Image credit: Chase Dollander (Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
It was another exciting week in college baseball, one that was chalk-full of impressive performances. One of the top pitchers in college baseball had his best outing to date, a once-heralded prospect looks to have made a significant jump, multiple players had 10-plus-RBI single-game performances and several other players had strong weeks of their own.
Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee
On Friday night Dollander turned in the start everyone was waiting for, throwing six shutout innings against a Gonzaga team that is much better than its record shows. Dollander struck out 11 Bulldogs, walked none and scattered just six hits. He dominated with his fastball all night, generating 18 swings and misses with the pitch. Dollander ran his fastball up to 98 but sat comfortably in the 93-96 range for the entirety of his 95-pitch outing. Of those 95 pitches, 81 were fastballs. Dollander has one of the best fastballs in the class, not only because of its velocity, but also because of the shape of the pitch. It has plenty of carry through the zone and explodes out of his hand. In his outing against the Zags he had exceptional command of the pitch and consistently worked ahead in counts, which was something that eluded him at times in his first two outings. Dollander shrunk his ERA to a mere 2.20 and now possesses a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 30-to-2.
Paul Skenes, RHP, LSU
Skenes had what was perhaps the best pitching performance of his career on Friday night against Butler by tossing six shutout innings, registering 13 punch outs, walking none and allowing just one single. Like Dollander, Skenes dominated with his fastball. It ranged anywhere from 94-101 mph, but had an average velocity of 98.4 mph. Some fastballs were of the two-seam variety that had plenty of arm-side run, a pitch Skenes was able to spot below the belt and on the corners of the strike zone for called strikes. Of his 80 pitches, 66 were fastballs, and he garnered a whopping 64% miss rate (30 swings and misses) with the pitch. Not that he needed it, but his slider was also sharp when he threw it with big-time horizontal movement. Under pitching coach Wes Johnson, Skenes has been able to turn his slider into a legitimate plus pitch. His delivery is under control with very little effort, and his imposing mound presence makes his already-impressive stuff play up a tick more. Skenes is now a perfect 3-0 on the year with a sparkling 0.50 ERA, as well as a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 36-to-3 in 18 innings pitched.
Josh Hartle, LHP, Wake Forest
Hartle was one of the most prized recruits in the 2021 high school class, and although he received day one interest in the 2021 draft, he opted to take his talents to Wake Forest. He was thrust into a starting role as a true freshman, where he pitched his way to a 5.30 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 69.2 innings pitched. Hartle showed flashes of his immense potential at times but could never string together consistent performances. This year, Hartle looks like a new pitcher and the first round talent people had been raving about for years. Hartle tied a career high in innings pitched (7), set a new career high in strikeouts (12) and allowed just one earned run. His delivery is very smooth and repeatable with a clean arm path, and his three-quarter slot makes for a tough at-bat. Velocity has never been Hartle’s calling card, but he has impeccable feel and command for his entire arsenal of pitches.
He’ll comfortably pitch in the 88-91 mph range, working both sides of the plate with his fastball. The biggest revelation for Hartle this year has been the development of a cutter, which is already a plus pitch. It has sharp two-plane break and handcuffs hitters, generating plenty of ugly swings and misses. Hartle also utilized his slider, another pitch for which he has advanced feel, and was able to land it for strikes and get swings and misses. Hartle mixed in a curveball with solid depth and a decent changeup. In 18 innings pitched, Hartle has a 1.00 ERA with 31 strikeouts to just one walk.
Chris Cannizzaro, OF, Virginia Tech
After posting a .329/.396/.524 slash line in his fourth and final year at Bucknell, Cannizzaro decided to enter his name in the transfer portal. This year the veteran outfielder is off to a torrid start, hitting .540 with five doubles, two triples, five home runs and 17 RBIs in just 11 games played. Across 41 games in 2022, Cannizzaro hit just six home runs and notched 37 RBIs. In four games this past week against Radford and Charlotte, Cannizzaro was unconscious; he went 14-for-20 with three doubles, one triple, two home runs (one of which was of the walk-off variety) and nine RBIs. Against 138 pitches seen so far this season, Cannizzaro has swung and missed just eight times, which equates to a minuscule miss rate of 10%. Cannizzaro has a simple setup at the plate with a very level swing. He has advanced feel for the barrel and does an excellent job of staying in the hitting zone and keeping his hands inside the baseball. While this pace is nearly impossible to keep up, Cannizzaro will be a fun player to follow as conference play ramps up.
Blake Burke, 1B, Tennessee
There is an argument to be made that Burke has the most impressive raw power in all of college baseball. This past week his massive power was on full display, as he went 11-for-22 with three home runs, two doubles and 14 RBIs. Burke is now hitting .420 on the season with seven home runs and 21 RBIs. The 6-foot-3 Burke stands tall in the batter’s box and has quick, explosive hands that almost make it look like he’s flicking the ball out of the ballpark. Burke has swung and missed at just one fastball of the 76 he’s seen this year, and while sometimes swing-and-miss issues accompany players with a similar profile to Burke, he has an advanced approach and stays within himself at the plate.
Malcolm Moore, C, Stanford
Moore came into the 2023 season with very lofty expectations. He announced his presence with authority, belting a home run in his first collegiate at-bat, and hasn’t looked back since. Last week, he went 10-for-17 with four doubles, two home runs and seven RBIs across four games played. The highlight of the week for Moore was his 5-for-5 performance against Pacific in which he laced three doubles and belted a home run. Moore has a bit of a unique setup at the plate, utilizing an extremely open front side and toe tap. While for some it could be a hard operation to keep consistent, Moore does an exceptional job of getting into his launch position. Moore will look to keep his strong start rolling as the Cardinal head into conference play this weekend with a series against Southern California.
Jac Caglianone, LHP/1B, Florida
In the first three weeks of the season, nobody has established themselves as a household name more than two-way phenom Caglianone. He’s hitting .385 with a nation-leading 10 home runs, has 20 RBIs and is routinely posting exit velocities over 110 mph. This past week, Caglianone was impressive on both sides of the baseball. At the plate, he went 8-for-23 and crushed four home runs. His big-time bat speed and natural strength was on full display, as on more than one occasion he used his long levers to reach a pitch on the outer third of the plate and used his natural strength to drive the baseball out of the ballpark. Caglianone was equally impressive on the mound, allowing just one earned run over six innings pitched against Miami. He struck out eight, walked just one, ran his fastball up to 99 and pitched comfortably in the 94-97 mph range for his entire outing. Caglianone is an athletic mover on the mound, gets great separation and has electric arm speed. The key going forward will be the continued development of his secondary offerings, but his slider looked solid on Sunday with heavy horizontal movement. At times it takes on the shape of a cutter, which is fairly effective against righthanded hitters. With SEC play fast approaching, it will be fascinating to see what Caglianone will do against the highest level of competition in college baseball.
Cam Brown, RHP, TCU
Since allowing four earned runs in his Opening Day outing against Arkansas, Brown has strung together 13 straight innings without allowing one. Brown has improved from start-to-start, with Sunday’s outing against Rice being his best one to date. He tossed seven shutout innings, struck out eight, walked three and allowed just three hits. Brown’s stuff is undeniable; he can run his fastball into the upper 90s and couples that offering with a slider that gets plenty of whiffs and flashes plus potential when it’s at its best. The key for Brown has always been consistency in the command department, and if he is able to keep up the momentum he has built over his last couple of starts, he could hear his name called reasonably early on day two of this year’s draft.
Cannon Peebles, C, North Carolina State
Before Peebles’ record-setting performance on Saturday, he had logged just 10 at-bats in the Wolfpack’s first 10 games. The true freshman proceeded to turn in a monster performance to the tune of a 6-for-6 day with three doubles, two home runs (one from each side of the plate) and 10 RBIs. He has a simple operation from both the left and right side and his hand speed especially shines from the left side of the plate. In a program that is known for its development of hitters, it is easy to dream on what Peebles might look like in the years to come.
Alberto Rios, OF/C, Stanford
Rios had a double-digit RBI performance on Sunday afternoon, going 5-for-7 with two home runs and 11 RBIs in the Cardinal’s 24-9 drubbing of Cal State Bakersfield. In Rios’ 2021 and 2022 seasons he did not drive in a single run and prior to his two long balls on Sunday, had not hit a home run in his college career (including his summer league seasons). Rios has been great in the early going for David Esquer’s squad, going 16-for-39 with 17 RBIs through 10 games played.