Draft Watch: Top-tier hurlers Ziomek, Wahl square off
As the calendar moves deeper into April, the pace is starting to pick up. The weather is finally improving, allowing amateur baseball in all regions to really get going. That means more ground for teams' tireless scouts to cover, more games to see and more for Draft Watch to catch you up on.
Top matchup: Ziomek vs. Wahl
A good amount of the scouting industry was in Oxford, Miss., on Friday to watch Vanderbilt visit the University of Mississippi. The main attraction: two potential first-round arms facing off.
Both Vandy lefty Kevin Ziomek and Ole Miss right-hander Bobby Wahl threw well, albeit with very different styles. Ziomek was discussed back in the first Draft Watch blog post, and he was still the same guy. He used his mix of deception and pitchability to go 7 1/3 innings, allowing just one run on three hits. Ziomek walked four and struck out three. He has some funk to his delivery and successfully throws his offspeed stuff for strikes while staying out of the middle of the plate.
Wahl, on the other hand, is pure power. He allowed just one unearned run on five hits over 6 2/3 innings. Wahl struck out eight, but also walked six. He was up to 96 mph with really heavy sink. Wahl did have a tendency to come out of his delivery, which led to overall command issues, particularly with his slider.
Other college arms
Saturday turned out to be a really good day to see some quality college pitching. In Baton Rouge, La., scouts got a good look at LSU hurler Ryan Eades against a quality opponent in Kentucky. And the right-hander was impressive while running his record to 7-0, going 8 2/3 innings and allowing just one run on four hits and one walk while striking out six. Eades touched 97 mph with his fastball (which was in the 91-97 mph range throughout his start) and mixed in his secondary stuff -- a 75-77 mph curve and 80-82 mph changeup -- very well.
Those who went to Charleston, W.Va., were treated to a strong outing from a right-hander as well. Marshall's Aaron Blair was dominant against a highly-ranked University of Houston team. The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder tossed eight shutout innings, yielding just two hits and one walk while fanning 11. Blair had all four of his pitches working; any time he wanted something, he seemed to have it there for him. He was up to 97 mph, sitting at 94-95 mph. Blair features a four-seamer, but he mixed in a sinking two-seamer on occasion, to go along with a very good changeup and a curve.
Going to watch Eades throw also gave scouts the opportunity to check in on the enigmatic JaCoby Jones. Jones has been on radars since high school thanks to his considerable raw tools. The Astros took him in the 19th round of the 2010 Draft, but he headed to LSU instead. Jones has shown glimpses, but he hasn't consistently put it together, as he's hitting just .239 this year.
There's time yet for Jones -- who plays second at LSU, but who many see as an outfielder in the future -- to turn it around. And it's possible that the weekend against a good Kentucky team is what will get him going. Jones went 8-for-13 over the three-game series, with two doubles, a homer, a stolen base and six RBIs. According to one scout, it's the best he's seen Jones swing the bat of late, with Jones perhaps pressing too much in the past. More of that in the weeks to come should help him move up Draft boards.
High school bats
Most of the attention in Georgia has gone, somewhat understandably, to high school outfielders Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier, as the two toolsy prepsters could go at the top of the first round. But they are far from it in terms of high school talent in the state.
Travis Demeritte is another prep bat worth keeping an eye on, one who could go in the top two rounds of the Draft. Playing last week against Frazier's high school team, Demeritte definitely helped himself. The infielder hit an opposite-field homer and doubled in the game, while also playing solid defense. He's played both second and third, but the hot corner might be his best spot moving forward.
High school arms
There are some arms in Georgia, as well. Case in point: Robert Tyler, a projectable right-hander from Crisp County High School. Tyler is making some noise as a prospect who could go in the top two rounds of the Draft. He'll throw his fastball in the 90-94 mph range with a fair breaking ball, one that is a hard downer with potential to be a strikeout pitch when he stays on top of it. Tyler will also show glimpses of a good feel for a sinking changeup.
We'll close with a trip to Vegas. The Bishop Gorman tournament, to be exact. It gave evaluators a chance to see Garrett Williams from Calvary Baptist (La.) on the hill against the host team. It wasn't the finest day for the lefty two-way standout. A scout in attendance said Williams looked out of sync. His fastball velocity was down and his breaking ball didn't have the sharpness it's had in the past. The defense behind Williams wasn't any help, but he left the game down double digits. Chalk it up to one bad outing, but rest assured scouts will be watching to see how Williams bounces back in future outings.