Draft notebook: Prime matchups in Malibu
West Coast series features Blair, Baywater, Cook, Solis
The Draft Notebook will appear each Thursday from now until the week prior to the First-Year Player Draft.
Whether it's about the best performers, guys rocketing up the charts, amateurs seeing their stars fading, prospects sitting out because of injury or rumors about the names expected to go at or near the top of the first round, you'll be able to find it all right here.
MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire Draft on June 7-9. Round 1 and Compensation Round A will be held on Monday, June 7, at MLB Network's Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J. Those 50 selections will be broadcast on MLB Network and simulcast live on MLB.com/Live. Coverage begins with the Draft preview show at 6 p.m. ET.
On Tuesday, June 8, at noon, the Draft will continue with the rounds 2-30, via conference call from MLB Headquarters in New York. Rounds 31-50 will be on Wednesday, June 9, beginning at noon. Both days will be carried live on MLB.com/Live.
Maybe it's because of the lack of college hitters in this Draft class. Maybe it's because he's performed like gangbusters since returning from injury. More than likely, it's a combination of the two. Whatever the reasons, University of Michigan outfielder Ryan LaMarre is generating some serious buzz.
LaMarre missed a good chunk of time with a left thumb injury and while he was putting up numbers when he first got back, those who knew him very well seemed to think he wasn't playing at full strength. That seems be less a worry these days as his hand strength is improving daily. A strong defensive outfielder who can play all three spots, he wasn't initially driving the ball like he has in the past when he first returned. That's improved as his thumb has, and he's hit .398/.439/.655 in his 29 total games. Teams are making sure to see him as much as possible as time runs out (Michigan has one regular-season series left this weekend, followed by the Big Ten Tournament, unless they make it to Regional play). With each look, he seems to elevate his stock, with many talking about him as a potential first-rounder.
Lead balloon update
It might not be heavy lead at this point, but it sounds like California high school pitcher Dylan Covey is not quite living up to some of the early expectations.
Some of that might not be his fault. Perhaps those expectations were a little bit of over-hype, as one scout hinted that he couldn't believe Covey, as a not-so-projectable, 6-foot-1/6-foot-2 right-hander, was ever really in the mix at the top of the Draft. And if he was, those types are always going to be picked apart.
There is no question, though, that Covey's performances down the stretch have been a little uneven. In his last start, on Friday, his velocity did bounce back, up to 96 mph, but he hasn't been putting away hitters like he has in the past. Some of that is because opponents have changed their approach, going small ball and just trying to put balls in play. That's forced Covey to use his curve more and get his pitch counts up. Overall, his results have not been the dominant type that scouts would like to see at this point of the spring.
So whether talk of him being a top 10 pick was legit or it was hype, he doesn't appear to be in that conversation any longer. He does have time to improve his standing with some good playoff performances, starting in the first round on Thursday.
Something to prove
A year ago, James Paxton was a junior at the University of Kentucky, a hard-throwing lefty who was on the rise late in the Draft season. He ended up going No. 37 overall, to the Toronto Blue Jays, but didn't sign.
It looked like he was going to head back to Kentucky for his senior season, but he got into a dispute with the NCAA and instead headed to independent ball, hoping that would serve the same purpose it did last year for Aaron Crow and Tanner Scheppers.
Paxton is suiting up for the Grand Prairie AirHogs in the American Association and has made two starts. His first outing was their opener last Friday, and Paxton gave up two runs on four hits over three innings. Start No. 2 came Wednesday morning and it was better, from a numbers standpoint: 6 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 6 K. Paxton did not get great reviews on his command last year, and with the layoff he's had, it shouldn't be surprising to see him with a fairly high walk rate. He should have three more starts with the AirHogs to show if he belongs in the first-round conversation.
On the shelf
When a pitcher goes down with a non-arm injury, it's not going to hurt his Draft stock in terms of teams worrying about it being a chronic or long-term problem. And Ohio State's Alex Wimmers is a fairly well known commodity. While his stuff may not be overwhelming, he knows how to pitch and is generally thought of as one of the safer college arms in the Draft, one who should make it to the big leagues fairly quickly.
That being said, he hasn't pitched since April 23 due to a left hamstring injury that popped up prior to his scheduled start on April 30 against Michigan. There was talk he might have been back last weekend against Iowa, but they smartly decided to err on the side of caution. It's looking like there's a good chance he'll be on the mound this Friday against Minnesota, giving him one last regular-season start to shake off the rust before getting what will likely be one last opportunity to shine in the Big Ten Tournament. For a "safe bet" like Wimmers, it's unlikely to change things too much, but missing three chances to impress scouts is never a great thing.
Where to be: Malibu, Calif., University of San Diego at Pepperdine
High school playoffs are still in the early stages with matchups not all that exciting. And while there are some intriguing college series on the East Coast, this one right on the shores of the Pacific Ocean will generate a ton of interest for scouts out west.
That's largely because of the pitching matchups on Friday and Saturday. San Diego sends Kyle Blair to the mound against Pepperdine's Matt Baywater. Blair is coming off a start in which he carried a no-hitter for 8 2/3 innings and struck out 15. The right-hander could go somewhere in the second-round range. Baywater's not as big of a prospect, with just so-so stuff, but college lefties have a tendency to do pretty well, and it's not inconceivable that he could go by the fifth round.
Scouts will stick around for Saturday as well. That's when San Diego lefty Sammy Solis will face Pepperdine righty Cole Cook. Solis has been solid all year and is coming off his own complete-game, 10-strikeout performance last week. He'll get some strong consideration in the supplemental first round and might even sneak a little bit higher than that. Cook's numbers don't look all that great, but it's likely most teams will look at him with a relief role in mind. He's got the arm strength for it -- he was up to 96 mph in shorter stints in the past -- and has had some success in that role both last year and over the summer.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.