Clubs are building their draft boards, general managers are out on the scouting trail and extensive background work is being done on the top prospects in the class. In other words, things are heating up as draft day near, but there is another six weeks remaining.
In those six weeks, Appling County (Ga.) High School outfielder Byron Buxton could sew up the race for No. 1 if the Houston Astros like the results of their final looks at him, which includes GM Jeff Lunhow checking in on the five-tool star. Also in the next six weeks, clubs will have to make decisions on which college arm deserves to go first, second and third -- all three could land in the top 10, while it appears unlikely that a fourth will crack that range -- with Stanford's Mark Appel, LSU ace Kevin Gausman, Texas A&M right-hander Michael Wacha and San Francisco's Kyle Zimmer all vying for that right.
While the best of the collegiate crop are battling it out, the prep class continues to make its move, and three in particular -- two arms and a power bat -- may be rising up draft boards quicker than anyone.
Archbishop McCarthy (Fla.) High School right-hander Nick Travieso, whom Keith Law mentioned as a prepster on the rise three weeks back, continued his impressive ascent in his latest start last weekend. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Miami commit tossed a no-hitter at nationally-ranked Gulliver Prep, striking out nine batters and taking a perfect game into the sixth inning. He did not walk a batter.
Travieso sat 93-95 mph with the fastball and according to reports touched 99 on multiple radar guns on three separate occasions. He's drawn loads of scouts the past several weeks and is likely to do so again next weekend when he takes the mound again in the 6-A District Championship.
There seem to be concerns as to whether Travieso is as polished as some of the other top prep pitchers in the class so there are questions to be answered as his seasons winds down.
Jesuit (Fla.) High School's Lance McCullers, Jr. started the season with major questions on his future role, with red flags on his command and a high-effort delivery. Depending on who is asked, it appears there has been marked improvement with McCullers' fastball command and the stuff has been nasty all season.
The son of a former big leaguer finished the regular season undefeated without yielding a single run.
"It's tough to ignore the power arsenal," said an American League crosschecker. "How high he goes depends on how much clubs believe he can continue to calm things down, pound the strike zone and develop his mechanics. He's been ridiculous, though."
McCullers ranked at No. 41 on Law's latest Pref List.
Bishop Gorman (Nev.) High School third baseman Joey Gallo struggled at the plate at the National High School Invitational last month, but has been lights out ever since. In his first 13 games after the tournament that was held in Cary, N.C., Gallo went 24-for-40 (.600) with nine home runs, including a four-homer game in which the opposing team intentionally walked the left-handed hitter with the bases loaded, possibly to avoid Gallo tying the national record of five long balls in a single game.
Gallo, who is a prospect on the mound, too, impressed scouts with his right arm at the NHSI, has been hitting 96-97 mph semi-regularly of late and recently flipped a no-hitter versus nationally-ranked Gloucester Catholic High School.
Gallo is a potential first-round pick, and there are scouts who speak even higher of him. One area scout admits to blowing up his supervisors' cell phone with voice mails and texts to get down and spend some time watching Gallo hit, because he's not sure Gallo still be there in the bottom third of the first round.
• Appel, one week after throwing 149 pitches, tossed 89 pitches -- 59 for strikes -- giving up just two earned runs on six hits against Arizona State. He walked two and struck out just three batters. That performance, albeit enough to win the game, might not help the right-hander's cause much in the race to be the No. 1 college pitcher off the board.
Gausman wasn't sharp, either, yielding 10 hits and four earned runs in seven frames versus red-hot Kentucky. Though he did have some problems up in the zone with this fastball and changeup, he still walked only one batter and struck out 11. Gausman is 7-1 with a 3.00 ERA and an 88-20 K/BB ratio in 69 innings of work this season. Word is he's bypassed Appel on at least one club's board, and that club is drafting high enough for that to matter.
• Zimmer posted a similar line versus Gonzaga, surrendering three earned runs on nine hits in eight innings. The 6-foot-4, 220 pounder struck out 10 and issued one walk and probably has the best command and control of the top college starters.
• Wacha struggled with his command -- though he did manage to limit the bases on balls to one -- lasting just 5 2/3 innings and needing 119 pitches to get those 17 outs. He gave up nine hits and two earned runs, but whiffed just three Baylor Bears. Wacha received a no-decision and remains 5-0 with a 2.48 ERA in 10 starts. He owns a 69-12 K/BB ratio in 69 innings of work and a potential top-20 selection with clubs such as the Colorado Rockies (No. 10), New York Mets (No. 12), Cincinnati Reds (No. 14), Cleveland Indians (No. 15), Washington Nationals (No. 16), the Los Angeles Dodgers at No. 18 and the St. Louis Cardinals at No. 19 as possibilities.
• Florida southpaw Brian Johnson was "ordinary," as described by an NL club's area scout this past weekend, going seven innings versus Georgia and allowing four earned runs on seven hits. He struck out five without issuing a walk...Duke's Marcus Stroman went seven innings, too, giving up three earned runs on seven hits and three bases on balls, but again flashing a plus power breaking ball and 92-95 mph fastball to pile up nine strikeouts... Georgia lefty Alex Wood, who has touched the mid-90s with his fastball this spring, performed admirably versus a stacked Florida Gators lineup. He allowed eight hits and two runs while striking out seven batters. Wood did walk four, those one of those was intentional and two were in his final inning of work...Oklahoma State lefty Andrew Heaney could be the first college lefty selected and he won the weekend among his counterparts by tossing 8 1/3 innings and allowing an earned run on six hits. He gave up six hits, walked two and fanned nine. Heaney, for the season, is 5-1 with a 2.02 ERA and a 94-16 K/BB ratio in 75 2/3 innings over 10 starts.
• One pop-up prospect getting some attention of late is Western Nevada's Dylan Baker who hails from the great state of Alaska. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound right-hander went six innings Friday, allowing an earned run on five hits. He struck out 14 and walked three, improving his season line to 10-0 with a 0.51 ERA in 12 starts. He's whiffed 85 batters and walked 31 in 53 1/3 innings and allowed just 21 hits. Baker employs a fastball in the 91-96 mph range and a power curveball that flashed as plus. However, he lacks a decent third pitch at right now and his control is considered below average, but he's a potential late Day 1 or early Day 2 pick.
Around the batter's box
• While Buxton was homering in front of general managers and scouting directors this past week, Florida catcher Mike Zunino went just 3-for-13, but socked home run No. 11. Despite some recent struggles, the potential top-three pick is hitting .336/.395/.671 on the season.
• UCLA outfielder Jeff Gelalich went 4-for-8 with a double and pair of walks versus Oregon State. The left-handed hitter enters this week batting .365/.457/.547 with six long balls and a 21-21 BB/K ratio in 36 games.
• Stony Brook centerfielder Travis Jankowski had a big four-game weekend, tallying 7-for-11 with three triples, three walks and four stolen bases. Jankowski, a potential late first-round pick, is batting .354/.436/.556 with 20 extra-base hits. Only one of those extra base hits is a homer, but he's tallied 12 doubles and seven triples, as well as 23 thefts on the bases.
• Stanford third baseman Stephen Piscotty gathered six hits in 13 at-bats against Arizona State over the weekend to get back on track and perhaps close the gap between him and Clemson's Richie Shaffer in the race to be college's top third baseman and the second college hitter off the board. Piscotty is up to .315/.388/.503 with four home runs and a 15-10 BB/K ratio in 35 games.
• Shaffer went 3-for-12 with a triple, two walks and two strikeouts and now sits at .378/.508/.662 with eight home runs and a 41-30 BB/K ratio in 41 games.