Statistics provied by collegesplits.com
No. 7 Texas Christian, Illinois and UC Santa Barbara have potential first-round arms who are coming off strong seasons as relief pitchers.
While college closers do get drafted in the first round, Virginia's Nick Howard last year became the first college closer drafted in the first round since Drew Storen in 2009. The caveat there is Howard was a two-way player who also started as a sophomore and is being developed as a starter by the Reds.
Some major league organizations would prefer to see Riley Ferrell (TCU), Tyler Jay (Illinois) and Dillon Tate (UCSB) start. This weekend, they got their wish with Jay, but even he also pitched in relief.
Ferrell struck out 70 in 45 1/3 innings last season as a sophomore, helping lead the Horned Frogs to Omaha with 15 saves. He pitched only one inning this weekend, though, a scoreless frame against Southern Illinois.
Both the Gauchos and Illini shifted their 2014 closers into starting roles to open 2015. Tate threw 6 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts and just three hits allowed in a 6-0 shutout win against Brigham Young. It was Tate's first career start after 32 relief appearances in his first two years, when he threw 46 innings combined. Scouts contacted by Baseball America report Tate's fastball was up to 98 mph early in his start, and that both his changeup and slider flashed plus in the outing. One reported that all eight strikeouts came on the slider.
Illinois changed things up with Jay, who wound up relieving Saturday and making his scheduled start on Sunday. Pitching coach Drew Dickinson, who was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the famed 2002 "Moneyball" draft, reasoned that in the long run, Illinois will get more benefit if Jay throws between 70-90 innings in a season as a starter than 40-60 as a reliever.
However, the Illini used Jay in relief Saturday, getting him 12-15 warmups and then a seven-pitch, three-out save in a 4-2 victory against New Mexico State. He started the next day on a reduced pitch count and made it through five innings on just 63 pitches to beat Lamar 9-3.
Dickinson said Jay was his "usual self," sitting 91-95 mph with an 86-88 mph changeup that's harder than Dickinson's fastball was as a pro. It also has such movement that Dickinson said it "gets to the plate and just puts the left blinker on." Jay struck out six and gave up just two hits in five walkless, scoreless innings.
"The way we used him was not the plan," Dickinson said. "I really want to start Tyler; I think that's the best play. But we want to win games too. It worked out where we had a close game and he was able to get warm quick and close it out, and it only took seven pitches. We cut him back to 60 pitches for his start and he was super-efficient . . . He threw 44 fastballs, 27 of them at 93 or above on our chart. He repeats his delivery and looks like he's throwing with about 70 percent effort."
It helps that Dickinson trusts sophomore Cody Sedlock to close in Jay's stead; it didn't hurt that junior lefty Kevin Duchene, the team's presumed Friday starter, was suspended for the first week with a violation of team rules. The Illini needed a starter, and Jay was strong in his first college start after 42 relief appearances. He entered the season with 62 innings; Dickinson plans to get him more this spring, to scouts' delight.
"Ultimately we care about winning," Dickinson said. "From a 'Moneyball' standpoint, because I was in that 'Moneyball' draft, I want our best arm throwing 100 innings. He gave us five innings and we were up 8-0, and I feel like if we can't hold a lead like that for a few innings, then we're not very good anyway."
• The top two college righthanders on BA's Top 100 college prospects list, Louisville's Kyle Funkhouser and Duke's Michael Matuella, both had outstanding debuts to the 2015 season. Funkhouser dialed back his fastball just a touch, according to one scout who was there, reaching 94 mph fairly regularly but pounding the zone en route to seven scoreless innings with one hit and one walk allowed, while striking out 12 to match his career high in a 5-1 victory against Alabama State. Matuella tossed six scoreless innings and struck out eight in a 7-1 win at California. Three of his four hits allowed were infield singles.
"Everything felt good," Matuella said. "Everything felt smooth. It was nice to get some warm weather out here in California and it was a good team win."
Mark April 10 on your calendars, draftniks. That’s when Louisville visits Duke for what should be the nation’s top Friday-night showdown when Funkhouser and Matuella face off.
• One of the country's top hitters, Cincinnati's Ian Happ, had a strong debut as well, going 7-for-16 with four extra-base hits, including a pair of home runs. He hit five home runs all of last season. In another sign of the livelier ball, Florida junior outfielder Harrison Bader went 7-for-12 this weekend with three homers against Rhode Island. He entered the season with three career home runs.
|Alex Bregman||Louisiana State||Kansas||12||1||2||1||1||0||1|
|DJ Stewart||Florida State||Oakland||9||5||5||1||1||6||2||2B|
|Skye Bolt||North Carolina||Seton Hall||9||3||2||3||1||4||0|
|Ian Happ||Cincinnati||Mississippi St./Miami (Ohio)||16||4||7||4||2||2||0||2 2B; 2 HR|
|Steven Duggar||Clemson||West Virginia||8||0||3||1||1||3||0|
|Christin Stewart||Tennessee||Florida International||8||1||2||2||3||3||1||2B; 3B|
|Blake Trahan||Louisiana Lafayette||Texas San Antonio||15||2||5||0||1||0||1||2B|
|Cam Gibson||Michigan State||Northwestern/Oregon St./New Mexico||12||5||6||1||2||1||2||2B; 3B; HR|
|Richie Martin||Florida||Rhode Island||10||4||3||2||0||2||1||HR|
|Harrison Bader||Florida||Rhode Island||12||5||7||11||2||1||1||2 2B; 3 HR|
|Dansby Swanson||Vanderbilt||Santa Clara||14||3||6||2||2||2||1||2 2B; 3B|
|Rhett Wiseman||Vanderbilt||Santa Clara||12||2||4||4||3||2||1||2 3B; HR|
|David Thompson||Miami (FL)||Rutgers||10||5||5||2||2||2||1||2B; 3B|
|Kevin Newman||Arizona||Eastern Michigan||13||4||6||1||3||1||1||2B|
|Braden Bishop||Washington||Pacific||13||2||4||3||4||1||1||3 2B|
|Tate Matheny||Missouri State||Washington St./S.F. Austin State/UT-Arlington||13||4||6||4||4||2||3||HR|
|Kyri Washington||Longwood||Tennessee Tech||13||4||3||5||6||1||0||3 HR|
|Daniel Pinero||Virginia||East Carolina||11||1||2||1||2||1||1||HR|
|Kyle Holder||San Diego||Morehead State||14||2||6||2||1||3||1||HR|
|Kal Simmons||Kennesaw State||St. John’s/Liberty||12||5||5||3||1||0||1||2B; HR|
|Logan Taylor||Texas A&M||Holy Cross||7||3||4||3||0||1||0||3B; HR|
|John La Prise||Virginia||East Carolina||4||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Austin Byler||Nevada||Abilene Christian||12||3||3||7||6||3||0||2 HR|
|Scott Kingery||Arizona||Eastern Michigan||13||4||7||5||0||0||0||2 3B; HR|
|Jaylin Davis||Appalachian State||Villanova/Davidson||7||1||3||2||1||1||5|
|Andrew Stevenson||Louisiana State||Kansas||11||2||3||1||4||0||0|
|Mark Laird||Louisiana State||Kansas||9||4||3||1||0||1||3|
|David Fletcher||Loyola Marymount||San Jose State||11||4||4||4||0||2||1||2B; 3B|
|Andrew Benintendi||Arkansas||North Dakota||9||2||2||3||1||4||1||HR|
|Nathan Kirby||Virginia||East Carolina||7||3||0||0||2||5||W|
|Riley Ferrell||Texas Christian||Southern Illinois||1||0||0||0||0||2|
|Kyle Funkhouser||Louisville||Alabama State||7||1||0||0||1||12||W|
|Carson Fulmer||Vanderbilt||Santa Clara||5||2||0||0||3||7||W|
|Ryan Burr||Arizona State||Oklahoma State||3.1||1||0||0||3||7||W; SV|
|Brett Lilek||Arizona State||Oklahoma State||4.2||3||2||2||4||6|
|Kyle Twomey||Southern California||Towson||7||2||0||0||3||7||W|
|Thomas Eshelman||Cal State Fullerton||South Florida||6||5||2||2||1||10||L|
|Tyler Ferguson||Vanderbilt||Santa Clara||2||1||3||1||5||1|
|Ryan Kellogg||Arizona State||Oklahoma State||5||7||3||3||2||4||W|
|A.J. Minter||Texas A&M||Holy Cross||5||5||2||0||2||7||W|
|Josh Sborz||Virginia||East Carolina||2.2||0||0||0||0||1||2 SV|
|Alex Young||Texas Christian||Southern Illinois||6||3||0||0||1||4||W|
|Mitchell Traver||Texas Christian||Southern Illinois||2||2||0||0||0||1|
|Tyler Alexander||Texas Christian||Southern Illinois||4||5||3||0||0||3|
|Blake Hickman||Iowa||St. Louis||5.2||7||1||0||1||2|
|Tyler Jay||Illinois||Lamar/New Mexico St.||6||2||0||0||0||7||W; SV|
|Andrew Suarez||Miami (Fla.)||Rutgers||5||8||2||2||2||3|
|Jon Harris||Missouri State||Texas Arlington||5||5||2||1||4||5|
|Brandon Waddell||Virginia||East Carolina||4||7||2||2||2||6|
|Alex Robinson||Maryland||Old Dominion||0.2||1||0||0||0||2|
|Andrew Sopko||Gonzaga||Cal State Northridge||5||4||1||1||2||6|
|Zack Erwin||Clemson||West Virginia||6||4||1||1||1||5||W|
|Justin Jacome||UC Santa Barbara||Brigham Young||6.2||10||1||1||2||2||W|
|Kolton Mahoney||Brigham Young||UC Santa Barbara||5||6||5||3||2||3||L|
|John Kilichowski||Vanderbilt||Santa Clara||3.2||5||4||4||3||1|
|Reilly Hovis||North Carolina||Seton Hall||1||2||4||4||2||2|
|Travis Bergen||Kennesaw State||St. John’s||4||4||5||3||2||2||L|