|THIS YEAR'S CROP|
|*****||One for the books|
|***||Solid, not spectacular|
|**||Not up to par|
|*||Nothing to see here|
The nation's most populous state and biggest supplier of major leaguers once again will be a significant factor in the draft. As it is with many facets of pop culture and other trends, California is ahead of the rest of the country in terms of impact hitters. The top college hitter in the draft and three of the top sluggers reside in the state. The Golden State should still produce a solid haul for scouts despite down years at college powerhouses such as Southern California and Stanford and a thin pool of prep talent in San Diego. The state's junior college ranks are strong and full of interesting talents who are not under control as draft-and-follows. Several such players were expected to be drafted in the first 10 rounds.
National Top 200 Prospects
1. Evan Longoria, 3b/2b, Long Beach State
2. Greg Reynolds, rhp, Stanford
3. Brandon Morrow, rhp, California
4. Hank Conger, c, Huntington Beach HS
5. David Huff, lhp, UCLA
6. Justin Masterson, rhp, San Diego State
7. Chris Parmelee, of/1b, Chino Hills HS
8. Chris Tillman, rhp, Fountain Valley HS
9. Ian Kennedy, rhp, Southern California
10. Lars Anderson, 1b, Jesuit HS, Fair Oaks
11. Jared Hughes, rhp, Long Beach State
12. Chad Tracy, c, Pepperdine
13. Devin Shepherd, of, Oxnard HS, Agoura Hills
14. Josh Butler, rhp, San Diego
15. Trevor Cahill, rhp, Vista HS, San Diego
16. Andrew Carpenter, rhp, Long Beach State
17. Craig Baker, rhp, Cal State Northridge
18. Tommy Hanson, rhp, Riverside CC (CONTROL: Braves)
19. Chris Valaika, ss/2b, UC Santa Barbara
20. Jeff Inman, rhp, Garces Memorial HS, Bakersfield
21. Brennan Boesch, of/1b, California
22. Cyle Hankerd, of, Southern California
23. Blair Erickson, rhp, UC Irvine
24. Sean O'Sullivan, rhp, Grossmont JC (CONTROL: Angels)
25. Jeff Dunbar, c, UC Riverside
26. Bud Norris, rhp, Cal Poly
27. Tyler Robertson, lhp, Bella Vista HS, Citrus Heights
28. Scott Cousins, of/lhp, San Francisco
29. Chris Errecart, of, California
30. Brett Bigler, of, UC Riverside
31. Quintin Berry, of, San Diego State
32. Bruce Billings, rhp, San Diego State
33. Miguel Cuevas, rhp, Pierce JC
34. Hector Ambriz, rhp, UCLA
Other Players Of Note
35. Jamie Arneson, lhp, Bakersfield JC
36. Jake Renshaw, rhp, Ventura JC
37. Gary Daley, rhp, Cal Poly
38. Justin Turner, 2b/ss, Cal State Fullerton
39. Josh Ravin, rhp, Chatsworth HS
40. Justin Cassel, rhp, UC Irvine
41. Nate Barger, of, Grossmont JC
42. Doug Fister, rhp, Fresno State
43. Yasser Clor, rhp, Wilcox HS, Santa Clara
44. Grant Green, ss, Canyon HS, Anaheim
45. Dan Runzler, lhp, UC Riverside
46. Jim Rapoport, of, Westlake HS
47. Nate Bridges, ss, Villa Park HS
48. Jason Stoffel, rhp, Agoura HS, Agoura Hills
49. Chris Minaker, ss, Stanford
50. Brad Boxberger, rhp, Foothills HS, Tustin
51. Travis Tartamella, c, Los Osos HS, Alta Loma
52. Toby Gerhart, of, Norco HS
53. Rocky Roquet, rhp, Cal Poly (SIGNED: Cubs)
54. Justin Souza, rhp, Sacramento CC
55. Dan Stange, rhp, UC Riverside
56. Josh Lansford, 3b, Cal Poly
57. Blake Davis, ss, Cal State Fullerton
58. Ryan Paul, lhp, Cal State Fullerton
59. Nick Moresi, of, Fresno State
60. Willie Cabrera, 3b, Pierce JC (CONTROL: Braves)
61. Kris Negron, ss, Cosumnes River JC
62. Tommy Peale, rhp, Long Beach CC
63. Christian Vitters, ss, Fresno State
64. Gavin Brooks, lhp, Rancho Buena Vista HS, Vista
65. Brant Rustich, rhp, UCLA
66. Stefan Gartrell, of, San Francisco
67. Jimmy Van Ostrand, 1b/of, Cal Poly
68. Gabe Cohen, of, El Camino Real HS, Woodland Hills
69. D'Arby Myers, of, Westchester HS, Los Angeles
70. Josh Tamba, rhp, Cypress JC
71. Brandon Tripp, of, Cal State Fullerton
72. Travis Neal, of, Riverside JC (CONTROL: Giants)
73. Lance Zawadzki, ss, San Diego State
74. Robbie Alcombrack, c, Bear River HS, Grass Valley
75. Austin Rauch, rhp, El Capitan HS, El Cajon
76. Danny Dorn, of, Cal State Fullerton
77. Nate Boman, lhp, San Diego
78. Kyle Harper, rhp, Orange Coast CC
79. Austin Rauch, rhp, El Capitan HS, El Cajon
80. Justin Jacobs, ss/3b, Chino HS
81. Kurt Mertins, 2b/ss, JC of the Desert
82. Chase Tigert, rhp, Quartz Hill HS, Lancaster
83. John Hester, c, Stanford
84. Kevin Couture, rhp, Coronado HS
85. Ian Thompson, rhp, Clairemont HS, San Diego
86. Clayton Tanner, lhp, De la Salle HS, Concord
87. Hector Rebago, inf/rhp , Riverside Poly HS
88. Robert Fish, lhp, A.B. Miller HS, San Bernardino
89. A.J. Griffin, rhp, Grossmont HS, El Cajon
90. Vinnie Pestano, rhp, Cal State Fullerton
91. Ben Petralli, c, Sacramento CC (CONTROL: Tigers)
92. Matt Berezay, of, Pacific
93. Danny Perales, of, Southern California
94. Steve Singleton, ss, San Diego
95. Jordan Abruzzo, c, San Diego
96. Allen Craig, if, California
97. Andy Underwood, rhp, Fresno State
98. Kris Watts, c, Santa Clara
99. Josh Roenicke, rhp, UCLA
100. Tyler Brummett, rhp, UCLA
101. Keoni Ruth, 2b, San Diego
102. Eddie Romero, lhp, Fresno State
103. Lauren Gagnier, rhp, Cal State Fullerton
104. Josh Bradbury, of/3b, Orange Coast CC
105. Shane Buschini, 1b, San Diego
106. Brock Ungricht, c/3b, San Diego State
107. Kessler Reifel, rhp, Redlands HS
108. Jim Rapoport, of, Stanford
109. Nick Akins, ss, Los Angeles (no school)
110. Erik Castro, 3b/lf, Fallbrook HS
111. McCullough Dean, rhp, Vista HS, San Diego
112. Blake Holler, lhp, Stanford
113. Matt Manship, rhp, Stanford
114. Tyler Hoechlin, 2b, Santiago HS, Coronado
115. Nick Victor, of, Skyland JC
116. Matt North, rhp, Deer Valley HS, Vacaville
117. Dwight Childs, c, Elk Grove HS
118. Kyle Morgan, of, Bakersfield JC (CONTROL: Dodgers)
119. Joe Hatasaki, lhp, Mountain View HS, Mountain View
120. Casey Haerther, 1b, Chaminade Prep, West Hills
121. Jeremy Bamsey, 1b, Chaffey JC
1. Evan Longoria, 3b/2b (National rank: 4)
School: Long Beach State. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Downey, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 213. Birthdate: 10/7/85.
Scouting Report: After emerging last summer with an MVP performance in the Cape Cod League, Longoria cemented his status as a premium draft prospect with a strong spring and enters the draft as the consensus choice as the best of a weak crop of hitters. While his name's similarity to that of "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria attracted attention, Longoria is not related to her. He wasn't drafted out of high school or a year later at Rio Hondo (Calif.) Junior College, but his game and body have matured since then. Longoria has grown two inches and 25 pounds since junior college, adding strength to a smooth swing that generates solid-average power. He has excellent hands that translate well both at the plate and in the field. Longoria's bat speed gives him at least average power, and it allows him to let balls get deep and use the entire field. While he filled in at shortstop last spring for the injured Troy Tulowitzki, the eventual No. 7 overall pick of the Rockies, Longoria has played mostly third base in 2006 and is a solid defender there with plenty of arm strength. He also could play second base, where he'd be an above-average offensive player.
3. Brandon Morrow, rhp (National rank: 10)
School: California. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Rohnert Park, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Birthdate: 7/26/84.
Scouting Report: Morrow seems like a scout's dream. Owner of perhaps the best pure arm in the draft, he throws as hard as any pitcher in baseball, sitting at 96-98 mph with his fastball and occasionally reaching 99. He's a fast-twitch athlete with a quick arm and near-perfect pitcher's frame at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds. His delivery is clean and he repeats his mechanics well. Morrow's secondary pitches-a mid-80s slider and improving changeup-have flashed average to above-average potential as well. He's clearly improved over the pitcher whose ERA was 7.57 in his first two seasons, and he led the Pacific-10 Conference in ERA with two weekends to play. However, scouts still have their doubts about Morrow. His control has improved, but several scouts still question his feel for the strike zone and for pitching in general. He lacks deception in his delivery, and his secondary stuff comes and goes. Morrow was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes as a high school senior and wears an insulin pump when not on the mound. During games, he monitors his blood sugar, checking between innings to see if he needs a burst of sugar or shot of insulin. Most scouts don't consider it a major problem.
4. Hank Conger, c (National rank: 20)
School: Huntington Beach HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Huntington Beach, Calif.
B-T: B-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Birthdate: 1/29/88.
Scouting Report: Hyun Conger, given his nickname by his Korean grandfather in honor of Hank Aaron, has carried a lofty reputation ever since he swatted 34 home runs and helped pitch his Huntington Beach Little League team to within one victory of the 2000 Little League World Series. Now, he's the top catching prospect in the Class of 2006. His decorated amateur career has included stints with USA Baseball's youth national team and Aflac All-American honors. Conger didn't have a great junior season, and scouts doubted whether the switch-hitter could remain a catcher defensively. While he hasn't turned into Johnny Bench, he has impressed scouts with his aptitude and improvement, showing better receiving skills and footwork. His desire to improve is evidenced by one-on-one work he's done with former big leaguer Brent Mayne. His arm strength remains a plus, though he needs to make smoother transfers. Still, Conger's bat remains his best tool. He has well-above-average power, particularly from the left side, and he makes consistent contact for a power hitter. While some compare him to Athletics prospect Daric Barton, Conger has more power and less hitting ability than Barton.
5. David Huff, lhp (National rank: 22)
School: UCLA. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Huntington Beach, Calif.
B-T: S-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Birthdate: 8/22/84.
Scouting Report: While his repertoire has earned comparisons to Tom Glavine's, Huff has more in common with Barry Zito. Like Zito, he pitched for John Savage, UCLA's head coach and Zito's pitching coach in 1999 at Southern California. Huff was with Savage in 2004 at UC Irvine, then (like Zito) transferred as a sophomore to a junior college to test the draft waters. After a year at Cypress (Calif.) Junior College, Huff was drafted by the Phillies but turned down a reported $500,000 bonus to pitch for Savage (as Zito did), this time for the Bruins. Pitching on Saturdays, Huff dominated Pacific-10 Conference foes, tossing three complete games in his first six starts. Like Zito, Huff works with average velocity for a lefthander, having bumped his fastball from a pedestrian 84-87 mph last summer to 86-89 mph this year, touching as high as 91. He's lengthened his stride and improved the balance in his delivery, lifting the quality of his stuff. He has developed solid-average command of his fastball. Unlike Zito, Huff's best pitch is a changeup, rather than a big curve. Huff's change ranks among the best in the country, thrown with the same arm speed as his fastball, and has above-average late sink.
6. Justin Masterson, rhp (National rank: 24)
School: San Diego State. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Beavercreek, Ohio
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 245. Birthdate: 3/22/85.
Scouting Report: The Mountain West Conference isn't an easy league to pitch in thanks to its array of high-altitude ballparks, and San Diego State hasn't earned a regional berth since 1991. Nevertheless, when Masterson emerged as a prospect last summer in the Cape Cod League he chose to transfer to San Diego State. Born in Jamaica (while his father and mother were doing missionary work), Masterson was a late bloomer, growing eight inches in high school and playing catcher until he was a junior. He spent his first two college seasons at NAIA Bethel (Ind.). Though raw, he had a consistent season for the Aztecs, taking the ball every week for a struggling team whose pitching staff was ravaged by injuries. Masterson pounds the strike zone with a fastball that can sit in the low 90s, topping out at 94 mph. He stays tall in his delivery and keeps his fastball in the lower half of the strike zone; he allowed just eight homers in 110 innings. Masterson's changeup and slider remain inconsistent, and scouts believe all his stuff would play up in the bullpen. His best profile may be as a reliever who can pitch frequently with a durable frame, avoid walks (just 24 this season) and get key groundballs.
7. Chris Parmelee, of/1b (National rank: 26)
School: Chino Hills HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Chino Hills, Calif.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 195. Birthdate: 2/24/88.
Scouting Report: Parmelee has been on the prospect scene for quite awhile, competing in a youth skills competition during the 1998 All-Star Game in Denver. He established himself as one of the best high school hitters in the Class of 2006 last summer, earning Aflac All-American honors as well as the MVP award at Team One Baseball's Cape Cod High School Classic. He has carried that momentum into his high school season this spring in California, hitting 11 home runs in his first 26 games while still drawing 32 walks, evidence of his plate discipline which is the best in this year's high school class. Despite his strong season, his Chino Hills team failed to make the playoffs. A Cal State Fullerton signee, Parmelee has worked hard at hitting and has developed a balanced swing and the ability to use the entire field. His discipline, improved strength and sound stroke have produced above-average power, and he's moved into the mix for the first round. His raw arm strength is above-average, as he's thrown in the high 80s off the mound. His below-average speed is his biggest liability, limiting his defensive profile to left field or first base.
8. Chris Tillman, rhp (National rank: 39)
School: Fountain Valley HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Fountain Valley, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 185. Birthdate: 4/15/88.
Scouting Report: Tillman entered the season as the top prospect in Southern California's usually fertile high school ranks. His performance hasn't endeared him to scouts, however, and his 5-5 record for a struggling team probably hasn't made for a fun season for him either. A Cal State Fullerton signee, Tillman hasn't shown consistent stuff and is a player who clubs have to project significantly. He has a loose arm and excellent pitcher's frame. He's shown a 90-94 mph fastball velocity but hasn't shown the ability—or perhaps just as troubling, the willingness—to maintain his stuff deep into games. One theory is he's just cruising, while another is that he's growing into his lanky body. He often backs off on his fastball, sitting in the mid-80s and later going back up around 90. He also has flashed a 12-to-6 curveball at times, and at 74-78 mph it can be a plus power pitch. In searching for a third pitch, Tillman has thrown more split-finger fastballs than scouts want to see. While three years with the Titans would produce a more finished product, Tillman's projectability and possible two plus pitches figure to be too much for clubs to avoid, and he isn't expected to make it out of the first two rounds.
9. Ian Kennedy, rhp (National rank: 40)
School: Southern California. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Huntington Beach, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 195. Birthdate: 12/19/84.
Scouting Report: At his best, Kennedy pitches off his fastball despite a short frame and shows a knack for making the big pitch. Above-average fastball command has allowed him to dominate college hitters (as evidenced by a 158-38 strikeout-walk ratio in 2005) and in two summers with Team USA. Kennedy has regressed in 2006, however, becoming much more hittable (.254 average against versus .201 last year) and vulnerable to big innings. Scouts report Kennedy's fastball sits more frequently from 86-89 mph, rather than 89-92 as in the past. Even when he has his velocity Kennedy has missed his spots, leaving balls up in the zone, and his changeup—a plus pitch in the past—has taken a step back as well. His slurvy breaking ball needs to be tighter and find the strike zone more often. Complicating matters, agent Scott Boras represents Kennedy. Scouts can't agree where he merits being picked but share the belief it will take the right fit of a scout who has followed him since he starred with Rockies prospect Ian Stewart in high school, and an organization comfortable with his size and adviser.
10. Lars Anderson, 1b (National rank: 41)
School: Jesuit HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Fair Oaks, Calif.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 190. Birthdate: 9/25/87.
Scouting Report: Anderson has as much helium as any high school hitter in California, rising up draft boards as he dominated his league and showed plus power from the left side. With a tall, big-boned frame and lefthanded-hitting, lefthanded-throwing profile, Anderson is just what scouts look for at first base. He played for USA Baseball's junior national team in 2005, and his .464 average and 11 RBIs in eight games helped Team USA win a silver medal in the Pan American Championship in Mexico. Anderson's campaign for the first round further gained steam at the National Classic high school tournament in March, when he hit several long homers. He led California's prep players with 14 home runs and has long arms that produce a swing with plenty of leverage, giving him power to the biggest part of the park. He's spread out at the plate, patiently waits for balls to get deep and shows the bat speed to catch up to good fastballs. He's a solid athlete who played basketball in high school and is an average defender, but his value is in his bat.
11. Jared Hughes, rhp (National rank: 55)
School: Long Beach State. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Laguna Beach, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-7. Wt.: 235. Birthdate: 7/4/85.
Scouting Report: Hughes entered 2003 as one of the nation's top prep prospects—ranked right with lefthander Andrew Miller, the No. 1 overall prospect this spring—only to have a so-so spring that sent his stock tumbling. He opted to attend Santa Clara, but a shakeup in the coaching staff and a difficult first season there led Hughes to transfer to Long Beach State. He isn't a strikeout pitcher and profiles for the back of the rotation, despite his big frame. His two-seam fastball sits at 90-91 mph and has average sinking life when Hughes is at his best. He has a good feel for his solid-average slider and gets a lot of groundballs with both pitches. He can throw a decent curve, and his changeup, which has cutting action in to lefthanded hitters, could become an average pitch as he throws it more often. Hughes is intelligent, and at times too analytical and just needs to stay aggressive in the strike zone. While scouts have questioned his competitiveness over the years, Long Beach State's staff has been pleased with his makeup and approach.
12. Chad Tracy, c (National rank: 56)
School: Pepperdine. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Claremont, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Birthdate: 7/4/85.
Scouting Report: The son of Pirates and former Dodgers manager Jim Tracy, Chad Tracy has forged his own identity as one of college baseball's better hitting prospects. He was having a streaky junior season, and recent elbow soreness was causing him to spend more time as a DH. Tracy interests scouts because of his advanced, if unorthodox, approach to hitting. His swing resembles that of Mike Piazza, with a high finish, and like Piazza he takes a full, aggressive swing and drives the ball to all fields. He does not have Piazza's tremendous power, however. Tracy has good plate discipline in that he swings at his pitches. Also like Piazza, his bat is ahead of his defense. He's worked to improve and has become an adequate receiver through sheer hard work. While his arm strength is slightly below-average, his baseball background works in his favor with the subtler aspects of catching, such as working with his pitching staff. His brother Brian is a redshirt junior at UC Santa Barbara who is not expected to be a significant draft pick.
13. Devin Shepherd, of (National rank: 72)
School: Oxnard HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Agoura Hills, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 225. Birthdate: 9/9/87.
Scouting Report: Shepherd has been on the prospect map for awhile, playing in USA Baseball-sponsored events domestically and internationally, and has earned a reputation as a star of showcase events. Last summer provided two highlights, as Shepherd was the MVP of the Aflac Classic in Aberdeen, Md., then won the home run derby at Team One Baseball's Cape Cod High School Classic. To his detractors, though, he's a showcase and batting-practice player who doesn't carry his tools into games. Scouts who like him point to a pro body with average speed and athleticism, slightly above-average arm strength, and more than enough strength to overpower baseballs. Shepherd has plus-plus power to the pull side and could be a 30-homer slugger if it all comes together. He impressed scouts by taking the mound to help his high school team this spring. He's not skilled enough to use the whole field and may not move quickly as his bat adjusts to pro pitching, but the payoff could be significant. Shepherd has committed to Oklahoma but is considered signable.
14. Josh Butler, rhp (National rank: 77)
School: San Diego. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Danville, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 200. Birthdate: 12/11/84.
Scouting Report: Butler got off to a tremendous start, helping San Diego sweep Texas to start the season. But like the Toreros, Butler has slipped as the season has worn on. After taking the summer off to rest his arm, Butler showed electric stuff early in the season, when he formed a power 1-2 punch with freshman Brian Matusz atop the San Diego rotation. His fastball sat in the 91-94 mph range with good life. He finished off hitters with the fastball or one of two breaking balls: a firm 12-to-6 curveball, or a sweeping, hard slider. His mechanics proved too taxing for him to maintain his stuff over the course of the season, and his strikeout numbers steadily dropped. Butler has improved his mental approach; now he needs his body to mature. He needs to add strength and incorporate his lower half into his delivery more, putting less stress on his arm and making him more durable. He still ranks as the second-best prospect in a down year for San Diego County, behind San Diego State's Justin Masterson.
15. Trevor Cahill, rhp (National rank: 83)
School: Vista HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: San Diego
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 180. Birthdate: 3/1/88.
Scouting Report: When shoulder surgery sidelined lefthander Gavin Brooks of Rancho Buena Vista High, Cahill emerged as San Diego's top prep player. Primarily a shortstop his first two seasons, Cahill had thrown just 19 innings prior to 2006. He was sitting 86-88 mph with his fastball in the fall, but came out in the spring dominating hitters with two average pitches and surprising feel and command for such an inexperienced pitcher. Cahill has pitched at 90-91 with his fastball most of the spring, touching 93 mph, and has a swing-and-miss breaking ball. It's usually described as a spike curveball with excellent downer action, and hitters have been overmatched when Cahill commands both of his primary pitches. He's a solid athlete and outstanding student. While his Vista rotation mate, Cal State Fullerton signee McCullough Dean, had attracted heavy recruiting interest, Cahill committed to Dartmouth of the Ivy League. Academics are important to Cahill, and buying him out of school will be expensive. That may be a more difficult proposition for teams after a May start when a weakened Cahill, fighting off a case of strep throat, struggled in a three-inning stint in front of several crosscheckers, then didn't pitch for more than 10 days.
16. Andrew Carpenter, rhp (National rank: 98)
School: Long Beach State. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Vacaville, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 225. Birthdate: 5/18/85.
Scouting Report: Carpenter is on his third school in three seasons. He went 7-2 with four saves at Division II Chico (Calif.) State in 2004, then spent 2005 at Sacramento City College, one of the nation's top junior college programs. He went from there to Long Beach State and became the team's best starter. While teammate Jered Hughes pitches on Fridays and has more pro potential, Carpenter has a knack for pitching and throwing strikes that rivals anyone in the draft. His fastball is fringe-average at 87-89 mph (though he's touched up to 94), but pitching coach Troy Buckley has improved his mechanics, giving him more of a downward angle and more balance in his delivery. He has above-average control of all his pitches, but Carpenter throws too many, using at times a split-finger fastball as well as slider, curveball and changeup, with the splitter his out pitch. He'll need to pick one breaking ball and should settle in as a four-pitch, strike-throwing righty who profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
17. Craig Baker, rhp (National rank: 112)
School: Cal State Northridge. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Hemet, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210. Birthdate: 1/31/85.
Scouting Report: Baker doesn't have a track record of success, having posted a 7.19 career ERA over two seasons in the Cal State Northridge rotation. He has improved his ability to throw strikes, however, and has jumped up several notches on many draft boards. He was at his best early in the season, when he faced Friday starters on some of the top teams in the country, such as Arizona State, Washington, Oklahoma State and Arkansas. At his best, Baker showed solid control of an average fastball that sat in the 89-92 mph range, and his curveball was a plus pitch with depth and power. He throws it in the low 80s, and it has good depth whether he throws it for a strike or buries it in the dirt. He works the bottom of the zone with his curve and the top of the zone with his fastball, an approach he may have to change in pro ball if he can't get his heater by better hitters. His changeup remains a third pitch. He wore down as the season went on, and a hamstring injury limited his durability. The Matadors had moved him to the bullpen, a role that might suit him better as a pro.
18. Tommy Hanson, rhp (National rank: 113)
School: Riverside (Calif.) CC. Class: Fr.
Hometown: Redlands, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 210. Birthdate: 8/28/86.
Scouting Report: The Braves have several significant draft-and-follow players, including two in California with slap-hitting Willie Cabrera (Pierce Junior College) and Hanson. His 6-foot-6 frame and consistent performance over the last year had Hanson moving up other clubs' draft boards if the Braves failed to sign him. Unlike his first cousin, Arizona State righty Zech Zinicola, Hanson has above-average command for an amateur, particularly with his fastball. While the pitch sat in the 85-88 mph range last summer, when he was the top pitcher in the West Coast Collegiate League, Hanson had shown better velocity this spring, touching 94 mph and consistently throwing in the 87-92 mph range. He gets a good downward angle to the plate and pounds the lower half of the strike zone, working primarily off the fastball. While Hanson throws his changeup, slider and curveball for strikes, they all grade out as below-average pitches, and scouts were wary of projecting any of them becoming plus in the future. He dominated nevertheless, leading California juco pitchers in strikeouts by a wide margin while going 10-2, 1.69 against good competition. Hanson committed to Arizona State, but he was expected to sign.
19. Chris Valaika, ss/2b (National rank: 121)
School: UC Santa Barbara. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Valencia, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 195. Birthdate: 8/14/85.
Scouting Report: Scouts have had a long time to evaluate Valaika against quality competition. He was on three USA Baseball teams, winning a gold medal in 2001 with the youth national team and a silver medal in 2003 with the Pan American Games junior national team. He earned a gold medal at the World University Games with the college national team in 2004 as an infield reserve behind future first-round picks Jed Lowrie, Troy Tulowitzki and Ryan Zimmerman. However, Valaika hit a speed bump last year when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He has worked hard to come back and doesn't wear a brace on his knee. He's a hard worker with solid-average tools. Most of his success owes to his good hands. He shows quick hands at the plate that generate average power, particularly inviting for a player who should stay in the infield defensively. Valaika's hands work well in the infield, though his range at shortstop is below-average and he's a fringe-average runner. With better patience at the plate, Valaika's power should increase. His makeup is a significant plus. He can play second base and has enough arm for third, making him an ideal utility infielder.
20. Jeff Inman, rhp (National rank: 124)
School: Garces Memorial HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Bakersfield, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185. Birthdate: 11/24/87.
Scouting Report: While scouts knew about Inman prior to the spring, they had to give him more attention after the Major League Scouting Bureau gave him the highest grade of any California high school player in February. He backed it up with a solid spring, accounting for nearly half his team's victories with a 6-4, 1.95 mark in a 14-10 season for his Garces Memorial High club. Inman got the high bureau ranking (60 overall future potential on the 20-80 scouting scale) because of his fastball velocity. While he missed some time as a junior with an arm injury, he had grown into a hard fastball that sat in the low 90s and touched 95 consistently. Just 5-foot-11 and 150 pounds as a sophomore, Inman was listed at a lanky 6-foot-3, 180 pounds with room to add weight to his frame. Scouts say he lacks a feel for his breaking ball and changeup, which lag behind his fastball. Inman had committed to Stanford, where he has attended camps in the past, and like many Cardinal recruits was considered a difficult sign. It's possible he won't be drafted at all due to his school commitment.
21. Brennan Boesch, of/1b (National rank: 125)
School: California. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Los Angeles
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 215. Birthdate: 4/12/85.
Scouting Report: Boesch is often linked with teammate Chris Errecart, and the two roomed together (with ace righty Brandon Morrow) this year at California. While Errecart had the stronger summer last year in the Cape Cod League, Boesch has emerged as the better draft prospect. Boesch was a highly touted high school hitter who was expected to excel in college. He has what scouts look for in a prospect, but while he had set a new career high with 10 home runs, his slugging percentage was actually lower than it was in 2005, and scouts had been disappointed by his overall performance. He's been erratic, at times showing above-average bat speed and the ability to catch up to good fastballs, and at others showing a long swing that short-circuits his power. His hands are dead at the start of his swing, often keeping him from loading up and generating power. Boesch has significant athletic ability for a big man, allowing him to move well for his size, and could play either outfield corner thanks to a slightly above-average arm and average speed.
22. Cyle Hankerd, of (National rank: 129)
School: Southern California. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Covina, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Birthdate: 1/24/82.
Scouting Report: Following up on a strong summer when he was the MVP of the wood-bat New England Collegiate League, Hankerd was the top hitter for Southern California's troubled team, which collapsed in the second half of the season and was expected to miss out on a regional bid for the third time in four seasons. Unlike many college hitters available this season, he has shown improvement, cutting down on his strikeouts while improving his power significantly. Hankerd's bat is his best tool, as he has the strength to maintain a balanced, flat swing that allows him to drive the ball to all parts of the field. He doesn't have natural loft power but has improved in that area this season, improving from one homer in 2005 to 10 this spring. Defensively, Hankerd profiles as a solid left fielder but doesn't have the arm for right. He's a below-average runner as well.
23. Blair Erickson, rhp (National rank: 130)
School: UC Irvine. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Fair Oaks, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 210. Birthdate: 10/28/84.
Scouting Report: The West offered pro scouts several options for college closers, who have been fashionable in recent drafts. The best one, Arizona's Mark Melancon, entered the draft with baggage due to an elbow injury and hadn't pitched since April. Erickson, who had a banner freshman season when he led the nation in saves (17) and was invited to Team USA tryouts, was poised to step into the breach as he helped push UC Irvine toward its second regional berth in three seasons. The Anteaters had used Erickson in a variety of roles, including one-inning closer, 1970s style fireman (two- or three-inning stints) and even as a starter. Scouts had a hard time getting a read on Erickson's stuff because his fastball, 94 mph in the past, sat in the 86-90 mph range in extended stints and 89-91 mph when he relieved. Erickson also throws across his body, which gives his fastball and slider life but also puts strain on his elbow. His short stature and inconsistent fastball put him behind a healthy Melancon or Miami's Chris Perez on the closer draft list.
24. Sean O'Sullivan, rhp (National rank: 131)
School: Grossmont (Calif.) JC. Class: Fr.
Hometown: El Cajon, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 220. Birthdate: 9/1/87.
Scouting Report: The 103rd overall pick in 2005, O'Sullivan was the second-highest drafted player selected last year that didn't sign. The Angels hold his rights and were expected to make a significant run at signing him. O'Sullivan was hitting 428 to rank seventh in the state. But he always has been considered a better prospect on the mound, and he ranked sixth among California jucos with a 1.59 ERA. Scouts have been mixed on his season, however. One called him the junior college Roger Clemens for his mound presence, big frame and above-average fastball that has touched 93 mph. Others say O'Sullivan has a mature body that has started to go south (even his advocates guess he's added about 10 pounds since high school), and most reports have his fastball sitting at 87-91. At either velocity, he has above-average fastball command. His secondary stuff (curveball, changeup) has not improved enough to give him a knockout pitch, and he had just 58 strikeouts in 69 innings.
25. Jeff Dunbar, c (National rank: 134)
School: UC Riverside. Class: So.
Hometown: Chino Hills, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 220. Birthdate: 6/8/85.
Scouting Report: Dunbar is expected to either be drafted highly, or not at all. Usually, college hitters with 13 career extra-base hits who bat in the lower half of the batting order aren't premium draft prospects, but he doesn't have the usual profile. He's one of the more athletic position players in the country with a strong, 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame, and he's still learning the game. A draft-eligible sophomore (he turns 21 the week of the draft), Dunbar intrigues scouts with his size, above-average throwing arm and clean transfer behind home plate. He's thrown out 34 percent of basestealers as a sophomore with an arm that allows him to throw in the low 90s off a mound. Dunbar is a quiet receiver with excellent hands and has made only one error in 2006. His bat is the question, as he has a raw approach befitting his inexperience. His power is a long way from showing up in games, but scouts who like his athleticism would trust that he'll eventually learn to tap into it. He has room to add strength and develop power as he gains more of a feel offensively. His raw bat probably will keep him from being drafted highly enough to buy out his last two years of college.
26. Bud Norris, rhp (National rank: 139)
School: Cal Poly. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Novata, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 200. Birthdate: 3/2/85.
Scouting Report: Cal Poly entered the season ranked in Baseball America's Top 25, and righthander Gary Daley had the spotlight on him after leading the Alaska League with 51 strikeouts in 53 innings last summer. Norris also got attention after ranking as the No. 3 prospect in the West Coast Collegiate League. The Mustangs weren't able to handle the spotlight, though. The hard-throwing Daley stumbled badly, as did the veteran-laden team. Norris and third baseman Josh Lansford (son of Carney) were the two players whose draft stock had improved, as Norris took over for Daley as the Friday starter and kept the team competitive. Norris profiles as a reliever because he has power stuff and a sturdy (if short) frame. His fastball sits in the 90-93 mph range, can reach a bit higher at times and has good life. Norris also throws a hard slider that can be average at times. He lacks a feel for changing speeds and his changeup remains too firm. While his control improved considerably this season, it's still fringy. Scouts like Norris' competitiveness and bulldog approach, which also suit him for a relief role.
27. Tyler Robertson, lhp (National rank: 146)
School: Bella Vista HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Citrus Heights, Calif.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 215. Birthdate: 12/23/87.
Scouting Report: The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Robertson was continuing a strong senior season in the regional playoffs in California, striking out 13 in a recent start. That's shy of his 2005 efforts, when he had one 10-inning playoff shutout with 17 strikeouts. He's signed to Cal State Fullerton, signaling the well-regarded football quarterback's intention to focus on baseball. He likely would pitch in the Titans rotation next season as a freshman if he doesn't sign in the draft. He has good size, throws strikes from the left side and has a good curveball that could be a plus major league pitch to go with an 88-90 mph fastball. His father Jay scouts for the Rangers and has raised his son around the game. Those are the obvious strengths. The weakness is hard for scouts to describe, but everyone agrees Robertson is unorthodox. Some describe his delivery as funky, others are ugly. After he begins his windup, Robertson's left arm, in the words of one scout, plunges straight down. He then brings the arm back up and goes to the plate. While he repeats the arm action, it's hard for scouts to project Robertson improving his stuff much. Overhauling his mechanics could cost him development time, but with his size and resume it might be worth it.
28. Scott Cousins, of/lhp (National rank: 147)
School: San Francisco. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Reno, Nev.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Birthdate: 1/22/85.
Scouting Report: Scouts hungry for a player to run up their draft boards were rushing in to see Cousins, a legitimate prospect as both a hitter and pitcher. His two-way talents and efforts in leading San Francisco into the West Coast Conference championship series had scouts comparing him to former Santa Clara star Mike Frank, who reached the big leagues with the Reds in 1998. Unlike Frank, who reached the majors in a year, Cousins isn't a finished product and has significant upside. He missed five starts with tendinitis but still is a pitcher for some, having touched the low 90s at times with two breaking balls and a decent changeup. However, he was sitting more in the mid-80s of late, and his offensive potential was outshining his pitching. He's a self-made player with an excellent work ethic and uncomplicated approach at the plate. Cousins is a 6.8-second runner over 60 yards (he ranked second in the WCC in steals) and has good range and ballhawking instincts, leading some scouts to profile him as a center fielder in the Mark Kotsay mold. However, his loft power and improving strength have some projecting him as a prototype right fielder.
29. Chris Errecart, of (National rank: 148)
School: California. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Stockton, Calif.
B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 210. Birthdate: 2/11/85.
Scouting Report: Often linked with Brennan Boesch, his California teammate and roommate, Errecart entered the spring with a higher profile and was considered one of the top hitters in the 2006 draft class. He hit .303-6-22 in the Cape Cod League last summer, showing plus power with wood from a sound lefthanded swing, and was the league's fourth-ranked prospect. His stock fell steadily throughout the spring, though, as he continued to struggle with consistency in his approach and performance as a college hitter. Errecart had rallied to match his career high with eight home runs, though his struggles with offspeed pitches and plate discipline (he had a career 91-32 strikeout-walk ratio) had doomed him to a third straight season below .300. Errecart's tools other than raw power all grade out below-average, and he's limited to either left field or first base. His strong work ethic and intelligence actually worked against him all spring, and scouts and college coaches thought he was trying too hard. Scouts still expect him to come off the board in the first 10 rounds based on his power potential and performance in the Cape.
30. Brett Bigler, of (National rank: 160)
School: UC Riverside. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Santa Ana, Calif.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 180. Birthdate: 10/16/84.
Scouting Report: While UC Riverside was struggling to reach .500 in the tough Big West Conference, it had at least four players who scouts were watching closely, including draft-eligible sophomores in catcher Jeff Dunbar and lefthander Dan Runzler, as well as hard-throwing reliever Dan Stange. Bigler, the Highlanders' speedy center fielder, was the safest pick of the bunch. Described as a cross between 2005 Red Sox first-round pick Jacoby Ellsbury and Mariners star Ichiro Suzuki, Bigler is a table-setter with patience and some strength at the plate who takes a contact-oriented, line-drive approach. An excellent athlete and baserunner, Bigler also isn't afraid to go deep in counts and ranked third in the Big West in on-base percentage. He's an above-average runner and one of the best defensive center fielders in college baseball, with an easy strikde and slightly above-average arm. He has the frame at 6-foot-3, 180 pounds to get bigger without significantly slowing down. Bigler will have to add strength to avoid being another Jason Tyner—i.e., a slap hitter whose on-base skills are muted by power pitching at higher levels.
31. Quintin Berry, of (National rank: 181)
School: San Diego State. Class: Jr.
Hometown: San Diego
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 170. Birthdate: 11/21/84.
Scouting Report: A speedy outfielder with a contact-oriented approach could find a worse fit for a coach than Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. Berry grew up a fan of Gwynn and the Padres and has blossomed under his coach. After three seasons, he has a game similar to that of Gwynn's son Anthony, now in the Brewers farm system. Berry's best tool is speed, and while he's had some jaw-dropping times on bunts (3.9 seconds to first base), he's more consistently above-average rather than a true burner. Berry remains raw on the basepaths, with the short game of bunting and making consistent contact, and in the field, as he lacks the instincts of other Southern California products. He has improved in those areas and impressed scouts by playing through a shoulder injury as a sophomore. He had offseason labrum surgery, preventing him from playing summer ball in 2005, and his arm remained below-average this year after his return. Berry has solid-average bat speed and enough pop that he won't be just a slap hitter if he gets stronger.
32. Bruce Billings, rhp (National rank: 188)
School: San Diego State. Class: Jr.
Hometown: San Diego
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 200. Birthdate: 11/18//85.
Scouting Report: Billings could have a future as a college recruiter. When he was pitching for Wareham last summer in the Cape Cod League, Billings found out that teammate Justin Masterson was looking to transfer from NAIA Bethel (Ind.) to a Division I school. Billings, who had a modest Cape season (2-3, 2.63), talked up his hometown and pitching for San Diego State, and that's where Masterson ended up. The 2005 pitcher of the year in the Mountain West Conference, Billings missed time early in the season with discomfort in his upper arm as the Aztecs got off to a tough start. He found his stride in late April, though, and moved back up draft boards while helping the Aztecs move into the thick of the league race. Billings has improved his command of a 90-92 mph fastball that he moves to all four quadrants of the strike zone, and the pitch has late life, especially up in the strike zone. He's improved his slider to make it a fringe-average pitch and throws with a good tempo, dictating the game to hitters. He doesn't throw much of a changeup but hasn't had to yet. If Billings can add a change, he has the even temperament to be a back-of-the-rotation starter. Otherwise, he should be able to pitch off his fastball in the bullpen.
33. Miguel Cuevas, rhp (National rank: 189)
School: Pierce (Calif.) JC. Class: So.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-8. Wt.: 250. Birthdate: .
Scouting Report: Among the California junior college players who were not draft-and-follows, Cuevas was the most interesting and perhaps the best prospect of the bunch. A native of the Dominican Republic, he moved to Miami and spent a season at Miami-Dade Community College, though he wasn't drafted. Cuevas was seen by agent Guz Dominguez, who lives in Los Angeles and is friends with Pierce coach Bob Lofrano. Cuevas has thrived under Lofrano's tutelage, tossing a shutout in the state juco playoffs and improving his velocity. While Cuevas usually pitches at 87-89 mph, his fastball has touched 92-93 and he's shown the ability to pound the strike zone with it. He uses his size well and stays tall in his delivery, and scouts describe his mechanics as free and easy. Cuevas' changeup shows flashes, and he's shown a feel for the pitch, but his breaking ball has a long way to go. Right now, he doesn't have one he trusts, which keeps him from being an elite pick.
34. Hector Ambriz, rhp (National rank: 190)
School: UCLA. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Placentia, Calif.
B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Birthdate: 5/29/84.
Scouting Report: Ambriz has been the Bruins' Friday starter and cleanup hitter this season, making him one of the nation's most valuable college players. While he has a decent lefthanded bat, Ambriz' future is on the mound. He's a physical righthander who holds his solid-average stuff deep into games and competes well. Ambriz needs to trust his fastball more. It sits in the 91-92 mph range, and he does of a good job of keeping it in the lower half of the strike zone. He has several secondary pitches that could work well in the bullpen, including an 82-84 mph slider that at times has good depth. His 86-87 mph split-finger fastball has been his put-away pitch when he's been able to command it. Ambriz also toys with a curveball and changeup. Ambriz had shoulder surgery that prompted him to take a medical redshirt in 2004 but has held up under the strain of hitting and pitching this season. His body also will require hard work to keep in shape, as he has a tendency to gain weight.
While parity was the buzzword for college baseball nationwide, Cal State Fullerton seemed immune, sticking around the top five in the Baseball America Top 25 rankings after overcoming an early series sweep at the hands of nemesis Stanford. The Titans had lost only one series since then, to Rice, but scouts and opposing coaches said the credit belonged to coach George Horton for getting the Titans to execute flawlessly, rather than to a talent advantage. In other words, the Titans won't repeat last year's record 14-player draft contingent, even though several of those players will be drafted again this year.
Scouts and coaches couldn't agree on who the top Titan pick would be. If he were eligible, sophomore righthander Wes Roemer, who has 80 command on the 20-80 scouting scale, would be first. He should be a first-rounder in 2007. An elbow injury to righthander Vinnie Pestano, who had improved his command and velocity this season as the Titans' closer, thinned the 2006 competition. Pestano's prognosis was unknown, but he was expected to miss at least a month after going down in early May with elbow pain. That leaves the top draft on Fullerton's' team to a duel between its double-play tandem, shortstop Blake Davis and second baseman Justin "Red" Turner.
While Davis has better tools, most observers favored Turner, a senior who is the heart and soul of the Titans and a former batboy in the program. Many college baseball fans remember him from the 2003 College World Series, when as a freshman he was hit in the face while squaring to bunt on a pitch against Stanford. Turner also turned his ankle on the play and missed Team USA's college national trials after doctors determined that he broke a bone in his ankle on the play. He recovered to have a steady, gritty career and saved his best for last, posting career highs in batting (.352), slugging (.500) and stolen bases (18) as a senior—after declining to sign with the Yankees as a 29th-round pick last year. One scout compared Turner favorably with Red Sox prospect Dustin Pedroia, an All-American at Arizona State and a 2004 second-round pick. Like Pedroia, Turner makes all the plays defensively (even at short) thanks to superior footwork and profiles as an above-average defender on the right side of the infield thanks to his fringy arm. He's an average runner with excellent instincts.
Davis had a better year in some ways as a draft-eligible sophomore (the Indians drafted him in the 46th round last year) and needs to get stronger, or his offense will be too short to be a regular. He's a wiry athlete and average runner with a solid line-drive swing and excellent hands that work in the field and at the plate. He had a 21-game hitting streak end in the season's final week.
Three of the toolsiest Titans should go next, even though only one, outfielder Brandon Tripp, was performing this spring. Tripp swings and misses a lot, negating his above-average raw power. He's athletic enough to repeat his funky swing and to play an average center field, and figures to go somewhere between the 10th and 15th rounds. Scouts haven't warmed to Brett Pill (a Yankees 45th-rounder last year) as had been expected because the tall first baseman has pressed to hit for power and wound up hitting just five homers after slugging nine a year ago. Pill is patient, has plenty of leverage in his swing and is an above-average defender at first base. Based on what scouts have seen this spring it's difficult to see him going in the first 10 rounds. Scouts also never warmed to outfielder Danny Dorn, who was getting Shawn Green and Garret Anderson comparisons as a freshman but has battled injuries (including to his throwing shoulder) and perceptions that he doesn't play hard since then. He may not get drafted better than last year, when he was a 23rd-round selection of the Devil Rays.
Fullerton's sleeper could be 6-foot-6, 225-pound lefthander Ryan Paul, who came to the Titans out of Pierce Junior College in Los Angeles. Paul has been drafted three times. The Braves took him in the 42nd round in 2002 out of Moorpark High in suburban Los Angeles, and after missing 2003 he was picked again out of Pierce in 2004 (47th round, Mets) and 2005 (28th round, Tigers). He hasn't had a stint longer than two innings all season as the main set-up man to Pestano, but he has shown command of a high-80s fastball and sweepy slider from a low three-quarters slot, and he could improve his stock after taking over the closer role in Pestano's absence.Even beyond Fullerton, the rest of the Big West Conference also should contribute heavily to the draft. Cal Poly entered the year with high hopes that never materialized. One reason: Righthander Gary Daley, the No. 2 prospect in the Alaska League last summer, never got going. Daley throws 92-93 mph all day with his fastball and has a solid curveball but had significant command issues this spring. When behind in the count, he's been hit hard (opponents were hitting .299), and Daley doesn't change speeds well enough to pitch backward. Daley will have to find the right fit of a club that doesn't care if his adviser is Scott Boras and saw him good in Alaska. His hard-throwing teammate Rocky Roquet, whose career started at Florida State and detoured through junior colleges before landing at Cal Poly, may go high as a budget senior sign. He has solid stuff, touching 95 and pitching at 91-92, and while his slider lacks consistency, he throws it with power (in the low 80s) and at times with some depth.
Other Mustangs who should be drafted after Daley and Bud Norris include third baseman Josh Lansford, the son of former American League batting champion Carney and older brother of Athletics farmhand Jared. After spending one year at Santa Clara, Lansford transferred to Cal Poly and finally established himself offensively in 2006, batting .360. He lacks loft power. Lansford plays a sound, instinctive third base even though his tools seem short for the spot. Jimmy Van Ostrand provides the Mustangs' lineup with power (13 homers, tops in the league) and has a power arm. His lack of speed may limit him to first base.
UC Irvine should have righthander Justin Cassel, whose older brother Matt is a backup quarterback for the NFL's New England Patriots, go in the first 10 rounds. Cassel grades out nearly average across the board with his fastball, curveball, changeup and control. Lefthander Glenn Swanson is a fifth-year senior with a long medical report who pounds the strike zone and is the Anteaters' career strikeouts leader. He should go much higher than the 49th round, where he went last June to the Rangers.
UC Riverside should two solid draftees to go with center fielder Brett Bigler and catcher Jeff Dunbar, likely first five-round picks. Lefthander Dan Runzler, like Dunbar, is a draft-eligible sophomore, and like Dunbar his forte is arm strength. He has an 89-93 mph fastball with late life up in the strike zone. Runzler's slider is just OK, and he has a below-average body that keeps him from pitching deeper into games. His mechanics need extensive work because he can't throw strikes from the windup and works exclusively as a set-up man out of the stretch. Highlanders closer Dan Stange has similar power stuff from the right side, touching 96 but showing better command and life in the 90-93 mph range. He has a violent delivery with a head jerk that likely precludes him from starting despite a solid-average changeup and power slider in the low 80s. Pacific outfielder Matt Berezay has bat speed, average running speed and solid athletic ability and should be a first-day draft.
Pac-10 Parity Highlights Remainder Of College Crop
Most of the top players in the Pac-10's California schools were expected to go in the first five rounds and have been reviewed above, but every school had exceptions. UCLA has two closers who could be picked in Brent Rustich, who missed most of the season with a finger tendon problem similar to what has sidelined big leaguer Adam Eaton, and fifth-year senior Josh Roenicke, son of ex-big leaguer Gary. Rustich was the Bruins' closer until he got hurt, and Roenicke took over for him while doubling as the team's center fielder (he's a plus defender there, but his bat is short). The 23-year-old Roenicke has shown 95 mph with his fastball and will spin a plus slider at times. His inexperience keeps him from repeating his mechanics consistently, but he's athletic at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds and has arm strength, two good building blocks for pitchers.
Rustich has better stuff, with a 92-94 mph fastball that he can throw for strikes and a hard slider that gives him a second out pitch. A healthy Rustich might have challenged for the title of "first college closer drafted" because of the improvements he made to his 6-foot-6, 225-pound body and the control he showed last summer in the Cape Cod League. He's not expected to pitch again this year and was seeking a medical redshirt, so teams might wait to see what he does next spring. Junior righthander Tyler Brummett also could go, with three average pitches he throws for strikes.
Stanford turned its season around late in the year and was a bubble team for NCAA regionals entering its final series against UC Davis. The Cardinal's best talent was in its underclassmen, and it several of its veterans had performed below expectations. That group includes junior lefthander Blake Hollar, who had pitched 20 innings this spring after throwing more than 112 in his first two seasons, and athletic junior outfielder Jim Rapoport, one of the league's faster players whose plus speed was muted by his .233 average. Stanford instead had ace Greg Reynolds and a slew of senior signs, the best of which was shortstop Chris Minaker, who lacks tools other than his vastly improved hitting (his career-best 11 homers ranked third in the Pac-10). Catcher John Hester also was expected to be a first-day draft, as could righthander Matt Manship, who hasn't recaptured his freshman form and has been passed as a prospect by younger brother Jeff, a righty at Notre Dame.
Southern California's most difficult player to gauge is athletic outfielder Daniel Perales, who reminds some of big league journeyman Jacob Cruz. Perales doesn't do anything above-average, and his offensive contributions have been inconsistent for the disappointing Trojans. He doesn't have a tool that's significantly below-average either.
The West Coast Conference hasn't matched the talent it produced at the turn of the century from 1999-2001, when players such as Dan Haren, Noah Lowry and Dane Sardinha (Pepperdine), Tag Bozeid and Jesse Foppert (San Francisco) and Billy Traber and Mike Schultz (Loyola Marymount) all were drafted in the first two rounds. The WCC should have several first-day picks, though, after Pepperdine's Chad Tracy leads the way for the league. Scott Cousins' San Francisco teammate Stephen Gartrell has more tools and athletic ability than the average senior sign and is an above-average runner and thrower. He has power but a long swing that will need adjustments.
San Diego should have the most players drafted. The most intriguing after Josh Butler is lefty Nate Boman, who didn't pitch all spring due to a shoulder injury he sustained last spring but was expected to be drafted and followed through a summer college league stint. Four Toreros hitters should be picked as well, with athletic shortstop Steve Singleton and Jordan Abruzzo, a decent catch-and-throw catcher whose older brother Jared played in the Padres system, the best bets to go first. Santa Clara senior Kris Watts resembles Abruzzo in many ways, as a decent receiver and thrower who also has lefthanded pop.
San Diego State and Fresno State have shortstops who attracted interest. Scouts love Lance Zawadzki's tools, particularly the Aztecs infielder's 70 arm (on the 20-80 scouting scale), and many would like to try him as a catcher. Perhaps that would be best for his bat as well, as Zawadzki had fallen apart at the plate as a junior. He hit .335-10-53 in 2005, but just .243-3-26 in 2006. The Massachusetts native has some athleticism, lacks plate discipline and has just enough power to get himself in trouble with the bat. Fresno State's Christian Vitters was the Western Athletic Conference player of the year, even though scouts don't see a plus tool. They like his line-drive swing and mature approach. Vitters lacks the range for shortstop, though he's shown the aptitude for improvement, and will need more power if he moves to third base as a professional. His teammate, outfielder Nick Moresi, passes the eye test with a long, lithe, wiry-strong body. His best present tool is his defense, as he has easy range in center field and a solid arm. He battled a wrist injury this spring and didn't start hitting until late in the season for the Bulldogs, who ran hot and cold all year. Moresi has power potential and must control the strike zone better in pro ball.
Fresno State's pitching staff, which could have included impact juco drafts Jamie Arneson and Kyle Harper (see below), was still its strength. Senior Doug Fister showed better stuff more consistently in 2005, when the 6-foot-8 righthander had a firmer fastball and sharper slider on his way to being a sixth-round pick. Fister was expected to go in about the same range in this draft, perhaps a round or two lower even though last year's pool was deeper than this year's. Fellow Bulldogs Andy Underwood, who throws fringe-average stuff from the right side, and Eddie Romero, a deceptive lefty with less stuff but a power approach, also should be first-day selections.
Teams Have Little Control Over Juco Talent
The highest grade given by the Major League Scouting Bureau to any California junior college player early in the year went to Justin Souza at Sacramento City College, as his mid-90s fastball attracted attention. Under closer scrutiny, Souza remained likely to be drafted in the first 10 rounds, if not an elite prospect. Scouts have seen him for awhile because he played on the same high school team as Rockies prospect Ryan Mattheus and Rangers farmhand Zach Phillips. Slight at a listed 6-foot-1, 188 pounds (which one scout called "very generous"), he's in his third year of college and at his second college, having started at American River Junior College. He missed one season with pain in his throwing shoulder, though he didn't need surgery and no serious damage was ever found. Souza profiles as a middle reliever with a delivery that takes some effort, a sinking fastball that sits in the low 90s (and has touched 95), and a solid though sweepy slider. He's committed to Arizona State but is likely ready to play pro ball.
Generating greater buzz early in the year was Orange Coast's Kyle Harper, who was pounding the strike zone with 92-94 mph heat. Harper started his college career at Fresno State as a baseball walk-on, turning his back on a possible football career (he was an all-area quarterback and linebacker), but he had elbow problems that required Tommy John surgery. After recovering, Harper transferred to Orange Coast to get innings and enter the draft but injured his elbow again and had to have a second TJ procedure. He still might get drafted late but more likely will head to Long Beach State and hope to stay healthy. In his place stepped Jake Renshaw of Ventura Junior College, who maintained a 91-94 mph fastball most of the season. His numbers this spring were similar to those of Souza, and so is his background. This is his third season in college (he sat out a year because of academics) and he's ready to get his pro career started. The Red Sox took him in the 26th round in 2004 after his freshman season, but he took a medical redshirt in 2005 and missed the season. With a bigger body at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Renshaw's pure stuff is better than Souza's as his mid-80s slider is a true power breaking ball.
Several other juco players in the state who weren't under control were expected to be drafted on the first day of proceedings. Lefthander Jamie Arneson was a ninth-round pick in 2004 by the Giants, but the high school honors student didn't sign and chose to attend Fresno State. His fastball was touching the 89-91 mph range at times in high school, but he couldn't get much playing time at Fresno State, throwing just 3 1/3 innings and walking seven in the process. He transferred to Bakersfield Junior College and matured physically and emotionally, attacking hitters more consistently with a fastball in the 88-92 range and touching 94 at times. Arneson has a plus changeup as well, and his curveball became more consistent. The combination allowed him to dominate with 102 strikeouts (fifth-best in the state) in just 81 innings. He should go two or three rounds higher than he did in 2004.
Another option is Cypress righthander Josh Tamba, a solidly built 6-foot-1, 205-pounder who redshirted in 2004 and didn't pitch in 2005 at Long Beach State. Finally getting consistent innings, Tamba showed a fastball that sat in the 89-91 mph range this spring and a decent slider and developing changeup. He factors more into the eighth- to 15th-round range without a steadier breaking ball.
The position players not under control who could be drafted on the first day include Grossmont's Zach Barger (a Long Beach State transfer), Orange Coast's Josh Bradbury (a Loyola Marymount transfer) and Cosumnes River shortstop Kris Negron. Barger is the best prospect of the trio and could go in the first six rounds, having benefited from all the attention given to teammate Sean O'Sullivan, the unsigned Angels third-round pick. A lefthanded hitter, Barger glides to balls in center field, is an above-average runner and showed gap-to-gap power.
Negron's arm makes him better suited for second base than shortstop, and his bat should play at either spot. Negron has a line-drive approach, makes consistent contact and is an above-average runner with good instincts who was 31-for-34 stealing bases this spring. Bradbury, nominally a third baseman but better suited for the outfield, had labrum surgery and is also a third-year player, having missed a year due to injury. He has good power but is more of a mistake hitter and has more trouble with good velocity. His 12 homers tied for fifth in the state. Nick Mahin, a transfer to Santa Ana from Cal State Northridge, has similar power (he also hit 12 homers) and more athleticism than Bradbury but less all-around hitting ability. The key difference is that he has the arm strength and quickness to move to right field if the bat continues to play.
Long Beach Junior College's Tommy Peale was an interesting case of an unsigned juco player who was dominating as a pitcher, yet who profiles as an excellent college two-way player if he doesn't sign. While Peale has excellent size (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) and dominant numbers (13-0, 1.31, leading the state in wins and ranking second in ERA), he isn't a power pitcher. Peale has a knack for throwing quality strikes and getting outs early in the count by throwing his upper-80s fastball (which touches 92) to all four quadrants. He has a mature body, however, which discourages scouts from projecting future velocity, and his breaking ball and changeup are just decent. Peale, who hit .362 with little power, has committed to San Francisco.
Further down the undrafted juco line is College of the Desert infielder Kurt Mertins, a plus runner whose speed had attracted scouts. An injury opened a spot at shortstop for the erstwhile second baseman, and he showed more arm strength than expected to go with good hands. If he adds strength, he might be able to handle the position as a pro.
Down Year In High Schools
While Los Angeles/Southland high school teams produced some of the nation's top players in Hank Conger and Chris Parmelee, the state's other two most populous regions, San Diego and the Bay Area, will contibute significantly fewer players to the draft than they do in their best years. But talent goes in cycles, and area scouts and coaches say the 2007 class, led by 2005 Youth Player of the Year Robert Stock of Agoura Hills, will be one of the best Southern California has produced in years.
San Diego's top prep prospect entering the spring was lefthander Gavin Brooks, a top 10 talent in the state when healthy and the top underclassman in Southern California last spring. Problem was, Brooks had shoulder problems that surgery last summer, repairing a partially torn rotator cuff, and he's a Scott Boras client and excellent student, so he was inclined to go to school anyway. He has been healthy enough to hit this spring and could emerge in three years as a premium draft pick out of UCLA, if he regains his 88-92 mph fastball and plus changeup.
Brooks' injury left room for the emergence of righty Trevor Cahill, who also zoomed past McCullough Dean, his Vista High teammate and Cal State Fullerton recruit. Dean lives in the upper 80s with his fastball, controls his three-pitch mix and has a solid-average curveball. Righthander Ian Thompson also moved up the draft list with a pro body (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) and a fastball that has scraped the low 90s. He sits at 87-88 mph more frequently, though, and his secondary stuff is pedestrian. He's committed to the startup program at Cal State San Marcos.
Chatsworth righthander Josh Ravin was also dealing with health issues, which haven't required surgery but did sideline him for a month with a tired arm. He was recovering the velocity on his 89-91 mph fastball, which has touched 92-93 regularly in the past, and showing a decent changeup (which was better early in the year and last fall) and serviceable breaking ball. Ravin is considered signable and moved ahead of Agoura High's Jason Stoffel, who entered the year battling with Chris Tillman as the top prep pitcher in the area. The Arizona recruit got off to a good start, building off the momentum of an encouraging fall. His body went south this spring, though, and so did his stuff. Stoffel's velocity remains average, in the 87-91 mph range. His curveball, which was his calling card in the fall when it was a plus pitch, regressed this spring, as did his performance. Stoffel is young for the class and was considered signable and willing to start his pro career, but his stock declined so much that he might end up heading for college.
Few other high school pitchers in the state were moving up draft boards. One who was, righthander Yasser Clor, could go in the first five to seven rounds because of his strong body and good present stuff. He battled ankle injuries as a junior and recovered to show well at showcases, throwing 89-92 mph and maintaining his velocity. His curveball, inconsistent in his prep career, has shown potential to be a solid-average pitch, if not a tick above. Clor's signability may have gone up last month when he tried to back out of his commitment to Nevada-Las Vegas (he decided he wanted to stay closer to home after a friend's death). The school would not let him out of his national letter of intent, so while he can attend college elsewhere in 2007, he can not play college baseball.
Righty Brad Boxberger is considered a tougher sign as a Southern California signee and son of ex-Trojans pitcher Rod Boxberger, who went 12-1 for USC's 1978 team, the last of 11 teams to win College World Series championships for late coach Rod Dedeaux. The younger Boxberger has similar stuff to Clor, with a fastball that's been up to 92 mph this spring with a curveball that is a plus pitch at times.
After Conger, Parmelee and players such as Lars Anderson and Devin Shepherd, the high school ranks were thin on hitters. Shortstop Grant Green is one of the state's toughest calls. He's wiry and has plus tools as a runner and defender at shortstop, where he shows off a strong arm. A member of a banner Southern California recruiting class, he has a similar body to former USC recruit Trevor Plouffe, who signed as a first-round pick with the Twins in 2004. Unlike Plouffe—who has struggled offensively so far as a pro—Green lacks present strength, bat speed and power at the plate. His swing gets long, and scouts have to project a lot to see him hitting consistently as a pro. Justin Jacobs doesn't have Green's defensive chops at short but could be a better hitter. He's a below-average runner for a middle infielder and probably will move to third base, and he's shown the bat speed to project to hit for some power.
USC and UCLA both have banner classes, if the players get to campus. The Trojans should get athletic righthanders Kevin Couture and slight Hector Rebago to Dedeaux Stadium because both are too undersized for teams to buy them out of college. USC recruit D'Arby Myers also was expected to get to school unless a club believes in his bat, which is probably too raw for him to contribute to the Trojans as a freshman. Scouts think Myers will need plenty of at-bats to get it at the plate. He's a premier athlete, however, with above-average speed, excellent range in center field and a solid-average arm. His wiry strength leads scouts to project him to hit for power if he does put it together as a hitter. His signability is a question because education is a high priority for his family.
UCLA's top hitting recruits, athletic outfielders Jeff Rapoport and Gabe Cohen, were more likely to sign, and both could go in the first five rounds if they fit with the right teams. Cohen has shown an advanced idea of the strike zone for a young hitter, giving scouts more confidence in their power projections for the growing 6-foot-2, 195-pounder. He centers the baseball regularly, though he lacks loft power at this time. Cohen is an average runner with a strong arm that profiles him for right field. Rapoport, an Aflac All-American and talented high school linebacker/safety, got off to a slow start this spring and showed a lack of feel at the plate. He's one of the area's fastest runners, though (an 80 on the 20-80 scale), showing 6.4-second times over 60 yards.
The questions about Jeff Rapoport's bat aren't helped by similar problems experienced by his older brother, who is at Stanford and has similar tools (though less speed). Jim Rapoport was hitting below .250 and had lost his starting job, vexing scouts and again raising questions about Stanford's track record for developing hitters. The questions come in spite of the pro success of recent Stanford players Ryan Garko and Carlos Quentin, who scouts say never adopted the Cardinal's opposite-field-oriented approach. The Cardinal keep bringing in plenty of talent, though, and physical outfielder Toby Gerhart is expected to make it to campus. With a body that has been compared to Gabe Kapler's, Gerhart has siginificant raw power. He will be in school on a football scholarship and is expected to play both sports in college.
Another UCLA recruit, Casey Haerther, has offensive ability like his older brother Cody, an outfielder in the Cardinals system. Like his older brother, Casey isn't a great athlete and is relegated to first base, meaning all his draft value is in his bat.
Two shortstops in the Southland entered the spring with a chance to be drafted well and went in opposite directions. Nate Bridges had a solid spring, impressing scouts with his hustle and solid all-around game. He's a Cal State Fullerton recruit, naturally inviting comparisons to the Titans' current duo, and Bridges resembles a bigger, more physical Justin Turner. He lacks some of Turner's savvy, though, and doesn't have a present tool that should get him bought out of his Titans commitment. Nick Akins is the opposite, a toolsy hitter who lacks Bridges' composure and grit. A possible first-round pick after a strong summer that included a spot in the Cape Cod High School Classic, Akins left his high school before the season started and was playing in an adult weekend league. A San Diego State recruit, Akins is a slightly above-average runner with better power potential than the average prep middle infielder. Where he goes in the draft is anyone's guess, though, because of his unusual spring.
While Hank Conger is clearly the class of the prep catchers in the state (and the country), Travis Tartamella has shown tools, with a big, physical body that reminds some in the area of former Tigers and Angels catcher Lance Parrish. Tartamella swings and misses a lot, which scouts can live with because of his above-average power and excellent bat speed. His approach needs work, as does his pitch recognition. He's a decent catcher with a quick release and average arm strength. Former catcher Erik Castro moved to left field this spring, and the batter's box is his best position. He's likely to go to college at Arizona unless a team can talk him into being a draft-and-follow. Another Arizona recruit, Dwight Childs, is a much better defender behind the plate and lacks the offensive potential to be a good draft this year. He could be a pick in three years if he finds an approach that works at the plate.
Tyler Hoechlin is an Arizona State recruit who wasn't expected to be drafted. He's more notable for his acting career, having appeared as a regular on the WB network's "7th Heaven" as well as in a role supporting Tom Hanks in the movie "Road to Perdition."