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College Baseball Season Preview- Draft Eligible Pitching Prospects To Watch

College baseball is back again and now is the time to start building your 2024 FYPD rankings. Each season we see top college arms go in the first round of the MLB draft. Prospects like Paul Skenes, Hurston Waldrep, and Rhett Lowder went early in the 2023 draft which begs the question who is next? We will dive into five college pitchers to watch heading into the college baseball season and we will see in July where they ultimately end up.

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5 College Pitchers To Watch

Chase Burns, RHP Wake Forest

(2023- 18 GP, 8 GS, 72 IP, 114 K, 14.3 K/9, 4.25 ERA)

All eyes are going to be on Chase Burns going into the 2024 college baseball season. Transferring from the University of Tennessee, Chase Burns has shown massive velocity and an even bigger strikeout upside. Born in Napoli, Italy, Burns stands 6’4” and 195 pounds and has already put up triple digits with his fastball in intrasquad games. In addition to the electric fastball, Burns has a change-up that sits in the low 90s and has already been clocked at 94 mph. The final offering is a high 80s slider that has a sharp break to it and so far has peaked at 90 mph.

In his final season at the University of Tennessee, Burns appeared in 18 games, starting eight while striking out 114 batters across 72 innings pitched good for a 14.3 K/9. In fact, it was back-to-back seasons of over 100 strikeouts while managing to walk only 2.8 batters per nine. Burns finished the season with the Vols logging a 4.25 ERA then deciding to transfer to Wake Forest for the 2024 season. For dynasty purposes, this might be the most exciting arm in the draft and that’s saying a lot with some of the premier arms in college baseball right now. There is a front of a rotation upside here from a dynasty perspective and we should be in for a treat to watch. Wake Forest starts the season ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Josh Hartle, LHP Wake Forest

(2023- 18 GP, 17 GS, 102.1 IP, 140 K, 12.3 K/9, 2.81 ERA)

Another of the best pitching prospects in this year’s class and he’s also on the No. 1 ranked team in the college ranks. Josh Hartle took a massive step forward in his pitching performance in 2023. Standing at 6’4” and 210 pounds, Hartle has a starter’s build and is not overwhelming with his velocity but finds success with movement and pitch placement. Hartle features a sinking fastball that rests in the low 90s while keeping batters off balance with a sharp cutter that sits 88 mph. He mixes in a low-80s curveball and a mid-80s change-up that has solid fade and tumble.

Deployed primarily as a starter in 2023, Hartle was dominant, striking out 140 batters across 102.1 innings pitched good for a 12.3 K/9. Because Hartle’s approach focuses on location and pitch effectiveness, he only walked 2.1 BB/9 and finished the college season with a 2.81 ERA. In a time with baseball expecting high 90s fastballs, it’s refreshing to see a control artist like Josh Hartle find success and position himself for a high draft pick in this year’s MLB draft. Wake Forest starts the season ranked number one in the nation.

Hagen Smith, LHP Arkansas

(2023- 18 GP, 11 GS, 71.2 IP, 109 K, 13.7 K/9, 3.64 ERA)

Do not sleep on Hagen Smith going into the 2024 college baseball season. One of the premier left-handers in this year’s class, Hagen Smith has been slightly erratic with the control in his two seasons with the Razorbacks. Smith features a three-pitch mix in his mid-90s fastball that touches 98 mph and plays up his mid-80s slider that profiles as his true out pitch. To go along with the control issues, Hagen Smith has a violent delivery which could lead to him ultimately ending up in the bullpen long term. What is not up for debate is the big strikeout upside he has. In his freshman season at Arkansas Smith appeared in 20 games, starting 15 with 90 strikeouts in 77.1 innings pitched, good for a 10.5 K/9 but had a 5.4 BB/9.

Fast forward to his sophomore season where Smith appeared in 18 games, starting 11, in which he struck out 109 batters across 71.2 innings pitched, good for a 13.7 K/9. Unfortunately, the walks were still an issue for Smith as he had a 5.3 BB/9 and finished the season with a 3.64 ERA. As stated before there is some reliever risk here and to be fair Arkansas has deployed Hagen Smith as a reliever in crucial points as he has four career saves with the Razorbacks. For dynasty managers, the upside is too big to ignore and if he is drafted by an organization like the Tampa Bay Rays or Cleveland Guardians watch out. Arkansas goes into the season ranked third in the nation.

Drew Beam, RHP Tennessee

(2023- 17 GS, 84.1 IP, 88 K, 9.4 K/9, 3.63 ERA)

The Tennessee Volunteers have been known to crank out some of college baseball’s best pitching prospects over the last couple of drafts. Pitchers like Ben Joyce, Blade Tidwell, and Chase Dollander are just a few in most recent memory. Drew Beam could be the next great to come from Tennessee in 2024. The 6’4” right-hander has a starter’s build and has three above-average to plus pitches in his fastball, curveball, and change-up. Beam will mix in a cutter and slider as well but are not as advanced as his primary offerings. As a freshman with the Vols Beam played in 16 games starting 15 while striking out 62 batters across 76 innings pitched finishing the season with a 2.72 ERA.

Beam’s sophomore season saw the strikeout tick up as he started in 17 games striking out 88 batters in 84.1 innings pitched good for a 9.4 K/9. Beam walked 2.5 batters per nine in his second season with the Vols and finished the season with a 3.63 ERA. For dynasty managers, this is a steady starting pitcher profile that might not have massive strikeout totals but could be a reliable quality start machine. With the pitch mix and build I would project Drew Beam as a middle-of-the-rotation starter in professional ball. The Tennesse Volunteers are ranked eighth in the nation going into 2024.

Michael Massey, RHP Wake Forest

(2023- 27 GP, 1 GS, 41.2 IP, 76 K, 16.4 K/9, 2.59 ERA)

Wake Forest has one of the most exciting rotations in the country heading into the 2024 college baseball season. Michael Massey has a true starter’s build, standing at 6’5” and 230 pounds, and originally pitched for Tulane as a freshman in 2022. Across 15 appearances (11 Starts) Massey struck out just 52 batters in 68 innings, finishing the season with a 5.03 ERA. Once he transferred to Wake Forest the Demon Deacons moved Massey to the bullpen where he reworked his pitches and saw massive success. In 27 games, Massey struck out 76 batters in 41.2 innings which was good for a 16.4 K/9, and finished the season with a stellar 2.59 ERA.

Massey is being placed in Wake Forest’s starting rotation going into the season and if he can replicate what he did as a reliever the year prior, look out!~ The fastball sits in the mid-90s with Massey but is helped by the movement of the pitch and tops out at 98 mph. There is also an 83 mph slider that has a solid break and induces solid swings and misses for the big right-hander. With a solid season, Massey could go in the first two MLB draft rounds. Wake Forest starts the season as the number-ranked program in the nation.

For more of the great fantasy baseball rankings and analysis you’ve come to expect from FantraxHQ, check out our full 2024 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit! We’re here for you all the way up until Opening Day and then on into your championship run.

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