I had an email conversation with an area scout on the East Coast over the weekend that unearthed a shocking belief around baseball this spring: UCLA's Gerrit Cole is really, really good.
Scouts and crosscheckers from outside California and on the other coast are already having discussions with their colleagues that result in Cole being the No. 1 player in the class (just where he is on the Future Fifty), with one scouting director saying "I'm not sure (Anthony) Rendon can do anything about it."
That's how impressive Cole has been this season.
But the good thing for the rest of the league that will not get a chance to draft Cole is that the class seems to get better and better as the weeks pass. The prep kids continue to impress, from right-handers Dylan Bundy and Taylor Guerrieri to bats Francisco Lindor, Travis Harrison and Josh Bell. And perhaps the top prep hitter in the class, Bubba Starling, got his season under way earlier this week.
That and more in this week's stock watch.
John Stilson, RHP -- Texas A&M
Despite scouts believing -- overwhelmingly in most cases -- that Stilson ends up in the bullpen due to his delivery, the right-hander continues to show starter stuff and is holding his velocity beyond the sixth inning. His arm path is the biggest question mark and that isn't always an easy fix, but the performance and stuff is first-round worthy, even in a season stacked with legitimate talent.
Stilson could go higher than even his talent suggests if a club with one of the unprotected picks (Arizona at No. 7, San Diego at No. 10, Milwaukee at No. 15) believes they can get him signed at or below slot value.
Jed Bradley, LHP -- Georgia Tech
Bradley was nasty in his start Saturday, touching 97 on the gun and throwing all three of his pitches effectively. He's ahead of RHPs Taylor Jungmann at Texas and Matt Barnes at Connecticut on the Future Fifty, and if Vanderbilt star Sonny Gray isn't at his best going forward, Bradley could jump ahead of him and sit somewhere in the top five come June.
One scout in attendance thought Bradley's stuff "dwarfed that of any I have seen this season," and he'd just come from seeing Virginia's Danny Hultzen and Jungmann the previous two weeks.
Nick Ahmed, SS -- Connecticut
Ahmed has come out of a slump -- as has his teammate George Springer (see below) -- and is showing the good approach at the plate and a better swing conducive to his skills and physical ability. "It looked like he was pressing before," said an area scout. "Now, though, he's hitting the ball the other way and I think he has been much more selective."
Ahmed isn't a big power bat, so getting on base and producing high contact rates, as well as playing good defense at shortstop, is his best bet to threaten as a Day 1 pick. So far, the grades on his glove have ranged from "he's OK there," to "he'll stick if he works at it," all the way to "I think he's already outgrowing the position."
Henry Owens, LHP -- Edison High School (Calif.)
Owens has sat 89-93 mph this season with his fastball but has been impressive mixing in his breaking ball and even a change here and there, according to area scouts. One scout believes Owens is the top prep pitching prospect in the state of California, leaning heavily on projection.
"He's kept his mechanics in order and is finishing his pitches. With that frame and his feel, he's a big-time blue chipper for me, it's just going to take a few years for him to catch up (physically)."
Owens, who is 6-foot-6 and under 200 pounds, has 33 strikeouts in three starts.