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After a lackluster performance against Northern Kentucky, Mississippi State RHP Landon Sims had something special against Tulane this past Friday. Perfect through three innings, Sims struck out 10 of the first 11 batters he faced, only allowing a flyout in the second inning. His elite fastball/slider combination was a sight to behold, and at 52 pitches, it appeared that Sims was heading for a 15+ strikeout start.
That was until he got hurt snapping one of his pitches.
Not a good sign to see Sims arm make that flapping motion. Mississippi State did announce that an MRI was taken, but the results were still not public at the time of this writing. There are many, including me, fearing the worst. Another high-caliber college starting pitcher may need Tommy John surgery. If the worst fear becomes a reality, Sims will join Arkansas RHP Peyton Pallette, Alabama LHP Connor Prielipp, and UConn LHP Reggie Crawford in the Tommy John surgery camp.
Top 2022 MLB Draft College Starting Pitchers
|Rank (Top 100)||Pitcher||Health Status|
|1 (15)||LHP Carson Whisenhunt||Healthy (Team Suspension)|
|2 (20)||RHP Landon Sims||Questionable|
|3 (21)||RHP Blade Tidwell||Out (Shoulder soreness)|
|4 (25)||RHP Kumar Rocker||Questionable|
|5 (33)||RHP Peyton Pallette||Out (Tommy John)|
|6 (34)||LHP Hunter Barco||Healthy|
|7 (36)||LHP Connor Prielipp||Out (Tommy John)|
|8 (42)||LHP Reggie Crawford||Out (Tommy John)|
|9 (46)||LHP Bryce Hubbart||Healthy|
|10 (55)||LHP Parker Messick||Healthy|
|11 (57)||RHP Gabriel Hughes||Healthy|
Out of the top 11 college starting pitchers, including RHP Kumar Rocker, who is not pitching for Vanderbilt this season, leaves five healthy starting pitchers currently. We are still waiting to hear how much longer Tennessee RHP Blade Tidwell’s shoulder soreness will keep him in the dugout.
These significant injuries are opening the door for someone like Gonzaga RHP Gabriel Hughes (more on him later) to rise up draft boards. But these injuries will invite the conversation between scouts, crosscheckers, directors, and general managers: Is it worth spending millions of your draft bonus pool on hurt pitchers? Last year, we saw the Toronto Blue Jays select Ole Miss RHP Gunnar Hoglund in the first round. They took that risk believing Hoglund’s above-average command will still be there after Tommy John rehab.
We’ve seen Michael Kopech bounce back from Tommy John surgery. Lucas Giolito also got the procedure out of high school after signing with the Washington Nationals. Despite the long rehab time, teams are figuring out how to help their pitchers bounce back. Perhaps this run of success will influence how teams think when it’s their turn to make their selection in the first round. These are quality arms with starting pitching potential, but they are hurt right now. Are they worth the risk? We’ll find out in a few months.
Updated Top 50 MLB Draft Prospect List
The Average MLB Draft Rankings database aggregates prospect rankings from MLB.com, Baseball America, Prep Baseball Report, ESPN, FanGraphs, and Prospects Live. This week’s updates to the database are new rankings from ESPN, FanGraphs, and Prospects Live. The full database is only available to Sox Machine Patreon supporters.
|1||Druw Jones||OF||Wesleyan HS (GA)|
|2||Termarr Johnson||2B||Mays HS (GA)|
|3||Elijah Green||OF||IMG Academy (FL)|
|4||Brooks Lee||SS||Cal Poly|
|5||Jace Jung||2B||Texas Tech|
|7||Chase DeLauter||OF||James Madison|
|8||Dylan Lesko||RHP||Buford HS (GA)|
|9||Gavin Cross||OF||Virginia Tech|
|11||Brandon Barriera||LHP||American Heritage Plantation HS (FL)|
|12||Kevin Parada||C||Georgia Tech|
|14||Logan Tanner||C||Mississippi State|
|15||Carson Whisenhunt||LHP||East Carolina|
|16||Cole Young||SS||North Allegheny HS (PA)|
|18||Cam Collier||3B||Chipola JC|
|19||Jackson Ferris||LHP||IMG Academy|
|20||Landon Sims||RHP||Mississippi State|
|22||Brock Porter||RHP||Orchard Lake St. Marys Prep (MI)|
|23||Jackson Holliday||SS||Stillwater HS (OK)|
|24||Ian (JR) Ritchie||RHP||Bainbridge Island HS (WA)|
|28||Walter Ford||RHP||Pace HS (FL)|
|30||Mikey Romero||SS||Orange Lutheran HS (CA)|
|32||Noah Schultz||LHP||Oswego East (HS)|
|35||Andrew Dutkanych||RHP||Brebeuf HS (IN)|
|38||Hayden Dunhurst||C||Ole Miss|
|39||Tristan Smith||LHP||Boiling Springs HS (SC)|
|43||Brady Neal||C||IMG Academy|
|45||Bryce Hubbart||LHP||Florida State|
|46||Malcolm Moore||C||C.K. McClatchy HS (CA)|
|47||Justin Crawford||OF||Bishop Gorman HS (NV)|
|48||Henry Bolte||OF||Palo Alto HS (CA)|
|49||Jordan Sprinkle||SS||UC Santa Barbara|
|50||Paxton Kling||OF||Central Martinsburg HS, PA|
NCBWA Hitter of the Week:
Nathan Chong, Saint Mary’s
What a weekend for Nathan Chong of Saint Mary’s! Against UC Riverside, Chong went 11-for-15 in four games with nine runs, four doubles, two triples, two home runs, and 12 RBI. He walked three times and just struck out once.
Chong has the nation’s second-highest batting average at .567 and is paired with a .674 OBP and 1.200 SLG.
NCBWA Pitcher(s) of the Week:
RHP Sean Bergeron, Western Kentucky & RHP Thatcher Hurd, UCLA
Senior RHP Sean Bergeron had a solid start to 2022 for Western Kentucky. Bergeron went five innings against Western Illinois and Central Michigan in his first two appearances, ending with very similar results. In both games, he allowed eight hits, three earned runs and struck out four. Bergeron’s performance against Hartford this past Saturday was eye-opening. Throwing 103 pitches, Bergeron put together a complete game shutout striking out 16 while walking none and allowing three hits.
Thatcher Hurd was getting early-round draft consideration last year but opted to play at UCLA. Hurd is having mixed usage as the Bruins keep his pitch count below 80 in his appearances. Against Oklahoma in this past weekend’s Shriners College Classic, Hurd struck out three in 1.2 innings and looked dominant. A name to track for the 2024 MLB Draft.
NCBWA Top 25 Poll (As of 3/8/2022)
Draft Prospect Observations
I watched Friday night’s tilt between #13 Florida State and Cal. First, I think the Seminoles have a real shot of making it to Omaha this season. They are among the few teams with proven starting pitchers in LHP Bryce Hubbart and LHP Parker Messick. Two strong southpaws were an excellent test for Cal OF Dylan Beavers.
Friday night, Beavers faced Messick and wasn’t overwhelmed. In the third inning, he did a great job slicing a double into the left-field gap driving in a run. Beavers’ only mistake was trying to extend his double into a triple and was thrown out in the process. If it weren’t for the base coach pushing Beavers away from the umpire, there would have been a good chance for an ejection.
After collecting two hits against Messick, Beavers tagged Hubbart for a home run on Saturday, his fourth of the season.
In his last two games, Beavers is 1-for-9 with four strikeouts, impacting his season batting average. Through 12 games, Beavers is hitting .277/.397/.574 with ten walks to 14 strikeouts and on pace to put up similar counting numbers as last year (18 HR, 49 RBI).
A lot of my attention was on the action in Houston during the Shriners College Classic. I love these early weekend showcases pitting multiple Top 25 teams against one another. One of my favorite games of the weekend was the back and forth affair between #8 LSU and Oklahoma, where Tigers’ 2B Cade Doughty put on a show.
With LSU down by two runs in the bottom of the 8th inning, Doughty tied the game with a two-run opposite-field home run. Down by a run in the 10th inning, Doughty again delivered with a two-out RBI double. Against the Sooners, Doughty went 3-for-5 with two extra-base hits and 3 RBI.
Against #1 Texas the following day, Doughty was solid at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a walk and strikeout. After hitting 13 HR, 55 RBI with a slash line of .308/.368/.546 last year, Doughty already has 4 HR, 20 RBI with an impressive .388/.448/.796 splits. Dylan Crews and Jacob Berry deserve a lot of scout’s attention, but Doughty might be worth following closer as SEC conference play begins soon.
Draft Watch Board Notes
Gabriel Hughes, RHP, Gonzaga
In last week’s 2022 MLB Draft Report, I teased a review of Gabriel Hughes. A 6’4″ 220 lbs power pitcher with Gonzaga. With it being mid-March, the Bulldogs men’s basketball team gets a lot of deserved attention. Hughes should be receiving more press.
I watched Hughes against Cal State Fullerton a couple of weeks ago and was impressed with his overall stuff. The four-seam fastball was overwhelming Fullerton’s hitters and was paired with a hard slider. Hughes also flashed a cutter that he liked to use to get inside on left-handed hitters. I haven’t seen anything resembling a changeup from Hughes.
Just like Florida’s LHP Hunter Barco, Hughes loves to work quickly. With MLB trying to address pace of play, Hughes would be their poster child to speed up plate appearances. After each pitch, Hughes is already in position on the mound, waiting for his catcher to receive the sign from the dugout (Gonzaga is using the radio system to call pitches). The juxtaposition is a bit jarring after just watching Hughes ready to throw his next pitch while each hitter is still going through the motions of getting comfortable in the batters’ box.
Some will call it a bulldog mentality, but Hughes has been in control of the game’s flow when I’ve watched him. Even after allowing a home run to Oklahoma State, Hughes bounced right back to retire the next 15 batters in a row.
Hughes’s best pitch is the four-seam fastball that sits at 94-mph based and gets up to 96-mph. It looks like he’s throwing the fastball harder than that with how he gets batters to whiff. Mainly when Hughes locates the fastball up in the strike zone, it’s an effective pitch. When the slider is on, it’s a sharp pitch that keeps batters unbalanced in fastball counts. But the command is inconsistent. Too often, the pitch spikes at the plate, not even tempting opposing hitters to chase.
The pitch command will determine what Hughes’s future role will be. I don’t think there is any question he could have a 60-grade fastball and 50-grade slider in terms of velocity and spin. That combination plays in the majors. But is that a starting pitcher workload or future reliever? There are at-bats where Hughes struggles to get ahead of a hitter because he’s missing his target with the fastball. He doesn’t have a reliable second pitch to count on to steal a strike when that happens.
In college, Hughes will continue posting monster numbers because of how good his fastball is but any team that selects him will need to see something in his arsenal to develop further in the minor leagues. Dylan Cease has been pretty much a fastball and slider pitcher. Recently on his Instagram, Cease has been flashing a new changeup as he is still trying to improve his arsenal and develop another pitch he can throw for strikes. The White Sox never moved off Dylan Cease from being a starter, and with patience, I think any future team that drafts Hughes could benefit from the same.
Then some teams will draft Hughes to rush him through the farm system and have him appear in major league games out of the bullpen. Like the White Sox have done with Garrett Crochet.
That’s how I view Hughes’s future spectrum. His floor is a major league reliever, but the ceiling is a mid-rotation starter with a plus-fastball and the physical tools to develop better secondary offerings. As stated earlier in the report, this draft class is watching a number of its best college starting pitchers deal with significant injuries. Watching someone like Hughes is a breath of fresh air and is deserving to be in the conversation after pick 20, in my opinion.
I like him, and if I were part of the White Sox draft room, he’d be on my watch list.
Games I’m Watching This Weekend
#7 Notre Dame at #18 NC State – ACC Network
Nobody in particular on the MLB Draft radar to watch but it’ll be some fun baseball when Notre Dame visits NC State. I’m imagining a lot of offense in these three games.
#14 Arizona at Cal – Pac 12 Network
My first look at 17th ranked prospect, Daniel Susac, out of Arizona. Only has one home run through 13 games but has 9 doubles and a slash line of .403/.424/.629. The strikeout to walk ratio is a mess (2 BB:12 K), but Susac is another first-round grade catcher to watch. This series also gives me another look at Dylan Beavers.
Virginia Tech at #12 Georgia Tech – ACC Network
A chance to catch two top-15 draft prospects: Va. Tech OF Gavin Cross and Ga. Tech C Kevin Parada.
Cross has a nine-game hitting streak with 1 HR and 8 RBI hitting .351/.396/.455. Meanwhile, Parada is thrusting himself into early Player of the Year talks with 7 HR and 22 RBI, and slashing .472/.556/.962 in just 13 games.