DeLauter versus Florida State’s Parker Messick and Bryce Hubbart was one of the most anticipated matchups of Opening Weekend. The two lefties tied the Cape League’s top prospect up in knots over the first two games, striking out DeLauter in all five plate appearances. After showing advanced plate coverage and discipline on-Cape, DeLauter was reduced to searching and feeling, looking lost at the plate.
He’s always had the odd back foot finish1, but his hips were noisier, diving out early to throw off his usual balance and timing. There were still glimpses of the player seen in Orleans. The physicality and bat speed are apparent, his speed and ease of action were there, and he found barrels when he did make contact. There was even a moment of self-deprecation shared with teammates after his first hit Sunday, breaking a 1-12 start.
Even so, for a lightly recruited, mid-major bat with a short track record looking to answer questions about his hit tool in his draft spring, the initial showing left us with more questions instead.
DeLauter’s profile compares well to past looks of Kyle Lewis. Nearly identical as power over hit, physical college outfielders with history of quality performance. After DeLauter’s rocky start, a look at Lewis’ draft spring can be instructive. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll gloss over other factors and say their competition is equal. Overall, Lewis slashed .395/.535/.731 in 2016. Say DeLauter is in the ballpark of Lewis’s output at the end of the year -- or exceeds it, as he’s responded with a Pablo Sanchez-esque .609/.710/1.238 line in 7 games since -- and looks as he did on-Cape versus draft quality arms. Is he not still a top 5-10 overall pick?
High octane lefties may always be an issue, but that’s not unlike any other risk from a lefty bat, and he can contribute in game with other tools. If convicted in the bat to mash against all other foes, DeLauter can still be your guy.
N.C. State’s freshman phenom Tommy White took the college baseball world by storm with nine home runs in his first eight games, including three in his debut. Give credit where it is due, but there is cause to slow the hype train. Eight of the nine were located middle to middle away, mid-thigh or higher, with the one other a lefty slider down and in at the knees. Quality of competition should also be considered. Evansville, High Point, Longwood, and Quinnipiac don’t measure up to the ACC or, arguably, what White faced at IMG Academy.
As I noted last week, more advanced stuff, especially hard inside, will provide a proper test. Wednesday at Campbell was a bit of a preview. They challenged him inside, resulting in a strikeout, a jammed flare pop-out to the second baseman, and a soft groundout to the second baseman. Northeastern's Cam Schlitter, a Cape alum, also attacked him inside on Friday night and induced four harmless groundouts.
This was just two games, but we’ve seen other freshmen come out blazing (Beer, Schwarz, Baker, Shewmake, Skoug, et al) to varied pro success. With two more years until draft-eligibility, there’s plenty of time to make adjustments.
First impressions can often sway an overall view of a prospect. The key is not to be beholden to a hot streak or a cold spell, but to turn in their true talent just right.