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By Allan Simpson and John Manuel
(Talent Ranking: *** out of five) Stanford's impact on the draft has been considerable over the last 20 years, and the school's most noteworthy picks have been pitchers. This year marks an exception. With a team that is challenging school offensive records, Stanford's influence this year will be at the plate--starting with outfielder Danny Putnam, a probable first-rounder. At least six Cardinal position players will be selected, and that doesn't include first baseman John Mayberry Jr. or second baseman Jed Lowrie, possible first-round picks in 2005. By area standards, the high school crop is average, though it has a chance to be a five-star group next year.
Projected First-Round Picks
Danny Putnam, of
Putnam has excelled for arguably the best high school (Rancho Bernardo High, San Diego) and college programs in the country, as well as last summer for Team USA. Yet he'll be drafted for the first time in June. He's expected to be a late first-round pick, quite possibly by Oakland, which has four selections before the start of the second round. Putnam fits the Athletics profile almost to perfection. At 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, he's not overly physical, and beyond his bat his tools are marginal. But he may be the most polished hitter in the draft. He got few leg hits on his way to building a .393 average, and his 32-29 walk-strikeout ratio is made to order for an organization that emphasizes plate discipline. Putnam has a wide, balanced stance and generates exceptional bat speed, attacking balls with a quick, short stroke. Based on his performance last summer, he should have little problem adjusting to wood and should move quickly to the big leagues. Scouts compare him to Padres outfielder Brian Giles, another San Diego high school product who stands less than 6 feet. Putnam is a below-average defender and will be relegated to left field. He doesn't anticipate well, gets poor jumps in the field and lacks arm strength. But it's all about his bat.
Second- to Fifth-Round Talent
Chuck Lofgren, lhp/of
Scouts are divided on whether Lofgren will be drafted as a hitter or pitcher. Teams have gone back and forth on him all spring. Most scouts saw him as a hitter at the start of the year and turned him in as a potential first-rounder. Some even thought he was the surest bet of all the high school players in this year's draft to hit in the big leagues, and said he could hit 35-40 homers a year. They saw juice in his bat and a solid approach at the plate. He was frequently pitched around, however, and he began to swing at bad pitches. He tried to do too much and his frustration got the better of him. He struggled to hit .250 and sentiment moved to the mound, where scouts saw a 6-foot-4, 200-pounder with a power arm, capable of pitching at 88-92 mph and touching 93-94. They also saw a high-maintenance delivery, an inconsistent curveball and a tendency to lose velocity quickly. The general feeling now is that Lofgren's higher upside is as a position player, even though he's an average runner and projects only as a left fielder. He finished the year with a .343 average, but only three homers. Lofgren, a Santa Clara signee, would play both ways in college but has expressed a preference to begin his pro career.
Matt Durkin, rhp
An unsigned 10th-round pick in the 2001 draft, Durkin excelled in his first two years at San Jose State, winning 18 games with a 2.72 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly three-to-one. With his track record, the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder looked like a first-round pick. Instead, he pitched erratically, going 8-5, 4.49 with 49 walks and 103 strikeouts in 110 innings, and should fall to the second round, and maybe even the third--though he finished with a flourish, shutting out Hawaii in his last start. Durkin is one of the few college pitchers who can live almost exclusively off his explosive fastball, when he keeps his pitches low in the strike zone. He threw fastballs 85-90 percent of the time and it peaked at 94-95 mph with natural cutting action. When Durkin got his pitches up he got hit hard, and his lack of a quality second pitch proved his undoing. He was also dogged by deep counts, control problems and a lack of offensive support. Durkin tried to throw a slider as a breaking ball, and that didn't work. He had some success with a spike curve, a pitch he used successfully as a freshman. Some scouts say his changeup will be successful against wood bats, especially against lefthanded hitters.
Jeff Marquez, rhp
Ryan Mattheus and Kurt Koehler were supposed to attract most of the attention on the Sac City pitching staff this spring, but the unheralded Marquez passed them to become the best junior college prospect in northern California. While Mattheus (Rockies, 19th round) and Koehler (Marlins, 17th round) developed into two of the state's best draft-and-follows in 2003, Marquez saw no action for the Panthers. A walk-on, he threw only 82-83 mph when he enrolled, so he redshirted. A year later, he was up to 90 and everything snowballed from there. He was used in a variety of roles early and eventually took over Mattheus' spot in the rotation, going 8-2, 1.46 with 62 strikeouts. He showcased a quick, easy delivery with a darting, sinking fastball that peaked at 94. He adds a good changeup and an adequate curveball.
Eric Berger, lhp
Opinion is deeply divided on the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Berger, who surged into second-round consideration for some teams, and wasn't even scouted or crosschecked by others. Berger always had a big curveball in the mold of Barry Zito but threw his fastball much harder this year, up to 90-92 mph. He had several high strikeout games while posting a 7-1, 0.66 record and fanning 141 with 14 walks in 64 innings. For all his improvement, scouts say he still doesn't have a firm grasp on the art of pitching and needs to get stronger. Along with Matt Baugh (Deer Valley High) and David Coulon (Hanford High), who both spent most of the year on the injured list, Berger is one of three northern California high school lefthanders who has committed to Arizona.
Richie Robnett, of
Robnett, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound lefthanded-hitting center fielder, is the first sign that Fresno State, once one of the nation's best programs, is getting back on solid footing. A redshirt sophomore transfer from Santa Barbara CC, Robnett came on strong this spring and developed into the best everyday player in the Western Athletic Conference. He led the Bulldogs in batting (.373), home runs (13), RBIs (50) and stolen bases (21). He showed better bat speed than in the past, and his stock soared when he held his own against Rice's stellar staff in a three-game series. All his other tools play well. He's an above-average center fielder who gets excellent jumps on fly balls. He has been timed in the 60-yard dash in 6.6 seconds.
Ryan Mattheus, rhp
Mattheus was one of the top junior college players in California last year, but elected to return to school rather than sign with the Rockies. He remained eligible to sign with Colorado until a week before this year's draft. If he doesn't, he could resurface as high as the second round, though third to fifth is more likely. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder has a scholarship offer to Arizona State and is being advised by agent Scott Boras. Mattheus has two plus pitches: a 92-95 mph fastball and a power slider. He threw more strikes this year in compiling a 5-0, 3.26 record with 55 strikeouts in 61 innings, and generally exhibited a better feel for pitching.
Brad Bergesen, rhp
Bergesen jumped a level on most draft boards this spring by throwing his fastball consistently in the 90-93 mph range, while touching 95. He's similar to San Jose State righthander Matt Durkin because he can dominate a game with just his fastball, though that will prove more challenging at a higher level. He maintained his velocity deep into games. He dabbled with a sinker and slider but didn't show consistent command of either pitch as he went 9-0, 0.47 with 93 walks in 60 innings. At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, he's a workhorse with a fierce competitive side. Some teams have the University of San Diego signee in the first five rounds, but most see him in the sixth- through 10th-round range.
Mark Jecmen, rhp
The 6-foot-8, 235-pound Jecmen has won three games in three years at Stanford, yet could be drafted in the first five rounds. He has never had significant success anywhere, but teams remain enthralled with his arm. He has above-average velocity with a fastball that touches 94 mph, and he also has the makings of four quality pitches. But at Stanford, if you don't throw strikes, you don't pitch. Jecmen had worked just 19 innings this year and walked 14. Though he still showed control problems, Jecmen actually threw more strikes this year in his rare appearances and maintained his velocity better. His control problems may be more mental than mechanical, and he might just need a chance to pitch regularly to work through his problems.
Donny Lucy, c
Lucy bided his time for two years at Stanford, waiting for his chance to supplant Ryan Garko as the everyday catcher. At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, he's always looked the part of a high-round draft pick and he made the most of his opportunity this spring, upgrading his game in all areas. In addition to athletic ability, he brought a lot of energy to the position, while making big strides at the plate. He showed flashes of power while laying off breaking pitches out of the strike zone better than he has in the past. He was a main cog in Stanford's record-breaking offense, hitting .314 with 11 homers. He has always run well for a catcher and brings a lot of intangibles to the table.
Sam Fuld, of
Fuld does not grade out as a premium draft pick but could be selected in an early round because of his instinctive feel for the game in the field, on the bases and at the plate, and an uncanny knack to get the most out of his ability. Fuld's tools are all below-average. He's not particularly fast and doesn't have a strong arm, but rates as a premier defensive outfielder because he gets excellent jumps on balls and takes good angles. Despite a .274 average this year, he's an effective leadoff hitter because he's an outstanding bunter and has a knack for getting on base. He holds the Stanford career record for runs, and the College World Series record for career hits. He demonstrated his ability to hit with wood last summer when he batted .361 in the Cape Cod League, second in the league. His inability to hit with the same prowess this spring may knock him down marginally, but he's still expected to be one of the first seniors selected. Scouts say the only way he'll show improvement is by adding strength to his 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame.
Erik Davis, rhp
Davis excelled last summer on the high school showcase circuit and for Team USA's national junior squad. He went 2-0, 0.00 with 18 strikeouts in 13 innings at the Pan Am Cup in Curacao, helping Team USA to secure a berth in this year World Junior championship. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound righthander had every expectation of being a first-round pick this year and had a good spring statistically, but he didn't dominate hitters and his stuff wasn't as sharp. He didn't maintain his velocity, pitching more in the 87-90 mph range rather than the low 90s. He had a lower arm angle than last year that flattened out his slider, though he retained his feel for a changeup. He's only 17 and still growing, but he needs to get stronger. Davis is committed to Stanford, and has indicated it will take first-round money to steer him away. It's unlikely a team will pay him that kind of money, making it unclear where he'll be drafted. On potential, he's a first- or-second-rounder; on performance, he's a third- to fifth-rounder; on signability, he may not even be picked at all.
Others To Watch
• Stanford has had another outstanding season, thanks in part to a trio of solid seniors: RHP David O'Hagan, OF Brian Hall and 3B Jonny Ash. All went undrafted as juniors, but O'Hagan and Hall are candidates for the first 10 rounds. O'Hagan had a strong 2003 College World Series and carried over the momentum to '04, using a 90-91 mph fastball and hard-breaking slider with an aggressive approach to become the Cardinal's closer. He averaged a strikeout an inning while keeping his walks in line, an impressive feat considering his violent, head-jerking delivery. His stuff and temperament are suited for a relief role. The versatile Hall has the most upside of the trio. He was a touted prep recruit from New Mexico who struggled early in his Stanford career, falling behind classmates Sam Fuld and Carlos Quentin on the field and on draft boards. However, he out-performed Fuld this season, overcoming a slow start with a long hitting streak to push his average close to .400. He showed improved plate discipline and more strength, enabling him to drive balls. He's also a sound base runner who knows how to steal a base. Hall has played outfield, third base and first base for Stanford but profiles best at second in pro ball. Ash is a quintessential organizational player with outstanding makeup. He's a grinder whose tools are short across the board except for his ability to hit for contact. He'll probably be a second baseman in pro ball but he was better defensively in college at third base, where he showed good first-step quickness
• Stanford normally hangs on to its juniors, but most scouts expect OF Chris Carter to be a relatively easy sign. A highly-touted recruit, Carter has had a checkered career at Stanford. He was set back immediately by a shoulder injury in his first fall practice and played through the injury as a freshman before finally having surgery. His arm strength never returned and he became such a liability with the glove, both in left field and at first base, that he spent most of his career at Stanford as a DH. Carter has one exceptional tool, massive raw power. He loves to hit balls 500 feet in batting practice and had 23 homers in just 324 college at-bats. But his swing is often out of control and he didn't make consistent contact. He projects as a .250 hitter with 35-home run potential. He was patient enough to draw nearly as many walks (67) as strikeouts (69), making him attractive to an American League club that values plate discipline
• Santa Clara has had a major infusion of talent in the last two or three years but the program hasn't taken flight as expected. The Broncos could have several players drafted, starting with OF Nic Crosta, a transfer from Texas. The Seattle native has a big body that is suited for pro ball and good tools, including excellent righthanded raw power and surprising speed. Crosta bails out on his swing and strikes out a lot, however, and generally lacks a feel for the game
• Six-foot-6, 250-pound RHP Scott Shapiro is one of the biggest enigmas in the draft. He has the size, arm strength and electricity in his hands to be a dominant pitcher, but was maddeningly inconsistent with terrible control problems in two seasons at Santa Clara after transferring from Vanderbilt. He made just five appearances this season, including one start, and posted a 20.25 ERA while allowing 21 base runners in six innings. He has a feel for three pitches, including a 95 mph fastball, but rarely got ahead in the count and eventually lost all confidence in his ability to throw strikes. It's unlikely he'll be drafted in the first 10 rounds but he's had numerous private workouts for clubs who continue to be intrigued with his arm
• Two other Broncos, RHPs Chad Fillinger and Kellan McConnell, should get drafted though they were a combined 10-16, 5.92 this year. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Fillinger was the team's top starter the last two seasons. He is a strike thrower and his fastball, curveball and changeup have shown flashes of being major league average pitches, but he failed to put it all together in college. McConnell, who projects as a closer, also has size and raw arm strength with a fastball at 91-93, but he lacks a feel for his secondary stuff
• Another enigmatic pitcher is senior RHP Matt Brown, who was California's best pitcher as a freshman and sophomore and showed exceptional promise as a closer in the Cape Cod League. However, Brown has gone backwards his last two seasons while being used as a starter. He once threw consistently in the 89-93 mph range, but was mostly in the high 80s the last two years and lacked command. He added a slider that helped him marginally as a senior, but he now profiles as a middle reliever. Teammate Kyle Crist has passed Brown as a prospect, despite inconsistent mechanics and performance. He went only 3-8, 5.62 this year, but Crist gets good movement on a 92-93 mph fastball because of a three-quarters arm slot. The Bears' top pick likely will be OF Justin Nelson, who has a strong, athletic body and projects lefthanded power. 2B/3B Dave Nicholson led Cal with a .373 average and can run the 60-yard dash in 6.6 seconds, but may lack the true middle infield skills to stick at second and the power to play third. He alternated between the two positions throughout his college career
• Six-foot-5 RHP Ethan Katz burst onto the prospect stage when he pitched Sacramento State to an upset of then-top-ranked Stanford, winning 3-1. He's a pitchability guy who spots his fringy fastball (88-89 mph) while setting up hitters with a solid slider and changeup. A pitcher with similar stuff, 6-foot-4 Pacific RHP Alex Graham might have gone in the first 10 rounds if not for a bout with shoulder tendinitis, which doomed the first season for Pacific coach Ed Sprague, the former big leaguer. Graham showed excellent command of three pitches, including an 89 mph fastball, before going to the sidelines
• SS Arman Gaerlan is San Francisco's best prospect since Tagg Bozeid and Jesse Foppert were among the first 100 picks in the 2001 draft. Gaerlan is an offensive middle infielder with good range, arm and hands, but his home run total dropped from 10 in 2003 to four this season and he committed more errors than the last two years combined
• OFs Brandon Burgess and Tom Everidge are two of the better college hitters in northern California--not just at the Division II level. They shared the team lead in hitting at .359 for Sonoma State, while hitting 39 homers between them. The switch-hitting Burgess, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound slugger who was named the West region Division II player of the year, is the better prospect of the two. He played several positions in college but projects as a strong-armed right fielder in pro ball. RHP Daniel Barone was used as a starter this year, but profiles as a reliever for pro ball--a role that Chico State RHP Nick Burger, whose 16 saves were the second-most in Division II, has already mastered
• UC Davis SS Ryan Coultas, who alienated area scouts by turning down the Cubs as a 13th-round pick last year, should be a solid senior sign. He suffered a season-ending injury (broken hand this year) for the second year in a row, but is an above-average defender at short with an outstanding arm. He hit 92 mph off the mound and showed a feel for a slider, so it's possible he could be drafted with the inent of making him a pitcher
• Five-foot-8 OF Archie Gilbert has four solid tools, falling short only in arm strength. He showed surprising power for his size for Division III Cal State Hayward, hitting .430-10-53
• Fresno City College and Sacramento City College have dominated the northern California junior college ranks for years--both on the field and producing prospects for the draft. Fresno, whose 33-6 record was the best of the four teams that advanced to this year's California community college championship, has several potential drafts, notably OF Leonard Davis and LHP Rollie Gibson. Davis has big lefthanded power and stroked 12 homers this season, while Gibson, a Long Beach State transfer, compiled an 8-1, 2.56 record on the strength of an outstanding curveball
• RHP Kurt Koehler, drafted by the Marlins in each of the last two years, has a lower profile than his Sac City pitching mates Jeff Marquez and Ryan Mattheus but scouts say he's more polished and should reach the big leagues quicker. His best pitch is a 90-mph power sinker. OF Dustin Hahn began his college career at Louisiana State in 2002 before sitting out last year and resuming his career at Sac City. His bat is his best tool, though he doesn't show it consistently
• Last year's surprise draft out of the area was Chabot JC 3B Nate Schierholtz, a second-rounder of the Giants. Diablo Valley JC 3B Spike McDougall has drawn comparisons to Schierholtz because of his hitting ability and long, tall frame. He's more athletic than Schierholtz, but lacks his raw power and strength. The Astros held McDougall's negotiating rights and were expected to make a run at him before the closed period. OF Sean Henry was supposed to be the Diablo Valley player that created most of the buzz this spring after being drafted in the 10th round by the Tigers last year, but he rarely played to the level of his tools, displayed little feel for the game and was generally a disruptive force on the team
• The Giants controlled the rights to several junior college players in the area, notably RHP Omar Aguilar, who throws all his pitches hard, including a 92-93 mph fastball that tops out at 96; and switch-hitting OF Matt Berezay, who has above average power from both sides of the plate
• Six-foot-4 RHPs Chris Malone (Royals) and Stuart Alexander (Marlins) were drafted a year ago on the basis of their upside potential and enhanced their value with strong seasons; 1B Cory Dunlap, who was not drafted a year ago, led California junior colleges with a .523 average
• Arizona cornered all the best high school lefthanders in northern California. But it looks like the Wildcats will lose Eric Berger to the draft, while the status of Matt Baugh and David Coulon is less clear. Baugh was lost for the season with an arm injury while Coulon, a short, stocky southpaw with good arm strength and excellent command, had a serious knee problem that could send him tumbling down draft boards
• Two years ago, Fresno State's Ben Fritz had the rare distinction of being a top prospect as both a pitcher and catcher. Dominick Foster, the top high school player in the Fresno area this year, has a similar profile. He was scouted primarily as a catcher at the start of the year, but when his average dipped below .200, the focus began shifting to the mound. Foster has above-average arm strength, and touched 94 mph though he has little feel for a breaking ball
• 3B Beau Mills, Fresno State's top recruit, is the son of former big leaguer Brad Mills, now a coach with the Red Sox. Mills has the requisite baseball savvy and a solid lefthanded bat, generating good bat speed. He showed off his raw power potential in 2003 by hitting three balls into McCovey Cove at then-Pac Bell Park in San Francisco, when his father's Expos came through on a road trip
• OF D.J. Butler has the tools that normally attract early-round interest, notably above-average raw power and a plus arm, but he also has Tourette's Syndrome, severe enough that it may affect his draft status. He has committed to Arizona State and is expected to fulfill the commitment as his illness will probably preclude him from going in the first three or four rounds
• RHP Barry Enright, a Pepperdine recruit, also looks like he's headed for college. That could change, however, as a handful of teams see him as high as a fifth- or sixth-round pick. He's pitched anywhere from 86-91 mph with his fastball and has a solid breaking ball
• UCLA signee Parker Hanks was a three-year starter at linebacker on the De la Salle High football team that was ranked No. 1 nationally last fall and hasn't lost a game in years. He's expected to focus on baseball only in college and has shown raw power and a slightly above-average arm, but his bat and lack of experience hold him back. He's more likely to be a high pick three years from now if he develops in college
• RHP Matt Fitts, was the quarterback on his high school football team, and his athleticism on the mound is evident. Heavily committed to Long Beach State, his fastball is in the 90-91 mph range.