The biggest mover at the top of the draft so far has been UC Santa Barbara righthander Dillon Tate, who has emerged as a potential top 10 pick with a mid-90s fastball that reaches 98 and a slider that flashes plus-plus. This weekend, we saw another high-velocity righty make a case to move up draft boards.
Kentucky junior Kyle Cody was simply dominant on Saturday – albeit against an inferior opponent – tossing seven no-hit, shutout innings with one walk and nine strikeouts in a win over Nebraska-Omaha. Heading into the season, the 6-foot-7, 245-pounder was already projected as a first-round selection. But the big news from his start was that he reportedly topped out at 98 mph – the highest velocity he has registered since arriving in Lexington.
Before Saturday, Cody had been consistently topping out at 96 mph and sitting 91-94 with run and sink. I was not at the game and therefore relying on the accuracy of the source, but if 98 becomes a regular max reading, then that's important because of the slim margin that separates him and the other college arms who are expected to be the first names off the board. His profile – a towering, physical righthander capable of generating premium velocity from a low-effort, repeatable delivery with an above-average breaking ball – is similar to that of Duke righthander Michael Matuella, who's popularly viewed as one of the three best pitchers in the draft (more on him later). If Cody can address scouts' main concern by showing a better feel for his changeup, then he'll become a serious candidate to go inside the top 10 picks.
Here are some other noteworthy weekend performances:
- In front of about 70 scouts, Dillon Tate threw 7 1/3 innings and surrendered three hits, three earned runs and four walks with eight strikeouts in a 5-1 loss at Oregon. He reportedly sat 94-96 mph and touched 98 in the early innings while showing the usual devastating slider and flashing a solid-average changeup, but tired after the fifth inning, dropping to 92-93 as his command faltered.
- Evaluators know what Cincinnati outfielder Ian Happ – possibly the best pure hitter in the draft – can do with the bat. But this weekend, it's what he didn't do with it that impressed. The switch-hitter went just 2-for-8 in a three-game series against Iowa, but showed exceptional plate discipline by drawing seven walks (two intentional) along the way. Thanks to a compact swing and an all-fields approach, the prospective first-rounder is slashing .500/.604/.842 through 10 games. Although his bat will play in either outfield corner, scouts must decide if he has enough athleticism and arm strength to play right field.
- Vanderbilt junior Carson Fulmer fanned 11 Illinois State Redbirds over six shutout innings on Friday, although he walked three and threw just 62 strikes out of his 104 total pitches. No one questions the 5-foot-11, 200-pounder's ability to miss bats at the pro level, but as a short righthander with a high-effort delivery, it's a stretch to project him as a starter. The first step in convincing the scouting community otherwise would be showing better control of his mid-90s fastball and plus breaking ball.
- Josh Tobias had the best single-game performance from this weekend when the Florida third baseman went 5-for-5 with a double and three RBIs on Saturday in a 14-3 drubbing of Stony Brook. He then showcased his plus bat speed and above-average power on Sunday, notching a triple and his first home run of the season. There's no consensus projection on his long-term defensive position, but a team who believes he can play second base could pop him inside the top five rounds.
- Pitching for the first time since his season debut at California on Feb. 13, Michael Matuella worked one scoreless inning on 26 pitches against Rider on Sunday night, allowing two hits with one strikeout. He was scratched from making his start the previous week due to forearm tightness – a setback in his quest to answer scouts' questions about his durability – so his 30-pitch limit was a measure designed to ease him back into action. However, he should be ready for a heavier workload for this Friday's start at North Carolina, a game that will draw more than 50 scouts. I'll be in Chapel Hill for that barnburner and will come back with notes on him, UNC outfielder Skye Bolt and some other follows.