FULLERTON, Calif.—I spent most of the last week driving from North Carolina to Orange County, Calif., where I will continue to cover college baseball on a national level for BA out of my new West Coast office. Fortunately, I arrived in time to catch a fall scrimmage between San Diego and Cal State Fullerton at Goodwin Field this weekend. Here are a few observations, culled from my Twitter feed:
• The Titans are loaded on the mound. Ace Noe Ramirez looked good in his three scoreless innings, working around 90-91 mph and effectively mixing his devastating 84 mph changeup against both righthanded and lefthanded hitters. He looks primed for a huge junior year. Likely Saturday starter Dylan Floro, a sophomore righthander, followed with three scoreless innings of his own, attacking hitters with a lively 87-89 fastball that topped out at 91 and a nice changeup.
But the Titans kept on rolling out big arms after that duo. Righty Jake Floethe, who sat out last year after transferring from Fresno State, was 91-92. Righthander Chris Devenski was a pleasant surprise, pounding the zone with a 91-93 fastball that touched 94. And Fullerton didn't even use two of its other top arms, Tyler Pill and Colin O'Connell. The Titans look well positioned to succeed in what figures to be a pitching-dominated new era with the BBCOR-certified bats.
• It's not easy to replace a first-team All-American at shortstop, but Fullerton should be fine with sophomore Richy Pedroza taking over at that position. The 5-foot-5 sparkplug showed good range and a strong arm—he made every routine play and two dazzling plays. The first was a stop, spin and throw on a chopper up the middle, and the next was a backhand stop on the run in the hole to his right, then a nice throw across his body on the run. He's a fun player to watch.
• Top recruits Joe Terry and Michael Lorenzen got off to slow starts for the Titans on Saturday, but each drove in a run in the eighth (with a chopper and a sac fly), and Terry ripped an RBI double to left in his next at-bat. Terry brings a reputation as a hitting machine with him from junior college—and he's going to hit a lot this spring—but he also looked solid at third base. On one play where he cut off a chopper in the hole and made a nice scoop on a short hop, a scout even commented in surprise, "Look at Joe Terry, flashing the leather!"
• San Diego has a lot of innings to replace with the departures of Kyle Blair, Sammy Solis, A.J. Griffin and Matt Thomson, but its arms are promising. Righthander Chris Jensen started the game and looked good, sitting at 92-93 and flashing a good breaking ball in his scoreless inning of work. Blue-chip freshman Dylan Covey—an unsigned first-round pick—didn't have his best command, and Fullerton loaded the bases against him, but he escaped unscathed. He worked at 91-92 and flashed a nice 80 mph slider, though he struggled to get around the pitch at times. Newcomers Paul Paez and Max McNabb are both lefthanded curveball specialists who should make big impacts. And righty Paul Sewald was a nice surprise, locating an 89-90 mph fastball that touched 91 and mixing in a solid breaking ball.
• Covey isn't USD's only big-name recruit. Freshman slugger Kris Bryant played first base and struggled at the plate, striking out a couple of times and hitting into an inning-ending fielder's choice with the bases loaded. Better days are ahead for him, but some scouts wonder about his contact ability.
• Three San Diego veteran position players made positive impressions. Catcher Zach Kometani hit a laser off the left-field wall for a double against Floro, and outfielder Scott Schauer hit the day's only home run, a solo shot off the left-field scoreboard against Devenski. And second baseman Tony Strazzara will be a linchpin for the Toreros. He plays a very nice second base and has a good feel for the game.
I've got a couple of other items to pass along from last week, during my cross-country trek:
• Interested in how the new TD Ameritrade Park Omaha is progressing? Creighton posted a very nice photo gallery—well worth a click.
• Draft sleeper alert: Liberty redshirt sophomore righthander Blake Forslund has generated some buzz this fall, working around 92-95 mph and touching 97, according to coach Jim Toman. Forslund started his college career at Virginia, where he pitched one inning in 2009 before transferring to Liberty. With that kind of arm strength and a good pitcher's frame (6-foot-3, 210 pounds), he could rocket up draft charts this spring if he shows feel for pitching.
• Scouts got a look at Maryland's remade roster at the Terrapins' Red vs. Black Super Regional this weekend. Top recruit Chuck Ghysels looked pretty good, working at 90-92 from a high three-quarters slot and showing an 80-81 changeup with sharp downward action, according to one scout. Senior lefthander Eric Potter also made a positive impressive, working at 88-92 with a tailing fastball and showing good feel for his curveball and changeup. The scout also was intrigued by newcomers Tim Kiene and Tomo Delp, who bring physicality to the lineup.
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