The new lower-seamed baseball has definitely worked to the hitters’ advantage this season as balls are flying out of ballparks and offensive numbers are silly. Still, the elite arms are putting up similarly silly numbers and proving that premium stuff overrides all else. There were no pitchers in last week’s risers. There are six this week, as well as a couple of Gators and a kid who is quietly putting up video game numbers this year. Here are 10 players who have impressed as of late:
Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville
The Funk was dirty on Friday against Duke, tossing seven shutout innings and striking out eight to one walk. He was hitting 97 mph in the seventh inning, and he was showing off his plus slider — one of the best in the draft. The 6’-3” right-hander also continues to show improvement in his command, lowering his BB/9 to 3.6 as compared to 4.9 BB/9 last season. Through nine starts, he now has a 1.96 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 62 K/24 BB over 59.2 innings. He looked like a top-10 pick on Friday.
Walker Buehler, RHP, Vanderbilt
Buehler was brilliant in his start against Ole Miss on April 10, striking out a career-high 13 over eight innings. He allowed just one run on five hits and walked one in the no-decision. It was a great sign for the 6’-1” right-hander who missed his first two starts of the season due to elbow soreness. He is showing that he can maintain velocity deep into games and no ill effects from the elbow. He is now 3-0 through seven starts with a 2.41 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 41 K/9 BB over 37.1 innings. He also looked like a top-10 pick on Friday.
Richie Martin, SS, Florida
The Gators have been prolific offensively this season and Martin hits right at the top of the order, setting the table, while doing his own damage. Over his last four games, he has gone 7-for-14 with two doubles, a home run and nine RBI. He’s now hitting .304/.405/.452 through 36 games with seven doubles, three home runs and 21 walks to 14 strikeouts, showing a mature approach at the plate. He’s also added 11 stolen bases and has above-average speed on the base paths. The 6’-0”, 180 pound right-hander is a true shortstop with all the tools to stick and, although he may not hit for much power at the next level, he is a top of the order type hitter who makes contact and can steal bases.
Kevin Duchene, LHP, Illinois
You know you are having a special season when you give up one run over six innings and your ERA goes up. Duchene allowed just the one run against Purdue on April 11 and struck out six to one walk in the win. He is now 5-1 over seven starts with a 0.75 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and a silly 53 K/4 BB over 48 innings. The 6’-2”, 210 pound southpaw fits the crafty lefty role as he doesn’t have wow stuff — although his change-up is considered a plus pitch by some — but he just knows how to pitch and keeps you off balance. He also has great command of his stuff. He has arguably been the best pitcher in the country this spring.
Harrison Bader, OF, Florida
Bader has been a revelation all season. Coming into this year, the 6’-0”, right-hander had hit a total of three home runs through 390 at-bats. After going 9-for-19 (.474) with three doubles, nine RBI and three more home runs this week, he now has 11 and continues to be among the national leaders. He is now hitting .347/.471/.719 and has drawn 24 walks to 23 strikeouts, showing a solid approach at the plate. While he may not have a standout tool, and he may not have a defined position, he could be a steal in the draft.
Taylor Clarke, RHP, College of Charleston
The 6’-4”, 195 pound right-hander has been one of the top pitchers in the country all season, and for some reason, I am just now including him in my weekly risers. That is my bad because Clarke is a beast. Back on March 7, he had 18 strikeouts to no walks in a complete game win against Radford. He has been almost as dominant in every other start this season and owns a 1.88 ERA, 0.87 ERA through nine starts with 81 K/10 BB over 62.1 innings. He features a 90-94 mph fastball with life and movement and a slider that shows plus. He also commands his stuff exquisitely. He’s getting a lot of buzz and for good reason.
Luke Gillingham, LHP, Navy
The 6’-3”, 200 pound southpaw continues to put up incredible strikeout — and overall — numbers despite not owning one plus offering. Through nine starts, he has a 1.08 ERA, 0.63 WHIP and has 92 K/9 BB over 66.2 innings, allowing just 33 hits. He leads the nation in strikeouts and is second in K/9 with 12.4. He sits in the mid-80s with his fastball but is a master at changing speeds and working the corners. He says the key to his success this season has been getting ahead of hitters and keeping them off balance. Well done, kid.
Andrew Moore, RHP, Oregon State
Moore is one of those guys who may not have the best stuff, but just knows how to pitch. He was a first team All-American as a freshman, so the track record is there. At 5’-11” and 190 pounds, there isn’t much projection left, but he has a four-pitch mix that he commands very well. His fastball sits 88-92 mph and both his curveball and slider are solid offerings. He projects to fourth or fifth starter and is going to be a great addition to some team on day two of the 2015 MLB draft. Through nine starts, he has a 1.46 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 62 K/10 BB over 68 innings. His 7.56 innings per start show the kind of stamina he has.
Alex Bregman, SS, LSU
Bregman started out the season going 6-for-25 (.240) with two doubles and an RBI through his first six games. Since then, he has hit .350/.456/.659 over his last 31 games with 11 doubles, three triples, seven home runs and has stolen 19 bases. He has also drawn 20 walks to just six strikeouts, showing an incredible eye at the plate. He’s the Player of the Year right now, in my opinion, and should continue to put up huge numbers all the way to Omaha.
Donnie Dewees, OF, North Florida
The only player in the country with double-digit home runs and stolen bases is Dewees, a 6’-0”, 180 pound left-handed hitter who has put up some silly numbers this spring. Through 38 games, he is hitting .397/.455/.744 with seven doubles, seven triples, 11 home runs, 46 RBI and has stolen 17 bases. He has also drawn 18 walks to just eight strikeouts, showing a rare ability to hit for average and power while rarely missing a pitch. While most people don’t know the name, Dewees has a great track record of hitting and posted a .340/.427/.473 line at the Cape Cod League over the summer. He is also solid in the outfield where he uses his instincts and above-average speed to make all the plays in center field. There isn’t much projection left, and he may not have a stand out tool, but the kid is putting up gaudy numbers across the board and simply knows how to hit a baseball.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @DanMKirby for 2015 MLB draft updates, high school and college news, as well as Chicago Cubs ramblings.