Draft Notebook: Lefty Heaney finishes strong
Oklahoma State hurler's final starts of season impressive
The Draft notebook focuses on top performers, players rocketing up the charts, amateurs seeing their stars fading and prospects dealing with injuries leading up to the First-Year Player Draft.
The annual Draft will take place on June 4-6, beginning with the first round and Compensation Round A on Monday at 7 p.m. ET. The first night of the event will be broadcast live on MLB Network and streamed live on MLB.com. Rounds 2-40 will also be streamed live on MLB.com, on June 5-6.
MLB.com's coverage, sponsored by CenturyLink, will include Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Time is obviously running out for players to make any last impressions. Many hopefuls are finished for the season, but some finished with a flourish.
That's certainly the case for Oklahoma State lefty Andrew Heaney. Heaney made his final start on Wednesday in the Big 12 Tournament. While he lost the game, 1-0, on a walk-off home run in the ninth inning, it was the last in a string of outstanding starts.
Heaney pitched into the ninth in each of his last seven starts. In that span, covering 60 innings, he allowed just 31 hits and six earned runs (0.90 ERA). Heaney walked nine while striking out 64. The Big 12 Pitcher of the Year finished with six complete games to go along with a 1.60 ERA, a .180 batting average against, 140 strikeouts and just 22 walks in 118 1/3 innings.
In that final start, Heaney was up to 93 mph with his fastball, threw a sharp 80- to 81-mph slider and a very effective 81-mph changeup. Even with all the innings pitched, it was clear he had plenty left in the tank. Heaney's finish is a reason why his name is popping up more consistently in conversations concerning the top 10 picks in the Draft.
Is it real, or is it conjecture?
For most of the season, Florida catcher Mike Zunino was firmly in the group of the top three or four prospects expected to go off the Draft board early. Then, as the college regular season drew to a close, there was some talk that the Golden Spikes Award semifinalist was sliding.
There's still plenty to like, obviously, about the best backstop in this year's group. Zunino has shown plenty of hitting ability in the past and has more than enough power, hitting 16 homers this year. He's solid behind the plate and he's a natural leader who threw out close to 30 percent of would-be basestealers this season.
The concerns center around the fact that Zunino hit just .255 in the Southeastern Conference. There is always a good amount of nitpicking with the potential top picks at this point in time, and that is no doubt happening here.
"It's one of two things," one scout said. "One, he is wearing down and everyone is overreacting. Two, people are worrying about the body and some stiffness in his swing against better pitching."
This scout, along with most others contacted to talk about Zunino, falls into the first camp, the one that thinks it is much ado about nothing. They believe Zunino, who hit .422 in the SEC as a sophomore, is still the top-three pick most have projected him to be. But there's been enough talk about the potential slide that teams who had all but stopped worrying about him are at least preparing for the possibility that he could be suddenly available when they pick.
The end point, if Zunino does slide, according to most, is Cincinnati. The Reds pick at No. 14 and Zunino's father, Greg, is a longtime scout for the organization.
On the shelf
Early in the spring, few players had more helium than Florida high school right-hander Zach Eflin. But he was sidelined for a month with triceps tendinitis, leaving his status a bit unclear.
The injury wasn't one of long-term concern, but still, teams prefer to see potential first-round candidates more as the Draft approaches. And any time a pitcher has an arm injury, there are going to be questions.
Eflin returned in early May to pitch three innings for Hagerty High School, but his team lost in the playoffs, ending the season. So Eflin, and all the scouts who wanted to be sure he was healthy, had to wait three weeks to see him pitch again.
Eflin did that at the annual Florida high school All-star weekend in Sebring over Memorial Day weekend. The big right-hander threw 90-93 mph during his outing, but more important, he showed he was completely healthy. Whether it's enough to get teams to take him in the first round remains to be seen, but he's a much safer bet now to go in the back half of the Draft's opening round.
Week in review
In addition to Eflin, there were a number of other Draft prospects who played at the Florida high school All-Star weekend in Sebring. But none stood out more than shortstop Addison Russell. The Pace High School infielder, who's already opened some eyes with his improved conditioning (leading many to believe he can stay at shortstop), had all five tools on display over the two-day event. He could work his way into the middle of the first round.
Louisiana State's Kevin Gausman was "electric," according to a scout at the SEC Tournament last Thursday. The right-hander went seven innings, allowing two runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out seven in a win against Mississippi.
Michael Wacha of Texas A&M wasn't quite as sharp in his Big 12 start. But while he lost to Missouri on Thursday after allowing three earned runs (four total) on eight hits over seven innings, scouts reported his stuff was fine, but Wacha's overall command wasn't -- he was getting too much of the plate.
Kyle Zimmer of San Francisco didn't help himself in his final start of the year on Friday. In his first start in two weeks, Zimmer went just five innings and gave up four runs on six hits, though he did strike out eight. Zimmer was outpitched by St. Mary's Martin Agosta, who may have given his own stock a boost with an eight-inning performance in which he gave up just two runs (one earned) on five hits while striking out nine.