Scouting the Top 10 Prospects Playing in the College World Series
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
North Carolina clinched a College World Series berth on Tuesday afternoon, as it defeated South Carolina, 5-4.
Their win also finalized the field of eight teams headed to Omaha this year: Indiana, Louisiana State, Louisville, Mississippi State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Oregon State and UCLA.
The games begins on Saturday when Oregon State plays Mississippi State at 3 p.m. ET, followed by Indiana vs. Louisville at 8 p.m. ET.
On Sunday, North Carolina will take on North Carolina State at 3 p.m. ET, followed by LSU vs. UCLA at 8 p.m. ET.
And as you enjoy what’s sure to be an exciting and eventful weekend of college baseball, be sure to keep an eye on these 10 prospects.
10. Jeff Thompson, RHP, Louisville
At 6’6”, 260 pounds, Thompson—a third-round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers—is a physically mature right-hander with impressive athleticism for his size. Employing a smooth and repeatable delivery, he’ll sit in the low-90s with fastball, though the pitch tends to play up as he uses his long limbs to generate considerable extension towards the plate while working on a consistent downhill plane.
Thompson’s best secondary pitch is a curveball that flashes above-average potential, and he’s done a much better job using it as an out-pitch and burying it out of the strike zone. Meanwhile, the right-hander’s changeup is a decent offering at the moment, but will need refinement to be successful at the next level.
9. JaCoby Jones, 2B/OF, Louisiana State
There may not be a more exciting player in college baseball than JaCoby Jones. At 6’3”, 200 pounds, Jones—who was drafted in the third round by the Pirates—stands out for his combination of plus power and speed, and has electric athleticism that’s obvious on both sides of the ball.
The only knock on the right-handed hitter is that his approach and pitch recognition are raw, though both have noticeably improved since the end of his sophomore season.
8. Ryan Eades, RHP, Louisiana State
Coming off a breakout season as a sophomore in 2012, Eades was widely regarded as one of the top arms in this year’s draft headed into the season. However, the 6’3” right-hander’s stuff took a step back this spring: his fastball velocity dipped into the upper-80s/low-90s and his secondary offerings were less consistent.
However, given Eades’ flashes of dominance in the past and strong track record in a good conference (SEC), the Twins decided to take a flier on him in the sandwich round with the No. 43 overall pick.
7. Aaron Nola, RHP, Louisiana State
Nola burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2012, registering a 3.61 ERA with 89/7 K/BB in 89.2 innings while serving as LSU’s No. 2 starter behind Kevin Gausman. The 6’1”, 183-pound right-hander has been even more impressive this season as the Friday starter and, more significantly, has emerged as one of the top college arms in the 2014 draft class.
Working from a low three-quarter arm slot, Nola will comfortably sit in the low-90s with his heavy fastball that induces both whiffs and weak contact. His curveball has really improved compared to last season, and is an above-average pitch with tight spin and depth. The right-hander also does a nice job of keeping hitters off balance with his changeup, which registers in the 83-85 mph range.
Nola is also coming off arguably the best game of his college career, as he fired a two-hit shutout against Oklahoma on Friday night to clinch a College World Series berth.
6. Nick Burdi, RHP, Louisville
After appearing in only 14 games as a true freshman in 2012, Burdi has absolutely dominated this season as Louisville’s closer. The 6’4”, 218-pound right-hander has grown into his frame over the last year and seen his velocity jump as a result. His fastball has sat in the upper-90s this spring and frequently eclipses triple digits, while his breaking ball represents a second plus offering.
Regardless of whether he’s moved into the starting rotation next season, Burdi’s arm strength and ability to miss bats has already made him one of the more talked about prospects in the 2014 draft class.
5. Alex Bregman, SS, Louisiana State
Arguably the top freshman position player in the nation—and possibly even top overall prospect—Bregman has been insanely good for the Tigers this season. While his tools at shortstop don’t stand out, the 6’, 190-pounder has tremendous instincts and plays the position aggressively.
At the plate, Bregman can flat-out rake. The right-handed hitter has a short, simple swing that consistently yields line drives from line-to-line, and he should grow into more power as he matures physically. With one of the best hit tools among all college players, the freshman should be a top-10 overall draft pick in 2015.
4. Hunter Renfroe, OF, Mississippi State
A 6’1”, 216-pound outfielder, Renfroe is loaded with athleticism and possesses three legitimate plus tools in his speed, power and arm strength. But while he had always been lauded for his natural ability, it was the development of his baseball skills over the last year that led to his selection by the Padres in the first round (No. 13 overall) of the 2013 draft.
3. Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State
Turner had an outstanding freshman season in 2012, batting .336/.432/.459 with 57 stolen bases in 61 attempts and more walks than strikeouts while playing third base. And since sliding over to shortstop this season, the sophomore has taken his game to a new level.
At 6’2”, 175 pounds, Turner is excellent athlete with legitimate plus-plus speed and the range to stick at shortstop. At the plate, the right-handed hitter shows above-average bat speed with a smooth swing, but lacks consistent over-the-fence pop. Meanwhile, his plate discipline and approach is also highly advanced for his age and should give him the chance to reach his hit-tool ceiling at the next level.
In general, Turner is a high-energy, impact player who should be a sure-fire top-10 pick in 2014.
2. Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina
Selected by the Marlins with the No. 6 pick in the 2013 draft, Moran was widely regarded as the most polished hitter in this year’s class. Beyond his excellent plate discipline and ability to control the strike zone, the 6’3”, 215-pound left-handed hitter has a smooth, balanced swing and knows how to use the entire field.
Although he possesses only average power, Moran has a knack for driving in runs at the heart of the Tar Heels’ order.
1. Carlos Rodon, LHP, North Carolina State
Selected in the 16th round of the 2011 draft by the Brewers, Rodon honored his commitment to North Carolina State and emerged as the top freshman in the nation last year with a 9-0 record, 1.57 ERA and 135/41 K/BB in 114.2 innings. As a result of his overwhelming success, he became the first freshman to be a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award as college baseball’s top player.
At 6’3”, 234 pounds, the left-hander has a smooth and repeatable delivery in which he utilizes his strong core and lower half. Meanwhile, Rodon’s stuff is as good as his video game-like numbers suggest. He throws an explosive fastball in the mid-90s and can reach back for more ticks when needed, while his wipeouts slider is an easy plus pitch that generates tons of whiffs.