State Reports: Mid-Atlantic

Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Washington D.C.




After a down year in 2007, the depth in the Mid-Atlantic states is notably better this season. Three of the four states in the area have a player in the Top 200, led by high school lefthander Dan Hultzen and Navy righthander Mitch Harris, a repeater from last year's list.

THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
For the second year in a row, Harris is the second best prospect in the area. A senior at the Naval Academy, he was drafted by the Braves in the 24th round last year but returned to school for his senior year because of his military commitment. Drafting and signing Harris remains a huge question for teams because no one is sure at this point how long he will have to serve in Navy before he can play pro ball. Harris hopes to have that question answered before draft day.

The other three prospects in the Top 200 have more conventional signability questions. Hultzen is committed to Virginia and has communicated to teams that going to school is a high priority. Hoes and Gibson are both committed to North Carolina, and unless a team likes them enough to take them early, they'll likely end up in Chapel Hill.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Dan Hultzen, lhp, St. Albans HS, Washington D.C. (National Rank: 79)
2. Mitch Harris, rhp, Navy (National Rank: 107)
3. L.J. Hoes, of, St. John's HS, Washington D.C. (National Rank: 137)
4. Derrik Gibson, ss, Seaford (Del.) HS (National Rank: 199)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

5. Scott Silverstein, lhp, St. John's HS, Washington D.C.
6. Oliver Drake, rhp, Navy
7. Charlie Kruer, of, George Washington
8. Kevin Brady, rhp, Gaithersburg HS, Montgomery, Md.
9. Steve Blevins, rhp, Marshall
10. Alex Buchholz, 2b, Delaware
11. Tyler Kuhn, ss, West Virginia
12. Nathan Fike, lhp, Potomac State
13. Jason Whitlock, rhp, West Virginia
14. Tommy Winegardner, ss, Riverdale Baptist HS, St. Leonard, Md.
15. Nick Routt, lhp, St. John's HS, Washington D.C.
16. Brian Conley, of, Towson
17. Nathan Lape, of, Marshall
18. Tommy Johnson, c, Marshall
19. Rich O'Donald, rhp, Dickinson HS, Wilmington, Del.
20. Rob Pietroforte, of, Johns Hopkins
21.Tyler Hibbs, rhp, Arundel HS, Odenton, Md.
22. Eddie Bach, lhp, Maryland-Baltimore County
23. Mike McGuire, rhp, Delaware
24. Joe Church, rhp, Pikeview HS, Princeton, W.Va.
25. Thor Meeks, c, Hurricane (W.Va.) HS
26. Adam Tsakonas, of, Delaware
27. Jared Olson, 1b, Delaware
28. Bill Merkler, c, Delaware
29. David Slovak, rhp, Delaware
30. Chase Pickering, lhp, Nitro (W.Va.) HS
31. Theo Bowe, of, Milford (Del.) HS
32. Steve Braun, 2b, Maryland
33. Jonas Fester, ss, Johns Hopkins
34. Dan Blewett, rhp, Maryland-Baltimore County

SCOUTING REPORTS

1. Dan Hultzen, lhp, St. Albans HS, Washington D.C. (National Rank: 79)

A late bloomer on the draft prospect scene, Hultzen is now considered one of the top prep lefties in the draft. From the metro area in D.C., Hultzen has long been known as a softer-tossing lefthander with pitchability. He recently went through a velocity jump, sending his fastball into the 88-92 mph range and his name onto every prospect follow list. However, Hultzen is firmly committed to pitch at Virginia in the fall and is thought by most to be unsignable. He pitches at a low three-quarters arm slot, creating natural tail and sink. He also offers a breaking ball with tight rotation and slurve action that at times is an above-average pitch. He even experiments with a changeup and split-finger pitch but both are currently under-developed and inconsistent. With his signability concerns, Hultzen may be a prospect that falls to late in the draft, does not sign and resurfaces as a first-round caliber prospect after three years at Virginia.

2. Mitch Harris, rhp, Navy (National Rank: 107)

A senior at Navy, Harris has been one of the top pitchers in the Patriot League for the past two years and entered this season as the league's top draft prospect. He has been a two-way standout for the Midshipmen, but he is strictly a pitcher for pro consideration. Blessed with an ideal pitcher's frame, Harris is athletic and consistently pitches in the low 90s. He has plus command of three pitches—fastball, slider and changeup—and all three have potential to be major league average. He sustained a minor shoulder separation in a pre-season intrasquad scrimmage after hitting a home run, tripping over first base and landing awkwardly on his right arm. He didn't make his first start until the end of March, but quickly regained form when he returned to action. Of more concern to teams is his military commitment, which is five years unless the Navy changes its mind. Some Navy athletes have served just two years active duty, but even that would drive Harris down draft boards. Naval officials were still considering options for Harris, who hoped to have an arrangement worked out by draft day. He would be a lock for the first five rounds on talent, but his service commitment makes him a huge question mark.

3. L.J. Hoes, St. John's HS, Washington D.C. (National Rank: 137)

Hoes first popped on the scouting radar in the summer of 2006, when he made USA Baseball's youth national team. The following summer he competed for the junior national team and has become known as an athlete on the baseball field. None of his tools are legitimate pluses, but all of them are at least slightly above-average. Scouts know Hoes fits somewhere on the diamond, but they aren't sure where. He has good speed but not quite enough to profile as a center fielder. He's a better than average hitter with power, but doesn't show the pop necessary to play a corner outfield position. He shows more power to the opposite field now and often hits the ball on the ground to the left, his pull side. Hoes has the athleticism and the plus arm to play almost any position, and it wouldn't be far-fetched to see him try the infield. With questions about his profile and a commitment to North Carolina, Hoes could be a tough sign.

4. Derrik Gibson, ss, Seaford (Del.) HS (National Rank: 199)

Gibson didn't make a national splash until last summer on the showcase circuit. He had an impressive showing at the Perfect Game National Showcase last June but really made a name for himself by finishing strong in the fall and committing to North Carolina. An athletic middle infielder who could also play center field, Gibson's evaluations are still based on projection. Playing in Delaware, he is still raw in the field and at the plate but has the athleticism and tools to make him a premium player. Now he looks like a leadoff hitter with a line-drive stroke and above-average speed. But if his thin, 6-foot-1 frame fills out, Gibson could have a chance to hit for average power. In the field, he moves well and has good hands, but his throwing motion has a hitch in it and needs refinement. While he may be too raw for a team to buy him out of his commitment to UNC, Gibson should be an immediate contributor in college and a top-level prospect in three years.

Intriguing Tools In Mid-Atlantic

Scott Silverstein is a teammate of L.J. Hoes at St. John's Academy, and if not for a midseason arm injury, he likely would have joined him in the Top 200 as well. After experiencing stiffness in the back of his shoulder, Silverstein was ordered to rest and didn't pitch for most of this season. When healthy, the lefthander pitches in the low 90s with a projectable breaking ball and advanced changeup. Due to the injury, Silverstein will likely join Hultzen at Virginia next fall, which would create one of the top lefthanded freshman tandems in Division I baseball next spring.

Just as Harris was virtually unsignable in last year's draft, his teammate Oliver Drake has tantalized teams this year. A sophomore-eligible righthander at Navy, Drake has been impressive in his first two seasons. Pitching between 89-91 mph, Drake has a fluid motion and natural life on his fastball. His low-80s slider is a plus pitch, and his changeup and curveball could be in the future. Still projectable, Drake has a lot to like, but teams will have to wait on him—and who knows how long.

Another intriguing college prospect in Maryland is Johns Hopkins senior Rob Pietroforte. An athletic outfielder, Pietroforte hit .444 this season and has been an all-Centennial Conference player for the Blue Jays.

Kevin Brady is the top high school prospect in the state. Committed to Clemson, Brady is a prototypical 6-foot-3, 195-pound pitching prospect with arm strength. He pitches in the low 90s and has below-average secondary stuff in need of refinement.

Tyler Hibbs is another prep righty in Maryland with potential, but his baseball career took a back seat to other issues this spring. Anne Arundel County police stopped him for speeding on Feb. 26, and according to police, officers found 46 grams of marijuana in his car. Hibbs was charged with possession of marijuana, possession with the intent to distribute the drug and two counts of possession of drug-related paraphernalia. The charges are still pending.

The day after Hibbs' arrest, Florida State withdrew its scholarship offer. He has since committed to Tallahassee (Fla.) CC. Hibbs, who won numerous local honors in his sophomore and junior seasons including The (Baltimore) Sun Metro Baltimore player of the year in 2006, was removed from Arundel High by Anne Arundel County and placed in an alternative school. Because he wasn't enrolled at Arundel, Hibbs couldn't play baseball this spring. Hibbs is undersized but throws in the upper-80s with some pitchability.

West Virginia is the only state in the area without a player in the Top 200, but even there scouts have found more talent than in recent years. Its top prospect is Marshall righthander Steve Blevins. After attending the University of Cincinnati for two seasons, Blevins transferred to Marshall and won a team-high nine games for the Thundering Herd. With a low-90s fastball, Blevins is a competitor with a solid build.

Another Herd transfer who raised his draft stock is Nathan Lape. At 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, Lape is a big, strong outfielder who came to Marshall from North Carolina. He led the team with a .388 average and 17 home runs this season. Marshall catcher Tommy Johnson should join Blevins and Lape in being drafted in 2008.

After Gibson, most of Delaware's talent comes from the state's flagship university, and the crop is led by junior infielder Alex Buchholz. Playing third base for the Blue Hens, Buchholz profiles as an offensive second baseman in the pros. He led Delaware in hitting last season and hit .319 this year with five home runs.

Other Blue Hens hitters who should be drafted are senior outfielder Adam Tsakonas, who batted .349 with 12 home runs this season, and catcher Bill Merkler.

Delaware also has a group of interesting arms, beginning with senior righthander Mike McGuire. Injured in most of his junior year, McGuire started this season with hopes of anchoring the Blue Hens staff. He did make 13 starts but finished with a 6-5, 8.22 record. He does pitch in the low 90s with good downhill plane, so a team that likes his stuff could overlook his senior performance. Sidearmer David Slovak is the opposite of McGuire, pitching just in the mid-80s but performing well, posting a 2.98 ERA in 28 appearances and generating ground ball after ground ball with the late sinking action on his fastball.