Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville
The overall line was ugly for Funkhouser at Ole Miss. Over 3 2/3 innings, Funkhouser walked seven batters, struck out six, and allowed six earned runs. Though he’ll almost certainly throw better than he has in his first two outings of the season, Funkhouser’s stuff stumbled into the draft last year, and his mix of pitches looks closer to what we saw towards the end of last season than the above-average fastball/slider mix that helped get him popped with the 35th-overall pick.
Inconsistency was Funkhouser’s ruin on Friday, and most of that was mechanical. His motion is largely unchanged from his junior season: He throws from a slow-paced semi-windup, takes a pause over the rubber with a tall leg kick, and lands slightly open. Funkhouser’s overall control and command were fine on Friday; he moved his fastball to both sides of the plate, and most misses were good misses. At other times, he lost command of his fastball, often missing up and to his armside, as hepulled off his pitches and noticeably fell to the first-base side of the mound.
Funkhouser’s fastball sat around 90-92 mph occasionally touching 93 throughout the outing, failing to regularly reach the 94-96 velocity band he showed in the past. His fastball featured average armside life, though he managed to finish off some left-handed hitters with hard-running fastballs down and away for strikeouts. While he’s shown more zip on his fastball in the past, Funkhouser work with a more average fastball at the professional level.
Funkhouser’s slider also seems to have backslid. It was 79-83 on Friday, with short, lateral tilt, most often playing in the fringe-average range, while flashing average. Funkhouser was inconsistent with his ability to land the pitch for a strike. Funkhouser’s changeup was the weak spot last year, and not much has changed. He’s still struggling to get separation on the pitch, throwing more of a straight mid-80s batting-practice fastball. Indeed, one of his telegraphed changeups was out over the heart of the plate, and walloped for a long homerun to right field.
Entering 2015, Funkhouser enticed scouts as a potential middle-of-the-rotation starter thanks to a plus fastball/slider mix, and enough of a changeup to round out the arsenal. His current pitches are currently sitting a grade (or more) below that, and that’s pushed his profile towards that of a generic back-end starter.
Logan Shore, RHP, Florida
Shore turned in a dominant performance, throwing a complete-game shutout of no.6 Miami that highlighted the exact attributes that place him among the top right-handers in the country. His mature approach to pitching, poise, and control of a variety of pitches were all on display. Shore’s ability to change speeds and throw strikes with his secondaries had him looking like a seasoned veteran cruising through the Hurricanes lineup.
Shore has big-league starter written all over his body and delivery; with both grading out as plus. He’s a well-proportioned, athletic 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, with wide shoulders and good body control. He throws from a compact, clean semi-windup that is fairly rapid through his leg lift and drive to the plate. He low-maintenance delivery helps him finish his pitches cleanly and easily, giving him great touch at the end of his motion. Accordingly he has quality command to different quadrants of the zone.
Although Shore’s stuff is solid, his arsenal isn’t particularly overwhelming, as it lacks huge raw velocity: His fastball sits in the upper 80s/lower 90s. His great control and pitchability helps everything play up. Shore’s fastball has good life, consistently angling away from left-handed hitters with precision. He gets ahead in counts and has an advanced, pro-style concept of setting up his secondary pitches by establishing his fastball for strike one.
Shore’s changeup is actually the better of his two secondary pitches, and he throws a healthy dose to both right and left-handed hitters. It’s a circle-change grip that features diving and dropping action and his confidence throwing the pitch for a strike really stands out. His changeup grades out as average to above-average, and it sets up his fastball to appear quicker than its low-90s velocity. Shore’s slider is less dynamic than his changeup. It’s a short, tight pitch in the low 80s that will probably play closer to average at the pro level, rather than being a genuine swing-and-miss offering. That said, Shore has a very good feel for the pitch, and his slider plays up in his overall arsenal because of how well he can land it for a strike.
Shore has all the makings of a reliable big-league starter that will throw in the middle of a rotation, and he has the polish to be among the quickest movers through the minor leagues of any pitcher in this class.
Jordan Sheffield, RHP, Vanderbilt
Sheffield had a dominant performance against UIC Chicago on Friday, striking out 11 batters in seven innings, walking one, and allowing five hits without a run allowed. He’s put together as strong a start to his season as any of the major college arms in this draft class, striking out 18, allowing one earned run and recording a miniscule .200 batting average against over his first 12 innings pitched.
Sheffield has cut down on a lot of moving parts in his delivery, now throwing from a controlled semi-windup. He finds a strong leg kick and balance point over the rubber, and pushes towards the plate with moderate back-leg drive and head-snap upon releasing the ball. Though there’s still some “thwack” at the end of his delivery, the violence and maximum effort in Sheffield’s motion has improved significantly since his high school days. Still, his back side often swings around hard after he releases the ball, and it can cause him to fall off the mound, and his pitches to ride up in the zone.
From a pure stuff standpoint, Sheffield rivals any college pitcher in the country. His fastball comes out of the gate sizzling in the 93-96 mph range, with the natural second-gear that a good fastball possesses. He’s able to blow his fastball by hitters, and it shouldn’t surprise if Sheffield grabs some 97s and 98s—even as a starter—as the season moves forward. Despite its well-above-average velocity, there are concerns about his fastball’s movement and command within the zone. Sheffield has mastered his delivery enough that basic strikes haven’t been an issue so far, but many of his fastballs are fairly straight four-seamers left in the middle or at the top of the zone. That hasn’t hindered him much at the college level, but simply overwhelming with velocity up in the strike zone becomes less effective as a pitcher moves closer to the big leagues. Just how well Sheffield addresses these issues will be something that scouting departments will monitor as the season continues.
Sheffield backs up a plus fastball with a plus breaking ball, and he’s even flashed a much improved changeup. At its best, Sheffield’s curveball turns in nearly-unanimous plus grades, and it’s been at its best more consistently early on in 2015. It is a hard, power curveball that he throws with a fast arm and noticeably loose wrist; it has very tight rotation and takes a sharp bite with two-plane action. Perhaps most impressive has been the progress he’s made with his changeup, as it has flashed above average at times. In his first start of the season against San Diego, he mixed in a change with great separation off his fastball, thrown deceptively, with good arm-speed. His best changeups feature good sink and fading action down and away from left-handers. The development of this pitch as a consistent third offering is highly encouraging.
There are questions about Sheffield’s long-term profile, with the general consensus split as to whether he profiles better as a starter or reliever. So far he’s had two strong outings, and much like Dillon Tate last season, the scouting community will watch every Friday to learn a little more about Sheffield’s potential long-term role at the big league level. He’ll have a good test this weekend when Vanderbilt travels to Stanford.
Corey Ray, OF, Louisville
Ray is among the best athletes in this year’s draft class, and has a type of tantalizing physicality and speed combination that one doesn’t often see in the college ranks. This past weekend, Ray showed at least average raw power to his pull side on a few long, loud outs, with a pro-style look tracking the ball off his bat. He’s got loose hands and lots of natural leverage in his swing. Rather than his athleticism, power, or speed, Ray’s hit tool is the question. While there have been improvements in that area, he would benefit from finding a quieter hitting base. There aren’t as many moving parts in Ray’s swing as there used to be, but he never comes still in his base before the swing begins—something that’s increasingly problematic as he faces progressively better pitching. You won’t find many players with supplementary tools that rival Ray’s. He’s a true physical specimen with chiseled muscularity, and despite a swing with some length, he gets up the line extremely quickly. He’s a fun player to watch—the million-dollar question for scouting departments will be how his raw tools come together, though it would be a surprise (as it stands today) if he falls from the first round in June.
Octavio Rodriguez, LHP, Auburn
Rodriguez made a spot start Friday, pitching three innings against Southern. The big 6-foot-4, 215-pound lefty works free and easy, though his delivery has some cross-fire action that can hold up the execution of his secondary pitches. Rodriguez was a late-round draft pick by the White Sox out of an El Paso high school in 2013, and since then has bounced around between Oklahoma and Navarro (TX) JC. He works 85-90 mph on his fastball, which gets on hitters quickly with some deception, and creates tough angles against left handers. He mixes in a shorter cutter in the mid 80s and a soft, slurvy breaking ball. None of his pitches are truly average, and, he profiles best as a minor league reliever. Still, he’s at a big school and is a physical left-handed pitcher with some deception. It might be after his senior year, but it wouldn’t shock to see Rodriguez as a later-round draft pick this year or next.
Errol Robinson, SS, Mississippi
The slick-fielding Robinson had a tough weekend defensively, making a few costly errors against a strong Louisville team. He still showed the overall defensive tools that have long intrigued scouts since he debuted for Mississippi, however. Robinson moves with ease and fluidity, and has the raw actions and range of a pro-level shortstop. I’ve questioned whether he has the arm of a big league shortstop, but this weekend he finished some plays with slightly more arm than I’ve seen in the past. Concerns about Robinson’s bat remain, though, and I’ve never fully bought into him hitting enough to profile as a regular at the big league level. Robinson looks the part and has some defensive chops—those will get him in the door—but he’ll have to develop his offensive game to fit a higher profile at the professional level.
Brendan McKay, LHP/1B, Louisville
McKay is a 2017-eligible player, though he will be near the top of everyone’s list next year. With a physical 6-foot-3 frame, he’s been doing his best Danny Hultzen impression as an underclassman at Louisville, playing a key role in both the Cardinals’ offense and rotation. McKay was a presence in the middle of Louisville’s lineup throughout the weekend—he’d be a pro prospect simply for his bat—but there’s just no way that a lefty this polished can be kept off the mound as a pro. As a pitcher, McKay impressed with his poise and fastball command. His low-effort delivery and ability to spot his fastball within the strike zone rival almost any pitcher in this year’s class, let alone sophomores that are eligible next season. He threw a complete game shutout on Saturday, operating in the low 90s and throwing numerous pitches for strikes. McKay will be a key player in Louisville’s success in the coming two seasons, and will enter next spring as a candidate to go very early in 2017.
Chad Smith, RHP, Mississippi
Though he took the loss, Smith pitched a very strong seven innings on Saturday, battling McKay and Louisville. With a lean 6-foot-4 frame, and long arms and legs, he has a somewhat hunched semi-windup, and tilts his shoulders as he drives to the plate with a true three-quarters arm slot. Smith has some arm strength, running a fastball with fringy command up to 92-93 mph. He threw a below-average slider in the upper 70s with fairly flat shape, though he did a good job landing it for strikes. At times, Smith mixed in a below-average changeup that lacked movement. All things considered, this guy is right on the bubble of the top 10 rounds, though he could boost his stock with a strong spring in an SEC weekend rotation. I don’t see enough in his delivery, command, or secondaries to project Smith as a sure-fire starting prospect, but he’s a definite draft whose arm strength and feel for a decent slider might play up in a shorter role.
Brady Bramlett, RHP, Mississippi
As another member of Ole Miss’ weekend rotation with some pro upside, Bramlett is a hulking 6-foot-4, 250-pounder with good velocity and the ability to throw strikes with his fastball. He competed well in the Friday tilt against Louisville, out-dueling Funkhouser for the win. Bramlett has a pro starter’s frame, and though he didn’t land particularly athletically, he stayed around the strike zone. His fastball came out a little hotter than anticipated, sitting in the low 90s and touching as high as 94. Bramlett has a somewhat stiff arm action in the back of his delivery, which hurts him as far as spinning a breaking ball. Similar to his teammate Chad Smith, it’s not clear that Bramlett is a starter at the MLB level, nor if he is likely to be selected in the first three rounds. However, this redshirt junior has size and velocity on his side, and I like the way he competed against a tough Louisville team. He is a lock to be drafted and can continue to increase his draft stock with good performances in a top-flight conference.
Notes recorded above were based off video observations, as well as in-person views prior to the 2016 season.
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