Head to a game in the ultra-competitive Southeastern Conference and you're almost guaranteed to see talented Draft prospects on display. Thursday night's Auburn-Florida game in Gainesville, Fla., took it to a whole different level, with three of the top 10 from MLB Pipeline's newly released Top 100 Draft Prospects list in action.
The headline attraction was the pitching matchup, pitting the current No. 1 player on the Draft list, Auburn's Casey Mize, against the right-hander who was No. 1 on the Draft Top 50 released last fall (and now No. 5), Brady Singer from Florida. Both future first-rounders pitched well, with Singer beating Mize, 3-1, getting the offense he needed when fellow Draft prospect Jonathan India (No. 10) hit a two-run homer off of Mize in the first inning.
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Both aces went seven innings and allowed four hits. Mize gave up three runs, walking one and striking out 10, while Singer allowed just one run on two walks while finishing with eight strikeouts. Scouts, of course, look well past the numbers of the outing, and there were more than 60 of them in attendance to take this one in, and it was hard to come up with a recent amateur game that had this much buzz around it.
"Not off of the top of my head, I can't," an American League scouting director said.
Often, such hyped matchups don't live up to the advanced level of excitement, but by all accounts, this one came close. In the early part of the Gators' season, Singer's stuff had been down a tick, causing his perceived stock to slide just a bit. In recent starts, though, he has been looking more like the guy some saw as the Tigers' potential No. 1 overall pick.
That's the guy scouts saw on Thursday. Singer was 91-95 mph with his fastball, sitting 94-95 mph early in the start. It also is more consistently showing the plus life it had been missing earlier this year. Though he did hang a few sliders in the outing, it also was much sharper than it has been, thrown 79-82 mph. Singer has always gotten high marks for his competitiveness on the mound, and scouts expected him to rise to the occasion of this matchup.
"Singer did what I thought he would do," the AL scouting director said. "He was nails."
All spring, Mize has been the best and most consistent performer of any Draft prospect in the country, separating himself, by a lot, as the clear No. 1 for the Top 100. On Thursday, he was very good, but not quite up to the standards he had set with his performance all spring.
"He showed flashes of the premium stuff, but some misses," the scouting director said. "He's been better."
"I think he was a little off his game," said a crosschecker seeing Mize for the first time. "He overthrew early and he hung his split a couple of times. India popped one, but then he settled in and was good."
Mize was up to 96 mph with his fastball and did find his plus-plus splitter once he got into more of a groove. The right-hander almost never hurts himself with walks, now with just seven free passes and 104 K's in 75 innings, but he did hit India in the fourth, and he came around to score the third run after back-to-back singles. Mize didn't allow another hit in his final three innings and has a 2.40 ERA over 11 starts.
Auburn only managed to get runners in scoring position in two innings against Singer, scoring its lone run in the fourth. The Gators' top starter is now 9-1 with a 2.63 ERA and 81 K's in 72 innings.
Not to be lost in all of this is what India is doing this year. The infielder wasn't even in MLB Pipeline's Top 50 last fall, but he has flat out performed his way into the top 10. The home run against Mize was India's 14th of the season and he is carrying a robust .416/.549/.839 line in 42 games. And before anyone thinks perhaps he feasted on weaker non-conference competition, it should be noted that he's hit .462/.602/.969 over 19 SEC games.
"It might be one of the top SEC years ever," the crosschecker said.
"It's insane," the AL scouting director said, mentioning Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi as the only recent example of someone who played his way into top of the first-round conversations in his Draft year.
"I keep going back in and he just keeps having good at-bats," a National League scouting director said. "I think he breaks the top 15, maybe top 10."