly .349/.462/.837 through 11 games with four doubles, a triple, five home runs and 14 RBI. He has drawn seven walks to seven strikeouts and has an advanced approach at the plate. The bat has a good track record as he hit .320/.395/.438 over 57 games last season with 28 walks to 29 strikeouts. Even if teams don’t believe he can stick behind the plate, his speed, arm and raw power would play well in a corner outfield spot.
Rhett Wiseman, OF, Vanderbilt
A great athlete with a strong arm, Wiseman is a 6’-0”, 190 pound left-handed hitter who is putting it all together in the early going this season. After hitting .281/.349/.404 over 359 career at bats coming into this season, he has shown more power and patience this year. Through 11 games, he is hitting .356/.442/.578 with six extra-base hits, three stolen bases and has drawn six walks. There is a lot to like about Wiseman and there is still upside left. Vanderbilt, if you haven’t noticed, is loaded with talent this year.
Benton Moss, RHP, North Carolina
Moss has been racking up the strikeouts this season and was brilliant in his last start, striking out 10 to no walks over seven shutout against Rhode Island on Friday. The 6’-2”, 190 pound right-hander features a low-90s fastball that can touch 94 and an above-average curveball with tight spin. He now has 26 K/3 BB over 15.2 innings and has showed improved command of his stuff. Most believe he will be a power arm out of the bullpen at the next level because of his lack of a third pitch. Moss was drafted by the Giants in the 15th round of the 2014 MLB draft but opted to return for his senior season.
Isiah Gilliam, OF/1B, Chipola College JUCO
One of the better prep bats in the 2014 MLB draft, Gilliam slipped to the 23rd round to the Chicago Cubs for many reasons, none being his talent. The 6’-3”, 220 pound switch-hitter has raw power to all fields and a quick bat. He also has an advanced approach at the plate and a strong arm, although some believe he will end up at first base where he could be a very good defender. The bat will play well, though, and he has been raking for Chipola so far. Through 22 games, he is hitting .380/.450/.620 with eight doubles, three home runs and has drawn seven walks to 10 strikeouts. He is looking like a top-two round pick right now.
Mikey White, SS, Alabama
White doesn’t have a standout tool, though many believe he can stick at shortstop at the next level due to his instincts for the game and solid tools across the board. Even if he moves over to second, however, his bat would play well. The 6’-1”, 200 pound right-hander is off to a hot start, hitting .357/.417/.643 through 11 games with eight extra-base hits. He was an all-star at the Cape Cod League over the summer, is an alumnus of Team USA Baseball and has an extremely high baseball IQ.
Ian Happ, OF/2B, Cincinnati
Happ makes the list for the third week in a row because he just will not be stopped at the plate. He has reached base 30 times through his first 10 games and is hitting .500/.604/.842 with four doubles, three home runs, 10 walks and three stolen bases. The switch-hitter is making a case for the best college bat in the 2015 MLB draft and could be the first one off the board. The track record is there, and his stock goes up if scouts believe he can stick in the infield.
James Kaprielian, RHP, UCLA
After a sensational sophomore year in which he had a 2.29 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 108 K/35 BB over 106 innings, Kaprielian starred for the Collegiate National Team, posting a 1.07 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and 29 K/7 BB over 25 innings. The 6’-4”, 200 pound right-hander has continued to impress this season and has showed even better command of his stuff early on. He had eight strikeouts to no walks over seven innings against Michigan State on Friday and now has 20 K/2 BB over 19 innings, allowing just 14 hits. He sits 90-93 mph with his fastball and he adds a sharp, 81-84 mph slider. His change-up is continually getting better, giving him a classic three-pitch mix.
Kyle Cody, RHP, Kentucky
Cody was untouchable — literally — in his start against Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday. He tossed seven no-hit innings, striking out a career-high nine to one walk. His fastball was touching 98 mph and his slider was sharp. The 6’-7”, 240 pound right-hander is an imposing presence on the mound and has good command of his stuff. He now has 18 K/3 BB over 14 innings this season. He is still a bit raw, but with his live arm and size, the upside is huge.
Alex Bregman, SS, LSU
Over his last five games, Bregman has been showing the power scouts wanted to see this season. He has gone 8-for-20 with two doubles, a triple and two home runs over that span and hasn’t struck out. He is now up to .311/.373/.578 over 11 games with seven stolen bases and just two strikeouts. Scouts are still fairly confident he will end up at second base but his bat is what is going to get him drafted in the first half of the first round.
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