|THIS YEAR’S CROP|
|*****||One for the books|
|***||Solid, not spectacular|
|**||Not up to par|
|*||Nothing to see here|
The talent in Mississippi isn’t exceptional this year, but the development of a pair of two-sport stars, Justin Woodall and Justin Reed, helped keep the cupboard from being totally bare. While Woodall was considered a tough sign thanks to his commitment to play football at Alabama, Reed is much more likely to play professional baseball. Both players are exceptional athletes with raw skils, in contrast with the state’s top college prospect, Mississippi third baseman Chris Coghlan. Coghlan fortified his reputation as a polished hitter with a strong showing in the Southeastern Conference tournament, which Ole Miss won on its way to hosting a regional. “Jucos are really down in Mississippi this year and I think the real talent in four-year colleges is more in the underclassmen,” said an area scout with a National League organization. “The high school class starts with Reed and ends with Woodall for me, and Woodall’s asking price is a major factor.”
|National Top 200 Prospects
1. Justin Woodall, of/lhp, Lafayette County HS, Oxford
2. Chris Coghlan, 3b, Mississippi
3. Justin Reed, of, Hillcrest Christian HS, Jackson
4. Martin Beno, rhp, Mississippi Gulf Coast CC
|Other Players Of Note
5. Alex Pressley, of, Mississippi
6. Garrett White, lhp, Mississippi
7. Todric Johnson, of, Southern Mississippi
8. Thomas Berkery, 2b, Mississippi State
9. Josh Johnson, rhp, Mississippi State
10. Will Kline, rhp, Mississippi
11. Justin Henry, 2b, Mississippi
12. Craig Rodriguez, lhp, Mississippi
13. Justin Brashear, c, Mississippi
14. Jeff Rea, 2b, Mississippi State
15. Marc Maddox, 1b, Southern Mississippi
16. Jordan Brown, if/rhp, Meridian CC
17. Jarrod Dyson, of, Southwestern Mississippi CC
18. Cliff Russum, rhp, Southern Mississippi
19. Michael Robbins, lhp, Meridian JC
20. Xavier Qualls, Copiah-Lincoln CC
1. Justin Woodall, of/lhp (National rank: 80)
School: Lafayette County HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Oxford, Miss.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 215. Birthdate: 11/6/87.
Scouting Report: Woodall’s performance this spring was a pleasant surprise. A talented football player who has committed to play safety at Alabama, he has plus tools across the board. But he’s raw and has made it known to scouts that he has little desire to play baseball professionally at this point, with plans to join a close friend in Tuscaloosa who also plays football. He’s rangy and powerful in the outfield with above-average arm strength that produces 90-94 mph heat on the mound–from the left side. He’ll flash a hard, late-biting slider as well. Woodall has little feel for pitching and his approach at the plate is equally unrefined. He’s aggressive in all counts and looks to pull often. He makes hard contact with plus raw power. His quick, strong hands and wrists allow him to unleash the bat head through the zone with tremendous speed. He’s an above-average runner, though he doesn’t get out of the box quickly. Even as scouts expressed interest in Woodall this spring, he didn’t show enough interest in baseball to make him a premium pick. He opted out of one predraft workout because it interfered with a trip to Cancun.
2. Chris Coghlan, 3b(National rank: 89)
School: Mississippi. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Palm Harbor, Fla.
B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 202. Birthdate: 6/18/85.
Scouting Report: While Coghlan has never hit more than six home runs in a college season, he’s a polished hitter who is a good bet to hit for average with a wood bat. He took a step toward proving that last summer when he won the Cape Cod League batting title with a .326 average. He doesn’t generate above-average bat speed, but like Georgia Tech third baseman Wes Hodges, he has a penchant for making solid contact. He uses the entire field, has exceptional plate discipline, good plate coverage and works counts well. He caught briefly when he was younger, and a club could be tempted to move him back there, considering his lack of power at third base. Second base is another option. Coghlan has good hands and moves well to both sides. He has an average arm.
3. Justin Reed, of(National rank: 110)
School: Hillcrest Christian HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Jackson, Miss.
B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 193. Birthdate: 11/29/87.
Scouting Report: After a football game last fall when Reed ran for four touchdowns and more than 400 yards, he traveled to Atlanta the next morning and was on a baseball field with Team USA for the final junior national team trials. Reed didn’t make the team, but he made a good impression. He has been offered a football scholarship to Mississippi but is expected to sign with a team that drafts him in the first five rounds. His exceptional work ethic makes up for his below-average instincts. He profiles as a table-setting center fielder, and has drawn comparisons to Tim Raines and Matt Lawton. He’s a 60 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale, but his defensive game is unrefined. His arm is average to a tick below. Reed improved at the plate as a senior, shortening his swing and making sharper contact. He will hit the ball to all fields with gap to gap power. Reed doesn’t profile as a corner outfielder, so his ability to become a reliable center fielder will be paramount.
4. Martin Beno, rhp(National rank: 166)
School: Mississippi Gulf Coast CC. Class: So.
Hometown: Horn Lake, Miss.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 175. Birthdate: 8/24/86.
Scouting Report: Mississippi Gulf Coast coach Cooper Farris brought Beno to the Cape Cod League last summer, and he got off a plane one afternoon, arrived at the field shortly before first pitch of Wareham’s game against Cotuit and talked his way into an extra-inning game. He struck out the side and touched 93 mph in one inning of work, drawing interest from at least one club that offered him around $100,000 to sign as a free agent. He was drafted by the Royals in the 28th round in 2004 out of high school but didn’t sign following a season at Bossier Parish (La.) Community College. He transferred to pitch for Farris and boosted his stock. Beno has a quick arm and smooth delivery with a short arm action. His fastball sits in the low 90s, touching 94 with some late life. His slider is the more consistent of his two breaking balls. It’s been up to 85 mph, although it’s inconsistent. His changeup is a show-me offering. His fastball command is average, though he lacks much feel for pitching. Beno needs to improve his maturity on and off the field. He has committed to Oklahoma State, but should sign if he gets into the top five rounds.
Group Effort At Ole Miss
A year ago, Mississippi produced 10 players in the first 10 rounds of the draft, and the first six were from Ole Miss, including Brad Corley and Stephen Head three picks apart in the second round. The Rebels replaced their offense with an efficient group of position players, though they’re less attractive in the eyes of pro scouts.
Justin Henry and Alex Pressley posted matching .347 batting averages, finishing just off the .349 pace set by Coghlan. Henry doesn’t have an above-average tool, but he has value as a hard-working sophomore who handles the bat well and has a patient approach. Pressley arrived in Oxford thanks in part to the recruiting of his Neville High teammate, Robert Lane. Lane was the more highly touted of the twosome entering their senior seasons in 2003, but spent his time concentrating on football at Ole Miss. Pressley, meanwhile, developed in to a good all-around outfielder. He doesn’t hit for enough power to play a corner outfield position, and his range doesn’t profile in center. He has good speed and a below-average arm.
The top two prospects on the Rebels pitching staff were freshmen Lance Lynn and Cody Satterwhite. Garrett White led the team in appearances (25) and saves (8), and should be drafted in the top 10 rounds because of his potential to aid a major league bullpen from the left side. His fastball sits in the 90-92 mph range, and he pounds the zone with it, working ahead of hitters with an aggressive approach. His secondary stuff is fringy.
Will Kline performed better down the stretch as he gained confidence in his stuff, which has long shown potential. He had struggled in the past to command it. He complements an 88-90 mph fastball with a slider, which is at times an above-average pitch. He has a usable changeup that should improve as he learns to throw it more often. He pitched well in pressure situations, helping his profile as a potential reliever. Kline has a stocky build without much projection. He had Tommy John surgery earlier in his career, forcing him to redshirt in 2004.
Following two seasons at Pearl River (Miss.) Community College, lefty Craig Rodriguez transferred to Ole Miss, where he gave up 13 home runs and a .283 opponent average between the rotation and bullpen. He has a feel for pitching, but not much secondary stuff and a fastball that touches 90-91 mph. Mechanical flaws keep him from commanding his pitches better.
Justin Brashear was considered one of the best high school catchers in the country entering his senior season at Barbe High in Louisiana, where he played on a pair of state championship clubs and was Wade LeBlanc’s batterymate. He also played alongside Mets prospect Lastings Milledge and Braves prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia for USA Baseball’s youth national team in 2001. He hasn’t hit for average in college but ran into balls this season, connecting on 11 regular season home runs. He’s average defensively.
Mississippi State’s collection of draft-eligible prospects is less inspiring. Enigmatic righthander Josh Johnson will at times flash good command of a low-90s fastball, but other times he really scuffled, especially late this season. He typically spots the ball better on the inside corner to righthanded hitters. He has a tendency to leave his slurvy breaking ball out over the plate against lefthanded hitters. The Bulldogs’ top two hitters, Thomas Berkery and Jeff Rea, don’t have significant upside as professionals. Both players make consistent hard contact with metal bats, and Berkery’s versatility and .393 average, which led the Southeastern Conference, could entice a team to take him in the top 10 rounds. He was drafted by the Rangers last year in the 46th round and will have a little time to sign as a fifth-year senior before the draft unless Mississippi State wins the Clemson regional. Rea is an above-average runner with a proven track record at the plate. He would be a nice, reliable organization player with a chance to be more if he’s willing to sign in the 10-15-round range.
Toddric Johnson headlines a trio of Southern Miss players who should be drafted. He has quick hands at the plate, can drive the ball to both alleys and has a patient, consistent approach at the plate. He’s an above-average defensive center fielder with slightly above-average speed. First baseman Marc Maddox edged Johnson with 138 total bases, including 18 home runs as a senior this spring, and his .316 average was his lowest as a four-year starter for the Eagles. He lacks the bat speed to translate his swing well to wood.