No college player had a better weekend than Kentucky's A.J. Reed. On Friday night, he threw seven shutout innings to beat Florida and hit a solo home run to provide all the support he needed. After shifting to DH on Saturday and Sunday, he went deep in both games and finished the series 8-for-12 with six RBI.
Reed might be having a better season than any college player, too. He's hitting .377/.507/.781 after 32 games, ranking second in NCAA Division I in homers (12) and slugging, fourth in RBI (39) and fifth in total bases (89). In eight starts on the mound, he has gone 6-1, with a 1.93 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 56 innings.
The Mets drafted Reed as a left-handed pitcher in the 25th round three years ago out of Terre Haute (Ind.) South HS. This time around, he'll almost certainly get popped as a lefty-hitting first baseman and probably go in the second round.
"As far as college position guys with power, they're not a dime a dozen," an area scout said. "I like him as a hitter. He finds the barrel, somehow, someway. He's not getting fooled up there. He's got good hands and I like the power. He's an advanced college hitter."
Reed isn't a bad athlete at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, but he doesn't run well enough to play a position other than first base. Though he has been effective as the Wildcats' No. 1 starter and some scouts preferred him on the mound coming into the season, he profiles better as a hitter.
"He's get his fastball up there at 90-91 mph and touch 92, but by the third inning he's throwing 88-89," the scout said. "It's nothing overpowering and it's long and hitters see it pretty good. His curveball is slurvy and it's a touch below-average pitch most of the time. He's more of a good college pitcher."
Draft prospect Finnegan winning again for TCU
Texas Christian left-hander Brandon Finnegan couldn't buy a win as a sophomore. He surrendered two runs or less in eight of his 15 starts last year yet finished with an 0-8 record.
This season, Finnegan consistently has dominated college hitters and has the victories to show for it. Even after a no-decision on Friday against West Virginia, he has gone 5-2 through eight starts. He currently ranks second in NCAA Division I with 80 strikeouts and third with 12.8 whiffs per nine innings, and he has posted a 1.60 ERA while limiting opponents to a .179 average.
According to an area scout who has seen him three times this year, Finnegan's stuff hasn't changed much from 2013 to 2014 but his command has.
"He'll touch 97 mph and he sits at 93-95," the scout said. "He topped out a 95 on Friday for me. His slider is good. His changeup has gotten better, but it's confidence and throwing strikes. He's ahead in the count, and that makes a difference."
Finnegan has cut his walk rate from 3.2 per nine innings a year ago to 2.4 this spring. His low-80s slider improved when he spent the summer facing quality competition with Team USA and in the Cape Cod League. One scouting director said Finnegan could fit right into a big league bullpen with his fastball and slider.
Though Finnegan is 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, smaller than scouts would prefer for a starter, he should have what it takes to make it in a Major League rotation. He's built along the lines of former All-Star southpaw Mike Hampton. No. 21 on MLBPipeline.com's initial First-Year Player Draft rankings in December, Finnegan has improved his stock and projects to go in the 10-15 range.
"Some people still might say he's going to end up as a reliever, but he's a starter for me," the scout said. "He has three pitches, he's throwing strikes, his delivery is good and it doesn't have a lot of effort. I watched Travis Wood pitch on TV the other day, and Finnegan's not that different from him. He throws harder too."
Prep arm Holmes powers his way up Draft boards
Right-hander Tyler Kolek (Shepherd, Texas, HS) and lefty Brady Aiken (Cathedral Catholic HS, San Diego) have established themselves as the top high school pitchers in the 2014 Draft and potential No. 1 overall picks. In a deep year for prep arms, righty Grant Holmes (Conway, S.C., HS) is doing his best to separate himself from the rest of the pack.
Holmes hit 100 mph with his fastball during a preseason scrimmage and has delivered premium velocity in his first three starts of the season. Rained out on Monday, he'll pitch again on Tuesday.
Holmes consistently pitches at 92-95 mph and touches 97, pitching off two- and four-seam fastballs and showing improved ability to work both sides of the plate. His hard power curveball, which already was a weapon, has gotten better as well. His changeup shows promise as a third pitch.
"Tyler Kolek and Brady Aiken are better, but he might be the third-best high school arm," a scouting director said. "Touki Toussaint (Coral Springs, Fla., Christian Academy) has similar stuff, but Holmes' command is better. I saw him throw 92-96."
Holmes' older brother Colby helped South Carolina win two College World Series and finish runner-up in a third before signing with the Braves as a non-drafted free agent last summer. Holmes, who has committed to Florida, will find his services in greater demand this June. Ranked No. 18 on MLBPipeline.com's initial First-Year Player Draft Top 50, he should go in the upper half of the first round.
If there was a knock on Holmes, it's that he's shorter and heavier than his listed 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds. But while he's closer to 6-foot-1 and 215, his pair of potential well above-average pitches make up for what he may lack in projection. And he has the physical build to hold up as a starter.
"He looks like he's in very good shape," the director said. "It looks like he did a good job of conditioning himself this winter. He's really strong. You could wish he was bigger, but he's strong and you really don't have to project much. Every once in while he gets on the side of his breaking ball, but he's a starter."