This year's MLB Draft is quickly approaching, and the consensus seems to be that the Pirates have their sights set on three players for their first-round draft pick: high school SS Manny Machado, high school P Jameson Tallion and college P Drew Pomeranz. I am getting to watch the latter of three tonight in Oxford, Miss., as Ole Miss battles Auburn for the SEC Western Division title in the first game of a three-game weekend set. I go into the game w/ mixed emotions. I don't know how many of ya'll know, but I'm a diehard Auburn fan. I'm currently an Auburn University undergrad, and I want Auburn to win tonight to get a step closer in winning the division title (long story short: Auburn hasn't been to the SEC Tourney since '03 or postseason play since '05). On the other hand, being a Pirates fan, I know drafting Drew Pomeranz is a definite possibility for Pittsburgh. Pomeranz is 7-1 on the season with a 2.15 ERA. He has struck out 121 with only walking 43. Those stats are staggering, especially considering that the SEC is arguably the best baseball conference in the country. Pomeranz' fastball sits at 92-93 and the southpaw can occasionally hit 95 MPH. He also has a plus curveball and a changeup. I am both anxious and eager to see him throw tonight, knowing that he could possibly be in a Pirate uniform two or three years down the road. He will be challenged tonight unlike any other time this season. Auburn boasts the No. 1 offense in the SEC and No. 6 offense in the country with a .354 team batting average. Auburn has hit a ridiculous 106 home runs on the season (no that's not a misprint), ranking first in the country. The Tigers are also tied for first in the country in HR per game at 2.0 and sport the nation's best slugging percentage as a team at .595. It will be a battle of power vs. power tonight in Oxford. The Auburn fan in me wants to see our offense pummel Pomeranz tonight and knock him around for some crooked numbers, which the offense is capable of doing. The Pirate fan in me wants to see him go 7 or 8 innings while giving up two runs and striking out 10 (I would say 7 or 8 shutout innings, but I'm being realistic. With this offense, Auburn is going to score.) But tonight, the Auburn fan overrides my loyalties as a Bucco fan. I hope we mash Pomeranz, and then Pomeranz shuts down everybody else he faces going forward.
Either way, I will come back and let ya'll know what I saw and how he looked. I'm excited about getting to see him in person.
(I know Pomeranz is obviously the big fish concerning the Pirates, but I wanted to give ya'll some other prospects to keep on eye on for the upcoming draft that are playing in this series:
Auburn 1B Hunter Morris: Similar to Pomeranz, Morris may be on the fast track to the big leagues. Morris was drafted out of high school in the 2nd round by the Red Sox in '07 draft, but decided to forego the money and go to college (and Auburn fans couldn't be happier). The junior is leading the AU offense with 20 HR, 66 RBI and a .398 average on the season. With 1B being a question mark for the Pirates in the future, this is a guy to keep your eye on. I highly doubt he drops into the second round, but if he somehow manages to slip, I think the Pirates could definitely consider him then. This will be his last year in college.
Auburn CF Trent Mummey: Mummey is also a junior, and has been on an absolute tear this season. Mummey sports a .371 average to go along with 14 HR and 39 RBI, but that's not the remarkable part. Mummey has only played in 25 of Auburn's 53 games this season! Mummey missed half the season with a severly sprained ankle that he suffered toward the end of preseason practice. That's incredible, considering the numbers he's put up. This will probably be the last season of college ball for Mummey as well. The only way I see him coming back is if he wants to put a full, healthy season together for scouts, but Mummey is definitely top 5-round talent.
Auburn LF Brian Fletcher: Fletcher has really had a breakout season for Auburn. Fletcher has belted 18 HR and his 66 RBI are tied with Morris for the league lead. Fletcher is another junior that may or may not go pro after this season. Fletcher has a high BA at .362, but he has struggled with strikeouts throughout his career. He has cut down on his K's some this year as he has struck out 57 times in 213 at bats. If any of the three were to come back to school, Fletcher would definitely be the one. I think he may come back to school to work on making better contact and improve his defense, but I wouldn't be surprised in the least bit to see him declare for the draft also. His raw power is evident. Fletcher is probably a top-10 round talent right now, but might want to improve that with another year at Auburn.
Ole Miss RHP Aaron Barrett: If you want to make a comparison, you might say Barrett is Robin to Pomeranz' Batman, but that may be taking it a bit far. Barrett has had a solid season for the Rebels with a 3.12 ERA to go along with a 7-2 record. Barrett has recorded 88 K's while issuing only 38 free passes. Honestly, I don't know a whole lot about Barrett as he seemingly came out of nowhere to capture the Rebels' No. 2 weekend starter position. He was used as a reliever for most of the year last year, but has settled in to his new starter role nicely this season. He, like Pomeranz, is a big guy at 6'4", 218 pounds and has a fastball ranging from 88-91 MPH. I'm not really sure what kind of secondary pitches he has. Barrett is a senior and will be drafted, but I don't know when. After the Pirates took two pitchers from Ole Miss (Philip Irwin and Nathan Baker) in last year's draft, I'm sure Barrett will be on their radar in later rounds.)