State Reports: Colorado




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
Rocky Mountain High in Fort Collins won the 5A state championship last year, with infielder Andy Burns emerging as a potential top three-rounds selection. An Aflac All-American, Burns helped lead the team to another state championship this year with a 23-4 record, and the Rocky Mountain team had plenty of athletic talent, but most of the players focus on football. Tyler Sample passed Burns in most clubs' draft boards, and might be the only Coloradoan drafted in the first 15 rounds.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Tyler Sample, rhp, Muller HS, Denver (National Rank: 42)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

2. Andy Burns, ss, Rocky Mountain HS, Fort Collins
3. Matthew Skipper, rhp/1b, Ralston Valley HS, Arvada
4. Mike Provencher, ss, Mesa State
5. Jack Amidei, rhp, Mesa State
6. Jon Klausing, lhp, Northern Colorado
7. Curt Morgan, rhp, Lamar JC
8. T.R. Keating, rhp, Northern Colorado
9. Bobby Hanson, lhp, Lewis-Palmer HS, Monument
10. Matt Bodenchuk, ss/rhp, Mesa State
11. Chris Reap, rhp, Northern Colorado
12. Brandon Van Riper, rhp, Lamar JC
13. Chris Wilson, rhp, Trinidad State JC
14. James Quisenberry, lhp, Northeast JC

SCOUTING REPORTS

1. Tyler Sample, rhp, Muller HS, Denver (National Rank: 42)

Sample began the year behind Kentucky recruit Andy Burns on the Colorado pecking order, and he didn't figure to move up draft boards after perennial power Cherry Creek High torched him in his second start of the spring. But Sample bounced back from his only poor start to emerge as the state's best prospect and the latest heir to Colorado's recent pitching tradition. The state has produced six pitchers who were first-round picks since 1994—Scott Elarton (1994), Roy Halladay ('95), Brad Lidge ('98), Kyle Sleeth (2002), David Aardsma ('03) and Luke Hochevar ('06). While only Elarton and Halladay came out as high schoolers, Sample looks like he may sign prior to college as well, due to a big, physical body at 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds. Sample's fastball sits 90-92 mph and touches 94 regularly when he's fresh, which wasn't always the case this spring; he sometimes started one day and then relieved three days later for his high school team, a dangerous proposition for a pitcher who already had Tommy John surgery as a prep sophomore. What separates Sample is his knuckle-curveball, an above-average pitch at times. It's especially impressive considering he's doing it at altitude. Sample has development to make, such as refining his command and finding a changeup, but his present stuff and body make him a good bet in the sandwich round.

Burns Looks Hot For College

Andy Burns has top 200 talent and had a chance to play his way into the second round range earlier this season. He didn't make Baseball America's Top 200, but if signability were not an issue, he'd certainly go in the third- to fifth-round range. He's a Kentucky signee, and when his spring didn't turn out as planned, Burns put out word that he'd need first-round money to be lured away from the Wildcats. Burns has the tools and baseball skills to become a premium pick after three college seasons. One scout said he's the best high school hitter Colorado has produced since Darnell McDonald, a 1997 first-rounder and eventual big leaguer. Burns has a feel for hitting and good bat speed, and he showed he can handle velocity last fall, turning around a 93 mph fastball from Tyler Sample. He's a solid infielder who fits better at second or third base than shortstop. The difference between last year's Burns and this spring's is his athleticism and strength. Scouts said he had lost some of his fast-twitch ability and lost a bit of the spark that made him a difference-maker in the past. He may have muscled up too much; scouts liked him better a bit leaner and faster.

The other top prep players in the state work better as college players. San Diego State hopes to use physical 6-foot-9 righthander Matthew Skipper both ways. He led Ralston Valley to the state 4-A title, and while he's a solid pitcher with upper 80s fastball velocity, his raw power may be his best tool.

Northern Colorado played a difficult schedule and pulled of an unlikely victory against Arizona State in March, the Sun Devils' first loss of the season. The Bears don't have any prospects as good as Brennan Garr, now pitching in the Rangers system, but they have a pair of physical pitchers in 6-foot-7 lefty Jon Klausing, who throws a fringy fastball, slider and changeup, and 6-foot-6 righty T.R. Keating, whose fastball has touched 91. Righty Chris Reap beat Arizona State and Texas A&M this season using a sinker-slider mix, topping out around 88 mph.

Mesa State continues to be a consistent Division II winner, doing so this year despite an injury to its top player, Matt Bodenchuk, a shortstop/pitcher who missed the year with Tommy John surgery in January. Former outfielder Mike Provencher stepped into Bodenchuk's spot at shortstop, using a plus arm that helps him touch 90 mph off the mound, and became the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference player of the year. He isn't expected to stay in the infield in his pro career and is more of a senior sign thanks to his 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame. He's an average to plus runner and aggressive hitter who had modest success with wood in the New England Collegiate League (.263, one homer). Righthander Jack Amidei has flashed above-average velocity (90-94 mph), but he's posted ERAs higher than 7 and 8 the last two years. He was better against wood bats and closer to sea level in the Cal Ripken Senior League last year, ranking second in the league in strikeouts.