Oklahoma and Oklahoma State both made the trek to Surprise, Arizona to take part in the Pac 12-Big 12 Challenge. In the one game for each team, there were some players who really stood out.
For Oklahoma State, who are currently ranked in the top 10 in some polls, Senior Jon Perrin toed the rubber and put in six fantastic innings without giving up a hit. His fastball was sitting 88-91 but was able to reach back and touch 94 MPH a couple times. His low ¾ delivery allowed for some significant arm side run, but when his fastball was in the 90’s, it tended to flatten out. He also featured a pair of average secondary offerings in a slider that sat 83-85 and a change that varied from 78-82. Despite the fact he did not give up a single hit, his control was a bit off. While he only walked two and hit one batter, he did seem to get deep into quite a few counts. He only threw 84 pitches before being lifted without allowing a single hit. Perrin’s upper body can be very busy and inconsistent at times, and he is slow to the plate, leaving him vulnerable to the running game.
In to replace Perrin was Connor Costello, who began the game as the designated hitter, and he wowed from the very start. His fastball sat 90-93 with a slider that worked between 78-81 and a changeup that I would put a 50 current grade on and a future of 60 or better. It sat consistently at 80 or 81 MPH and was the pitch he had the most control over. He could throw it for strikes in any count and it came out of the same arm slot with the same arm speed as his fastball. His slider was inconsistent and regularly hung. If the breaking ball improves, he could become a projectable big league starter, if not, his upside could be that of a big league closer.
At the plate, Costello went 2-4 with a pair of doubles and drove in two runs. He would be a real draft prospect at the plate if not for his advanced approach on the mound. When talking body type, I made the unfortunate mistake of saying he has a similar body to once prized prospect Bubba Starling. Not unfortunate because it is inaccurate, but instead because I was sitting with three Kansas City Royals scouts at the time, and you could tell Starling is not a name they are fond of discussing these days.
Gage Green is another guy that stood out when watching Oklahoma State, but his prospects at the next level are quite limited. The senior can play behind the plate or in the outfield, he was in left field on this particular day, but he is a prototypical scrappy gamer. He runs as hard as anyone on the field, even if he isn’t the fastest, and will lay out for any ball he feels he has a better than 50% chance of getting to. He is the type of player that can be the catalyst for a team with National Championship aspirations.
For the Oklahoma Sooners, Alec Hansen was on the mound the day I saw them, as he is the third piece of what may be the tallest weekend rotation in college baseball. He and Jake Elliot stand 6’7” while Adam Choplick is 6’8”. Hansen struggled to start the game, giving up a leadoff double to Jeff Hendrix, followed by a single from Trever Morrison. With freshman K.J. Harrison at the plate, Hansen threw a pair of wild pitches, the first allowing Hendrix to score, before ultimately walking Harrison. Hansen then used a mix of power fastballs and sweeping sliders to strikeout the next three Oklahoma State batters, a trend that remained for the majority of Hansen’s outing.
Hansen allowed two runs on four walks and five hits in five innings of work, but of the 15 outs he recorded 12 of them came via the strikeout. His fastball sat consistently at 96 MPH with it varying at speeds down to 93 and as high as 98. His slider was inconsistent at times, spinning up and away to his arm side or being buried in the dirt a handful of times, but when he threw it well it left hitters looking foolish. It worked between 85-88 MPH and added depth as his outing went along. He also showed a couple pitches with more of a curveball look to them in the high 70’s and looked to attempt a few change-ups that sat around 85 MPH, but neither are quality pitches at this time. Talking to Hansen after the game, I asked how the new baseball with smaller seams differed from the old baseball and he told me, “having the bigger seams obviously helped with the breaking stuff”. This was only his second start of the year, so more time with the new baseball will likely improve his consistency and feel, but he is a sophomore who is not draft eligible until 2016.
Also, still a sophomore is Sheldon Neuse. Neuse is a shortstop and pitcher, but his future comes with his bat. He is on many preseason All-American lists, and rightfully so. He has strong hands at the plate and looks to drive the ball to all fields with power. He didn’t get too many chances in the field, so it was tough to make any real conclusion on his fielding ability, but the general consensus was that he will be able to stick up the middle.
The only real draft prospect I saw that day was Anthony Hermelyn. He went 2-3 with a RBI, a triple and a walk. The real thing that jumped out was his versatility. He is listed as a catcher, but started the game at third base and moved across to first base late in the game. Again, he didn’t get too many chances in the field but did make a diving stop to his right while at third that showed quality range and has a decent arm.