Entering the D-1 season’s second week it seems most of the country came away wanting more from the top prospects. While it’s obviously far too early to make any assessments, the anticipation still runs wild and that’s not bound to change this weekend.
The weather generally plays a significant role for half the season, depending on what part of the country your’re in, and it wiped out a lot of what North Carolina State had scheduled. That didn’t stop shortstop Trea Turner from putting up numbers nor southpaw Carlos Rodon from tossing six solid innings Sunday versus Canisius.
This weekend’s watch list:
Jeff Hoffman, RHP — East Carolina
Hoffman, who was solid yet unspectacular last Friday, will be tested versus a strong Virginia lineup that includes potential first-round pick Derek Fisher, as well as Day 2 and 3 prospects Mike Papi, Nick Howard, Branden Cogswell and Brandon Downes.
Let’s see how well Fisher, a left-handed bat, can handle Hoffman, whose changeup needs work and is an offering he hasn’t used a lot just yet. Hoffman will use the fastball up in the zone to get swings and misses, however, so Fisher will need to lay off and force Hoffman to throw him strikes. This is a terrific test for Fisher, who is adept at using the left-center field gap.
Both players are first-round talents with Hoffman entering the season as a potential top 5 selection. Some believe there’s at least a chance he overtakes Rodon for the No. 1 spot, but I don’t see that being possible sans a meltdown or injury by Rodon, or maked improvement of that changeup for Hoffman. Plus, if Rodon falters, I think his teammate, Turner, is the next-best player in the class, if it’s not prep right-hander Tyler Kolek.
Bradley Zimmer, OF — San Francisco
Zimmer and his Dons teammates are at No. 2 Cal State Fullerton where the outfielder will face the likes of right-handers Matt Chapman and J.D. Davis. Scouts wants to see Zimmer explode in the power department, which would assure him of a top-15 selection. He has three doubles early, but no long balls and he’s whiffed four times versus less-than-stellar pitching.
Luke Weaver, RHP — Florida State
Weaver tossed six no-hit frames at Niagara a week ago and has been lights out in his sessions all winter. He’ll face Georgia Friday night.
Aaron Nola, RHP — LSU
Nola was efficient in six scoreless versus New Orleans last week — 81 pitches — but did manage to hit three batters, so there’s something to nag at if you’re like me. Nola will face Virginia Tech Friday.
Carlos Rodon, LHP; Trea Turner, SS — North Carolina State
Another soft landing for Rodon and Turner as the ‘Pack face Appalachian State this weekend. Oh, Boy!
Tyler Beede, RHP — Vanderbilt
Beede was among the more disappointing arms from last week and will have a good shot to show better command and more consistent stuff versus Illinois-Chicago.
Perhaps the best pitching matchup of the weekend is in L.A. where Cal Poly lefty Matt Imhof and UCLA ace James Kaprielian (class of 2015) face off at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Imhof is considered a Day 1 possibility but more likely an early Day 2 prospect — which is to say round 2 or so. He fanned 14 last Friday versus Kansas State.
Michael Conforto, OF; Dylan Davis, OF — Oregon State
Oregon State, the No. 1 team in the country, hosts Nebraska this weekend, with Conforto coming off a tremendous start. The lefty stick went 7-for-14 with three extra-base hits and a 6-0 BB/K ratio leading up to this weekend’s games.
Sean Newcomb, LHP — Hartford
Newcomb draws Georgetown to open his season. The southpaw will not face a lot of strong competition this year, but that’s generally not as much of a detriment for arms as it is bats, so it shouldn’t hurt his draft stock much.
Kyle Freeland, LHP — Evansville
Like Newcomb, Freeland will not face a lot of strong lineups, but he got off to a decent start last weekend firing five solid innings at Lipscomb.
San Diego State ace Michael Cederoth struggled last weekend — 3 2/3 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 6 SO — and needed a relief appearance mid-week to get in his work. He walked a batter in that inning, too. He’s no Stephen Strasburg, but he’s better than that. Or at least he’ll need to be to avoid falling off the map. One additional Aztecs note: freshman catcher CJ Saylor started mid-week versus Loyola Marymount and went 2-for-4 with two extra-base hits. Remember the name, he’ll be a legit prospect in 2016.
Taylor Sparks, 1B/3B — UC Irvine
Sparks enters the season with a chance to be a top 50 pick, but his week-1 performance isn’t going to help him. Spark went 0-for-15 with seven strikeouts and will give it another go this weekend at home versus Wright State. Sparks is a 6-foot-4, 225-pound right-handed hitter with a swing that needs work but plus raw power.
One of my favorite prospects that I’ve only seen on video is Kansas State second baseman Ross Kivett. He’s not a top 50 type, but he’s a gamer with a solid hit tool and if he proves he can stick at second could be a value early on Day 3… Miami southpaw Andrew Suarez, who made his first start Sunday and struck out 10 batters versus Maine, reminds some of former Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte in the way he hides the ball. He’s touched 95 mph with his fastball and sat 90-94 a year ago, but he’s new to that velocity and is still learning to use it correctly and maintain the good velocity throughout his outings. I have to be honest, though, I don’t love the delivery. The arm action is fine, but he doesn’t use his lower half all that well and cuts himself off at times… Among the best JC prospects is Blinn College right-hander Robby Dickey, a sophomore out of Bowie High School in Austin, Texas. Dickey stands 6-foot-3 and is a sturdy 210 pounds. He’s missing bats for Blinn — 24 strikeouts in 14 innings — and has sat in the low 90s with his fastball. He touched 96 on the gun last season after being undrafted the previous June. A strong spring could earn him a top 100 nod. He’s committed to Texas State, but is unlikely to pass on pro ball this summer… Two prep kids being mentioned to me a lot even before the slate of games has begun — right-hander Grant Holmes of Conway High School in South Carolina and Michael Gettys, an outfielder from Gainesville High School in Georgia. Holmes hit 98 mph on the gun in a recent session and Gettys, one scout opines, is ultimately going to be worthy of a top-10 pick.
Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016.
Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.
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