College Prospecting: CSUF v. Texas A&M
I haven’t watched a lot of college baseball. I don’t have a ton of access to it, as I imagine is the case with most people who don’t have cable. Most of my NCAA viewing has come at a handful of games at Goodwin Field in Fullerton, when I was a student there between 2004 and 2009. But with Fullerton the fertile ground of Major League talent it has been, I’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of good ballplayers in a formative stage.
I once saw now Toronto Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero chew up some poor school for eight innings before current Cleveland Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano took over to finish the deed. That same season (2005) I saw Stanford’s John Mayberry Jr. (now with the Phillies) pound what must have been a 450 foot home run into the parking lot over a 50 foot high screen behind the left field fence. 2005 was a good season. Mets infielder Justin Turner, and Giants first baseman Brett Pill were also on that year’s Fullerton squad. In 2008 I watched a few games and remember being very impressed with then freshman infielder Christian Colon. He is now close to breaking into the big leagues with the Royals.
My point is that I tend to remember the players that make it at the next level. Of course, highly rated Giants prospect Gary Brown was also on the 2008 team and I don’t remember him at all. Here are some notes on several memorable players (and the game in general) from my Saturday night trip to the old Alma Mater.
Titans v. Aggies
The Titans have the number 10 ranked club and took on Texas A&M, recently ousted from the top 30. We (my fiancée and I) grabbed two seats off the catchers right shoulder just in time to watch both teams take infield. It really is a treat to watch this. The Major Leaguers have stopped in favor of letting little leaguers or dogs or the staff of the La Puente DMV wander around the warning track, like lost mental patients.
It was a tight ballgame, with neither team barreling the ball well or stringing hits together. CSUF came out on top 2-0, in large part to errors and flukey hits. CSUF centerfielder Michael Lorenzen had a base hit, then stole second, and advanced to third when the throw hit him and went into left center. He then scored on a sac fly. The other Titans’ second run came off a bloop single, followed by two bunt base-hits (meant to be sacrifices), and a hit batsmen.
The amount of bunting that went on was downright stupid. A&M had their three hitter bunt with two men on and none out in the 6th, this nonsense went on even after he had two strikes on him. Of course this strategy failed to produce a run. Gee I wonder why? Then Fullerton one-up’d this stupididy with two men on and nobody out by having their cleanup hitter, Chad Wallach put one down. Taking the bat out of your best hitter’s hands with men on and nobody out is stupid no matter what the score is. Major League managers have learned this, but shockingly, it appears the approach has not trickled down to college, where it is even easier to hit. Enough about the coaches, let’s talk players.
Justin Garza – Freshman, RHP, 5’11″/160
Garza is a sort of typical, small bodied right-hander with good velocity, who plays well as a starter in college, but is viewed as a reliever by pro scouts. He was the starter for the Titans on Saturday and pitched well, continuing what has been a dominant season so far. He used a medium effort delivery to throw a decent straight change, and a crisp, tailing fastball that he located very well. The breaking ball was behind the other offerings, really unremarkable. It didn’t seem to have much depth or lateral movement, and the break was more baring than sharp. I didn’t see anybody swing and miss on it. There were a handful of well hit balls that Garza was lucky didn’t go for hits. His command carried him.
7IP, 6Ks, 1BB, 4H, 0R.
Matt Chapman – Sophomore, 3B, 6’1″/195
A big 6’1″, he moves well and has a strong arm from third. He played the position very well, making three tough plays. And with the exception of a strikeout in the first, he had three good at bats. He singled for Fullerton’s first hit of the game in the 4th, then was pegged with the bases loaded in the 6th, and finished by coaxing a walk in the 8th. I would like to see him get ahold of one, as he looks very strong. His cool demeanor, stature, selective at bats, and quality defense reminded me of Chase Headley. I’m looking forward to seeing more of him, and I don’t think I’m the only one.
Michael Lorenzen – Junior, OF/CL, 6’3″/200
A tall, athletic, broad shouldered player. Things look easy for him. He runs well, is a good outfielder and has a rocket arm. He didn’t look especially impressive at the plate Saturday, though he apparently can be. It was clear his approach was to hit the ball in. He fell behind in the count watching pitches on the outer half, and swung at a few off the plate inside. His lone single came on a hard hit grounder that struck the opposing pitcher. Lorenzen is special on the mound however, and we got to see him close this one out.
As soon as the eighth inning ended, four or five scouts scurried over and sat down behind us with notepads and guns. They had come just to see him pitch. According to one of them he was sitting 94 with the heater. His breaker was by far the best of the game, with a big, sharp break. He threw only two, but located both of them well to generate one swing and miss, and one first pitch strike. He also had excellent command of the fastball, going right after hitters. The most impressive thing was the ease with which he delivered the ball to the plate; almost casually. He will almost certainly be a pitcher at the next level, and judging by the behavior of the scouts, I am not pioneering anything with that statement.
Texas A&M “Aggies”
Daniel Mengden – Sophomore, RHP/C, 6’1″/210
To me, Mengden looked a couple inches smaller than his listed height, but he is certainly a big deal to this A&M team, pitching and hitting cleanup for the Aggies. On the mound, the results were superb. As mentioned above, Fullerton could not have scored off of him without the aid of some seriously whacky shit. Another smallish righty, Mengden had terrific control and only one of his pitches was hit hard by the opposition. He appeared to be sitting low nineties with a tailing heater and had (at least during this game) command and control of the change as well as the curve. The curve did not impress, but was better than Garza's, and located with better frequency. It was not a swing-and-miss pitch for him, but produced grounders effectively.
While he didn't have MLB written on him, Mengden was a bulldog. After the Lorenzen chopper up the middle nailed him in the bicep of his pitching arm, he hung in. After Fullerton's pathetic, bunt and HBP fueled rally, he escaped a no outs, bases loaded situation with two huge strikeouts and a routine fly to center. He did not walk a single batter. Also: sweet mustache alert.
Mikey Reynolds – Senior, SS, 5’10″/170
Both the range and arm are good for college, but average in pro ball. He did make a spectacular play however, going to the edge of his range on what appeared to be a sure base hit up the middle, before spinning and firing a perfect strike to first for the out. Scraping .500 with his OBP coming in, it was easy to see why. He has good speed, played each at bat maturely and made solid contact to go 3-4 with three base hits and two steals. It may sound strange, but there is nothing special about Reynolds besides his ability to play baseball. What I mean is that he appears to be an extremely good baseball player, but is without impressive tools. His style of play was best embodied by an extremely aggressive turn he made around first base on a routine base hit, something you have to appreciate. He may find his way into the minor leagues, but without pop and slickness afield, nothing more.
Mitchell Nau – Sophomore, C, 5’10″/195
Nau looks like he could crush a plate of carne asada fries in his sleep. He is a stout man; from another era really. We took to calling him “Red Bean” because of his build and the Aggies’ dark red jerseys. And while there is almost no way he will be a factor in professional baseball, he had a good game. He was the only hitter on either team who consistently squared the ball up. He had only one hit, but hit two long flies to the opposite field, that were caught by outfielders in dead sprints at the edge of their respective ranges. He runs pretty well for his body type as well, but during infield I noticed the backup catcher’s arm looked much stronger than his.
Looking forward to more.