|THIS YEAR’S CROP|
|*****||One for the books|
|***||Solid, not spectacular|
|**||Not up to par|
|*||Nothing to see here|
Nevertheless, the Lone Star State still could have a dozen players selected in the first and sandwich rounds. It also yielded Max Scherzer, the 2006 first-rounder who tuned up with the independent Fort Worth Cats before signing a big league contract worth $4.3 million with the Diamondbacks, and a $1 million draft-and-follow in Grayson County Community College righthander Jordan Walden.
|National Top 200 Prospects|
1. Blake Beavan, rhp, Irving (Texas) HS
2. Max Scherzer, rhp, None (SIGNED: Diamondbacks)
3. Joe Savery, lhp, Rice
4. Kevin Ahrens, 3b, Memorial HS, Houston
5. Brad Suttle, 3b, Texas
6. Kyle Russell, of, Texas
7. Will Middlebrooks, 3b/rhp, Liberty-Elyau HS, Texarkana, Texas
8. Chris Withrow, rhp, Midland (Texas) Christian HS
9. Jake Arrieta, rhp, Texas Christian
10. Cole St.Clair, lhp, Rice
11. Jordan Walden, rhp, Grayson County (Texas) CC (SIGNED: Angels)
12. Sam Demel, rhp, Texas Christian
13. Preston Clark, c, Texas
14. Matt West, 3b, Bellaire (Texas) HS
15. David Newmann, lhp, Texas A&M
16. Collin DeLome, of, Lamar
17. Chad Bettis, rhp, Monterey HS, Lubbock, Texas
18. Ryan Miller, lhp, Blinn (Texas) JC (SIGNED: Indians)
19. Rick Hague, ss, Klein Collins HS, Spring, Texas
20. Austin Krum, of, Dallas Baptist
21. Brandon Hicks, ss, Texas A&M
22. Brian Friday, ss, Rice
23. Brandon Workman, rhp, Bowie (Texas) HS
|Other Prospects Of Note|
24. Brett Eibner, rhp, The Woodlands (Texas) HS
25. Tyler Henley, of, Rice
27. Eric Eiland, of, Lamar HS, Houston
26. Aaron Brown, rhp, Houston
28. Taylor Grote, of, The Woodlands (Texas) HS
29. P.J. Dean, rhp, New Caney (Texas) HS
30. Kyle Nicholson, rhp, Texas A&M
31. Randy Boone, rhp, Texas
32. Blake Stouffer, 1b/3b, Texas A&M
33. Drake Britton, lhp, Tomball (Texas) HS
34. Chase Reid, rhp, Carroll HS, Southlake, Texas
35. Kevin Keyes, of/rhp, John B. Connally HS, Austin, Texas
36. Ryne Tacker, rhp, Rice
37. Michael Ambort, c, Lamar
38. Keith Conlon, of, Texas Christian
39. Ryan Turner, rhp, Richland (Texas) HS
40. James Russell, lhp, Texas
41. Adrian Alaniz, lhp, Texas
42. Andrew Walker, c, Texas Christian
43. Nate Jennings, rhp, Texas-Tyler
44. Chance Corgan, rhp, Texas Christian
45. Gary Poynter, rhp, Weatherford (Texas) JC (CONTROL: Rangers)
46. Andrew Cashner, rhp, Angelina (Texas) JC (CONTROL: Rockies)
47. Danny Lehmann, c, Rice
48. Jeff Mandel, rhp, Baylor
49. Matt McGuirk, of, Texas Christian
50. Michael Bolsinger, rhp, Grayson County (Texas) CC (CONTROL: Indians)
51. Erik Kanaby, of, Lamar
52. Hank Williamson, rhp, San Jacinto (Texas) JC
53. Chris Johnson, rhp, Texas Christian
54. Richard Orange, of/rhp, Lubbock Christian (Texas)
55. Michael Richard, ss, Prairie View A&M
56. Tyrone Hambly, 3b, Grayson County (Texas) CC
57. Cameron Rupp, c/1b, Prestonwood Christian Academy, Plano
58. Chris Corrigan, rhp, San Jacinto (Texas) JC
59. Zach Oliver, lhp, Paris (Texas) JC (CONTROL: Braves)
60. Brandon Belt, lhp/1b, San Jacinto (Texas) JC (CONTROL: Red Sox)
61. Eric Fry, of, San Jacinto (Texas) JC (CONTROL: Rangers)
62. Chris Kelley, rhp, Rice
63. Lucas Luetge, lhp, San Jacinto (Texas) JC (CONTROL: White Sox)
64. Chad Mozingo, of, Klein (Texas) HS
65. Ben Feltner, of, Texas A&M
66. Joseph Paylor, of, Hillcrest HS, Dallas
67. Bobby Bramhall, lhp, Rice
68. Randall Linebaugh, rhp, Baylor
69. Matt Evers, lhp, Stratford (Texas) HS
70. Chase Gerdes, of, Baylor
71. Maurice Bankston, rhp, Texarkana (Texas) JC
72. Joseph Krebs, lhp, Texas
73. Joseph Leftridge, of, Duncanville (Texas) HS
74. Rafael Thomas, of, Lufkin (Texas) HS
75. Runey Davis, of, Georgetown (Texas) HS
76. Travis Lawler, rhp, A&M Consolidated HS, College Station, Texas
77. Matt Smith, c, Texas Tech
78. Steven Hill, 1b, Stephen F. Austin State
79. Tyler Ladendorf, ss, Howard (Texas) JC (CONTROL: Yankees)
80. Scott Meyer, rhp, Lamar
81. Joris Bert, of, Frank Phillips (Texas) JC
82. Benino Pruneda, rhp, San Jacinto (Texas) JC
83. Michael Johnson, rhp, San Jacinto (Texas) JC
84. Nick Peoples, of, Texas
85. Jeremy Barfield, of, San Jacinto (Texas) JC (CONTROL: Mets)
86. Austin Adams, of, Texas Christian
87. Garrett Baker, of, Dallas Baptist (SIGNED: Giants)
88. Jonathan Kaskow, 1b, Coppell (Texas) HS
89. Ryan Brasier, rhp, Weatherford (Texas) JC
90. Garrett Clyde, rhp, San Jacinto (Texas) JC
91. Brian Needham, rhp, Lamar
92. Jacob Leonhardt, rhp, Stephen F. Austin State
93. Caleb Staudt, rhp, St. Mary’s (Texas)
94. Jason Lara, rhp, Prairie View A&M
95. Rashad Ford, rhp, Texas Southern
96. Stayton Thomas, rhp, Corsicana (Texas) HS
97. Kevin Angelle, lhp, San Jacinto (Texas) JC (CONTROL: Rangers)
98. Kyle Martin, ss, Texas Tech
99. David Wood, 1b, Texas State
100. Parker Dalton, 2b, Texas A&M
101. Chance Wheeless, 1b, Texas
102. Jacob Bidelman, rhp, Celina (Texas) HS
103. Luke Prihoda, rhp, Sam Houston State
104. Kristian Bueno, lhp, Calallen HS, Corpus Christi, Texas
105. Conrad Flynn, rhp, Robert E. Lee HS, Midland, Texas
106. Tant Shepherd, 3b, Flower Mound (Texas) HS
107. Paul Demny, rhp, East Bernard (Texas) HS
108. Kenneth Gilbert, of, DeSoto (Texas) HS
109. Allen Harrington, lhp, Lamar
110. Tim Matthews, rhp, Baylor
111. Jordan Dodson, of, Rice
112. Monty Daniel, rhp, Douglas MacArthur HS, San Antonio
113. Jose Duran, ss, North Central Texas JC
114. Ross Speed, rhp, Westwood HS, Austin, Texas
115. Michael Pair, rhp, Trinity Christian Academy, Dallas
116. Chase Dempsay, rhp/3b, Sterling HS, Baytown, Texas
117. Nick Pepitone, rhp/1b, Katy (Texas) HS
118. Aaron Dabb, lhp, Katy (Texas) HS
119. Ryan Riddle, lhp, Texas Wesleyan
120. Chris Holguin, rhp, Lubbock Christian (Texas)
|1. Blake Beavan, rhp (National rank: 13)|
School: Irving (Texas) HS. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-7. Wt.: 210. Birthdate: 1/17/89.
|Scouting Report: Beavan set the tone for a dominant senior season last summer, when he threw an 11-strikeout shutout against Cuba–in Cuba–during the quarterfinals of the World Junior Championship. The ace of Team USA and Baseball America’s 2006 Youth Player of the Year, Beavan allowed two earned runs in 11 starts this spring, including an 18-whiff perfect game and a 15-strikeout one-hitter in the playoffs. He has pitched at 91-96 mph with his fastball all spring, and some scouts believe his hard slider may be his best pitch. His 6-foot-7, 210-pound frame adds to his intimidating presence, and it’s tough for righthanders to dig in when he drops down to a lower three-quarters arm angle. Beavan’s mechanics are the only thing that give scouts pause about him. He has some recoil and effort in his arm action, and he often stays too upright and doesn’t finish over his front side. He also tips his pitches at times by varying his arm slot. Despite those concerns, Beavan has been durable and should go in the middle of the first round. He committed to Oklahoma but won’t be a tough sign.|
|2. Max Scherzer, rhp (National rank: 17)|
School: None. Class: —
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Birthdate: 7/27/84.
|Scouting Report: After pitching in the mid- to high-90s with Missouri and Team USA in 2005, Scherzer projected as the top righthander in the 2006 draft. But he came down with biceps tendinitis at midseason and sat at 91-92 mph. Several teams didn’t get the medical clearance to draft Scherzer, and questions about his signability also didn’t help his case. The Diamondbacks took him 11th overall, but he had not signed and agent Scott Boras steered him to the independent Fort Worth Cats this spring. Fellow Boras client Luke Hochevar took the same path en route to becoming the No. 1 overall pick in 2006, and Scherzer could do the same if he regains his 2005 form in a year short on quality college-age righthanders. In his first two outings for the Cats, Scherzer showed he was healthy and pitched from 92-98 mph from his fastball. However, his heater lacked life and his slider was a below-average pitch. His changeup and two-seam fastball are still works in progress. Scherzer throws with some effort and ultimately may be more of a closer than a frontline starter. Few specifics about his negotiations with the Diamondbacks have leaked out, though the club is believed to have offered around $3 million with Scherzer and Boras looking for roughly twice that, probably in a major league contract. If he doesn’t sign by May 30, he’ll re-enter the draft.|
|3. Joe Savery, lhp (National rank: 21)|
School: Rice. Class: Jr.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 215. Birthdate: 11/4/85.
|Scouting Report: Area scouts have projected Savery as a 2007 first-rounder since he came out of Lamar High in Houston three years ago. He was the top two-way player in the state, but it would have taken a $1 million bonus to dissuade him from following Jeff Niemann’s path from Lamar to Rice. As with Niemann in 2004, Savery hasn’t been 100 percent in his draft year following offseason surgery. He didn’t pitch for the Owls last June, then had minor surgery to shave down a bone growth in the back of his shoulder that was causing some fraying in his labrum. Savery has taken a regular turn in the Rice rotation this spring, but he has been less than dominant, as his 44-30 K-BB ratio through 68 innings would attest. Savery’s velocity was improving in early May, as he was showing a 90-94 mph fastball for a couple of innings and still touched 90 after 100 pitches. In his initial starts this season, he worked more often at 85-89 mph. His changeup is a plus pitch, and his hard, slurvy curveball can get strikeouts when it’s on, though he hasn’t used it as much as in the past. Savery has continued to pull double duty for the Owls, playing first base and leading the club with a .353 average and 43 RBIs through 52 games. Once he regains full health, he could take off after he focuses his energy and efforts on pitching. The recent litany of Rice pitching prospects who have needed surgery after turning pro concerns scouts, but Savery could be a steal if he slides into the second half of the first round.|
|4. Kevin Ahrens, 3b (National rank: 28)|
School: Memorial HS, Houston. Class: Sr.
B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180. Birthdate: 4/26/88.
|Scouting Report: The best high school hitter in another strong year in Texas, Ahrens repeatedly draws comparisons to Chipper Jones. That holds up on several levels, as Ahrens is a switch-hitter with power and a high school shortstop who will have to move to third base at the next level, whether that’s at Texas A&M or in pro ball. More of a gap-to-gap hitter in the past, Ahrens has gotten stronger and started to turn on his power at the World Wood Bat Championship last fall, hitting a game-winning triple in the quarterfinals and a game-winning homer in the semis before his Houston Heat lost in the championship game. He’s proficient from both sides of the plate, with a sound approach and little effort in his swing. The only thing lacking in Ahrens’ game is speed, as he’s a below-average runner. Though he still sees himself as a shortstop, he’ll definitely have to shift to the hot corner, where his plus arm and soft hands will be assets. In a tremendous year for high school third basemen, Ahrens could be a bit of a steal in the late first round or early supplemental first round.|
|5. Brad Suttle, 3b (National rank: 34)|
School: Texas. Class: So.
B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 213. Birthdate: 1/24/86.
|Scouting Report: There’s a debate among scouts about who’s better, Suttle or his Longhorns teammate, Kyle Russell. Suttle doesn’t have Russell’s power ceiling, but he’s a better bet to hit in the major leagues. He’s a pure hitter and switch-hitter to boot, with scouts preferring his stroke from the left side. He has a strong 6-foot-2, 213-pound frame, though his inside-out swing doesn’t have much lift and somewhat limits his power. He drives more balls into the gaps than over the fence. The biggest knocks on Suttle are his heavy legs and lack of speed. That limits his range at third base, though he has a strong arm (clocked up to 92 mph when he was a high school pitcher) and soft hands. Some teams may be wary of him because he’s a Type 1 diabetic, but he hasn’t let if affect his career. The Hendricks brothers, his advisers, have put a $1 million price tag on Suttle, and he does have extra leverage as a draft-eligible sophomore. But clubs expect he’ll sign if he’s taken in the upper half of the sandwich round.|
|6. Kyle Russell, of (National rank: 35)|
School: Texas. Class: So.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 185. Birthdate: 6/27/86.
|Scouting Report: No potential first-rounder creates as much divergent opinion as Russell, whom some teams rate as no more than a fourth- or fifth-round talent. He plays in a tough hitter’s park and against quality competition in the Big 12 Conference, and he led NCAA Division I with 26 homers with a week remaining in the regular season. That total obliterated the Longhorns record of 20, and he also led the nation in slugging percentage (.877). He has a quick bat and lefthanded power to all fields, and he also offers solid athleticism, speed and arm strength. Yet a lot of scouts aren’t sold on his stroke and approach. They say it’s a grooved swing with too much uppercut, and pitchers can get him out by working up in the zone or coming inside. They also wonder how he’ll handle quality lefthanders. Russell has performed poorly on national stages in front of scouting directors and crosscheckers in the past, going 0-for-19 with 12 strikeouts at the 2004 Area Code Games and batting .206 with a league-record 64 strikeouts in 126 at-bats in the Cape Cod League last summer. But he still has a big ceiling, and as one scout who likes him says, “I defy any lefthanded hitter to hit 26 home runs in that ballpark against the competition they face. At some point you have to give him credit for that.” Another draft-eligible sophomore at Texas, Russell like Brad Suttle is advised by the Hendricks brothers and could seek a seven-figure bonus. He could get that in the first round, and the asking price could be a ploy to steer him to a club that will pay him in the sandwich round.|
|7. Will Middlebrooks, 3b/rhp (National rank: 36)|
School: Liberty-Elyau HS, Texarkana, Texas. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 215. Birthdate: 9/9/88.
|Scouting Report: Kevin Ahrens isn’t the only blue-chip third-base recruit Texas A&M could lose to the draft. Where Ahrens gets compared with Chipper Jones, the more athletic Middlebrooks draws Cal Ripken Jr. and Scott Rolen comparisons. Selected to play in a Texas high school football all-star game, Middlebrooks drew college interest as a quarterback and punter. He’s also a 6-foot-4, 215-pound righthander with a low-90s fastball and an occasional plus curveball. But his future is at the hot corner. He’s not quite as polished a hitter as Ahrens, but he’s not far off and his size gives him leverage that will produce power. He’s an athletic third baseman with good range and a strong arm, and he runs well for his size. Middlebrooks is a consensus supplemental first-rounder, but he could sneak into the first round with the right club.|
|8. Chris Withrow, rhp (National rank: 44)|
School: Midland (Texas) Christian HS. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 195. Birthdate: 4/1/89.
|Scouting Report: Withrow first boosted his stock last summer at the Texas Scout Association showcase, and he has continued to rise up draft boards this spring. He has a projectable 6-foot-3, 195-pound body and plenty of present velocity. He was reaching 93-94 mph as the draft approached and consistently pitching at 88-92 mph. He has a clean delivery, no surprise for someone whose father Mike pitched at Texas and reached Double-A in the White Sox system. Mike is also his pitching coach at Midland Christian High. Withrow doesn’t always finish his curveball, but it’s a promising pitch with bite and has improved this spring. He should get drafted high enough to pass up the opportunity to attend Baylor, but if he does go to college he’ll be a two-way player. He has some hitting ability and the athleticism to play an outfield corner.|
|9. Jake Arrieta, rhp (National rank: 55)|
School: Texas Christian. Class: Jr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 225. Birthdate: 3/6/86.
|Scouting Report: After a sensational 2006, Arrieta has cooled off this spring. He tied for the NCAA Division I lead with 14 wins at Texas Christian after transferring from Weatherford (Texas) Junior College, and encored by going 4-0, 0.27 with Team USA last summer. But instead of dominating the weak Mountain West Conference this spring, he has been inconsistent. He showed a 91-94 mph fastball with life and a hard slider a year ago, but this spring he has lost velocity and life. His fastball has been 88-91 mph and straight, and though he’s 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, his drop-and-drive delivery means his heater comes in on a flat plane. Arrieta has struggled to repeat his mechanics, which has led to command difficulties. He hasn’t used his changeup much, though it should become a decent third pitch. If Arrieta can turn himself around, he could be a steal in the supplemental first round after projecting at one point as a possible top-10 pick. But he’s also represented by Scott Boras, and if he’s looking for more than slot money, he could slide.|
|10. Cole St.Clair, lhp (National rank: 56)|
School: Rice. Class: Jr.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 225. Birthdate: 7/30/86.
|Scouting Report: Like Joe Savery, St.Clair is a Rice lefthander who has been tough to get a handle on because he has been less than 100 percent physically. He impressed scouts last summer with Team USA, going 4-0, 0.69 with three saves while displaying a 91-94 mph fastball and a plus curveball. His size (6-foot-5, 225 pounds) is another plus. But he strained his shoulder lifting weights shortly before this season began and missed the first two months. St.Clair’s stuff has looked good when he has taken the mound, as he has worked at 90-92 mph and flashed a good curve. Yet he had pitched just 11 innings in five weeks and he’s a reliever, so scouts had trouble catching him in action. When healthy, St.Clair has been more dominant than Savery. Several clubs believe he has enough stuff to start in pro ball, a transition he wants to make. St.Clair was a potential top 10 pick coming into 2007, and he could vault back into the first round if he shows teams he’s healthy. If that happens, he’d be the second member of Foothill High’s (Santa Ana, Calif.) 2004 pitching staff to go in the first round, joining Phil Hughes of the Yankees. If he drops too far, signing him away from his senior season at Rice could become an issue.|
|11. Jordan Walden, rhp (National rank: 69)|
School: Grayson County (Texas) CC. Class: Fr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 225. Birthdate: 11/16/87.
|Scouting Report: Walden was Baseball America’s No. 1 high school prospect at the outset of the 2006 season, but an inconsistent senior year killed any chance that he’d realize his desire for a seven-figure bonus. After touching 99 mph the previous summer, he dipped as low as 85-88. When he fell to the Angels in the 12th round last June, he turned down a scholarship from Texas to attend Grayson County Junior College and keep his draft options open. Walden has been much better in 2007, sitting at 92-94 mph and peaking at 97. In addition to increased velocity, he has improved his slider and his command of his two primary pitches. Grayson’s coaches also have forced him to use his changeup, which he’ll need in pro ball. They toned down his delivery, though it still has some stiffness that leads to worries about how much command he’ll develop. He closed his season with a bang, striking out 15 and carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning of a regional playoff game. Other clubs expect the Angels to sign him as a draft-and-follow, and he’d be a sandwich or second-round pick if he re-entered the draft.|
|12. Sam Demel, rhp (National rank: 70)|
School: Texas Christian. Class: Jr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Birthdate: 10/23/85.
|Scouting Report: Demel broke Josh Beckett’s single-season strikeout record with 188 at Spring (Texas) High, and he has set the career saves mark at Texas Christian. He also has enjoyed success as a starter for the Horned Frogs, but pro teams project him as a reliever because he’s small (6 feet, 185 pounds) and has a lot of violence in his delivery. That max-effort approach does produce nasty stuff, however. Demel has a 92-94 mph fastball that can touch 96, and it has armside run. His slider may be his best pitch, though at times he’ll rely on it too much. He also has a changeup that drops off at the plate, giving him a weapon against lefthanders. While his mechanics make scouts cringe, Demel never has had arm problems. He figures to go between the second and fourth rounds, and a team coveting a nearly ready reliever could make him a supplemental first-rounder.|
|13. Preston Clark, c (National rank: 103)|
School: Texas. Class: So.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 212. Birthdate: 8/16/85.
|Scouting Report: Clark is one of three prime draft-eligible sophomores with reported seven-figure price tags at Texas, but there are a couple of differences between him, third baseman Brad Suttle and outfielder Kyle Russell. Suttle and Russell are 21-year-olds in their second year of college, while Clark is in his third year after redshirting in 2005 while getting his classwork in order. And while Suttle and Russell have played well enough to go in the sandwich round, Clark hasn’t shown that kind of bat. He hit just .295 during the regular season, in part because he struggles against breaking balls. Clark does have power potential, and he’s more ready for the next level defensively than offensively. He has strong catch-and-throw skills, including nimble footwork, a quick transfer and arm strength. Clark had arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees while in high school, and he’ll have to watch the weight on his 5-foot-11, 212-pound frame. His offensive performance merits a third-round selection, which may not be high enough to sign him. Catchers often get overdrafted, however. If Clark returns to the Longhorns and improves offensively in 2008, he could be a first-round pick.|
|14. Matt West, 3b (National rank: 104)|
School: Bellaire (Texas) HS. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195. Birthdate: 11/21/88.
|Scouting Report: West was known mostly for his arm strength coming into 2007, but his bat garnered a lot of attention early this spring and at one point seemed destined to make him a supplemental first-rounder. He has cooled off somewhat, particularly when he faced better competition, and now looks like more of a second- or third-rounder. West doesn’t have a long track record as a hitter, but he has fared well in wood-bat workouts. He stays inside pitches well, uses the opposite field and has some power potential. He’s a solid athlete with good hands, but he’ll have to move from shortstop once he leaves high school. He’s probably destined for third base because he’s already 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds and second base would be a stretch once he fills out. West has committed to both San Jacinto (Texas) Junior College and Arizona State in order to keep his options open, but he’s not considered a tough sign.|
|15. David Newmann, lhp (National rank: 106)|
School: Texas A&M. Class: Jr.
B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Birthdate: 6/24/85.
|Scouting Report: Though Newmann didn’t pitch in 2005 or 2006 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Brewers still drafted him in the 29th round last June–a good indication of his potential. In his only previous college season before this one, Newmann pitched San Jacinto (Texas) Junior College to the championship game of the 2004 Junior College World Series. He threw a one-hitter in the tournament opener and contributed three saves. Newmann is a four-pitch lefthander who has heavy sink on an 88-92 mph fastball that he can boost to 94 when he throws a four-seamer. He also has a good curveball and a decent changeup, but like many Tommy John survivors, it has taken him a while to regain his command. Newmann got off to a good start this spring but has been inconsistent since. He doesn’t have the smoothest delivery or a lot of athleticism, but he competes hard and gets the job done. As a nearly 22-year-old junior, Newmann is expected to be an easy sign should he go in the first three rounds of the draft.|
|16. Collin DeLome, of (National rank: 108)|
School: Lamar. Class: Jr.
B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Birthdate: 12/18/85.
|Scouting Report: Scouts have scanned the nation for athletic college position players, and they found one at Lamar in DeLome. Few collegians can match his all-around package of tools, as he has bat speed, foot speed, center-field range and arm strength. As a bonus, he’s a lefthanded hitter. DeLome, a former middle infielder at a small-town Texas high school, still is refining all aspects of his game. He drew just 12 walks during the regular season and struggles against quality fastballs and lefthanders. His instincts on the bases and in the outfield are still developing, so he has yet to make the most of his quickness. He may wind up moving from center to an outfield corner despite his range. A hot start positioned DeLome as a possible supplemental first-rounder, but he subsequently cooled off and now will be a second- or third-rounder.|
|17. Chad Bettis, rhp (National rank: 124)|
School: Monterey HS, Lubbock, Texas. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 175. Birthdate: 4/26/89.
|Scouting Report: West Texas isn’t scouted as heavily as the rest of the state, and Bettis didn’t pop up on the radar of most clubs until late in the spring. He got a late start on his senior season after hurting a knee playing pickup football, an injury that required arthroscopic surgery in January. When he got on the mound, he showed a 91-94 mph fastball and drew comparisons to Jake Peavy. Bettis throws from a low three-quarters slot and isn’t big at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds. While he doesn’t throw on a steep downward plane, his arm angle generates a lot of life on his heater and makes it difficult to hit. His hard curveball ball shows promise and his clean mechanics helped him hold up to a heavy workload down the stretch, as Monterey High rode him during the Texas 5-A playoffs. Bettis isn’t high on draft boards for several teams, though he could be a third-rounder for a club such as the Devil Rays or White Sox. He’ll attend Texas Tech if he doesn’t turn pro.|
|18. Ryan Miller, lhp (National rank: 146)|
School: Blinn (Texas) JC. Class: So.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 195. Birthdate: 12/14/86.
|Scouting Report: The top lefthanded pitching prospect on the Texas junior college scene this spring, Miller went 9-0, 2.05 and ranked among the national juco leaders with 115 strikeouts in 92 innings. He’s not big at 6 feet and 195 pounds, but he has big-time stuff for a southpaw. Miller attacks hitters with a 91-93 mph fastball and a hard 78-81 mph breaking ball. He’s still making the transition from thrower to pitcher, as he telegraphs his marginal changeup by slowing down his arm speed. He’ll have to improve his location at the next level as well. The Indians control Miller’s rights after selecting him in the 36th round last June, and he’s expected to sign as a prime draft-and-follow. Should he unexpectedly return for his junior year, he’ll attend Arkansas.|
|19. Rick Hague, ss (National rank: 154)|
School: Klein Collins HS, Spring, Texas. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185. Birthdate: 9/18/88.
|Scouting Report: Preparing for the expected loss of Brian Friday to the draft, Rice got commitments from not one, but two blue-chip shortstop recruits in Hague and Louisiana high schooler Carmen Angelini. Scouts like Hague’s potential both offensively and defensively, as well as the intangibles he brings to the table. He currently uses a line-drive approach and could grow into power as he adds strength to his 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame. He plays under control and shows smooth action at shortstop. His speed and arm strength are average tools. Some teams might consider Hague as early as the second or third round if not for the fact that he’s considered to be virtually unsignable. After three years at Rice, he could become a premium pick in the 2010 draft.|
|20. Austin Krum, of (National rank: 158)|
School: Dallas Baptist. Class: Jr.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Birthdate: 1/19/86.
|Scouting Report: Krum offers an intriguing package of tools, and when he came out of high school, his athleticism afforded him a football scholarship offer from Northern Colorado and recruited walk-on opportunities at Colorado and Colorado State. He has no better than average size (6 feet, 185 pounds) or speed, yet he has been able to play center field and steal bases in college thanks to his impressive instincts. At the plate, Krum has bat speed and an aggressive swing, yet he drew more walks than strikeouts this spring. His arm strength is average. While he has solid tools across the board, some scouts wonder how his game will translate to pro ball. He doesn’t have a true plus tool, will have to tone down his approach and may be a ‘tweener more than a true center fielder or corner outfielder. There are teams that are sold on Krum’s package, and they could take him as early as the third round.|
|21. Brandon Hicks, ss (National rank: 172)|
School: Texas A&M. Class: Jr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Birthdate: 9/14/85.
|Scouting Report: Last year, Hicks was the best junior college position player in Texas who wasn’t under control to a big league club. He wanted to sign after helping San Jacinto reach the Junior College World Series, but scouts questioned his bat and he went undrafted. That won’t happen again, not after he has transferred to Texas A&M and led an Aggies resurgence. His instincts allow him to play above his tools, and he’s not short there. He’s a 6-foot-2, 205-pound athlete who has improved at the plate while continuing to make all the plays at shortstop and use his solid speed to steal bases. A&M coaches have helped Hicks make adjustments with his swing, though he still pulls off breaking pitches. He hasn’t pitched this spring, but he flashed a low-90s fastball and promising secondary stuff while at San Jacinto. There still are some scouts who aren’t sold on his hitting ability, but Hicks’ performance and tools could get him overdrafted (perhaps as high as the second round) in a draft short on college middle infielders.|
|22. Brian Friday, ss (National rank: 177)|
School: Rice. Class: Jr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 180. Birthdate: 12/16/85.
|Scouting Report: Friday went from hitting .256 with one homer as a freshman to a team-high .353 with nine home runs as a sophomore, helping lead Rice to a third-place finish at the 2006 College World Series. He hasn’t hit with the same authority this spring, though he’s doing a better job of controlling the strike zone. That will be key if he’s going to be a leadoff or No. 2 hitter in pro ball, as will adding strength to his 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame. His plus speed, baserunning instincts and bunting ability are suited for the top of the order. Friday covers a lot of ground at shortstop and enhances his strong arm with a quick exchange. His lone defensive flaw is that he tends to sit back on grounders. He’s not as physically imposing as Texas A&M’s Brandon Hicks, but some area scouts believe in Friday’s bat more than Hicks’.|
|23. Brandon Workman, rhp (National rank: 195)|
School: Bowie (Texas) HS. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 195. Birthdate: 8/13/88.
|Scouting Report: On the right day, Workman can look like a first-rounder. He’ll show a low-90s fastball that tops out at 95 mph to go with a plus 12-to-6 curveball, and that stuff comes from a projectable 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame. He’s still growing too, having added two inches and 20 pounds since last summer. But the problem is poor arm action that scares scouts and robs Workman of any consistency. His mechanics will need an overhaul, and though he has enticing raw arm strength, it’s going to be difficult to draft him high enough to lure him away from Texas. He’s a top student and scouts don’t think he’ll sign for less than third-round money.|
Eibner Returns To Throw Heat
Brett Eibner and Taylor Grote joined David Alleman (see below) to form the outfield on The Woodlands High’s 2006 national championship team. Grote entered the spring regarded as the best prospect of the trio, but Eibner likely will be the first of the group drafted–and as a righthanded pitcher. Eibner missed the first half of the season when he broke the hamate bone in his left wrist, but he touched 94 mph with his fastball in his first outing and showed 90-plus mph velocity in each of his starts. He’s still projectable at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, and has a promising curveball. Eibner’s arm action and command still need cleaning up. If he makes it to Arkansas, he’ll play both ways for the Razorbacks.
Grote’s stock has slipped a little, as scouts say he doesn’t get the barrel of his bat on the ball consistently. He’ll have to make adjustments to his stroke, adding more lift and reducing a bat wrap that makes his swing too long. Grote is athletic, but he may not have the speed to play center field or the true power to play on an outfield corner. He makes plays on defense, though more on instincts than pure range or arm strength. He has kept his college options open by committing to both San Jacinto (Texas) Junior College and Texas.
Outfielder Tyler Henley could have gone in the first three rounds after a strong sophomore season at Rice and summer in the Cape Cod League, but he hit just .310 with five homers during the regular season. He looks more like a sixth- to 10th-rounder, and he may not be signable in that part of the draft. A 50th-round pick by the Astros as a draft-eligible sophomore last June, Henley has solid tools across the board and plays hard. He’s a better athlete than most 5-foot-10, 200-pounders, and he can play center field.
After a brilliant performance at the Area Code Games last summer, outfielder Eric Eiland generated buzz as a possible first-round pick. Billed as the best high school athlete to come out of Houston since Carl Crawford, Eiland didn’t live up to that tag while battling left hamstring problems. The injury robbed him of his plus speed and restricted his spring. Eiland was raw at the plate to begin with, and it’s likely that a club will draft him and evaluate him in summer ball before deciding whether to sign him. A reported $1 million price tag may mean that he winds up at Texas A&M.
As a 6-foot-6, 185-pounder, righthander Aaron Brown was one of the more projectable high school arms in the state three years ago. But after three years at Houston, he hasn’t added velocity despite putting on 15 pounds. Brown has touched 95 mph in the past, but he spent much of 2007 working with an 88-91 mph fastball and a slurvy breaking ball. He had one of his best outings of the year against East Carolina in early May, then finished the season by giving up 13 runs in 12 innings over his final three starts.
Like fellow Oklahoma recruit Blake Beavan, righthander P.J. Dean may not make it to the Sooners. He’s projectable at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, and his present stuff already is pretty good, highlighted by an 88-92 mph fastball and a hard breaking ball. His commands and mechanics need work, and scouts have questions about his makeup, so he could fall out of the first five rounds.
Righthander Kyle Nicholson had a nondescript first three years at Texas A&M, winning a combined 10 games and pitching mostly in relief. He has been invaluable as a swingman in 2007, keying an Aggies resurgence by going 11-1 with four saves and a Big 12 Conference-leading 1.92 ERA entering the NCAA regionals. He’s just 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds, but he could sneak into the first five rounds thanks to the exceptional sink on his two-seam fastball. He also has an 89-92 mph four-seamer, a curveball and a changeup that dives at the plate. He could move quickly as a set-up man in pro ball.
First baseman/third baseman Blake Stouffer also has improved significantly for the Aggies. He barely played as a freshman and hit .259 as a sophomore, but he hinted at his breakout with a strong performance in the Alaska League last summer. Stouffer has jumped his average to .391 this spring and stole 20 bases in Texas A&M’s run-happy attack. He’s a switch-hitter who can hit for average and gap power, and he’s a good athlete and runner, but his future defensive position has scouts perplexed. He doesn’t have enough power to play on an infield corner as a pro, and he may not have the hands to handle second base, which would give him the best chance to make the majors. He could wind up as a center fielder or as a utilityman.
Longhorns Still Well-Armed
Texas has had three pitchers taken in the first or supplemental first rounds the last three years in J.P. Howell, Huston Street and Kyle McCulloch. The Longhorns don’t have an arm of that caliber this year, but as usual they’re strong on the mound and will have several pitchers drafted. Righthander Randy Boone was a member of the national championship rotation in 2005, but he since has settle into a relief role that he’ll continue in pro ball. The top prospect in the Texas Collegiate League last summer, Boone uses an 88-90 mph fastball that reaches 92 to set up a plus slider. Lefthander James Russell, whose father Jeff was an all-star closer, has a long, lean 6-foot-4, 206-pound frame, but his game is all about finesse and not power. His best pitch is his changeup, followed by a fringy 84-88 mph fastball and a marginal breaking ball.
Lefthander Adrian Alaniz doesn’t light up radar guns either, working in the mid-80s, but all he does is win. The Big 12 pitcher of the year has 12 victories this spring to rank fourth in NCAA Division I entering regional play, and 27 in his career, including the clinching game of the 2005 College World Series. His top pitch is his curveball, and he has command of four offerings. A redshirt junior, he’s already 23. Lefthander Joseph Krebs has pitched well as a swingman, showing an 86-89 mph fastball and the ability to throw strikes with his curveball and changeup.
Boone (38th round, Twins) and Alaniz (36th round, Cardinals) both were drafted a year ago. Russell is considered unsignable if he doesn’t back off his desire for top-two-rounds money, but the other Longhorns pitchers should be easy signs.
Texas’ high school lefthander crop isn’t strong this year, and the top prospect has been inconsistent this spring. Drake Britton has battled his delivery and his command, and his fastball has ranged from 85-88 mph at times to 89-92 at others. He throws from a low arm angle, which makes it tough to stay on top of his slider. He wants top-two-rounds money early in this year, and he won’t get that now. He’s a prime candidate to be drafted and followed during the summer. He’ll go to Texas A&M if he doesn’t turn pro.
Righthander Chase Reid probably isn’t signable away from Vanderbilt, especially because his fastball sits in the mid-80s right now. But he’s projectable at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, has arguably the best curveball in the state and knows how to pitch. He threw a perfect game in the American Legion regional semifinals last summer.
Outfielder/righthander Kevin Keyes might have gone in the first three rounds had the draft been held last summer, and he still offers huge raw power and a plus arm. But he’s carrying too much weight (220 pounds) on his 6-foot-3 frame and swings and misses too much because of a lack of plate discipline. Some scouts go so far as to say that his swing and body have regressed enough that he should consider a future on the mound. He has thrown 93 mph as a pitcher, though his arm action needs works. Keyes is committed to Texas and may not go high enough in the draft to keep him from the Longhorns.
For a fifth-year senior, righthander Ryne Tacker has outstanding stuff. He has a 90-94 mph fastball, flashes a solid curveball and throws a sinking changeup. The swingman earned Conference USA pitcher-of-the-year honors as a swingman for Rice (9-1, 3.01, three saves), but his medical history is worrisome. Tacker didn’t pitch at all in 2006 because of a stress fracture in his elbow. His last two starts in May were abbreviated when he felt soreness in the same area of his arm. He began his career at Texas A&M and also spent a year at Navarro (Texas) Junior College.
Catcher/first baseman Michael Ambort set a Lamar record with 18 homers in 2005, then missed most of the 2006 season after having Tommy John surgery. He returned this spring and set the school mark for career homers (38), but he spent more time at first base than behind the plate. As a switch-hitter with power, he always was viewed as an offensive catcher, and he should be able to resume that role in pro ball. His arm strength and receiving skills are adequate.
It’s hard to figure out why outfielder Keith Conlon hasn’t been a drafted. Now a fifth-year senior after beginning his college career as a redshirt at Oral Roberts followed by a year at Weatherford (Texas) Junior College, he’s a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder with all-around tools. Inconsistency and injuries haven’t helped, and he was hindered down the stretch this year by knee and hamstring problems. He’s a slightly above-average runner who may be able to play center field in pro ball, and his bat, power and arm are all solid tools.
Along with Chris Withrow, righthander Ryan Turner made the biggest impression among the pitchers at the Texas Scout Association showcase last summer. Turner showed a 90-94 mph fastball and a hard curveball, and similar stuff again in the fall. But he came down with mononucleosis this spring and never looked like he was 100 percent. He has a compact delivery and a 6-foot-4, 190-pound build that offers plenty of projection. If he doesn’t sign, he could emerge as an early-round pick in the 2010 draft after three years at Arkansas. He’s the grandson of Royals scout Gerald Turner, who’s also one of the winningest coaches in Texas high school baseball history.
Andrew Walker was one of the best all-around catchers last summer in the Cape Cod League, where he also won the 10th player award for his combination of performance and intangibles. He has remained consistent with the bat in 2007, setting a career high with a .329 average and tying another with 11 homers, but his throwing and blocking skills have regressed. As a result, he’ll probably go between the seventh and 10th rounds.
Walker’s Texas Christian batterymates, righthanders Chance Corgan and Chris Johnson, will go in roughly the same range. A transfer who spent his first two seasons at Texas A&M, Corgan will show a 90-92 mph fastball for a couple of innings before settling in at 87-89 mph. He’ll also flash a solid breaking ball, and his stuff could play better if he’s used as a reliever in pro ball. Johnson’s stuff isn’t as good as Jake Arrieta’s and ranks a tick behind Corgan’s, but he leads the Horned Frogs with 11 victories in his first season after transferring from Logan (Ill.) Community College.
Loaded San Jac Makes Run At National Title
San Jacinto has advanced to the Junior College World Series semifinals for the fifth time in six years. Because the Gators’ playoff run extended past the deadline for signing draft-and-follows, players under control from last year’s draft will get a two-day window to sign once their season ends. It’s uncertain if any will turn pro, however, because San Jacinto’s highest-profile draft-and-follows haven’t lived up to expectations. If they all re-enter the draft, the Gators could have 10 or more players selected.
Lefthanders Brandon Belt (Red Sox, 11th round in 2006) and Kevin Angelle (Rangers, 13th) and outfielder Jeremy Barfield (Mets, ninth) all made our Top 200 Draft Prospects list a year ago as Texas high schoolers. Belt looked like a first-round pick early in 2006 because he was a projectable lefthander with a low-90s fastball. But his velocity dipped as his senior season went on, and it hasn’t come back this year though he has filled out his 6-foot-5 frame to 195 pounds. His command also has been substandard. He passed up a scholarship from Texas to keep his draft options open at San Jacinto, but it’s unlikely Boston will sign him. He has had more success as a DH/first baseman, leading the Gators in the triple-crown categories at .421-9-57.
Angelle, who originally committed to Texas A&M, has added 30 pounds to his 6-foot-3 and now 215-pound frame, and the extra weight hasn’t agreed with him. Like Belt, he has pitched in the 85-88 mph range and hasn’t shown much command. Barfield is trying to follow his father (former American League home run champion Jesse) and brother (current Indians second baseman Josh) to the majors. He had minor arthroscopic ankle surgery early in the spring and hasn’t hit as hoped, with a .319 average and three homers. At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, he should be able to use his leverage to generate more power. His bat will have to carry him, because he’s a below-average runner who may have to move to first base.
Lefthander Taylor Hammack (Giants, 46th) would have joined Belt, Angelle and Barfield on our top 200 a year ago had he not been shut down with shoulder issues. He opted for rehab to avoid labrum surgery, but he had further shoulder problems this spring. He has seen little action on the mound and more time as a first baseman/DH. When healthy in high school, Hammack showed a high-80s fastball and a good slider, and he has an athletic 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame. San Francisco isn’t expected to sign him.
Outfielder Eric Fry (Rangers, 33rd) is the most well-rounded of San Jacinto’s position players. He got in better shape this year, moved from right field to center and has shown solid tools across the board. He has committed to Oklahoma State. The Gators’ most effective pitcher has been lefthander Lucas Luetge (White Sox, 18th), who can’t match the ceiling of most of the team’s other arms and may be tough to sign away from Rice. He’s a deceptive southpaw with a plus changeup and the ability to locate his 85-89 mph fastball.
San Jacinto also has several attractive righthanders who aren’t under control. Hank Williamson spent a year at NCAA Division II St. Edward’s (Texas) and transferred to Rice but didn’t pitch in 2006. He has a pro body (6-foot-5, 210 pounds) and can pitch in the low 90s with his fastball, though he has worked more in the high 80s this spring. Chris Corrigan has a low-90s sinker and a hard slider despite standing at just 6-foot-2 and 160 pounds. Benino Pruneda (5-foot-9, 170 pounds) and Michael Johnson (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) are even smaller, yet have the livest arms on the staff, as both sit at 92-93 mph and top out at 96 with their heaters.
As if the Gators needed more pitching, they converted Garrett Clyde from first base to the mound. He’s a 6-foot-4, 200-pounder who can run his fastball to 93 mph and flash a big league slider when he’s at his best. Corrigan, Pruneda and Johnson are all freshmen who could return to San Jacinto along with Belt, Angelle, Barfield and Hammack next year. Williams will play at Lamar and Clyde at Texas if they don’t sign.
Speedster Makes Bid For Draft History
Outfielder Joris Bert could become the first French player ever drafted. After playing at Major League Baseball’s European Academy in 2006, Bert wound up at Frank Phillips through a connection between one of his coaches on the French national team and one of the Plainsmen’s assistants. He’s just 5-foot-9, but he’s a plus-plus runner who used his speed to hit .395 and rank fifth among national juco players with 42 steals in 52 attempts.
Bert wasn’t the best juco basestealer in the state, however. Shortstop Tyler Ladendorf led all national juco players with 65 steals in 65 attempts. He was a football and baseball star in high school, but tore his labrum diving into a base in 2004 and reinjured it on the gridiron that fall. When he had surgery, doctors discovered his labrum had disintegrated, and he missed all of 2005. His speed is his best tool, and his bat and strength are solid. He has a decent arm and may be able to stay at shortstop. The Yankees made him a six-figure offer this spring after drafting him in the 34th round last June, but he turned them down.
There’s plenty more juco talent in the Lone Star State. Righthanders Gary Poynter (Rangers, 39th round in 2006) and Andrew Cashner (Rockies, 18th) have size, plus fastballs and promising breaking balls. They’re also inconsistent with their stuff and command, however, and didn’t come to terms with the teams that controlled them. If they don’t sign as 2007 draftees, Poynter will move on to Oklahoma and Cashner will attend Texas Christian.
The best juco hitter in the state is third baseman Tyrone Hambly, who led national juco players in RBIs (85) and ranked in the top 10 in hitting (.478) and homers (15). Scouts aren’t sold on his future position because he carries 230 pounds on his 6-foot frame. And because he’s Australian, a team will have to use a visa to get him into pro ball. Hambly began his college career at Oklahoma State in the fall of 2005 before transferring to Grayson County, and he missed most of 2006 with a dislocated left shoulder. He has recommitted to the Cowboys but is considered signable.
Hambly’s teammate, righthander Michael Bolsinger, would have been a prime draft-and-follow target had he not come down with shoulder tendinitis. He outpitched the more celebrated Jordan Walden in the fall, showing a 90-92 mph fastball and a good slider. Bolsinger wound up not signing with the Indians, who drafted him in the 34th round in 2006.
The Braves twice failed to sign lefthander Zach Oliver as a draft-and-follow after taking him in the 18th round in 2005 and the 24th round a year ago. An Arkansas recruit, he throws an 85-90 mph fastball and a 12-to-6 curveball for strikes.
Righthander Ryan Brasier was a standout defensive catcher in high school, but became a full-time pitcher this spring at Weatherford. Though he drew some attention by touching 95 mph, he’s still a work in progress and probably not ready for pro ball. He’s refining a slider and trying to discover better feel and command.
Crazy Numbers At Texas-Tyler
The best record among NCAA teams this year belongs to Texas-Tyler, which went 37-1 but wasn’t eligible for the Division III tournament because the program has provisional status. The Patriots won their first 35 games in 2007, running their two-year winning streak to 40. On an individual basis, Tyler closer Nate Jennings also put up amazing numbers. He allowed no runs and just four hits and four walks in 25 innings while striking out 47. A righthander who began his college career at St. Edward’s (Texas), Jennings stands just 6 feet tall and weights just 170 pounds. Yet he has a quick arm that generates low-90s fastball and low-80s sliders, and he’ll be a nice senior sign.
Danny Lehmann is one of the draft’s top defensive catchers–he has thrown out 50 percent of basestealers in 2007–and has handled several quality pitchers at Rice. But he’s too pull-conscious at the plate and never has hit better than .285 in three college seasons, so he may not be more than a big league backup. He’s also going to be tough to sign if he doesn’t go in the first five rounds. Lehmann’s uncle, Duane Chapman, is the star of the reality TV show, “Dog The Bounty Hunter.”
Undrafted a year ago as a junior, righthander Jeff Mandel is Baylor’s top prospect this spring and might be no more than an eighth- to 12th-rounder. He has an 88-92 mph fastball and an inconsistent slider. He’s a 6-foot-3, 200-pound athlete who has filled in at first base and in the outfield for the Bears.
Outfielder Erik Kanaby, Mandel’s former teammate at Jersey Village High (Houston), hit .406 this spring, second all-time at Lamar, to raise his career average to .381, a school record. He set another Cardinals mark with a 25-game hitting streak this year. Kanaby has plus speed and the on-base skills to hit at the top of a lineup. He should be able to move to center in pro ball, when he won’t be sharing the outfield with Collin DeLome.
Outfielder Matt McGuirk had a lost season after returning from his second surgery on his left shoulder. He first hurt the shoulder throwing in high school, then did so again on a slide in 2006. Limited to DH duties this spring, he has batted just .200 with four homers. McGuirk is a 6-foot-3, 185-pound athlete with plus speed and projectable power, and it would make little sense for him to sign as a redshirt sophomore.
Outfielder/righthander Richard Orange impressed scouts with his arm strength on the mound in the fall but did more damage with his bat in the spring, ranking among the NAIA home run leaders with 20. He also ranked in the national juco top 10 with 16 in 2004 and 13 in 2005 at Blinn (Texas) before spending 2006 redshirting at Texas Tech. He lacks polish on the mound and has a brighter future as a corner outfielder.
The Southwestern Athletic Conference player of the year, shortstop Michael Richard ranks among the NCAA Division I leaders in hitting (.402) and steals (41 in 49 tries). He has plus speed, a sound swing and good instincts. He may have to move to second base as a pro.
Catcher/first baseman Cameron Rupp won the home run derby at the Aflac Classic last summer with an event-record seven longballs, and his 6-foot-2, 225-pound build contains a lot of strengths. But scouts question whether he’ll hit at Texas or in pro ball because he has a grooved stroke that gets jammed by mediocre fastballs. His catching also needs a lot of work, as he flinches too much as a reliever and throws from a low arm slot. He does have enough arm strength to catch, however.
Outfielders Ben Feltner, Joseph Paylor and Rafael Thomas are all plus-plus runners who could be decent draft picks if teams buy into their hitting ability. Feltner has improved significantly since high school, when he wasn’t good enough to start even as a senior. Paylor (committed to Rice) and Thomas (signed with Oklahoma State) both starred at wide receiver for their football teams.
First baseman Steven Hill has hit 69 homers over the last three seasons, 31 at Eastfield (Texas) Junior College in 2005 followed by 14 and 24 (third in NCAA Division I this spring). He’s strong and has a quick bat, which has enabled him to set the Stephen F. Austin single-season and career home run records. He has caught in the past and may get a look behind the plate as a pro.
Hill was the Southland Conference player of the year, while righthander Luke Prihoda won pitcher of the year honors after ranking first in Division I in saves (17) and second in ERA (1.21) entering NCAA regional play. He was named MVP of the conference tournament, saving two games and winning a third as Sam Houston State earned its first NCAA postseason berth in 11 years. Prihoda also dominated last summer as the top pitching prospect in the Coastal Plain League, where he didn’t allow a run and had a 54-2 K-BB ratio in 28 innings. Prihoda isn’t a classic prospect because he has a soft body (6-foot-5, 230 pounds), an average fastball and a flat slider. But he throws nothing but strikes and competes.
One of the best stories in Texas this spring has been second baseman Parker Dalton. He was diagnosed with malignant melanoma on the first day of Texas A&M’s fall semester, yet beat the disease and was declared cancer-free six weeks later. A career .251 hitter before 2007, the fifth-year senior wasn’t expect to play much of a role for the Aggies, but he has hit .384 as a starter and helped them win their first-ever Big 12 tournament title. His pitch recognition and plate discipline have improved, and he’s a solid runner and defender.
Injuries struck down several of the state’s top pitching prospects, which is why they don’t appear on our Texas rankings above. In a down year draftwide for college righthanders, Texas Tech’s Miles Morgan could have pitched himself into the sandwich or second round if he hadn’t gone down with a torn rotator cuff after his first outing. He has a 91-94 mph fastball and a hard slurve, and he’s still projectable at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds. Rice righthander Bobby Bell was a potential third- to fifth-rounder, but he pitched just one inning before needing Tommy John surgery in April. He doesn’t use his lower half well in his delivery, putting extra stress on his elbow. His best pitch is his changeup, and he also has an 87-91 mph fastball.
Righthanders Jordan Chambless (Texas A&M) and Seth Garrison (Texas Christian) both looked like certain early-round picks during the first part of the season. Chambless doubled as a defensive back/punt returner for the Aggies football team until he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in the fall of 2005. Using a 92-96 mph fastball and a hard curve, he allowed just three hits and struck out 17 in 10 innings before he broke his right foot while weightlifting. His shoulder had been bothering him, too, and an MRI revealed a small labrum tear that he had repaired via May surgery. Garrison, who joined the Horned Frogs after one-year stints at Arizona State and Navarro (Texas) Junior College, was more highly regarded as a third baseman coming out of high school. He since has emerged as a better prospect on the mound, with good size (6-foot-5, 220 pounds), an 88-90 mph fastball that reaches 92 and a power curveball. He had Tommy John surgery in late March.
Texas righthander Kenn Kasparek’s 6-foot-10, 250-pound frame long has intrigued scouts, but he missed the entire year after having Tommy John surgery in the offseason. He consistently showed a 92-93 mph fastball and a hard slider in the summer of 2003 but rarely since, so his stuff could really bounce back. Houston righthanders Ricky Hargrove and Derek Cloeren have good sliders and solid fastballs, but both succumbed to labrum problems. Hargrove unsuccessfully tried to rehab and never got on the mound before having surgery to repair fraying in May, while Cloeren worked just one inning before having a small tear fixed in March.
On the prep side, Coppell High righthander Cole Green offers a lot of pitchability, an 88-91 mph fastball with life and a solid curveball. But he tweaked his elbow and while he didn’t require surgery, he missed much of the spring. He’s also just 6-foot-1 and strongly committed to Texas, so it’s unlikely that he’ll go high enough to sign.
Langham Creek High (Houston) righthander Kendal Korbal drew interest with his 88-91 mph sinker and projectable 6-foot-6, 202-pound frame, but but scouts cooled on him when his shoulder acted up. Stratford High righthander Barret Loux commanded his 87-91 mph fastball to both sides of the plate and got off to a hot start, but he missed two months with shoulder problems that didn’t need surgery. He’s projectable at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds. Midway High (Hewitt) righthander Jared Ray showed an 88-92 mph fastball and a good curveball before a shoulder impingement knocked him out. He’s a 6-foot-3, 195-pound athlete who also played quarterback at Midway. With health concerns and teams unable to get enough looks at them this spring, Korbal (Arkansas), Loux (Texas A&M) and Ray (Houston) likely will wind up in college.
Outfielder David Alleman helped The Woodlands win the national high school title in 2006, but he was slowed this spring after having arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips from his knee, the result of running into an outfield fence. A switch-hitter with a good approach at the plate, he’s destined for Texas A&M. He also would have pitched for The Woodlands had he not been injured.