State Report: Minnesota
|THIS YEAR'S CROP
||One for the books
||Solid, not spectacular
||Not up to par
||Nothing to see here
Independent leaguer Tanner Scheppers, imported from California after he didn't sign out of Fresno State last year, should become the state's first first-rounder since Glen Perkins in 2004. Add to him Minnesota second baseman Derek McCallum, and the Land of 10,000 Lakes should have two players chosen in the first five rounds for the first time since Joe Mauer and Jack Hannahan eight years ago. McCallum's teammate, outfielder/wide receiver Eric Decker, is one of the best pure athletes in the draft but didn't have a good spring.
|NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS
1. Tanner Scheppers, rhp, St. Paul Saints (National Rank: 9)
2. Derek McCallum, 2b, Minnesota (National Rank: 136)
3. Eric Decker, of, Minnesota
4. Cullen Sexton, rhp, Minnesota
5. Nick Dolsky, rhp, Eastview HS, Apple Valley
6. Scott Matyas, rhp, Minnesota
7. Chris Odegaard, rhp, Minnesota-Mankato
8. Andy Johnson, rhp, Wayzata HS, Plymouth
9. Matt Nohelty, of, Minnesota
10. T.J. Oakes, rhp, Jordan HS
11. Ryan Abrahamson, ss, Tartan HS, Oakdale
12. Kyle Knudson, c, Minnesota
TANNER SCHEPPERS, RHP, ST. PAUL SAINTS
Before Scheppers hurt his shoulder last April, he was on course to go in the first 10 picks of the 2008 draft. But the injury, initially reported as a stress fracture and later described as significant wear and tear, dropped him to 48th overall to the Pirates and caused him to miss Fresno State's improbable run to a College World Series championship. Scheppers opted for rehab over surgery and worked out for Pittsburgh, but his stuff hadn't bounced back enough for the club to meet his seven-figure asking price. He signed with the independent Saints last September and began to excite scouts again in preseason workouts at Golden West (Calif.) JC, displaying the mid-90s fastball and hard curveball he had before he got hurt. In his first two exhibition outings and three regular-season outings with St. Paul, Scheppers showed the same fastball and curve, though he battled his control. An athletic 6-foot-4, 200-pounder who initially signed with Fresno State as an infielder, Scheppers has good mechanics but sometimes rushes his delivery. "He's got the best arm action, delivery and stuff in this draft behind Strasburg, and it's a cleaner arm than Strasburg," one scouting director said. Scheppers is learning to harness his curveball and to throw an effective changeup. Though Dr. Lewis Yocum has given him a clean bill of health, teams considering Scheppers near the top of the draft still have some trepidation. He's a top-10 candidate once again, though he could slide if clubs worry about his shoulder and his asking price.
DEREK McCALLUM, 2B, MINNESOTA
McCallum had the best offensive season of any Minnesota player since future big leaguer Robb Quinlan in 1998, batting .409/.484/.741 with 18 homers and a school-record 86 RBIs. He foreshadowed his breakout with a strong summer in the Northwoods League, which he led with 81 hits while batting .328 with wood bats. McCallum handles the bat and controls the strike zone well, and he consistently generates hard line drives with a short lefthanded stroke. He had reached base in each of his final 46 games. His power blossomed this spring, and he drilled six homers in one five-game stretch after hitting five in his first two seasons. The 6-foot, 190-pound McCallum played hockey in high school and brings that kind of mentality to the diamond. He played second base as a freshman and shortstop as a sophomore, and he looked more comfortable after moving back to second this spring. Though he's a below-average runner, he has a quick first step, range to both sides and a good arm for the position. He shows keen instincts in all aspects of the game. A club that sees McCallum as a poor man's Chase Utley could take him in the fourth round.
Decker Teases With Athleticism
Outfielder Eric Decker
packs plenty of strength in his sculpted 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame, and he can get from the left side of the plate to first base in 4.1 seconds. Yet where exactly he'll fall in the draft remains murky. He repeatedly has said he'll return for his senior season of football, and dividing his time between two sports has left him in need of polish on the diamond. Decker was an all-Big 10 Conference wide receiver last fall, when he set a school record with 84 receptions, breaking his own mark of 67 set in 2007. While he decided not to enter the 2009 NFL draft, he'll be a team captain as a senior when the Gophers open 50,000-seat TCF Bank Stadium, and he's not willing to become a full-time baseball player yet. He could sign a pro baseball deal this summer, then play one more season of college football before making a decision on his future. Decker withstood a lot of punishment last fall, sustaining a concussion, a sprained shoulder, a sprained ankle that caused him to miss a game, and a knee injury that required minor arthroscopic surgery. He looked banged up early in the spring but finished strong. If he pursues a career in baseball, Decker will have to incorporate his legs more into his swing and improve his instincts on the bases. He's a good center fielder with a playable arm. The Brewers drafted him in the 39th round a year ago.
The state's best amateur pitching prospects are both draft-eligible sophomore righty relievers at Minnesota, Cullen Sexton
and Scott Matyas
. Scouts give Sexton the edge because he throws harder, sitting at 90-93 mph and touching 95, and has more projection remaining in his 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame. His arm action isn't pretty, costing him command, and he lacks a reliable secondary pitch, which is why he had a 5.16 ERA as a set-up man. His velocity could sneak him into the first 10 rounds, however.
Matyas had a better season than Sexton, saving a school-record 15 games while posting a 2.22 ERA and a 45-7 K-BB ratio in 28 innings. His curveball is much better than Sexton's, while his fastball parks at 88-91. An athletic 6-foot-4, 215-pounder, he lettered in four sports (baseball, basketball, football, track) in high school. He had Tommy John surgery in 2005.
Minnesota's top high school prospect, righthander Nick Dolsky
, missed most of the spring with an inflamed growth plate in his right collarbone. He has a ton of projection in his 6-foot-7, 205-pound frame and is capable of pitching in the low 90s, but he struggled out of the gate with his command and secondary pitches. He has a straight-over-the-top delivery that will have to be tweaked, and needs to add power and bite to his slow curveball. It's unlikely he'll get chosen high enough to turn down an Arizona scholarship.