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By Michael Levesque
(Talent Ranking: *** out of five) The presence of Boston College righthander Chris Lambert alone makes this a quality state. He's a projected first-rounder and leads a solid crop of college talent. A year after righthander Jeff Allison went in the first round, the high school talent is much thinner, but righthander Adam Crabtree, a Florida resident attending private school in Massachusetts, provided an unexpected quality arm.
Projected First-Round Pick
• Chris Lambert, rhp
A New Hampshire high school shortstop who seemed to have a brighter future as a hockey defenseman, Lambert has pitched for just three years. After going undrafted out of high school, he opened eyes at a Perfect Game showcase in Wareham, Mass., in mid-August of 2001 when he ran his fastball into the 91-94 mph range. He received scholarship offers from Louisiana State and Clemson, before he settled on Boston College. He was the Big East Conference rookie of the year and pitcher of the year as a freshman after he went 9-3, 2.76, marking the first time that the same player won both awards in one season, and followed with a similar sophomore season. After posting a 2.12 ERA in the Cape Cod League last summer, he was considered a potential early first-round pick coming into the spring. But inconsistent performance and some bad luck may drop him into the second. He was 5-4, 3.53 this season, though his peripheral numbers are just as strong as past years, including a .203 opponent average. Lambert has a strong frame and quick arm action that enables him to produce fastballs in the 90-96 mph range. His fastball has good tailing action and bores when up in the zone. He does a good job of pitching to the inner and outer parts of the zone. Lambert has a sharp curveball with 11-to-5 break and good rotation. It buckles hitters' knees when he throws it for strikes, which is only sporadically. Command of all his pitches has been an issue, and he had 44 walks in 71 innings this spring. His changeup is a fair pitch, but he slows his delivery when he throws it and drops his arm angle. Lambert has a full-effort delivery and needs to develop a consistent arm angle and smooth out his mechanics.
Second- to Fifth-Round Talent
Others To Watch
• After heading to Veterans Memorial High in Peabody to see Marlins first rounder Jeff Allison last season, scouts made a return visit this spring to watch 6-foot-3, 205-pound RHP Ryan Moorer. Moorer, who has a commitment to Maryland, had a strong performance at the Perfect Game/Baseball America World Wood Bat Championship last October in Jupiter, Fla. He allowed three hits and no runs while striking out 10 in seven innings of work, earning all- tournament honors. He is a projectable righthander with a live, athletic body, smooth arm action and the makings of three average pitches. His fastball is in the 88-93 mph range with lots of run and sinking action. He throws a 74-77 mph curve that has good spin and bite, and flashes an average change.
• RHP Adam Crabtree is from Homosassa, Fla., but attends prestigious Phillips Andover Academy. The 6-foot-5 Boston College recruit has an excellent frame and the potential for three plus pitches. He has a solid delivery and can run his fastball into the 88-94 mph range with late movement. Crabtree has good command of his heater, and his change is an average pitch, while his breaking ball remains inconsistent.
• RHP Justin Hedrick had a solid Cape Cod League season last summer, leading the league with 68 strikeouts in 60 innings, while going 3-2, 1.96. He projects as a late-round pick. He has a slow arm but generates 88-92 mph velocity and complements it with a good slider that has two-plane depth. His teammate at Northeastern, RHP Devin Monds, comes from an athletic family. His brother Mario plays for the Cincinnati Bengals, his father Wonderful played pro football, and brother Wonderful III played pro baseball. The Dodgers drafted the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Canada native out of high school. He tops out in the low 90s with his fastball, and mixes in a sinker, knuckle-curve and change.
• LHP Kevin Shepard is a medium-framed lefty with a fastball in the 87-91 mph range . His curveball is a well-below-average pitch, and most scouts say he'd be better off scrapping it for his 74-75 mph slider, which is really just a harder curve.
• C Frank Curreri is a draft-eligible sophomore who turned 21 in December. He's an athletic, lefthanded-hitting catcher with plus defensive tools, but he has a long swing and scouts question whether he will hit as a pro.
• Based on talent alone, SS/RHP Juan Carlos Portes would go in the first 10 rounds, but the tools-laden athlete remains a wild card. He did not play high school baseball last year and because he temporarily moved back to the Dominican Republic, he wasn't eligible for the 2003 draft. Portes never played high school ball again this spring, but was scheduled to work out for area scouts before the draft. He has impressive tools but lacks the skills to put them to use at this point. He has fluid actions at short, with average range and arm strength, while at the plate he has good bat speed and gap power.