Pepperdine-San Diego Mound Report

LOS ANGELES—Most visitors to Malibu come to visit the beach or to tour stars' homes (Barbara Streisand lives nearby). Last weekend, dozens of scouts came to the Pepperdine versus San Diego series to observe a rare double matchup of starting pitchers who are strong candidates to be early round selections in the upcoming draft.

Friday’s game pitted Pepperdine lefthander Matt Bywater against USD righthander Kyle Blair. Goose eggs were posted by both pitchers in every single inning with the sole exception of the bottom of the fifth and Pepperdine won, 5-0.

In that frame, the Waves reached Blair for five runs, all earned. Overall, Blair tossed seven innings, allowing six hits, no walks and eight strikeouts.

Pepperdine has struggled to score runs all season, and the Wave offense will be bolstered next year when Chris Amezquita, a transfer from UCLA, is eligible to play. A participant in the Aflac All American game in 2007, Amezquita will team with center fielder Brian Humphries to provide some desperately needed punch to the Pepperdine offense in 2011.

Bywater, who now leads the nation with four shutouts and is 5-5, 2.29 overall, pitched a complete game shutout despite wriggling out of numerous jams. The junior walked three while USD dinged him for nine hits. However, the frustrated Toreros were unable to deliver the big hit that may have altered the outcome.

Such was not the case on Saturday. With Pepperdine leading 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth, USD loaded the bases against Cook. Left fielder Mike Ferraro then blasted a long grand slam off of the right field scoreboard, turning the contest around and leading to a 6-3 USD win.

A fourth-year junior, Ferraro has battled nagging injuries over the past several seasons, first at Orange Coast JC and now at USD. Finally healthy, the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has caught the attention of local area scouts. Ferraro runs well—about 6.7 to 6.8 in the 60— possesses a fine arm and does an excellent job of running balls down in the outfield. Having worked on his hitting with Hall of Famer Rod Carew, the lefthanded Ferraro is now showing promise at bat. Ferraro is a strong possibility to be selected on the second or third day of the draft.

San Diego lefthander Sammy Solis is expected to go on day one, which encompasses the first round and supplemental first round only. At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Solis is a mature-framed lefthander who already exhibits three average to slightly-above-average big league pitches. He works his 91-92 mph fastball around the strike zone, running it in on a hitter's hands or sinking and tailing it away.

Lefties who do not have blazing fastballs must own outstanding secondary pitches, and Solis has those. His 77 mph curveball starts wide and then veers sharply down and to his glove side. Solis is the rare lefthander who can fool righthanded hitters with his breaking ball—a difficult feat which makes that offering doubly effective. His terrific 78-80 change is well hidden and drops suddenly as it reaches the plate.

Mechanical purists may be concerned with Solis’ delivery finish. He lands on a nearly stiff front leg, an unusual habit rarely seen in the big leagues. Solis’ finish is not quite as severe as that of Oliver Perez, but it is similar.

After surrendering single runs in the first and second innings Saturday, Solis mowed down 11 consecutive hitters and departed after six innings. Matt Thomson relieved Solis and pitched the final three innings to nail down the victory.

Similiar to Blair on Friday, Cole Cook was ruined by one bad inning. The lanky, sidearming righthander was stingy in the other eight frames, allowing only one run while tossing a complete game.

Cook’s fastball sits between 90-92, and he adds a decent 80 change and a 78 curve. One scout said of Cook, “The issue with him is the curveball." Indeed, Cook struggles with the consistency and command of his breaking ball. If that issue is resolved, Cook profiles as a mid-rotation starter big league starter.

Of the four starting pitchers in action at Pepperdine on Friday and Saturday, Sammy Solis figures to be the earliest draft selection. Kyle Blair will probably follow, and both Matt Bywater and Cole Cook should be selected within the first 200 picks.