3/26/2012 11:22:29 AM
I finally was able to watch Mark Appel pitch since catching his first start in the season. While Appel's stuff is obvious, the flatness of his fastball, lack of command of his breaking ball and overall control caused some concern with me, at least in context of someone being considered for the first overall pick.
While I hadn't seen any of his starts in over a month, it was reported by others that Appel was much sharper in his second start of the year, and he looked very impressive in his start against USC yesterday (Sunday 3/25).
His fastball stands out, reportedly 93-96 in this game and he maintained that velocity into the 9th inning. He was nearly unhittable in the early frames, and had a 1-0 lead going into the 9th, and recorded 2 quick outs on 3 pitches before USC rallied for 2 runs. He spotted his fastball well, and his mid-80s slider is also a very impressive pitch, coming out of his hand like his fastball before breaking down and away from right-handed batters. He threw a changeup, and also looked to take a little off of his slider to throw a breaking ball with more of a 12-6 curveball break, but his fastball and slider are his money pitches. When he wasn't striking batters out, he was inducing weak groundballs.
Stephen Piscotty started Stanford's rally in the bottom of the 9th with a double. I really like Piscotty's swing and overall approach, and think he will continue to add home run power as he learns to loft the ball more. Right now his swing is tailored more to make hard contact up the middle and to the gaps.
Austin Wilson had the big blow, a booming 2-run shot that led to Stanford's walkoff 4-2 win. Wilson is a great athlete overall, with a continually growing athletic and muscular frame. He can crush good fastballs, and physically he looks like he could star in the NFL as a LB or TE. The former PG/Aflac All-American has star written all over him, but still needs to make adjustments at the plate, particularly laying off breaking balls low and away (a common problem for many to most young hitters).
Andrew Triggs was the starter for USC, and did a nice job carving up the Stanford lineup for most of the game as Appel did to the Trojans. Triggs was in the upper-80s to low-90s with his sinking fastball, and he too threw a slider, although not as dynamic as Appel's. He worked efficiently and has obvious pro potential.
Brett Mooneyham started game 2 of the doubleheader on Sunday (rain postponed Saturday's game in a scheduled Sat-Mon series). He pitched a very solid game for Stanford, going 7 innings, allowing 6 hits and 3 walks while striking out 9. He did throw 126 pitches in this game, which isn't surprising if you watched the game. While he was always around the zone, he struggles to consistently throw strikes. While it has been reported that his mechanics have dramatically improved, he still needs to work on his release point. He clearly has swing-and-miss stuff, with a low-90s fastball, a curve, slider and changeup that are all solid pitches, but I have never seen him command his full repertoire at the same time. He'll show flashes with one pitch or another from one inning to the next, as he did in this game. His upside is quite high given his size and left-handedness, and it may simply require him receiving the proper instruction at the pro level for him to reach that potential.
Like Mooneyham, Kevin Gausman had a solid statistical performance in his Friday start against Auburn (5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 8 K, 5 BB), but he struggled to throw strikes. Gausman has enjoyed a very solid season this year, and continues to put his name in the conversation for the very early picks of this June's draft. We've had recently reports of him throwing in the mid-90s, peaking at 97, and staying in the 93-95 range late in ballgames. His fastball had plenty of zip in this game, and while he threw a handful of promising breaking balls, he didn't snap them off or command them as consistently well as I've seen in the past.
Going into the series I was curious to see how well, or even how much, Auburn would run on the basepaths with Ty Ross behind the plate. Coming into the game the Tigers had stolen 57 bases in 77 attempts, but in the 3-game series they were only successful once in 3 attempts. Ross has a cannon for an arm, and improving accuracy and overall defensive prowess behind the plate. He's a sophomore with a big, strong frame and enough looseness to his frame to believe he will only continue to improve. Ross had a strong weekend at the plate, and is now hitting .342 on the year. His 3 doubles aren't a good indicator of his eventual power potential.
Auburn OF Cullen Wacker is a brute. He's also appropriately named, with a huge, barrel-chested upper body, and can muscle the ball out of the park. I covered Wacker in the PGCBL last summer when he was named the league's MVP of their mid-summer all-star game thanks to a game-winning home run. He's hitting .321 this year, and only 1 home run, but hit a booming double off of Gausman in this game.
I also had the opportunity to watch Arkansas reliever Nolan Sanburn in the 3rd game of their series against Mississippi State. He came in early in this game after starter Randall Fant struggled to record an out in the 2nd inning of this game.
Sanburn was called upon with the bases loaded and no outs in the 2nd, and he only allowed 1 of those baserunners to score. His first pitch was hit sharply to the 2B to start an easy 4-6-3 double play, and after he walked the next 2 batters, he froze the final Bulldogs batter of that inning with a nasty curveball. His arm strength is apparent, and there is some sinking life to his fastball that is typically clocked in the low-to-mid-90s. His curveball has tight break, and he also throws a more violent breaking ball in his slider that he uses to get batters fishing in the dirt. He has good arm speed and is a good overall athlete despite not having the prototypical size. I'd like to see him start, which he may at the next level, as he has the repertoire to do so. He struggled somewhat during his 2 inning stint, giving up a pair of hits while walking 3, but didn't allow an earned run. He also struck out 4, the 2nd of which came looking on a fastball, the third swinging on a curve and the fourth swinging on a slider.
Fant started the game pretty well, working quickly pounding the lower half of the strike zone with his sinking fastball. He has a low waist and a tall, skinny frame with plenty of room for added strength.
Mississippi State CF Hunter Renfroe showed why he was named our No. 1 prospect in the Cal Ripken League last summer, and why he sits at No. 12 on our top prospect list for the 2013 draft.
The first thing that stands out is his size, as he is an impressive and physically imposing athlete listed at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds. I wouldn't be surprised if his actual weight was around 220, and if it isn't already, it probably will be in the 220-230 range some day, and he will carry it well. He has long, strong limbs and is very loose for his size. He has caught some in the past, but played CF on this day, which may be a good call to take advantage of his athleticism. He takes an equally big and confident swing at the plate, ripping a belt-high inside fastball from Sanburn to left field in this game for a single, and he showed his selectivity by walking twice in the contest. He promptly stole second after his single, showing off his ability to run.
While he hasn't taken the mound at all this year, he also has promise as a right-handed pitcher.