College spotlight: Top pitchers shining early

D.J. Baxendale leads the nation with five wins for the Arkansas Razorbacks. (Marc Henning/NWA Online)

With the college season already a couple of weeks in, some of the top draft prospects are starting to separate themselves from the rest and show why scouts fill the stands at every game they play. We take a look at some of the top pitchers eligible for the 2012 draft and how they have fared in the early going.

Mark Appel, Stanford, RHP
31 IP, 2-1 (W-L), 3.19 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 40 K/10 BB, 11.6 K/9

Appel has done nothing but show why he is widely considered to be the first name called at the draft. The 6’-5” power right-hander has dominated the opposition through his first four starts for third-ranked Stanford. He has gone at least seven innings in each, and has struck out 10 or more in three of the four, including 35 over his last three. In his last outing against seventh-ranked Rice on March 9, he had a complete game four-hitter, allowing two runs, while striking out 14 batters.

Kevin Gausman, LSU, RHP
27.1 IP, 4-0, 1.32 ERA, 0.81 WHIP 31 K/2 BB, 10.2 K/9

Gausman, considered a top-five pick in the draft, has been lights-out for the 10th-ranked Tigers. The 6’-4” flamethrower, who can get his fastball up to 99 mph, was near-perfect in his last outing against Michigan State on March 9. He tossed eight scoreless innings, allowing just two hits, while striking out 11 with no walks. Over his last three starts, he has struck out 24, while not allowing a single walk.

Michael Wacha, Texas A&M, RHP
25.2 IP, 3-0, 0.66 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 34 K/5 BB, 12.0 K/9

Wacha, a 6’-6” future workhorse, may be the most impressive of anyone on this list so far. He has given up two hits or less in three of his four starts, and has also allowed zero runs in three of four. Against Holy Cross on February 24, he went seven scoreless innings, allowing two hits, while striking out 11 with no walks. With a plus change-up and 95-mph heater, he is projected as a top-10 pick in the draft.

Marcus Stroman, Duke, RHP
26.1 IP, 1-2, 3.00 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 39 K/11 BB, 13.4 K/9

A strikeout machine, the 5’-9” Stroman ranks among the leaders in strikeouts-per-nine innings. In perhaps the most dominating performance by a pitcher this season, he went seven scoreless innings against George Washington on March 2, allowing two hits, while striking out 17 batters. With a devastating slider and fastball that sits in the 93-95 mph range, he could end up an elite closer down the road.

Kurt Heyer, Arizona, RHP
31 IP, 4-0, 0.58 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 33 K/4 BB, 9.6 K/9

Heyer, a superb command pitcher, has been displaying just that on the young season. The Friday-night starter for the 13th-ranked Wildcats was at his best against Harvard on March 2, tossing a complete game, allowing one run, while striking out 14 batters with no walks.

Kyle Zimmer, San Francisco, RHP
21 IP, 0-1, 3.00 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 25 K/1 BB, 10.7 K/9

Zimmer is a power right-hander who dials his fastball up to 97 mph with late movement. At 6’-3” and 220 pounds, he also adds a hammer curve that is a true wipe-out pitch. He got rocked around in his last start against Fresno State on March 9, allowing six runs, on nine hits, over six innings. He did, however, strike out 10 batters while allowing just one walk. His 25 K/1 BB on the year shows the kind of command he has for a power pitcher.

Chris Beck, Georgia Southern, RHP
27 IP, 1-2. 4.33 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 26 K/6 BB, 8.7 K/9

Beck is a projected first-round pick in the draft and has done nothing but solidify his status. He has shown great command of his 96 mph fastball, as well as his curveball and change-up, both projected as above average pitches at the next level. He struck out eight over eight innings in his last start against Elon, giving up three runs and taking the loss.

Brady Rodgers, Arizona State, RHP
31 IP, 3-0, 0.58 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 31 K/5 BB, 9.0 K/9

Jake Barrett was getting most of the pub heading into the season, but Rodgers has been the Sun Devils best pitcher this year, and if he keeps it going, could find himself in the first round come June 4. He has thrown two consecutive complete games, showing the durability to be a workhorse in the major leagues. A control pitcher, he has shown the ability to rack up a lot of strikeouts with his three-pitch mix, while keeping his walks to a minimum.

Buck Farmer, Georgia Tech, RHP
25 IP, 3-1, 2.88 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 37 K/9 BB, 13.3 K/9

Another big right-hander at 6’-3” and 230 pounds, Farmer pitched great against 19th-ranked North Carolina State in his last start on March 9. He gave up just one run over six innings, while striking out six in the win. Struck out a career high 13 over six innings against Ohio State on February 24, picking up the win in the process. His 13.3 K/9 shows the kind of overpowering stuff he has on the mound.

D.J. Baxendale, Arkansas, RHP
22 IP, 5-0, 2.46 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 17 K/6 BB, 7.0 K/9

Baxendale leads the nation in wins for the fifth-ranked Razorbacks. Not a power pitcher, he gets outs by keeping hitters off balance with his mix of pitches. He has a low-90s fastball with late movement, and an above average curveball and change-up. He has command of all three and will throw any of them in any situation. He picked up the win against Binghamton on March 10, giving up two runs over five innings, striking out three.

Brian Johnson, Florida, LHP
19.2 IP, 2-0, 4.13 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 15 K/4 BB, 6.9 K/9

One of the more polished left-handed pitchers in college, Johnson is projected as a first-round pick in the draft. Not a strikeout pitcher, his fastball sits in the low-90s, and he also adds a plus slider with an above-average change-up. Picked up the win in his last start on March 9, allowing three runs over six innings, while striking out six without a walk. He is also a terrific hitter — over just 34 at-bats, he is hitting .323 with three doubles, one home run and 11 RBI for the top-ranked Gators.

Austin Maddox, Florida, RHP
14.1 IP, 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.56 WHIP, 21 K/0 BB, 13.2 K/9

A catcher-turned-closer, Maddox has been ridiculous this season. He has yet to allow a run or issue a walk over 14.1 innings. He is also among the leaders in the nation in saves with five. His classic fastball/slider combo make him a potential dominant closer at the next level. Once a top catching prospect, his path to the majors may have gotten a lot easier with the switch to the mound.

Michael Roth, South Carolina, LHP
29 IP, 2-0, 0.93 ERA, 0.66 WHIP, 30 K/5 BB, 9.3 K/9

Defines the term “crafty lefty.” With a fastball that sits in the upper-80s, Roth relies on his off-speed stuff to keep hitters guessing. His change-up is plus, and he mixes his curve and slider against right- and left-handers. Had his best game against Princeton on March 9, going 8.2 innings, allowing one run on six hits, while striking out 10 batters without issuing a walk.

Hudson Randall, Florida, RHP
24.2 IP, 2-0, 3.66 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 17 K/1 BB, 6.2 K/9

One of the best control pitchers in college, Randall walked just 10 over 102 innings last year for the top-ranked Gators. He has been even better this season, allowing just one walk over his first 24.2 innings. While he doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts, his plus change-up, along with an above-average curveball and slider, compliment his low-90s fastball to confuse hitters trying to read his pitches. Picked up the win against Florida Gulf Coast in his last start, giving up two runs over seven and a third innings, striking out six with no walks.

Brett Mooneyham, Stanford, LHP
27 IP, 4-0, 2.33 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 37 K/13 BB, 12.3 K/9

Stanford’s other pitcher, Mooneyham is a 6’-5” left-hander who simply doesn’t allow anyone to hit him — opponents are hitting a paltry .165 (16-for-97) against him on the year. With his mid-90s fastball with late movement, he has racked up a 12.3 K/9 ratio, among the best in the nation. Over seven innings against Fresno State on Macrh 3, he struck out 13 batters, allowing no runs on two hits.

Taylor Rogers, Kentucky, LHP
23.1 IP, 4-0, 4.24 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 33 K/6 BB, 12.8 K/9

The hard-throwing left-hander has been very impressive so far for the 16th-ranked Wildcats. He struck out 10 over five innings against Illinois-Chicago on March 3, and has struck out at least nine in three of his four starts. He got roughed up a bit in his last outing against Canisius, giving up five runs over 6.1 innings, although he did pick up the victory in the 19-9 win. His 12.8 K/9 ratio ranks among the top 10 in the nation.

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