|THIS YEAR’S CROP|
|*****||One for the books|
|***||Solid, not spectacular|
|**||Not up to par|
|*||Nothing to see here|
For the second year in a row, Georgia failed to produce the strong crop of draft prospects that the state has become known for in recent years. The University of Georgia’s Brooks Brown and Joey Side made strides in improving their stock, and metro Atlanta high school hitters Cedric Hunter and Brent Brewer turned in strong senior seasons, but overall the state’s pool of talent lacks both depth and impact potential.
|National Top 200 Prospects
1. Brooks Brown, rhp, Georgia
2. Wes Hodges, 3b, Georgia Tech
3. Cedric Hunter, of, Martin Luther King HS, Decatur
4. Brent Brewer, ss/of, Sandy Creek HS, Tyrone
5. Tim Gustafson, rhp, Georgia Tech
6. Torre Langley, c, Alexander HS, Douglasville
7. Dustin Evans, rhp, Georgia Southern
8. Michael Demperio, 2b, Kell HS, Marietta
9. Whit Robbins, 1b/3b, Georgia Tech
10. Nick Fuller, rhp, Kell HS, Marietta
11. Josh Morris, 1b, Georgia
|Other Players Of Note
12. Joey Side, of, Georgia
13. Blake Wood, rhp, Georgia Tech
14. Ross Smith, of, Dodge County HS, Eastman
15. Tom Hickman, of/lhp, Pepperell HS, Rome
16. Brandon May, ss, Lassiter HS, Marietta
17. David Cunningham, 3b, Roswell HS
18. Mike Meschke, 1b/c, Pope HS, Marietta
19. D’Vontrey Richardson, of, Lee County HS, Leesburg
20. Lee Hyde, lhp, Georgia Tech
21. Andrew Robinson, rhp, Starr’s Mill HS, Fayetteville
22. Jeff Lorick, lhp, Chattahoochee HS, Alpharetta, Ga.
23. Matt Cerione, of, Chattahoochee HS, Alpharetta, Ga.
24. Mark Fleury, c, Pope HS, Marietta
25. Evan Parrish, rhp, Portal HS
26. Ben Paulsen, 1b, Kell HS, Marietta
27. Steven Blackwood, of, Georgia Tech
28. Jeff Kindel, of, Georgia Tech
29. Everett Teaford, lhp, Georgia Southern
30. Charlie Blackmon, lhp, Young-Harris JC
31. Romas Hicks, rhp, Georgia State
32. Jason Jacobs, c, Georgia
33. Joey Lewis, c, Starr’s Mill HS, Fayetteville
34. Justin Newman, of, Georgia State
35. Jonathan Wyatt, of, Georgia
36. Wes Wilson, 1b, Georgia State
37. Andre Weaver, rhp, Alexander HS, Douglasville
38. Daniel Renfroe, Of, Tatnall Square Academy, Macon
1. Brooks Brown, rhp (National rank: 31)
School: Georgia. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Portal, Ga.
B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 205. Birthdate: 6/20/85.
Scouting Report: After two up-and-down seasons, pitching primarily in relief, things began to fall into place for Brown as a junior this spring. He was beginning to hit his stride as a freshman in 2004 when he unintentionally hit Georgia Tech’s Wes Hodges in the face with a pitch. The accident unnerved Brown, and it seemed to affect his confidence. He made some subtle adjustments in his delivery last summer while pitching in the Cape Cod League, and established himself as the top prospect in the state this spring. Brown’s athletic ability is his best asset. He has a sound delivery, working from a three-quarters arm angle, which he varies to high three-quarters at times. His fastball has nice downward plane and sits between 90-93 mph, touching 95. His curveball is an above-average offering, though it’s inconsistent because he tends to get around it, especially later in outings. The improvement of his changeup has helped his success against lefties. Brown’s stuff tends to taper off after the middle innings, but his feel for pitching allows him to start in college. He’ll probably wind up near the back of a bullpen as a pro.
2. Wes Hodges, 3b (National rank: 52)
School: Georgia Tech. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Ooltewah, Tenn.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 207. Birthdate: 9/14/84.
Scouting Report: When Hodges injured his wrist as a high school senior, he taught himself to bat lefthanded and still hit .400. The White Sox drafted him in the 13th round, but he chose to attend college and looked like a cinch first-rounder entering his junior season. His stock has steadily slipped this spring, and some scouts wonder if he is healthy. He missed a series in May with a calf injury, and his defense had regressed. Hodges has outstanding eye-hand coordination and makes consistent contact. He has shown above-average bat speed in the past, though it wasn’t as impressive this season. He doesn’t project to hit for considerable power, yet he has a penchant for finding holes and has a good hitter’s mentality, with good plate discipline and pitch recognition. He’s a below-average runner. He has shown above-average arm strength in the past, but many of his throws lacked carry this spring. Clubs placing an emphasis on his track record could still take Hodges as early as the sandwich round.
3. Cedric Hunter, of (National rank: 81)
School: Martin Luther King HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Decatur, Ga.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Birthdate: 3/10/88.
Scouting Report: In a draft bereft of polished hitters, Hunter is a commodity. He has proven his mettle while playing in the East Cobb summer league program in suburban Atlanta, and made a positive impression in 2005 when he held his own against Kyle Drabek, showing the ability to make adjustments at the plate. He plays with zeal and a quiet confidence scouts love. Hunter has a high leg kick that serves as his trigger, but he gets it down in time and loads his hands well in the process. He has a good feel for the strike zone and can lash line drives to all fields. His power isn’t overwhelming, but he makes enough hard contact to project to hit 15-20 home runs annually in the big leagues. He has a slight loop in his swing and a slight uppercut, but nothing that draws significant concern. He doesn’t run well enough to handle center field, though his range is average and plays up because of good instincts. His arm is slightly below-average. It’s not clear he’ll have enough power to profile as a corner outfielder, but scouts aren’t likely to watch his bat slip past the top four rounds.
4. Brent Brewer, ss/of (National rank: 152)
School: Sandy Creek HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Fairburn, Ga.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Birthdate: 12/19/87.
Scouting Report: Scouts recall Brewer stepping out of a batting cage at last summer’s East Coast Showcase to answer cell phone calls from college football recruiters. He was obviously distracted, as the swing and approach scouts previously saw was nonexistent. Brewer committed to Florida State to play wide receiver as well as baseball, but he rediscovered his stroke this spring and could find his way in the top five rounds. His pitch recognition and plate discipline have improved, but he has a pull approach and swings and misses frequently. When he squares balls on his barrel, he shows above-average power. Combine that with 4.2-second home to first times, and it’s easy to understand why clubs are reluctant to write him off. Comparisons range from Brian Jordan to Reggie Sanders, though his choppy swing looks more similar to Greg Golson’s presently. Brewer’s hands are solid and he has enough arm for shortstop, but he’s best-suited forcenter field.
5. Tim Gustafson, rhp (National rank: 156)
School: Georgia Tech. Class: So.
Hometown: Lilburn, Ga.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 208. Birthdate: 12/29/84.
Scouting Report: Since an impressive start against North Carolina in March, Gustafson threw just 38 pitches the remainder of the regular season and had not pitched since late April. An impingement in his throwing arm led to discomfort and clouded Gustafson’s draft stock. Early in the season he flashed a low-90s fastball, a power slider and well-above-average changeup. His high three-quarters arm slot enables him to pitch downhill, creating heavy sink on his fastball. Gustafson has an aggressive approach with a feel for pitching, working his stuff to both sides of the plate. His straight changeup has screwball-like action at 80-82 mph and his slider has been up to 85. Gustafson shows good competitiveness on the mound and the demeanor to pitch near the back of a bullpen. His endurance and durability are concerns, but if he recovers from his injury he could perform in a starting role.
6. Torre Langley, c (National rank: 164)
School: Alexander HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Winston, Ga.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-9. Wt.: 175. Birthdate: 10/9/87.
Scouting Report: During a rain delay last summer, Langley helped pass the time by wowing his Team USA teammates when he threw balls over the left-field fence from the right-field foul line. His arm strength is remarkable, and this spring he threw out 22 of 23 basestealers thanks to sub-2.0-second pop times and clean exchanges from glove to throwing hand. Despite his strength, his 5-foot-8, 170-pound frame hinders his stock and Langley doesn’t figure to get much taller. His catch-and-throw skills are among the best in the draft class, although he has some fine-tuning to do, especially with his receiving. Offensively, Langley has some pop, although his power is primarily gap-to-gap. His swing can get long. He has good bat control and a feel for situational hitting. His confidence borders on cockiness, though scouts like the flair he shows with snap throws and impressive performances on big stages. Others wonder how he’ll mesh with a professional pitching staff, however, and suggest he’ll need to tone down his attitude. He has committed to Georgia Tech, and is considered signable in the first five rounds.
7. Dustin Evans, rhp (National rank: 167)
School: Georgia Southern. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Taylorsville, Ga.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 200. Birthdate: 9/24/84.
Scouting Report: Evans enrolled at Georgia Southern with impressive credentials. He won the Connie Mack World Series while playing for an East Cobb, Ga., team, and went head-to-head with No. 1 pick Matt Bush and the U.S. junior national team in an exhibition game in the summer of 2003. He compiled a 2.27 ERA in seven starts for Orleans last summer in the Cape Cod League, helping it claim the league title. His success did not carry over into his junior season at Georgia Southern, however. He missed a month with a stress fracture in his right elbow, and although he’s regained his velocity his command and stuff have been underwhelming. Evans’ fastball touched 95 mph but it’s flat and lacks life. His 84 mph slider has potential to be a plus pitch, but he frequently leaves it up in the zone. He also will show a below-average changeup. Evans’ delivery needs to be tweaked. He lands on his heel with a stiff front leg, preventing him from pitching downhill effectively.
8. Michael Demperio, 2b (National rank: 174)
School: Kell HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Marietta, Ga.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 170. Birthdate: 2/17/88.
Scouting Report: Demperio missed most of his junior high school season after an ankle injury, but he has received plenty of exposure as a mainstay in the middle infield for teams sponsored by the East Cobb (Ga.) amateur powerhouse. He’s the type of player some clubs compare to Dustin Pedroia or Cliff Pennington, saying his instincts and feel for the game could make him a premium pick after three years at Texas, where he has committed. Demperio is undersized but has spring in his step and live, loose actions in the field. He’s a well-above-average runner and an aggressive baserunner. He has exceptional hands and makes accurate throws on the run and on the backside of the double play, though his arm strength doesn’t play as well at shortstop. He likes to pull the ball, but has a fair approach at the plate and makes consistent contact with average bat speed.
9. Whit Robbins, 1b/3b (National rank: 177)
School: Georgia Tech. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Calhoun, Ga.
B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 208. Birthdate: 9/24/84.
Scouting Report: While most of the attention this season in Atlanta was on Georgia Tech third baseman Wes Hodges, Robbins was climbing draft boards with his best season. He led Tech in batting, on-base percentage, home runs and RBIs, almost doubling his home run total from his first two seasons combined. He made himself some money in late March when he held his own against North Carolina’s Andrew Miller, then chased Daniel Bard with a towering home run to cap his weekend. Robbins has surprising athleticism and looseness in his swing. He generates good bat speed and feasts on fastballs on the inner half of the plate. He’s pull-conscious, but otherwise has a sound approach, with good pitch recognition and plate discipline. He also offers versatility defensively. Scouts believe he can handle third base and left field. He has excellent hands, and enough arm strength to handle throws across the diamond. He could sneak into the top five rounds.
10. Nick Fuller, rhp (National rank: 180)
School: Kell HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Marietta, Ga.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195. Birthdate: 1/9/88.
Scouting Report: Fuller transferred from Marietta’s Kell High across town to Lassiter High and then back to Kell in less than two years. He missed more than a third of his senior season while Georgia’s high school athletic association sorted out his eligibility, but when he pitched he was often dominant, and helped Kell make a run deep into Georgia’s playoffs. Fuller turned in an awe-inspiring performance at the East Coast Showcase in Wilmington, N.C., last summer, drawing comparisons to Brad Lidge because of a fastball that has been up to 95 mph and a filthy, if inconsistent slider. He missed some time last fall with an arm injury, but did not require surgery. His stuff is electric, but his max-effort delivery draws concern. Fuller throws across his body with a violent arm action. His arm is quick, however, and if he can tone down his delivery his below-average command should improve. He hasn’t absorbed instruction effectively as an amateur, but has the makings of a closer with the proper tutelage and an improved attitude. He could receive it at South Carolina, but he’s considered signable in the top five rounds and should land in that range.
11. Josh Morris, 1b (National rank: 195)
School: Georgia. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Cartersville, Ga.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 230. Birthdate: 5/11/85.
Scouting Report: Morris was finishing up a productive three-year stint at Georgia, where he set a freshman record for RBIs in a season (71) in 2004 and set the school’s all-time career home run mark with his 46th in May. He was drafted in the 20th round by the Red Sox in 2003 out of Cartersville (Ga.) High, where he played on three state championship teams. His power is his best tool but it doesn’t translate effectively with wood, as his swing has some length. He’s described as country strong, and he can muscles balls out of the park. He’s a pull hitter with an aggressive approach who can drive balls deep when he gets his arms extended. Morris is vulnerable to hard stuff in on his hands, and will chase offspeed pitches down and away. He tends to press at the plate, but his all-out attitude should serve him well as he matures and learns to handle failure. His actions are a little stiff defensively. His footwork and range are average and his hands are adequate at best. He’s a below-average runner but shows some instincts on the basepaths.
Lots Of Tools, Lots Of Questions
Georgia Tech’s contributions to the draft have been noteworthy in recent years–ranging from Mark Teixeira (2001) to Matt Murton (2003) and Tyler Greene (2005)–as the Yellow Jackets have produced a frontline player in almost every draft this decade. Wes Hodges was expected to carry on that tradition in 2006, and he could still develop into a productive corner infielder as a professional. But his junior season was dented by injuries that affected his performance and seemingly spread across the team.
Blake Wood opened the season as the Jackets’ No. 1 starter but had shin splints that prevented him from running between starts and it appeared to affect his performance. He followed up a 10-1, 3.13 sophomore campaign by going 9-4, 5.02 this spring with 38 walks, 80 strikeouts and a .290 opponent average in 95 innings. Wood doesn’t pitch as aggressively as some scouts would like, and his fastball/slider repertoire would play up if he pitched off his fastball and challenged hitters, rather than relying on his slider. His fastball has been clocked between 90-94 mph. He’s shown an ability to work it in and out, up and down, and he has some feel for pitching. Lefty Lee Hyde struggled with his command this season, especially as a starter, but profiles as a reliable reliever. His fastball sits near 90-91, touching 93 mph. He complements it with an above-average breaking ball. His delivery is short and simple, and he maintains his balance over the rubber and has good direction to his target.
Georgia surged into the postseason, and Joey Side’s stock was skyrocketing along with the team’s. He’s an intense, throwback player with a penchant for making contact. He showed more power this season than he had in the past, driving balls consistently from gap to gap. He tries to hit the ball up the middle and uses the opposite field well. His defense improved this season, and he can handle all three outfield spots. Jason Jacobs held his own behind the plate for the Bulldogs, and was an all-tournament selection in Southeastern Conference tourney, but he lacks bat speed and might have to move from behind the plate as a professional.
Georgia State righthander Romas Hicks was shelled in his first start of the season, surrendering eight earned runs and failing to make it out of the second inning against Georgia Tech in front of a large contingent of scouts. He was pitching with a pain in his groin, however, and improved as the season went on, flashing a fastball that hits 90 mph. Justin Newman established a school-record with a 21-game hitting streak as a sophomore in 2004, and split time this season playing right field and closing for the Panthers. His arm strength and ability to center balls on his bat should get him drafted on the second day. Wes Wilson, a former walk-on and son of former Arizona State linebacker Jimmie Wilson, showed marked improvement during his career and should be a senior sign. Everett Teaford has an advanced feel for pitching and an aggressive approach. Despite his 122-28 strikeout-walk ratio, his 6-foot, 155-pound frame hurts his professional stock.
Kell High advanced to Georgia’s Class 5-A championship game behind Nick Fuller and Michael Demperio, and first baseman Ben Paulsen should be a third player off their team to get drafted. The son of Clemson hitting coach Tom Riginos, Paulsen has enticing raw power, but he’s raw and should wind up at Clemson.
Cobb County has a handful of high school players with at least one tool that should get them drafted, but probably not high enough to sign them away from school. Alabama-bound Brandon May has a good approach at the plate and centers balls with regularity. He has an above-average arm and adequate hands. Questions about whether he’ll hit for the power to profile at third base as a professional could keep him out of the top 10 rounds. Mark Fleury is a lefthanded-hitting catcher who made a name for himself last summer on the showcase circuit. He has above-average arm strength and some juice in his bat. He’ll need to tighten up his receiving, and his swing has significant holes.
A back injury prevented David Cunningham from completing his senior season healthy, and he should wind up at Auburn. He makes sharp contact with a short, compact swing. He’s not terribly athletic or mobile on the bases an in the field. Jeff Lorick pounds the strike zone with an average fastball and fringe-average secondary stuff that could improve has he matures.
Andrew Robinson doesn’t have a prototypical pitcher’s body, with a thin frame, but his stuff and feel for pitching are above-average. He works off a low-90s fastball. He was injured late in the season and didn’t play as nationally ranked Starr’s Mill was upset in the playoffs. Robinson’s batterymate, Joey Lewis has an intriguing body but raw tools both at the plate and behind it. Mike Meschke has plus raw power, but he’ll probably be limited to first base as a pro because he’s a below-average runner with average arm strength. His catch-and-throw skills are raw, but the club that believes he can catch could draft him in the top 10 rounds based on his power potential from the left side of the plate.
A bout with tendinitis slowed Evan Parrish’s spring, but he was generating buzz with a fastball that sits near 89 mph, touching 93. Parrish has feel for his changeup and curveball and has excellent mound presence. Knee surgery sapped Matt Cerione of his best tool, his above-average speed. Had he been healthy this spring and performed well, he could have drawn some interest in the top six rounds. His instincts and work ethic help his other tools play up, and he showed some bat speed and ability to handle center field before his injury.
Two-way player Tom Hickman didn’t receive the same exposure this spring as some of his East Cobb travel league teammates, but he had an impressive season nonetheless. He had some shoulder stiffness, perhaps because he didn’t have much time to prepare for baseball after playing basketball this winter. His fastball sat between 86-90 mph, and he flashes a plus changeup that he can run away from righthanders and cut on lefthanders. His package is projectable, both as a hitter and a pitcher. Hickman has a smooth stroke and allows balls to travel deep before centering them. He lacks the speed and range to handle center field, but has arm strength and raw power that profile well in right.
Florida State signee D’Vontry Richardson split time between baseball and football in high school, and he is considered more advanced in football. He could play both sports at FSU, and his plus speed and strength are an intriguing blend. He swings and misses often, has a raw approach at the plate and needs to improve his pitch recognition. Ross Smith, the son of Cardinals area scout Roger, has overcome a pair of knee injuries during his high school career. His package of tools–headlined by a strong arm and athleticism–is relatively unrefined. He has some life and looseness in his hands at the plate, which gives him above-average bat speed.