State Reports: Georgia




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
With double the number of Top 200 prospects in this year's draft class compared to last year, the state of Georgia is bursting with baseball talent. The state boasts the top two draft-eligible shortstops in the country with Tim Beckham as this year's top prep prospect and Gordon Beckham a leading candidate for College Player of the Year. Both prospects are projected to go in the top 10 overall.

The top-tier talent from the state doesn't end there, with both college and high school prospects as well as depth on the mound and in the field, further cementing Georgia's status as one of the nation's most bountiful states for draft talent.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Tim Beckham, ss, Griffin HS (National Rank: 3)
2. Gordon Beckham, ss, Georgia (National Rank: 6)
3. Ethan Martin, rhp/3b, Stephens County HS, Toccoa (National Rank: 16)
4. Joshua Fields, rhp, Georgia (National Rank: 18)
5. Xavier Avery, of, Cedar Grove HS, Stockbridge (National Rank: 59)
6. Zeke Spruill, rhp, Kell HS, Marietta (National Rank: 66)
7. Zach Cone, of, Parkview HS, Stone Mountain (National Rank: 80)
8. Jay Austin, of, North Atlanta HS (National Rank: 99)
9. Brandon Miller, c, Woodward Academy, College Park (National Rank: 101)
10. Chase Davidson, 1b, Milton HS (National Rank: 106)
11. Michael Pallazzone, rhp, Lassiter HS, Marietta (National Rank: 139)
12. Charlie Blackmon, of, Georgia Tech (National Rank: 142)
13. Cecil Tanner, rhp, Ware County HS, Waycross (National Rank: 144)
14. Trevor Holder, rhp, Georgia (National Rank: 148)
15. David Duncan, lhp, Georgia Tech (National Rank: 151)
16. Taylor Hightower, c, Cartersville HS (National Rank: 165)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

17. Chris Hicks, rhp, Georgia Tech
18. Richard Sullivan, lhp, Savannah College of Art and Design
19. Mark Pope, rhp, Walton HS, Marietta
20. Tyler Wilson, rhp, Armuchee HS, Rome
21. Stephen Dodson, rhp, Georgia
22. Grayson Garvin, lhp, Wesleyan School, Suwanee
23. Nathan Moreau, lhp, Georgia
24. Tyler Cline, rhp, Class HS, Cartersville
25. Stephen McCray, rhp, Young Harris JC
26. Brennan May, of, Woodward Academy, College Park
27. Chris Shehan, of, Georgia Southern
28. Eddie Burns, rhp, Georgia Tech
29. Ryan Peisel, 3b, Georgia
30. Luke Murton, of, Georgia Tech
31. Michael Swinson, of, Coffee County HS, Douglas
32. Jason Stolz, ss, Marietta
33. Grimes Medlin, lhp, Young Harris JC
34. Blake Nation, rhp, Georgia Southern
35. Collin McHugh, rhp, Berry
36. Blake Brewer, rhp, Sandy Creek HS, Fairburn
37. Christian Glisson, c, Lowndes HS, Hahira
38. Jordan Craft, of/rhp, Kennesaw Mountain HS, Kennesaw
39. Brad Rulon, rhp, Georgia Tech
40. Demetrius Washington, of, Middle Georgia JC
41. Chris Mederos, rhp, Gordon JC
42. Eric Swegman, rhp, Young Harris JC
43. Zack Martin, 3b, Andrew JC
44. Jake Dalfonso, ss, Woodstock HS
45. Dexter Bobo, lhp, Darton JC
46. Nolan Belcher, lhp, Greenbrier HS, Augusta
47. Tony Hill, of, Statesboro HS
48. Matt Olson, of, Georgia
49. Bryce Massanarri, c, Georgia
50. Jason Haniger, c, Georgia Tech
51. Trent Dooley, 1b, Darton JC
52. Taylor Whitenton, rhp, Darton JC
53. Earl Daniels, ss, Valdosta HS
54. Shawn Ward, of, Middle Georgia JC
55. Chris Wakefield, rhp, Cherokee HS
56. Chase Childers, ss, Georgia State
57. Gary Smith, rhp, Thomas County Central HS, Thomasville
58. Colby May, ss, South Effingham HS, Guyton
59. Jake Robbins, 2b, Kennesaw State
60. Mike Glantz, ss, Young Harris JC

SCOUTING REPORTS

1. Tim Beckham, ss, Griffin HS (National Rank: 3)
 
Beckham solidified his status as the nation's top high school position player last year when he produced the most impressive overall performance on the summer showcase circuit. He was consistently the best player at each event he attended and capped his performance by winning MVP honors at the Aflac Classic at the end of the summer. A wiry, athletic shortstop, Beckham hasn't produced eye-popping performances this spring, but his track record and projection make him the nation's most coveted high school prospect. He has five legitimate tools. At the plate he has the ability to be an above-average hitter with average power. He's a solid runner and his athleticism is a part of his everyday game. In the field, Beckham has smooth major league actions with an above-average arm. He has drawn comparisons to the Upton brothers, though he has more aptitude in the field and not quite the lightning in the bat. His makeup is a plus, as he displays an enjoyment of the game and energy on the field. He has a commitment to Southern California, but Beckham won't reach campus as he's a likely top 10 pick.
 
2. Gordon Beckham, ss, Georgia (National Rank: 6)
 
After he went undrafted out of high school, Beckham has improved as much as any player during his three years in college. He started from his freshman season at Georgia, and hit 12 home runs his first season to help the Bulldogs in the College World Series and land on BA's Freshman All-American team. His batting average and power numbers have increased each year since. He won the Cape Cod League home run title last summer, and has shown it was no fluke by hitting 22 homes so far this spring. He has been among the Division I leaders in batting, home runs and slugging percentage all season. At the plate, Beckham is a home run threat to all fields. He has powerful forearms and snap in his wrists that lead to his above-average bat speed. After being known as a hacker early in his college career he is now regarded as a professional hitter. He makes good contact and consistently squares up balls and uses the whole field. While no one questions his ability to hit, scouts are split on whether Beckham has the hands to stay at shortstop. He has the instincts and is athletic with enough range and arm strength to stick at the premium position.
 
3. Ethan Martin, rhp/3b, Stephens County HS, Toccoa (National Rank: 16)
 
Before the season, Martin was thought of as a power-hitting third baseman with a good arm. His performance on the mound this spring has led to teams being split on whether he will be a pitcher or a position player in the pros. Playing his summer ball in the talent-rich East Cobb program in suburban Atlanta, Martin was selected as an Aflac All-American in the fall. He was a standout quarterback in high school, but is committed to play baseball only at Clemson. In the field, Martin is a plus defender with a plus arm and athleticism. His best tool, though, is his raw power and strength. On the mound, Martin offers a fastball in the mid-90s and an above-average breaking ball with slurve action. His changeup is also advanced for a high school pitcher and can be a plus pitch. Where in the past he may have been labeled a thrower, Martin has shown pitchability throughout the spring. Scouts love the way Martin plays the game, with a country strong swing and dirtbag mentality. They also love his versatility. The team that drafts Martin will be have a tough decision to make on his long-term future, because he offers the versatility and talent to reach the big leagues either way.
 
4. Joshua Fields, rhp, Georgia (National Rank: 18)
 
Following his sophomore year at Georgia, Fields shined in the Cape Cod League, apparently setting him up for a high draft selection in 2007. However, command of his mid-90s fastball and low-80s breaking ball was too inconsistent during his junior season, scaring teams away. The Braves drafted him in the second round, but Fields opted not to sign and returned to Georgia for his senior season. When he returned to Athens, so did his command, and he is now considered the top closer in the country. He holds the Bulldogs' record for career saves and had struck out close to two batters per inning this season. His fastball still sits in the mid-90s, peaking at 98, and his hard downer curveball comes in between 81-83 mph. Scouts are still wary of command issues because his delivery is upright and has some effort. When he misses, it's up in the zone due to not being able to get over the rubber and finish his pitches. Also a concern is durability because of his slight build. When he's on, though, Fields has present major league stuff and the potential to be the first pitcher from this draft to reach the major leagues.
 
5. Xavier Avery, of, Cedar Grove HS, Ellenwood (National Rank: 59)
 
Athleticism, speed and the unknown are all words coinciding with Avery. This spring he signed to play football as a running back with Georgia. A center fielder, Avery is one of the fastest players in the draft and has been timed at 6.2 seconds in the 60-yard dash. However, Avery is hampered by the poor level of competition on his high school team's schedule, making him a tough player for scouts to evaluate this spring. He was visible last summer and performed well both in the East Cobb league and on the showcase circuit, leading to his being named an Aflac all-American. Avery's tools are thought to be raw, as are his instincts. However, with his speed, he is projected to be an above-average outfielder with an average arm, similar to Carl Crawford. At the plate, Avery's ability is even more of a projection. Hitting lefthanded and having above-average speed will always give Avery a chance to hit for average, but scouts feel he is still a ways away with the bat and his approach. Avery could be an exponential improver with proper instruction and multiple at-bats in the minor leagues.
 
6. Zeke Spruill, rhp, Kell HS, Marietta (National Rank: 66)
 
Another Georgia native with the benefit of displaying his skills in the East Cobb League, Spruill impressed scouts last summer and has continued the trend this spring. Spruill has a fluid delivery that is clean and repeatable. He has been up to 93 mph and pitches at 91-92. His fastball has life with sink and is a plus pitch. Commanding all three pitches, Spruill also throws a curveball with slurvy action and a changeup. At 6-foot-4 and 184 pounds, Spruill has a pitcher's body with athleticism and projection. Scouts feel he could pitch closer to 93-94 by the time he reaches the big leagues. A Georgia commit, Spruill is known as a competitor and a winner with plus makeup. Spruill, along with Martin, has separated himself as one of the top two high school pitching prospects in Georgia.
 
7. Zach Cone, of, Parkview HS, Lilburn (National Rank: 80)
 
One of the best high school athletes in this year's draft class, Cone has had an impressive spring season and has vaulted his draft stock upward. Although he is still somewhat stiff at the plate, Cone improved throughout high school and has shown the ability to hit for power and the potential to hit for average. He also has above-average speed, getting down the first base line in 4.1 seconds from the right side. Cone comes from professional bloodlines as his father played in the NFL. At 6-foot-2, and 200 pounds, Cone has the range and instincts to play center field at the major league level. There aren't many prospects in this draft class with Cone's mixture of athleticism, strength and tools. Cone is committed to play baseball for Georgia.
 
8. Jay Austin, of, North Atlanta HS (National Rank: 99)
 
A teammate of Avery in the East Cobb League, Austin is an athletic outfielder in a draft short on players of his mold. A center fielder with above-average speed and a lefthanded swing, Austin has scouts intrigued with his potential to be a five-tool player at the big league level. He has added power to his game this spring after physically maturing and incorporating his lower half more into his swing. He has plus bat speed and has shown ability to make consistent contact at the high school level. The team that drafts him will be betting that Austin will continue to hit into the pros as the other tools needed are present. Austin can even throw 90 mph off the mound, giving him a plus arm in the outfield. He is still somewhat raw but has a ceiling and would be a great pick for a team with multiple selections early in the draft.
 
9. Brandon Miller, c, Woodward Academy, College Park (National Rank: 101)
 
Though he played his summer ball in the East Cobb program and attended some major national showcases last year, Miller entered the season a lesser-known name in Georgia. Not invited to the Aflac Classic, he ranked behind fellow high school catching prospect Taylor Hightower in the Peach State coming into the season. Following a strong senior season when he hit double-digit home runs, however, Miller has vaulted himself up draft boards and is considered one of the top high school catching prospects in the Southeast. A Georgia Tech signee, Miller has present strength as well as projectability. His ability at the plate is what separates him from other catchers and has scouts excited. For a catcher, he has average power and a chance to hit for a solid average. He is an aggressive hitter but makes consistent contact and hits to all fields. Miller has a strong arm, an athletic body and moves well behind the plate, and even though his receiving skills and footwork need refinement, scouts say he'll be able to make adjustments and improve. He's also an above-average runner for a catcher, regularly posting sub-7-second 60-yard times. Profiling as an offensive catcher with athleticism and plus makeup, Miller's upside at a premium position might send him even higher on draft day.
 
10. Chase Davidson, 1b, Milton HS (National Rank: 106)
 
Another alum of the East Cobb program, Davidson is a lefthanded-hitting first baseman with a high offensive ceiling. At 6-feet-5, 216 pounds, he has drawn comparisons to Jim Thome with his approach, plus bat speed and leverage in his swing. While Davidson is known for his impressive displays of power in batting practice, he is still somewhat streaky at the plate during games. He has a tendency to pull off balls, swinging and missing more often than desired. When he stays on the ball, however, Davidson has shown the ability to be a doubles and home run machine. In the field, he's regarded by most teams as a first baseman, but could probably play a corner outfield slot as well. Davidson is a below-average runner but is athletic for his size. While he was a standout defensive football player in high school, he'll have to work to become an average defensive player on the baseball diamond and will always be an offense-first player. With a commitment to Georgia, signability could become an issue on draft day.
 
11. Michael Palazzone, rhp, Lassiter HS, Marietta (National Rank: 139)
 
Palazzone is another East Cobb alum and was an Aflac All-American last fall. He has major league stuff that put him on the scouting radar in his freshman year. He's 6-foot-3, 190 pounds with room for projection, pitching at 89-92 mph now with the possibility of 91-94 in the future. The gem of Palazzone's arsenal is his curveball, a big breaker with late 11-to-5 dropping action. It's already close to major league ready and he can command it in the zone. His changeup is also advanced for a high school pitcher and could be above-average in the future. With three possible plus pitches, a durable frame and command, Palazzone projects as a starter if he can clean up his delivery. With a funky arm action, backward shoulder tilt and straight over the top release, scouts worry about inconsistency and injuries. He's still able to generate downward plane and leverage to the plate, however. Palazzone is committed to Georgia if he doesn't sign.
 
12. Charlie Blackmon, of, Georgia Tech (National Rank: 142)
 
Blackmon has been drafted twice before, by the Marlins out of high school in 2004 (28th round) and then by the Red Sox in 2005 after his freshman year at Young Harris (Ga.) JC (20th round). In both cases he was taken as a lefthander, but after transferring to Georgia Tech he didn't see any time on the mound, and he redshirted in 2007. Blackmon played in the Texas Collegiate League last summer and batted .316 as an outfielder, so when he returned to Georgia Tech he got a chance as a position player and took full advantage. In his first year as a hitter, Blackmon has led the Yellow Jackets in batting and was among the team leaders in nearly every offensive category. A natural athlete, Blackmon has five tools that are quickly gaining refinement. At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, he has the prototypical pro body. He runs well and could play any of the three outfield positions but probably fits best in left. At the plate, Blackmon has a natural lefthanded swing and makes consistent contact. While his approach is still raw, he projects to hit for power and average. He's a college senior but a young hitter, so he has plenty of room for improvement. He is one of the biggest sleepers in this year's draft.
 
13. Cecil Tanner, rhp, Ware County HS, Waycross (National Rank: 144)
 
A 10-inch growth spurt and 10 mph velocity jump over the past two years put Tanner near the top of follow lists in Georgia. Now at 6-feet-6, 190 pounds, he is a projectable righthander still filling out and getting comfortable in his frame. He consistently throws in the low 90s, touching 95, but had a disappointing senior season in which he failed to pick up any wins. Consistently repeating is delivery has been a struggle for Tanner, affecting his command and secondary stuff. He has flashed feel for a breaking ball, but his curveball is currently below-average. Tanner has athletic bloodlines and his father Berry played at South Florida. He's committed to Georgia, and unless he's drafted early, signing him could be a challenge. He has plenty of arm strength but is also plenty raw, meaning three years of refinement in college could make him a much better prospect come 2011.
 
14. Trevor Holder, rhp, Georgia (National Rank: 148)
 
After a strong showing in the Cape Cod League last summer, when he went 4-1, 0.81, Holder was a hot commodity for scouts coming into the season. He allowed only one hit and struck out 10 in eight innings of work in the Cape championship game, earning league playoff MVP honors. A part-time starter for Georgia in 2007, Holder moved into the weekend rotation in 2008 as the Friday night starter. But he has not been overpowering this spring, offering a fairly straight fastball between 89-91 mph and below-average secondary stuff. With less than a strikeout per inning, Holder has not missed many bats and has relied on command and savvy to be successful. He has the ability to pitch to the corners and consistently pounds the zone. Holder has a projectable 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame, but his feel for pitching and track record are what separate him from teammate Stephen Dodson, who has similar stuff, and will make him more attractive on draft day.
 
15. David Duncan, lhp, Georgia Tech (National Rank: 151)
 
A highly touted recruit in 2005, Duncan was the top prep prospect in Ohio in his senior season and was drafted in the 14th round by the Twins, but he turned down pro ball to go to Georgia Tech. After starting 30 games in his first two college seasons, Duncan was eligible again as a sophomore and was selected by the Nationals in the 23rd round last year. He again elected not to sign and returned to Georgia Tech as its Friday night starter this season. Lefthanded and 6-feet-8, Duncan is an imposing figure on the mound, throws four pitches for strikes and still has projection as a starter. He complements his 88-92 mph fastball with a curveball, changeup and split-finger. The split is Duncan's out pitch and with its late sinking action, has the potential to be a plus pitch in the pros. While he does have decent strikeout numbers, Duncan is more of a groundball pitcher who thrives on the plane created from his height and his ability to pitch down in the zone.
 
16. Taylor Hightower, c, Cartersville HS (National Rank: 165)
 
With catching always at a premium, Hightower's fundamentally sound catch and release skills have made him a premium prospect since his sophomore year in high school. He was the No. 46 prep prospect in the nation coming into the season but hasn't stepped forward because of questions about his bat. Behind the plate he has good hands and feet, and the actions to be an average receiver. While he has a fringe-average arm, Hightower's catch and release mechanics are quick and he consistently posts pop times under two seconds. While he has shown the ability to make contact at the plate, his approach needs refinement. He has gap-to-gap power and will pull an occasional home run but has only fringe-average power potential. At 6-feet-1, 195 pounds, Hightower's body is developed and lacks projection. If he slips in the draft, signing Hightower could be an issue because he has the skills to be the starting catcher for Ole Miss next season as a freshman.

Depth Beyond The Big Names

Aside from the University of Georgia's two potential first-rounders, it has a host of other prospects who should be drafted. Righthander Stephen Dodson had a breakout sophomore season in 2007 and has been the Bulldogs' Saturday starter this season. He's a projectable 6-foot-5, 210 pounds and typically pitches between 90-92 mph. A control pitcher, Dodson typically finds success by locating his upper-80s sinker down in the zone, inducing groundballs. His secondary pitches are fringe-average at best, as he throws a slider and changeup, rarely missing bats. When he elevates his pitches, Dodson is hittable, especially by lefthanded hitters.

At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds and lefthanded, Nathan Moreau passes the eye test. Like Dodson, Moreau has a decent fastball and below-average secondary stuff. His fastball is up to 91 mph with natural tail, along with a curveball and changeup. He slings the ball from slightly below a three-quarters angle. He has deception in his delivery and projection to his body. With improved command and polish on his secondary pitches, Moreau would be an impact prospect.

Playing next to Beckham in the infield, Ryan Peisel is a solid college third baseman with an all-around game. However, none of his tools stands out and he doesn't fit a positional profile. He can hit but shows below-average power and average speed at best. He is a solid defender now but likely won't stick at the hot corner, making him an offensive second baseman at the next level. Peisel will get a shot this year as a senior sign.

Georgia Tech may not have a first-round talent the likes of Matt Wieters this year, but the Yellow Jackets do have talent. Beyond their Top 200 prospects, closer Chris Hicks has shown plus arm strength this season, throwing 92-95 mph out of the bullpen. Hicks' fastball is heavy but at times can be too true, and poor command made him hittable and led to a 7.11 ERA. Hicks also throws a curveball, split-finger and knuckle-curve. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, he's projectable if he can harness his command.

Righthander Eddie Burns was drafted by the Braves in the 16th round last year as a redshirt sophomore, but returned to Georgia Tech and went 7-6, 6.84 this spring. Burns is 6-foot-8, 220 pounds and is athletic on the mound. His fastball is in the low 90s and slider in the low 80s, and his best pitch is a changeup. He has command of all three pitches and pitched well in the Cape Cod League last summer. Senior righthander Brad Rulon led the Yellow Jackets staff in appearances this year and throws a fastball in the upper 80s and a plus curveball that he uses to put hitters away.

Luke Murton is the brother of major leaguer Matt and shows more raw power than his older brother. He can hit the ball a long way to all fields but has gone through stretches when he struggled to make contact. He batted .239 as a sophomore but boosted that to .333 with 12 home runs this season. Murton is a below-average runner and plays best at first base, though he could slide into left field.

Chris Shehan was the best hitter in the Southern Conference this season, batting .428 with 22 home runs for Georgia Southern. Shehan is strong and has plus bat speed with a chance to hit for power at the pro level. He is athletic with average speed and will likely play in the outfield. Shehan's teammate Blake Nation led Georgia Southern with seven saves and throws 88-90 mph out of the bullpen. Nation is 6-foot-8, 260 pounds and could throw harder in the future.

One of the more intriguing prospects in this class is from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Lefthander Richard Sullivan is 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, and throws in the low 90s from an unorthodox delivery. He also has a plus curveball with depth and a changeup in need of polish. Pitching for an NAIA school, Sullivan hasn't gotten as much exposure as the typical Georgia prospect.

The massive East Cobb Baseball program in suburban Atlanta continues to help the state pump out prospects, and its alumni this year includes Mark Pope, whose fastball sits around 90 mph with sink. He also throws a curveball and has command of both pitches. Pope is committed to Georgia Tech.

Grayson Garvin is a projectable lefthander whose fastball has been seen in the 90s, but his velocity has been inconsistent as he also been gunned in the mid-80s. At 6-foot-5, 180 pounds, Garvin has room to grow and could be throwing in the low 90s in a few years as he has a clean arm action. He throws a curveball with plus projection but leans on it too much. He also offers a changeup and has command of all three pitches. Garvin is committed to Vanderbilt.

Nolan Belcher is an undersized lefty with a fastball in the upper 80s and a downer curveball. Belcher also mixes in a changeup and plus pitchability and makeup. He's committed to South Carolina and is expected to end up in Columbia.

Outfielders Brennan May and Michael Swinson lead the next tier of high school hitters. May is an athlete with raw tools. He has quick hands and raw power. In the outfield, he isn't a burner but could be a plus defender in the corner. May needs at-bats to polish his approach, as he tends to swing and miss too often. Swinson is another excellent athlete, and like May he's raw and has a ways to go at the plate. He swings lefthanded and is a plus runner.

In the junior college ranks, Young Harris JC steals the show in Georgia. At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Stephen McCray is a physical righthander with athleticism and projection who is committed to Tennessee.He pitches in the low 90s.

Grimes Medlin is almost a mirror image of McCray, at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds  from the left side. Medlin pitches in the upper 80s but can touch the low 90s. He also throws a plus curveball and average changeup. Righthander Eric Swegman is projectable and has been seen in the low 90s, but command problems prevented him from getting on the mound much and hurt his draft stock.