See also: Draft Tracker Chart
Conference play has started for colleges around the nation, high school teams in colder areas will begin playing soon and we’re tracking the draft’s movers and shakers, as the big day is just a little more than 10 weeks away. From now until June 9, we’ll use the Draft Tracker to spotlight players that are moving up or down teams’ draft boards.
Rich Poythress, 1b, Georgia
The big, 6-foot-4, 245-pound Poythress has been terrorizing SEC pitchers from the middle of the Bulldogs’ lineup. Although he has played third base in the past, Poythress has seen the majority of his time this spring at first, where he was awarded a Gold Glove last season. But without a doubt, Poythress’ calling card is his bat. Last year, Poythress was the cleanup hitter behind first-rounder Gordon Beckham and put up a line of .374/.461/.626 for the College World Series runner-ups. He’s been even better so far this season, hitting .429/.534/.810 with nine home runs and more walks than strikeouts. When Poythress is drafted this June—and he’s getting first-round buzz—he won’t be the first person in his family. His father, Richard, was a 26th-round selection by the Cubs in 1973.
“Rich has been good his whole career,” Georgia coach David Perno said. “Even going back to his freshman year, although that doesn’t show up so much in the stats because he missed five months with a torn ACL, but hit his way back into the middle of our lineup at the end of the year. He’s just a complete hitter. He’s got power, hits the ball the other way, he hits in the clutch—he’s just a great hitter for us and nothing he does ever surprises me.”
Ryan Berry, rhp, Rice
Just what teams need—another Rice pitcher rising up draft boards. The Owls have been one of the top college teams this season thanks in part to their strong pitching, led by righthander Ryan Berry. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior went undrafted out of high school, showed up at Rice and then led the team in innings pitched (123) as a freshman. He went 11-3, 3.01 that year with 125 strikeouts and 34 walks. His sophomore campaign was solid, but not as impressive as his debut. This year, however, he’s taken another step forward.
With a fastball that’s sitting 89-91 mph and touching 93, a devastating 80-82 mph curveball and a 83-84 mph slider, Berry is 4-0, 1.96 so far this season. Over 37 innings, he’s struck out 31 and walked seven and is pitching his way up draft boards.
James Paxton, lhp, Kentucky
Paxton hails from Ladner, B.C., and was a veteran of Canada’s youth national team and the country’s best pitcher heading into the 2006 draft, but went undrafted after teams were scared off by elbow soreness. It turned out to just be growing pains, but his growth spurt has been nothing short of joy for the Wildcats.
“He has a nice, long, easy, clean arm,” Kentucky coach Gary Henderson said. “He controls his body well and he’s one of those kids that has grown into his body. He’s kind of young for his class, but he’s grown into his body and has added velocity each year he’s been here. When we signed him he was 6-1 and he showed up at 6-3.”
Paxton is now 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds. He pitched just 18 innings as a freshman and split time last season between Kentucky’s bullpen and rotation, going 4-2, 2.92 with 43 strikeouts and 25 walks over 52 innings. He’s really emerged this year, however, and is spending all of his time as Kentucky’s Friday starter. Growing into his body has allowed Paxton to add velocity each year and he’s been sitting 94-97 mph with armside run and sink. Currently, he’s throwing a slurvy curveball that Henderson said has been getting tighter and tighter each time out and is working to add a changeup to his arsenal. So far this season, Paxton is 4-0, 3.30 with 47 strikeouts and six walks in 30 innings. On March 20, he out-dueled Vanderbilt lefthander Mike Minor, striking out 10 in 6.2 innings.
James Jones, rhp, Long Island
If you read BA’s college Weekend Preview last week, you got a detailed breakdown on Jones. The scout quoted in that piece said that Jones’ delivery has slowed down from where it was this fall and he’s getting out of synch. He said his arm works great and his arm action is, “as good as you’re going to find, and it’s a fast arm.” But Jones’ place on this list is similar to Kyle Heckathorn’s two weeks ago. For a pitcher with his stuff, in the conference he’s in, he should be getting better results. Jones’ results this season have been disappointing, to say the least. Over four starts, he’s 0-4, 11.07 with 23 strikeouts and 12 walks in 20 innings. Heckathorn has been better lately; here’s to hoping Jones does the same.
Jeff Inman, rhp, Stanford
Inman had a decent sophomore year, going 7-2, 4.27 with 45 strikeouts and 29 walks in 73 innings. He spent last summer in the Cape Cod League, where he ranked as the league’s ninth-best prospect. With that in mind, Stanford was expecting big things from the junior righthander this year but, so far, Inman hasn’t lived up to the hype. Granted, he’s faced some tough competition over his first four starts—Vanderbilt, Cal State Fullerton, Texas and California—but the results have disappointing. He’s 0-3, 7.29 with 13 strikeouts and nine walks in 21 innings.
Michael Dedrick, rhp, Canyon View (Cedar City, Utah) High
The 6-foot-3 Dedrick ranked 39th on our preseason high school top 100 after his fastball was sitting 91-94 mph this summer and he was mixing in a good cutter and curveball. But Dedrick has taken a step back since then. After adding about 15 pounds of bad weight, Dedrick has struggled this spring and his fastball is down in the 86-88 range. On top of that, the weight has led to mechanical issues, as he’s now having difficulty getting over his front side. He also has a significant head whack and falls off the mound, leading to spotty control. There’s still time for him to straighten things out, but the early reports are not good.
CONTRIBUTING: Conor Glassey & Aaron Fitt