Heading into the MLB Draft on Thursday evening, almost everyone had Florida left-hander A.J. Puk penciled in as the No. 1 overall pick. A 6'7 lefty who can touch 99 on the radar gun and come at you with a three-pitch mix is, after all, about as precious a commodity as one can find in pro baseball. But concerns over control and consistency ended up convincing the Phillies (who grabbed high school pitcher Mickey Moniak instead) and five other clubs to pass.
Puk was finally snatched up by Oakland with the No. 6 pick, becoming an intriguing, high-ceiling prospect with elite size and arm talent but some edges that need smoothing. His rocky, five-run outing against UConn in the first round of the NCAA Baseball Tournament last weekend marked the seventh start this season in which he's failed to make it past the fifth inning.
For A's fans hoping to size up their enigmatic new prospect, there's good news: Puk will be among eight first-round picks taking the field this weekend during the second round of the NCAA Baseball Tournament. Let's take a look at who's suiting up for the super regionals and how you can watch them.
Prospects are listed by their draft slot.
5. Milwaukee Brewers: Louisville OF Corey Ray
Ray is the kind of story that makes recruiting a lot easier for college coaches. Drafted way back in the 33rd round by the Mariners in 2013, the power hitting outfielder drastically improved his stock over three years in school. He's been a do-it-all contributor in the heart of Louisville's lineup, hitting .319/.396/.562 with 16 homers and 44 swiped bags. Those ridiculous numbers are a big reason why the Cardinals are the Vegas favorites to win it all in Omaha, assuming they can get by UC Santa Barbara in the super regionals this weekend. That best-of-three series runs Saturday through Monday, with Game 1 airing at noon on ESPN 2.
6. Oakland As: Florida LHP A.J. Puk
Despite being a potential No. 1 pick, Puk isn't even the ace of Florida's loaded staff (the top man, Logan Shore, was also drafted by Oakland on Thursday night, the third of five Gators selected in the first two rounds). Head coach Kevin O'Sullivan threw Puk in Game 1 of the regional last week but hasn't revealed his rotation for the super regional against Florida State, which begins on Saturday.
10. Chicago White Sox: Miami C Zack Collins
We know Collins can swing it, hitting .358/.534/.631 with 13 homers and 69 walks to 48 strikeouts. The big question for Southsiders is whether he has the defensive aptitude to stick behind the plate. A lot of experts think he'll be moved to first base or DH, though Baseball America believes Collins "has enough catch-and-throw skills to give him a chance to catch as a professional." This weekend's face-off with Boston College will test his arm: BC has the third most steal attempts in the ACC.
19. New York Mets: Boston College RHP Justin Dunn
If Sox fans want to get a look at Zack Collins' bat against MLB-quality pitching, just tune in to Game 1 of the Miami super regional and watch him face off with Dunn. Capable of touching 95 on his fastball and sporting three quality secondary offerings, Dunn began the season in the bullpen before taking over as BC's Friday night ace midway through. The Eagles have lost just one of the eight games he's started, a span in which he's gone 3-0 with a 1.11 ERA. Game 1 of the Coral Gables super starts Friday at 5 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
26. Chicago White Sox: Louisville RHP Zack Burdi
Like his brother, Nick, who went in the second round to the Twins in 2014, Zack is a fireballing closer capable of running it up over 100 mph on the radar gun. He's been outstanding as Louisville's full-time stopper this season, racking up 11 saves with a 2.20 ERA. And yes, White Sox fans, you might be able to see Burdi face off against your other first-rounder, Zack Collins—Louisville and Miami will be on the same bracket group if they both get to Omaha. Until then, you can watch Burdi close out games against UC Santa Barbara in the supers.
29. Washington Nationals: Florida RHP Dane Dunning
Remember when I mentioned how loaded Florida's pitching staff is? Dunning, who could be a Friday night ace for a lot of schools, got squeezed out of the rotation in Gainesville. He's gone 5-3 with a 2.50 ERA out of the pen this season and pitched five scoreless innings against Bethune-Cookman and UConn in the regional round.
32. Los Angeles Dodgers: Louisville C Will Smith
Unlike the two ACC catchers selected before him (Virginia's Matt Thaiss being the second), Smith is known more for his defense than his bat, though a .380/.476/.573 junior season was enough to quell offensive concerns and push him into the first round. According to SB Nation's minor league expert, John Sickels, Smith can "get to the majors based on his glove alone but his improved hitting gives him a chance to start."
34. St. Louis Cardinals: Mississippi State RHP Dakota Hudson
Hudson has been one of the SEC's best shutdown starters for most of the season, but struggled with his command in a messy, 3-1/3 inning outing in the regional opener. He walked four and spotted SEMO four runs in a game the Bulldogs came back to win. Expect Hudson to get back on track during his Friday night super regional start against Arizona, which airs at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2.