SAN DIEGO–Thanks to a late schedule change that moved the Missouri-Cal Poly game up an hour to 11 a.m., I ‘ve had a chance to see both Missouri super sophomore righthander Kyle Gibson and San Diego stud freshman righty Kyle Blair today. Gibson, ranked No. 1 on our list of top prospects in the sophomore class, struggled with his command in the first inning, and the Mustangs strung together two runs on four hits and a sacrifice fly despite not hitting any balls sharply. They had a chance to deliver a knockout punch right off the bat, but Gibson got Adam Melker to ground out meekly to first with the bases loaded to end the inning. From there, Gibson was in control.
A tall, lanky righthander with a smooth, effortless delivery, Gibson oozes projection, but he worked in the 88-91 mph range today, touching 92-93 a couple of times. His most impressive pitch is a devastating hard slider in the 84-86 range that he threw to righties and lefties. He registered all four of his strikeouts by getting hitters to chase the slider down out of the zone. He flashed a plus changeup in the 81-82 range at times, and he tinkered with a nascent curveball. After the first, he allowed just four hits and no runs over the next five innings.
After seeing both Gibson and Stephen Strasburg this weekend, I remain very high on both, but I think Strasburg might be the slightly better prospect simply because he has better current velocity; with Gibson there’s a lot of projection. Both have good command and competitiveness and a plus breaking ball, and both will be very successful.
In the first two innings, Gibson actually looked less impressive than his Cal Poly counterpart, sophomore righty Steven Fischback, who sat in the 92-93 mph range and showed a hard, tight slider in the mid-80s. But the Tigers got to Fischback for three runs in the third and single runs in each of the next two frames, and that was all the offense Missouri needed, though it tacked on another run later and went on to win 6-3.
Before I left for Cunningham Stadium to see Blair and the Toreros, I got a glimpse of another power arm: Poly reliever Kevin Castner, who ran his fastball into the 93-95 range for the second time this weekend. Castner threw just seven innings a year ago and posted a 15.43 ERA, but if he remains healthy he gives the Mustangs a sorely needed bullpen anchor now that lefthander Derrick Saito is in the rotation.
I’ll get to Blair’s outing shortly . . .
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