|THIS YEAR’S CROP|
|*****||One for the books|
|***||Solid, not spectacular|
|**||Not up to par|
|*||Nothing to see here|
is one of the few states that has provided pleasant surprises for
scouts this spring. Wichita State lefthander Kris Johnson returned
sooner and better than expected from 2005 Tommy John surgery, pitching
his way into supplemental-first-round consideration. Barton County
righthander Chad Lee, who had a knee injury the year before, emerged as
the nation’s top juco prospect whose rights aren’t held by a major
league team. And righthander Don Czyz, the closer on Kansas’ surprising
Big 12 Conference tournament championship club, improved his stuff to
become one of the more attractive senior signs available.
|National Top 200 Prospects
1. Kris Johnson, lhp, Wichita State
2. Chad Lee, rhp, Barton County CC
3. Aaron Breit, rhp, Garden City CC (CONTROL: Padres)
|Other Players Of Note
4. Don Czyz, rhp, Kansas
5. Brad Miller, ss/rhp, Cowley County CC (CONTROL: Brewers)
6. Ryan Jones, of, Bishop Carroll HS, Wichita
7. Gus Milner, of, Kansas
8. Jared Goedert, 1b/3b, Kansas State
9. Zach Murry, ss, Chanute HS
10. Sean Land, lhp, Kansas
11. Nate Hedrick, rhp, Barton County CC
12. Sam Sharpe, rhp, St. Thomas Aquinas HS, Stilwell
13. Gabe Medina, rhp, Emporia State
14. Derek Schermerhorn, 1b/3b, Wichita State
15. Ricky Fairchild, rhp, Kansas
16. Joe Roundy, of, Kansas State
17. Adam Cowart, rhp, Kansas State
18. Kodiak Quick, rhp, Kansas
19. Barrett Rice, of, Kansas State
20. Chase Mitchell, rhp, Kansas State
1. Kris Johnson, lhp (National rank: 45)
School: Wichita State. Class: So.
Hometown: Blue Springs, Mo.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 185. Birthdate: 10/14/84.
With a month to go before the draft, Johnson’s stock was rising as much
as any player’s. He went a combined 10-0 in his first two seasons at
Wichita State and looked poised to succeed Mike Pelfrey as Wichita
State’s next ace. But then Johnson blew out his elbow, requiring Tommy
John surgery in April 2005. He returned to the mound in February, with
Wichita State nursing him along with short stints in midweek games. By
May, the velocity on his 88-93 mph fastball and his hard curveball had
returned. His changeup is a solid third pitch, and while his command
and feel aren’t all the way back, he’s still well ahead of schedule for
Tommy John survivors. Few lefthanders in this draft can match Johnson’s
stuff, so he could sneak into the end of the first round. The Orioles,
who pick 31st, are known to like him.
2. Chad Lee, rhp (National rank: 76)
School: Barton County CC. Class: So.
Hometown: Oklahoma City
B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 195. Birthdate: 12/20/85.
The top junior college prospect who’s not under control to a big league
club, Lee would have been a strong draft-and-follow candidate in 2005
had he not torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during
a rundown drill in fall practice. He came back in April 2005 but wasn’t
at full strength until this spring, when he made noise by unveiling a
91-95 mph fastball and an 80-81 mph power curve. His mechanics improved
as well, as he shortened his arm action in back. But with several
scouts on hand to watch him in an early April start, Lee felt a twinge
in his forearm and walked off the mound. Used in relief afterward, he
didn’t pitch well down the stretch. While he maintained his velocity,
his curveball and approach weren’t as good as they were earlier. He had
a chance to go in the second round before that setback, and now Lee
probably is looking at the third or fourth round. If he doesn’t sign,
he’ll attend Oklahoma.
3. Aaron Breit, rhp National rank: 145)
School: Garden City CC. Class: So.
Hometown: Hays, Kans.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 180. Birthdate: 4/19/86.
The Padres have taken Breit in each of the last two drafts–in the 46th
round out of high school in 2004 and in the 12th round a year ago. One
of the top draft-and-follows from 2005, he ranked as the No. 1 prospect
in the Jayhawk League last summer. He concluded his juco career with a
Garden City-record 15 strikeouts in a regional playoff game. Breit has
grown an inch and added 25 pounds in two years with the Broncbusters,
and his stuff has grown as well. He now consistently throws his
fastball at 91-94 mph, and he has good command of an average curveball.
His third pitch is a splitter that functions as a changeup. If San
Diego fails to sign Breit, he’ll re-enter the draft as a potential
fifth-rounder. He has committed to Kansas in case he doesn’t turn pro.
Resurgent Jayhawks Program Starts Producing Talent
Righthander Don Czyz
led NCAA Division I with 18 saves entering the regional playoffs,
including one in the 9-7 victory over Nebraska that capped Kansas’
upset Big 12 Conference tournament championship. As a senior, Czyz
boosted his fastball velocity to 91-93 mph while also improving his
slider and changeup. His 6-foot-2, 200-pound body and arm action aren’t
ideal, but he throws strikes and competes like a bulldog. He could go
in the fifth to seventh round as a senior sign. His younger brother
Nick, a freshman lefty for the Jayhawks, should be a decent pick in a
couple of years.
Shortstop/righthander Brad Miller
also has a relative playing college baseball, as his cousin Drew Miller
has thrown 92-96 mph heat all spring for Seminole State (Okla.) Junior
College. Both are top draft-and-follows, as Brad was a 39th-round pick
by the Brewers in 2005. He’s a rangy shortstop with solid offensive
potential, speed and arm strength. When he has taken the mound, he has
thrown in the low 90s and commanded his curveball well. He has
committed to Oklahoma State in case he doesn’t sign this summer.
Outfielder Ryan Jones,
who led Bishop Carroll to the state 5-A title in 2005 and a third-place
finish this spring, is the state’s high school athlete of the year.
He’s a 6-foot, 180-pound athlete with solid tools across the board.
He’s not considered signable away from Wichita State and should make an
immediate impact as a freshman next year.
looks the part of a big league outfielder, with a 6-foot-5, 245-pound
frame and power, speed, range and arm strength. But scouts wish he’d
show more at the plate against good competition, as he has hit just
.221 and .282 in Big 12 play during his two seasons at Kansas. He’s a
streaky hitter who sometimes struggles to make contact. A 47th-round
pick of the Indians in 2005, he’ll go considerably higher as a senior
has an impressive athletic resume. He led Kansas high school
quarterbacks in passing yards as a junior, broke a Cloud County (Kan.)
Community College record with 73 hits as a freshman in 2004 and earned
first-team Summer All-America honors with a strong Jayhawk League
performance in 2005. Kansas State’s most dangerous hitter, Goedert
would enhance his pro chances if he were a better defender at the hot
corner. But he’s probably going to have to play first base at the next
Shortstop Zach Murry
is another Kansas prospect whose stock has soared this spring. Though
he has committed to Oklahoma State, he’s considered signable and could
go as high as the seventh round. The son of Neosho County Community
College head coach Steve Murry, Zach has good instincts, a nice
lefthanded swing and some speed and gap power. He projects as more of a
second baseman as a pro.
Coming off a solid performance in the Cape Cod League last summer, Sean Land
figured to go in the first five rounds. But his fastball dipped from
90-91 mph on the Cape to 86-89 for most of the spring, and his slider
and command also regressed. He’s still a 6-foot-5, 230-pound lefthander
with arm strength, and a team that believes he’ll be more effective
against wood bats still could take him in the first 10 rounds.
Chad Lee isn’t the only intriguing prospect not under control at Barton County. Freshman Nate Hedrick
is a 6-foot-10, 215-pound righthander who has plenty of projection. He
didn’t get much previous exposure because he was home-schooled in
Kansas City. Hedrick is still figuring out his mechanics, but his arm
works well. He throws in the upper-80s and has a Frisbee slider. While
Lee’s stuff drew more attention, Hedrick had a far better ERA (2.70 vs.
5.02) and twice as many saves (10 vs. five) for the Cougars.
Kansas’ best high school pitcher, righthander Sam Sharpe,
didn’t play high school baseball because of a dispute with his coach.
He does most of his pitching for the Kansas City Sluggers program that
has produced big leaguers Albert Pujols, Joey Devine and Shaun Marcum.
Sharpe, whose brother Steven pitches in the Athletics system, has an
88-92 mph fastball and a sharp curveball. The biggest knock on him is
that there’s not much projection remaining in his 6-foot-2, 200 pound
frame. Sharpe is strongly committed to Nebraska.