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High School Draft Overview
Compiled by Allan Simpson
Best 2003 Season: RHP Nick Adenhart (1) solidified his position atop this year's list of high school players by going 7-1, 1.00 as a high school junior and 8-1, 1.65 for the Maryland Orioles, winners of the 21-and-under All-American Amateur Baseball Association national title in summer league competition. Matt Bush (2) and Chris Nelson (10) have excelled both at shortstop and on the mound in prep and summer competition. Bush hit .458-8-34 with 21 stolen bases as a junior, while Nelson hit .468-5-34 with 18 steals. On the mound, where both have pitched in the low-90s, Bush went 8-2 and Nelson 12-3. They starred among the nation's top prep talent in last year's inaugural AFLAC Classic and both homered in the game. Nelson was named the game's MVP and earned MVP honors as the East Cobb (Ga.) Yankees won the 2003 Connie Mack World Series. He'll be limited to a DH role this spring, however, after Tommy John surgery in the fall. New England could produce three first-round prep righthanders in June, and not surprisingly each dominated weak competition as juniors. Jay Rainville (6) went 10-0, 0.18 and Mark Rogers (8) 11-2, 0.16, while each tallied more than 150 strikeouts. Andy Gale (9) was dominant when he pitched, but he was limited to 20 innings because of a commitment to hockey. RHP/1B James Parr (85) led his New Mexico high school team to a 29-0 record and the state 5-A title by hitting .573-14-61, while going 8-0, 1.94.
Best Athlete: There is no shortage of candidates in this category: two-way talents like Bush and Nelson; 6-foot-6, 233-pound OF Michael Taylor (5); swift, rangy outfielders like Dexter Fowler (28), Greg Golson (3) and Warren McFadden (25); and top college quarterback recruits like RHP Joe Bauserman (26), RHP/OF D.T. McDowell (84), RHP Ryan Pond (94), LHP Mike Rozier (20) and OF/RHP Matt Tuiasosopo (38). RHP Tate Casey (30) is one of the nation's top tight end recruits. Six-foot-9 RHP Andrew Brackman (83) is a top basketball recruit, while Gale is a highly rated hockey player.
Best Pure Hitter: Like the college crop, there isn't an abundance of quality hitters in this year's high school class. OF/LHP Chuck Lofgren (7), who led Team USA's junior national team in RBIs last summer on its way to securing a berth in the 2004 World Junior Championship, may be the only hitter projected to go in the first round who scouts are certain will hit. He has good bat speed and natural loft to his swing. Scouts also see considerable promise in Bush, OF Brad Chalk (44), OF Stephen Chapman (21), SS Blake DeWitt (29), SS Josh Johnson (57), 3B Randy Molina (70), C Neil Walker (19) and C Matt Wieters (32).
Best Power: The powerfully built Taylor has the highest upside of all, but he's rarely shown an ability to hit home runs with any consistency outside of batting practice. 1B/RHP Billy Butler (43) has much better in-game power than Taylor; he hit .604 with 10 home runs in 2003 for the nation's No. 32 ranked high school team. 2B/3B Eric Campbell (64) won the home run derby at last year's AFLAC Classic and consistently placed among the leading home run hitters on the summer showcase circuit. 1B Tyler Beranek (69), Chapman, 1B Lucas Duda (80), Lofgren, 1B/LHP Matt McGahee (65), 3B/OF Jon Mark Owings (75) and 1B Matt Spencer (92) all earn high marks in this category, as well.
Fastest Runner: Golson has the best raw speed among the country's top 100 high school players. He's been clocked at 3.8 seconds to first and runs the 60-yard dash in 6.29 seconds--faster than the 6.5-6.6 times normally turned in by Chapman, Fowler and Nelson. The fastest high school player of all, however, is OF Adrian Ortiz, who attends the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy. Ortiz, a projected third-rounder, has been clocked in the 60 in a lightning-fast 6.2 seconds.
Best Defensive Player: With great instincts, Nelson and Bush are both capable of making the spectacular play at shortstop, and they have the above-average arm strength necessary to make the play from deep in the hole. Golson also has an above-average arm for center field and the speed to chase down every ball hit his way. Preston Clark (35), Alex Garabedian (22) and Chris Garcia (77) headline an unusually deep group of strong defensive catchers. Walker, the top-rated catcher, is raw behind the plate but should be a solid defender with experience. With a pop time consistently at or below 1.8 seconds, Chris Kirkland (South Doyle HS, Knoxville) and Garcia have the best arms of the prep catchers, but weak bats probably will keep them out of the early rounds.
Hardest Thrower: The prep class has 10-12 pitchers who already have thrown 94 mph or better. Rogers normally works in the 91-93 range, but he elevated his stock last summer at the East Coast Showcase when he reached 97. Though he's not seen as a pitcher in pro ball, Nelson also has hit that mark. Rainville's best recorded velocity is 96, while RHPs Josh Copeland (23), Javy Guerra (42) and Phil Hughes (11) have touched 95. Adenhart generally tops out at 94, but what separates him from other pitchers is that he throws his fastball with minimum effort and plus command and supplements it with a power breaking ball.
Best Breaking Ball: Scouts give RHP Homer Bailey's (4) curveball a slight edge over Adenhart's. On the right day, LHP Giovani Gonzalez (16) might have the best breaking ball of all, a sharp-breaking 83 mph slurve. But the pitch lacks consistency. Six-foot-9 RHP Kenn Kasparek (13) already has a better slider at the same stage of his career than Jeff Niemann, another 6-foot-9 Texan who is the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the draft. RHP Eddie Burns (41), LHP Scott Elbert (12) and RHP Sean Morgan (60) also earn high grades for their sliders.
Best Command: RHP Erik Davis (15) was the best pitcher on Team USA's junior national team last summer (2-0, 0.00) and excelled at showcase events because he commands three pitches, including a 93 mph fastball. He also has mastered a changeup. On days when his stuff is working, Gonzalez can spot his pitches with precision. Five-foot-11 LHP David Coulon's (45) fastball occasionally reaches the low 90s, but he picks hitters apart when he lowers his velocity into the 87-88 range. Elbert and Troy Patton (17), the two best lefthanders in the class, have above-average command.
Most Intriguing Background: Not only did Gale's father Rich pitch in the big leagues from 1978-84, but Andy is also an accomplished prep hockey player who has drawn interest from Division I recruiters. Other players with big league bloodlines are IF/OF Cale Iorg, son of Garth; SS Josh Johnson (57), son of Larry Doby Johnson; SS Andy Romine (37), son of Kevin; and Walker, son of Tom. Walker also has a brother in the Tigers system and another in college at George Mason. SS/OF Todd Frazier (49) has one brother, Charles, who plays in the Marlins system, and another, Jeff, who is an All-American outfielder at Rutgers. Todd was the hero of the Toms River, N.J., team that won the 1998 Little League World Series. Tuiasosopo's father Manu (49ers, 1985) and brother Marques (Raiders, 2003) both played in the Super Bowl. A second brother, Zach, is a fullback at Washington, where Matt has also committed to play football. 1B/OF Jared Kubin's (51) father Larry played linebacker in the NFL from 1982-85. Both the college and prep lists for the 2004 draft have a player named Josh Fields--Oklahoma State's Josh Fields is No. 32 on the college list and the Georgia high school product is No. 68. While most scouts like Fields as a pitcher, he hit .632-18-53 last year and struck out just once in 98 at-bats.
Closest to the Majors: Adenhart and Bush have been ranked near the top of the '04 prep list since the fall of their junior years because they are so advanced in their development. Scouts say Bush's skills and baseball savvy are so well-rounded that he could also make it to the big leagues as a center fielder or pitcher. Nelson's rise to the big leagues could have been just as swift, but his surgery will cost him valuable development time. Davis, Gale, Guerra and Rainville--all pitchers--are also on an advanced development track.
Best Two-Way Player: Though scouts prefer them as position players, Bush and Nelson are almost as accomplished as pitchers. Opinion on Lofgren's true position has been equally split through his high school career, but scouts now believe his upside is greater with a bat in his hands. RHP/IF Josh Copeland (23), LHP/1B Luke French (53), 3B/RHP Steven Marquardt (40), McGahey, IF/RHP Trevor Plouffe (14) and OF/LHP Joe Savery (53) also have plenty of support at two positions and would be expected to play both ways in college.