With the lack of offense in the college game the last few seasons, the people-in-charge opted to lower the seams on the baseballs. While small sample sizes apply, it seems like the seams matter. Teams were scoring quite a few runs in quite a few games. However, the pitchers that were supposed to be pitching well were very solid. Real baseball games from good college teams are back for real.
On Friday, I had a few options to monitor. The one that I chose to go with was a tilt between Liberty University and Kennesaw State from Kennesaw, Georgia. Both starting pitchers figure to be drafted in June, and those are the kinds of games that get my attention. However, as I noted, the offenses were working better than last season. Parker Bean was the starter for Liberty, and he gave up homers in the second and third innings, and the latter one put the Flames down 8-0. Time to surf to a new game, at that point. He had some choppy defense behind him, but if a Friday guy with some prestige is giving up bombs in successive innings, that isn't a good thing. Nonetheless, regardless how his ERA gets pounded, he should still be a professional by late-July.
The announcer for the game wasn't telling much about the pitcher for Kennesaw, Justin Hillyer. When I flipped over to the South Carolina game against College Of Charleston, Hillyer coughed up much of the lead, giving up five in the fourth. Two ERAs that will be awhile dropping into the quality range.
The Gamecocks game was a bit of a tight one. Neither pitcher in this game sounded that intriguing from a MLB draft perspective, but it was an entertaining game, so I left it there. (By the way, I'm getting used to my Tune-In app, so I have access to more ease of audio. The Tennessee Smokies are included in the package.) The South Carolina starter tops out at 88, and the Charleston starter walked to many guys. Still, a fun listen.
My early choice for the Cubs' first pick is Florida State's DJ Stewart. A pure left fielder, he plays fairly decent defense. The Seminoles were playing Oakland (MI) University this weekend. Oakland is from the Horizon League, and isn't ranked very highly in the northern Conference. So, obviously, they came into Tallahassee and scored two in the first on three Seminoles errors. I will talk more at length about Stewart in the weeks to come. Not only does he look like a player the Cubs would like to draft, he is mainly a left fielder, which will limit the teams seeking him.
However, Nathan Kirby (Virginia), Michael Matuella (Duke), and Kyle Funkhouser (Louisville) won't be around for the ninth pick. They were both very solid in their early outings. They combined over the weekend for 20 innings, eight hits, and 25 strikeouts.
The new lower seams appear to be making it easier for scouts to figure out which pitchers ought to be able to pitch well in the minors. As to whether they will be able to pitch effectively in the major leagues is tougher, obviously. Far too many speed bumps, injuries, and quality line-ups for the decision on that to be easy. However, Stewart is worth watching. He looks an awful lot like Schwarber with the bat in his hands.
The Illini were one strike from being shut out in their season opener. A 27th-out single tied the game, and they pushed across four in the tenth. By Sunday evening, they were 4-0. Their four starting pitchers combined to give up one earned run. It's the first time in 15 years they've started 4-0.
The main draft interest in Cham-bana will be the pitchers and the catcher. Tyler Jay was a reliever on the USA team this summer, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him go on the second day of the draft, which concludes with the end of round 10. Their entire rotation is eligible for the draft, and any or all of them might get their names called. Catcher Jason Goldstein is positioning himself to get drafted on the second day, as well. My guess is that Jay could go Round Three, Goldstein in the fourth, and Friday starter Drasen Johnson has "10th-rounder" written all over him, as he is a fifth-year senior.
If you're in the area, you might want to check out the Illini. It "seams" like a good idea.
My Top Ten For The Cubs' Pick At No. 9
- Michael Matuella, P, Duke
- Kyle Funkhouser, P, Louisville
- Nathan Kirby, P, Virginia
- DJ Stewart, OF, Florida State
- Brendan Rogers, SS, HS(FL)
- Brady Aiken, P, Parts Unknown
- Walker Buehler, P, Vanderbilt
- Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt
- Kolby Allard, P, HS(CA)
- Daz Cameron, CF, HS(GA)