With the college baseball regionals now wrapped up and the super regionals getting ready to begin, a few names stood out in this past round of games.
Sixteen teams now remain in the tournament heading into the super regionals, and the winner of each best-of-three series will advance to the College World Series. From there, the eight remaining teams will play in double-elimination games, followed by a best-of-three championship series.
Heading into the super regionals, let's take a look at a few players who continue to generate buzz as potential first-rounders in the upcoming MLB draft.
Nick Burdi, RHP, Louisville
Most of the prospects who are in the mix as potential first-round selections are either positional players or pitchers who are expected to be starters one day. However, Louisville's Nick Burdi is hoping to be drafted as a relief pitcher, and given how impressive he's been in college, he has a shot at getting selected pretty early.
In 28 games played this season, Burdi has recorded 16 saves, 58 strikeouts and a ridiculous ERA of just 0.54 in 33.1 innings of work. He was just as impressive last season, posting a 0.76 ERA on his way to being named an All-American.
At 6'4'' and 215 pounds, Burdi won't be a starter, due to his lack of pitches, but he'll be an MLB-ready reliever with his fastball. That fastball will get him a long way, as it reaches the high 90s but has some sink to it. He also has a developing breaking ball that can hit the high 80s, but he'll need to work on his command before it's a true plus pitch.
"For a team that has an immediate need for a reliever/closer, here’s a guy that if you’re trying to make a run at the pennant and need help on the back end of a bullpen, I would think his stuff is showing that," Louisville coach Dan McDonnell told Rick Bozich from WDRB.com.
Overall, Burdi will have a very good chance of going in the first round, especially to a team such as the Detroit Tigers. If he does end up going to Detroit, it wouldn't be out of the question to think he could spend a couple of months in the farm league before being called up to pitch out of the bullpen when the postseason approaches later this season.
Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State
When it comes to outfielders in this year's draft, Michael Conforto might be one of the most pro-ready from an offensive standpoint, as his bat has helped carry the Oregon State Beavers throughout the year.
Conforto has been a very consistent hitter throughout his career, hitting above .340 over the past three seasons and showing some solid power with 31 career home runs. What's helped his stock this year, however, has been his improved discipline at the plate, as he has whiffed less and drawn more walks compared to his first two seasons.
Oregon State head coach Pat Casey believes Conforto will be a special player at the next level, according to Kerry Eggers from the Portland Tribune: "There are very few players who have the 'it' factor. Michael has it. [...] He's going to be a big-league player. I'm not always right about that, but I have a good feeling this guy has what it takes. Not only the tools, but the makeup. The guys who have both of them offer a pretty lethal combination."
While he looks to have a solid bat that will project well to the majors, Conforto will need to work on his fielding abilities. He projects as a left fielder but isn't the fastest player and doesn't have a strong arm, limiting his effectiveness in the outfield.
Still, given his promise with the bat in his hands, Conforto will find a home in the first round and will likely be one of the first outfielders taken.
Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Texas Christian
Few college pitchers have been as consistently successful this season as Texas Christian University's Brandon Finnegan, and that consistency bodes well as he prepares for this week's draft.
It's been a breakout year for Finnegan, who posted an ERA of just 2.07 along with a WHIP of 1.01 and 122 strikeouts in 91.1 innings of work this year. While his 5'11'' frame would be a bit of a concern if he were a right-handed pitcher, the fact that he's a lefty makes his size less of an issue.
What's even more surprising given his tiny frame is Finnegan's velocity, as his fastball can range from the mid- to high 90s and still has quite a bit of movement. He also possesses a plus slider that can hit the high 80s and a solid changeup.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweeted that he was impressed with the increase in velocity from Finnegan and that it could help him become a top-10 pick.
Finnegan will need to work on his command in the minors, but he does a nice job changing speeds, and that will help him make batters miss while he works on that. He started in college, but given the life and the velocity of his fastball when he's rested, he could also potentially have a future in the majors out of the bullpen.
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