For every major collegiate conference but the Pac-12 -- who don’t currently have a conference tournament -- it was the last regular season weekend of the year, and one of the last opportunities for players to show off their skillsets in front of scouts and front office members.
This weekend we saw a dominant effort from a likely top-10 pick, some good – and not-so-good – things from a mammoth of an outfielder, and the best left-handed prep bat in the class saving his best for the end of the year.
• While Braden Shipley’s overall numbers (2.81 ERA, 94 strikeouts in 99 innings) have been exceptional, the Nevada right-hander hadn’t been dominant in his last few outings, missing fewer bats and throwing an exorbitant amount of pitches, including a 130-pitch effort two weeks ago.
That wasn’t the case on Thursday. In a 2-1 extra-innings loss to Fresno State, Shipley was outstanding. He gave up just one hit in his seven innings of work, while walking one and striking out 10. He retired 14 straight at one point, and threw only 96 pitches, showing the efficiency he had early in the season.
“He was impressive,” said an NL East scout. “This was the guy we saw in March, the guy with a mid-90’s fastball and plus-plus change who attacked hitters and missed bats. When he’s firing on all cylinders, he’s as good as any pitcher not named Appel in this class.”
• Ryne Stanek continued his trend of following disappointing starts with solid efforts, pitching well against Auburn. The Razorback right-hander held Auburn scoreless in his 7 2/3 innings, and hit 96 mph with his last pitch of the afternoon. Stanek will likely go in the first dozen picks, and could go as early as pick No. 7 to Boston.
• Stanford right-hander Mark Appel had a mixed afternoon on Friday in his start against California; giving up nine hits and four earned runs in his seven innings, but walking only one and striking out 11 in a 9-8 loss.
“My one concern with (Appel) is the slider hasn’t been quite as good the last few weeks,” an AL scout said. “His fastball and change are good enough to make college hitters look foolish, but if he’s going to be an ace the slider has to be better than it has in May. And if you’re taking a guy first, you better hope he’s an ace.”
• There were fewer positives for Jonathan Gray in his start this weekend. Gray gave up nine hits and four earned runs in his six innings against Kansas State, walking one and striking out just three. While the Oklahoma right-hander hasn’t been as dominant of late, his stock hasn’t diminished significantly and probably won't fall past the Cubs at No. 2 overall.
Eades was only able to go four innings, giving up five runs on seven hits will walking three and striking out two as LSU beat Ole Miss 11-9. Wahl -- who at one time was considered a potential top-10 pick -- had even more trouble, failing to get out of the third inning and giving up six runs on six hits and two walks in the process.
“We’ve been off (Wahl) as a first-round guy for a while, but the Eades’ development is disappointing,” an NL East scout said. “He isn’t locating anything and the fastball isn’t good enough to overpower hitters in the SEC. At one point we thought he was a top-10 guy, now he’s not even a day one guy for us.”
• Of all the prospects I’ve talked to scouts and talent evaluators about, Fresno State outfielder Aaron Judge is the one who elicits the widest range of opinions. And this weekend was a prime example of why so many are so high on him, and why there are serious question marks.
Judge struggled mightily on Thursday against Shipley and Nevada, going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts -- two of them looking versus Shipley. How did Judge respond to that performance? By going 3-for-4 on Friday with two long home runs. For the year, Judge has now hit 11 homers and his once woeful strikeout-to-walk ratio is now a respectable 45-to-31.
“He’s tough to get a handle on,” an NL crosschecker. “There’s so much raw power and when he connects the ball jumps off the bat, but is he going to connect often enough to play every day? I don’t know; there’s a lot of swing-and-miss in his game and he really struggled (against Shipley). With that being said, he has improved over the year, and the whole package might be too enticing to pass up.”
• North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran also had a roller coaster weekend, going 1-for-10 in his first two games against Virginia before getting hot on Saturday and going 4-for-5 and picking up his second triple of the season. It’s looking more and more like Moran is going to be a top-10 pick, with many believing that Cleveland is his ultimate destination at No. 5 overall.
• The high school season has ended for many, but the California playoffs are beginning to heat up, and no one is hotter than Serra High School (Gardena, Calif.) first baseman Dominic Smith. Smith went 2-for-4 in a victory against West Covina High School, and has now reached in 20 of his last 24 plate appearances.
“He’s really coming on and he’s doing it at the right time,” an NL scout said. “He’s done a much better job of keeping his weight back the last few weeks and I see a load of potential for average and power at the next level. He’s one of the only guys I’ve given four 60 grades (on the 20-80 scouting scale) and I’m not sure why he’s not getting more top-10 talk.”
• Notre Dame’s Eric Jagielo hasn’t received the attention of some of the other big name third baseman in this year’s class, but he’s been on scouts radar’s for quite some time.
Jagielo picked up six hits over the weekend, including his ninth homer of the year in a loss to Cincinnati. For the year, the Fighting Irish third baseman has put up a .390/.500/.643 line and has accumulated an impressive 26 extra-base hits.
“What impresses me is the polish,” an AL scout said. “He doesn’t give away outs, and he knows how to play the game. I don’t think he’s going to put up huge power numbers but I certainly see enough power to stay at third, and I think he’s good enough defensively to stay their long-term. There’s nothing sexy about him, but he gets the job done.”