Division One baseball games begin on Friday. The events this off-season, or lack thereof, hint that players you may be currently unfamiliar with are of great importance to MLB front-offices. Many of these players are currently being scouted for the June Draft. Among my hopes is to give you the feel of numerous specific games, and the general college landscape. That I enjoy watching college games, and have the ability to notice “loud contact off of the bat,” doesn’t mean I can dictate what or whether a player will be able to do in five years. Baseball doesn’t work like that. I do, though, think I can answer a few basics as the year cruises toward early June.
The Draft isn’t an exact science or a quick payoff. It involves risk, and added risk doesn’t necessarily add bonus payout. Cubs fans have seemingly corkscrewed the last decade or so from “The Draft isn’t helpful” through “The Draft is can’t miss” to the current “The Cubs should have done better since 2012.”
A very popular and accurate answer response regarding draft-eligible talent is or should be “I don’t really know.” Much of the important information is off-the-diamond as on. A player with skills on the field, but enough questions off, will get ignored rather quickly. What a scout is attempting to locate is who will be of value in four or five seasons. Some of the games to help answer those questions start this weekend.
Heard Campbell (@GoCamelsBSB) righty Seth Johnson held 92-95 over a four inning stint yesterday in 40 degree weather. Interesting draft name; live arm and throws four pitches for strikes. Here's some video from the fall. #MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/zSITZrzV0N— Burke Granger (@burkegranger) February 10, 2019
In case any of these names start to sound interesting to you, look them up. Johnson was a non-factor last season in the junior college ranks. Now at Campbell (Buies Creek, North Carolina), his draft stock is through the roof. 92-95 with four options is well-worth gambling on. However, where? When? Camels (yes, it’s the Campbell Camels) games are often audio-streamed, and a few will be on an ESPN branch through the spring.
Here is their schedule, with media links. Is Johnson from Campbell worth a second-round selection? Maybe a first? Getting the answers to these debatable questions (that often don’t get debated until the player is a three-year MLB veteran) is a three-to-four month process, starting tomorrow. The window for deciding is determined when someone else selects the player.
The Friday start is at 10 a.m. Central time for Campbell versus Maryland. That might make for an appetizer for me, prior to the Illinois/Georgetown game an hour later. I have three games lined up after for Friday, as my priority/preference list begins to take shape more dramatically. My main looks Friday will include Kameron Misner, a valid Cubs option at pick 27. Another early choice for 1.27 is Matt Wallner from Southern Miss, who will be limited early to designated hitting duties.
INJURY NEWS ⚠️: @SouthernMissBSB All-American RHP/OF Matt Wallner suffered a strain in his lower forearm and won’t pitch this weekend. Tests did not show major damage. He could still DH for #USM this weekend, however.— Kendall Rogers (@KendallRogers) February 13, 2019
Wallner has been electric during team scrimmages. #MLBDraft
The Big Ten Athletic Directors have looked rather disinterested in an unofficial vote regarding adding a third paid assistant in the college game. At first blush, that seems a rather meaningless vote, especially as it’s non-binding. However, many of the major baseball conferences want to be “allowed” to pay a current “volunteer assistant.” Thirteen of fourteen Big Ten athletic directors voted against the pay for the assistant, with Rutgers (really) being the exception.
The vote on the third paid assistant isn’t until April, but some bad news: Big Ten ADs oppose it 13-1, per a recent vote. Considering the budget of those athletic programs, it’s brutal they won’t support adding another full-time coach to a sport with an awful coach:player ratio.— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) February 8, 2019
At the very best, this is a bad look for the Big Ten. As the Cubs pipeline got better with a greater commitment to coaching and development, the same applies here. It’s a bit of a “Do you really need all those minor league affiliates?” from Tribune Company to Dallas Green’s Cubs. Colleges can continue with a dismissive attitude toward baseball coaching. Regardless, southern schools will be better than northern schools. If an Athletic Director is about Directing Athletics, keeping baseball the worst coach-to-player ratio is an odd rack to hang a hat upon.
If you’re going to be out in Arizona for spring training, it’s a wonderful opportunity to watch some college baseball. The Arizona State Sun Devils have a fantastic venue, Phoenix Municipal Stadium, former spring home of the Athletics. Be among the first on your block to see Spencer Torkelson to play. The sophomore has obscene power for the Sun Devils. Hunter Bishop will be drafted early.
Grand Canyon University (center fielder Quin Cotton projects as a second day choice) plays in the Phoenix metro area, as do some smaller colleges.
A growing trend is to have college “tournament style match-ups” while the Cactus League games are going. That gives scouts already in town for exhibition games a chance to pop over and assess four teams in a day. Over the first weekend, for instance, Grand Canyon hosts a tourney with Ball State, Wichita State, and CSU Bakersfield. On Monday, they host Stanford, in case you want some information on potential Cubs first-rounder Josh Stowers. GCU home games are free to the public, and were streamed and posted last season on You Tube, as well. The Illini visit Brazell Field the weekend of March 8-10, and GCU hosts Xavier (with big pitching name Conor Grammes) March 14-16.
Arizona State hosts Notre Dame, UC Davis, Pepperdine, Michigan State, Xavier (I’m sensing a trend.), and Washington State before MLB camps break. Arizona sites this opening weekend include Scottsdale, Surprise, Tempe, Sloan Park (Brigham Young versus Northwestern, in a series being streamed on Facebook Live), and scads of sites in Florida, if you prefer grapefruits to cacti. The series in Sloan slightly increases the likelihood of a Wildcat or Cougar being selected in June, which would cause me to chuckle.
The very pingy bats have largely gone away. The newer “composite” bats act more like wood, trampoline less, and aren’t as extreme as a decade ago. Spring training is partially about “seeing the kids play.” Don’t rule out taking in a college game before April rolls around. It’s where many eventual MLB players are selected from. The laundry is different, but the game and the chase are the same.