Baseball America’s Hudson Belinsky checked out talent in Virginia and North Carolina this weekend, including potential 2015 first overall pick Michael Matuella of Duke.
On Friday, Duke junior Michael Matuella threw 4 1/3 innings and again showed the makings of four pitches that could be average or better. His fastball worked 91-94 mph early in the outing before sitting 89-92 in his final frame. The righthander has pitched in temperatures below 50 degrees in each of the last three weeks but, Mother Nature permitting, should pitch in warmer weather when the Blue Devils travel to Cal this weekend to open the season.
• Ferrum (Va.) righthander Jake Perkins showed an impressive arsenal in his season debut on Saturday at Hampden-Sydney in Virginia.
Perkins pitched at 88-90 mph, and had 92 when he needed it. He threw two breaking balls, a short, late-breaking slider at 80-82 mph, and an 11-to-5 curveball that worked in the upper 70s. At times, Perkins showed the ability to place each of his pitches anywhere in or around the strike zone, showing the signals of plus command. Perkins has a particular knack for throwing his fastball just above hitters' hands, but not too high for hitters to take the pitch. The junior does not fit the mold of a typical starter, but his delivery and body offer significant projection, and could allow him to succeed as a reliever. Perkins loads his weight with a high leg tuck and hip coil, then finishes open. There is some instability in his landing foot, and room for him to add strength to his lower half. Perkins could also show more velocity in shorter bursts out of the bullpen.
• In an intrasquad game Saturday, Longwood outfielder Kyri Washington showed an impressive skill set. Washington's swing is typically very short, but can get long at times. There is minimal hand load, though he does load his back elbow significantly, which could lead to more topspin to his pull side, as well as limiting the flexibility of his bat path in general. Washington's approach is to drive the ball as soon as possible, and this leads to issues when he expands the strike zone. Washington projects for average power and speed, and if he convinces teams that his swing-and-miss problems are solvable, Washington could be picked in the top five rounds of the draft.
• At shortstop for the Lancers, freshman Mike Osinski also showed a loud set of tools. Despite his physically imposing 6-foot-2 frame, Osinski has quick feet at shortstop and above-average arm strength. As he continues to fill out his 185-pound frame, Osinski may be forced to move to the outfield, where his above-average speed will play. Osinski saw the ball well on Saturday, controlling the strike zone at the plate and driving a pitch down the third-base line for a standup double. He has a high ceiling, and should contribute for Longwood right away.
• Even after losing Carlos Rodon and Trea Turner in the top 10 picks of last year's draft, N.C. State is still chock-full of draft talent. Brad Stone is a projectable lefthanded starter, and could pitch his way onto draft boards with a strong spring. Stone pitched at 87-90 mph on Sunday and showed the ability to locate his fastball down and to both sides of the plate. His curveball projects as his best pitch; at times it was below-average, crossing the plate with fringy depth and bite and not competing in the zone. Then, Stone would bust out a sharp, late-breaking curve with depth and power at 73 or 74. The pitch has 55 potential. Stone mixed in a slider and changeup as well. He showed some feel for locating the changeup, which is more of a show-me pitch at this point. Stone's prospect status rests on his projection. At 6-foot-3 and roughly 185 lbs, Stone has plenty of room to fill, both in his lower and upper halves. He has reached higher velocities in the past, and as he gains more stability in his stride, Stone should gain significant velocity.
• Righthander Joe O'Donnell had a very impressive outing on Sunday, striking out all three batters he faced with a devastating fastball-slider mix. O'Donnell throws from a low three-quarter arm slot with a long, whip-like arm action. O'Donnell's fastball worked at 88-90 with run and sink, but he has outstanding arm speed, and will likely sit in the low 90s this season. O'Donnell throws his slider from the same arm angle, and the pitch's late break makes it extremely difficult for hitters to square up. O'Donnell has late-inning relief potential at the pro level.
• Freshman Joe Dunand showed impressive bat speed for the Wolfpack. His approach is essentially to barrel the first fastball he can, and his natural bat speed and line-drive swing plane will allow him to make an immediate impact in the ACC. Dunand has a very thick lower half, with full thighs and calves, but has some room to fill in his wide shoulders. Additional muscle could allow Dunand's above-average raw power to take off and as he refines his approach, and he could develop into an elite offensive threat.
• Righthander Tommy DeJuneas could be a useful bullpen piece for N.C. State this season. With a high-effort delivery, DeJuneas pitched at 91-93 on Sunday. He also mixed in a very inconsistent slider, but the pitch flashed average. The freshman struggled to command the strike zone, but he has some projection left, and could develop into a pro prospect by the time he's draft-eligible again in 2017.