Wake Forest starter Griffin Roberts put on a show Friday night against the 12th-ranked Louisville Cardinals, showing a rough start the week prior against Florida State was likely just a blip on the radar. The well built 6-3, 215-pound right-handed starter unleashed one of if not the best breaking pitch in the draft class with regularity to strikeout 13 hitters on the night.
Despite the good height Roberts pitches from a low 3/4 arm angle which causes him to lose some of that downhill plane, but what he loses there he more than gains in life with the fastball and action on that slider. The fastball has armside late life that he works anywhere from 92-95 mph. From time to time he struggles with the fastball control, losing it to the armside but on this night he had control of it most of the time as he found himself in a true pitching duel with Louisville’s Adam Wolf. In both the first and second innings, Roberts had a runner in scoring position with less than two outs and was able to wiggle out of the jams by leaning on his slider to earn knee-buckling takes or misplaced hacks.
Last year Roberts worked as a closer, showing off his ridiculous two-pitch mix to strikeout 80 hitters in just 53 innings with a 2.19 ERA allowed in one of the better baseball conferences in the country. From there he went to the Cape Cod League and transitioned into the starting spot, posting 35 strikeouts in 33 innings and a sub-1.00 WHIP. In both roles, Roberts hasn’t had to use his changeup much but with low 80’s velocity and the life on his two primary pitches, one could envision it coming with armside fade. Whether that changeup comes forward will decide his placement for whatever team decides to draft him but with a low 80’s slider that earns swings and misses like the one below combined with a low 90’s fastball that works in the upper 90’s in bullpen stints this right-handed arm should make a fairly quick and dominant move to the major leagues.
Recently the ACC has churned out a few starting pitchers with a ridiculously good slider, starting with the ’14 draft and lefty Carlos Rodon of North Carolina State, North Carolina’s J.B. Buskaukas last year, and now Roberts. The Royals might not want to take the Wake Forest right-hander with their 18th pick due to the limited track record as a starter but should he be available with one of the next three picks it would be a smart play. A late-inning closer ala Greg Holland or No. 2/3 starter seems like possible projections with his selection. The Royals have selected just one Wake Forest player in their history, Mark Melito in the 17th round of the 1995 draft that produced Mark Quinn and Carlos Beltran.
Live View – Saturday I checked out Wichita State versus Creighton at the cavern known as TD Ameritrade stadium in Omaha. While I was interested in the two Shockers possible early round picks I came away more impressed with the battery the Blue Jays ran out there in Ryan Tapani and Michael Emodi. Despite nothing out of his hand is more than average, Tapani attacked the zone relentlessly with his 109 pitches, getting mostly soft contact on the day while allowing six hits in 7.1 innings. There isn’t a truly dominant pitch from his hand but he mixes well and throws four pitches for strikes in a fastball, change, curve, and slider.
An intelligent pitcher with a major leaguer for a father who knows sequencing and situations would be a smart organizational add as a senior sign for most clubs. Tapani’s batterymate Michael Emodi showed a quicker than expected transfer and adequate hands receiving. There is plenty of strength at the plate and average bat speed as evidenced by his walk-off home run to left-center in one of the nation’s most difficult home run hitting parks. With seven home runs already this season and a good showing in front of a large group of scouts at the Dairy Queen Classic earlier in the year he may have pushed himself into Top 5-10 round consideration. His pitch recognition skills at the plate in terms of breaking pitches need to be improved.
As for the Wichita State duo, I was impressed with Alec Bohm’s athleticism defensively but didn’t like his lack of leverage at the dish. A tall hitter with a downward plane he was unable to elevate against Tapani’s average velocity despite getting a couple of hits. He stayed short but the bat speed didn’t stand out for me on this day. Teammate Greyson Jenista was aggressive at the dish versus Tapani but showed better than average bat speed and hit a pair of balls hard without results. I didn’t get to see what he could do in the field as he wasn’t tested nor did he get a chance to open up his speed down the baseline. Still, the bat speed was impressive and physically he looks the part of a major league outfielder on this day.
– Multiple scouts from the Orioles (#11 pick) were on hand to watch Jeremy Eierman this past week during his game with Iowa while the White Sox (#4) had multiple scouts at Jarred Kelenic’s Sunday Iowa Select League game. Neither player would be an overdraft for their slots in the upcoming draft.
Featured Photo via @Griff_Roberts