|THIS YEAR’S CROP|
|*****||One for the books|
|***||Solid, not spectacular|
|**||Not up to par|
|*||Nothing to see here|
Virginia has produced 14 first-rounders since 1996, and Jeremy Jeffress should add to that list this year. There’s little depth after him–Virginia Commonwealth juniors Harold Mozingo and Scott Sizemore are the only other players meriting much interest in the first five rounds–and it shapes up as a down year in recently fertile state. Most of the college prospects seem destined to be four-year players, and the high school crop will go further in feeding those colleges than farm systems. The Commonwealth produced the first, fourth and 13th overall picks a year ago in Justin Upton, Ryan Zimmerman and Brandon Snyder. Virginians Justin Verlander and B.J. Upton were the second overall picks in 2004 and 2002.
|National Top 200 Prospects
1. Jeremy Jeffress, rhp, Halifax County HS, South Boston
2. Harold Mozingo, rhp, Virginia Commonwealth
|Other Players Of Note
3. Scott Sizemore, 2b, Virginia Commonwealth
4. Ryan Reid, rhp, James Madison
5. Jason Taylor, of, Kellam HS, Virginia Beach
6. Jason Godin, rhp, Old Dominion
7. John Bivens, of, Prince George HS, Fort Lee
8. Brian Gray, rhp, Sheranoo HS, Winchester
9. David Lindsey, c, Hermitage HS, Glen Allen
10. J.J. Pannell, rhp, George Mason
11. Kevin Gunter, rhp, Old Dominion
12. Casey Lambert, lhp, Virginia
13. Graham Stoneburner, rhp, Mills Godwin HS, Richmond
14. Matt Bryant, rhp, Stafford HS, Fredericksburg
15. Lincoln Garner, rhp, Ferrum
16. Jesse Haney, rhp, Matoaca HS, Chesterfield
17. Ryan Woolley, rhp, Forest Park HS, Montclair
18. Will Hirsch, rhp, Nansemond River HS, Suffolk
19. Mike Ballard, lhp, Virginia
20. David Poutier, of, Grafton HS, Yorktown
21. Rob Whitley, rhp, George Washington HS, Danville
22. Patrick Long, 3b, Hanover HS, Mechanicsville
23. Michael Gibbs, rhp, Virginia Commonwealth
24. Dustin Crouch, rhp, Amherst HS
25. Dana Arrowood, of, Old Dominion
26. John Leonard, rhp, Virginia Commonwealth
27. Nate Schill, 1b, James Madison
28. Michael Cowgill, 2b, James Madison
29. Jimmy Miles, of, Old Dominion
30. Sean Ray, lhp, Kellam HS, Virginia Beach
31. Daniel Lombardozzi, rhp, Herndon HS
32. Jesse Schoendienst, 2b, Old Dominion
1. Jeremy Jeffress, rhp (National rank: 14)
School: Halifax County HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: South Boston, Va.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 174. Birthdate: 9/21/87.
Scouting Report: Jeffress hit 90 mph effortlessly in a bullpen session in a showcase at the University of North Carolina prior to his junior season of high school. He backed it up the following summer at the East Coast Showcase by pitching at 95 mph. Jeffress’ easy arm stroke and clean delivery from a high three-quarters arm slot remind some of Dwight Gooden, especially with his high leg kick. He showed the ability to maintain lofty radar readings deep into games, hitting 95, 96 and 97 in the seventh inning with regularity. His breaking ball, a 77-83 mph slider, looms as a potential second plus pitch once he gains consistency in staying on top of it and throwing it for a strike. Jeffress hasn’t need to use his changeup much, so that pitch remains a work in progress. Jeffress threw a no-hitter with 10 strikeouts in late April to outduel Virginia Tech signee Rob Whitley. Jeffress is a great athlete who ran the 60-yard dash in 6.76 seconds and could double as a center fielder at the college level. He led his high school basketball team in scoring and three-pointers as a point guard, and his sister Racquel plays basketball at Virginia Union.
2. Harold Mozingo, rhp(National rank: 97)
School: Virginia Commonwealth. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Tappahannock, Va.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 190. Birthdate: 3/29/85.
Scouting Report: Mozingo made scouts scramble to Essex High in Tappahannock, Va., three years ago, when word of his 19-strikeout game spread. They didn’t want to miss a player with a loose arm, low-90s fastball and solid breaking ball that reminded some of Justin Verlander, another Virginia prep product who scouts regretted letting get to college. The Mets tapped Mozingo in the 15th round that year, but he did get away to Virginia Commonwealth, and he’s primed to improve that status by about 10 rounds. Mozingo loose, easy, over-the-top arm stroke helps him work near 90 mph and top out at 93 with his fastball. He likes to attack hitters, and will pitch up in the zone–something that can lead to trouble against quicker bats. Mozingo’s curveball is a plus pitch about 60 percent of the time, though he still hooks it at times. His changeup has improved during his three years of college, and his slider is a below-average pitch. There’s hope the lanky righthander can fill out and increase his velocity, after his command and ERA showed notable improvement this year. He missed three starts after a comebacker broke a bone near his right thumb in mid-April, but he returned by holding Northeastern to three hits over five innings. Mozingo loves the game and almost always carries the “Louisville Slugger Complete Book of Pitching” with him.
Scott Sizemore played at Virginia Beach’s Hickory High, a school both B.J. and Justin Upton attended in their underclass days, but he didn’t burst onto the national scene until his sophomore season in college, when he hit .364-12-56 with 19 steals and tied for the Colonial Athletic Association lead with 24 doubles. Those numbers might have been inflated by VCU’s playing in a city park that measured 325 feet down the lines and 375 to center field, but he backed them up by ranking ninth in the Cape Cod League last summer with a .303 average, adding seven doubles. Sizemore slipped to .300-5-34 with 14 doubles this year as VCU moved back to its regular home park, The Diamond, which is also home to the Triple-A Richmond Braves. Sizemore pressed early and got caught in the trap of trying to hit for power, when what scouts always have liked about him was a quick, short swing, his gap approach with occasional power, and the ability to make adjustments. He shows a good eye at the plate with an even walk-strikeout ratio this year. Sizemore is an instinctive player who rates as average defensively. His arm is a plus and he shows at least average hands, but he needs to improve his footwork and range and could eventually move to third base. Some team should like Sizemore’s bat enough to grab him in the first five rounds, in spite of a disappointing junior season.
Mozingo’s 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings ranked third in the CAA, behind Jason Godin and Ryan Reid, who were sixth and seventh nationally with about 12 per nine. Reid, a sophomore-eligible at James Madison, was the only prep pitcher to beat Mark Rogers in 2004, the year the Maine product went fifth overall in the draft. He ended up at James Madison because his 5-foot-11, 205-pound frame says wide and stocky more than projectable. His fastball features average velocity at 89-91 mph, peaking at 94, and his slider is a swing-and-miss pitch. Reid shows clean mechanics, a durable body and a bulldog temperment. He looked primed to go as high as the third round before some ugly late-season starts scuttled his stock.
Godin had surgery on a vertebrae in his back in November 2004 and missed the 2005 season. He returned in 2006 with no lasting effects and a second breaking ball. A true curveball guy entering college, Godin added a slider/cutter that he uses to get ahead of batters and set up a big-breaking curve. Now hitters must be wary of both pitches–and each grades well enough that some CAA coaches refer to Godin as a poor-man’s version of Old Dominion all-time strikeout leader Justin Verlander. Godin’s fastball is several ticks slower than Verlander’s, clocking in at 88-91 mph. He throws on a good downhill plane and displays excellent command of all three pitches. He also has a fringy changeup that he doesn’t use much. He should get drafted in the first 10 rounds.
J.J. Pannell might have the best arm in the state after Jeffress, but scouts’ opinions on him depended on when they saw him. He could be drafted as soon as the fifth round or slip into the double-digit rounds. His quick arm generates a 90-94 mph fastball, and his command of that and his power breaking ball vary by the start. His slider has topped out near 82 mph, but on other days it’s 72. Pannell throws with funky mechanics and a good deal of effort. That, plus a 2-5, 7.61 record could scare teams away.
Jason Taylor and Graham Stoneburner entered the 2006 season as the top prep players after Jeffress, and each signed with Clemson. Taylor is an excellent athlete who played shortstop at Kellam High but likely will take his 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame to first base or the outfield professionally. He broke his arm early in the summer of 2005 and missed most of the showcases, but his talent was evident as a member of Team USA’s junior national team. Some compared Taylor with Justin Upton for his athleticism and the ease with which he plays the game. Taylor’s bat is his ticket, and he centers balls well. He’s at least an average runner, though his power is a question mark. He should be signable in the fifth- to 10th-round range. Stoneburner could have become a second- or third-round pick had a stress fracture in his back not wiped out his senior year at Mills Godwin, the same school that produced Matt Moses and Justin Bristow. He still had three more months of rehab ahead of him and likely will enroll at Clemson. Stoneburner, whose older brother Davis is an infielder at JMU, worked near 90 mph with a hard, heavy fastball before his injury. His breaking ball also was advanced. His long arms, and thin 6-foot, 175-pound frame reminded some of Tim Hudson.
Virginia has signed two of the state’s top prep players in John Bivens and Brian Gray. Bivens doubles as a linebacker, and football might be his best sport. His athleticism could merit a higher draft standing, though all the time Bivens spends in shoulder pads has made him an unpolished product with strength and raw power coupled with holes in his swing. He also runs well. Bivens wouldn’t be allowed to play baseball until spring football practice ended at UVa, and his football strength regimen hurts his throwing mechanics enough to force him to left field. Gray could be the second coming of current Cavaliers freshman Jacob Thompson, who reached double figures in wins as a weekend starter. He’s tall and projectible at 6-foot-7 and 190 pounds. He works mostly in the upper 80s but has hit the low 90s, an occurrence that figures to increase as he fills out. Gray is athletic and throws with a steep downhill angle and plenty of leverage. His breaking ball and changeup need work, and his conference in Winchester lacks tops competition.
Atlantic Coast Conference schools also signed two of the next-best prep talents. North Carolina State received a commitment from catcher David Lindsey. His best qualities include a durable pro body at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds and strong catch-and-throw skills. Lindsey has strength but needs work offensively. Like fellow GW Danville products Kenny Lewis and Jonathan Fulton, righthander Rob Whitley has signed with Virginia Tech and could be a top-10-rounds selection. Whitley struck out 11 batters and allowed only one hit in a complete-game loss against Jeremy Jeffress in conference play. He’s undersized at 5-foot-10, but features a good running fastball that’s more effective at 87-88 mph than the 92 at which he tops out. Whitley has a quick arm and strong 12-to-6 curveball, but command and control remain issues for him.
N.C. State originally signed 6-foot-4 RHP Matt Bryant before losing him because of grades, and he signed with VCU, where he still needs to qualify. The concerns continue with Bryant’s weight; he was up to 267 pounds. Still, he’s athletic for his size and controls his body well enough to stay online during his delivery. He also unleashes a fastball that has sat at 91-92 mph through outings this spring as well as a good slider.
Kevin Gunter threw over the top his first three years at Old Dominion before dropping down to a low three-quarters arm slot and going 6-5, 3.56 with 92 strikeouts in 96 innings as a senior. His fastball jumped from the mid-80s to topping out at 90 mph with late sinking action. His slider also became an effective pitch from that arm angle. Gunter mixes in his changeup regularly, even against righthanders. Because of the arm angle and deception, Gutner proved particularly effective in night games as hitters had trouble picking the ball up under the lights. He’s likely a middle reliever at the pro level. Outfielder Jimmy Miles transferred to ODU from South Florida Community College and led the team with a .349 average and tied for the CAA lead with 39 steals while providing a spark atop the order.
James Madison ranked third in the nation in runs per game, led by sophomore Kellen Kulbacki, who should end up an early selection in 2007. Teams might be drawn this year to a pair of seniors in Michael Cowgill and Nate Schill. Cowgill, 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, blasted 22 homers as a senior to become JMU’s all-time leader in that category. He also struck out 60 times in 243 regular-season at-bats. His brother Collin is a sophomore at Kentucky. Schill batted .422-13-63 and reminded some of a taller, skinnier version of former JMU and CAA player of the year Eddie Kim for his consistent offensive production.
Georgia Tech and Georgia each made inroads into the state, with the Yellow Jackets signing righthander Will Hirsch, who stands 6 feet and features a hard, lively sinker near 90 mph. His size and lack of polish with his slider and changeup make him an ideal college signee who could emerge as a better pick after three years in school. The same is true for 5-foot-11 third baseman Patrick Long, another Georgia Tech signee. He shows a fine lefthanded stroke and a solid all-around game. The Bulldogs got righthander Ryan Woolley, who has touched 92-93 mph and shown a good slider a times. He has a high-maintenence delivery and needs to show more consistent command.
Virginia features a handful of relatives who could get drafted near the 10th round. Daniel Lombardozzi is the son of former Twins infielder Steve. He’s a stocky righthander with average velocity who has committed to Coastal Carolina. Coastal also signed outfielder David Poutier, the younger brother of Virginia sophomore righthander Robert. The younger brother doubled as a high school quarterback and is tough and athletic, and he shoots balls from gap to gap and runs well. Old Dominion senior second baseman Jesse Schoendienst is the great newphew of Cardinals Hall of Famer Red and was drafted by the Cardinals in the 40th round a year ago.
As always, scouts will look for sleepers by drafting players off radar readings. VCU righthander Michael Gibbs stands 6-foot-6 and has touched 94 since transferring in from Young-Harris (Ga.) Junior College two years ago, though his mechanics have caused trouble and limited his time on the mound. He could break into the upper 90s with regular work and refined mechanics. Righthander Lincoln Garner and his family are committed to his attending Virginia Military Institute, but those plans might change after he went from throwing 85-87 last summer to touching 92 mph this year. He pitches at 87-89 with a good slider. Righthander Jesse Haney has shown a fastball reaching 93 mph at Matoaca High, but needs to improve his slider. He committed to UNC Wilmington, where the prep shortstop hopes to be a two-way player from the outset. Some think 6-foot-4 righthander Dustin Crouch could turn out to be the biggest sleeper of the class, though he’s extremely raw. He signed with James Madison before many area schools had heard of him and showed a heavy 86-88 mph fastball, though he lacks command and needs to refine his mechanics and secondary pitches.