|THIS YEAR’S CROP|
|*****||One for the books|
|***||Solid, not spectacular|
|**||Not up to par|
|*||Nothing to see here|
flocked to the Evergreen State to get a long look at one of the
nation’s top high school hitters, Travis Snider. They also got a long
look at a mistake they made last year, as Washington’s Tim
Lincecum–who lasted until the 42nd round as an eligible sophomore in
last year’s proceedings–took apart the college baseball world.
Lincecum led the nation in strikeouts by a wide margin, though he had
worn down a bit late in the year, and scouts still didn’t seem to know
what to do with the self-described “freak of nature.” The rest of the
state’s prospects fell a significant step or two–or three–behind.
|National Top 200 Prospects|
1. Tim Lincecum, rhp, Washington
2. Travis Snider, of, Jackson HS, Everett
3. Jake Locker, ss/rhp, Ferndale HS
4. Steve Englund, ss, Bellevue HS, Bellevue
5. Steve Marquardt, 3b, Columbia
6. Curtis Dupart, of, Woodinville HS, Woodinville
|Other Players Of Note|
7. Chad Arnold, rhp, Southridge HS, Kennewick
8. Travis Webb, lhp, Washington State
9. Cam Nobles, rhp, Jackson HS, Jackson
10. Matt Lane, c, Washington
11. Jorge Reyes, rhp, Warden HS, Warden
12. Zach Clem, of/1b, Washington
13. Richie Lentz, rhp, Washington
14. D.J. Lidyard, rhp, Lower Columbia JC (CONTROL: Orioles)
15. Wayne Daman, rhp, Washington State
16. Jackson Evans, ss, Hudson’s Bay HS, Vancouver
17. Michael Lee, rhp, Bellevue JC (CONTROL: Yankees)
18. Jay Miller, of, Washington State
19. Kyle Foster, lhp, Lower Columbia JC (CONTROL: Dodgers)
20. Jacob Clem, 1b/of, Burlington-Edison HS, Burlington
21. Scott Campbell, 2b, Gonzaga
1. Tim Lincecum, rhp (National rank: 2)
School: Washington. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Renton, Wash.
B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 165. Birthdate: 6/15/84.
Lincecum claims two important distinctions–he was the nation’s most
dominant strikeout artist in 2006, and its most unusual pitcher. As a
freshman, he became the first player ever to be named both the
Pacific-10 Conference’s freshman of the year and pitcher of the year.
Eligible for the draft as a sophomore, Lincecum didn’t live up to the
expectations he set for himself, which included a seven-figure signing
bonus demand. The Indians took a flier on him in the 41st round, and
made a run during the summer, when Lincecum led the Cape Cod League
with a 0.64 ERA as a reliever, but did not sign him. After walking more
than 150 batters in his first two seasons, Lincecum has adjusted,
adding a slider and changeup to his repertoire. His fastball, already a
plus pitch, improved a grade as he added nearly 15 pounds of muscle and
has reached 98 mph this season, often sitting between 91-96. His power
curveball already was one of the best in the country and has become
more effective now that he also shows a slider he can throw for
strikes. His changeup also has improved. Lincecum has a resilient arm;
he throws constantly, often long-tossing the day after his starts. His
unorthodox delivery has been described as resembling a pinwheel as he
rocks back, makes his body do most of the work and seemingly brings his
lightning-quick arm along for the ride. His father helped him develop
his unusual mechanics, which give him deception and tremendous stuff.
He has never complained of soreness or pain, nor has he missed a start.
His delivery, resilient arm, size and stuff remind many scouts of
Angels set-up man Scot Shields, and most scouts think Lincecum will
thrive in a relief role. His present stuff rivals any pitcher in the
draft, and he should move quickly.
2. Travis Snider, of (National rank: 18)
School: Jackson HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Everett, Wash.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 220. Birthdate: 2/8/88.
Grady Sizemore sets the standard for hitters drafted out of high school
from Washington state, and Snider appears to be the best hitter to come
through the state since Sizemore got $2 million from the Expos in 2000.
He’s mature physically with a strong frame that once made him a top
football running back, though he quit after his sophomore season when
he broke his right ankle on the last play of spring practice. Snider’s
powerful lefthanded swing generates above-average bat speed and raw
power, and he’s become noted not just for hitting lots of home runs,
but for hitting lots of long home runs. He does a good job of hanging
in against lefthanded pitchers and staying back on breaking balls,
trusting his hands. His work ethic earns raves from scouts; he
organizes practices three times a week for his Jackson High team, which
was undefeated through 21 games, and gives hitting lessons to local
children as a senior class project. While he’s a solid student, Snider,
an Arizona State recruit, is considered signable. Snider’s value rests
almost completely in his bat, as he’s a below-average runner and
fringe-average defender due to his modest throwing arm.
3. Jake Locker, of/rhp (National rank: 79)
School: Ferndale HS. Class: Sr
Hometown: Ferndale, Wash.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 220. Birthdate: 6/15/88.
Locker might be the best athlete in this draft class–and he’ll be one
of the toughest to sign as well. He’s a University of Washington
football recruit, which in the recent past has been a $2 million
lottery ticket. The Expos gave Grady Sizemore that amount in 2000, and
the Mariners gave Matt Tuiasosopo $2.29 million, and both were
third-round picks. More than one scout agreed Locker is a better
athlete than even Sizemore, and said he’s the best prep athlete who
plays baseball in the country. He’s a 6.4-second runner over 60 yards
with enough arm strength to throw 93 mph off the mound with ease. He
could be an above-average defender and has the strength to generate
plus raw power, though his hitting skills are rudimentary at best.
Locker has given scouts no indication he wants to play pro baseball,
however, starting last summer when he backed out of a trip to the Area
Code Games. He rarely cooperated with baseball scouts this spring, and
he explicitly ruled pro ball out–for now–in May by telling the press
he wanted to go to school and play football, though he also may play
for the Huskies’ baseball team. Scouts appreciated the honesty and will
check in again in three years.
4. Steve Englund, ss (National rank: 105)
School: Bellevue HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Bellevue, Wash.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185. Birthdate: 6/6/88.
A third-team preseason All-American and key recruit for Washington
State, Englund has all the tools scouts could want in a high school
hitter. Like many of his peers, he just didn’t show the most important
tool–hitting–often enough as a high school senior. Englund is an
excellent athlete and passes the “eye test”–he looks like a player in
uniform. The same is true in batting practice, when Englund can put on
a show with long home runs thanks to his excellent bat speed and a
swing with plenty of leverage. Englund also impresses during infield
practice, showing off a plus arm that should help him make the
transition to third base from his prep position of shortstop. But in
games, the tools just haven’t played consistently. As one scout put it,
his high school career just has involved too much drama, including
being kicked off the team once and reinstated. Englund’s inability to
close up holes in his swing points to his inability to make
adjustments, and even his advocates warn that Englund’s bat could take
five years to reach its potential. Scouting directors and organizations
that covet high-end tools are likley to be too tempted to let Englund
slide out of the first five rounds, however.
5. Steve Marquardt, ss/3b (National rank: 135)
School: Columbia Basin (Wash.) CC. Class: So.
Hometown: Kennewick, Wash.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210. Birthdate: 6/11/86.
For the last three drafts, Marquardt has been considered one of the
best hitters in the Pacific Northwest. He was an Aflac All-American in
2004 and a two-time state player of the year in Washington during his
high school career. The Phillies drafted him in the 37th round in 2004,
and the Rangers took him in the 23rd round last year and hold his
rights as a draft-and-follow. The more scouts see him, the more holes
they see in his game–and yet the bat keeps them coming back. He was
MVP of the West Coast Collegiate summer league in 2005, and in 206
Marquardt led his wood-bat conference in home runs (11) and RBIs. He’s
shown he can hit and hit for power, though scouts are mixed on whether
his set-up and trigger will allow him to hit for power against good
velocity in pro ball. He also has a power arm well suited for third
base. Marquardt has lost athleticism over the years and has tried the
patience of scouts, who have questioned his desire to play
professionally as well as his maturity. If he fails to sign with the
Rangers, Marquardt has committed to play at Oregon State.
6. Curtis Dupart, of (National rank: 140)
School: Woodinville HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Woodinville, Wash.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 195. Birthdate: 9/4/87.
Most areas have “pop-up” players, draft prospects who move from
potential draft-and-follows into the first few 10 rounds. Dupart was
such a player who benefited from a mix of circumstances to rise up many
draft boards in May. He performed (hitting .511-7-29) in front of
plenty of scouts. Many area scouts brought crosscheckers or scouting
directors to see the athletic Dupart play at night after watching
Travis Snider, the state’s top high school prospect, or Washington’s
Tim Lincecum. Dupart also blossomed as a hitter, showing a strong swing
with loft power and leverage after pitching more earlier in his high
school career. Repeated arm problems had forced him off the mound the
previous summer, but his arm had bounced back enough to be
above-average and have some scouts profile him as a classic right
fielder. Dupart’s timing also helped, as few prep hitters around the
country were taking advantage of increased exposure. He even drew
recruiting visits from Atlantic Coast Conference schools such as
Georgia Tech and Virginia, clouding his signability. In the end, scouts
have to decide how much it’s worth paying a player like Durpart, a
righthanded-hitting prep outfielder from the Pacific Northwest small on
track record and long–but not too long–on tools.
Talented Huskies Don’t Meet Expectations
Lincecum’s dominance and a veteran roster, Washington was stumbling
down the stretch into a Memorial Day weekend showdown with rival
Washington State, with the two teams tied (with two other clubs) at the
bottom of the parity-riddled Pacific-10 Conference. The Huskies had not
lived up to expectations even though several veterans were having solid
seasons. Senior Zach Clem had clubbed 20 homers, nearly matching his previous career total, and was seen as a solid senior sign. His younger brother Jacob, a Huskies recruit, has a bit more athleticism but a similar profile.
Catcher Matt Lane
has decent power, has recovered from a knee injury that cut his 2005
season in half and had shown enough receiving skills to handle
Lincecum’s electric stuff. If he goes in the first 15 rounds, it will
speak to the scarcity of catching in the draft, because his arm is
below-average and he hit just .267. Righthander Richie Lentz
is part of a storied Seattle baseball family that started with father
Mike, the No. 2 overall pick in the 1975 draft. Older brother Ryan
(1996-98) and younger brother Andy also have worn the Huskies’ purple
and gold. Lentz was emerging as a top prospect in 2004, dominating
summer ball in the Pacific International League, before succumbing to
another family tradition–major injuries. His was Tommy John surgery,
and he had worked less than 10 innings in 2006. His velocity is back up
to 91-94 mph, and he had yet to issue a walk in limited time, but the
redshirt sophomore was fighting health questions and a two-year playing
gap when it comes to the draft. He might be drafted and followed
through summer ball, and if he maintains his stuff a team could make an
August run at him.
Washington State was having its first winning
season since going 25-24 in 1998, the last year of the old four-team
Pac-10 North. Coach Don Marbut engineered the turnaround but was
embroiled in controversy after local media reported that he had
embellished his resume. Still, the team’s talent was undeniably
improved. His top pro prospect was Arizona State transfer Travis Webb,
who pitches off a fastball that has reached 93 mph. His secondary stuff
was too short for him to start for a team thin on the mound, but he
showed the ability to go through a lineup once with his heater. He also
has athletic bloodlines, as he’s a cousin of former Seattle Sonics (and
more famously Cleveland Cavaliers) guard Craig Ehlo. Junior righthander
Wayne Daman, the Cougars’ most
dependable starter, was similar to dozens of other righties around the
country, with decent control of three fringe-average pitches. He’d be a
valuable senior on next year’s Washington State team if he slides
through undrafted. Outfielder Jay Miller has a solid bat with little power and average speed and should be a useful senior sign.
significant for Marbut, assuming he remains as the Cougars’ coach, is
his recruiting class for next year, a solid group headed by Englund and
Chad Arnold, a projectable
6-foot-4 righthander who had struggled during the spring. At last
summer’s Area Code Games, Arnold emerged as the state’s top prep
pitcher and possible top-three-rounds selection, consistently pitching
at the top end of the 85-90 mph range with his fastball and showing a
feel for an average curveball and changeup. This spring, however, his
fastball velocity had been down, sitting much closer to 85-86, and
scouts had cooled on him.
They had warmed instead to Washington recruit Cam Nobles,
a slender, 6-foot-1 righthander and teammate of the state’s top player,
Travis Snider. Nobles had reached the low 90s with his fastball at
times, then touched 94 in a playoff no-hitter (striking out 13) for his
undefeated Jackon High team, ranked second nationally. His breaking
ball remains short, as his changeup is his second-best pitch. Still,
Nobles’ stature probably pushed him down into the eighth to 12th round
for most scouts, who were still having difficulty knowing what to make
of Lincecum’s size as well.
Another slight righty, 6-foot-3, 170-pound Jorge Reyes,
had made noise by scraping the low 90s with his fastball, which has
decent sink. His slider also had been a good pitch at times, and Reyes
has a loose, projectable arm. He’s committed to Oregon State but could
be an interesting draft-and-follow, as he was slated to pitch in the
Pacific International League, a summer college wood-bat league.
While scouts have a hard time seeing a tool that will play in pro ball, Gonzaga’s Scott Campbell
hit his way into consideration for pro ball by batting .388 for the
Bulldogs and posting a .488 on-base percentage, thanks to a 39-17
strikeout-walk ratio. Better yet, Campbell has an interesting story:
He’s from New Zealand. The native of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest
city with approximately 400,000 residents, Campbell played both soccer
and baseball in high school and would be the first New Zealander ever
drafted, according to the New Zealand Baseball Federation. Campbell
spent his freshman season at Central Arizona Community College before
arriving at Gonzaga last year.