Wil Crowe - South Carolina - Height: 6'1" - Weight: 240 - Previously Drafted: 31st Round, 2013
Crowe had below average command throughout most of his outing and still wound up posting this dominant stat line (7 IP, H, ER, 3 BB, 10 K, Win). That speaks volumes about the quality of his arsenal and why Baseball America has him rated as one of the top ten prospects in the SEC's 2016 draft eligible class.
1st inning - Aside from a three-pitch strikeout of Riley Mahan (video below), Crowe did not look crisp in the first and fell behind several batters. To be fair, two of the first three batters reached on fielding errors which may have aided to the shaky start. He escaped with one run scoring on a seeing-eye single from Javon Shelby. Fastball sat 90 - 92 MPH and peaked at 93 MPH.
2nd - 4th Innings - Crowe's fastball continued to range from 89 - 93 MPH. The pitch most consistently clocked in at 91 MPH with tailing action that made it difficult for any of the Kentucky batters to square up. In fact, no hits were recorded after the 1st inning. Command continued wobble from one pitch to the next but the feel for his arsenal is there. He showed me he is capable of spotting any one of his pitches for a quality strike, just a matter of doing it with more regularity. He also showed me he can cut his fastball and while he only mixed them in sparingly, his 90 MPH cutter/hard slider was effective when deployed.
Here's a look at a 77 MPH curveball that he located well and induced a weak groundout.
Watch Crowe ring up Ka'ai Tom on this 92 MPH fastball on inside corner.
5th - 7th Innings - Crowe continued to work consistently in the low 90's, showing the endurance one might expect from a pitcher of his burly stature. He finally began to throw more first pitch strikes and hitters that fell behind in the count were put away with ease. I can count on my hand the number of times the Kentucky lineup made solid contact with any of his pitches.
Final Thoughts: Crowe looks the part of a potential mid-rotation workhorse, armed with a low-90's fastball that he can sink and cut effectively, two breaking balls that flash plus, and an average change up. He needs to develop more consistent execution from one pitch to the next and work ahead in the count more frequently to get there.
Zack Brown - Kentucky - Height: 6'2" - Weight: 200 - Previously Drafted: 38th Round, 2013
In the initial innings, you may be surprised to hear that I was slightly more impressed with Brown than Crowe. However, by the end of the night it was clear to me that Crowe is the better prospect of the two. Brown impressed me initially with the crispness of his offerings and sharp command during the first two innings. His fastball ranged from 89-92 MPH and his two-seamer showed plus arm side fade at times. He also showed good feel for his breaking pitches, including the 79 MPH curveball below that induced a swinging strike three. While used sparingly, I saw good feel for his change up as well and that looks like it could be a solid average pitch. Unfortunately both his command and average velocity started to dip in the 3rd - 5th innings. I had his velocity clocked from 87 - 90 MPH, with a couple 91's mixed in during those innings. I also came away unimpressed with his ability to compose himself in pressure situations and he struggled to hit his spots from the stretch. Alas, once the Gamecocks were able to get a leadoff runner on in the 5th, he walked the bases loaded, then subsequently surrendered an untimely grand slam to the bat of Max Schrock. I'm not a mechanical expert nor am I a mechanic, but Brown didn't appear to have the cleanest looking arm swing has he prepared to deliver his pitches. I noticed it more out of the stretch than the windup.
Final Thoughts: With fluctuating velocity and some effort in his delivery, Brown may profile better as a reliever eventually. That being said, he showed me three pitches he can throw for strikes. He also has some projection left in his frame. If he can hold his low 90's velocity deeper into outings, and improve his command from the stretch, he could emerge as an intriguing single digit round draft prospect next year.
Kyle Cody - RHP - Kentucky - Height: 6'7" - Weight: 245 - Previously Drafted: Yes, 37th Round, 2012
1st inning: Fastball was 93 - 95 MPH and peaked at 96 MPH. In this at bat versus Gene Cone, he flashed a plus 82 MPH slider that finished off Cone for his first of 4 strikeouts on the day.
2nd - 4th Innings: Cody settled in comfortably at an easy 92 - 93 MPH, topping out at 94 MPH. He repeats his delivery well and when he stayed on top of his fastball, the pitch had effective late boring action. He threw consistent strikes with his fastball, but his command within the zone needs to be better than what I saw on Sunday. His slider was erratic during these innings but flashed plus. It has the potential to become an above average out pitch but it needs continued refinement.
5th - 7th innings: Cody's fastball dipped into the 90 - 92 MPH range, topping out at 93 MPH. While not a major problem, I would've liked to see a little more explosiveness as he planted his foot before releasing the ball. At times, it looked like he was playing catch out there which may have contributed to the velocity decrease. At the conclusion of his outing, I counted maybe 8-10 changeups thrown and couldn't recall a single one being thrown for a strike or offered at by a hitter. The pitch didn't have much life to it either but it did clock in around 83 MPH, giving it ideal velocity separation from his fastball, so there's that. Cody finished with just 4 strikeouts over 6.1 IP. He could have notched a few more if his slider had been more on point when he used it in two-strike counts.
Final Thoughts: At 6'7", 245 pounds, armed with a potential plus fastball and a repeatable delivery, it's easy to see why Cody has first round potential. But, for Cody to solidify himself as a 1st round candidate, he needs to hold his premium velocity deeper into outings and show a more reliably effective breaking ball along with some semblance of a usable changeup. It's important to note that this is just one outing and I shouldn't draw any firm conclusions but I came away from this outing mildly disappointed considering some of the recent buzz I had heard about him. I'll be sure to catch his next few outings on SEC network to see if I notice the same things I did Sunday.
Kyle Martin - 1B - B/T: L/L - Height: 6'1" - Weight: 240 - Previously Drafted: Yes, 20th Round, 2014
He's an obvious choice for a writeup considering he was drafted last season but decided to return for his senior year. That decision looks like a smart one thus far. After hitting just 5 home runs his junior year, scouts questioned his in-game power production at the next level thanks to some length in his swing and contact oriented approach. Martin showed up this Spring having added ten pounds of muscle and that extra time in the gym has made a difference at the plate. He's already cranked out 4 home runs this season in just 69 at bats. Power is definitely his best tool and when he gets of hold of one like he did on Sunday for the walk off winner it leaves the park in a hot second. He's shortened his swing path and has shown an improved ability to get the barrel out in front this year, tapping into his plus pull power more frequently. That being said, he still doesn't possess great bat speed and struggles to catch up to premium velocity which could prove problematic at advanced levels in pro ball. He's also a below average athlete that's limited to first base so he will need to hit, hit, and hit some more at each level in order to not wind up an organizational slugger. Luckily for him, he has this level of baseball down and should make a nice senior sign for someone, perhaps as early as Rounds 8 - 10 if he continues to mash throughout the season.
Max Schrock - 2B/OF - B/T: L/R - Height: 5'9" - Weight: 180 - Previously Drafted: Yes, 28th Round, 2012
His glove at second has been a concern and he has been making starts in left field recently with the more sure handed Marcus Mooney handling second base duties. The bat is intriguing though, with solid gap-to-gap power from the left side. He has the best bat speed on the team and had no trouble squaring up a 93 MPH heater from Kyle Cody on Sunday for a double deep to the right-center gap (see video below). He has surprising pop for someone his size thanks to his simple, quick stroke. If you like OBP, Schrock is your guy as he carries an absurd 18-to-4 walks to strikeouts ratio on the young season and is always a tough out at the plate thanks to above average hand-eye coordination. A healthy and productive junior campaign will put him in contention for the top 5 rounds of the draft, if he can convince scouts he can develop a more reliable glove at second. For now, I would think he's more of a 6th - 8th round guy.