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Insider

Two SEC prospects square off

4/27/2013

NASHVILLE -- Mississippi State right fielder Hunter Renfroe has had a breakout junior year after two mediocre seasons with the Bulldogs, hitting .410/.488/.827 coming into Friday night's game at Vanderbilt, leading all SEC hitters in OBP and in home runs with 14. His raw tools and performance both point to a likely top-20 selection, especially in a year that's very light on college bats, even with his lack of track record.

Renfroe can show you three plus tools on the field -- power, running speed, and throwing arm -- with the power more like a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and the others grading out at 60.

At 6-foot-1, 216 pounds, he already looks physically developed enough to play in the upper levels of the minors. His swing is very rotational, with a good stride into the ball and excellent follow-through to generate all of that power. He lifts his back foot off the ground at contact, which isn't ideal since it means he's hitting entirely off his front foot -- something a few good big league hitters have done, but that most don't.

Renfroe had a couple of very good at-bats on Friday that ended badly, and while he seemed to be disciplined he also struggled when Vandy starter Kevin Ziomek changed speeds on him, punching him out looking twice, once on a curveball, once on a fastball right down the chute.

Renfroe hit just .252/.328/.374 last year with 51 strikeouts in 230 at-bats after going 4-for-26 his freshman year, so while he was a known entity coming into college -- Boston took him in the 31st round in 2010 -- he came into this year without any strong history of performance, appearing in a second-tier summer league last year rather than on Cape Cod or in the Northwoods League.

In a deeper draft, he'd be a sandwich-round guy because of that history, as scouts and execs asked why he didn't hit in his previous two years in the SEC, and why he didn't play in a tougher summer league. In this year's draft, however, he's clearly one of the top-five college bats, and offers more raw power potential than anyone other than San Diego's Kris Bryant.

• Ziomek competed his tail off on Friday, working with just two pitches, both average, but threw strikes and changed speeds very effectively, punching out nine of the 28 Bulldogs he faced.

The left-hander sat 88-92 mph all night with his fastball and threw a curveball that varied from a get-me-over pitch at 75-76 up to a harder slurve at 80-81, with many pitches in between those two. He showed the willingness to attack guys on the inner half with both pitches and to backdoor the breaking ball to right-handers. His delivery is pure reliever -- he starts with a very high leg kick, has a very long arm swing behind his body, and hasn't even started to get his hand moving toward the plate when he lands his front leg.

Between that and the lack of a third pitch, I couldn't project him as a major league starter; I'd send him out as one to high Class A, but with the expectation that he'd eventually end up in the pen, which puts him in the second-to-third round range for me.

Draft notes

• Indiana State left-hander Sean Manaea, a likely top-five pick if healthy, will not pitch this weekend due to an ongoing hip injury related to a twisted ankle he suffered earlier in the year, but is expected to be back the following weekend according to a source familiar with the situation.

• Also, Las Vegas-area prep right-hander Andrew Church made his belated debut on Thursday night for Basic High School after his appeal of an ineligibility ruling went in his favor. Church was up to 95 mph after hitting 96 in some workouts during his layoff, but his command wasn't sharp on Thursday and he gave up some hard contact.