Class strengths and weaknesses

I send out feelers to at least a half-dozen talent evaluators to get their thoughts on what they saw that very night, and like we did a bit last spring, I'll occasionally send out a poll-type query. This week the inquiry was as follows: Rank the areas of depth in this year's class, weighing the impact talents within four categories: college bats, college pitching, high school pitching, high school bats.

Nine responses, one from a scouting director on the West Coast, revealed a strong tilt toward prep pitching. One reply began with a caveat. "It's kind of even, including at the very top of the draft, but the first day may be filled with these high school arms, but I'm not sure a lot of them go early."

Another response came back with a shot at the bats in this class. One scouting director said "it seems all of these guys have pretty major questions, aside from [Bryce] Harper, who is basically a high school kid for us. [Arkansas' Zack] Cox may or may not play third, he strikes out, and [Virginia Tech's Austin] Wates ... I'd like to get the chance to see if he can play center, he's played everywhere but there so we haven't got the look we want yet. There's no safe bet this year [in terms of college hitters]."

It's somewhat strange, but the college hitters may be the weakest link in this year's draft, at least if Harper, a college freshman, is considered a different type of player. Even the high school bats appear to be stronger, starting with Seattle-area 1B/OF Josh Sale, Bonanza High School infielder Kris Byrant and Ft. Lauderdale 3B Nick Castellanos, all first-round talents that are likely to remain in the range of the top 20 as we rank the talents periodically all spring.

But one thing is clear: Pitching rules the class. "It sure does," said another scout who covers an area with so many worthy high school pitchers that his club has brought in help from another area and their cross-checker is as busy as ever.

On the diamond

&#8226; In a battle of mid-major colleges, outfielders Bryce Brentz and Todd Cunningham faced off, with Cunningham winning Round 1, despite both hitters going yard. The Jacksonville State left fielder singled and doubled to go with his four-bagger and also drew two walks hitting out of the leadoff spot. Brentz added a single and a couple of strikeouts to his performance. The long ball was his first of the year, as the right-handed hitter improved to .343/.452/.543 on the season, while Cunningham sits at .308/.386/.641 with seven extra-base hits.

&#8226; Left-hander Chris Sale bounced back from a mediocre outing last week to fan 11 in six frames versus Wichita State. He walked one and allowed two earned runs on five hits. In three starts, Sale has posted a 21-3 K/BB ratio and has surrendered just eight hits in 13 innings.

&#8226; James Madison closer Kevin Munson fanned four in 2 1/3 innings of work Friday, picking up his first save in the process. Munson has yet to yield an earned run in four appearances in 2010.

&#8226; Eastern Illinois right-hander Josh Mueller, who had a solid showing in the Cape Cod League this past summer, struck out eight over 5 1/3 innings Friday, but needed 104 pitches to get that deep into the game. Due to the level of competition he will face this spring, Mueller, who typically sits at 89-91 with his fastball, will need to show better command of his pitch mix, but he does stand a very projectable 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds.

&#8226; Kentucky lefty Logan Darnell tossed a complete-game shutout over Sammy Solis and the University of San Diego. Darnell struck out just four, but walked only one and scattered eight singles. He needed just 90 pitches to earn win No. 2.

&#8226; Keith Law has more on Cal State Fullerton's Gary Brown and Christian Colon this weekend, but Brown went 3-for-6 with a triple and a home run to raise his numbers to .432/.447/.784 for the year. But he still has yet to draw a walk.

&#8226; Ole Miss southpaw Drew Pomeranz went six strong, striking out six while giving up two earned runs on six hits. "He's yet to dominate, but it's early," said an area scout. Pomeranz owns a 28-4 K/BB ratio in three starts.

&#8226; According to one scout in attendance, North Carolina right-hander Matt Harvey finally looked like a workhorse and the pitching line he produced was his best as a Tar Heel. The former third-round pick punched out 11 versus Michigan Friday, allowing three hits and three walks in eight shutout innings. Eighty of his 120 pitches were strikes, and "he battled through a couple of rough spots when he wasn't controlling his fastball, but his stuff was solid tonight. He stayed focused through the last pitch, too. That was impressive."

&#8226; Georgia Tech right-hander Deck McGuire went eight strong versus Rutgers, striking out nine and allowing six hits and a walk. McGuire is 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA with a 25-3 K/BB ratio in three starts.

&#8226; Justin Grimm struggled for the third time in as many starts, mostly with command of his above-average stuff. On Friday, the Georgia junior allowed seven earned runs on 11 hits and two walks. He did strike out seven, but faced 25 batters and needed 85 pitches to get through his four innings of work. Grimm served up three homers and his opponent batting average is at .279 for the season.

&#8226; Brett Eibner went 0-for-4, but Andy Wilkins and Zack Cox led the Razorbacks again, combining for three hits, three RBIs and three runs scored. Wilkins went deep for the fourth time and is hitting .444/.605 with a 1.000 slugging percentage in eight games.

&#8226; Redlands East Valley left-hander Griffin Murphy went three hitless frames in a blowout win over San Bernadino, fanning five and walking just one. Law saw Murphy in Compton last month, clocking him in the 89-92 mph range "with some feel for both a changeup and a curveball -- neither pitch was consistent but he threw at least one above-average pitch of each type." Murphy is ranked at No. 30 on the Preseason Top 50.