Week 1 College Baseball Notes

© Gary Cosby Jr. via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The opening weekend of the NCAA season is in the books. Below, we have compiled a roundup of some of the players who sparked our interest, much like our weekly dispatches from last year. We’ll publish a post like this every week between now and either the draft or the end of the nation-wide amateur season, whichever comes first. We’ll also have a separate, more irregular series where we’ll accumulate our collective in-person scouting notes until we have enough for a post. Both of these series may lead to changes in our draft rankings on The Board, changes we’ll tend to note within the relevant player’s writeup.

Speaking of The Board, you’ll notice an update to the “Rank” column there. It’s a change inspired by a question: What is the right number of players to ultimately have ranked on the amateur section of The Board? Historically, our answer has been however many belong on the pro portion of The Board. This has tended to be about four rounds worth of players, though you could make an argument to go deeper, especially in our current era of player development.

When we made sweeping changes to our draft rankings last fall, we felt comfortable lining up about 65 players in an actual order. We thought that going much deeper than that made it more likely that we would end up ranking players in the 75-100 range who will eventually fall in the 150-or-lower range (outside our scope) when the draft process is complete. The Board theoretically enables us to add players quickly, but newly discovered players below our current range of ranking comfort tend to pile up behind the scenes, creating a ton of database management in the days right after the draft as they are added to The Board from scratch.

To remedy this, we’ll now have “buckets of interest” below the hard-ranked players, of whom there are currently 67 for this year’s class, with that group likely to expand into the 100-120 range by draft day. These buckets will allow us to put our notes on the site when a player becomes of interest without the false precision implied by giving a player in the late Day Two mix an exact placement. For example, Hawaii righty Cade Halemanu, who you’ll read about below, strikes us as a 35+ FV type of prospect, a late-blooming, college pitching deep sleeper. We think you should know about him, and we’d like to warehouse our report on him in a place where we can quickly move it over to the pro side of The Board if and when he’s picked. But it doesn’t make sense to assign him an ordinal ranking without also giving one to the dozens of other players like him. We can’t suddenly know about all of those players out of thin air, and even if we could, we couldn’t instantly rank them. We may eventually shift to using round-based buckets, but for now we’re grouping these buckets by player demographic: high school hitters, high school pitchers, college hitters, college pitchers. To illustrate this at the start, several junior college players have been added based on our looks and notes from the first few weeks of their season. We’re going to limit this process to the current draft class for now and see how it goes, though if an underclassman obviously belongs among the ordinally ranked players in a future draft (there’s an example below), we’ll add him. Players with a 35 FV on The Board should be thought of like those who make the Other Prospects of Note section on our pro lists. Now, on to this weekend’s notes.

Hunter Barco, LHP, Florida: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 K (Current Rank: 57th, 40 FV)

It’s been a long, strange trip for Hunter Barco, which in and of itself is a strange thing to say about someone who just turned 21 in December. Coming out of a well-regarded private high school in Jacksonville, Barco was seen as a sure-fire first round pick in the spring of 2019, but some in-season shoulder problems strengthened his commitment to the Gators. He had a fantastic start to his college career as a freshman in 2020, but the pandemic ended his season after just five outings and his 2021 followup was riddled with inconsistency. While he dominated in his 2022 debut on Friday, the fact that it came against Liberty makes it feel like more of a warmup outing than something that can really move the needle on his early draft stock, which looks to be somewhere in the 50-100 pick range entering the year. Barco’s stuff was as expected, as he sat 91-94 mph with his fastball while touching 95, leaned heavily on his low-80s slider as his primary out pitch, and mixed in an occasional changeup. None of the pitches grade out as plus, but they are at least average across the board, and Barco has always shown the ability to locate, with his big frame and clean delivery providing scouts great comfort as to his ability to remain a starter. He’s a low-variance/low-ceiling big college performer who some team will take as an early safety pick this summer. — KG

Cade Halemanu, RHP, Hawaii: 4 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 5 K (Current Rank: Follow, 35+ FV)

The final game to start on Friday was Washington State at Hawaii, which began at 6:30 pm local time, 11:30 pm Eastern. Hawaii starter Cade Halemanu was immediately notable because of his size and frame at a strapping, broad-shouldered 6-foot-4, 215 pounds. The big righty came out pumping fastballs in the 94-95 mph range to start the game before settling in just beneath that. That velocity is relatively new for the fourth-year junior, as Halemanu began the 2021 season sitting 88-92. Reworking his mechanics in the middle of last season led to much more velocity in May, when he was touching 96 and averaging about 92-93. This season will be Halemanu’s second as a starter; he was a changeup-heavy reliever as an underclassman. He did not show touch and feel for location in the 2022 opener, but he also spent a lot of time sitting on the bench between the first couple of frames because Washington State pitching walked eight batters in the first four innings. It took two hours to get through the first three innings of this one, and Halemanu barely has any experience as a starter, so that stuff might come. He is still in a liminal phase of evaluation but is officially on the radar due to his elite pitcher’s frame, the upward trend in arm strength amid a move to the rotation, and a power changeup. — EL

Robert Moore, 2B, Arkansas: 4-for-11, 3 2B, HR, 2 BB (Current Rank: 8th, 45 FV)

Moore doesn’t catch the eye of scouts when he gets off the bus. At 5-foot-9 and somewhere in the neighborhood of 170 pounds, his physicality isn’t immediately noticeable, but his skills at the plate have him poised to go early in this year’s first round. The Razorbacks didn’t have a great opening weekend, taking two of three from an inferior Illinois State squad while scoring just 11 runs, but Moore certainly bucked the trend with four extra-base hits and a pair of walks over the trio of games. Moore provides a difficult at-bat for opposing pitchers from both sides of the plate. He works the count exceedingly well, and combines some of the best bat speed in the country with sound swing mechanics and almost shocking power for his size. He also brings the kind of maturity and baseball intelligence you’d expect from the son of Royals general manager Dayton Moore, and after an early entry into college, he’ll be just over 20 years old on draft day. Because he is limited to the right side of the infield defensively, he’ll need to keep hitting in order to maintain his draft stock, but there’s no reason to think that won’t happen. — KG

Landon Sims, RHP, Mississippi State: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 13 K (Current Rank: 33rd, 40+ FV)

Sims was one of the most dominant pitchers in college baseball last year, putting up a 47% strikeout rate in the most talented conference in Division I, with 100 strikeouts against just 15 walks over 56.1 innings while giving up just 20 hits. He sat 93-96 mph, touched 98, and featured a nasty slider, and despite having never made a start in his college career, he entered the year as a late first round pick on most draft boards. He’s now made a start and it was a damn good one, as he struck out 13 over seven innings against Long Beach State on Friday without walking a batter. Needing to pace himself for the first time in his college career, Sims saw his velocity dip a bit from his relief days; he sat 93-94 early while touching 96, and was more 90-92 by the end of the outing. Meanwhile, the mid-80s slider was as untouchable as ever. There are still plenty of questions about Sims’ ability to enter pro ball as a starting pitcher. His changeup is nascent, and his max-effort delivery (and its violent finish) doesn’t exactly lend itself to in-game longevity. But in a college class light on pitching, Sims still has a chance to slide up boards if he can keep this up. — KG

Tommy White, 1B, North Carolina State: 9-for-14, 5 HR (Current Rank: 2024 eligible, unranked)

At six-foot even and 242 pounds, White, who sports flowing hair and a full beard, looks more like a 16-inch softball veteran than somebody who doesn’t turn 19 for another two weeks. He was on plenty of clubs’ radars last spring at IMG Academy, where he showed some of the best prep power in the country, but teams struggled to connect the body and defensive limitations to the asking price, so he decided to go the college route. If you want to see a sterling beginning to a college career, look at the line above. White hit three home runs against Evansville on Friday during his Wolfpack debut, then added dingers on both Saturday and Sunday; he finished the weekend with 24 total bases and 12 RBI. As he showed by blasting balls 400-plus feet the other way, White’s power is already at a pro level, and many evaluators are already predicting a storied college career for him, since he’s also a sound hitter beyond the circus strongman power. He’ll likely spend the next three years as a numbers darling on the college circuit, leaving scouts to once again try to figure out just how to project him in the summer of 2024. — KG

Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee: 5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 11 K (Current Rank: 2023 17th, 40+ FV)

A transfer from Georgia Southern, Dollander shoved against his former school in a dominant, 11-strikeout start to open the 2022 season. He sat 94-97 mph across the five-inning outing and mixed in three secondary pitches, most often a mid-80s slider that tended to finish in the strike zone. He only garnered one swing-and-miss via a secondary in this game, and it was on a hanging slider that should have been crushed. This isn’t entirely new arm strength for Dollander, who sat 93-95 as a freshman at Georgia Southern. His breaking balls have good shape but aren’t getting results yet. He’s part of a 2023 college pitching crop with relief risk smattered throughout, but his arm strength puts him in an impact FV tier. — EL

Josh White, RHP, Cal: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K (Current Rank: Follow, 35+ FV)

When the college season was abruptly cut short in 2020 due to the pandemic, White spent his time off throwing with former big-leaguer and fellow NorCal native Tyson Ross. When he returned to Cal in 2021, he was expected to be a bullpen arm, but quickly showed a velo spike, sitting 92-94 mph (up from 89-91) and earning himself a higher leverage role. At times throughout the season he found himself acting as the team’s closer, while at others he’d eat up 6.2 innings in relief. By the end of the season, he’d not only earned his way into the weekend rotation, but was Cal’s ace, posting a 2.79 ERA, the second best in the Pac-12. White started Cal’s opener of the MLB4 Tournament in Scottsdale, holding Houston scoreless over 5.1 innings. His delivery is simple, but doesn’t engage much of his lower body, which may be a way to add more power as he develops. Right now he looks like a more upright, less compact Sonny Gray.

On Friday, he featured a fastball that sat 93-95 and touched 96 with some arm-side run, as well as a mid-80s slider with late break and a 79-81 curveball with occasional depth. He has trouble locating any of them consistently, missing badly on several occasions, spiking pitches in front of the plate, and accidentally tattooing one batter with a fastball when his catcher was set up outside. The command was an issue last year, too; as impressive as his 2021 numbers were, they were marred slightly by 14 wild pitches and five HBPs. But even when his command faltered on Friday, he kept hitters off balance by never completely shying away from any one offering, ending his outing on a three-pitch strikeout on three consecutive curveballs. The key for White this season will be honing that command. — TT

Dylan Beavers, OF, Cal: 4-for-12, HR, 3 BB, 3 K (Currently: Follow, 35+ FV)

On Friday afternoon, Beavers’ most fearsome tool might have been his reputation. In 2021, he tied with Stanford’s Brock Jones to lead Pac-12 hitters with 18 home runs, and was one of only two players in the conference to reach double digits in both home runs and steals. So when he came to bat in the top of the 10th on Friday with the score locked at two, he was issued an intentional walk despite not yet having reached base in the game; indeed, he had struck out twice. (He did flash his stick earlier in the game, however, on a ball that nearly left the deepest part of the yard and would have banged off the top of the wall had Houston center fielder Samuel Tormos not made an impressive leaping snag.) The free pass back fired, and Beavers would go on to score the second of the two runs the Bears plated that inning to win the game.

Saturday against TCU, Beavers locked into the tools that have earned him All-American accolades. His first hit of the season was a 407 foot bomb that came off his bat at 107.6 mph, earning him another intentional walk in his next at-bat. He also singled in an important insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. (His performance would’ve been the uncontested standout of the game had it not been for the unlikely heroics of pinch-hitting freshman Rodney Green Jr., who hit a triple in the bottom of the ninth, then scored on a walk-off wild pitch.) A converted pitcher, Beavers has a plus arm and saw time in both center and right field in 2021, starting in all 55 of Cal’s games. He tucks his hands close to his chest in his batting stance, which can affect his timing on pitches up in the zone, but he has shown the ability to nevertheless get to his power. He’s a tall, toolsy left-handed hitter whose power profile has been compared to Christian Yelich’s. — TT

Parker Messick, LHP, Florida State: 5.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 11 K (Current Rank: 44th, 40+ FV)

Messick was fired up on Friday. He struck out the side in the first, third, and fifth innings, ending each frame with a celebratory strut back to the dugout. The big-bodied 21-year-old has a long, violent arm action, throwing from a low three-quarters slot that creates an awkward angle for hitters. His fastball shape combines with that funky release point to allow his 89-91 mph heater to play up in the zone despite its low velo, especially when paired with his go-to changeup, both of which he located well throughout his 5.2 innings of work. He also has a slider and a curveball in his arsenal, though they sometimes blend together and aren’t favored as much as his change. He’s coming off a 2021 season during which he pulled off the rare feat of winning both ACC pitcher of the year and ACC freshman of the year honors, and is looking to build on that success in his sophomore season. — TT

Chase DeLauter, OF, James Madison University: 3-for-13, 8 K, 0 BB (Currently: 4th, 45+ FV)

DeLauter came into the first game of the season having been a standout as a redshirt freshman in 2021. He led JMU in doubles, triples, and home runs, and walked nearly twice as often as he struck out. Meanwhile, his .386/.508/.723 line gave him the best slugging percentage in the CAA, while his average and on-base percentage both ranked second in the conference. He carried that performance into the summer; he slashed .298/.397/.589 on the Cape, leading the league in home runs with nine. As of the start of this season, DeLauter was riding a 16-game regular-season hit streak, which he extended to 17 games with a double in the eighth inning on Friday, and you would have had to have gone all the way back to February 20, 2021 to find the last game he played in without reaching base at all.

Both streaks came to an end with his 0-for-5, three-strikeout showing on Saturday, though it’s fair to cut DeLauter some slack. After all, it was first weekend of the season, and not only was it the first time he’d seen non-JMU pitching in a while, he was tasked with facing a couple of Florida State lefties who’ve garnered significant buzz in their own right (the aforementioned Messick and FSU’s Saturday starter Bryce Hubbart). DeLauter bounced back slightly on Sunday with his first multi-hit game, but he still had trouble seeing the ball. His power potential is undeniable, though it depends on his bat-to-ball skills improving enough for him to get to that pop; he also needs to recapture the keen eye for the strike zone he introduced us to last year. He sometimes leaks, resulting in a swing that can be a little front-foot heavy, and his bat path is a bit long, exposing weaknesses that pitchers more advanced than the CAA arms he’s accustomed to facing will capitalize on. Defensively, he’s fast for his 6-foot-4, 235 pound frame, but he may still eventually move off of center field. Having pitched early in his college career, his arm would fit well in right, where it would be complemented by his offensive power. — TT

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7 months ago

Yes! Prospect week and college baseball notes! This is exactly what I needed.