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Stock watch: Mark Appel impresses

5/28/2012

A mere week away from the first 60 picks of the MLB draft, clubs are now having meetings, yet still scouting players. One area in the first round that could be impacted by recent events is the college pitching crop, where seven arms are generally expected to go off the board in the top 25-30 picks.

Stanford's Mark Appel, who struck out eight over seven strong innings Friday versus California, seems to have solidified his place at or near the very top of the group, with LSU's Kevin Gausman right there, too. Until the middle of May, it appeared San Francisco's Kyle Zimmer was the third no-doubt top-10 pick among college starting pitchers, but after returning successfully from a hamstring injury two weeks ago, Zimmer was pedestrian Friday night.

He was out-dueled by St. Mary's right-hander Martin Agosto, who has a shot at being a Day 1 pick in his own right, surrendering four earned runs on six hits and a pair of walks in five innings. He did strike out eight, but was pulled after just 93 pitches and didn't have his best command, or his usual velocity.

Zimmer sat in the low-90s, mostly hitting 91 mph, and his curveball was reportedly not sharp.

Perhaps he's still feeling the lingering effects of the hamstring tweak that caused him to a miss a start earlier this month, which would also explain the shorter outing. It was his last chance to impress scouts, however, and he may have come up short.

Oklahoma State's Andrew Heaney, Duke's Marcus Stroman, Missouri State's Pierce Johnson and Texas A&M's Michael Wacha finished their season on a stronger note, and Appel, Gausman and Mississippi State's Chris Stratton play on in the NCAA regionals, potentially giving them another chance to impress.

Zimmer, in Keith Law's first mock draft, went No. 14 to Cincinnati, behind Appel, Gausman and Wacha among college starting pitchers.

Arms Race

" Agosta went eight innings versus San Francisco, yielding five hits and an earned run while striking out nine. He could fit into the sandwich round, or even into the latter portion of Round 1.

" Florida left-hander Brian Johnson, also a Day 1 talent, went the distance versus South Carolina, giving up just two runs on five hits. He didn't walk a batter and struck out five, while throwing just 90 pitches.

" Stanford's Saturday starter, left-hander Brett Mooneyham, struggled something fierce over the weekend, allowing eight earned runs on 10 hits in just 3 2/3 innings of work. He walked one and struck out one. He fanned 10 over 8 1/3 strong innings last week at Utah and went seven scoreless the start before that, so his overall stock may not have fallen much. Mooneyham is likely to get Day 1 consideration as a southpaw with above-average velocity and a projectable 6-foot-5 frame.

" Missouri State's Pierce Johnson, whose stock was soaring until he missed time with a strained right forearm, has likely reestablished himself as a sandwich pick at worst, and continued his recent resurgence with a 12-strikeout effort Thursday night. He did give up nine hits in eight frames, but tossed 123 pitches -- 84 for strikes -- showing no signs that the injury lingers.

Zunino performs

Perhaps the lone knock on Florida catcher Mike Zunino is that he's struggled with the bat in SEC play. The top college hitter in the class hit just .255/.336/.509 versus conference opponents, suggesting the concern is very real. Zunino, however, has hit well versus Friday starters -- typically the most talented arms on college teams -- and had a strong SEC tournament. Zunino, in four tourney games, went 4-for-13 with three doubles, a home run and four bases on balls.

The Gators will hit the regionals this coming weekend, so Zunino will get a few more games to make one last impression on clubs before Monday's draft. He's hitting .323/.394/.664 with 27 doubles and 16 home runs in 59 games.

Astros looking at Correa

The Houston Astros worked out shortstop Carlos Correa from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy over the weekend and the word is they were blown away. The general consensus has been that the club was likely after college pitching -- a safer selection in Appel. The simple fact that Correa worked out for the team doesn't mean much, if anything at all, but if they were truly dazzled, one has to wonder if they'll reconsider.

Correa worked out for the Minnesota Twins (No. 2 pick) last week and is likely to do the same for Seattle (No. 3) and perhaps a few other clubs this week.