Oregon State baseball is a perennial national power, but struggled some in their first two weeks to open the season. They went 5-3, but that included a pair of losses to New Mexico, and three of their first four games came in walk-off fashion. While it was not the start the team was looking for, the Beavers have a relatively young team with a ton of potential.
I somehow missed each of their big arms that are draft eligible this year, but they have plenty of arms that sit in the mid-90s out of the bullpen, they just each seem to struggle with control at this point.
At the plate, the team is led, both in the batting order and on the field, by Jeff Hendrix. Hendrix was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the second to last round of the draft in 2014 as a draft eligible sophomore, but is back with the Beavers to try and win his third Pac-12 title in his third year with the club. Hendrix has a quick bat from a wide stance that is primarily a slap hitter, but can put some power into the ball into the gaps when he gets a pitch he likes.
Hendrix plays a good center field and should be able to stick there even at the next level. He has the speed to cover plenty of ground, probably 60+ grade wheels. His first instinct is always to take a step back on fly balls, so there are a few that are able to drop in for hits that a more premier defender would be able to get to, but he plays the position average or better.
There are plenty of freshmen on the Beavers that will make an impact this year, whether it is Luke Heimlich and Drew Rasmussen on the mound, or position guys like Elliott Cary, Christian Donahue, Joe Gillette, and Michael Gretier. They have plenty of young talent that will only get better as the season progresses.
With all those freshmen looking to get a good amount of playing time this season, and getting nothing but praise from head coach Pat Casey, there is one freshman that stands out among the rest.
In just his second week of college ball, K.J. Harrison was named the National College Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) National Hitter of the Week. The 25th round pick of the Cleveland Indians has started all eight games for the Beavers thus far between first base and catcher. He has come to the plate 34 times, and come away with 15 hits, including a pair of doubles and triples, four home runs, and 13 RBIs. Even more impressive than his numbers are how he looks on the field. One of his home runs nearly hit the scoreboard in Surprise Stadium on a line. Someone with long-term ties to the Oregon State baseball team said Harrison is the best pure hitter he has ever seen.
Harrison has a powerful swing, yet stays smooth at the same time. A part of me is reminded of Miguel Cabrera when watching Harrison at the plate.
The more impressive thing was the fact that he may be able to stick behind the plate. On the one day I saw him catch, he showed decent enough hand but his footwork needs ironing out. He is a bit slow laterally, and getting from his crouch into a throwing position takes a bit too long. That said, once he lets the ball go, it flies out of his hand. He has a very strong arm and showed consistent pop times around 2.05 despite the poor footwork.
Harrison is not draft eligible again until 2017, but it would not be a surprise at all if he grows into a sure fire first round pick by then with an All-American selection or two to his name.