5/2/2012 9:14:18 AM
For the second week in a row I was able to watch Chris Stratton pitch, this time taking on talented 2013 RHP Bobby Wahl and Ole Miss.
Stratton pitches extremely efficiently, pounding the strike zone with his low-90s fastball and polished slider. His slider looks and feels like his fastball out of his hand before diving down and away from RH batters, making it an extremely effective pitch. His fastball can touch the mid-90s, but typically sits at 90-93. He works quickly and has a very clean arm action with easy, repeatable mechanics. I don't think he's projects as a staff ace, but it's hard not seeing him enjoying success, and moving quickly, at the next level.
Wahl is a pure power pitcher as noted in previous threads. He has very good size/stature and is very aggressive, attacking hitters with his fastball and a pretty good slider of his own. He'll be fun to watch between now and this time next year.
Alex Yarbrough, Ole Miss' 2B, is having a very good season at the plate. He has long, tapered proportions and sloped shoulders with room to add some strength. He has a pretty quiet setup at the plate as a LH hitter, with a clean and easy stroke made for hitting line drives up the middle and to the gaps. I'm not sure how much HR power he has at the next level, but he's pretty advanced as a hitter with good patience and a solid overall approach.
Hunter Renfroe for the second week in a row showed one of the best OF arms I have ever seen. He's a big, powerful guy, and while he's not hitting the greatest as of late, his arm is clearly a plus-plus tool.
Tyler Naquin and Texas A&M took on Texas over the weekend, and playing a few wild, hotly contested games. Naquin isn't a physically imposing presence, but he is a heady ballplayer that is polished both at the plate and in the OF. He has good, not great speed and a good, not great arm. He showed the ability to take solid routes on fly balls playing RF, and it will be interesting to see if he can stick at CF as a pro, where I'm guessing he'll be playing. He has a smaller frame with sloped shoulders and a slender lower half. Like Yarbrough, there's some room to add strength, but he's probably not going to get too much bigger than what he currently is. He is very quick down the 1B line out of the box, and handles the bat well as a LH hitter. He did a nice job laying off soft stuff from a Texas LHP that came in to face him in the 9th of Saturday's game, waiting for a pitch he could drive, which he did to the opposite field for a 2-run HR. Last summer I saw him drive a pitch to deep CF for a booming 2B, a hit that left a lasting impression with me. Power is the biggest question with Naquin, particularly when it comes to where he projects to play. There is clearly power in his swing, it's just a matter of tapping into it more often as his approach is to sting the ball hard up the middle and to the alleys. That approach will serve him well, as hitters like this as amateurs often discover their power at the next level as they continue to progress.
Erich Weis is a tall, skinny LH hitter that takes a ton of pitches at the plate. He has a line drive swing, although I'm not sure how much power he'll develop, and he had a rough day on Saturday at 3B, committing 3 errors. He's another player I saw last summer with Team USA, although I need to see more of him to have a stronger opinion of what he's capable of.
Jonathan Walsh is a player I really liked after watching him play in the 2008 PG/Aflac All-American Classic. He just sneaked into my rankings of the top 75 prospects in the Northwoods League last summer despite not putting up big numbers, and overall some have questioned his dedication to the game since arriving on Texas' campus. It seemed clear to me just by watching a handful of ABs so far this year that he is taking a different approach to the game, as he was much more intent at the plate to drive the ball with authority, working the count to get a pitch he could hit hard. He has a good approach with a good stroke from the left side of the plate.He had a really nice AB in the 4th inning of Saturday's game, fouling off a series of pitches from Ross Stripling before drilling a sinking fastball that hung up a little over the RF wall for a solo HR. He also hit a rope to RCF in the 1st for a single. He has good size and strength, and his more confident approach to the game should get him more looks come draft day.
Speaking of Ross Stripling, he's a good, well proportioned athlete with the ability to pound the strike zone with a sinking upper-80s fastball that peaks in the 90-91 range. He also commands a solid curveball very well and a fading changeup. He works quick, and while he's not over-powering, he's not a nibbler either, going right after hitters showing confidence in his ability to throw strikes with any pitch in any count. He reminded me of former LSU RHP Austin Ross.
Hoby Milner is a LHP for the Longhorns, and another player I saw play for Team USA last summer. He's very thin, particularly in his limbs through his wrists and ankles, but there is strength in his core. He has a deceptive, low 3/4 delivery with a fastball that usually sits 87-91 but has the ability to touch a few ticks higher on occasion. He also can snap off a pretty good slow curve. Even if he doesn't start at the next level I could see him having success as a reliever. He should be very tough on LH hitters, but has good enough stuff and command to get RH hitters out as well.
John Curtiss is a freshman RHP and a big part of the Longhorns' promising young team. If it weren't for his Texas commitment he could have gone a lot higher than the 30th round (Rockies) a year ago. He has been used predominantly as a reliever this year, not uncommon for young pitchers on Augie Garrido's teams, but should be a fixture in the starting staff in the years to come. He creates deception with a little herk/jerk to his delivery, with good size while working quickly. He pitches aggressively with his sinking fastball that sits in the low-90s. When ahead in the count he'll show a sharp slider that break hard and away from RH hitters, but he didn't show the ability to drop the pitch in for strikes as well, at least not in Saturday's game. He has touched the mid-90s in the past, and as he progresses as a pitch he could be a premium pick in the 2014 draft.
Virginia is rolling right now, sweeping Miami over the weekend with yet another solid, well built team from top to bottom. It took a little while for Branden Kline to hit his stride making the conversion from closer to starter, but he has been pitching much better as of late. He didn't have his best appearance on Saturday, but still pitched well enough for the win in a game that started with a steady rain. Despite the rain Kline did a pretty good job throwing strikes with his boring fastball that sits in the low-90s and can hit 94-95 at times. His slider is a plus-pitch, with very sharp, late break while using the same arm action and having the same trajectory out of his hand as his fastball. I really liked the way he paced himself, as I noted in my notes from the College World Series last year that I didn't see any reason why he shouldn't be starting this year despite being such a dominant closer. He also has a solid change, and is a very good, well proportioned athlete that should have no problem sustaining his velocity late into games as he continues to progress as a starter. I definitely liked Kline on this day a lot more than the last time I had seen him pitch.
The same can be said for Miami RHP E.J. Enicosa, although I would much rather see him in a starting role than to be used as a closer. Enicosa will have to watch his conditioning, with a low waist and a thick lower half, and he employs what I describe as a "lazy" delivery in that he doesn't get his full body into his delivery and lands upright. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. There is deception to his low 3/4 delivery, which helps make his fastball that much harder to hit. His fastball has significant sink to it, and is one of the single best pitches I have seen this spring to go along with Austin Maddox's slider and Marcus Stroman's fastball/slider combo. The pitch sat in the low-90s and peaked at 94 according to the broadcast. That pitch alone gives Enicosa promise. He's not dynamic enough to be a closer at the next level, but could be a very effective set-up man, although he'll likely be given the chance to start.
Virginia's lineup has several bats that have pro promise. Shortstop Chris Taylor has taken over the leadoff spot and fits well in that role at the college level. He has a solid, line drive approach although doesn't have the strength in his swing or overall slender frame to be considered much of an extra base threat at this point in time. He's a gamer that plays the game the right way and is an asset on defense.
Stephen Bruno and Jared King are very similar hitters and overall players with shorter, compact and strong builds. Both look to hit line drives and are proven run producers. Bruno has a higher upside as a pro given that he has more defensive versatility and the ability to play 3B, or corner OF spot and possibly even 2B. Bruno has really improved this year, somewhat similar to Walsh, in that he looks much more confident this year.
I've already written about Derek Fisher this year, but he is definitely going to be a premium pick coming out as a college junior in two years. I've put a comp of Jay Bruce on him in the past, and that still definitely applies. Fisher already is a physical specimen and he should continue to fill out. Despite his size he still has good speed and flexibility. He takes aggressive swing at the plate looking to drive the ball, and is hitting cleanup now for the Cavaliers, leading the team in both home runs and triples.