How was your Mother's Day weekend? Mine was spent down here in the lovely weather of Columbia, SC. Unfortunately, the Gamecocks were out of town so I couldn't enjoy that nice weather at the ballpark so I soaked in some rays at the pool instead with my headphones in to catch the game.
Don't look now, but according to my calendar, the MLB Draft is officially four weeks from today. That means mock draft season has officially begun. Here are links to several mock drafts released recently in what is shaping up to be a tough draft to get a read on.
Interesting to note that the BP mock (subscription required by the way, sorry, not sorry) is buying into the idea that the Diamondbacks could take a Garrett Whitley or Tyler Stephenson at number one for a discount. Neither would be a crazy reach in my opinion either, especially in a draft without a "can't-miss" number one choice.
Back to college baseball. Here are the weekend highlights...
Your Weekly Funkhouser Update: Kyle "Tobias" Funkhouser couldn't tame the devastatingly effective team hitting approach of No. 10 Florida State on Friday as detailed by Michael Baumonn. Funkhouser's line: 5 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 5 BB, 6 K.
Baumonn also mentions in the article that FSU outfielder D.J. Stewart's crouch in the batter's box resembles "a frog trying to lift a wagon full of hay" which is easily the best description I've heard of his stance.
Leaders In The Atlantic: No. 2 Louisville - Yea, so despite losing 13-4 on Friday, the Cardinals shrugged that loss off to take the series from FSU and improve to 23-4 in ACC play. Banner year for the Cards.
Leaders In The Coastal: No. 13 Miami (FL) - The Hurricanes continue their dominant ways. They've won 8 in a row following an out of conference sweep of New York Tech.
Player Spotlight: Perhaps I'm biased because he was in one of my classes his freshman year at South Carolina (before he transferred to a juco), but I'm wondering why Miami second baseman George Iskendarian isn't getting more draft love. He's now hitting .380/.476/.500 with 3 HR, 32 BB and 33 K in 234 PA's and is 19-for-19 in stolen bases.
Hot Streakin: NC State has quietly ripped off 9 wins in a row following a big weekend sweep at Wake Forest.
(Big Ten Highlights)
Hot Streakin: What else is new? Another week in the books, another week of #winning for No. 7 Illinois who swept Rutgers to extend their winning streak to 24 games, best in the nation.
Stock Up: In the latest Field of 64 Projections, No. 20 Iowa is projected as a regional host for what would be the first time in school history. The Hawkeyes swept Minnesota over the weekend and are 18-3 in Big Ten play.
Prospect Note: If you've been wondering like me, "Hey, how is this Iowa team so good. They must have some legit draftable talent on their team", I have good news. They do.
Meet Blake Hickman, former 20th round pick out of high school, who has put together a strong campaign for the Hawkeyes (2.93 ERA in 73.2 IP, 57 H, 33 BB, 47 K, .212 AVG). He's 6'5, 210 and a former two-way athlete who was drafted as a catcher three years ago but it's his big arm on the mound (FB around 93-94 MPH; has touched 97 MPH) that has him ranked no. 69 on Baseball America's latest Top 100 draft prospects.
Speaking of that draft board, I'm pumped to see No. 28 Maryland second baseman Brandon Lowe (pronounced like it rhymes with ow because why not) clock in at no. 97. He's a personal fave of mine having watched him tear up the Ripken league last summer. Plus hit tool in my amateur hack scouting book.
(Big 12 Highlights)
Leaders: No. 3 TCU improved to 15-5 in conference play this weekend with two wins over Kansas, overtaking No. 11 Oklahoma State as the 1st place team in the Big 12.
To be fair to Oklahoma State, they only got one game in this weekend (5-4 loss) at West Virginia, due to poor weather conditions.
Your National ERA Leader: Still Corey Taylor, right-handed reliever from No. 25 Texas Tech who has allowed just two earned runs in 50 innings pitched (0.35 ERA).
Player Spotlight: Let's talk about Oklahoma junior Kolbey Carpenter whose .366/.426/.563 stat line with 8 HR in 213 AB should put him on the short list for potential Big 12 Player of the Year. All he does is hit even if he's something of a jack of all trades, master of none defensively. His likely home in pro ball is third base where according to Rob Ozga, he has impressed evaluators with his "steady glove" and "power upside" at the plate. His versatility and consistent production make him an intriguing prospect for Rounds 5 through 10.
(Big West Highlights)
We had a three-way tie for first in the Big West last week and now it's down to two...
Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine are both 13-5 in conference play.
Stock Down: No. 6 UC Santa Barbara dropped to 2nd place this week with a series loss at Fullerton
Outdueler of the Week: Who can't appreciate some Thomas Eshelman, college baseball's best control artist for three years running now. The Cal State Fullerton ace dominated Friday night (8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, BB, 9 K, Win), besting potential number one overall pick Dillon Tate (5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, Loss) in the process.
Sweeper of the Week: So there's Hawaii quietly sitting there in 4th place with a 12-9 record in the Big West. Let's hear it for the Warriors who have left the friendly confines of their tropical home for back to back road sweeps of Long Beach State and now UC Riverside.
Stock Up: Despite some key injuries, including top prospect righty Jake Lemoine, No. 21 Houston has overcome odds to shine. The Cougars took control of 1st in the AAC with a series win over East Carolina.
Best Owls In The C-USA? Typically, the C-USA is dominated by mid-major powerhouse No. 17 Rice, but a higher ranked team of Owls from No. 12 Florida Atlantic met up with Rice this weekend for a showdown for 1st place. Rice swept FAU, proving they are still the best while ruining the narrative you probably thought I was going for there.
No-No Alert: Now it was of the 7 inning variety but a no-hitter is a no-hitter and that's what Monmouth right-hander T.J. Hunt accomplished this weekend versus St. Peter's.
Your National Batting Average Leader: I've yet to mention Evansville outfielder Kevin Kaczmarski in this column, but it's time to now because he leads the batting title race by a wide margin. There's only 12 players in the entire country hitting over .400 at the D1 level and this kid is now up to .476 on the year in 170 at bats.
Your National Home Run Leader: Still Kyle Nolwin, center fielder for Eastern Kentucky. He at his wheaties again this weekend, dropping a pair of dongs to extend his national lead to 19 homers.
Best In The West: Still No. 5 UCLA, who improved to 18-6 in conference with a big series win at No. 16 Arizona State. With a 2.17 team ERA that ranks 2nd in the nation, this Bruins team reminds me of the national champion squad from 2013 and is sure to be a tough out in the postseason.
Prospect Note: Here's a touching story about potential first round pick James Kaprielian and a special tradition still carried on that his late mother, who lost a 14-year battle with cancer, started during his outings. Kaprelian tossed 7 shutout innings in Friday's 9-0 win, improving to 9-4 with a 1.99 ERA in 90.2 IP with 97 K.
No. 14 USC holds on to 2nd place in the Pac-12, tied with ASU and No. 29 California, after a series win at Stanford.
No. 1 LSU has placed a stranglehold on the top ranked billing in the country for four weeks now, following their weekend sweep of Missouri, a team trending in the wrong direction of late.
Upset Alert: In a strange and confusing turn of events, South Carolina picked up a huge road series win at No. 4 Texas A&M. Yet, they can't beat Tennessee here in Columbia? I don't get it but I'm happy the Gamecocks postseason hopes remain alive. Kyle Martin now has 14 home runs on the season and continues to look like the Senior first baseman most likely to come off the draft board first.
Prospect Note: Here's a puff piece on the talented lefty A.J. Puk who may have turned a corner lately with a consecutive pair of dominant outings (13 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 23 K). Aaron Fitt notes that Puk could be in the running for the number one pick next year if he continues to pitch like this.
(Photo By: Missouri State Athletics)
Pitcher of the Week: Jon Harris - RHP - Missouri State
Harris has rocketed up draft boards this spring and turned in one of his finer performances of the season over the weekend (7.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K) versus Southern Illinois. Harris has anchored a talented No. 19 Missouri State team all season, pitching to a 2.08 ERA in 82.1 IP, with 59 H, 29 BB, 99 K, and a .198 opponent AVG. The Bears are currently projected to host a regional so be sure to tune in for NCAA baseball tournament action when the time comes, because that will provide a great stage for Harris to showcase his talents against premier competition.
You may have noticed some outlets like the latest Baseball America mock draft placing Jon Harris amongst the top ten picks in a projected draft. BA even went as far as to project him number 4 to the Rangers. While that definitely seems a bit rich to me, I understand the appeal of Harris due to four average or better pitches he can command. He also has the more classic durable starter build at 6'4", 215 than the Vandy duo of Walker Buehler and Carson Fulmer which some teams in that top 15 range could weigh in his favor. Here's a detailed report on Harris courtesy of Fangraphs.
(Photo By: Ole Miss Athletics)
Hitter of the Week: Sikes Orvis - 1B - Ole Miss
If you put names on a scouting scale, this one gets a plus grade from me. And so does his power at the plate. I know, nice segue. I'll be here all week. Orvis had a tremendous weekend at the plate in an in-state showdown with Mississippi State. He went 7-for-12, belted 3 homers, two doubles, and drove in six. On the season, Orvis is batting .265/.394/.586 at the plate with 14 home runs, with 36 walks and 47 wiffs in 221 Plate Appearances.
Orvis stands in at 6'2", 235 pounds and bats from the left handed side of the plate. While he isn't a highly touted pro prospect, Orvis is a fan favorite at the college baseball level due to his colorful personality and Ron Swanson like appearance. He does have plenty of left handed power and a decent approach at the plate but a marginal hit tool for pro standards and no defensive flexibility. He'll make a nice senior sign for someone in the middle rounds of the draft. His upside is likely a 4A slugger but he'll make for a fun follow in the minors.