By Kiley McDaniel
Part two of my getting-caught-up recap will cover some of the amateur games I saw since the Kelly-Ferrara recap, while the others will be covered in part three which jointly will span the spectrum of mid-range to high-profile and cover 2008 and 2009 draft prospects.
The college game I caught last Friday was a matchup of the perennial power Rice Owls and my alma-mater UCF Knights. The Knights took game one from Rice’s sophomore ace RHP Ryan Berry while Knights junior RHP Kyle Sweat showed the best stuff I’ve seen from him in three years. Of course, my Knights still lost Saturday and Sunday by a combined two runs.
Inside this post we have reports on Rice starter Ryan Berry, UCF starter Kyle Sweat, top 2009 prep hitter Mychal Givens first and second impressions, and two impact freshman college arms, all after the jump…
(Pictured right: consensus top 2009 Draft prep hitter, Plant HS shortstop Mychal Givens)
Ryan Berry, RHP, Rice
Berry is a sophomore ace and Friday starter for the Owls, has been very good this year against tough competition, and checked in as the #19 prospect on Baseball America’s pre-season list of the top college sophomores.
Against UCF, he worked at 89-91 with his solid-average two-seam fastball featuring good sink and run, and worked primarily with that pitch and his go-to slider which flashed above-average at 78-81 with tight, late bite. He also mixed in a sharp spike curveball at 81-83 to change the hitter’s eye level that was solid-average at times due more to it’s late break than it’s depth. He rarely used a 77-79 mph changeup that was pretty straight but could be average with some work.
Berry has a somewhat quirky delivery, employing the drop-and-drive method with a short leg kick and an arm angle slightly above the common high three-quarters angle. He does project to have above-average command and flashed some of that tonight it what was, for him, a poor outing.
Take a look at the extremely poor quality video I took:
Berry should be on our upcoming top 2009 draft prospects list; he has a limited upside with solid-average stuff, but good command, deception, and track record should get him comfortably in the top three rounds next June and possibly as high as the sandwich round.
(Photo credit: Brandon Helwig, UCFsports.com)
Kyle Sweat, RHP, Central Florida
Sweat is a junior starter for UCF that become the default Friday starter when senior RHP Jaager Good got hurt and no one else stepped up. He was drafted out of high school and came into UCF with some big expectations, flashing some good stuff but lots of inconsistencies.
As mentioned above, this was Sweat’s best stuff I had seen from his three years at UCF and late in his junior campaign, has picked the right time to get hot. Against Rice, he worked from 87-90 early on (his velocity most of the year), then in the late innings sat at 91-92 and touched 93 (his peak high school velocity that had almost disappeared at UCF). The fastball would flatten out at times but had good movement with run down in the zone.
His go-to pitch every other time I had seen him was a curveball that flashed above-average that was a good chase pitch, but for this outing he used a fringy slider at 81-82 mph that was more just a different look from his go-to pitch for this outing, a changeup that flashed above-average I had never seen from Sweat. It had fade, depth, deception, and got swings and misses from good Rice hitters at 77-79 mph.
Early in the year, Sweat looked like a guy that was sure to come back his senior year has a mature workhorse body and good command with momentum here at the end of the year that makes him a solid 6th-9th round value.
(Photo credit: Brandon Helwig, UCFsports.com)
Mychal Givens, SS/RHP, Plant HS (Tampa)
Givens is a junior and top 2009 draft prospect that some sources say is the top high school junior in the country (others say second-best). I got a chance to see Givens play two games this week, the second one being his team’s surprise loss to Dunedin High in the second round of the state playoffs in front of a rowdy crowd of a few thousand at the Blue Jays complex in Dunedin.
Givens has all the makings of a first-round prep shortstop with a body that won’t outgrow the position, true shortstop actions with above-average defensive tools, and a quick release from a good arm that sits in the low 90s on the mound. He’s also an excellent athlete and basketball standout that made an amazing play at pitcher versus Dunedin as he charged a swinging bunt to field and flip to the catcher in one motion while he was running past home plate. He’s a vocal leader, good student, and likable personality with great makeup. While he’s clearly a shortstop prospect, he pitches at 90-92 with some run and flashes an above-average sweeping curveball and an average changeup with lade fade.
His speed is deceptive: he looks more quick than fast and somewhat labored once underway, but I got him at 3.87 to first from the right side on a bunt (confirmed on video) and he’s a 55 to 60 runner.
So there’s all the reasons to like Givens, but there are some things I saw that I didn’t like from these two games. Givens certainly has more upside as a shortstop as he lacked feel on the mound and throws from a true sidearm angle, which is very effective in the 90s versus high school competition, but would project him as a set-up man at best in pro ball.
As far as his swing goes, the elements are there and he has shown the ability to hit with wood against top competition, but the mechanics break down too often for me, and with his smallish frame (I’d estimate 5′10, 170) and lack of leverage, he projects to have average power at best. He struggled to square the ball up against average to good pitching when I saw him and showed bad habits in lunging at the ball, being flat-footed, out on his front foot, and an intricate toe-touch I’m not crazy about. Still, those are things that don’t become problems until professional ball, so he was still clearly the best player on the field.
I think Givens compares favorably to past hyped shortstop prospects like Jays’ SS prospect Justin Jackson or Padres SS prospect Drew Cumberland. Both were late-first to supplemental round prospects with limited ceiling or warts at the plate, a long track record of success, great defense, and the makeup to succeed with all eyes on them. Givens will also definitely be in our upcoming 2009 draft prospects list.
- There were two impressive freshmen that pitched in the UCF-Rice game, both with top-3 rounds potential for the quickly-approaching 2010 MLB Draft, the Owls’ LHP Matt Evers and the Knights’ RHP Cody Allen
Evers was a highly-touted recruit that looks like he could be Rice’s next lefty relief ace, following in the footsteps of senior LHP Cole St. Clair as he leaves after this season. Evers worked at 89-91 from a deceptive low 3/4 arm angle that creates excellent movement. He usually threw two-seamers with running action, but on one pitch Evers threw what looked like a slider and as the scouts and Rice players charting pitches looked down to note the pitch, we all then looked up to see it was 90 mph on our guns and merely his cutter. His actual slider was 81-82 and flashed above-average with late bite while he also threw a changeup at 82-83 mph with excellent deception and late depth that was also above-average. As a 6′3, 210 lb lefty with the makings of three above-average pitches, on second thought, Evers should probably be in the rotation next year. Here’s some super-grainy footage of Evers from the UCF game:
Allen actually couldn’t find the zone in a handful of pitches versus Rice and was quickly pulled, but I saw him pitching well a few times earlier in the year. Out of the bullpen, the Boone HS product has been sitting at 90-93 with some running action and a 75-77 sweeping two-plane curveball that flashed above-average, along with a feel for an average changeup. He is a maxed-out 6′1, 200 lb pitcher with solid command and mechanics. UCF’s starting pitching struggles this year found Allen starting at times and he should continue in that role next season as a sophomore.