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Eric Lauer has been one of the most consistent, and dominant starters in college baseball this year, and in a head-to-head matchup with Western Michigan and Keegan Akin in April I was in attendance to watch both of the highly touted left handed pitchers. Fast-forward to the MAC Tournament, and both Akin and Lauer went on Wednesday, albeit not in a match up. Both are expected to go early in the draft, and could both possibly be picked on Thursday night. Akin has been a quick rising prospect this spring, where he was originally slated as a potential top-five round pick—but after a strong spring he has joined the conversation of first day possibility players with his powerful fastball that has reached as high at 96.

Other entries in this series include:
Drew Mendoza vs. Gavin Lux
Corey Ray vs. Kyle Lewis
Cal Quantrill vs. Dakota Hudson
Cody Sedlock vs. Justin Dunn

Eric Lauer, LHP, Kent State
Lauer has been oft-covered dating back to high school when the Toronto Blue Jays drafted in the 17th round in 2013. This year was a success by every measure, blowing past the MAC competition. Lauer features a four-pitch mix, featuring a fastball curveball, changeup, and slider. His fastball has sat around 92-93, hitting 94 multiple times. It is deceptive out of his hand and offers some cutting action. His curveball is a slightly above average pitch, showing 1-7 movement and two-plane break.

Slightly behind that, his slider and changeup both flash average. His slider is much improved, and his feel for the change took a step forward as well, showing arm-side fade and a touch of tumble. Lauer is a surefire starter, showing the ability to go the distance in each of his last two outings while maintaining velocity. He has a clean delivery, consistent arm slot, and hits his spots. Occasionally, he has a timing issue with his bottom half and his left foot, but that is more nit picking than anything since it happens so rarely.

Lauer is going to be a faster-rising pitcher than most, and is about as polished as they come out of college. Though he won’t become an ace, his quick-rising profile and ability to be a solid starting pitcher in the major leagues should put him firmly into the first round.

Keegan Akin, LHP, Western Michigan
Akin impressed in both viewings, but what made him truly stand out was that each look showed me something different. In May, I looked at him with a reliever profile; he ran his fastball up to 96, with sink, showed a slider that was above average, and a delivery that finished with effort.

Last week at the MAC Tournament I saw a starter profile: He had quieted his delivery, had impressive feel for his changeup, and control of his fastball, though it didn’t top 94. At the MAC Tournament his fastball was sitting 92-93, down from the 94-95 seen in April.

It’s easy to see why he has had late helium, given that he’s shown all of that in two outings. If you like Akin, you can see a starter profile (albeit he is smaller than ideal with a six-foot frame), a potentially plus-plus fastball in the mid-90s with sink, an above-average slider, and above-average feel and comfortability with his change. The reduction of effort in his delivery is attractive, and has helped generate more attention for Akin. Even if you are low on Akin, it hard to deny that his profile doesn’t fit well as a high leverage reliever, as mid-90s heat from the left side isn’t common.

The Decision
Lauer is going to go higher than Akin, as he should. He is a known commodity, and is comfortably seen as a starter. I would take Lauer in the second half of the first round, but Akin has had late helium that could have them taken within 10-15 picks of one another depending on how long Lauer lasts. I have an early second round grade on Akin, and a mid-to-late first round grade on Lauer. Akin has enough questions that it is not a given that he will be a starter, but his upside in the bullpen is high enough that it mitigates some of that risk. I have them much closer than I would have anticipated preseason, but Lauer still takes the cake, and I believe we will hear both their names called on Thursday night. What about you?

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