It was a glorious weekend for baseball at Hoglund Ballpark and I managed to get out to Saturday's game and part of Sunday's to watch the KU nine take on 19th ranked Baylor.
TJ Walz was phenomenal on Friday, allowing just 2 runs in 7.2 innings pitched (for the baseball uninitiated, that's 7 and two-thirds), and struck out 11 Baylor hitters. He walked 3, which is still a bit of a problem, but when he has the stuff that will allow him to strike out 11, him pitching around the zone a bit and walking guys is going to happen.
Also on Friday, Jimmy Waters was 3-3 and Zac Elgie, who I think is primed for a great year (and not just because he is from North Dakota) went 2-4 with a home run.
Saturday's game was more of a back and forth affair, and I was actually able to go to most of it so I could throw on my scouting hat and make wild generalizations about players that may or may not be true.
Tanner Poppe started on Saturday and he both flashed the talent that put him in the weekend rotation as a Freshman last year, but also the inconsistency that might hold him back as a starter. He lasted 5.1 innings, only gave up 4 hits and struck out five, but he walked 4. His stuff was really good: a good hard fastball with movement and a breaking ball that is a definite swing and miss pitch. But the problem is that neither pitch found the zone often enough to really keep hitters honest. Fortunately the bullpen picked him up, throwing 3.2 innings of scoreless ball. Wally Marciel got the win despite getting 1 out (and facing one batter) so if you have him in your Big 12 fantasy league, props to you.
Offensively the star was catcher Alex DeLeon, who was 2-2 with a homer and a pair of walks. DeLeon leads the team with 3 homers this year, and looks really good at the plate (obviously). He has a nice, smooth swing and I really like his approach at the plate. I am no scout, so I can't tell you exactly how good he is defensively, but assuming he can stay at catcher I think he has an outside shot at being drafted semi high either next year or the year after.
Sunday's game was a meh fest, as Kansas lost 12-4. The loss highlighted some concerns for the team, mainly a lack of depth on the mound. The bullpen is OK, but TJ Walz is the only reliable starter right now, along with the times when Tanner Poppe is good, which would be enough if he was a Sunday starter, but not Saturday. I have actually proposed the strategy that Kansas should punt Fridays and throw out either Freshman Alex Cox, who started on Sunday, or maybe one of the midweek starters, in an effort to win on Saturday and Sunday.
Either way, taking 2 of 3 from Baylor puts Kansas at 4-5 in conference, which puts them in a tie for 5th. I think 5 teams from the Big 12 will get into the tournament, but even though Kansas played Arizona State and Arkansas close, their only good non-conference win was in a series finale vs. TCU. They also played A&M tough in conference, but were swept. Playing well against Texas and Oklahoma will be huge, and a non-conference series vs. Wichita State will be as well.