Draft Tracker: May 2
If you read Draft Tracker last year,
you found out about Taylor Guerrieri, Williams Jerez, Clay Holmes, J.R.
Graham, Keenyn Walker and others well before draft day. Here are four
more prospects on the rise this year. . .
Chris Stratton, rhp, Mississippi State
Injuries have decimated Mississippi State's lineup, with at times six Opening Day starters missing time due to injuries. That has left the Bulldogs relatively punchless, forced to win with pitching and defense.
Luckily for them, the Bulldogs have a staff that has had 14 pitchers hit 90 mph or better, according to head coach John Cohen. Chief among them is junior righthander Chris Stratton, who has pitched his way into the mix for the first half of the first round by being the Southeastern Conference's best pitcher.
That's a strong statement considering Louisiana State's Kevin Gausman is in the league, but Stratton leads the league in wins, ranks second to Gausman in strikeouts (but has more in league play) and has an ERA that's almost a full run better. Overall, he's 8-0, 2.39 with 95 strikeouts and 17 walks in 75 innings.
"It started for him in the Cape Cod League," Cohen said. "He got a lot more confident, believed in himself a lot more, and it's made a difference. I've said this to a lot of guys this spring. We told Chris that he was the kind of kind of kid who, if he ordered steak and they brought him shrimp, he'd still just eat the shrimp. He needed to be the guy who sent the shrimp back and demanded his steak, and that what he's done."
Stratton has a perfect pitcher's frame at 6-foot-2, 197 pounds, and is showing flashes of three above-average pitches. He had everything working in a mid-March start against LSU, striking out 17, and has maintained a similar quality of stuff since then. His fastball sits in the 91-93 mph range with his fastball, regularly touching 95 and at times reaching back for a bit more. Moreover, Stratton has good control of the fastball and should have solid-average command with a bit more experience and strength.
His slider is his best pitch, a true plus offering, but Stratton also throws a solid-average curve that at times is above-average as well, if a bit shy of plus.
"He's a third or fourth starter in the big leagues, for me," said an American League scout. "He has a good feel for pitching . . . and good poise. His fastball has good tailing action on it, and he throws his slider for strikes consistently. That's his out pitch.
"His stuff across the board, I think he'll pitch with a 55 fastball and the slider has a chance to be plus at the big league level. He's also a 55 control and command guy."
James Kaprielian, rhp, Beckman HS, Irvine, Calif.
Kaprielian threw his second no-hitter of the season on May 1. Against University High (Irvine, Calif.), Kaprielian struck out nine and didn't issue a walk. The lone baserunner came in the seventh inning on an error by Beckman's third baseman.
Kaprielian, who topped out at 89 mph according to the Los Angeles Times
, is another piece of UCLA's loaded recruiting class, which means the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder is another guy head coach John Savage may be sweating come July.
"Somebody will take a real run at him if they don't think he'll go to college," a National League scout said. "He'll show you a plus curveball, he'll get up to 91-92, and he's got a changeup that has a chance to be better than average. And he's got some (fight) in him too. He knows how to pitch a little."
Walker Buehler, rhp, Clay HS, Lexington, Ky.
Earlier in the year, Buehler was sitting 90-94 mph with a very good breaking ball and a solid changeup with good sinking action. At about 6-foot-1 and 165 pounds, scouts can project on him some because he's not physically mature yet.
"Chaz Roe had the best high school breaking ball I've ever seen, and Walker Buehler is close," a scout in the area said. "I've seen him up to 93 and he has a smooth arm. He has a four-pitch mix and he's very good. I didn't see Zack Greinke as an amateur, but maybe he turns into Greinke. He's so polished."
In addition to his breaking ball, Buehler also has one of the best Twitter handles in this year's class (@buehlersdayoff
). Signability will be the key for Buehler. He's committed to Vanderbilt, but if he's signable, he could go in the second round.
Mitchell Gueller, rhp, West HS, Chehalis, Wash.
Gueller stands out on the field with his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame and some scouts believe he is the top athlete in the Northwest this year. He ran a 6.90-second 60-yard dash at the Area Code Games this summer and shows some strength with the bat but is more advanced on the mound.
The Washington State recruit pitches with a quick pace, already has an above-average fastball and shows flashes with his secondary offerings.
"Every time he's on the mound, he's been up to 93 and I've heard some 94s," a National League area scout said. "He sits at 93 for three innings and shows flashes with his breaking ball and changeup. The breaking ball is a little bit of a slurve and it might be a slider one day. He's striking a lot of guys out because he plays in a small conference and he's definitely a man among boys."
Jared Price, rhp, Twin Valley HS, Elverson, Pa.
Price may be this year's Northeast arm that comes on strong and rises quickly right before the draft—a la Jesse Biddle in 2010 and Jordan Cote in 2011. He has a good frame at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, and is committed to Maryland.
Last summer, Price's fastball would sit in the high 80s, and he showed an ability to find another gear and get into the low 90s. The same seems to be true this spring and his start Tuesday night was arguably his best yet. His fastball has been anywhere from 87-94 mph, but he sat 90-91 on Tuesday, touching 94 and hitting several 92s and 93s. He also showed a breaking ball that can be an out pitch for him.
"He's showing a breaking ball now, giving you two plus pitches," one area scout said.
Price has tinkered with his delivery a little this spring and has been inconsistent as it can get a little out of whack. His short arm action leads to inconsistent command, but scouts like his frame, fastball and ability to spin a breaking ball.
Contributing: John Manuel, Aaron Fitt, Jim Callis, Conor Glassey and Nathan Rode.