College baseball: 5 freshmen on the rise — week 1

Aside from my weekly top college draft prospect articles, I also will post the top-five freshmen and sophomores every week this season. The MLB draft is gaining more and more steam every year, and I just want to do my part in getting as much info on these players out there as possible. Two guys who didn’t make the list this week — Florida’s J.J. Schwarz and Oregon State’s K.J. Harrison — both had impressive debuts and will likely make the list next week. Here are five freshmen who impressed me in the first week of the 2015 college baseball season:

J.B. Bukauskas was electric in his first career outing for the Tar Heels.
J.B. Bukauskas was electric in his first career outing for the Tar Heels.

J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, North Carolina

Arguably the top freshman in his class, Bukauskas made his much anticipated debut for the Heels on Saturday against Seton Hall and did not disappoint. He sat in the mid-90s with his plus fastball and touched 97 multiple times. He struck out five to one walk over five innings and didn’t allow an earned run. The 6’-1” right-hander was flashing a plus slider in fall scrimmages, and he adds a deceptive change-up with nice fade. A stud who is going to be in talks as a top-ten pick in the 2017 MLB draft for the next three years.

Alex Lange, RHP, LSU

Some would say Lange was the best prospect in LSU’s heralded pitching class, which also includes RHP Jake Godfrey and LHP Jake Latz. The 6’-3”, 200 pound right-hander features a plus curveball that was on display in his first start of the season. He adds a low-90s fastball that touched 95 against Kansas on Saturday as he tossed five shutout innings, striking out seven to one walk. He allowed just two hits and was named SEC Freshman of the Week for his performance. He also has a mid-80s change-up that is getting better and he commands all three well. With his size, stuff and poise on the mound, he’s going to be a big name for the next three years.

Evan Skoug, C/1B, TCU

An offensive-minded catcher with huge power from the left side, Skoug gets compared to former Indiana catcher, and 2014 fourth-overall pick by the Cubs, Kyle Schwarber. He showed that power in the second game of the season as he went 2-for-4 with a three-run bomb to deep left. He has three years to prove he can stick behind the plate, but he already is hitting in the middle of the lineup for one of the top teams in the nation and is producing already.

David Peterson, LHP, Oregon

Maybe the best southpaw in his class, Peterson is a 6’-6” power arm who can touch 95 mph with his fastball and adds an above-average change-up. His breaking ball is still developing and his smooth delivery bodes well for future development. He missed all of his senior season due to a broken leg and decided to honor his commitment — much to Oregon’s delight. He showed why he is going to be an ace for the Ducks for the next three years as he struck out eight to two walks over six innings against Hawaii on Saturday, allowing just one run on two hits.

Griffin Helms, OF/C, Kennesaw State

Helms was one of my personal favorites from last year’s prep class. He is a strong, physical kid at 6’-1” and 210 pounds and was timed at a silly 6.38 in the 60 late in the season. He has quick wrists and raw power to all fields. He also won the annual Iron Owl Challenge as he beat out all of his Kennesaw State teammates in a competition that included bench press, pull ups, vertical jump and 300 yard shuttle, among others. A catcher in high school, he also has the arm and speed to hold down a corner outfield spot where the power potential would play well. The right-hander saw his first game action in the third game of the season and his first hit was a towering, no-doubt home run to left field. This is a kid who will force his way into the everyday lineup with his work ethic and talent.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @DanMKirby for 2015 MLB draft updates, high school and college news, as well as Chicago Cubs ramblings.

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