College | Story | 4/11/2018

College Notebook: April 11

Britt Smith         Greg Gerard         Jheremy Brown         Vincent Cervino        
Photo: Steele Walker (Ty Russell/OU Athletics)

College Notebook: TCU vs. OUCollege Notebook: April 8College Notebook: April 7
Big arms take the stage | College Player Database

During the season Perfect Game scouts will be traveling to some of the top series to watch the very best players in college baseball. Those observations, captured with both written notes and video, will be shared in the College Player Database as linked above, notes that can also be accessed on the players' individual PG profile pages. Throughout the season select reports will be shared in feature format to promote the players, the teams and college baseball as a whole.

This weekend was an especially busy one for the PG scouts, who were on hand in several locations to provide reports and videos on some of college baseball's top prospects. It started with a look at Stanford's Tristan Beck and Stetson's Logan Gilbert on Friday night – a pair of potential first round picks for this year's draft – as well as Jake Irvin of Oklahoma and Nick Lodolo of TCU. Links to all of the reports submitted can be found below as well as abbreviated Quick Takes on both Florida State and Georgia Tech.

Steele Walker, OF, Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Sooners have a trio of talented outfielders that all hit in the top four spots in the order. Cade Harris has the size and projectable body, Kyler Murray is the special athlete and two-sport star while Steele Walker is the heart and soul of the team. Walker, from Posper, Texas, carries himself and plays the game with the utmost confidence. When you think of Oklahoma Sooners three-hole hitters of the past, you might have visions of Casey Bookout, Greg Dobbs and Tommy Whiteman. Walker is not that type of physically imposing player, standing 5-foot-11, and 190-pounds, as he more looks the part of a leadoff type hitter at the next level. What he might lack for in size he more than makes up for in presence.

With a smooth and short batting practice swing, Walker sticks with a simple middle-away approach and will spray line drives with backspin on a line into and through the left-centerfield gap. However, when he steps in the box in a game, he is a completely different animal. Showing the ability to hit right and lefthanded pitching, Walker is capable of turning on balls as well as having power to straight-away centerfield. His in-game bat speed shows better than it does in batting practice and he does not have to cheat to hit balls on the inner-half of the plate.

In the second game of the series against TCU he proved his ability to drive balls and show the power that will help him remain a viable prospect at the next level. With the wind blowing in from centerfield, and wind chills in the 30’s for a 10:30 a.m. first pitch, Walker simply stayed inside an 83-mph slider and put the Sooners on the board with his first two-run home run of the day, in his first at-bat. Driving that pitch, in those conditions, to just right of dead-centerfield shows that the has the power to play at the next level. In the seventh inning, with Oklahoma clinging to a one-run lead, Walker launched a massive home run to the pull side in right field, giving the Sooners insurance they would need to take their third consecutive conference series. 

Walker showed such an easy feel for the game in right field, with quick reads and jumps, plus the ability to easily glide to balls that seemed destined to find the grass. Although he did not have any true throwing situations in the three-game series, he made good decisions with the ball and was very situationally sound. His arm strength and accuracy in pre-game in-and-out shows average and possibly a touch better. Walker is a certain draft prospect for this June, but until then, he will remain the heartbeat that his teammates feed off of for the Sooners.

Kyler Murray, OF, Oklahoma

When you see players with elite-level athletic ability, even in a skill-oriented sport, they tend to stand out from those around them. Kyler Murray, a two-sport athlete at Oklahoma, does just that. Clearly the best athlete on the field in Oklahoma’s three-game series against TCU, for either team, it makes you wonder where his career could be had he just played baseball. That is not meant to knock his abilities, on the contrary, with the amount of success he is enjoying after missing so much time due to football and a transfer from Texas A&M, his progress this season is impressive. Murray has all of the tools necessary to succeed at the highest levels of baseball, they are simply not as polished as some players of the same age. His overall athletic ability is what makes him so interesting as a baseball prospect. 

Murray has above average bat speed in a swing that generates lift to go along with a full power approach at the plate. There is a level of swing-and-miss in the bat but it is hard to determine if it is from approach or simply the lack of at-bats he has missed over the past couple of years. He displays strength in the swing and the ability to drive the ball with average present power.

Simply not being an all-or-nothing power hitter, Murray displays a solid level of pitch recognition and strike-zone awareness. Standing 5-foot-11 and 195-pounds, he looks like a skill position football player. However, when you see the ease with which he tracks down balls in every direction in the outfield, coupled with the reads and jumps he gets off the bat, and you can see the pure athletic instincts he possesses. Murray’s continued development as a baseball player might take slightly longer than some but do not put the opportunity to play at the highest levels of the game past him, he is simply too good of an athlete.

Other Oklahoma players added to the PG College Player Database:

Austin Hansen
Cade Harris
Jake Irvin
Devon Perez
Nathan Wiles

Luken Baker, 1B, Texas Christian

Two years removed from a breakout freshman season, in which he hit .379 with 16 doubles, 11 home runs and 62 RBI, Luken Baker’s game has not changed. The numbers may be slightly down overall, which might have something to do with the supporting cast, but the consistency in the day-to-day production is still present. Baker, who is a mountain of a man, standing 6-foot-4, 270-pounds, has played 141 games in a Horned Frogs’ uniform during his career. During that time, he has hit safely in 112 of those games and reached base in all but 11. After taking a ball in the face in the season opener at Grand Canyon, Baker has rebounded well, and now at the midpoint of the season has pushed his average up to .306 after the weekend series against Oklahoma. His home run total is presently on pace to be the highest of his three seasons in Fort Worth. 

Known as a formidable power threat throughout his career at TCU, Baker’s most impressive stat is his 106 career walks, 14 more than his career strikeouts. For a power hitter, certainly in today’s age of baseball, to show the ability to hit for power, without robbing from a consistent ability to regularly hit balls hard, is especially impressive. Baker possesses raw power for sure, routinely hitting moonshots in batting practice with minimal effort. However, as he matures into a true power hitter and learns to let that power play in games more consistently, he will actually become who he is thought to be by opponents. Without the protection of Evan Skoug behind him in the order, Baker has not seemed to try to take more on to his shoulders. He still displays a solid level of pitch recognition and the ability to use the entire field to collect his hits. Although he does not possess elite level bat speed, he does show the ability to turn on high-end velocity without having to cheat. 

Baker’s ability to defend is somewhat limited by his lack of foot speed but he does show soft hands around the bag. He is not going to be the next Mark Teixeira by any means, but he shows the ability to play consistently and can develop himself into an average level defender. The lack of straightline speed is not problematic projecting him at the next level, due to the fact that teams will be buying the bat and power potential, which have become his biggest tools. Organizational philosophy will play a role in where Baker is taken in the draft this June and TCU has had quite a run of players returning for their senior season, however, Baker might not fit into that group.

Durbin Feltman, RHP, Texas Christian

Finding the opportunity to get Durbin Feltman to the mound was not easy this past weekend in TCU’s series against Oklahoma. The Horned Frogs closer finally got the opportunity in game three and for the scouts in attendance it was worth the wait. Standing 6-foot, and a solid 205-pounds, Durbin shows plus arm strength on the mound. With a simple and compact delivery, that utilizes a well-connected takeaway on the back side, Feltman bullied the strike zone with his fastball between 95-98 mph. His clean arm action, coupled with a high three-quarters arm slot, creates slight arm-side run with good downhill plane.

Tunneling a slider with 11-to-5 shape at 85-87 mph through the same windows allows the pitch to play a little higher than the slightly above average action it displays. With slightly early break to the slider it is the downward action of it that makes the pitch as effective as it is. 

Utilizing a slightly up-tempo delivery, Feltman creates good momentum to the plate while maintaining good direction. He showed above average command of both offerings and was consistently out of the middle of the plate and on the edges of the zone. He currently profiles as a reliever at the next level with the potential to develop into a closer. The combination of stuff and command, to go with a track record of both, will only help eliminate the questions that could arise before the draft in June.

Other Texas Christian players added to the PG College Player Database:

Charles King
• Nick Lodolo
Caleb Sloan
Sean Wymer

Nico Hoerner, SS/2B, Stanford

A look at Nico Hoerner’s career stats shows the type of consistency he brings to the table as he continues to display an adept feel for the barrel and an overall approach at the plate that allows for that consistent contact. Currently hitting .290 on the year, Hoerner was held hitless in his game Friday night at UCLA, and in fact only picked up only one base hit for the entire three-game series, though he continued to show the type of barrel skills scouts came to know while on the Cape. It’s worth noting that while on the Cape Hoerner he finished with an impressive .300 average while swinging wood against some of the best pitching collegiate baseball has to offer. 

Hoerner’s overall approach at the plate is very much contact oriented and working the gaps rather than trying to put the ball over the fence, though after spraying hard line drive contact throughout batting practice he unloaded on one that went nearly 390 feet to left-centerfield on his second to last swing. Both his swing and mechanics support his approach at the plate as he stays short to the ball and compact with his swing, hitting the ball out front with loud contact coming off the barrel. 

While simple with his swing, Hoerner shows leverage to his path and will run into more than a couple home runs a season while keeping his overall strikeout numbers down as evidenced by his 11 walks to 10 strikeouts this spring. Caught out front in each of his first two at-bats, Hoerner still showed the ability to keep his hands back (with conviction given the life off the barrel) and managed to drive the ball to deep centerfield in his first trip despite being out on his front side. 

He gave above average runs times this summer on the Cape when busting it out of the box, and while he didn’t show that Friday night, he still moved well and showed athleticism to his actions. Starting at shortstop this spring for Stanford, Hoerner displays the actions and ability to stick up the middle at the next level, even if he jumps over to second base, with enough carry on his throws and softness to his hands. 

College hitters who perform and have a track record of success are always in demand and Hoerner certainly fits that criteria with steady barrel skills and a sound approach at the dish. For video of his pre-game infield reps click here.

Other Stanford players added to the PG College Player Database:

• Tristan Beck
Maverick Handley
Jacob Palisch

Michael Toglia, 1B/OF, UCLA

After a strong summer on the Cape, in which he played the entire season as an 18-year-old (he turned 19 last August), Toglia established himself as one of the early names to remember in regards to the 2019 draft as the tools and upside are simply too loud to ignore. And while some players fall into the sophomore slump, the switch-hitting Toglia seems to be thriving in his second year with the Bruins as he’s almost matched his power product from a season ago.

At a long and strong 6-foot-5, 205-pound, yet still plenty projectable, Toglia offers a simple stroke form the left side in which he remains balanced through his load with a subtle weight shift and limited moving parts. During batting practice Toglia kept things simple and when he began turning on the ball with authority he began to show flashes of his plus raw power with the same relaxed swing. 

On Friday night Toglia was held relatively quiet from an offensive standpoint, though he did show patience at the plate against Stanford’s Tristan Beck (who was filling the zone) to work a walk in which he laid off a couple tough pitches young hitters are apt to chase. Of course Toglia is the type of bat who can’t be held down for long and proceeded to launch two homers the next day while driving in six runs.

The question regarding his long-term profile is whether he’ll be able to play a corner outfield position at the next level, something scouts have more than a year to determine. That said, Toglia’s athleticism shows well around the first base bag with sound footwork and coordination to his movements, making a couple nice plays in game action, including one in which he ranged down the right field foul line to make an over-the-shoulder basket catch. Wherever he ultimately settles defensively, the power and overall offensive profile is what will be most alluring to scouts come June, 2019.

Other UCLA players added to the PG College Player Database:

• Jake Bird
Kevin Kendall

Quick Take: Florida State Seminoles

What Happened: Florida State was beaten in the series two games to one after taking the first game of the series in dominating fashion, 10-2. On Saturday the Seminoles could not muster more than a run from Georgia Tech as they got outstanding starting pitching from Connor Thomas. Game three was a forgetful one for Florida State losing 16-3 giving up crooked numbers in the fifth, sixth and seventh inning.

Carrying Tool: The Noles lineup from top to bottom is one of the best in the country and although they struggled this weekend, particularly with runners in scoring position, each hitter 1-9 is potent. With batting leader Drew Mendoza (.339-3-24) in the five-hole and high-end draft prospect Cal Raleigh (.304-4-28) in the cleanup spot, these are just two of the weapons that legendary head coach Mike Martin sends to the field day in and day out.

Concerns: The bullpen was a concern this weekend against Georgia Tech and will likely be for the remainder of the season. How much depth does pitching coach Mike Bell have now that ace Tyler Holton is out for the season? Several pitchers will have to step up into big roles for the Seminoles moving forward this season for them to make the run back to Omaha.

Best Player on the Field: Mendoza, who is likely a first round pick in next year’s draft, is the choice here. A Freshman All-American a year ago, Mendoza has followed that stellar season up with another strong campaign, although he went 2-for-13 in their three-game series against Georgia Tech.

Fearless Forecast: For 40 years in a row the Seminoles have made a Regional and this team looks no different and even exceeds the usual expectations. While the Noles are a lock to make the postseason they are also likely to host a Regional. It would not be surprising if Florida State returned to Omaha, but the loss of Tyler Holton on the hill is a tough one to overcome.

Database Player Reports (4):

• Drew Parrish
• Austin Pollock
• Cal Raleigh
• Mike Salvatore

Quick Take: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

What Happened: Georgia Tech held their own against the previously seventh-ranked team in the nation, Florida State. The Yellow Jackets were beaten on Friday night by a score of 10-2 but got outstanding starting pitching on Saturday by Connor Thomas to win 2-1 and brought the hot bats to the plate on Sunday winning 16-3.

Carrying Tool: All-around play. Both at the plate, where the Jackets send potential first round pick Joey Bart and two-way talent Tristin English everyday, as well as on the mound with English and Connor Thomas, the Jackets offer a talented squad. The inconsistent play, unfortunately, has led them to an 8-7 ACC record and a 19-13 record overall, but the way the Yellow Jackets were firing on all cylinders this weekend it showed the amount of talent that head coach Danny Hall has on his roster.

Concerns: The health of English. The redshirt sophomore missed the entire regular season last year while undergoing Tommy John surgery and was battling a nagging foot injury this weekend as well. With the former Perfect Game All-American healthy, both the offense and starting pitching thrive with him in the lineup so keeping him at 100 percent is key for the Jackets success the rest of the season.

Best Player on the Field: The best player and overall MLB Draft prospect is Joey Bart. The junior catcher has hit an outstanding .357-8-21 in 28 games coming into this weekend and he continued that hot hitting going 3-for-10 (.300) against FSU and collecting a hit in each contest, including a very long solo home run on Friday night.

Fearless Forecast: It is not far-fetched to assume Georgia Tech returns to a Regional this season. The way the offense is clicking, with five players batting above .300, that is a potent recipe for postseason play with the right type of pitching. Xzavion Curry has been outstanding this season as well as English in addition to Thomas’ strong start, and they’ll need that to continue into the postseason for sustained success.

Database Player Reports (4):

• Joey Bart
• Tristin English
• Oscar Serratos
• Connor Thomas

Other programs with players added to the PG College Baseball Database:

Logan Gilbert
Kent State: Joey MurrayConnor Wollersheim
Central Michigan: Michael BrettellPat Leatherman

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