BATON ROUGE -- LSU's Saturday starter Ryan Eades has been on the downswing recently, with two disappointing outings in a row heading into this weekend's series against South Carolina at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge. (LSU set a record for that facility on Saturday night with an announced attendance of 12,727, which included standing-room only fans lined up two and three deep on the concourse.)
Eades may have halted his slide a little bit, bouncing back from a rough first inning to throw more strikes and compete more for the remainder of his seven-inning outing.
Eades worked from 91-94 mph with his fastball, getting squared up a little at 91 but putting 92-94 by hitters up in the zone. He threw strikes, especially after that first inning, but didn't command the pitch like he needs to do. He had more success with his 79-81 mph changeup early, showing very good arm speed and more command, using the pitch to left- and right-handed hitters and showing it in unusual counts.
He didn't find the feel for his breaking ball until the second inning; it's slurvy at 77-79, lacking the depth of a true curveball or the plate-crossing tilt of a true slider, but he at least began to finish the pitch and locate it more effectively.
Eades' delivery has some similarities to Kevin Gausman's -- a first-rounder out of LSU last year -- including the high leg kick and big hip turn, but he's not as loose or fluid as Gausman, looking more robotic in the end. He stabs his pitching arm downward behind his body, hip rotation is very sudden and he closes his front side late -- but he manages to get great extension out over his front leg, putting his release point a little closer to the plate.
I know at least two teams have had concerns in internal discussions of Eades' medicals, relating to a labrum injury he suffered as a high school junior, although he's been healthy since then and has taken the ball every time LSU has asked him to. His draft stock will be determined more than anything by how well he maintains his stuff and performance for the next month; he faded down the stretch last spring and can't afford a repeat if he wants to remain a first-rounder.
• LSU's JaCoby Jones has as much physical ability as any position player in this year's draft class, but he can't hit. He's now struggled for two straight years, and struggled over the summers, to the point where he's probably not even a top-100 candidate (which would be the top three rounds' worth of players) despite his athleticism and raw tools.
He may be beyond fixing, but one thing I noticed is that he's got an absurdly high leg kick and takes far too long to get that front leg down. He's a player you take with a swing overhaul in mind, reducing that leg kick, getting his hands a little closer to his body when he sets up, but also expecting him to go to low Class A even as a 22-year-old in 2014. He plays a very solid second base and could probably handle third, but if he doesn't hit nothing else matters.
• LSU senior Mason Katz is among Division I leaders in home runs, and I could see him at least having success through Double-A as a quality organizational player.
His swing is fine, although he wraps his bat slightly, and he might have 15-20 homer power with wood bats, although I'm not sure if he has the raw bat speed to hit at the next level. He's also limited to first base, which means he has a higher offensive bar to clear. I'd take him as a "senior sign" candidate after the fifth round.
• Teammate Raph Rhymes probably goes after the 10th round, as his swing probably won't work in pro ball and he has no real position, playing left for LSU but likely to be below-average there in pro ball. LSU also has a group of talented underclassmen, including Friday night starter and staff ace Austin Nola, a likely first-rounder in 2014; and freshman shortstop Alex Bregman, among the SEC's offensive leaders this year, a right-handed hitter with a great swing and knack for squaring up all kinds of pitching, although in pro ball he'll move to second base.