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College baseball round-up: Nick Gonzales cannot be stopped

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The New Mexico State star hit five home runs in a Saturday doubleheader, bringing his total to 12 on the year.

College World Series - Michigan v Vanderbilt - Game Three Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

If MLB draft order were determined purely based on statistics, New Mexico State’s Nick Gonzales would be a shoo-in for the No. 1 overall pick this June. The junior shortstop has put up cartoonish numbers for the Aggies early on this season, and this past weekend was no exception. Gonzales hit five home runs in a Saturday doubleheader against Purdue Fort Wayne, and helped improve his club’s record to 12-1 on the young season.

So far this year, Gonzales is hitting an absurd .500/.652/1.354 with 12 home runs in 13 games. He drew three intentional walks on Sunday after singling in his first two plate appearances, bringing his season-long total to 18 base on balls and seven strikeouts. He is also 4-for-5 in stolen base attempts, and has scored 26 runs in just 69 plate appearances.

The only real question we have about Gonzales at this point is how his numbers will translate against better competition. He went 0-for-3 with two walks and a run scored against Arizona State in a midweek matchup, and one might say he got some help with one of his Saturday homers.

One thing working in his favor? A strong showing at the wooden bat Cape Cod League last summer, where he hit seven home runs with a .351 average in 42 games. He led the Cape in hits and doubles, finished second in batting average, and walked nearly as often (20) as he struck out (22).

Spencer Torkelson would like to talk about intentional walks

We are now three weeks into the 2020 college baseball season, and Torkelson has already broken a single-season school record (previously held by a former Tigers prospect!).

That tweet was posted on Saturday evening, after Torkelson drew three walks (two intentional) in a 14-1 win over Nebraska. The Cornhuskers tempted fate by pitching to Torkelson on Sunday, and he responded with a 3-for-4 performance with a double, a home run, and four RBI — fortunately for the Huskers, their offense put up 18 runs in a big win.

All the walks and homers have left Torkelson with a batting line that is nearly as cartoonish as Gonzales’. Through 12 games, Torkelson is hitting .333/.621/.879 with five home runs. He has drawn 24 walks to 11 strikeouts, and also has a stolen base to his name. Torkelson’s Arizona State squad is just 8-4 after dropping Sunday’s series finale.

We may see both Torkelson and Gonzales struggle to put up power numbers from here. Opponents will undoubtedly resort to pitching around both players even more — especially Torkelson, given his limited speed — and force their teammates to come through. Torkelson has just nine RBI on the season, five of those coming via his own bat. Anytime he comes up with runners on, expect him to take a slow jog down to first base.

Another thing to watch: Torkelson moved to center field shortly after Nebraska had broken Sunday’s game open. With scouts attending every game he plays, Torkelson will likely get chances here and there to move around the diamond to show off his athleticism and defensive versatility.

Austin Martin has entered the chat

With so much hype surrounding Torkelson, the No. 1 prospect on Baseball America’s board, and the gaudy numbers Gonzales is putting up, it’s sometimes hard to remember that Austin Martin has been projected as the No. 1 overall pick in June’s draft more often than the other two combined. The Vanderbilt star has been flying under the radar so far, but he exploded for a pair of home runs and two walks in a 10-2 win over Saint Louis on Tuesday.

Martin followed that up with another home run against Evansville on Wednesday, and then stole a pair of bases against Hawaii over the weekend. For the year, he is hitting .364/.517/.659 with three home runs and just one strikeout in 60 plate appearances.

Martin is also one to watch defensively. After being hyped up as Vanderbilt’s new shortstop for most of the offseason, Martin has spent most of his time in center field on the young season; he played third base in Vanderbilt’s opening weekend action down in Arizona, but has exclusively played in center since then.

We also need to talk about how pretty this swing is.

If Martin shows himself a capable center fielder who will stick there at the next level, that will go a long way in convincing Detroit he should be the first played called in June’s draft.

A few names to watch for in 2021 and beyond

The Shriners College Classic was the big event of the weekend for college baseball, and LSU’s Cole Henry took center stage, striking out 10 hitters in six innings to help beat Texas, 4-3. Henry is 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 15 innings this season after earning Freshman All-American honors last year. Following Henry in that win over Texas was righty Jaden Hill, who got the Pitching Ninja treatment when he struck out six in three scoreless innings for the save. Both players are sophomores who will be in the draft day mix in 2021, with Henry tracking as a potential first rounder.

Florida lefthander Hunter Barco got some love after dominating Miami (FL) last weekend, which helped his Gators move into the No. 1 ranking this week. The freshman southpaw did it again on Sunday, striking out nine in five solid innings in a win over Troy. He has a 1.35 ERA in 13 13 innings this year, with 19 strikeouts to just four walks.

Potential helium: Baylor’s Nick Loftin

Through Loftin’s first two years at Baylor, the junior shortstop was largely known as a contact hitter who plays solid defense. He was projected to go highly in this year’s draft entering the season, but scouts weren’t sure how much power he would hit for going forward.

Well...

That mammoth blast helped spark a Bears comeback over LSU on Saturday, bringing them to 7-3 on the season. It wasn’t the only blast Loftin has hit this year either; through nine games, Loftin is hitting .351/.385/.649, with nearly half of his hits going for extra bases. Loftin is currently ranked the No. 42 draft prospect on Baseball America’s board (and 49th at MLB Pipeline), but will certainly move up if he continues to hit bombs like that.

Quick notes:

  • Georgia’s Emerson Hancock was dominant again, striking out 10 in 5 23 innings against Georgia Tech. He did give up four runs, though.
  • LSU’s Daniel Cabrera, another projected first rounder, also had a big night on Friday against Texas. He is hitting .341/.462/.537 with a pair of home runs in 12 games.
  • Long Beach State lefthander Adam Seminaris wowed against Mississippi State last weekend, holding the Bulldogs to one hit in a masterful eight inning, 10 strikeout performance.
  • Oklahoma’s Dane Acker no-hit LSU in Sunday’s Shriners College Classic finale. The junior struck out 11 and walked one batter.
  • OU righthander Cade Cavalli was nearly as impressive as his teammate, working through an Arkansas lineup with two potential first rounders (Casey Martin, Heston Kjerstad) to the tune of 11 strikeouts in five innings in a 6-3 Sooners victory on Friday. Cavalli, ranked 29th by MLB Pipeline, is the one to watch for on draft day.