Mississippi righthander Scott Bittle will miss his second consecutive start this weekend for the Rebels due to biceps tendinitis, coach Mike Bianco said Wednesday.
"He will not pitch this weekend," said Bianco, who added that Bittle threw a bullpen Tuesday to see if he could get ready for the weekend. "The good news is he’s a lot better than he was last week in throwing the ball, actually got to long toss a little bit yesterday. (He) still feels some stiffness in the biceps area. We just felt we’ve gone this far and made so many gains, it wasn’t worth the risk to run him out there if he’s not 100 percent." [...] Continue Reading »
California’s Blake Smith, one of the nation’s top two-way talents, will miss the rest of the season on the mound with a lat muscle strain. He also is going to be limited to the DH role.
Smith has hit fairly well this season, batting .318/.399/.544 with 10 home runs for the Bears, who have struggled to a 22-27 record, including just 8-16 in the Pacific-10 Conference. The Bears have struggled significantly on the mound, with a 5.86 team ERA, and Smith contributed to the problem while working both as a starter and as a closer. He was 0-1, 5.85 with two saves, having walked 20 and struck out 26 in 20 innings. [...] Continue Reading »
BA staffers have started their draft calls in earnest, bearing down for our mid-May Draft Preview issue, and conversations with scouts and college coaches always reveal interesting information that need not be held until the Preview issue. So we’ll be dropping some of these short updates between now and mid-May, when our full reports really get started online and in the print edition of the magazine.
• We just posted an updated Top 50 for subscribers, and we’re already receiving plenty of feedback on it from industry types. One player it looks like we’re a little light on is Georgia prep righthander Zack Wheeler, who is likely to go much higher than our No. 32 listing. One front-office official said he didn’t think Wheeler would get out of the first 10 picks; the top 20 certainly seems reasonable.
Wheeler pumps his fastball into the 90-94 mph range, touching 96, and does everything with ease, while sporting a 6-foot-4, 170-pound frame that scouts love to project. As one source put it, 2008 High School Player of the Year Ethan Martin—a Georgia prep righty whom the Dodgers picked in the first round last year, 15th overall—had better present stuff, but Wheeler’s is comparable, with more mound savvy and control and consistent, dominant performance. [...] Continue Reading »
LOS ANGELES–The twin Tylers of Southern California high school pitching prospects—Matzek and Skaggs—were in action this past weekend to christen the opening of the 2009 local high school baseball season.
Matzek, from Capistrano Valley High in south Orange County, toed the rubber on Friday at home in front of a dozen scouts. The talented lefty posted a complete game shutout against Huntington Beach, allowing two hits, walking three and striking out six.
Beau Amaral was Matzek’s primary threat in the Huntington Beach lineup. The speedy center fielder, who is the son of former big leaguer Rich Amaral, laid down a perfect drag bunt in the first inning and hot footed down the line in less than four seconds for a base hit. The younger Amaral was later nipped by an eyelash on an infield hopper; he blazed down to first in 4.03 seconds.
Uncharacteristically, Matzek battled his command all day long, and struggled mightily to keep his heater down in the zone. Matzek’s fastball sat in the 88-91 mph range, and he showed difficulty in corralling his 74-77 mph curve and 80 mph slider.
[...] Continue Reading »
Jim Callis is still making his list and checking it twice for his final mock draft prior to the beginning Thursday of the 2008 Draft. We still are pinching ourselves at BA World Headquarters that the draft is on TV and happy to be part of ESPN’s show., and we’ll dispatch Matt Blood to Orlando to cover the proceedings at the Milk House, where the draft’s first round and the TV show will be staged.
Here are some hints of what we’re hearing will happen at the top of that exciting television program:
• Sorry, Vanderbilt. All indications are the Commodores will not become the first college team to produce back-to-back No. 1 overall picks. While Vandy third baseman Pedro Alvarez ranked first on BA’s draft board, he’s about third on Tampa’s board, according to industry sources. The top spot remains undecided. According to BA’s sources, the Rays’ scouting department prefers Georgia prep shortstop Tim Beckham, the kind of toolsy, middle-of-the-diamond athlete the Rays have drafted repeatedly—the kind of athletes that have put the Rays in first place in the American League East as the draft approaches. Others in the organization, such as de facto GM Andrew Friedman, are said to prefer Florida State catcher Buster Posey as the perfect complement to the organization’s impressive current stockpile of talent. Of course Posey also can stake his claim as this draft class’ top talent based on his offensive and defensive prowess at such a premium position.
CARY, N.C.—In the first game of the regional here between UNC Wilmington and Elon, Bradley Holt vividly showed the difference between a prospect projected to go in the first 50 picks and one slotted closer to the 150th selection. Holt was the starting pitcher for the Seahawks and was matched up against Elon righthander Steven Hensley. Both pitchers have been their teams’ aces this season and entered the matchup with almost identical statistics:
Holt: 10-1, 3.30 ERA, 84.2 IP, 72 H, 31 ER, 30 BB, 92 SO
Hensley: 10-1, 3.34 ERA, 86.1 IP, 70 H, 32 ER, 37 BB, 97 SO
To continue with the comparison, only an inch separates the two as Hensley is listed at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds and Holt at 6-foot-4, 195 pounds. The two even started the game in similar fashion when Hensley allowed two runs on four singles in the bottom of the first inning and Holt did the exact same in the top of the second. After the second inning, however, the difference between Holt and Hensley became clear—and it was all in the fastball. [...] Continue Reading »
Whether by design or pure coincidence, each year the NCAA tournament committee creates intriguing pitching matchups in the first-round regionals. No matchup on the East Coast is more important for a duo of starting pitchers in the opening round than Friday’s bout between second-seeded UNC-Wilmington and the third-seeded Elon in Cary, N.C. Both teams boast established righthanders who are eligible for the draft but whose stock is still volatile.
UNCW’s Brad Holt has been a late bloomer and a pleasant surprise for the Seahawks this year. His fastball has gained velocity every year since arriving on campus and now sits between 92-94 mph and can reach 96-97 at times. Holt is tall and projectable and holds his velocity late into games. With improved command this season, Holt vaulted himself up draft boards and was recently listed as BA’s No. 98 prospect for the 2008 draft. However, Holt’s stock continues to rise. With first-round caliber starters such as Tanner Scheppers and Brett Hunter falling due to injury, major league teams may have to look deeper into this year’s draft class for a quality college starting pitcher, and Holt could sneak into the first two rounds.
The problem with having a website AND magazine is sometimes one has to come first. Prioritizing the magazine has meant sitting on a few draft tidbits, but I’ve got 10 minutes to do this instead of eat lunch. I’ll just live off my hump a little while longer . . .
• Fresno State righthander Tanner Scheppers is expected to pitch this weekend after missing his turn last weekend for the Bulldogs. Scheppers relieved in the first game of the Bulldogs’ New Mexico State series—reportedly touching 99 mph in one of his seven pitches—and then started on one day’s rest in the series finale. The next Friday, prior to his scheduled start against San Jose State, Scheppers’ shoulder was tender during his bullpen. They backed him off of that start and then tried again Sunday, but decided to back off again when Scheppers again felt some tenderness. According to Fresno State assistant coach Matt Curtis, all signs pointed to a Saturday start this weekend for Scheppers against Gabe Jacobo and Sacramento State. [...] Continue Reading »
ATHENS, Ga.—Five games, four days, three nights on a couch and two premier college conferences all in one weekend. At this time of year, with a month to go until the draft, so is the life of a major league scout (substitute the couch for a queen size bed in a Courtyard Marriott), and in an attempt to get a better grip on some players in the Southeast, I hit the road as well.
The first three games featured a Southeastern Conference showdown as Georgia hosted Mississippi at Foley Field. Five of the six starting pitchers that took the mound in the series are draft eligible and expected to be drafted in the top 10 rounds come June. However, the top two pitchers in the park were the closers from each respective school—Georgia’s Joshua Fields and Mississippi’s Scott Bittle–both potential first-rounders.
Also on display were Georgia shortstop and top 10 overall prospect Gordon Beckham, and top 200 player Mississippi third baseman Cody Overbeck.
On Sunday, after Georgia wrapped up a 2-1 series victory over the Rebels at just past 5 p.m., I hopped in my car and headed to Clemson, South Carolina to catch the second game of an ACC series between the Tigers and Florida State, beginning at 7 p.m. Florida State’s starter on the mound was Elih Villanueva who has continued to increase his draft stock into the top 10 rounds with solid outings over the past month.
Tennessee’s top high school prospect Sonny Gray is wearing a boot and on crutches. The righthander and Vanderbilt recruit suffered an avulsion fracture and a third degree sprain to his right ankle running out a ground ball during a game on April 16.
"I hit a ground ball to second base and was running to beat out the throw," Gray said. "The pitcher came over to cover first, and I stepped on his foot and the bag at the same time."
Gray is going back to see the doctor on April 29, but odds are he will not be healed in time to pitch again this season as the Tennessee district tournaments start at the end of next week on May 2. While Gray’s high school career may be finished, his pitching career certainly is not, and focus is now shifted to the draft.
"I’m normally a fast healer," Gray said. "Hopefully, I’ll be well so I can throw a little before (the draft)."
Although he’s only 5-foot-10, Gray is currently the No. 23 draft prospect. Due to his size, max effort delivery and superb two pitch mix of a mid-90s fastball and arguably the country’s best curveball, the question of whether Gray will be a starter or a closer in the pros is often debated—as is the question of durability. Now that he will not be able to pitch down the stretch of the season because of an injury, Gray’s draft stock may begin to slide.
Gray was a preseason All-American and was pitching up to that accolade before the injury. In six starts, Gray was 5-0 with an ERA below 1.00. He also had 84 strikeouts on the season, averaging 14 a game.
An avulsion fracture occurs when a tendon or ligament pulls off a piece of bone. This type of injury is typically do not need surgery, as is the case with Gray.
A couple of top pitching prospects for the upcoming draft each had recent scares—one of which could be season ending and the other not even a black eye.
Colby Shreve, arguably the nation’s top junior college pitching prospect, has missed his last two starts with an elbow injury, and rumblings in the scouting community were that he is going to need Tommy John surgery. Shreve is seeking a second opinion from Los Angeles Angels medical director Dr. Lewis Yocum.
For the second year in a row, Shreve started the season out strong only to be set back. This season, Shreve had compiled a record of 5-1, 2.30 in eight starts, including three complete games. He had held opposing batters to a .146 batting averaging and struck out 43 in 47 innings pitched.
Shreve’s last start on March 21 may have been an indicator of his elbow problems. His normally low 90′s velocity was noticeably lower as Shreve allowed seven earned runs in three innings pitched. He also walked four and only struck out two in his only loss of the season.
An unsigned eighth-round draft pick by the Braves last year, Shreve is signed to play baseball at Arkansas in ’09. Before this injury, it was improbable Shreve would make it to the four year school as he was more than likely to be selected in the first 50 picks of this year’s draft. However, with elbow surgery looming, his draft stock is inevitably going to fall.
The nation’s No. 1 high school pitching prospect had a little better luck in his visit to the local physicians. While playing floor hockey in gym class on Monday, righthander Tim Melville was hit in the right eye with a stray puck, sending him to the doctor’s office. Melville was forced to miss his start that evening.
"It’s a very small bruised retina," Melville said. "I played yesterday and everything is normal. It’s just one of those things you have to get checked out."
The incident might not have grabbed as much attention as it did had Melville’s team not been playing Howell High, a highly touted and undefeated team from St. Charles, Mo. Melville is now scheduled to make his next start on Saturday.
After starting slow, Melville has shown increased arm strength and command. In his last start, Melville took a no-hitter to the last strike of the game in which he hung a curveball, allowing a single. His fastball velocity peaked at 94 and never dipped below 90.
Melville is committed to the University of North Carolina and is projected to be a first-round draft pick come June.
Contributing: John Manuel.
Prospects whose stock is increasing or decreasing significantly two months before the June 5-6 draft:
• Ethan Martin, rhp/3b, Stephens County HS, Toccoa, Ga. Considered a power-hitting third baseman coming into the season, he showed that his future will be on the mound when he struck out slugger Eric Hosmer in a head-to-head meeting. Few high school pitchers have been as impressive as Martin this spring.
• Joshua Fields, rhp, Georgia. After leading the Bulldogs to the College World Series and dominating in the Cape Cod League in 2006, he slipped a notch last year, fell to the second round and didn’t sign with the Braves. Now he’s back to blowing away hitters with a mid-90s fastball and a power breaking ball, with a 0.00 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 15 innings. He once again looks like the first-rounder he initially projected as a year ago.
• Brett Wallace, 3b/1b, Arizona State. No one doubted his hitting ability coming into the year, but his power was in question. With nine homers in 31 games, he looks like he can be more than a Mark Grace. He also has moved to third base for the Sun Devils and hasn’t looked bad, though he’ll almost certainly be a first baseman again when he reaches the majors. [...] Continue Reading »
With the high school season underway across the country, Baseball America will try to bring you continual updates on how prospects are helping or hurting their stock for the 2008 draft.
Kyle Skipworth, Patriot High School, Riverside, Calif.
There is no hotter hitter in the country than Kyle Skipworth. Last night, an unprecedented streak in the state of California came to an end when Skipworth was retired for the first time in 25 plate appearances.
In the five games prior to last night, the nation’s number one catching prospect’s stat line read: 5 for 5, 1 for 1 (3 walks), 1 for 1 (3 walks), 4 for 4 and 5 for 5. Last night he started the game with two hits before finally being retired in his third at-bat of the evening. The stats are uncanny: 16 straight hits, four home runs, four doubles and one triple.
Skipworth continues to build on a strong ’07 summer and has raised his draft stock into the upper third of this year’s first round. Assuming he’s signable, he will most likely be the first catcher taken in the draft.
"He’s a premium lefthanded bat with premium catch and throw skills at a premium position," an American League scout said. "If he’s signable, he’s going top 10." [...] Continue Reading »
Prep lefthander John Lamb, who recently impressed scouts at a showcase event in Compton, Calif., won’t get to build on the momentum he gained in that event due to an injury.
Lamb, a projectable 6-foot-3, 175-pounder with Laguna Hills High, had recurring pain in his left elbow stemming from a car crash last week, and it now has been diagnosed as an avulsion fracture, when a ligament or tendon pulls off a piece of bone. He is expected to miss at least 12 weeks while doctors immobilize and rehabilitate his throwing arm.
Lamb will not have surgery, according to an e-mail his father sent to scouts. He was starting to pitch his way into single-digit draft-round territory after showing improved fastball velocity (touching 91 mph) and a better breaking ball during this month’s Major League Scouting Bureau event at Compton’s RBI facility. Now Lamb probably won’t pitch until mid-to-late May, just before the draft.
Clemson righthander David Kopp didn’t have a great start last weekend in regional play–he gave up nine hits and six runs (four earned) in five innings against Coastal Carolina in a game Clemson won 11-8. But he’s done enough this spring to position himself at No. 81 on BA’s Top 200 Prospects, and some clubs have him as a back-of-the-first-round talent. Now word is coming that Kopp is a strong possibility at the back of the first round for several teams as their second option. [...] Continue Reading »
Draft stock rumors will come fast and furious this week; we only hope we have time to blog them all. Two popped up Monday morning concerning Texas catcher Preston Clark and Calhoun (Ga.) High infielder Charlie Culberson. [...] Continue Reading »
Andrew Brackman’s May hasn’t gone as anyone might have hoped. The 6-foot-10 North Carolina State righthander did not pitch in any of the Wolfpack’s three games in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, meaning he will have made only one appearance, totaling four innings, during the entire month.
Issues both on and off the field have led to Brackman’s mysterious May. The team has said his arm is simply tired after he had pitched 78 innings this season, compared to 71 in his previous two college seasons combined. On top of that, he has had to deal with the death of his former girlfriend in the last week.
So while the lack of work may be understandable, it doesn’t make the task of figuring out where to draft Brackman any easier. [...] Continue Reading »
SEBRING, Fla.–Day One of the Florida Athletic Coaches Association All-Star Baseball Classic featured an exciting starting pitching matchup of Nevin Griffith (Middleton High, Tampa) and Michael Main (Deland High). The two talented righthanders did not disappoint. [...] Continue Reading »
There are questions about whether Max Scherzer has the secondary stuff to be a front-line starter or if he projects as more of a closer. But there is no question that the rest of the American Association will be happy to see him leave in a couple of weeks as he likely prepares to re-enter the draft.
Scherzer was in control once again for Fort Worth last night in his third start for Fort Worth. He didn’t touch the 97 mph that he has in other starts, but he sat comfortably at 92-94 mph with a free and easy delivery while showing a still-improving slider and an occasional changeup. [...] Continue Reading »
Missouri State lefthander Ross Detwiler remains a candidate to be drafted among the first 10 picks three weeks from now, but he had one of his shortest outings last night in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. He gave up four hits and walked four in three innings, giving up two runs to Wichita State.
The Bears rallied to win 5-2 without him, and Detwiler’s poor outing may not hurt his stock too much. [...] Continue Reading »
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