MLB Draft Bites: Week Two – Hot Starts

Feature Photo: Nick Senzel, 3B, Univ. of Tennessee

Welcome to Week Two of MLB Draft Bites. This week, 2080’s Corey Turner and Nick J. Faleris take a look at nine draft-eligible collegians off to hot starts in 2016, as well as three underclassmen who are also turning heads with strong starts this spring. Nick also provides updates on recent performances of five more draft-eligible players who are part of the 2016 MLB Draft class.

Hot Starts: 2016 Draft Eligibles

Jordan Sheffield, RHP, Vanderbilt Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’0″/185 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 21y, 0m

Sheffield missed out on a potential seven-figure signing bonus out of high school as a result of undergoing Tommy John surgery in the middle of his senior season at Tullahoma High School (TN) in 2013. Almost three years removed from the procedure, Sheffield appears to be firing on all cylinders, arguably getting better with each start. Through his first four starts Sheffield has averaged over six innings (24.2 IP) while striking out 36 batters against just seven walks. Further, opposing hitters have managed just 19 hits and a .209 batting average against the Commodores’ Friday night starter. He’s rapidly moving himself into top-of-the-draft consideration, and represents an enticing combination of pure stuff and feel. – Nick J. Faleris

Logan Shore, RHP, Univ. of Florida
Ht/Wt: 6’2″/215 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 21y, 5m

While A.J. Puk gets the bulk of the 2016 draft’s media attention, Shore is the arm the Gators send out each week for the coveted Friday night start. In 27 IP, Shore has surrendered 17 hits—nine of which came in his six-inning start against Harvard last Friday—while walking two and striking out 28. He wasn’t particularly sharp against Harvard, where he stayed up in the zone too much, which resulted in some hard contact, though he did settle down to finish with eight strikeouts and no walks. His low-90s fastball isn’t overpowering, but it plays well of his low-80s changeup, which is a true weapon that he throws in any count to lefties and righties to generate weak contact and swings and misses. His third pitch, a slider, continues to develop, but isn’t a big factor at this point. Shore doesn’t have typical first-round flash in his repertoire, but the command and consistency, as well as one of the better off-speed offerings in this draft class, could be enough to land him in the first round. – Corey Turner

Will Craig, 3B/RHP, Wake Forest Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’3″/235 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 21y, 7m

A Perfect Game Collegiate All-American in 2015, it’s hard to say Craig has been underrated. Entering the spring, however, a common refrain among evaluators was that Craig would need to continue punishing baseballs at the plate in order to raise his draft stock, considering the limited production he’s likely to have at the next level in other facets of the game. The Wake Forest two-way standout has responded, thus far this spring, pummeling opposing arms en route to a .458/.581/1.021 slash line through his first 15 games. Over half of Craig’s hits have gone for extra bases (seven round-trippers and six doubles out of 22 hits), and the burly basher has also drawn 10 walks, while striking out seven times. It is still a limited profile, but given Craig’s production in 2015 (including a nice showing in the Cape Cod League this past summer) and his production thus far in 2016, it’s getting easier and easier to see him as a potential sandwich pick – or even a first rounder. To boot, Craig has yet to allow the run as the Demon Deacons’ closer, totaling 8 IP in which he’s allowed four hits and two walks while punching out seven. – Nick J. Faleris

Nick Senzel, 3B, Univ. of Tennessee
Ht/Wt: 6’1″/205 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 20y, 11m

Senzel’s biggest question mark entering the season was defensive position, as his work with the wood last summer in the Cape Cod League quickly won over evaluators and earned him a reputation as one of the best pure hit tools in this draft class. The Volunteer standout has spent time at the hot corner this spring to good effect, showing a solid arm and enough athleticism to make the throws from all the angles, including on the run. He has a nice first step and adequate hands, making him a natural fit for the position. Offensively, Senzel continues to impress, slashing .386/.519/.579 in just under 80 PA’s, with nine of his 22 hits going for extra bases. He’s also swiped nine bags in 10 attempts and demonstrated a good head on the bases. Already a first-round candidate, Senzel is working his way up towards top five consideration. – Nick J. Faleris

Daulton Jefferies, RHP, Univ. of California (Berkeley)
Ht/Wt: 6’0″/180 | B/T: L/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 20y, 10m

There may be no pitcher who has helped himself more in the early going of 2016 than the Golden Bears’ Jefferies. His fastball has seen a slight uptick in velocity, now sitting frequently in the middle 90s, and he has additionally shown growth in his upper-80s 11-to-5 curveball and mid-80s changeup, each of which now project as potential above-average to plus offerings. While the scout sheet is impressive, the production has been even more eye-popping, with the righty overwhelming opponents to the tune of 33 strikeouts in 26 IP, compared to five walks and twenty hits (with the opposition batting just .204 against him). Jefferies looks the part of a potential #2 or #3 starter and is working his way into top 10 consideration, if he isn’t there already. – Nick J. Faleris

Zack Burdi, RHP, Univ. of Louisville
Ht/Wt: 6’3″/205 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 21y, 3m

The Louisville closer and USA Baseball Collegiate National Team alum has yet to allow a run, or a hit, in 2016. The hard-throwing righty has made six appearances thus far, going 5.2 IP and racking up 10 strikeouts and walking just two. Burdi doesn’t have quite the velocity in his arm that brother Nick (Minnesota Twins) possesses, but can still produce an easy mid- to upper-90s fastball with solid late life. He has a quality mid-80s changeup that comes with some arm speed deception and tumbling action, though the pitch can get firm at times. He’s still working to find consistency with his low-80s slider. For the time being, the fastball has been enough for Burdi, and his overall athleticism, ability to repeat his delivery and release, and his improving feel across his arsenal should make him a quality candidate for late-inning work at the next level. An organization with depth in the system could also shift him into their rotation, and give him a run at starting as a pro. – Nick J. Faleris

Connor Jones, RHP, Univ. of Virginia
Ht/Wt: 6’3″/200 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 21y, 8m

After winning a national championship last year, Jones returns as the Friday night starter on an impressive Cavaliers club, showing easy first-round stuff and refinement through the first four weeks of play. The righty features a low- to mid-90s fastball with impressive life, and a quality low-90s slider that will flash plus. He has shown a quality upper-70s changeup, as well, but has relied more regularly on a hard upper-80s splitter this spring. Jones shows a high level of comfort with each of his offerings and has thus far demonstrated an ability to fill up the zone, as evidenced by his relinquishing just six walks in 27.1 IP. Jones sat out the summer to rest his arm, so evaluators had a little more space between viewings than many of the other top arms in the class. Nevertheless, Jones’s start to the 2016 campaign has solidified him as one of the premier arms in the draft class, and he should fit him comfortably in the first round at present. – Nick J. Faleris

Matt Krook, LHP, Univ. of Oregon
Ht/Wt: 6’3″/217 | B/T: L/L | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 21y, 7m

Krook may have the loudest stuff in the entire draft class, with a darting low- to mid-90s heater that’s incredibly difficult to touch, let alone square up. He pairs with the fastball a hard-diving, mid-80s changeup and a quality 11-to-5 breaking ball with hard bite and solid depth. From an evaluative standpoint, the bugaboo with Krook is his control and command, as the lively arsenal is often times erratic, with last Saturday’s start an extreme example – Krook failed to make it out of the first inning, walking five and allowing two hits in 0.2 IP of work against Mississippi State. Even with the disastrous outing, Krook’s numbers on the season remain impressive, with the lefty allowing just a .133 batting average against (8 hits over 17.2 IP) and striking out more than 1.5 batters per inning. Krook projects as a potential frontline starter if he can rein the stuff in even a bit, and is an obvious fit as a future late-inning, high-leverage arm. – Nick J. Faleris

Cole Irvin, LHP, Univ. of Oregon
Ht/Wt: 6’3″/203 | B/T: L/L | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 22y, 4m

Irvin missed the 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery late that winter (teammate and fellow lefty Matt Krook would follow suit just a couple months later), but has seen his stuff return over the past two seasons. Slated as the Ducks’ Friday night arm, the lefty boasts a lively upper-80s to low-90s fastball that he spots effectively to all four quadrants, backed by two potential above-average to plus offerings in his fading changeup and hard-biting curveball. Irvin has dazzled this year thus far (his most recent start last Friday at Mississippi State not withstanding), posting a 1.65 ERA over 27.1 IP over four starts. The California native has allowed just 22 hits (nine of which came last Friday) and has punched out 29 batters while walking just five. Irvin looks the part of a potential #3 or #4 starter, and he’s pitching himself into first-round consideration. – Nick J. Faleris

Hot Starts: The Underclassmen

David Peterson, LHP, Univ. of Oregon
Ht/Wt: 6’6″/242 | B/T: L/L | Age (as of 2017 draft date): 21y, 9m

Peterson is the third member of the left-handed triumvirate serving as weekend starters for the Oregon Ducks, and is well situated as an early first-round candidate in the 2017 MLB Draft class. The Colorado native landed in Eugene as a highly projectable lefty and has already added around 25 pounds of “good” weight, looking the part of a future innings-eater. As with Krook and Irvin, Peterson gets lots of life on his fastball, with the pitch working primarily in the low-90s. The lefty has shined through his first four starts in 2016, holding opposing hitters to a .205 average while striking out 27 and walking eight in 25.2 IP. – Nick J. Faleris

J.J. Schwarz, C, Univ. of Florida
Ht/Wt: 6’2″/215 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of 2017 draft date): 21y, 2m

Schwarz was a standout with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team last summer, and has continued to blossom this spring with the top-ranked Gators, slashing .371/.506/.645 through his first 80 PA’s. The talented backstop has fanned 10 times while drawing 16 walks, showing a quality approach at the plate and an ability to drive the ball to all corners of the park. As a capable defender with an offensive profile that projects well to the pro game, Schwarz should find himself towards the top of follow lists across the game when scouting departments shift their focus to the 2017 class this summer. He’s currently on the short list of favorites to come off the board in the first 10 picks next June. – Nick J. Faleris

Seth Beer, OF/1B, Clemson Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’2″/195 | B/T: L/R | Age (as of 2018 draft date): 21y, 9m

Beer was an intriguing 2016 draft-eligible talent at the high school ranks up until this winter, when he announced he would be enrolling early with Clemson and forgoing the 2016 draft. To say Beer has been an impressive contributor early on would be an understatement, as the freshman has slashed .412/.492/.882 through his first 15 games in 61 PA’s, launching seven home runs and three triples, while leading the Tigers in batting average, slugging, on-base percentage, home runs, total bases, and RBI’s. The lefty shows easy power and natural lift at the plate, and projects as a potential impact bat with the chops to stick in a corner outfield spot. While it’s too early to start handicapping the 2018 MLB Draft class, it’s safe to say that evaluators have already circled Beer’s name, and it’s a name that will be watched closely. – Nick J. Faleris

MLB Draft Bites
By Nick J. Faleris

♦ After emerging last spring with the Huskies and impressing with Team USA last summer, Anthony Kay (LHP, Univ. of Connecticut) has kept evaluators’ heads nodding in approval through his first four starts of 2016. The lefty has logged 25.1 IP, striking out 29 and walking 10, with opponents hitting just .225 against him. This past Friday, Kay came within two batters of a complete game win against William & Mary, allowing one run on 10 hits and one walk while striking out six. Kay possesses an average fastball that sits in the upper-80s to low-90s, and he rounds out a four-pitch repertoire with an above-average low-80s changeup, an average mid-80s curveball, and a fringy slider that he can drop in for strikes when he needs to. Kay throws with little effort and projects well to a rotation spot at the next level, profiling as a back-end innings-eater.

♦ Jeremy Martinez (C, Univ. of Southern California) has been a focus for pro evaluators dating back to his sophomore year of high school at Mater Dei (Calif.). Now a draft-eligible junior for the Trojans, Martinez has started out hot, slashing .356/.480/.559 through his first 15 games, with only two strikeouts compared to nine walks. Martinez had a productive weekend in Forth Worth, Texas, going 7-for-15 with two doubles against a talent TCU squad. Martinez is a quality receiver with enough strength to do some damage at the plate. Projected as an early-round target entering his senior year of high school, Martinez could fulfill that potential this June with a productive year.

Dakota Hudson (RHP, Mississippi State Univ.) cooled a hot Oregon squad last Friday, going 5.2 IP and allowing two earned runs on four hits and five walks. The Bulldog ace struck out nine of the 27 batters he faced, relying on a low- to mid-90s heater and a hard, plus cutter. Hudson has shown well through the first four weeks of the season, averaging just under 6 IP per start, while holding opposing batters to a paltry .188 average. He’s whiffing folks at an impressive rate of 12.2 per 9 IP.

♦ Boston College picked up a big series win against N.C. State this past weekend, with senior Joe Cronin (3B/1B) coming up big for the Eagles. Cronin went 5-for-11 on the weekend, including a home run, a double, a triple, and two walks. The senior is now slashing .389/.485/.667 on the year.

Justin Dunn (RHP, Boston College) earned the win in Boston College’s series-clinching win on Sunday, going 3.1 IP in relief, while allowing one hit and three walks and striking out two. The big-armed Eagless reliever, a junior, has leaned on his mid-90s heater while logging 8.1 IP of work over five appearances thus far in 2016, striking out nine and allowing just two runs.