I saw the Iowa Hawkeyes play the Texas Longhorns in a Saturday doubleheader, followed by a Sunday afternoon game. Texas won all three contests: 3-1, 5-2, and 18-0. The Longhorns are one of the best teams in the country of course, while the Hawkeyes are usually one of the weaker sisters in the Big 10. Still, Iowa gave it a good go, and the first two games in particular were pretty close. The third game was a blowout as the Longhorns got into the weaker part of the Iowa pitching staff.
Here are notes and some photos on interesting players. For the most part I concentrated on guys who will be draft-eligible this year. Iowa didn't have the same depth of players but there were a few guys who caught my eye, while Texas as expected had many players with professional futures.
I wish I could have been there for Taylor Jungmann's 17-strikeout game on Friday night, but alas my schedule didn't work that way.
Texas is 13-4 this year. Strengths include pitching, defense, and strong fundamental play for a college team. Main weakness looks like hitting, although they beat up the Iowa staff good on Sunday.
Cole Green, RHP, Junior
I forgot to bring my radar gun on this trip, the scoreboard gun wasn't working, and there was just one scout with a gun in attendance that I could see. So with a couple of exceptions I didn't get many velocity readings on the pitchers. While annoying, it is more challenging to scout this way, since you have to do it like the old-timers did and focus on things like movement rather than just the pure gun readings.
Green is listed 6-1, 210, and has a stocky build. He is considered an early-round choice for the 2010 draft. He works with a 3/4 delivery and kind of slings the ball. There is some effort with his mechanics and I think he could be vulnerable to shoulder problems eventually. Green throws strikes, but in the first inning of the first Saturday game, his fastball was rather flat, his breaking stuff was slurvy, and the Iowa guys seemed to be getting a good read on him. In the second inning he began mixing in a sharper slider and a good changeup. By the fourth inning he was locating the fastball better, and he began mowing the Hawkeyes down once he got everything working. He ended up pitching a seven-inning complete game, allowing four hits and one run, with nine strikeouts and a walk. I'd consider drafting him as early as the second round, though I don't think he has as much upside as Brandon Workman (see below). 2.59 ERA with a 24/4 K/BB in 24 innings, 17 hits allowed.
Kevin Keyes, OF, Junior
Right-handed hitter and thrower, listed 6-4, 250 on the roster but looks more like 235 right now. Keyes doesn't run as well as he did when I saw him last year and he needs to be careful: if he picks up much more weight, he won't run well enough to play the outfield. That said, he did get a good jump and showed some legs with a successful steal attempt, so I don't think his speed is a lost cause as long as he keeps his conditioning up. I never did get a good read on his throwing arm and he wasn't significantly challenged on any of the defensive plays. His bat, however, looks special. He had the best power of anyone on the field, and he has a good hit tool too, showing he can pull the ball for power but also take the pitcher to the opposite field when necessary. He jumps on hittable fastballs, but will lay off curveballs and sliders he can't handle. Main weakness was against changeups: he will chase them, and toning that down will be necessary in pro ball. He makes an effort to work the count. I like him and see him as a possible supplemental round hitter.
Not draft eligible this year, but a good bunter and little-ball player with some flashy defensive skills and speed. It will be interesting to see if he can add a bit more pop to his game. Right-handed hitter, 6-0, 185. Crowd favorite. Hitting .233/.352/.300 right now with six steals in 10 attempts, but has made just one error this year and showed good range in this series.
Hoby Milner, LHP, Freshman
Lanky freshman who started the Sunday game, throwing 4.1 shutout innings with five strikeouts and three walks before being removed, I assume for pitch count purposes and to get the bullpen some work in a blowout game. 6-2, 160, very projectable, could easily gain two inches and thirty pounds. Fastball was quite good, with movement and velocity too much for Iowa to handle, though he had some problems locating it. Very good slider. He seems to lose concentration at times and his mechanics slip when that happens, resulting in command issues. But he refocuses quickly after a visit from the catcher or pitching coach. The guy is just a freshman so that's understandable. Watch out for this guy in the 2012 draft. Has pitched 8.2 innings in two starts so far, with a 7/5 K/BB and 10 hits allowed, allowing one earned run.
Connor Rowe, OF, Junior
Undersized outfielder at 5-10, 170, hits right-handed. Hitting just .218/.271/.309, but he caught my eye with a good measure of speed and athleticism. Needs to improve his strike zone judgment, but he has some pop in his bat. It will be interesting to see if he can boost his hitting numbers which are unimpressive right now. 10th round target at this point but perhaps the hitting will improve.
Cameron Rupp, C, Junior
Hitting .254/.380/.339 with 10 walks, 17 strikeouts in 59 at-bats thus far. Power-hitting catcher, looks a little thinner and more muscular than in 2009. Quite patient, laid off breaking stuff he couldn't hit for the most part, though like Kevin Keyes he will chase a good changeup. Looks more mobile behind the plate than last year, too. I'd rate him as a second round possibility at this point.
Tant Shepherd, 1B, Junior
Another crowd favorite, 5-11, 205, hits leadoff which is a bit unusual for a college first baseman. Although he has a 6/14 BB/K ratio in 66 at-bats thus far, he was patient against the Iowa pitchers. Good power to the gaps, should hit plenty of doubles though I don't know if he'll provide as much power as is typical of a first baseman. I thought his swing looked rather long a few times but he also showed he could shorten it up when necessary. Hitting .318/.408/.485 so far. I'd put him in the 10th round range.
Stayton Thomas, RHP, Junior
Smallish right-hander at 5-11, 175, fanned four guys in 1.2 innings of relief on Sunday using an 88-89 MPH fastball and a very good slider. Could be a nice middle round pick. 1.50 ERA so far with a 10/2 K/BB in 12 innings, 11 hits allowed.
Cohl Walla, OF, Freshman
Toolsy freshman to watch for 2012, listed at 6-3, 165 but looks more like 185. Just now getting some playing time, hitting .409/.417/.545 in 16 games but has started just six of them. Could force his way into more playing time if that keeps up. I thought he had a quick bat and more offensive potential than most of the other Longhorn hitters.
Brandon Workman, RHP, Junior
Expected to be an early pick in the 2010 draft, and I see why. Went 6.2 innings on the second Saturday game, with eight strikeouts, two walks, seven hits, and two runs, threw 110 pitches. Big and strong at 6-5, 225. I saw him pitch last year as a sophomore, and he's improved a lot: his delivery is smoother now, less mechanical, enhancing his command and probably reducing injury risk. Had the best fastball on either team, I caught two readings, one at 93 and one at 94 MPH, though I think he was throwing harder than that. The pitch had both movement and velocity. He mixed in two breaking balls, a hard slider and a slower curve, both very promising. Changeup needs some work. He has the look of a definite workhorse and is certainly worthy of a first round pick. 2.81 ERA so far with a 28/7 K/BB in 25.2 innings, 26 hits allowed. He doesn't have Cole Green's command but his stuff is better.
The Hawkeyes are 4-9 this year. Strengths include hustle, some speed, and a couple of good pitching arms. Weaknesses include lack of power, poor defense, and little pitching depth.
Zach Kenyon, RHP, Junior
This guy looks like a sleeper to me. He's tall, lean, and lanky at 6-6, 220. He has good mound presence and looks like a major league pitcher. I didn't get a radar gun reading on him, but he was throwing almost as hard as Workman, showed very good running action on his fastball, and wasn't afraid to throw inside, which is something that is often rare on the college level. He had a decent-if-erratic curveball and a nice changeup with good dropping action. His mechanics began to slip in the fifth inning and he lost his location, but overall I think this guy has a lot of potential. He'll need to refine his secondary pitches, but he should definitely be tracked. I could see him being drafted as early as the fourth round if everything comes together this spring. 2.51 ERA so far with a 13/6 K/BB in 14 innings.
Kurtis Muller, OF, Junior
5-10, 165 pounds, right-handed hitter and thrower, hitting .377/.421/.547 on the season with five steals in eight attempts. Like Connor Rowe on Texas, Muller is undersized but athletic and has some pop in his bat to go with the running speed. I can see him as a late-round sleeper pick.
Zach Robertson, LHP, Senior:
Stocky lefty listed at 6-1, 215 but looks a little shorter, carries some weight around his hips, has a clean simple delivery. Fastball in the 85-87 range, but has an outstanding changeup, using it to collect six strikeouts in 3.1 innings of work on Sunday. Unfortunately he gave up seven hits and five runs because Texas could hit his fastball and he couldn't do much with his breaking ball.