Jordan Brink didn't throw a single pitch as a Fresno State freshman in 2012, and he split time between the outfield and the mound last season as a sophomore. Now he's a full-time pitcher, and he's working his way up the 2014 First-Year Player Draft boards with a dazzling beginning to his junior year.
Brink has gone 2-0 with a 0.42 ERA through his first three starts, allowing just six hits in 21 2/3 innings while striking out 15. The right-hander beat Texas A&M with seven shutout innings on Saturday, permitting just one hit while striking out five. He also gave up just one hit in a season-opening no-decision against UC Irvine, then took a shutout into the ninth inning against Nevada.
Brink hit .220/.292/.298 in his first two years with the Bulldogs, the second of which he began in the bullpen before working his way into the rotation at midseason. Fresno State outfielder and Yankees 2013 first-round pick Aaron Judge was a magnet for scouts, and they put Brink on their follow lists for 2014 after seeing him pitch in the mid-90s as a reliever.
Brink created more buzz by hitting 96 mph during fall practice, and even more with the way he has opened the spring. He has regularly worked at 90-93 mph and topped out at 95, and his fastball isn't even his best pitch. That distinction belongs to his spike curveball, which sometimes looks like a hard slider and reaches the mid-80s.
"It's easy plusses on both pitches," an area scout who saw Brink's Nevada outing said. "Maybe it's a 55 fastball [on the 20-80 scouting scale] as a starter, but he's got more in there. He's just learning to pace himself.
"The feel for spin, for me, is plus. That's one of the better breaking balls you'll see. It's hard and late. If he learns to land it in the strike zone consistently, that'll be the separator."
Though Brink throws strikes and has walked just seven batters in his first three starts, he's working on improving the location of his pitches in the zone. He's also honing a changeup that shows the potential to give him an average third pitch in time.
Brink is listed at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, so as with any relatively short right-handed pitching prospect, some scouts wonder if he's built for starting over the long term. Yet it's hard to argue with his results so far.
"There's a split camp on whether he's a starter or reliever in the end," the area scout said. "Going into the spring, I thought he was a lock as a reliever -- just come in and chuck it and throw gas. But he's starting to pitch, pitch to contact, develop a changeup, get stronger in the weight room. Look at what he's done in his first three starts.
"If he went in the second round, it wouldn't shock me. He can do a lot of things, he competes, he has makeup. And if he's 6-foot-3, he goes in the top 30 or 40 picks."
Gettys has impressive tools, questions about bat
Michael Gettys may have better all-around tools than any prospect in the 2014 Draft. Ranked 10th on MLBPipeline.com's preseason Draft Top 50, the Gainesville (Ga.) High outfielder has bat speed and raw power, can run the 60-yard dash in 6.43 seconds and has been clocked at 100 mph on a throw from the outfield.
However, Gettys doesn't have a track record of hitting quality pitching. That made his Friday game worth attending, even if it meant scouts had to pass on watching college aces elsewhere.
Gettys matched up against North Gwinnett High (Suwanee, Ga.) left-hander Tucker Baca, who draws some Chris Sale comparisons and dominated at the World Wood Bat Association Championship in October. Baca might be the best pitcher Gettys faces outside of the National High School Invitational later this month, and as bonus, Gettys also took the mound.
Neither player distinguished himself in an 8-0 Gainesville win. Gettys went 2-for-3 and got hit by a pitch, but one hit was an infield trickler off the end of his bat and the other was a flare to the opposite field. Baca gave up four runs in five innings, striking out eight but yielding five hits and a walk while hitting three batters.
"Gettys is a head-scratcher," an area scout who attended the game said. "He has the best all-around tools in my area. He has extraordinary bat speed and he can stay in center field, unlike Clint Frazier last year, who I think will play his way onto a corner.
"Unfortunately, Gettys is developing a history of not making hard contact. I like the kid and he has good makeup and top-10-overall-pick tools. But I don't think he sniffs the first half of the first round without having more conviction in his bat."
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Gettys didn't barrel the ball much last summer on the showcase circuit. He also didn't during a well-attended Presidents Day game when scouts flocked to see Milton (Ga.) High right-hander Dylan Cease in the afternoon and Gettys in the evening. The scout said there's nothing fundamentally wrong with Gettys' swing, but he just hasn't produced.
"I think he wants to do so well that instead of letting the game to him, he tries to overpower the baseball," the scout said. "There's a lot of effort and a lack of effort. In batting practice, it's better. The bat path is fine. To me, he's an anxious hitter, and anxious hitters tend not to perform."
Baca wasn't at his best, either. The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder opened the game with an 88-92 mph fastball from his traditional low three-quarters arm slot before settling at 85-90 in the middle innings. His changeup was OK, but not as confounding as it had been in the past, and he lacked shape on a slurvy mid-70s breaking ball.
"Baca has a lot of effort, but he's athletic and has a projectable body," the scout said. "There are a lot of things in his delivery you don't like, but he's left-handed and it leads to deception, so he can be effective. I think that plays into his success long term, but it also lends itself to inconsistency.
"It's early, so you've got to give this guy some time. When you look at his body and what you saw in the fall, there's still a lot of intangibles to make you want to come back."
Likewise, teams at the top of the Draft will have to continue to monitor Gettys. If he proves himself with the bat this spring, he could push himself into the first five selections. If he doesn't hit, the Georgia recruit could have a fallback option on the mound.
On Friday, Gettys sat at 90-92 mph with his fastball and ranged from 88-94. He also threw a better breaking ball than Baca, usually around 78-82 mph.
"There's a lot of effort, and he's probably a relief pitcher, but he really outpitched Baca in terms of throwing quality strikes," the scout said. "I'm not sure how high you'd take a high school pitcher you think is a relief pitcher, but I like him on the mound.
"I don't think he has any interest in pitching right now, though. He'll tell you that flat out."
Infield prospect Wall sustains minor shoulder injury
Orangewood Christian School (Maitland, Fla.) second baseman Forrest Wall, one of the best high school hitters in the Draft, separated his left shoulder Saturday night. The good news is that it popped back in easily, and X-rays showed no damage. Wall is expected to return after a week off.
Injured on a hard tag at second base, Wall should miss only two games, including a Friday matchup against The First Academy (Orlando, Fla.) and highly touted left-handers Adam Haseley and Foster Griffin. As prospects, they rate slightly behind Wall, currently projected to go in the second or third round.
Wall broke out last August at the East Coast Professional Showcase, displaying a quick left-handed swing geared for consistent line-drive contact and well-above-average speed. Evaluators who really like him can hang 65s on both his bat and his speed. While the North Carolina recruit isn't a slugger at 6-foot and 170 pounds, he has some surprising pop and outperformed Blue Jays star Jose Bautista in the first round of a charity home run derby event in February.
The biggest question with Wall relates to his other shoulder. He had surgery on his right labrum in 2011, and his throwing still hasn't bounced back, relegating him to second base for now. He tends to flip the ball to first base rather than cutting loose, and his arm concerns some scouts.
"He's left-handed, he's a plus-plus runner, he's got a good swing and he's real athletic," a regional crosschecker said. "He's a great kid. There aren't a lot of bats out here, so if a team will look past his arm, he could go pretty good."