(Photo via USD Baseball’s Twitter, seen here)
As college teams turn their focus to the 2018 season, publications have already released the best college prospects for the 2018 MLB Draft. There are two pitchers in California that both rank in Baseball America’s top 100 college players. Nick Sprengel (LHP, University of San Diego) and Noah Davis (RHP, UC Santa Barbara) could improve their draft stocks with strong springs. What have they offered coming into their junior years?
After increasing his fastball velocity from 89 mph to 92 mph in 2014, Nick Sprengel touched 93 mph during his freshman year at the University of San Diego. While he posted a number of strikeouts (70) during ten games started and 65 1/3 innings pitched during his freshman year, he allowed a number of runs (5.48 ERA) and hits (1.45 WHIP) during his sixteen appearances. Sprengel also threw 12 wild pitches during 2016.
During the summer of 2016, Sprengel participated in the Cape Cod league out of the Wareham bullpen. He carried over his ability to miss bats with 22 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings pitched. His ability to improve his command (2.2 BB/9) helped his 1.26 WHIP and 3.48 ERA during his time on the Cape.
Unfortunately, his improved command did not carry over to his sophomore year, as seen in his rising walks (3.6 BB/9). Missing the zone led to shorter outings; he only lasted five innings against Vanderbilt on February 16, when only 56 percent of his pitches were strikes. Even though the left-hander limited Notre Dame to one earned run in five innings pitched on February 24, he allowed five walks. Issuing 33 total walks elevated his 1.34 WHIP when his hits allowed and innings pitched fell, and the lefty threw twelve wild pitches in 2017.
While his control issues are worth monitoring during his upcoming junior year, his strikeouts (9.4 K/9) remained consistent in 2017. Sprengel limited opposing batters to a .244 batting average, and he posted a 3.29 ERA in 14 games started as a sophomore. His ability to offer strikeouts, throw in the mid-90s at times, and limit runs have him gaining national attention, as Collegiate Baseball has named Nick Sprengel a preseason, Second-Team All-American.
Noah Davis (UC Santa Barbara) also throws in the mid-90s but from the right side. He appeared on the national stage as a freshman at the College World Series against Miami in 2016, when he allowed one run on two hits in six innings pitched. During 82 2/3 innings pitched in 2016, the right-hander struck out 63 hitters and posted a 4.46 ERA and 1.39 WHIP.
As a sophomore, Davis sharpened his control by lowering his walks from 3.3 BB/9 innings during his freshman year to 2.4 BB/9 innings in 2017. Davis opened the season with two strong starts. He limited Loyola Marymount to one earned run in six innings on February 16. He followed his first start up with a strong start against Tulane, when he struck out ten hitters and allowed two earned runs in seven innings against the Green Wave. Giving up at least six earned runs in four different starts kept his ERA (4.63 ERA) close to his freshman year numbers. Even with one complete game against Kentucky, allowing the same amount of hits (1.35 WHIP) overshadowed his improved control.
During his five outings in the Cape Cod league, he started four games for the Cotuit Kettleers. Davis posted a 2.81 ERA in 16 innings pitched, but giving up more hits (12.4 H/9) elevated his 1.81 WHIP in the small sample size. With Davis’ improvements during 2017, D1Baseball has moved him from the 107th best starting pitcher to the 14th best right-handed pitching prospect for the 2018 MLB Draft.
Monitor Nick Sprengel’s control and wild pitches during the 2018 season. With improved control and consistent strikeouts, he should remain a pitcher to watch for the 2018 MLB Draft. Although the Washington Nationals selected the left-hander during the thirty-first round of the 2015 MLB Draft, his draft stock has improved during his first two years at the University of San Diego.
Continue to monitor Noah Davis’ hits per nine innings in 2018. As he improves his control, he will look to move up the 2018 MLB Draft rankings by building on his improved control and allowing fewer hits and fewer earned runs.