Covering the National High School Invitational in Cary, N.C., gave me some time to catch some college baseball as well, as N.C. State took two of three from Virginia. Here's an inside look at both squads:
Saturday’s pitching matchup of Carlos Rodon vs. Branden Kline was one of the nation's best last weekend. Rodon was a 16th rounder in 2011, spurning the Brewers to pitch for the Wolfpack. He has quickly become one of the top freshman hurlers in the nation and is a potential early first round pick in 2014. Rodon was sharp Saturday night, striking out 12 while allowing four hits and two runs over 6 2/3 innings, not walking a batter.
Rodon has a strong big, strong build at 6-foot-3, 234 pounds, and looks the part of a tight end. He is strong throughout with very thick legs and ankles. A natural comparison for Rodon would be Texas Rangers LHP Matt Harrison, a player with a similar background. Harrison attended South Granville HS, about 40 miles north of Holly Springs HS, where Rodon attended. Harrison was also an N.C. State commit but signed with the Braves as a third rounder in 2003 before being sent to the Rangers in the July 2007 blockbuster trade that also had Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Neftali Feliz, and Beau Jones going to Texas with Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay heading to Atlanta.
Rodon's stuff is firmer than Harrison, as he sat 91-93 with his fastball, touching a few 94s in the first inning and a 95 in the second. He throws form a 3/4 slot but is a bit on the side of the ball, creating natural cut and a plane that makes him very tough for left-handed hitters. He is short in the back with a consistent arm circle and is a quick worker with good tempo.
Rodon’s velocity is impressive, especially for a left-hander, and he has two potential out pitches, a slider with sharp late break at 86-88 that was unhittable at times and a changeup at 82-84 that he did not use as much but was thrown with good arm speed and had late sink.
Here is video of Rodon from Saturday.
• N.C. State has one of the best freshman classes in the country led by Rodon. Brett Austin, a 2011 first-round pick by the Padres, was the DH on Saturday night before catching on Sunday. Austin is athletic and shows the bat speed to again be an early round pick in 2014. His left-handed swing is more smooth than quick and he jumps on inner half fastballs. Austin was solid behind the plate, and projects to be an average receiver. He has a slight hitch his throwing motion but has the athleticism and arm strength to improve in both areas.
• Third baseman Trea Turner was a standout performer for Palm Beach County PAL during his HS days and has a young build with a lot of projection. He is very good defender and third with loose athleticism and arm strength. Turner is hitting .287, solid for an ACC freshman. His speed is his best tool and he has run as low as a 6.3 in fall workouts. As exciting as the Rodon/Kline was, a Trea Turner vs. Mitchell Shifflett 60-yard-dash would have also gotten a great reception from scouts.
• Right-handed Logan Jernigan has a chance to be very good. He is long and projectable and a good athlete. He worked 89-91, touching a few 92s in the early innings. His body combined with his 74-77 mph curveball and 80-82 mph changeup, that each have a chance to be solid pitches, make him a very interesting.
• A personal favorite of mine, former South Charlotte Panther Logan Ratledge, hit his first career homer Sunday. He played RF on the day and projects as a very good college second baseman over the next two years. Another freshman, Travis Orwig, is a big, strong left-hander with arm strength. He sat 89-91, up to 92.
• As far as 2012 draft prospects, N.C. State has a few interesting players. Shortstop Chris Diaz is an athletic infielder with solid fielding tools, a quick bat and could project as a utility infielder. Right-handed pitcher Anthony Tzamatzis is an athletic reliever with loose arm strength. He sat 90-92, but his arm is quick and there could be more in there.
Right-handed pitcher Branden Kline was a sixth-round pick to the Red Sox in 2009 and served as Virginia’s closer last year. Allan Simpson profiled Kline in our Draft Focus series in early March.
Kline is an athletic righty with strength, and there is still some room for him to add more muscle. His fastball sat 90-92 comfortably, touching 94 on Saturday. He is long in the back, showing the ball behind his back and early on the front side. He throws from a high 3/4 slot with his fastball jumping out of his hand. His fastball was firm but straight and N.C. State's hitters saw it well. Kline struck out 10 in six innings with most of the strikeouts coming off his 82-84 mph slider. The pitch comes out of his hand well with solid arm speed, although he did slow at times to save control, and has hard, late two-plane break. He threw two other pitches including an 81-83 mph changeup that floated out of his handshowing some natural fade, and a 73-74 curveball. Kline has been talked about as a first-round or supplemental pick, and there is a lot to like given his athletic body, arm speed and present velocity. He has been used as a reliever in the past and might be suited best for the pen with his hard two-pitch mix. LaTroy Hawkins was a comp that jumped out at me when projecting Kline with similar build, arm action and two pitch mix. Hawkins is a reliever who throws his fastball about 75-percent of the time, while Kline projects to have an above average slider as his out pitch.
Here is video of Kline from Saturday: