State Reports: California




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
Most teams could fill their needs in this year's draft without ever leaving the state of California.

It's an excellent year in the high school ranks, with the nation's top high school catcher in Kyle Skipworth, one of its top two-way talents in Aaron Hicks, toolsy outfielders such as Isaac Galloway and Zach Collier, and familiar names such as Cutter Dykstra and Kevin Eichhorn, both sons of big leaguers.

On the college side, California provides the best college pitcher in San Diego's Brian Matusz, two of the hardest throwers (and wild cards thanks to injuries) in Brett Hunter of Pepperdine and Tanner Scheppers of Fresno State, and a bevy of early-round hitters, such as Stanford catcher Jason Castro, California slugger David Cooper and Long Beach State's sweet-swinging Shane Peterson.

And while the junior-college talent isn't at its best, teams will still find plenty of draftable talent there as well.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Brian Matusz, lhp, San Diego (National Rank: 2)
2. Kyle Skipworth, c, Patriot HS, Rubidoux, Calif. (National Rank: 9)
3. Tanner Scheppers, rhp, Fresno State (National Rank: 10)
4. Aaron Hicks, rhp/of, Wilson HS, Long Beach (National Rank: 13)
5. Gerrit Cole, rhp, Orange Lutheran HS (National Rank: 17)
6. Jason Castro, c, Stanford (National Rank: 21)
7. Zach Collier, of, Chino Hills HS (National Rank: 22)
8. Tyson Ross, rhp, California (National Rank: 35)
9. Isaac Galloway, of, Los Osos HS, Rancho Cucamonga (National Rank: 36)
10. Mike Montgomery, lhp, Hart HS, Newhall (National Rank: 40)
11. Brett Hunter, rhp, Pepperdine (National Rank: 51)
12. Anthony Gose, lhp, Bellflower HS (National Rank: 53)
13. Tim Murphy, lhp, UCLA (National Rank: 63)
14. Shane Peterson, of/1b, Long Beach State (National Rank: 75)
15. Brett Mooneyham, lhp, Buhach Colony HS, Atwater (National Rank: 78)
16. Tyler Chatwood, rhp, East Valley HS, Redlands (National Rank: 81)
17. Eric Thames, of, Pepperdine (National Rank: 90)
18. Andrew Liebel, rhp, Long Beach State (National Rank: 91)
19. Ricky Oropesa, 1b/rhp, Etiwanda HS (National Rank: 108)
20. Cutter Dykstra, of, Westlake HS, Westlake Village (National Rank: 109)
21. Josh Romanski, lhp/of, San Diego (National Rank: 110)
22. Kevin Eichhorn, rhp, Aptos HS (National Rank: 112)
23. Evan Frederickson, lhp, San Francisco (National Rank: 116)
24. Vance Worley, rhp, Long Beach State (National Rank: 121)
25. Ryan O'Sullivan, rhp, Valhalla HS, El Cajon (National Rank: 123)
26. Jake Jefferies, c, UC Davis (National Rank: 133)
27. Brandon Crawford, ss, UCLA (National Rank: 134)
28. Zach Wilson, 3b, Wilson HS, Long Beach (National Rank: 140)
29. Danny Espinosa, ss, Long Beach State (National Rank: 141)
30. Jarret Martin, lhp/1b, Centennial HS, Bakersfield (National Rank: 146)
31. Bryan Shaw, rhp, Long Beach State (National Rank: 147)
32. Matt Magill, rhp, Royal HS, Simi Valley (National Rank: 171)
33. Michael Tonkin, rhp, Palmdale HS (National Rank: 173)
34. Shane Kroker, ss/3b, Westlake HS, Westlake Village, Calif. (National Rank: 174)
35. Gabe Jacobo, 1b/of, Sacramento State (National Rank: 175)
36. Graham Johnson, rhp, Westlake HS, Westlake Village, Calif. (National Rank: 178)
37. Brian Humphries, of, Granite Hills HS, El Cajon, Calif. (National Rank: 180)
38. Edgar Olmos, lhp, Birmingham HS, Van Nuys (National Rank: 181)
39. Kyle Petter, lhp, West Torrance HS (National Rank: 182)
40. Scott Gorgen, rhp, UC Irvine (National Rank: 183)
41. Chris Joyce, lhp, Dos Pueblos HS, Goleta (National Rank: 184)
42. Clark Murphy, 1b, Fallbrook HS (National Rank: 191)
43. Justin Fitzgerald, rhp, UC Davis (National Rank: 192)
44. Bryan Evans, rhp, UC Davis (National Rank: 196)
45. Mark Willinsky, rhp, Santa Clara (National Rank: 198)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

46. Chris Amezquita, 3b, Servite HS, Anaheim
47. Tyler Rahmatulla, ss, Mater Dei HS, Santa Ana
48. Zack Thornton, rhp, Ventura CC
49. Malcolm Culver, ss/2b, Palmdale HS
50. Mike Gonzales, 1b, Diablo Valley JC
51. Nick Romero, 3b, San Diego State
52. Justin LaTempa, rhp, Golden West JC
53. Chase D'Arnaud, ss/3b, Pepperdine
54. Jeremy Bleich, lhp, Stanford
55. Justin Wilson, lhp, Fresno State
56. Brent Morel, 3B, Cal Poly
57. Brad McAtee, rhp, UC Davis
58. Bryce Stowell, rhp, UC Irvine
59. Josh Satin, 2b, California
60. Sean Ratliff, of, Stanford
61. Logan Shafer, of, Cal Poly
62. Abe Ruiz, 3b/1b, Pacific Grove HS
63. Mike Zuanich, of, UC Santa Barbara
64. Nick Buss, of, Southern California
65. Steven Susdorf, of, Fresno State
66. Jared Clark, 1b, Cal State Fullerton
67. Matt Gorgen, rhp, California
68. Kevin Castner, rhp, Cal Poly
69. Kyle Witten, rhp, Bakersfield JC
70. Brandon Van Dam, rhp/1b, Quartz Hill HS, Lancaster
71. Sean Gilmartin, lhp, Crespi HS, Moorpark
72. Kyle Higashioka, c, Edison HS, Huntington Beach
73. Cord Phelps, 2b/3b, Stanford
74. Luke Yoder, of, Cal Poly
75. Erik Komatsu, of, CS Fullerton
76. Ryan Babineau, c, UCLA
77. Pete Ruiz, rhp, Santa Barbara CC
78. Ryan Royster, of, UC Davis
79. Erik Davis, rhp, Stanford
80. Erik Johnson, rhp/3b, Los Altos HS
81. Ben Whitmore, lhp, Fresno CC
82. Dustin Ispas, lhp, Los Osos HS, Rancho Cucamonga
83. Nik Turley, lhp, Harvard Westlake HS, La Canada
84. Brian Haar, of, Grossmont HS, La Mesa
85. Ricardo Pecina, lhp, San Diego
86. Billy Nowlin, Huntington Beach HS
87. Craig Benningson, lhp, California
88. Cory Arbiso, rhp, Cal State Fullerton
89. Miguel Flores, rhp, Cerritos JC
90. James McCann, Dos Pueblos HS, Santa Barbara
91. Jason Wheeler, lhp, Torrance HS
92. J.R. Graham, rhp/ss, Livermore HS
93. Chuck Huggins, lhp, UC Santa Barbara
94. Kyle Barraclough, rhp, Wilcox HS, Santa Clara
95. Eddie Gamboa, rhp, UC Davis
96. Dimitri De La Fuente, ss/3b, South Hills HS, West Covina
97. John Lamb, lhp, Laguna Hills HS
98. Christian Griffiths, Granite Hills HS, Apple Valley
99. Miles Reagan, rhp, El Capitan HS, Lakeside
100. Kurt Yacko, ss/rhp, Chapman
101. Aaron Gates, lhp/of, Orange Lutheran HS, Orange
102. Chris Reed, lhp, Cleveland HS, Reseda
103. Jeff Kaplan, rhp, Cal State Fullerton
104. Alden Carrithers, 2b, UCLA
105. Chris Smith, of, Centennial Compton HS, Compton
106. Steve Rodriguez, c, St. John Bosco HS, Bellflower
107. Jason Corder, of, Long Beach State
108. Carlos Avila, ss, Narbonne HS, Harbor City
109. Jermaine Curtis, 3b, UCLA
110. D.J. Mauldin, rhp, Cal Poly
111. Noe Ramirez, rhp, Alhambra HS
112. Chris Fox, of, UC Santa Barbara
113. Jason Wheeler, lhp, Torrance HS
114. Nate Newman, rhp, Pepperdine
115. Dustin Garneau, c, CS Fullerton
116. Tommy Milone, rhp, Southern California
117. Danny Pulfer, ss, Cypress HS
118. Calvin Culver, of, Pierce JC
119. Brandon Meredith, 1B, Montgomery HS, San Diego
120. Brian Valenzuela, lhp, Vista Murrieta HS, Murrieta
121. John Lally, lhp, Santa Margarita HS
122. Troy Channing, 1b, Foothill HS, Pleasanton
123. David Shields, C, Bonita Vista HS, Chula Vista
124. Beau Wright, lhp, Los Alamitos HS
125. Ryan Cook, rhp, Southern California
126. Corey Levier, 1b, Diamond Bar HS
127. Chris McMurray, c, UC Santa Barbara
128. Austin Kingsolver, of, Dana Hills HS, Dana Point
129. J.R. Higley, 1b, Sacramento CC
130. Skylar Crawford, rhp, Hartnell JC
131. Derrick Saito, lhp, Cal Poly
132. China McCarney, rhp, JC of the Canyons
133. Nick Akins, 2b/of, Riverside CC
134. Bryan Hernandez, 3b, JC of the Canyons
135. Bobby Crocker, of/rhp, Aptos HS, Aromas
136. Brian Busick, rhp, Poway HS
137. Shawn Smith, lhp, Saugus HS
138. Troy Hanzawa, ss, San Diego State
139. Steven Penney, rhp, UC Riverside
140. Clayton Allison, rhp, Fresno State
141. Spencer Arroyo, lhp, Modesto JC
142. Derek Benny, rhp, Roseville HS
143. Nick Ramirez, 1b, Katella HS, Anaheim
144. Jonathan Keener, c, Lakewood HS
145. Jon Rauh, rhp, Laguna Hills HS
146. Lenny Linsky, rhp, Peninsula HS, Rolling Hills Estates
147. Chase Koissian, of, Cypress HS
148. Scott Snodgress, lhp, Yucaipa HS
149. Matt Sisto, rhp, Cypress HS
150. Dan Howell, 3b, San Luis Obispo HS
151. Mason Radeke, rhp, Santa Barbara HS
152. Johnny Bromberg, rhp, Pierce JC
153. Ben Orloff, ss, UC Irvine
154. Tyreace House, of, JC of the Canyons
155. Joey August, of, Stanford
156. Jett Bandy, c/3b, Thousand Oaks HS
157. Kyle Simon, rhp, Los Alamitos HS
158. James McCann, c, Dos Pueblos HS, Santa Barbara
159. Christian Griffiths, c, Granite Hills, Apple Valley
160. Tyler Krobetzky, c, University HS, Irvine
161. Tyler Brubaker, of, Valencia HS
162. Brandon Maurer, rhp, Orange Lutheran HS, Orange
163. Brandyn Magee, of, Centennial Corona HS, Corona
164. Marc Venning, 1b, Palos Verdes HS
165. Chad Smith, rhp, Thousand Oaks HS
166. Logan Gelbrich, C, San Diego
167. Ollie Linton, of, UC Irvine
168. Nick Baligod, of, Sacramento CC
169. Travis Garrett, of, Los Alamitos HS
170. Brett Milleville, c/1b, Stanford
171. Marc Oslund, rhp, West Torrance HS, Torrance
172. Trevor Gee, 3b, Notre Dame HS, Sherman Oaks
173. Ashton Pittman, of, Bishop Montgomery HS, Torrance
174. C.J. Belanger, of, Cal State Northridge
175. Adam Jorgensen, rhp, Cal State Fullerton
176. Evan LeBlanc, of, Santa Clara

SCOUTING REPORTS

1. Brian Matusz, lhp, San Diego (National Rank: 2)

Like David Price, the No. 1 pick last year, Matusz is tall and lanky at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, and scouts have history with him. He didn't sign with the Angels in 2005 as a fourth-round pick out of an Arizona high school, and he starred for Team USA last summer, after ranking second (behind Price) in the nation in strikeouts. However, Matusz is a much different pitcher than Price. While he has a fastball that sits at 90-93 mph, Matusz doesn't pitch off it, instead using his above-average offspeed stuff to set up his fastball. His curveball is already a plus pitch, and he shows the ability to locate it to either side of the plate. His slider grades out as at least average. Matusz also liberally uses his above-average changeup, one of the finest on the West Coast in years. Mechanically, he's tight and compact, though his arm action is a bit awkward and slightly stiff. He also lands on a straight front leg at times, which some regard as an injury concern and which makes it harder for him to drive his fastball down through the zone. Matusz profiles as a middle of the rotation starter at worst, and if he improves his fastball and mechanics, he can become a staff ace.

2. Kyle Skipworth, c, Patriot HS, Rubidoux (National Rank: 9)

A veteran of two USA Baseball teams (junior and youth national teams), Skipworth is the best high school catcher in the nation, and may be the best prep prospect at that position since Joe Mauer was the first pick in the 2001 draft. Skipworth established himself as a top prospect last summer by blasting a mammoth home run in the Aflac Classic in August. His hitting and power both grade out in the 65-70 range on the 20-80 scouting scale. He set a California state record by getting 18 consecutive hits in an April stretch, and at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, he has enough strength to hit well with wood. Blessed with quick reflexes and superior hand-eye coordination, Skipworth's bat speed enables him to drive the ball hard to all fields, and his both his stance and swing are ideal. After struggling defensively in the summer and fall, he has improved immensely, particularly on receiving. His blocking and shifting skills also have improved and he projects as a solid-average receiver. His only below-average tool is his speed. However, Skipworth moves well for a catcher and showed his athleticism with a 31-inch vertical leap at one showcase.

3. Tanner Scheppers, rhp, Fresno State (National Rank: 10)

An unsigned pick of the Orioles in 2005 (29th round), Scheppers struggled in his first two years at Fresno State, but showed significant improvement near the end of his sophomore season and has built on that as a consistent starter for the Bulldogs, getting the first chink in his armor in May when he missed a start with a tender shoulder. That came after Scheppers relieved on Friday (touching 99 mph) and then started on Sunday in the same series. Since then he's been diagnosed with a stress fracture in his pitching shoulder. Before the injury, Scheppers' lanky build and spindly legs draw comparisons to former big leaguer Rick Rhoden, and he holds his fastball velocity like a frontline starter, sitting at 92-96 mph at his best with good movement and command. In the past, Scheppers had difficulty commanding his curveball, which has evolved into a power 74-78 mph offering. Generally solid mechanically and athletic, Scheppers will rush his delivery occasionally and fight his command, becoming wild high. With his workable mechanics and terrific stuff, Scheppers has the stuff to be a top of the rotation starter, but it all now depends on his recovery from the stress fracture. He's now the wild card of the 2008 draft.

4. Aaron Hicks, of/rhp, Wilson HS, Long Beach (National Rank 13)

A magnet for scouts since his sophomore season, Hicks is the finest prep outfielder/pitcher prospect in the greater Los Angeles area since Daryl Strawberry in the early 1980s. He most resembles Adam Jones, who was a first-round talent as both an outfielder and pitcher. As an outfielder, Hicks projects as a five-tool player, and his arm grades out to near 80 on the scouting scale. With his plus speed (6.6 seconds over 60 yards), Hicks is a daring and aggressive baserunner. His speed, easy range and arm mean Hicks will begin his career as a center fielder. Prior to the 2008 season, many scouts had reservations about his hitting ability. A switch-hitter, he's shown improvement by lowering his hands. His hitting mechanics and lightning reflexes permit scouts who believe in him to project him as an above-average hitter with above-average power. As a pitcher, Hicks' fastball sits in the 92-94 mph range, and in a mid-May start he was at 94-97. His curveball shows wicked movement and he adds a hard cutter and a change. Clubs were split on whether Hicks would pitch or hit, but either way, he's expected to go in the middle of the first round.

5. Gerrit Cole, rhp, Orange Lutheran HS (National Rank: 17)

Cole is the best righthander out of Southern California since Phil Hughes starred at Santa Ana's Foothills High in 2004. Cole's four-seam fastball ranges from 93-96 mph, occasionally peaking at 97-98. He adds a hard, late-breaking curve which shows bite, tilt and depth. Cole used his changeup sparingly early in the season, though he used it more later. Adding to Cole's considerable appeal to scouts is his tall, lanky and projectable frame, which is nearly ideal for a prep righthander. Scouts are split over whether Cole profiles as a starter or closer. He maintains velocity and pitch movement deep into games, but his inconsistent command and tendency to run up high pitch counts may move him to the bullpen. Some scouts have compared him to Mariners closer J.J. Putz. Cole does bring mechanical concerns. He lands on a stiff front leg, and he recoils his arm during his follow-through. Both hurt control and raise injury concerns. Complicating the situation, Cole's adviser is the Scott Boras Corp., which may eliminate many clubs from consideration. Cole also hasn't endeared himself to scouts or teammates with what one scout described as his immature mound demeanor.

6. Jason Castro, c, Stanford (National Rank: 21)

A catcher most of his prep career, Castro entered this season thought of as a bat first after his strong summer in the Cape Cod League. He hit just .263 combined in his first two seasons at Stanford, then hit .341 in the Cape (second-best in the league), but he played mostly first base or outfield in deference to Florida State's Buster Posey. This spring, Castro has put it all together, showing he can hit for average and power while being Stanford's primary catcher. At 6-foot-3, he's tall but athletic enough to have good lateral movement and agility, and he's improved as a receiver, where he's considered fringe-average at worst. His arm also grades as average, and he's an above-average hitter, particularly for his position. Offensively, Castro stays inside the ball and has a fundamentally sound, strong swing. One scout likened his offensive package to that of former Athletics supplemental first-rounder Mark Teahen, who also played collegiately in the Bay Area, only with more power. In some years, Castro would be the best catcher on the board, but this he's third behind Posey and Southern California prep phenom Kyle Skipworth. He's not expected to last past the first round.

7. Zach Collier, of, Chino Hills HS (National Rank: 22)

Collier was not selected to participate in the 2007 Area Code Games or the Aflac Classic, but he's had a high profile nonetheless. He started to generate buzz during the local Connie Mack summer season as a teammate of Isaac Galloway and Aaron Hicks. Rave reviews from parents and youth coaches began to filter down to scouts, and Collier helped his cause with strong showings in two showcase events held at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton. He continued gaining ground this spring, and then moved into first-round consideration when he took a Hicks 93 mph fastball deep during a tournament game in Fullerton. To make sure the 40-plus scouts in attendance were paying attention, Collier ripped two more hits. Lefthanded all the way, Collier has an athletic and projectable 6-foot-2, 195-pound outfielder's frame. His above-average speed makes him a threat as a baserunner and permits him to patrol center field for now. As he slows down and matures physically, he'll play an outfield corner, and his average arm makes right field a possibility. Collier had a surgical procedure to improve blood flow to his heart, performed in May 2006, which may be a concern for some clubs, but he's been medically cleared for two years and has had no problems. Collier's hitting ability and solid all-around game had him moving up boards, possibly in the middle of the first round.

8. David Cooper, 1b, California (National Rank: 31)

Another NorCal product, Cooper began his college career at Cal State Fullerton, helping lead the Titans to the College World Series. He had hits in seven consecutive at-bats in Omaha, earning all-tournament honors, but transferred after the season back closer to home, instantly becoming Cal's best player. He's evolved as a hitter since that season, going from two homers as a freshman to a Pacific-10 Conference-best 19 as a junior. Cooper's hitting ability stems from strong hands and forearms and excellent hand-eye coordination more than pure bat speed, and some scouts believe he'll be more susceptible in pro ball to big velocity because of it. Others believe his smooth, pure swing will let him catch up to any fastball. He has a polished, patient approach and absolutely mashes mistakes to all parts of the park. Cooper's value is in his bat; he's a well-below-average runner who could become a real baseclogger down the line. Defensively, he flashes average ability at first, but some scouts label him disinterested at worst and below-average at best. Cooper's bat could take him into the first round, though an American League club would be a better fit.

9. Tyson Ross, rhp, California (National Rank: 35)

Yet another NorCal Baseball alum, Ross stepped into California's weekend rotation as a freshman and has filled the Friday role for two years. He also pitched well for Team USA last summer and was the team's most consistent pitcher. His velocity was down during the summer in the mid-to-upper 80s, and has been erratic again this spring. He was at his best against Stanford in a May victory, touching 96 mph and sitting in the low 90s. Moreover, Ross worked off his fastball and used his changeup effectively against the Cardinal in a start that may convince teams to leave him as a starter. His best pitch is a plus slider thrown in the low-80s with short, hard break. At times it has two-plane break, and it's such a good pitch and he locates it so well that at times he throws it far too often, working off the slider instead of his fastball. The biggest question on Ross is his mechanics. His stride is exceptionally short for a pitcher his size (6-foot-5, 220 pounds), leading to stress on his arm and a lack of extension to finish off pitches down in the zone. Also, his arm action is short in the back, and it may be difficult to "fix" all those issues. Some scouts believe that would do more harm than good, though, and would send him to the bullpen as a pro to use that slider as a weapon.

10. Isaac Galloway, of, Los Osos HS, Rancho Cucamonga (National Rank: 36)

Galloway has long been on the radar screens of scouts. An Aflac All-American and Area Code Games regular, Issac has dazzled onlookers on the scout ball, travel ball and showcase circuit for two years. Blessed with an ideal tall, lanky and projectable frame, Galloway is a premium athlete, consistently clocking in the 6.5 to 6.6 range in the 60-yard dash at various showcase events. Galloway also possesses an impressive throwing arm, rifling straight line trajectory throws from right field and center field in both pregame and game situations. Over the past two years, Galloway had measurably improved his bat, flashing a fluid natural swing and promising bat speed. In the fall off 2007, he enjoyed impressive wood bat BP sessions at several showcase events. However, Galloway picked a bad time to slump. He has hit poorly this spring, backtracking on the advances he had made in the fall of 2007. His struggles were due in part to an unusually spread-out stance. Despite an easy, smooth swing, Galloway has no load to generate power in his current setup. He's been overpowered by good velocity this spring on a regular basis. Defensively, Galloway is a wonderful outfielder, showing a gliding Torii Hunter/Mike Cameron knack for running down balls in center. While he will need additional experience and polish, Galloway profiles as an above-average defensive outfielder. Galloway's arm also grades out as above-average, though he's lacked accuracy this spring due to poor throwing mechanics. While he has significant tools, they are too raw for him to be a consensus first-round pick.

11. Mike Montgomery, lhp, Hart HS, Newhall (National Rank: 40)

With Anthony Gose battling shoulder tendonitis, Montgomery has emerged as the top high school lefthander in an unusually deep and talented Southern California crop. He's a Cal State Fullerton recruit who would benefit by studying under coach Dave Serrano, but his strong spring likely means he won't make it to college. That was despite some makeup questions about the athletic Montgomery, who was kicked off the Hart High basketball team for racking up too many technical fouls. Montgomery was the team's top scorer at 20 points per game, and at 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds, he has a long, athletic build that attracts scouts. So does his fastball, which sits in the 88-92 mph range and peaks at 94. His high quality secondary offerings include a sharp, if slow, 71-72 mph curveball and a 79-81 mph changeup with sudden late drop. Montgomery will need to correct a series of subtle mechanical deficiencies that tend to impede his command, but when those problems are solved, he profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation starter. He was rising up draft boards as June approached as he showed a feel for pitching, rather than trying to just blow high school hitters way. He does an excellent job of mixing pitches, changing speeds, setting hitters up and finishing them off.

12. Brett Hunter, rhp, Pepperdine (National Rank: 51)

Undrafted out of high school, Hunter first began to draw the attention of scouts as a closer for his Connie Mack summer ball club in 2005. He has since blossomed into one of the top pitching prospects in the nation. Now 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Hunter may possess the strongest arm in the draft. Hunter has missed all but two starts in 2008 due to arm problems, generally reported as elbow pain. Hunter returned in late May with two short outings, peaking at 92 mph and showing some rust but generally encouraging scouts. Many scouts aren't surprised by Hunter's injury due to his unorthodox mechanics. He drops his arm behind himself like a discus thrower, making it hard to find a consistent arm slot. Hunter's tilted, unbalanced finish features a high right leg release. None of that precluded Hunter, who dominated with Team USA last summer as a closer, from featuring some of the nation's best stuff. His thunderbolt fastball arrives at the plate from 93-97 mph and has touched 100 in relief outings. As a starter, he has no difficulty maintaining velocity into the sixth and seventh inning, when healthy, and he challenges both good and average hitters with his four-seam in all situations and all counts. Hunter's high-70's to low-80's curve has nasty downward break, though he has inconsistent control of the that pitch. Hunter's command is spotty and causes him to get behind batters and run up high pitch counts. Health concerns muddle where Hunter will be selected, and his command problems muddle whether he will be a starter or reliever. The combination makes predicting his draft position impossible.

13. Anthony Gose, lhp, Bellflower HS (National Rank: 53)

Gose has perhaps the strongest left arm of any Southern California high school pitching prospect since Bill Bordley, a first-round pick in the mid 1970s. However, his small stature and a recent bout of rotator cuff tendinitis have his draft status in doubt. Gose's blistering fastball ranges from 92-96 mph, peaking at 97. Both his frame and four-seam fastball draw legitimate comparisons to both Scott Kazmir and Billy Wagner. In professional baseball, Gose will need to improve and sharpen both his 77 mph curve and 75 mph changeup. Gose profiles as a lefthanded closer or set-up man, since he loses significant velocity as a game progresses. He'll also need to clean up his mechanics and learn to slow down his frantic pace. Scouts are currently awaiting results on another MRI of Gose's shoulder; one in mid-April showed no fracture or labrum tear. After starting several games early in the season, Gose was restricted to DH duty for much of the spring. As with so many young hurlers, high pitch counts and year-round play add to injury concerns with Gose. When he's healthy or when he's not pitching, Gose plays center field, with plus-plus speed and arm being his best tools. He's aggressive on the bases with a knack for stealing bags, taking the extra base, and flying into bases with a head-first slide. However, Gose has never consistently shown enough hitting ability to convince scouts he can hit professional pitching. Severe doubts about his bat make it most likely that Gose will be drafted and signed as a pitcher.

14. Shane Peterson, 1b/of, Long Beach State (National Rank: 75)

Peterson is the top prospect on a talent-laden Long Beach State squad which could have six players drafted in the first 10 rounds. Peterson's strong, mature body and outstanding hitting performance this year, following up an excellent showing in the Cape Cod League last summer, should make him the first Dirtbag drafted. One of the most versatile players in the nation, the lefthanded Peterson has the ability to play first, pitch (90 mph off the mound) or hold down a corner outfield spot. He's above-average defensively at first but should run enough (though he's below-average) to hold down a corner outfield spot. Peterson's hitting mechanics are a bit out of the ordinary, as he's a front-foot hitter, but he generates excellent bat speed and has a high finish that helps give him loft power. An admirably consistent hitter, Peterson can hammer the ball to all fields, and has cleared the deep center-field fence at Blair Field, one of the stingiest D-1 hitter's parks in the country. Peterson slumps only when he chases the high inside fastball, or when he becomes too pull oriented and flies his head and front side open. Statistically-inclined clubs will jump on Peterson, who was leading the Big West Conference in on-base percentage (.495) and ranked second in slugging. While not a prospect on the level of recent Long Beach State hitters like Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria, Peterson is a legitimate first-two-rounds candidate and has enough bat to be a regular at a corner position.

15. Brett Mooneyham, lhp, Buhach Colony HS, Atwater (National Rank: 78)

Some clubs have the big (6-foot-5), physical (220 pounds) Mooneyham as the top prep lefthander on the board, even though he's not even the top starter on his high school team. (That would be junior righthander Dylan Floro.) However, Mooneyham has the pro body, as well as big league bloodlines—his father Bill was a first-round pick in 1980 (Angels, 10th overall) and pitched one season in the majors with Oakland. Mooneyham also has present big league stuff, with a fastball that sits 90-91 and has touched 94, as well as a slider that flashes above-average potential. His body control and athleticism are still catching up with his body, however, and Mooneyham lacks control of his power arsenal; he had 43 walks in 46 innings this spring. He's an excellent student with a Stanford commitment who also is being advised by Scott Boras Corp., so some teams have had just cursory checks on him, figuring him to be impossible to sign. Others such as the Braves and Brewers were said to be mulling gambling a pick on him and making a run at signing him, but he was considered one of the least signable players in the West, if not the country.

16. Tyler Chatwood, rhp, East Valley HS, Redlands (National Rank: 81)

Many scouts balk at Chatwood's shorter (5-foot-11), mature and non-projectable frame. His arm and tools, however, are hard to dismiss. Most scouts prefer him as a pitcher, and it's easy to see why. Chatwood's fastball sits in the 90-93 mph range, peaking at 94-95. He'll need to develop his 82 mph change, but Chatwood's curve is already a plus pitch, a 72-74 mph multi-plane kneebuckler that is easily his best offering. Many scouts see Chatwood as a somewhat smaller version of Roy Oswalt. In the past, Chatwood has dabbled in the infield, but his hands don't work well there. As an outfielder, he has a well-above-average arm and impressive 6.7 speed. Inconsistent at bat throughout the summer and fall showcase and scout ball season, Chatwood has now developed into a terror at the plate, showing both hitting ability and provocative power. If he makes it to UCLA, where he's committed, he should be a true two-way threat.

17. Eric Thames, of, Pepperdine (National Rank: 90)

A lefthanded hitter and thrower, Thames' outstanding 2008 season at Pepperdine has drawn substantial attention from scouts. He was hitting .407 with 13 homers and 59 RBIs when he went down in late May with what scouts described as a hip flexor injury, though Pepperdine describes it as an upper-leg injury. An unsigned 39th-round pick of the Yankees in 2007, Thames has improved his stock considerably, improving his body over the years. He's now a solidly built, muscular 6-foot, 205-pounder who physically resembles former White Sox outfielder Warren Newson. Thames' primary tool is his bat, as he's strong enough to hit effectively from an open, spread stance. Occasionally, Thames will drift into a habit of trying to lift, pull and jerk everything. He often over swings and whiffs on offspeed stuff, and is much more effective when he cuts down on his swing and attempts to use the entire field. In the outfield, Thames is an acceptable, average defensive left fielder, with acceptable speed and range. He has played some center field but profiles better defensively in left. His inconsistent and fringy arm strength also fits better in left. As a pro, Thames profiles as a potentially heavy-hitting left fielder with average to slightly below-average non-hitting tools.

18. Andrew Liebel, rhp, Long Beach State (National Rank: 91)

Liebel stands as an example of player development at the college level. He made little impact his first two seasons at Long Beach State, working primarily in relief, but emerged toward the end of his junior season as the Dirtbags' most consistent starter. While he's not overpowering, he had taken another step forward this spring even after well-regarding pitching coach Troy Buckley left the Beach to be the Pirates' roving pitching coordinator. Liebel attacks hitters with his fastball, which has solid-average velocity and touches 93 mph. Even though he's small at 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, he has excellent arm strength due in part to his long-toss program and also to his improved diet and workout program. He also has confidence in his curveball, slider and changeup, all of which grade out as average pitches at times. His command stands out, though, and Liebel is best described as a pitchability college righthander whose biggest downside is his size. At 5-foot-11, he's compared to Yankees righty Ian Kennedy, but he lacks Kennedy's comparatively lengthy track record of success. He's one of the nation's better senior signs and could move quickly.

19. Ricky Oropesa, 1b/rhp, Etiwanda HS (National Rank: 108)

Oropesa is a two-way talent who is part of a strong Southern California recruiting class. He dazzled scouts at Major League Baseball's summer showcase at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton last June, blasting several home runs with wood bats, including several off the batter's eye in center field. He also took a turn on the mound, firing a four-seam fastball that registered from 91-93 mph and peaking at 95. Since establishing himself as a possible first-rounder, though, Oropesa has not been as impressive, and his draft stock has taken a dip. He struggled at the Area Code Games and the Aflac Classic, showing an inability to connect with quality pitching. During the spring prep season, he has posted eye-popping numbers against inferior pitching, but he struggled against Notre Dame-bound lefthander Dustin Ispas of Los Osos High. As a hitter, Oropesa has well-above-average raw power, but his hitting mechanics don't let him get to his power against quality pitching. He fits best as a first baseman despite his above-average arm, as he lacks the hands for third base or the speed and range for the outfield corners. As a pitcher, he loses velocity as a game wears on, and his secondary stuff is short. He should be an excellent two-way player in college, but his raw power makes him most attractive as a hitter as a pro.

20. Cutter Dykstra, of, Westlake HS, Westlake Village (National Rank: 109)

Dykstra is a righthanded version of his dad, former major leaguer Len Dykstra, who starred with the Mets and Phillies in the 1980s and 90s. The younger Dykstra is a terrific athlete, finishing first in the SPARQ testing at the 2007 Area Code games in Long Beach and running the 60 in 6.58 seconds. An offense-first prospect, he uses his speed aggressively. He has a balanced stance at the plate and can hammer pitches middle in. He has outstanding power for a player his size, and his excellent bat speed produces both line-drive and loft power. While his frame is strong, well developed and athletic, Dykstra has little physical projection. Of greater concern with Dykstra is defense, as he's moved from shortstop to center field. He's not a natural fit at either spot with an adequate arm. The UCLA signee had late helium and could go in the first three rounds.

21. Josh Romanski, lhp, San Diego (National Rank: 110)

Despite a smallish 6-foot, 185-pound frame, Romanski has doubled as a two-way player for three seasons for the Toreros. A fine all-around athlete, he ranks among the best-fielding pitchers in the nation, and while he's a good college hitter, his future is on the mound. His fastball sits in the 88-89 mph range with some armside run. He shows an outstanding feel for his secondary pitches, which include a slow curveball, a changeup and a hard slider. Romanski's best pitch is his hard breaking ball, thrown in on a righthanded hitter's hands. Mechanically he is sound, but he will need to make adjustments. His arm action is short on both the back and front end, with a rushed, off-balanced finish. The total package reminds some of Rays lefthander J.P. Howell, though Howell's stuff was considered a bit more firm. As a pro, Romanski fits as either a back of the rotation starter or middle reliever. He offers a nice repertoire of pitches and decent command. He'll also help himself with his glove and bat.

22. Kevin Eichhorn, rhp, Aptos HS (National Rank: 112)

Eichhorn's father Mark spent parts of 11 seasons in the big leagues as a reliever, using a submarine delivery to pitch nearly 300 innings in 1986-87 for the Blue Jays. His son probably won't be a second-round pick, as Mark was back in 1979, but it might take second-round money to keep Kevin from his Santa Clara commitment. Mark helped coach Kevin's team to the 2002 Little League World Series. While the elder Eichhorn was 6-foot-3, 210 pounds during his playing days, the son now checks in at 6-feet, 170 pounds and would benefit from a late growth spurt, which some scouts expect. However, he's athletic and switch-hits, and would probably play shortstop and pitch at Santa Clara. If he's drafted high, it's expected to be for his work on the mound, as he has touched 94 mph with his fastball and shows excellent fastball command. Eichhorn spins a breaking ball as well, a curveball that lacks the power to be a true plus pitch now. His body has some scouts doubting he's ready for pro ball, with a fastball that sits 88-90 mph more often than it touches 94. But his arm works well, and with his athleticism and bloodlines, he's the best prep prospect in Northern California.

23. Evan Frederickson, lhp, San Francisco (National Rank: 116)

Frederickson was climbing draft charts late as he put together a pair of his strongest starts of the year to finish the season. Several scouts were on hand as he battled San Diego's Brian Matusz in his penultimate start, and Frederickson struck out 11 in seven shutout innings of his last outing, against Dallas Baptist. Some scouts say Frederickson, at an imposing 6-foot-6, 238 pounds, has better stuff than Dons lefty Aaron Poreda, the White Sox's 2007 first-round pick. They both have lower arm slots, and while Frederickson doesn't reach the high 90s as Poreda can, he does have a plus fastball, touching 95 and at times sitting in the 91-93 range. His slider gives him a weapon Poreda never had; it's a power pitch, a hybrid slurve that has some depth and is thrown in the low 80s. When it's on, he makes lefthanded hitters look bat. Command is never going to be Frederickson's forte, and he flirts with having "the thing" at times; he was awful (6.99 ERA) in his first two seasons at Virginia Tech before finding the plate more under the tutelage of San Francisco pitching coach Greg Moore, though his delivery still has flaws. Scouts view him as a reliever, but perhaps more than just a lefty setup man. He could go as high as the second round.

24. Vance Worley, rhp, Long Beach State (National Rank: 121)

At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Worley has a big body and big arm that attracted attention last summer in the Cape Cod League. He wasn't able to carry that success over this spring for the Dirtbags, but teams that saw him good last summer have seen flashes of that this spring. Worley's four-seam fastball sits in the 91-92 mph range, peaking at 93-94. He has struggled at times with his 87-88 mph two-seamer, which gets hammered when left up in the zone. Both fastballs show armside movement, and he will cut the four-seamer at times. Worley mixes in a changeup and curveball. Both need development, and he will drop his arm slot and slow down his arm when delivering the change. Command is the primary concern with Worley, not in terms of walks but in quality of pitches and efficiency, as he frequently finds himself in deep counts. With refinement of his secondary offerings, he could develop into a mid-rotation starter in pro ball, but his power arm makes a conversion to the bullpen a solid option.

25. Ryan O'Sullivan, rhp, Valhalla HS, El Cajon (National Rank: 123)

O'Sullivan's older brother Sean was a third-round pick of the Angels in 2005 (signing as a draft-and-follow the following spring), and while Ryan lacks his older brother's big, physical body, his frame is solid and gives him some projection. O'Sullivan's build, stuff and approach are similar to Ian Kennedy's. He locates his 88-92 mph four-seam fastball well with some armside life. His breaking ball is not the monster curve his brother attacks hitters with, but it has improved substantially since his junior year. More of a finesse than a power pitcher, O'Sullivan also shows an excellent feel for his sinker and changeup. He profiles as a third or fourth starter, with four average to plus pitches, as well as command and pitching savvy. He plays shortstop when he's not pitching, but he does not project as a pro hitter. He has enough athletic ability and bat, though, to handle two-way duties if he winds up in college at San Diego State.

26. Jake Jeffries, c, UC Davis (National Rank: 133)

Jefferies was one of the nation's toughest hitters to strike out and helped drive the Aggies toward a possible regional bid in their first season of eligibility since moving up from Division II. Jefferies' offensive approach will need tweaking as he gets stronger, because now he's interested mostly in making contact rather than driving the ball. He's a solid athlete and an average runner. Defensively, Jefferies impresses scouts with his solid-average catch-and-throw ability. He has good feet and is a quiet receiver, with a fringe-average but accurate arm. While Jefferies doesn't have any true above-average tools, he also lacks any glaring weaknesses, and for a catcher that makes him a good bet to be drafted in the first five rounds.

27. Brandon Crawford, ss, UCLA (National Rank: 134)

Crawford sparkled as one of the best players in the nation during his freshman and sophomore seasons. His march toward the top half of the draft has not gone well, however, starting last summer, when he hit just .189 in the Cape Cod League. His junior year has been disappointing, as has that of preseason No. 1 UCLA, which was flirting with .500. Crawford has used several different stances at bat, searching for a solution. While he has average raw power, Crawford doesn't make enough contact to get to it and had struck out in 27 percent of his at-bats. His problems at the plate have him profiling as a utility player, and some scouts have criticized his energy level. His best tools are his speed, defense and plus arm. He shows advanced playmaking ability at short and is particularly adept at charging slow hoppers and making the throw on the run.

28. Zach Wilson, 3b, Wilson HS, Long Beach (National Rank: 140)

Long in the shadow of Wilson stars Ryan Dent and Aaron Hicks, Wilson is a legitimate prospect on his own merit. He has a prototypical, athletic 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame, and his 6.8-second speed in the 60 is rare for a third-base prospect. His primary tool is his bat. During the summer showcase season, Wilson began his swing from a dead start, with no hand movement or load. He now employs an inward leg kick, which led to dramatic improvement. Wilson's picturesque cut, which combines a short backswing with a long and level follow through, produces screaming line drives to all fields. He demonstrated his bat in a mid-April game when he drilled a 410-foot shot directly over the center-field fence at Redondo Union High. While his arm is adequate for the hot corner, Wilson will need to improve his glovework and footwork. Some organizations may be scared off by his Scott Boras Corp. representation and Arizona State commitment, but a lot of clubs are intrigued by Wilson's potential.

29. Danny Espinosa, ss, Long Beach State (National Rank: 141)

Espinosa is one of the most distinctive players in college baseball with his strong, mature build and slightly bowlegged "egg beater" running style. Long praised by scouts for his work ethic and hustling style of play, Espinosa gets maximum results out of average tools. One scout compared him to former Cal State Fullerton infielder Justin Turner, though with a bit more athleticism. Defensively, his range is fair and his glove work is unorthodox, but he does possess a strong arm. While he handled shortstop well for Team USA last summer, Espinosa is not a pure shortstop and may be better suited to second base or as a utility player. His intelligent and aggressive baserunning masks raw speed that is only average. A switch-hitter, Espinosa has always been stronger from his natural right side, but improved from the left this year. He takes a wicked cut at anything close, and when he squares a pitch up he can produce screaming drives to all fields. Most scouts want to see more plate discipline and patience from Espinosa, who's considered a streak hitter. His lack of overwhelming tools will keep him out of the first two rounds, but he has a lot of attributes scouts love, including the knack to make those around him better.

30. Jarret Martin, 1b/lhp, Centennial HS, Bakersfield (National Rank: 146)

Martin first drew attention from scouts with his eye-opening performances at the Area Code Games preliminaries and the showcase itself last summer. His strong, projectable 6-foot-3, 200-pound build is nearly perfect for a young lefthander, and his raw stuff is equally impressive. His fastball ranges from 88-91 mph and will peak at 92. His best pitch is his hard curveball, which when thrown properly has wicked late break and is effective against both lefthanded and righthanded hitters. His mechanics are a concern, however, hampering his command and making him wildly inconsistent from outing to outing. Martin's high school team has no pitching coach, and he has to travel for specialized coaching, so with hard work and more instruction he figures to overcome his technical flaws. When he is not pitching, Martin plays first base. With 13 home runs this spring, he has drawn attention as a lefthanded-hitting slugger, and Cal State Fullerton covets him as a two-way recruit.

31. Matt Magill, rhp, Royal HS, Simi Valley (National Rank: 171)

The first thing scouts noticed this spring about Magill was a nasty gash on the outside of his right elbow. Not to worry; it was the result of a minor car accident. Magill has an ideal tall, projectable frame. His fastball sits in the 88-90 mph range, but it's straight and hittable when left up in the zone. He'll need to develop sink and movement to succeed with his fastball at higher levels. He's a Cal Poly signee, and the school has had success with pitchers improving their velocity in college. Magill shows little feel for his curveball, but his slider projects as a potential plus offering and is easily his best pitch. In pregame bullpens, Magill experiments with a changeup that has both deception and late drop. Unfortunately, he uses the pitch sparingly in game action.

32. Michael Tonkin, rhp, Palmdale HS (National Rank: 173)

A fixture on the showcase circuit in Southern California, Tonkin is a 6-foot-6 righthander whose raw stuff and projectable frame has attracted the attention of scouts for several years. Delivered from a low three-quarters slot, Tonkin's fastball sits at 91-92 mph, peaking at 93-94. He gets strong sinking and darting armside movement on that pitch, but his four-seamer is straight to his glove side and to the middle of the plate, making it hittable for advanced batters. Tonkin's secondary pitches show promise, but need to be sharper and more consistent. His changeup exhibits sudden drop and armside movement, and when thrown properly his curveball shows tilt and nice sweeping break, but little depth. He too often rolls or hangs it, and more often than not it's a below-average pitch. A Southern California recruit, Tonkin excites scouts with his ideal build and terrific basic stuff. He'll need to clean up his mechanics and improve his secondary offerings, and if he does he could be a middle-of-the-rotation big league starter.

33. Shane Kroker, ss/3b, Westlake HS, Westlake Village (National Rank: 174)

Kroker is tall, loose and lanky, and his smooth, quick and fluid defensive actions mean he should be able to comfortably hold down either shortstop or third in college. A fine all-around athlete, Kroker ran a 6.84-second 60-yard dash at last summer's Area Code Games, displaying above-average speed. He has a strong arm, showing the ability to make the long throws across the diamond from either position on the left side of the infield. At bat, Kroker sets up in a funky hunched-shoulder stance. While his swing produces results at the prep level, most scouts hold serious reservations about his ability to hit advanced pitching. He intrigues scouts with shots that show bat speed, though. Initially dismissed by most scouts as a "college guy," Kroker's arm, glove and speed profile as above-average, but his bat may not be ready for pro ball. That and his strong academic background were expected to send him to Wake Forest.

34. Gabe Jacobo, 1b/of, Sacramento State (National Rank: 175)

Jacobo was a late bloomer in high school who stuck with his Sacramento State commitment even after other, higher-profile schools tried to recruit him late. He intrigues scouts with his athletic ability for a player his size and with his bat. Jacobo ranked second in the Western Athletic Conference in home runs as a sophomore with 14 and had 13 this season. He has strength in his short swing, enough bat speed to catch up to velocity and a high finish that gives him loft power. Jacobo plays first base and left field for the Hornets but played shortstop and third base in the Alaska League last summer, and scouts who have seen him believe he has a chance to play third as a pro. He has arm strength, though his accuracy is in question. He runs well enough to man an outfield corner, and he might wind up there if he can't handle third.

35. Graham Johnson, lhp, Westlake HS, Westlake Village (National Rank: 178)

Johnson, who did not participate in any of the prominent summer or fall showcases, first came to the attention of local scouts in fall scout ball games. He's 6-foot-7 and was just emerging after starting this season in the bullpen at Westlake High. He got exposure when scouts came to see teammates Cutter Dykstra and Shane Kroker. At his best, the Fresno State recruit delivers a lively 91-93 mph fastball from a low three-quarters slot. He adds a hard curveball and a changeup, though both need work. Johnson's primary obstacle is his severe lack of control and command, which causes him to get behind hitters and run up high pitch counts. Part of that is inexperience, another part is growing into his large frame. However, in this spring season Johnson has become a big favorite of local scouts, who are fascinated by his intimidating frame and electric raw stuff.

36. Brian Humphries, of, Granite Hills HS, El Cajon (National Rank: 180)

Humphries has an ideal tall, athletic and projectable frame, and has already filled out noticeably since the beginning of the 2007 showcase season. A lefthanded hitter and righthander thrower, Humphries has solid but unspectacular tools. His 6.8-second time in the 60 is slightly above-average speed. His best tosses from the outfield grade out around average, but he has been inconsistent with his throws in showcase events. Humphries will show glimpses of excellent hitting ability, but for scouts the glimpses are infrequent. He had a poor showing in the February Major League Baseball showcase event in Compton. To his credit, though, Humphries had several outstanding efforts in both BP and games in fall wood-bat scout league contests. Questions about Humphries' bat and his solid but not overwhelming tools figure to keep him out of the first three rounds. If he ends up at Pepperdine, it's easy to imagine Humphries developing into one of the nation's top players over the next three years.

37. Edgar Olmos, lhp, Birmingham HS, Van Nuys (National Rank: 181)

Tall and stringy with a basketball player's build at 6-foot-5, Olmos delivers his 87-89 mph fastball toward home plate with a sidearm, buggy-whip motion. His projectable frame and loose arm action suggest Olmos will significantly increase his velocity as he fills out, and he has already touched the low 90s several times. An Arizona recruit, Olmos exhibits a fine feel for his secondary pitches. His slow curve shows sweeping movement with a hint of wiffle-ball action. He also offers a changeup that has a bit of screwball rotation. Mechanically, Olmos does an excellent job of keeping his front side closed and showing the piping on his right pant leg to the hitter as long as possible. However, in his delivery he wraps his arm and needs to get fuller extension on his finish. Also, his arm slot varies from fastball to curve, and he tips his breaking ball by "screwing in a light bulb" as he grips the ball in his glove. All of these problems should be easily correctable.

38. Kyle Petter, lhp, West Torrance HS (National Rank: 182)

Petter's build and stuff are reminiscent of Rob Rasmussen, selected by the Dodgers in the 2007 draft and currently pitching at UCLA. High strung and energetic, Petter is an aggressive pitcher who challenges hitters with an 87-89 mph fastball that reaches 92 in relief outings. Roughly 90 percent of his pitches are fastballs, but he will mix in the occasional curve and change. Both need to be improved and developed. Petters frantic pace and unrefined mechanics cause his command to suffer, but he displays a terrific ability to battle his way out of jams. As a starter he runs up high pitch counts as well as high strikeout totals. However, his personality may be better suited to short relief work. In a recent closer stint he blew away all three hitters, and showed velocity and command he rarely displays as a starter. Petter has committed to Cal State Fullerton, another impressive improvement after he had been academically ineligible as a sophomore.

39. Scott Gorgen, rhp, UC Irvine (National Rank: 183)

Gorgen, whose twin brother Matt is California's closer, was a second-team All-Freshman choice and had an even better season as a sophomore, helping pitch UC Irvine to the College World Series. His numbers are better again in 2008; opponents were hitting just .159 against him as he responded to a lighter workload. Gorgen's fastball generally scrapes 90 but sits more comfortably in the 86-88 range with excellent command. His circle changeup is a plus pitch he locates at will, and it has late tumble, making it resemble a split-finger fastball. Gorgen's breaking ball and body are both short but he competes, is athletic and has shown durability, having surpassed 320 innings already in college. On the down side, he has little projection left. The track record should still prompt a team to bite in the first five rounds.

40. Chris Joyce, lhp, Dos Pueblos HS, Goleta (National Rank: 184)

Initially dismissed as a college player during the 2007 showcase seasons, Joyce drew attention from scouts with his impressive start in the spring of 2008. His progress had been slowed by a recent muscle strain in his back, but before that his fastball sat in the 92 mph range. When he returned, Joyce was rusty and performed poorly in a start in front of about 30 scouts. His fastball touched 90 but sat at 88, and his mechanics and command were less than his best. Joyce's repertoire includes a hard slider, a curveball and a firm changeup. While at his best Joyce has "now" stuff, his 6-foot, 200-pound frame is mature and contains little projection. If he bounces back from his injury and shows the stuff, command and mechanics he displayed early in the season, he could climb back into early draft consideration. Otherwise, he should contribute quickly at UC Santa Barbara.

41. Tyler Pill, rhp, Covina HS (National Rank: 190)

Pill's older brother Brett is a first baseman in the Giants organization after a strong career at Cal State Fullerton. Brett got the size, standing in at 6-foot-4, 211 pounds. Younger brother Tyler is listed at 6 feet, 165 pounds, and he's committed to Cal State Fullerton and also can hit. He was recruited as a two-way player and has a short lefthanded swing, but if a pro team takes him and tries to buy him away from the Titans, it would be as a pitcher. He's athletic and repeats his delivery, and he has shown excellent now stuff, touching as high as 94 mph and sitting in the 89-91 mph range. Pill also throws a tight curveball that shows potential when thrown with some power. He is expected to be a tough sign away from Fullerton, however.

42. Clark Murphy, 1b, Fallbrook HS (National Rank: 191)

A UCLA recruit, Murphy first gained widespread attention with his impressive performance at a California high school coaches' showcase in June 2007. He was the top player at that event, along with Kyle Skipworth. During the home run contest at the Aflac Classic last August, Murphy pounded tape-measure shots with wood out of Tony Gwynn Stadium at San Diego State. In the eyes of many scouts, he has regressed since his coming-out party, despite a conditioning program that has left him with a strong, athletic frame that resembles a young Ryan Klesko. He struggled in fall and winter showcases and was hindered by an injured quad muscle. Murphy tends to open up too early in his swing, spinning off the ball. He also has a habit of blocking his hands and getting them almost locked beyond the front edge of the plate. Murphy's speed is below-average, but his arm and glove should be adequate for first base.

43. Justin Fitzgerald, rhp, UC Davis (National Rank: 192)

A redshirt junior, Fitzgerald has emerged as a prospect by becoming one of the West's harder-throwing closers, but he's far from a one-pitch power closer. His fastball has touched 95 mph at times, though it straightens out at that velocity. He gets a little more cut and life on the pitch when it's thrown in the 90-93 mph range. Fitzgerald's slider and cut fastball are both decent pitches, with the cutter thrown with more power. His best secondary pitch is a changeup, which grades out as solid-average. While Fitzgerald is just a decent athlete, he throws strikes and generally repeats his delivery. The Aggies tried to make him a starter as a sophomore, but his elbow couldn't handle the strain of his velocity, and he ended up taking a medical redshirt. He has proven more hittable than a closer should be and profiles more as a set-up man as a pro, but his effectiveness against lefthanded hitters should help him move quickly.

44. Bryan Evans, rhp, UC Davis (National Rank: 196)

The Aggies start Evans on Sunday, behind fifth-year senior Eddie Gamboa and junior Brad McAtee. While those two are better college pitchers—and McAtee, at 88-92 mph, has more present stuff—Evans has more upside and was leading the team in strikeouts despite opening the year in the bullpen. He has decent velocity on his fastball, sitting in the upper-80s after touching 90-91 as a reliever. With his projectable 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame, he should sit solid average as he fills out. Evans' secondary pitches are his forte, as he has an inconsistent curveball that at times is a plus pitch. His changeup, like his fastball, has armside run and grades out as an average pitch as well. Evans commands all his pitches but was still learning pitch sequences and how to pace himself.

45. Mark Willinsky, rhp, Santa Clara (National Rank: 198)

Willinsky emerged the summer after his freshman season. showing off one of the better arms in the Alaska League. He compared favorably to Vanderbilt's Casey Weathers, who was also in Alaska that summer, as his fastball had more life and he had a more complete repertoire of pitches. With a big frame, he seemed likely to develop into an innings-eating sinker/slider pitcher. However, Willinsky hasn't become consistent with his slider or changeup and profiles better out of the bullpen. There he can work primarily off his fastball, which sits at 93-94 mph when he's at his best with good sink. His slider remains inconsistent and is more of a groundball pitch rather than a strikeout pitch most of the time, but he has flashed a power slider. Willinsky, who took a medical redshirt last season, also throws a split-finger fastball that can be a strikeout pitch. He lacks control, not to mention command, but has power stuff and could be a closer eventually if he throws more strikes.

Big Year For Cal Preps

After producing three of the first dozen players picked in 2007, Southern California's high school ranks were supposed to take a step back this season. Instead, Kyle Skipworth, Aaron Hicks, Isaac Galloway, Gerrit Cole and Mike Montgomery were among the players who made the Southland once again a region rich with premium talent. There were plenty of interesting players beyond the Top 200 as well.

The draft season kicked off with a Major League Scouting Bureau event at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, and lefthander John Lamb was one of the best players in attendance. Lamb has an ideal and projectable pitcher's frame and showed improving raw stuff. His fastball sat from 87-91 mph and he showed a smooth, fluid arm action and easy release. His curveball showed great improvement, with good tilt and late break. He also showed feel for his craft, mixing pitches, altering eye levels and working both sides of the plate. In February, however, Lamb was rear-ended in a car accident, and lingering soreness in his elbow was diagnosed as a fracture. He didn't need surgery, but his arm was immobilized for 12 weeks, and he didn't pitch all spring.

A sprained elbow sidelined Servite High's Chris Amezquita for the majority of the spring. Scouts are well acquainted with Amezquita due to his busy 2007 summer and fall showcase schedule. A fitness buff, he has a strong, muscular build. He scores major points with scouts for his work ethic and makeup. When healthy, he pushed his fastball up to 91 mph as a closer. His future, however, figures to be at third base. He's an adequate runner with a plus arm, quality actions and fringy range. At bat, Amezquita has closed up his spread-out stance, and he has quick reflexes and intriguing bat speed. At times, he flies open too soon or dips his back shoulder, both correctable flaws.

Amezquita has signed with UCLA and could play on the left side of the infield with Mater Dei's Tyler Rahmatulla if they eschew pro ball. Rahmatulla's season also was affected by injury, when he was hit by a pitch in May and sustained a hairline fracture in his shoulder blade. Remarkably, he continued to play and even hit a home run in his first post-injury at-bat. Rahmatulla displays three average to plus tools: speed, range and defense at short, and more than enough arm to stay at shortstop. Scouts have major concerns about Rahmatulla's bat. He shows bat speed and the ability to drive the ball but has several problems with his swing. The scouts who like Rahmatulla say he can make the adjustments to become a good hitter. An improved bat would give him all he needs to be a big league middle infielder.

Kyle Higashioka has been one of the premier prep catchers in Southern California for three years, a superior defensive receiver to fellow Huntington Beach resident Hank Conger, a 2006 first-rounder. Higashioka does not have Conger's explosive bat. His righthanded uppercut impressed scouts at the 2007 Area Code Games and he has interesting power potential, though it's just pull power right now. His strong frame still has ample projection for his bat. Defensively, Higashioka receives the ball smoothly and is quiet behind the dish. With an accurate arm, he's consistently posting pop times in the 1.95-2.0-second range. He also has strong makeup and academic qualifications, and his commitment to California make it likely he'll be drafted well below where his talent would dictate.

Third baseman Dimitri de la Fuente began the showcase season last summer as an athletic middle infielder, but he has added weight and muscle. While his speed had slowed slightly to the 7-second neighborhood over 60 yards, his power had jumped dramatically. In wood bat batting practice at the Compton preseason event, he ripped a series of home runs over the left-field fence. He has a plus arm but his range and glove mean he'll probably end up as a second baseman. He'll need to transfer his BP results into game results more consistently. De la Fuente tore the ACL in his left knee in March but doctors delayed surgery until July, and he returned to pitch and DH down the stretch in a show of impressive grit. He is committed to Pepperdine.

Brandon Van Dam is a Dave Kingman-sized slugger at 6-foot-6, 220 pounds. At the Compton showcase in February, he put on a devastating wood bat batting practice display, blasting tape measure shots all over the field. His raw power grades out in the 70-plus range (on the 20-80 scale). The challenge for Van Dam is to transfer his BP fireworks into game results, and to make make better contact. He'll also have to work to improve his defense at first base, which is the only position that fits his frame and tools. A two-way recruit to new Division I program Cal State Bakersfield, Van Dam also pitches. His fastball sits in the 87-89 mph range, but given his large and mature frame, he does not figure to throw much harder. His pro future will probably be as a slugging first baseman.

San Diego recruit Matt Cerda began to impress scouts with his performances on the Angels scout club in the fall of 2007. He followed that with a breakout day at the February showcase in Compton. Just 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, Cerda projects as a second baseman as a pro thanks to below-average range. He has an average arm. His best tool is his bat, as he has a quick, compact swing with extension and a full finish. Cerda's supporters see an offensive second baseman with strong makeup and an "old school" style of play. He would instantly make an impact in the Toreros' lineup if he doesn't sign.

One of the state's top catchers, James McCann has a tall, strong and projectable frame. He receives and throws the ball cleanly, but he will need to strengthen his arm and reduce his pop times. McCann's bat shows promise, but he does not yet exhibit the strength or bat speed to vault himself into the early rounds. If he does not sign he would wind up at Arkansas.

Palmdale High infielder Malcom Culver has athletic bloodlines; his brother Tyrone is a safety for the Green Bay Packers, his father played in the minor leagues, cousin Calvin is the center fielder at Pierce JC, and cousin Vonnie is a defensive back for San Diego State. Culver has committed to SDSU as a wide receiver but could play both sports. He showed raw power at the MLB preseason event in Compton and has flashed above-average speed and defensive ability at second base. His arm is a bit short for him to play shortstop. He remains raw, though, and is probably further ahead in football.
 
Northern California's prep ranks have earned a reputation for solid talent and poor signability. Years like 2006, when Sacramento's Tyler Robertson and Lars Anderson both signed for early-round money, have become the exception. The norm was 2005, when the region produced a bevy of players who figure to be high draft picks out of college in 2008—from Brandon Crawford, David Cooper and Tyson Ross to James Darnell and Brett Wallace.

That could be the case again this year, as the top talents aren't expected to sign. Arizona State recruit Abe Ruiz resembles Wallace in that he's a bat-first corner infielder, but he's not the hitter Wallace is. He has a better body but may also struggle to stay at third. He has an above-average arm, above-average raw power and a good idea at the plate. Scouts had a hard time seeing him against premium pitching this spring, and he's indicated a desire to go to college.

Two others who might have pushed their way into the first five rounds and perhaps become signable were righthanders Erik Johnson and Derrek Benny. Benny topped out at 92 mph in the fall and had excellent life on his fastball, then wasn't at his best physically this spring, leading him to struggle with his delivery. That hurt the quality of his stuff, and he's expected to head a strong Fresno State recruiting class. Johnson, also a third baseman, has a durable body and at times shows two average to plus pitches, with a fastball that can sit at 91-92 mph and a power curveball. His California commitment could be the biggest obstacle to his draft stock.

Saint Mary's program has improved in recent years under head coach Jedd Soto, and a crucial recruit for them, righthander Kyle Barraclough, had sparked interest with a strong spring. A football wide receiver with athletic ability, Barraclough bumped some 92s and sat in the upper 80s all spring, with a hard slider that has the potential to be a strikeout pitch, and a split-finger fastball. He threw a 14-strikeout no-hitter in one playoff start, then struck out 10 in an eight-inning shutout in another as his stock continued to climb. Finally, he picked up his 14th win, this time in relief, to help Wilcox High win its regional title. He hadn't been crosschecked by a lot of teams, though, so he could still be headed to college unless scouts caught his strong late finish.

Another Saint Mary's recruit, Tyler Channing, rivaled Ruiz as the top hitter in the area. He's strong and mature-bodied at 6-foot, 220 pounds and showed good pull power.

The hardest thrower this spring in the North might have been J.R. Graham of Livermore, a Santa Clara two-way recruit. Considered too small (5-foot-11, 160 pounds) by most scouts to buy out of school, Graham is a fine-fielding shortstop who ran his fastball up to 94 mph with a quick arm in relief outings. Another excellent athlete, Aptos' High's Bobby Crocker, has potential as a pitcher but has so many tools he's seen as a better fit in the outfield. Crocker has shown excellent bat speed as well as above-average running speed. His offense remains raw, and he was expected to wind up at Cal Poly.

Scouts have interest in outfielder Austin Kingsolver for having athletic ability, a slender frame that leaves room for projection and present hitting ability. A Cal State Fullerton recruit, Kingsolver's father played at Cerritos JC, which has strong ties to the Titans program and wasn't considered an easy sign.

Loyola Marymount recruits John Lally and Jason Wheeler, both lefthanders, figure to get to school. Wheeler's older brother Ryan plays for the Lions now, and the 6-foot-6 Jason has the best chance to go out, as he's peaked in the low 90s and sits in the 88-89 mph range. His arm action's a bit stiff and his curveball a bit too slurvy at present for pro ball, but he has projection and has made improvements in the last year. 

Resurgent Stanford Provides Plenty Of Talent

After missing the NCAA tournament in 2007, Stanford bounced back with a big year, finishing second in the Pacific-10 Conference despite missing lefthander Jeremy Bleich for two months. Bleich, a Louisiana native, returned from his elbow strain in late May and could move into the first five rounds with a strong NCAA postseason. At his best, he sits in the 88-91 mph range with his fastball that has natural lefty movement, complemented by a solid curveball and a plus straight change.

In Bleich's absense, senior righty Erik Davis put together his best stretch with four consecutive complete games, incorporating an improved changeup into a repertoire that already featured a 92 mph fastball and a solid curveball. Davis also has come back from a 2006 incident in the Cape Cod League where he was struck in the head by a batted ball, nearly losing an eye, and had to have facial reconstructive surgery.

Stanford's top talent, junior outfielder Sean Ratliff, might have worked into the first-round mix with more polish at the plate. His 18 homers ranked fifth in the Pac-10, he runs well for his 6-foot-3, 225-pound size, and he has enough arm to hit 92 mph off the mound. It's a prototype right-field profile, but Ratliff has an unorthodox swing with holes in it, and he swings and misses a lot. His 72 strikeouts tied for second-worst in Division I entering regional play.

Teammate Joey August, who like Ratliff performed well in the Alaska League last summer, has good speed but didn't hit well enough to go out during an injury-plagued junior season. He fits better as a senior sign, as does righthander/third baseman Austin Yount, the nephew of Robin Yount and savior of Stanford's weekend rotation down the stretch with his sinker/slider mix. Catcher/first baseman Brent Milleville, the team's top righthanded bat, also figures to sign as a senior, as he has power but lacks plate discipline or pro-level athleticism.
 
After Ratliff, Stanford's best position prospect is second baseman Cord Phelps, who offers a strong switch-hitting bat. One scout compared him to Chris Donnels for his upright offensive stance and swing from the left side, and Phelps may move to third base as a pro. He should have enough athletic ability to stay in the middle infield for a while.

Phelps' closest comparison may be California senior Josh Satin, who after two difficult springs put it all together as a senior. Satin showed he can hit with wood in the Cape Cod League—he was the league's all-star MVP in 2006—and has above-average bat speed that produces excellent power. He has played mostly second base in college, though many scouts believe he's a better fit in the outfield as a pro due to fringy range and infield actions.

Cal also features lefthander Craig Benningson, who had an up-and-down spring after showing average fastball velocity and an occasional power breaking ball in the Cape Cod League. Bears closer Matt Gorgen isn't as polished as twin brother Scott, the starter at UC Irvine, but runs his fastball into the 90-92 mph range in relief and has shown excellent durability. He also throws a mid-80s cutter that he uses too often. If he had the same changeup as his brother, he could fit into a rotation as a pro but more likely will remain in relief.

UC Davis made regionals and could produce six draftees. Among the Aggies' starters, Bryan Evans was moving up the most, but righties Brad McAtee and Eddie Gamboa could also be drafted in the first 10 rounds. McAtee has the best velocity of the trio, sitting 88-91 and pushing 92 mph. He has good armside run on the pitch, and has a solid-average changeup as his best secondary offering. He's physical and durable. His biggest weakness is his lack of a breaking ball, and he throws a decent cutter to compensate. Gamboa, a fifth-year senior, is the Aggies' ace and has excellent athletic ability and the best pickoff move in the state. His fastball runs and sinks in the upper 80s, and he's a tremendous competitor. He also lacks a breaking ball but shows better feel for two different changeups than McAtee has on his change. Both pitchers fit more of a middle-relief profile.

UC Davis' top home run hitter, fifth-year senior outfielder Ryan Royster, is the nephew of ex-big leaguer Jerry Royster and has the potential for five average tools, with one or two rating as plus. Royster's still learning to hit but is more athletic than the vast majority of fifth-year seniors. He's still learning to use his 6.6-second speed and has become more patient as the Aggies' leadoff hitter. He's a late bloomer who figures to go in the first 10 rounds.

Fresno State outfielder Steve Susdorf and lefthander Justin Wilson both project as possible sixth- to 10th-round picks, and Wilson was at his best in a regional, beating Long Beach State. His fastball has average velocity, peaking at 93 mph, and exceptional life, so much so that he struggles to command the pitch. When he throws strikes with his heater and big-breaking curveball, he's tough to beat. He added a short, sharp slider late in the season that he commands better than the curve, and it made a difference. Susdorf, whose older brother Bill starred earlier this decade at UCLA, has a solid lefthanded swing and average athletic ability. He's best suited defensively to left field and lacks profile power, though he can shoot line drives from pole to pole and has shown pull home run power. One scout compared him to Aaron Guiel with less speed.

More Talent Than One Person Can Scout

California has so many strong Division I college programs that many organizations have three or four scouts to cover the state properly. Cal Poly has become a regular producer of draft talent, though the Mustangs went 24-32 this spring despite a roster featuring six likely draftees. Five-foot-9 lefty Derrick Saito was making the most noise early, pusing his way toward the first three rounds with a devastating 92-93 mph fastball and a curveball that Big West Conference coaches tabbed the best in the league entering the season. Saito lost velocity and his release point as the season went on, and his control wavered so much that he lost regular playing time. He could still go before the 10th round to a team that saw him good early, but his stature and short track record of success hinder his chances.

The Mustangs will watch three draft-eligible sophomores closely: righties Kevin Castner and D.J. Mauldin, and outfielder Luke Yoder. An excellent student, Yoder is one of the team's best athletes and has excellent raw power from the right side. He runs well enough to play center field but lacks arm strength, making left field his best fit. Castner has hit 98 mph at times and emerged last summer in the West Coast Collegiate League, where Mauldin did the previous summer. While Mauldin returned from arm problems to use his upper-80s sinker and slider as Poly's most reliable pitcher this spring, Castner was his usual inconsistent self. He sat in the 93-95 mph range and showed a slider with plus potential, and he has the velocity to blow hitters away by elevating his fastball. Problem is, he lacks a plan B when he can't throw strikes, which is too often (25 walks in 30 IP). His arm works well but he doesn't repeat his delivery and lacks a feel for pitching.

The Mustangs' safest bets were a pair of junior hitters, third baseman Brent Morel and outfielder Logan Schafer, who have average tools across the board. Neither is particularly patient, but Schafer's athletic ability and raw power from the left side help him stand out. Scouts liken Morel to former Poly third baseman Josh Lansford offensively, with some home run power but a more effective approach when he tries to go gap-to-gap, and consider him a better defender. Both could squeeze into the first six rounds if they find the right fit.

San Diego State stumbled down the stretch again and hasn't made a regional trip under either Jim Deitz or Tony Gwynn since 1992. The Aztecs figure to lose the left side of their infield in junior Nick Romero and fifth-year senior shortstop Troy Hanzawa. Hanzawa is a wizard with the glove who excels with plays to his backhand and has a 60 arm (on the 20-80 scale) to go with average range. He's much improved as a hitter but profiles as a bottom-of-the-order hitter with little power. San Diego State's top hitter the last three years, Romero has an ideal third baseman's frame—athletic, strong and well proportioned. His smooth hands and strong arm comfortably grade out to major league average, if not a shade above. Romero's sweet lefthanded swing is fundamentally sound, but scouts have reservations about his bat speed.

Southern California missed regionals again, the fourth straight year out of the running for the Trojans. USC's sophomore class has plenty of intriguing talent, but its upperclassmen offer little for the draft. Junior outfielder Nick Buss failed to capitalize on his strong summer in Alaska, where he ranked as the No. 1 prospect in 2007. A wonderful all-around athlete, Buss has 6.7-second speed in the 60 to go with a solid-average arm. He can hold down any outfield spot defensively but has reinforced scouts' doubts about his bat. Buss' long and somewhat stiff swing has garnered spotty results in 2008, but a late hot spurt may have bolstered his draft stock.

USC's top pitcher for the draft, righthander Tommy Milone, had a solid season working with first-year Trojans pitching coach Tom House, and did a better job of keeping his fringe-average stuff down. He gave up just four homers all year and struck out a batter an inning while lacking a plus pitch.

Conversely, Cal State Fullerton kept chugging right along, and the top Titan for the draft was juco transfer Erik Komatsu, the team's top hitter. He has a college body in that he's mature and somewhat squat, with a bat that is decidedly pro caliber. He has a short, quick swing with strength that shoots line drives from gap to gap and surprising pull power. He's a solid-average thrower and runner who profiles as a fourth outfielder at the major league level. First baseman Jared Clark has had trouble coming back from a knee injury from a pickup football game in 2006, though he shows well-above-average raw power in batting practice. He lost athleticism and feel for hitting in his layoff, but when he makes contact the ball jumps off his bat. He led the Titans in home runs, RBIs, doubles and walks, so he's still a factor.

Fullerton's top starting pitchers were battling injuries as the draft approached. Six-foot senior righty Jeff Kaplan, the team's steadiest starter in '07, touches the low 90s but works better in the upper 80s with sink. He can spot his fastball and works inside well. Righty Cory Arbiso had been more effective this season due to precise command, excellent mound presence and the ability to spot his 88-91 mph fastball in while working his sweepy slider and changeup away. Both were draft-eligible last year and weren't picked, and both are expected to go in the seventh- to 12th-round range this year.

UC Santa Barbara was left at home despite finishing in a tie for third place in the Big West. The Gauchos' top talents are underclassmen such as lefty Mario Hollands and righty Mike Ford. This year's top draft pick could be slugging Mike Zuanich, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior. He started his college career at El Camino JC before moving to UCSB, and he enjoyed a breakout season, leading the Big West in home runs heading into regionals. He puts on the most impressive batting practice displays in the area. One such exhibition at UCLA saw him sail a dozen drives over the fence and into the trees beyond the protective netting. One scout said of Zuanich's BP exploits: "He takes the air out of the place." A righthanded hitter who throws left, he has difficulty with offspeed and breaking stuff. He plays left field at UCSB and has enough range, as he's an average runner (7.1 seconds in the 60), but his natural position is at first, where he is an above-average defender. He has a high upside if he can better identify breaking pitches and lay off them. Lefty Chuck Huggins also should be a solid senior sign, with polish to his three-pitch mix that includes an 86-88 mph fastball, a decent overhand curve and a changeup with occasional fade.

Other Gauchos who could go out include wiry, athletic catcher Chris McMurray, who has been a tease offensively with his raw power but fits better as a senior sign; righthander Jason Roenicke, who throws 91-93 mph as a reliever but has battled elbow problems; and scrappy senior outfielder Chris Fox, an average runner who plays with intensity and has a strong, short swing.

Juco Jumble

California's junior college talent was down significantly this spring. Oregon, which returns to Division I with former Cal State Fullerton coach George Horton leading the way next year, went after California juco talent hard this spring, and many of the top players are Ducks recruits. That includes top pitchers Justin LaTempa, Zack Thornton and Ben Whitmore, as well as 5-foot-10 outfielder Nick Baligod, whose tools are fringy but who can hit and should be a good college player.

Tall and big-bodied, Thornton has emerged as one of the top JC pitchers in the nation. He had more success than any California juco pitching prospect, winning 10 regular-season games and ranking second in the state in ERA. His fastball sits in the 89-92 mph range, peaking at 93. He is able to maintain velocity deep into games, consistently registering 91 mph in the sixth inning of an early-season contest. Thornton tosses an excellent sweeping curveball from a low three-quarters arm slot. His changeup shows promise as well. Like many amateur pitches, Thornton has a lower release point on his curve, tipping the pitch. He has bigger stuff than the big-bodied Whitmore, who showed a fastball reaching 91-92 mph last summer in the California Collegiate League. He transferred from NAIA Fresno Pacific to Fresno CC to take advantage of his rising draft stock but rarely touched the 90s this spring. He sat more in the 85-88 mph range, with a solid-average 12-to-6 curveball and straight changeup. He works to both sides of the plate, probably his greatest strength besides being lefthanded.
 
LaTempa, a redshirt sophomore after spending a season at UC Irvine, has the biggest arm of the group but the least pitchability. Skinny as a pencil in high school, LaTempa has developed into an imposing 6-foot-4, 225-rounder. He was at his best early, when his fastball sat in the 91-93 mph range, peaking at 94-95. At his best, he adds a slider, curve and change. While LaTempa is strong on the basics, he is weak on the minutiae. His fastball is almost dead straight and rarely visits the lower portion of the strike zone. Both his slider and curve are inconsistent, and his change is flat. His inconsistent mechanics also led to shoulder soreness, and he made just nine starts this season. He did make a late relief appearance but had likely fallen out of the first five rounds. He was considered signable.

Scouts' attention to LaTempa did bring recognition to his catcher, Billy Nowlin, a stocky, strong backstop admired for his work ethic and tenaciousness. He used his compact and powerful swing to enjoy a breakout offensive season, hitting .413. Nowlin will need to refine his defense to succeed at higher levels. His throwing and receiving skills are raw, and he'll need to smooth out and relax his catching style.

Massive 6-foot-6, 240-pound first baseman Mike Gonzales had moved toward the front of the junior-college draft mix after leading the state in home runs with 18. Gonzales doesn't just mash balls with strength; it's legitimate power, driven by good bat speed and athleticism for his size. He's athletic enough to move off first and was initially recruited as a pitcher to St. Mary's before transferring to Diablo Valley JC; he hit 90 mph in high school. He's a below-average runner, which clouds a possible move to the outfield. He could sneak into the first six or seven rounds.

Another first baseman drawing interest is Loyola Marymount transfer J.R. Higley, who played this season at Sacramento City College. He has a solid hit tool and more athleticism than the average first baseman, as he went to Loyola Marymount as a shorsttop.

Heading the next tier of juco pitchers are lefthander Spencer Arroyo and righties Skylar Crawford and China McCarney. Arroyo has athleticism and a good changeup, with too much projection left on his soft fastball and curve for most scouts' tastes. Crawford is smallish but is an excellent competitor who has three fringe-average to average pitches. Both pitchers are committed to California. McCarney may have had the quickest arm in the California juco ranks this spring, touching 94 mph in the fall and 95 mph this spring. He wasn't doing it consistently, though, and lacked control, leading to just 25 innings pitched.

McCarney's JC of the Canyons teammate, third baseman Brian Hernandez, transferred in from Cal State Los Angeles and had a fantastic season, using a fluid, balanced swing to hit .454. Hernandez has excellent plate coverage, striking out just 12 times in 185 at-bats, and is aggressive, walking just six times. He doesn't have the power most clubs look for in a third baseman, and he'll fit right into the middle of UC Irvine's lineup next year if he doesn't sign. A third Canyons prospect, speedy outfielder Tyreace House, has a fireplug build at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, with strength and 70 speed on the 20-to-80 scale. The ex-football player and track star still has work to do on his swing.

Cerritos JC featured two interesting arms in Miguel Flores and John Ortega, though neither pitcher stands taller than 6 feet. Drafted in the 37th round in 2006 by the Padres, Flores shows a sharp slider and runs his fastball up to 92 mph, and he's had success as his conference's two-time pitcher of the year. He'll be a reliever as a pro and needs to improve his strike-throwing capability. Ortega lacks a pro body but throws his fastball in the 90-91 mph range with a slider that sweeps but lacks depth. He throws strikes but tends to get hit hard when he misses.

Bakersfield JC righty Kyle Witten nearly matches LaTempa's raw stuff with a fastball that peaks at 92 mph, and he adds a decent changeup and slow curveball. His fastball is flat but he throws it for strikes to all parts of the zone, and he walked just 20 in 106 innings this spring. He has an easy arm and projectable frame, and it could all come together for him next spring at Cal State Fullerton.

Riverside CC's Nick Akins' tools compare with any player in the nationa, with a chiseled 6-foot-2, 212-pound build that would make a bodybuilder insecure. His raw bat speed is the equal of any draft-eligible player in the nation, and he hit 13 home runs this spring. Akins has always had a frustrating inability to hit offspeed and breaking stuff down in the zone, however, often chasing those pitches. After starting the 2008 season strong, he slumped to end the year. He's raw defensively and fits best at second base or left field. He's still showing the effects of missing the last year of his prep career in a well-chronicled on-field incident that got him kicked off his high school team.