It may be March, but the college baseball season is picking up some steam. As such, Lincoln Hamilton over at Project Prospect has some thoughts on the top picks in this year's draft.
I've been fascinated with the story around Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon. If he had been able to declare last year, Rendon might have beat out Bryce Harper for the first overall pick. After suffering another ankle injury and experiencing some shoulder soreness, he might just fall out of that top spot in the draft. Of course, the reasons he falls might not have to do with the injuries per-se, but more about the organization with that top pick.
The Pittsburgh Pirates already have a third baseman of the future in Pedro Alvarez. While there are some concerns over his long-term ability to man the position, does his presence make them side towards UCLA right-hander Gerritt Cole if he and Rendon are close? Cole and last year's first round pick Jameson Taillon would make a formidable top of the rotation for Pittsburgh. But, Rendon has "otherworldly" talent at third and could immediately fight Evan Longoria and Ryan Zimmerman as the best third baseman in the game.
That's all speculation at this point, but it is interesting to see how these two stocks rise and fall as the season wears on. Not being the first overall pick might hurt Rendon quite a bit, as Seattle has the second pick and would almost certainly snap him up, sentencing his awesome talents to a career of toiling in that cavern of a park at Safeco Field. More thoughts after the jump...
The other interesting guy who may be sliding is TCU's Matt Purke. You may know the story about Purke by now (first-round pick by the Rangers, had a deal above-slot, MLB shut it down after Hicks went bankrupt, Purke goes to college and sets the world on fire), but it appears things haven't gone as smoothly in 2011. While I'm sure it's not enough to let him slide down to No. 11 and the Astros, I do think he could slide to No. 4 and Baltimore or No. 5 and Kansas City.
As for non-Hamilton commentary, I got to see a couple of interesting players a few weeks ago. Texas A&M played FIU (yes, they are FIU and not Florida International any more. No, they do not know how ridiculous they are), and I covered the Saturday game of that series. That meant I missed Aggie right-hander John Stilson, who's currently keeping up his status as a first-round talent, but I did get to see A&M sophomore Michael Wacha and FIU shortstop Garrett Wittels.
Wacha was impressive. After working last year mostly in relief, the sophomore from Texarkana has tried his best to match Stilson's brilliance. In some areas, he's done just that. Wacha has given up fewer hits and runs than Stilson in 1 1/3 more innings. He's just two strikeouts behind Stilson's team-leading 39 and has only walked four batters all season.
I didn't see a radar gun, but Wacha doesn't pop the mitt with his fastball. He does have good command and decent breaking pitches. He had his most success busting guys inside with the fastball. In fact, that was one of the big plays that stuck out to me with Wittels, but we'll get to that in a minute.
Wacha doesn't appear to be a draft-eligible sophomore, but I don't know that for sure. He has the frame to be a big-league starter and should be the next Aggie first-rounder once 2012 rolls around.
You may remember Wittels as the guy with the 50-game hitting streak that was broken at the beginning of the season. The junior also had that unsettling incident in the offseason when he was accused of rape. I only bring that up to say his draft status is a bit up in the air. He's more notorious right now than anything, but I also saw a nice baseball player there.
Wittels singled cleanly in his first at-bat, extending the count well and breaking up a no-hitter by sending a 3-2 pitch up the middle. It was well hit and had some mustard on it. He also played the field smoothly, making routine plays look routine and almost turning a couple other ones with his range. He didn't have any glaring errors defensively, but I also didn't get to see him make any tough throws. At this point, I'd say he could probably stay at the position in the minors pending more data.
The incident I referred to above with Wacha is more negative for him. Wacha threw one of those fastballs inside and Wittels reacted as if it had hit him. With a big exaggerated gesture, he stepped out of the box and tried to convince the umpire it had gotten him. When he wasn't awarded first, he got back into the box and bailed out again on another inside fastball. This one was called strike three, ending his at-bat.
In his next at-bat, he also got busted inside with that fastball and shied away, but came back strong in his fourth plate appearance, working the count well. Overall, I'd say his plate discipline is fine, but it appears he's got a hole in his approach on the inside part of the plate that needs to be fixed.
Any thoughts on the players mentioned? Any guys who I should watch out for in the future? Who's caught your interest in the college ranks so far?