State Reports: Louisiana




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
The Bayou State offers two of the best college starting pitchers available in the entire draft—Tulane righthander Shooter Hunt and Southeastern Louisiana lefty Wade Miley—but little after that. Louisiana Tech fireballer Luke Burnett, a potential first-rounder, bombed this spring. Though Louisiana State made a surprise run to the NCAA super regionals, most of the Tigers' best players are freshman and sophomores and they lack an early-rounds prospect for 2008. Scouts found few high school players to get excited about, though a couple of teams were bearing down hard on athletic outfielder Mike Mahtook as the draft approached.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Shooter Hunt, rhp, Tulane (National Rank: 11)
2. Wade Miley, lhp, Southeastern Louisiana (National Rank: 39)
3. Johnny Giovatella, 2b, New Orleans (National Rank: 127)
4. Luke Burnett, rhp, Louisiana Tech (National Rank: 166)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

5. Mikie Mahtook, of, St. Thomas More Catholic HS, Lafayette
6. Ryan Verdugo, lhp, Louisiana State
7. Blake Martin, lhp, Louisiana State
8. Aja Barto, of, Tulane
9. Louis Coleman, lhp, Louisiana State
10. Danny Farquhar, rhp, Louisiana-Lafayette
11. Anthony Scelfo, of/2b, Tulane
12. Matt Clark, 1b, Louisiana State
13. Delta Cleary, of, LSU-Eunice JC
14. Jericho Jones, rhp/of, Louisiana Tech
15. Chad Poe, rhp, Bossier Parrish CC
16. Tyler Yockey, of, Acadiana HS, Lafayette
17. T.J. Forrest, rhp, Bossier Parrish CC
18. Jamie Bruno, 1b, Mandeville HS
19. Jared Bradford, rhp, Louisiana State
20. Jeff Lanning, c, New Orleans
21. Seth Granger, of, Iowa HS
22. Joey Butler, of, New Orleans
23. Ben Soignier, ss/rhp, Louisiana-Monroe
24. Jordan Brown, rhp, Louisiana State
25. Rodarrick Jones, of, St. John HS, Plaquemine
26. Austin Nola, ss, Catholic HS, Baton Rouge
27. Ryan Lewis, 1b, Catholic HS, Baton Rouge
28. Ryan Doiron, rhp, Barbe HS, Lake Charles
29. Kyle Suire, 2b, Louisiana-Monroe
30. Seth Henry, ss, Tulane
31. Hunter Moody, lhp, Louisiana-Lafayette
32. Bryan Cryer, rhp, New Orleans
33. Calvin Anderson, 1b, Southern
34. Aaron Lorio, rhp, Louisiana Tech
35. Shane Riedie, rhp, Slidell HS
36. Kyle Benoit, of, Crowley HS
37. Ross Hardy, rhp, Mandeville HS
38. Brett Varnardo, lhp, Southeastern Louisiana
39. Josh Vander Hey, c, New Orleans
40. Jimmy Heard, rhp, Northwestern State

SCOUTING REPORTS

1. Shooter Hunt, rhp, Tulane (National Rank: 11)

Hunt has been impossible to hit all spring for Tulane in leading the Green Wave back to regionals, limiting opponents to a .144 average while averaging 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings through 12 starts. Batters just can't put the barrel on his lively fastball, which sits at 91-92 mph and tops out at 94, or his hard breaking ball, which features curveball break and slider velocity. A full-time catcher until his junior year in high school, Hunt still is learning the nuances of pitching. He nibbles at the corners and often pitches away from contact rather than attacking hitters. As a result, he had allowed more walks (42) than hits (38) this spring. A sturdy 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, Hunt should be more than capable of handling the demands of starting in pro ball. His biggest adjustment will be learning to trust his stuff so he can keep his pitch counts down. He flashes a plus changeup in the bullpen, though he doesn't use it much in games. He led the Cape Cod League in strikeouts after his freshman season, which he spent at Virginia. Hunt could go as high as No. 7 to the Reds, but more likely fits in the middle of the first round.

2. Wade Miley, lhp, Southeastern Louisiana (National Rank: 39)

Miley was part of a banner 2005 class of Louisiana prep lefties that also included Beau Jones and Sean West, who went in the sandwich round of that draft, and Jeremy Bleich, who headed to Stanford. Miley may turn out to be the best of the group, as he owns three pitches that grade as plus when at their best. His top offering is an 80-84 mph slider that he can bury down and in against righthanders. He sits at 89-92 mph with his fastball and can reach 94-95 mph, though his heater flattens out at high-end velocity. His changeup is his third pitch, and his 75-77 mph curveball shows some potential. Miley has a sound delivery and a strong 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame. His command is no better than average, which is why he hasn't dominated mid-major Southland Conference competition and why some clubs project him as a reliever. But talented and proven college lefthanders are in short supply in this draft, so Miley could sneak into the first round with a club that has seen him at his best.

3. Johnny Giovatella, 2b, New Orleans (National Rank: 127)

At 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds, Giovatella is the smallest player on our Top 200 Prospects list, but his bat isn't short. He has hit .348 or better with more walks than strikeouts in each of his three seasons at New Orleans, including an outstanding 48-18 BB-K ratio in the regular season this year. Using a short, compact swing, he waits patiently for pitches he can drive to either of the gaps. He also hit a respectable .255 with wood bats in the Cape Cod League last summer. As an offensive second baseman, he draws comparisons to the likes of Dustin Pedroia (without the same defense), Dan Uggla (without the same power) and Mike Fontenot (with more strength). Giovatella is a solid-average runner who can steal a few bases. He also has arm strength, though he's just an adequate defender at second base. He receives praise for his passion and toughness.

4. Luke Burnett, rhp, Louisiana Tech (National Rank: 166)

Burnett looked like a potential first-round pick as a reliever last summer in the Cape Cod League, when he intimidated hitters with his 6-foot-8, 260-pound frame and a fastball that sat at 96 mph. Now he has to hope that teams place a lot of faith in what he showed on the Cape, because he had a horrible 2008 season that torpedoed his draft status. Used mostly as a starter—a role in which he thrived as a sophomore—Burnett failed to win a game and didn't pitch after April 25, when he walked four batters and couldn't get out of the first inning against Hawaii. His arm speed was noticeably slower this spring, though an MRI didn't reveal any injury. He pitched mostly at 86-91 mph with a straight four-seam fastball. He bounced his splitter in the dirt and had trouble staying on top of his slider. When it's on, his splitter can be devastating. Burnett draws comparisons to Kyle Farnsworth, and he's best suited to come in and air out his fastball for an inning at a time. His delivery is stiff and hampers his command, and he doesn't have a lot of feel for pitching. The team that selects Burnett likely will follow him in summer ball to see if he can get back on track before trying to sign him.

Mahtook's Athleticism Gives Him Helium

Mikie Mahtook was more renowned as a quarterback with electric speed before this spring, but his exploits as an outfielder may earn him a six-figure bonus. Mahtook, who received football interest from mid-major programs, made the decision to focus solely on baseball, easing questions about his signability. Many clubs didn't get a long look at him until he faced perennial state power Barbe High, and he didn't play well, cooling interest. But a handful of teams view him as an outstanding athlete who's more advanced than most two-sport stars. They see a 6-foot-1, 200-pounder with plus-plus speed to go with above-average power and arm strength, and they don't think he'll take long to adjust to pro pitching. The Blue Jays, Marlins, Mets and Tigers all scheduled workouts with Mahtook shortly before the draft.

Though Louisiana State was college baseball's hottest team down the stretch, carrying a 23-game winning streak into the NCAA super regionals, the Tigers probably won't have a player drafted in the first five rounds. Their best prospect is lefthander Jason Verdugo, who was drafted out of high school in 2005 (43rd round, Phillies) and again last year out of Skagit Valley (Wash.) CC (47th round, Giants), with Tommy John surgery in between. Verdugo's stuff is solid but not spectacular, as he changes speeds off a fastball that ranges from 85-91 mph and mixes it with a curveball and changeup. His control and command are nothing special, either, but he competes and emerged as LSU's top starter in the postseason.

Lefthander Blake Martin has similar stuff to Verdugo, though he threw harder in the past at Birmingham-Southern. When the Panthers dropped down from NCAA Division I to Division III following the 2006 season, he transferred to LSU, where he sat out 2007 following hip surgery. He now pitches at 87-91 mph after touching the mid-90s in the past, and his second option is an 11-to-5 curveball. He too can improve his control and command, and Verdugo likely will be drafted first because teams consider Martin's medical history a bigger negative.

Outfielder Aja Barto looks the part of a big leaguer, but he hasn't turned his tools into enough production. A 6-foot-5, 225-pound athlete with solid-average speed, he looks like he should do plenty of damage at the plate. But he hit just .276 with three homers this spring, and the .276 was a new career high. He has a long swing and doesn't make consistent contact, and Tulane started him in just one of three NCAA regional games. If a club can get him to make adjustments, he could be a steal between the sixth and 10th rounds.

Righthander Louis Coleman went from starting on Friday nights for LSU as a freshman to struggling out of the bullpen as a sophomore. Tigers coaches had him pitch from a sidearm slot by the end of the 2007 season, but it didn't help. Coleman raised his arm angle back up to three-quarters this spring and has been a dynamic long reliever, pitching from 89-93 mph with run and sink on his fastball. His slider also is improved, and he never had much trouble throwing strikes.

Righthander Danny Farquhar averaged 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings for Louisiana-Lafayette as a sophomore and maintained that whiff rate in the Cape Cod League over the summer. He wasn't nearly as dominant this spring (9.8 K/9), and his velocity was down as well. Farquhar pitched in the low 90s in 2007, but this spring he'd only flash that velocity for an inning or two. He likes to varies his arm slots from high three-quarters to sidearm, and his slider was flatter than it had been when he threw from the lower angle. He's just 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, and there's effort in his delivery, so pro teams project him as a reliever.

Anthony Scelfo started nine games at quarterback for Tulane's football team last fall before playing six different positions for the baseball team this spring. His uncle Chris was the Green Wave's head football coach and his father Frank was the offensive coordinator when Anthony arrived on campus. At 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, he has a more realistic professional future in baseball, and he has shown his dedication to baseball by playing in the Clark Griffith League the last two summers. Scelfo has a strong arm, average to plus speed and solid power. He led Tulane with 12 homers and showed unusual plate discipline for a player who hasn't committed full-time to baseball by drawing 53 walks. He projects most easily as a right fielder but may be able to handle an infield assignment.

First baseman Matt Clark entered super-regional play ranked second in NCAA Division I with 25 homers, but scouts aren't completely sold on him. The son of former big league pitcher Terry Clark (now a pitching coach in the Rangers system), Matt began his college career at UC Santa Barbara before transferring to Riverside CC. He led California juco hitters with 15 homers last spring and was the playoff MVP after carrying Riverside to the championship. He might have gone in the first five rounds of the 2007 draft had he not been committed to Louisiana State, but he fell to the Pirates in the 28th round. Despite his 25 homers, scouts question his ability to hit good fastballs and say he feasts on mistakes. They also wonder where he'll play on the diamond. He's a slow 6-foot-5, 235-pounder who didn't look good at third base with Riverside and is no more than adequate at first base. A team that buys into his lefthanded power could take Clark in the first 7-10 rounds.

Outfielder Delta Cleary was the best athlete in Arkansas when he came out of high school in 2007, starring as a quarterback for Jonesboro High's football team and an explosive dunker on the Hurricane's 6-A state championship basketball team in addition to his baseball exploits. Cleary was so raw, however, that no team bothered to draft him. A cousin of Miami Heat star Shawn Marion, he helped Louisiana State-Eunice win its second Division II Junior College World Series in the last three years. A 6-foot-3, 175-pound switch-hitter, he has plus speed that he puts to good use on the bases and in center field. His bat and his power are still developing. Some scouts wonder how much he'll hit with wood bats, while others praise him for improving his stroke this spring.