The Path to Pick Seven: College Baseball's Opening Weekend Sets Draft Season in Motion

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The Path to Pick Seven: College Baseball’s Opening Weekend Sets Draft Season in Motion

Chicago Cubs

This weekend provided salvation for the most baseball desperate of us, as Division I college baseball kicked off across the country. We introduced draft season a month ago, but it’s in FULLLLLL swing now. And without Spring Training to overreact to, I’ve thrown myself into this first-round pick coming the Cubs way in a little less than five months.

With that in mind, I thought I’d introduce a new feature for the spring, keeping tabs on the top of the draft (and occasionally looking a bit deeper), as we prepare to Have Opinions on that seventh overall selection.

Previous Big Board, and Noteworthy Things They’ve Done Lately

1. Druw Jones

Still good.

2. Elijah Green

Still good, and even better, the shorter swing that Green showed a bit last summer looks more fully integrated now.

3. Termarr Johnson

4. Chase DeLauter

More on him below.

5. Gavin Cross

Left the first game of the Hokies sweep over UNC-Asheville, and didn’t return for the rest of the weekend. Reportedly is a minor wrist issue. Excellent first four at-bats, though.

6. Jace Jung

7. Jacob Berry

Strong first weekend in Baton Rouge, with home runs that we can say definitively sported 103 and 105 mph exit velocities. The key for him this season is showing scouts a future defensive home, and this weekend he spent time in right field, left field and third base. Even showing a modest job in left would allow for real stability in Berry’s place inside the top ten with swings like this sure to be frequent:

8. Brooks Lee

9. Daniel Susac

Solid 5-for-15 weekend as the Wildcats swept the State Farm College Baseball Showdown.

10. Dylan Lesko

A Potential New Name for the Top Ten?

Cam Collier

A third baseman and the son of former MLB player Lou Collier, re-classified from the 2023 Draft to be eligible this season. At just 17 years old, he’s playing the hot corner for the prestigious Chipola Junior College, where after 16 games he’s hitting .333/.438/.588. Collier has an equal nine walks and strikeouts in just over sixty plate appearances, which does well to showcase what a smart plate approach he brings to the table. While the profile and the body read like a floor-over-ceiling player, Collier is showing an easy power swing with Chipola that suggests offensive upside worthy of the Cubs consideration.

Deep Dive Into a Top 10 Player

There was considerable hype going into the weekend about the James Madison – Florida State series, which would offer Chase DeLauter the toughest test of his season. The Seminoles rotation is led by two of the nation’s best left-handed pitchers, Parker Messick and Bryce Hubbart, who proved too much for the JMU left-hand hitting DeLauter. In all, his weekend line was 3-for-14 with a double, no walks and eight strikeouts. And so, the weekend featured some backlash on DeLauter’s status as a top five talent, and then the backlash-to-the-backlash, with plenty of experts preaching patience.

I went through and charted DeLauter’s 14 plate appearances. I’ll say up front that the biggest thing that jumped out to me, which ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel first pointed out, was the extreme back foot movement that DeLauter featured all weekend. Not sure I love that. I can see some Cody Bellinger in the DeLauter build — tall, very slender waist, strong legs and shoulders — while the series best resembled Bellinger’s 2021 campaign. In all, I count that DeLauter saw 57 pitches this weekend, and interesting to point out how they were distributed:

RHP Fastballs 14%

RHP Offspeed: 19.3%

LHP Fastballs: 38.6%

LHP Offspeed: 28.1%

That’s a tough distribution for any amateur left-handed hitter, and DeLauter’s plate approach was in disarray as a result. I counted 15 swinging strikes for DeLauter (off 31 total swings), and eight of those were against left-handed fastballs, none faster than 91 mph. It felt like he was sitting slider and thinking left field in his at-bats against southpaws, and was not able to catch up to the fastballs to be a threat.

While I agree that DeLauter’s sensational Cape performance earns him some patience, I think teams will be correct to begin viewing DeLauter’s past history with southpaws in determining the extent of that weakness in his game. And I’d sure want members of my hitting coordinators to weigh in on that back foot.

Scouting the Middle Rounds

I had to go back and watch Friday’s Mississippi State – Long Beach State game, where top collegiate arm Landon Sims struck out 13 players … and lost. More on Sims in a second, but the star of the game was LBSU ace Luis Ramirez, currently ranked at #245 on the Prospects Live top 300 list. One thing that helps move you up the list: throwing six no-hit innings against college baseball’s third-ranked team.

Ramirez is an athletic 6-foot-2 right-hander with a build that reminded me of Johan Santana and an old school sinker/slider approach. Ramirez has great balance in his delivery, with some head whip at release that looks more pronounced on his sinker than with the breaking stuff. I have to imagine the sinker will grade out as one of the best in the draft class, firm with significant armside run and a little sink. It’s a little like Ryan Jensen’s sinker minus about 3-5 mph.

Based on preseason scouting reports, like at PL, it does appear that Ramirez made significant progress with his breaking balls since last season. He threw plenty of sliders and curveballs, with enough separation between the two to survive as distinct offerings. I’m sure pro ball teams will want to play with the shapes some, but he showed the proper feel for spin to leave confidence in their future grades. I also saw a changeup that features enough tunnel with the sinker to modestly intrigue.

Given the Cubs organizational affinity for sinkers, I will definitely keep an eye on Ramirez’ ascent up draft boards as a potential day two target for the Cubs.

(I’ll write up Sims in detail another time, as he might well end up a top ten pick, who dominated off the modern approach of high fastballs and sweeping sliders. Both pitches are plus, though I’d want to see the fastball metrics before effusing too much praise on that offering. Fun, intimidating mound presence. He flashed some cut movement on a few four seamers that reminded me of Ben Leeper, but clearly this guy can handle a starter’s workload.)

((For those interested in more, I also threw together some thoughts on Florida Gators lefty Hunter Barco up on Twitter.))

New Ranking

I’m going to hold firm on DeLauter here for now, but I’ll say that each player in the 5-7 range is close to passing him in our next update. Collier, however, busted his way into the conversation.

  1. Druw Jones
  2. Elijah Green
  3. Termarr Johnson
  4. Chase DeLauer
  5. Gavin Cross
  6. Jace Jung
  7. Jacob Berry
  8. Brooks Lee
  9. Dylan Lesko
  10. Cam Collier
  11. Daniel Susac

Author: Bryan Smith

Bryan Smith is a Minor League Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @cubprospects.