Junior College Top 25 Team Rankings: March 11
to Junior-College Level
has dominated the four-year college ranks pretty much since the
introduction of the BBCOR-model bat in 2011, and the same kind of
dominance, not coincidentally, is occurring at the junior-college
doubt,” said Jeff Johnson, the long-time head coach at national
junior-college power Chipola (Fla.). “Pitching has definitely been
more dominant at the JC level this spring than in past years. Runs
are still being scored, but we’re just not seeing the number of
hitters that can drive balls like they used to.”
177 college teams in the National Junior College Athletic Association
ranks at the Division I level, 33 reported team ERAs less than 3.00
through the second weekend of March. California junior colleges are
not members of the NJCAA, but the preponderance of dominant pitching
is even more apparent in that state, with 28 of 86 schools recording
cumulative sub-3.00 ERAs, and five checking in below 2.00.
numbers are a far cry from the heavy-hitting, aluminum-bat-crazed era
that popularized the game at both the college and junior-college
levels as recently as four years ago.
think a lot of it is for the same reasons pitching has been dominant
at the four-year level,” says State College of Florida-Manatee
coach Tim Hill II, whose club has held down the No. 1 spot in Perfect
Game’s ranking of the nation’s Top 25 junior colleges since the
outset of 2014 season. “The bats are the big factor.”
apparently not all of the pitching dominance being experienced at the
junior-college level can be pinned on a change in bats. The Arizona
Community College Athletic Conference has utilized wood for years,
and even Central Arizona coach Jon Wente has noticed the way pitchers
have gotten the upper hand.
are a lot of factors contributing to the dominance of pitching,”
says Wente. “For one, power is at a premium in the draft, so fewer
top-notch hitters are going to college. You’re also seeing more
power pitchers who are kickbacks from four-year schools that are
going to junior college, and pitchers have learned to throw strikes
has become so dominant this season at the junior-college level that
almost every top prospect for this year’s draft is, coincidentally,
a pitcher. In Perfect Game’s pre-season ranking of the nation’s
Top 200 Junior-College Prospects, 21 of the first 23 names on the
board were either pitchers or position players with legitimate
the change to less-forceful bats is having an effect on offensive
production at all levels of the college game, the switch may
inadvertently have led to a more far-reaching, unintended consequence
as there has been a coincidental surge in elite-level pitching
prospects, according to a number of junior-college coaches. More and
more young players are becoming pitchers, which has only intensified
the recent dominance of pitching.
experienced a much greater emphasis on pitching at the lower levels
of the game because of the change in bats,” says Howard College
coach Britt Smith. “It’s easier to pitch now than it used to be,
and I think you’re starting to see an abundance of kids who
believe, ‘my ticket to pro ball is on the mound.’
the bats were much livelier, kids were more interested in hitting.
They naturally tend to gravitate to areas of the game where they have
more success, and the change in bats has changed their way of
can look no further than his own club to see the dramatic changes
that are taking place in baseball at both the college and
five years ago, Smith’s Howard club hit a robust .426 with 99 home
runs overall in rolling to a Junior College World Series title with a
gaudy 63-1 record. A year ago, he had 13 pitchers on his staff who
were clocked at 90 mph and above, and this year’s club, ranked No.
8, has gone 18-4 mainly on the strength of a pitching staff that has
posted a collective 2.74 team ERA.
Smith continues to emphasize offense as much as ever, he just isn’t
seeing the results he once did.
had a lot of coaches tell me this spring that we have, by far, the
best hitting team they’ve seen at this level,” Smith said. “At
the same time, I’m sitting here telling our coaches that we can’t
hit, that our kids aren’t swinging the bat with the same authority
they once did.”
shares a lot of Smith’s thoughts on the evolution of pitching at
the junior-college level. His Chipola squad won the 2007 Junior
College World Series at the height of the aluminum-bat era, and yet
his 2014 club has seamlessly adapted to the changing times in
junior-college baseball with a pitching-rich team that is 21-5 and
ranks second nationally.
Smith, Johnson doesn’t believe that the emphasis on pitching at the
developmental levels of today’s games is an overnight issue,
stemming merely from the change in bats.
bats are definitely a factor,” Johnson says. “You don’t see the
cheap home run, or balls fisted over the second baseman’s head and
falling for hits as much anymore. But I think the lack of offense
overall has been more of a gradual thing as you just don’t see kids
out in the back yard playing whiffle ball any more, or emphasizing
the finer points of hitting like we used to.”
no longer a premium on teaching kids how to hit in all situations any
more,” Smith adds. “They don’t understand working counts, going
the other way. They’re all looking to yank balls, no matter where
the pitch is thrown.”
the meantime, a more intelligent approach has been taken to pitching.
anything,” Johnson says, “more and more people understand the
mechanics of pitching better now than they ever did before. You see
more private lessons given that are geared for pitching. That’s
been a big factor in the improved pitching we’re seeing.”
Up On The Big Three
Robbie Dickey of Blinn (Texas), Jake Cosart of Seminole State (Fla.)
and Patrick Weigel of Oxnard (Calif.) were ranked 1-2-3 on PG’s
pre-season list of the top prospects for this year’s draft, and
that trio pitched pretty much according to form in the season’s
first month. Yet they haven’t necessarily even been the
most-dominant arms this spring in their own states—or even on their
6-foot-3, 205-pound Dickey, has been a steady 90-95 mph as a
sophomore for Blinn while posting a 3-1, 1.88 record in five starts,
with 41 strikeouts in 24 innings. In his only setback, an 8-0 loss to
Alvin, Dickey was thoroughly upstaged by Alvin sophomore righthander
Bryson Mitchell, who fired a perfect game. Dickey was saddled with
four runs in four innings, but has been near-perfect otherwise.
a 6-foot-2, 210-pound red-shirt freshman, has gone 3-0, 3.38 with 34
strikeouts in 32 innings for Seminole State in his first real
exposure to pitching after sitting out the 2013 college season while
at Duke. After a major breakthrough last fall, he has continued to
impress scouts with his quick, effortless arm and a fastball that has
sat from 90-94 mph, and topped occasionally at 97.
junior colleges are unusually deep in top-notch pitching prospects
for this year’s draft, and Chipola lefthander Michael Mader, in
particular, figures to challenge Cosart in becoming the first JC
player from the state drafted in June. Both are targeted to go in the
top 2-3 rounds.
ranked No. 5 overall among JC prospects by Perfect Game at the outset
of the 2014 season, is 3-1, 2.08 through his first 30 innings, while
walking 15 and striking out 36.
was 94-95 on almost every pitch out in Las Vegas, where the air is a
little lighter, and has generally been 90-93 every time out,”
Johnson said. “He’s done a great job this spring developing his
breaking ball, a hard, quick 77-79 mph curve, and his change has been
getting better. He just needs to finish strong, and continue to
develop his breaking ball and show fastball command to become a
factor in the draft.”
heads up an equally-strong contingent of Texas junior-college arms,
and could face a stiff challenge himself from fast-rising Howard
sophomore lefthander Tanner Scott (No. 37 in PG’s pre-season Top
200), who is 2-1 with a team-leading 1.02 ERA in his first five
outings, while striking out 25 in 18 innings. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound
Scott has been clocked at 92-95 mph as a starter, and reached 97 in
that we have moved him to the rotation, he has been getting tons of
attention,” Smith said. “We revamped his delivery over the fall
and he has shown the ability to pound the strike zone.”
6-foot-6, 210-pound Weigel, meanwhile, remains the dominant
junior-college arm in California as he continues to be clocked in the
mid-90s, and reaches 96-97 mph on occasion. A transfer from Pacific,
he has played a role in Oxnard’s turnaround from a 16-19 team in
2013 to 13-2 to begin the 2014 season, but it has been the stellar
work of another transfer, sophomore righthander Luke Eubank, who
spent the 2013 season at the College of Western Nevada, that has been
more instrumental. Both Weigel and Eubank ended up at Oxnard as
sophomores after starring last summer in the California College
Weigel typically throws much harder than the 6-foot-1, 190-pound
Eubank (No. 36 on PG’s pre-season Top 200 list), he has continued
to struggle with command issues while posting a 2-1, 3.75 record in
an unfamiliar role as a starting pitcher. In 24 innings, Weigel has
walked 27, while striking out 33. Eubank, meanwhile, has posted a
glittering 6-0, 0.61 record with 14 walks and 53 strikeouts in 44
innings. He leads California JC pitchers in wins and strikeouts.
the most part, the same cast of promising junior-college pitchers for
the 2014 draft who were readily evident at the outset of the season
have held up to the scrutiny of scouts in the early going, but a
couple of new arms have quietly worked their way into the equation.
righthander Hayden Barnett, a transfer from Arkansas, has been
clocked at 93-95 mph in limited looks for the Bengals, and should be
a name for scouts to watch closely over the second half of the 2014
is coming off labrum surgery and has pitched only two times, but he
has the best stuff of any guy we’ve had,” said LSU-E coach Jeff
Willis, who has guided the Bengals to four NJCAA D-II national
championships. “There is more in there, as well, as the arm works
and it’s easy. I’m not going to be surprised if we don’t see
better velocity as he gets stronger.”
previously unheralded JC arm that is starting to draw significant
attention is Shelton State (Ala.) freshman righthander Grayson Jones,
who has had only modest success to date with a 2-0, 6.12 ERA, but has
struck out 37 in 25 innings with a fastball in the mid-90s.
Attracting Attention in California
school may be benefitting more from the dominant pitching evident in
junior college this spring than California’s Orange Coast College,
ranked No. 3 in Perfect Game’s latest ranking of the nation’s Top
25 teams. All three Pirates primary starters have sub-1.00 ERAs.
noteworthy about the accomplishment is that two of OCC’s starters
are the Hill twins, David and Jacob, who are 9-0 between them. David,
a righthander, is 4-0, 0.65 with 48 strikeouts in 41 innings, while
Jacob, a lefthander, is 5-0, 0.62 with 31 strikeouts in 29 innings.
Both are ticketed to attend the University of San Diego in 2015.
of his superior raw stuff, David Hill has always been considered the
better prospect of the two and was a 17th-round draft pick
of the Philadelphia Phillies two years ago coming out of high school.
He elected to spend his freshman year at Long Beach State, where his
father Robert and older brother John once played, and another older
brother Michael currently is a senior third baseman/outfielder.
became the Dirtbags’ primary Sunday starter as a freshman, going
4-2, 4.05 in 67 innings of work, but elected to leave one brother
behind and team up with his twin Jacob this season at Orange Coast,
and the pair has been dominant working in tandem. A year ago, Jacob
went an undistinguished 2-2, 3.38 in 21 innings for the Pirates.
is 90-94, has a plus slider and curve, and a nasty downward change,
while Jacob is 88-90, and also has a slider, curve and change,”
said OCC coach John Altobelli. “David is the better prospect, but
Jacob is lefthanded and you never know how far those lefties can go.”
his projectable 6-foot-2 frame and loose, easy arm action, along with
three solid-average major-league pitches that he can throw
consistently for strikes, David Hill began the 2014 season ranked No.
20 on PG’s list of the nation’s top 200 JC prospects, while Jacob
another set of twins at a rival Orange Empire Conference college had
greater hype entering this season than the Hills, but Michael and
Thomas Peterson, a pair of 6-foot-7 sophomore righthanders at
Riverside CC, have barely pitched this spring after transferring
there from West Valley CC.
Peterson became eligible academically to play at Riverside until
early March, and to date had worked just four innings between them.
But Michael Peterson, already a two-time draft pick and ranked No. 18
among the nation’s top JC prospects at the outset of the 2014
season, has already made a major statement among scouts, mainly last
fall and in bullpen sessions this spring, with a fastball that has
peaked at 97-98 mph, and could conceivably reach 100 one day with the
leverage he generates in his tall, angular frame. He has had trouble
locating the pitch consistently, and has additional work to do in
refining his breaking stuff.
a fastball typically between 89-92 mph, twin brother Thomas doesn’t
possess the same raw stuff, but is considered a serious candidate to
also be drafted in June because he has superior pitchability,
compared to Michael, and a better overall feel for pitching.
State’s Goedert: The Exception
pitching has been the dominant theme of the 2014 junior-college
season, Neosho County (Kan.) third baseman Connor Goedert has been an
obvious exception to the rule. Through his first 22 games this
season, Goedert was hitting .527 and led the nation’s Division I
ranks in homers (8) and RBIs (49).
has been seen by as many as 11 scouts at one game this season,”
said Neosho County coach Steve Murry. “Since he was drafted last
year (Pirates, 34th round), all of them know about him
already, but they are continuing to come.”
year ago, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Wichita State-bound Goedert led
Neosho County in doubles (22), home runs (11) and RBIs (51), while
hitting .326. But he has clearly taken his game to another level this
strength is his pure power,” Murry said. “He has the ability to
hit the ball out to all fields. His biggest improvement this spring
has been cutting down his strikeouts (6) with much-improved plate
older brother, Jared, also a third baseman, was a ninth-round pick of
the Cleveland Indians in 2006 out of Kansas State, and has spent the
last four years in Triple-A. He is currently in the Toronto Blue Jays