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2023 Draft Stock Watch: 12 Regional Performers With Draft Helium

Image credit: Caden Grice (Photo by Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Below are notes on 12 prospects from the 2023 class who are either amplifying or solidifying their draft stock with big performances during regionals.

Players are listed in descending order of their current draft ranking.

Andrew Lindsey, RHP, Tennessee (No. 386)
7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K

Lindsey started his career at Charlotte, but wasn’t too friendly with his former team in Tennessee’s game one matchup against the 49ers in the Clemson regional. He shoved over seven innings, with 10 strikeouts and just one walk while primarily pitching off his fastball/slider combination. He pitched 90-93 mph with the fastball, which is a bit less than his season average, but still generated 10 whiffs with the heater by sneaking it past hitters at the top of the zone, with a heavy amount of arm-side run. He didn’t throw the slider near as much as the fastball, but was in and around the zone consistently with the pitch to give him another reliable weapon. 

Joe Vetrano, 1B, Boston College (No. 312)
7-for-16 (.436), 4 HR, 1 2B, 4 BB, 4 K

Vetrano hit in the cleanup spot for Boston College, and produced plenty of power for the Eagles in their four games in the Tuscaloosa Regional. He hit two home runs in each of the first two games, against Troy and Nicholls, respectively, with a 4-for-5 game against Nicholls. Vetrano displayed exactly how strong he is, by extending his hands and driving the ball out of the park to straight center field and the right-center gap. He homered on a pair of fastballs and a pair of sliders, and on multiple occasions didn’t even fully barrel the ball or get his lower half balanced and behind the swing—but he let his hands work and has the raw power to mis-hit balls out of the park and give himself a large margin for error on contact. Vetrano finished the season with a .315/.407/.671 line, 22 home runs and 12 doubles. 

LeBarron Johnson, RHP, Texas (No. 296)
9 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K

Johnson has been on fire to end the season. He was pitching well even before his start against Miami in the Coral Gables Regional and added another exclamation point to his recent run by throwing nine complete innings with just one earned run, three walks and eight strikeouts. Johnson sat in the 93-95 mph range and touched 98 with a fastball that he threw for strikes 70% of the time. His hard, upper-80s slider was his go-to swing-and-miss pitch in this outing. It was responsible for eight whiffs and finished four of his six strikeouts and looked like a plus breaking ball with hard and late bite that fell out of the bottom of the strike zone. Over his last seven starts, Johnson has a 1.85 ERA in 43.2 innings, with 50 strikeouts and 10 walks. 

Seth Keener, RHP, Wake Forest (No. 244)
7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 13 K

Keener might get lost in the shuffle of Wake Forest’s pitching staff given how dominant it has been in 2023, but he posted his best outing of the season last Friday against George Mason when he threw seven shutout innings with a career-high 13 strikeouts. His previous high in a single game was just eight. Keener has a slider-heavy approach with a 43% whiff rate on the pitch this season and averages 93-95 mph on his fastball. Keener has started just seven games this season and pitched in relief in 14 more, but has a 2.23 ERA, a career-best 33.7% strikeout rate and a 6.3% walk rate.

Caden Grice, LHP/1B, Clemson (No. 121)
8.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 10 K
5-for-13 (.308), 2 HR, 2 2B, 1 BB, 4 K

Clemson was bounced in Clemson’s own regional this weekend, but it wasn’t for lack of effort or performance on Grice’s part. The lefthander and first baseman was excellent on both sides of the ball and threw his longest game of the season against Tennessee, when he threw 8.2 innings, struck out 10 and walked one. Grice averaged 90 mph on his fastball in this outing, and his secondaries looked great—both a slurvy breaking ball around 80 mph and a mid-80s changeup. He used the breaking ball to his arm side effectively, and it featured great sweeping action when he finished the pitch to the glove side, and got a handful of whiffs on his changeup to batters on both sides. Grice had great feel for all three pitches in this outing. He tallied a hit in each game as well, homering on multiple fastballs to the pull side—including one moonshot in a left-on-left matchup—doubled down both lines and added an infield single with a 4.20-second home-to-first time (50-grade time) for good measure.

Tanner Hall, RHP, Southern Mississippi (No. 104)
11 IP, 11 H, 3 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 10 K

Hall threw a complete game against Samford last Friday and struck out nine batters while walking just two and allowing a single earned run in Southern Mississippi’s first game of the Auburn regional. That first start would have been enough on its own, but Hall somehow got the nod to start in Monday’s finale on just two day’s rest after throwing 123 pitches on Friday. He only threw two innings, but added 30 more pitches and retired the first five batters he faced. On Friday, Hall used his low-80s changeup to generate 17 whiffs, and primarily pitched off the changeup in his abbreviated, short-rest start on Monday. 

Hurston Waldrep (No. 18)
7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 12 K

Performance, command and strike-throwing have been the critiques of Waldrep this season. Scouts have wanted to see him sharpen up in these areas, as his pure stuff stacks up with anyone in the draft class. He chose the right day to have the best game of the season, and struck out 12 batters over seven one-run innings against Connecticut on Sunday. Waldrep sat 96 mph with his fastball and showed solid feel for both his split-changeup and slider. Both pitches generated tons of swing and miss, including a handful of ugly chases by batters on pitches that broke into the dirt right at the plate. If he can continue preventing runs while limiting his walks throughout the postseason, he could climb further up toward the top 10.

Brayden Taylor, 3B, Texas Christian (No. 16)
8-for-14 (.571), 2 HR, 2 BB, 3 K

Taylor faced some criticism in the middle of the season, as he was hitting below .300 for a period of time, but if you look up at his career numbers, he’s been as consistent as you can ask for of a college hitter, with a .314+ average, .440+ on-base percentage and .572+ slugging percentage each season. He’s putting an exclamation point on the final days of his draft year, and is currently riding a 28-game on-base streak and just went 8-for-14 with a pair of home runs in the Fayetteville Regional. Both of his home runs during the regional came in pitcher’s counts against secondary offerings, highlighting Taylor’s skill and confidence when hitting behind in the count.

Tommy Troy, 3B, Stanford (No. 12)
12-for-21 (.571), 3 HR, 1 2B, 4 BB, 2 K

Troy was named MVP of the Stanford Regional after hitting .571 over five games, including three home runs. The 5-foot-10 righthanded hitter isn’t known as a slugger, but he did a solid impression of one last weekend, with a few monstrous home runs to the pull side, including two on middle-middle fastballs that he pulled out to left field in a hurry. He’s up to a .409/.487/.735 slash line on the season, with 17 home runs, 16 doubles and strong zone discipline numbers. He has a 13.8% strikeout rate and 11.2% walk rate.

Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest (No. 10)
6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 11 K

Lowder has been phenomenal all season for Wake Forest and he continued pitching like the ace of a No. 1 team in the country with 11 strikeouts and just one walk allowed against Maryland over six innings. He sat around 94 mph with the fastball, touched 97 and got five-plus whiffs on each of his three pitches: the fastball, slider and changeup. He’s been virtually unhittable all season with a 1.77 ERA, 26.5 K-BB% and .207 opposing batting average. 

Paul Skenes, RHP, Louisiana State (No. 2)
9 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 12 K

I’m not sure how much further up draft boards Skenes can move himself, but if there was ever a question about how he’d handle a big game environment—we’re really grasping for straws here, huh?—he eliminated those doubts. He dominated Tulane in LSU’s first regional game, averaged 99 mph with his fastball, touched 101, and generated 10 whiffs at the top of the zone with the pitch. He threw just two changeups, one that got away from him to his arm side and one that was placed solidly down and away against a lefthanded hitter, and continued to use his mid-80s slider as the go-to secondary. Skenes didn’t even spot the slider particularly well in this outing, but got five whiffs on 10 total swings against it. It was his longest outing of the season, a nine-inning effort with 124 total pitches. He looked like he always does: dominant. 

Dylan Crews, OF, Louisiana State (No. 1)
8-for-13 (.615), 2 HR, 1 2B, 3 BB, 2 K

Similar to his teammate Skenes, I’m not really sure that Crews can really “move up” draft boards. He’s been the No. 1 player on the board the entire spring, though the industry will put weight on how he performs throughout the postseason and he passed the Baton Rouge Regional test with flying colors. Crews hit .615 over three games, with two line drive home runs to the left-center gap on breaking balls that didn’t break nearly enough. On the season, Crews is hitting .432/.573/.736 with 17 home runs and a 20.8% walk rate. He is riding an 11-game hit streak and he hasn’t had a single game in the 61 he’s played where he hasn’t either gotten a hit or taken a walk.

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