State Report: Georgia
Peach State has incredible haul of high school talent
See also: Baseball America's Complete 2010 Draft Map
|THIS YEAR'S CROP
||One for the books
||Solid, not spectacular
||Not up to par
||Nothing to see here
Scouts and college coaches in Georgia were disappointed with the state's junior-college crop this year. They also were shocked by the University of Georgia's 5-23 record in the Southeastern Conference.
Nothing else in Georgia disappointed this spring, though. The high school talent in particularly is historically good. It might turn out to be the best year for the state in draft history, which is saying something for a state that has produced seven first-rounders the last two years—eight if you count Leesburg product Buster Posey, who signed out of Florida State. The last year with comparable talent is 2002, which saw a pair of first-rounders (Jeremy Hermida, Jeff Francoeur), three second-rounders (Jonathan Broxton, Brian McCann and unsigned Micah Owings) and other big leaguers such as seventh-rounder Matt Capps and unsigned juco product Nick Markakis. Multiple scouts said Georgia's high school class was the best in memory and could produce up to 20 players in the first 10 rounds of the draft, depending on signability.
On the college front, while the talent couldn't help them avoid a disastrous 16-37 overall record and 8.51 team ERA, Georgia will send several power arms into pro ball, with junior righthander Justin Grimm a decent bet to go out in the first two rounds. Georgia Tech, a top 10 team much of the season in Baseball America's rankings, could have as many as 10 players drafted.
The state had so many candidates to go in the first five rounds that the list continued to grow as Baseball America's Top 200 list went to press, and clubs sent scouts from other areas into Georgia to help crosscheck all the players.
|NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS
1. Deck McGuire, rhp, Georgia Tech (National Rank: 7)
2. Kaleb Cowart, rhp/3b, Cook HS, Adel, Ga. (National Rank: 12)
3. Delino DeShields Jr., of, Woodward Academy, College Park, Ga. (National Rank: 55)
4. Cam Bedrosian, rhp, East Coweta HS, Sharpsburg (National Rank: 56)
5. Aaron Shipman, of, Brooks County HS, Quitman, Ga. (National Rank: 67)
6. Derek Dietrich, ss, Georgia Tech (National Rank: 69)
7. DeAndre Smelter, rhp, Tattnall Square Academy, Macon (National Rank: 72)
8. Chevez Clarke, of, Marietta HS (National Rank: 97)
9. Justin Grimm, rhp, Georgia (National Rank: 109)
10. Christopher Hawkins, 3b, North Gwinnett HS, Suwannee (National Rank: 136)
11. Niko Goodrum, ss/of, Fayette County HS, Fayetteville (National Rank: 155)
12. Zach Alvord, ss, South Forsyth HS, Cumming, Ga. (National Rank: 165)
13. Jake Skole, of, Blessed Trinity HS, Roswell
14. Jordan Akins, of, Union Grove HS, McDonough
15. Kevin Jacob, rhp, Georgia Tech
16. Matthew Grimes, rhp, Mill Creek HS, Hoschton
17. Kevin Jordan, of, Northside HS, Columbus
18. Steve Wilkerson, ss, Pope HS, Marietta
19. Andrew Smith, rhp, Roswell HS
20. Kent Emanuel, lhp, Woodstock HS
21. David Buchanan, rhp, Georgia State
22. Cole Leonida, c, Georgia Tech
23. Brandon Cumpton, rhp, Georgia Tech
24. Tyler Austin, c/of, Heritage HS, Conyers
25. Dale Carey, of, Wheeler HS
26. Jeff Walters, rhp, Georgia
27. Chase Burnette, of, Georgia Tech
28. Trey Griffin, of, Martin Luther King HS, Stockbridge
29. Nathan Fawbush, rhp, Georgia Perimeter JC
30. Tony Plagman, 1b, Georgia Tech
30. Connor Mason, rhp, Suwanee (home schooled)
31. Andrew Robinson, rhp, Georgia Tech
32. Thomas Nichols, of/if, Georgia Tech
33. Alan Busenitz, rhp, Georgia Perimeter JC
34. Reggie Williams Jr., of, Middle Georgia JC
35. Ralston Cash, rhp, Lakeview Academy, Cornelia
36. Chase Butler, 3b/rhp, Darlington HS, Rome
37. Jonathan Hester, ss/3b, Middle Georgia JC
38. Mott Hyde, ss, Calhoun HS, Resaca
39. Zane Evans, rhp/c, Roswell HS
40. LeAndre Davis, rhp/ss, Georgia Perimeter JC
41. Dexter Bobo, lhp, Georgia Southern
42. Ryan Rodebaugh, rhp, Kennesaw State
43. Michael Palazzone, rhp, Georgia
44. Jarius Rhodes, rhp, Georgia Perimeter JC
45. Alex McRee, lhp, Georgia
46. Chris Triplett, ss, Sandy Creek HS, Fayetteville
47. Jeff Rowland, of, Georgia Tech
48. Aaron Warren, rhp, Sandy Creek HS, Tyrone
49. Javier Sujo, 2b/rhp, Middle Georgia JC
50. Bryan Benzor, rhp, Georgia Perimeter JC
51. Bryan Blough, rhp, Kennesaw State
52. Caleb Bryson, 3b, Thomas County Central HS, Thomasville
53. Jason Nicholas, lhp, Georgia College & State
54. Shawn Payne, 2b, Georgia Southern
55. Patrick Smith, of, Redan HS, Stone Mountain
56. Brandon Stephens, rhp/c, Lassiter HS, Marietta
57. Brendon Malkowski, rhp, Georgia College & State
58. DeMondre Arnold, rhp, Creekside HS, Fairburn
59. Matthew Murray, rhp, Georgia Southern
60. Stephen Shackleford, rhp, Savannah College of Art & Design
Deck McGuire, rhp
McGuire is a Virginia product who was a mid-week starter as a freshman at Georgia Tech before settling in as the Yellow Jackets' Friday starter the last two seasons. He had more success for the first three-quarters of 2009 than he had at the end of last season, when he was hammered in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and in regional play—he gave up nine runs to Southern Miss in the regional final working on two days' rest. McGuire's stuff hasn't been quite as crisp since then, and scouts have lowered their expectations for the 6-foot-6, 218-pounder, but most still see him as a No. 3 or No. 4 starter in the majors. McGuire commands a 90-92 mph fastball that hits 94, and he throws with a good downhill angle to the plate, making it tough to elevate. His fastball has a bit less life than it used to. McGuire also throws strikes with his curveball and harder slurve, and his changeup is average to fringe-average. He's an excellent competitor who doesn't fold up with runners on base. He's a proven college winner with a good track record of performance and durability; similar prospects rarely last through the first half of the first round.
Kaleb Cowart, rhp/3b
Cook HS, Adel, Ga.
Cowart was in the running to be the High School Player of the Year as a dominant two-way player, evoking comparisons to past Georgia preps Buster Posey and Ethan Martin. Those two examples set up two different paths for Cowart, who like Posey is a Florida State signee. Posey was more of a third-round talent out of high school and a different type of pitcher than Cowart, who on the mound is all about power. He has arm strength and good sinking life on his plus fastball, which sits in the 91-93 mph range at its best. He also has a hard slider and scouts don't seem to mind his split-finger fastball, either. Scouts prefer Cowart as a pitching prospect with a 6-foot-3, 190-pound pitcher's body. Like Posey, Cowart prefers to hit; he's a switch-hitting third baseman, and while some scouts consider his defense fringy at the hot corner, he has strength in his swing and some raw power. Scouts hope Cowart is more like Martin, a prep third baseman-turned-pitcher who signed with the Dodgers as a first-rounder after realizing he was a better prospect on the bump. But Cowart's signability was in doubt early, as he was asking for close to $3 million in order to spurn Florida State.
Delino DeShields Jr., of
Woodward Academy, College Park, Ga.
In 2005, the most recent year Baseball America conducted its Baseball for the Ages survey, DeShields ranked as the nation's top 12-year-old, beating out Bryce Harper and A.J. Cole, among others. He had just finished seventh grade. The son of the former big leaguer and 1987 first-round pick of the same name, DeShields has had an up-and-down high school career that included a modest showing at the East Coast Pro Showcase last summer. His loud tools have helped him leap past his peers and jumped him, for some scouts, to the top of a deep crop of Georgia prep talent. His best tool is his explosive speed, which has jumped up a grade to earn 80s on the 20-80 scale. Like many big league progeny, DeShields doesn't play with a ton of energy, and he got off to a slow start, which scared off some clubs. When the weather heated up, DeShields' bat did likewise. He showcased electric bat speed and present strength, leading to projections of average power in his future. His swing needs some fine-tuning and his defense in center field is raw. He has enough arm for center, though it's below-average. Some scouts also had makeup concerns after DeShields changed his mind about his college choice, eventually settling on Louisiana State.
Cam Bedrosian, rhp
East Coweta HS, Sharpsburg, Ga.
Georgia has plenty of strong bloodlines this spring, with two sons of big leaguers jostling to go in the first two rounds. Besides Delino DeShields Jr., there's Bedrosian, whose father Steve pitched for the Braves and won the 1987 National League Cy Young Award as the Phillies' closer. Cam Bedrosian, whose middle name is Rock (as his father's nickname was Bedrock), could one day wind up a closer, but he has a chance to be a starter as well, which is why he's a potential first-rounder and a key Louisiana State signee. The only drawbacks with Bedrosian are his size (he's a 6-foot righty but strong at 200 pounds) and the fact he has some effort in his delivery. Scouts have seen his fastball touch 96 mph, and Bedrosian sits in the 92-94 range all day. He repeats his delivery well enough to have fastball command at the amateur level, and with some smoothing out of his delivery he could have average pro command. He also throws a fringe-average curveball and changeup, as well as a power slider. He has the potential to have a plus fastball and three average secondary pitches if it all comes together.
Aaron Shipman, of
Brooks County HS, Quitman, Ga.
The "pop-up" player in Georgia this year shouldn't have been off the radar. Shipman comes from a baseball family, as his father Robert—a 10th-round pick in 1987 by the Tigers—is his high school coach and his brother Robert III is a freshman at Georgia. While his older brother is a slugging first baseman and baseclogger, Aaron Shipman is a fast-twitch athlete who compares favorably to anyone in Georgia's deep class of athletic center fielders. He just hasn't played in the East Cobb program as a south Georgia kid, but he was getting plenty of attention as the draft approached and could go in the second round. Shipman earns above-average grades from scouts in speed, throwing arm and future center field defense, though he could use some polish. His swing is perhaps just as exciting, as it's smooth and low-maintenance. Shipman also pitches and runs his fastball up to 91 mph, but he is a much better prospect in the field and doesn't figure to wind up at Mercer, his college commitment.
Derek Dietrich, ss
Dietrich is one of three unsigned 2007 Astros draft picks—Arkansas' Brett Eibner and Texas Tech's Chad Bettis are the others—who figure to go in the first two rounds this year. Dietrich was the highest pick, a third-rounder, and could still fall to that round despite having his best college season. He's a difficult player for scouts to judge because he doesn't fit an obvious pro profile. His lefthanded bat brings value, as do his strong arm and developing power, and he tied his career high with 14 homers this spring. He plays hard and has been a serviceable college shortstop defensively. Scouts believe he lacks the footwork or athletic ability in his 6-foot-1, 196-pound frame to stay at short, though, and wonder if his footwork can improve enough for him to play at second. Most doubt that and believe third base is his best fit with the glove, and he may not produce enough power to profile as a regular there. He also could prove to be a versatile big leaguer in the mold of Geoff Blum or Scott Spiezio, who both had the advantage of switch-hitting.
DeAndre Smelter, rhp
Tattnall Square Academy, Macon, Ga.
Scouts who focus on what Smelter does have plenty to talk about. He's an exceptional athlete who turned down Division I offers in football (he was a wide receiver and defensive back) to sign with Georgia Tech to play baseball. He's a plus runner as well as a position player, but his arm strength sets him apart. Smelter has reached 95 mph with his fastball and has been up to 87 mph with a slider, which he doesn't throw often. His pitching coach is former big leaguer Kevin Brown, himself a Georgia Tech alumnus. Brown also has Smelter throwing a split-finger fastball with good action. Despite all those pluses, scouts see negatives on Smelter that have driven him down some boards. He's got big stuff, but he has below-average control and didn't throw a lot of quality strikes this spring. His delivery and arm action resemble those of Brown, complete with the hip turn and wrap in the back of his arm action. Even with his fast-twitch athleticism, it's a difficult delivery to repeat. Smelter's a wild card because of his Tech commitment, his erratic spring and the fact that his bonus can be spread over five years due to his two-sport ability.
Chevez Clarke, of
Marietta (Ga.) HS
Clarke was one of the highest-profile high school players entering the season, after playing last summer in both the Aflac and Under Armour all-star games. He has shown outstanding tools, from above-average speed (running the 60 consistently in 6.5 seconds) to hitting ability from both sides of the plate. He started switch-hitting at age 13 and has a smooth stroke as both a righthanded and lefthanded hitter, flashing average raw power. He has present strength and explosiveness, generating good bat speed, and has earned comparisons offensively to Jimmy Rollins. While he has played the infield in the past, the Rollins comparison falls short because Clarke is primarily a center fielder. He has a strong arm, which some scouts grade as plus, and has touched 90 mph off the mound. He even has bloodlines. His father played at Southern and he's related to the Hairston family—great uncle Sam and distant cousins Scott and Jerry all played in the big leagues. So why doesn't Clarke fit into the first round? Despite his tools, he hasn't dominated high school competition, and scouts question his instincts. He lacks pitch recognition skills and swings and misses too much for someone with his swing and ability. Clarke has committed to Georgia Tech and could be a tough sign if he's drafted lower than he was expecting.
Justin Grimm, rhp
Grimm has many of the ingredients scouts look for in a college pitcher. He has a pitcher's body at 6-foot-4, 193 pounds; he's quick-armed and athletic; he has big-conference experience and was Georgia's Friday starter this season; and he touches 95 mph regularly with his fastball. The bad news: Grimm had a career 5.80 ERA over nearly 180 innings, and some scouts consider him much the same pitcher after three years at Georgia as he was in 2007, when he was a 13th-round pick of the Red Sox out of high school in Virginia. Grimm has above-average fastball velocity at 90-94 mph, but the pitch lacks life and command thanks to poor mechanics. He rushes through his delivery, leaving his pitches up in the strike zone. He's vulnerable to home runs because he finishes too upright and doesn't drive the ball downhill. Scouts do consider the flaws to be correctable. He has a sharp curveball that at times grades out as an above-average pitch, but he wasn't ahead of hitters enough to use it as a strikeout pitch this spring. Grimm's changeup remains his third-best pitch. He competed well this season despite Georgia's disappointing year, even pitching in midweek in relief to sew up a victory against Georgia State, then pitching a career-best eight innings in his final start, beating Kentucky. He's still expected to go in the first four rounds despite his career 6-12 record.
Christopher Hawkins, 3b
North Gwinnett HS, Suwanee, Ga.
Hawkins is a high school shortstop who is projected to play third base if he winds up at Tennessee. Most scouts don't necessarily see him staying in the dirt as a pro, but they do see tools that stand out even among Georgia's deep, talented class of high school athletes. Most project him as a center fielder thanks to his above-average speed. That has some scouts dreaming of Hawkins, a lefthanded hitter, as a poor man's Colby Rasmus, but he isn't as easy or fluid as Rasmus was at the same stage. Hawkns also has arm strength, and if his 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame proves too big for him to stay in center, he is athletic enough to handle a corner. Hawkins doesn't have Rasmus' all-around hitting ability, but he has a track record of success and has shown the ability to catch up to good fastballs this spring. He has performed well in front of crosscheckers all spring, leading North Gwinnett to a playoff berth while surpassing double digits in home runs. He carried a 29-game hitting streak into the state 5-A playoff semifinals, having set school records with 14 homers, 19 doubles and 58 hits. The strong finish was pushing Hawkins up draft boards, and he was considered a potential second- or third-round selection.
Niko Goodrum, ss/of
Fayette County HS, Fayetteville, Ga.
Goodrum is part of the deep class of Georgia prep players who are viewed as future outfielders, a list that includes Delino Deshields Jr., Chevez Clarke, Aaron Shipman and Chris Hawkins. Goodrum, like Hawkins, played shortstop in high school but probably will move out of the infield as a pro because he lacks the pure infield actions most scouts look for at short. He has excellent quickness and well-above-average arm strength and is a 60 runner on the 20-80 scale, though he should slow down as he bulks up. Goodrum was committed to Kennesaw State, and despite the Owls' recent track record of success, he is considered signable. Goodrum is a switch-hitter who got off to a slower start with the bat, thanks in part to him pressing on a modestly talented high school team. As the weather heated up, though, so did Goodrum's bat and he made more contact. He's long and lean at 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, and his swing has holes as a result of his long arms. He also has surprising raw power, as his swing has leverage and he has good hands. Scouts like Goodrum's makeup, and he's an easy player to dream on. He could wind up at third base, center field or even right and should go out in the first four rounds.
Zach Alvord, ss
South Forsyth HS, Cumming, Ga.
Alvord entered the year as one of Georgia's top prep hitters, and that hasn't changed. He's strong and solid at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, and he has good enough hands to stay in the infield. He also has above-average arm strength, having hit the low 90s as a prep closer, but his best tool is his bat. Alvord bars his lead arm, a no-no for many scouts, yet he still creates good bat speed and has present strength, giving him raw power. Some scouts compare him to former Auburn infielder Joe Saunders (a 2009 fifth-round pick now with the Rockies), a comparison made in part because Alvord is committed to Auburn. He may wind up there for two big reasons: He's a below-average runner, and he's got a big price tag. In Georgia this spring, scouts saw so much speed that Alvord's lack of speed stood out in a negative way. He's not going to play shortstop as a pro, may not have the range for second and doesn't have the classic size or profile for third. Alvord's price tag also might cause him to drop, as he has a strong commitment to college and prefers a comparison to Gordon Beckham, who was more athletic and more of a power hitter. If Alvord has a Saunders-like career, scouts will definitely be back. Despite his polished bat, he may wind up falling out of the first five rounds, where his talent fits.
Two-Sport Talents Litter Prep Ranks
Georgia's bountiful high school crop continues to produce names that are rising up follow lists as the draft approaches, and in addition to the players previously ranked in Baseball America's Top 200, two or three more Georgia talents could move into the first two rounds. The best talents are two players with Division I football scholarships who will probably get bought out of their commitments now. Lefthanded-hitting outfielder Jake Skole
, the younger brother of Georgia Tech sophomore third baseman Matt, has always been a premium talent, but his football commitment to Georgia Tech depressed his draft stock. Skole, 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, started the spring a bit slowly, due in part to an ankle injury, but the further he got from football, the looser he got and the better he played. Blessed with above-average athleticism, Skole has a good swing with strength, power and explosiveness. He made himself a likely top-two-rounds selection by making hard contact and getting two hits in a late May state playoff game against Kaleb Cowart, the state's top pitcher. He's far from a finished product on the diamond, which shows up most against breaking balls. He swung and missed several times against slow, offspeed stuff in the game following his matchup with Cowart. He's a fringe-average runner who profiles as a corner outfielder. His football scholarship also means teams can go over-slot to sign him and spread the bonus out over five years.
Some scouts compare Jordan Akins
, who is a Central Florida signee, to Top 200 talent Niko Goodrum, and in most cases Goodrum comes out on the short end. Like Goodrum, Akins is tall and lean but packs 210 pounds onto his wide receiver's frame. Despite his size, he runs the 60-yard dash in 6.4 seconds and has fast-twitch muscle to spare. Some consider him the state's best athlete, which is quite a statement considering the depth of athletes in the Peach State this year. He has a plus arm, though not quite as strong as Goodrum's, and has shown the natural bat speed and hitting ability to catch up to good fastballs. Breaking balls still give him fits, so his aptitude once he becomes a full-time baseball player will be crucial to whether he reaches his considerable ceiling. Akins is raw but has enough natural instincts to thrive despite being a part-time baseball player. He also could go out in the first two rounds, particularly to a team with extra picks. The only other question is football. Akins turned down Georgia for Central Florida's two-sport offer. He was an explosive offensive player in high school, playing quarterback and wide receiver while also returning kicks and scoring close to 20 touchdowns.
Another player with Top 200 talent who was on the rise, righthander Matthew Grimes
has a Georgia Tech baseball commitment and a projectable 6-foot-5 body. Some scouts question how much weight Grimes will add to his skinny frame, but with his long levers he generates intriguing fastball velocity. He sits at 89-91 mph but touches 93-94, with the ability to throw downhill, and has improved his breaking ball, which he throws with power and tilt in the upper 70s at his best. Grimes' detractors consider him a tough sign away from Tech and worry about the life on his fastball. He does have a clean arm and good mechanics after toning down a slight head jerk.
began the year as a potential Top 200 talent, but he came down with an illness that caused him to lose about 15 pounds and much of his strength. Scouts estimated that Jordan was playing at about 75 percent when he started playing again in late April, but they still came out in droves for a mid-May matchup with Delino DeShields Jr. and Woodward High. At his best last summer, the lefthanded-hitting speedster showed good barrel awareness and above-average raw tools offensively and defensively for center field. Jordan was expected to be a summer follow but also could wind up at Wake Forest, where he'd start from day one.
Another injured Georgian was righthander Connor Mason
, a member of the USA Baseball 18U team last summer. Mason, who is home schooled, didn't throw particularly well this spring, then wound up on the shelf with an elbow injury. At his best, Mason touched the low 90s with his fastball and sat in the upper 80s with a solid changeup and slow curveball that needs to be tightened up. His injury and Rice commitment make him a likely bet to end up in school.
With Mason sidelined, righthander Andrew Smith
got more attention. He's a North Carolina recruit who has shown good arm strength at 90-92 mph, touching 93. He has flashed a strong curveball with depth at times, but didn't wow scouts despite his good raw stuff. Scouts sounded more intrigued by another Tar Heels recruit, lefty Kent Emanuel
, who has less present stuff but more projection. He's a strike thrower who pitches off his fastball, and he gets good angle out of his 6-foot-5 frame. Emmanuel sits in the 84-88 mph range now and has scraped 91, and if he bumps up his velocity he'll chew up wood bats because he get excellent gloveside run on his heater. He's athletic and played for Woodstock High's basketball team, and he repeats his delivery well. Emanuel's commitment to North Carolina and loopy, slow curveball may push him down in the draft.
The one weakness in Georgia's prep class was the lack of legitimate middle infielders, as most of the top athletes look more like future outfielders. One who should be able to stay in the infield is Steve Wilkerson
, a switch-hitter with good size at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds with plus tools and athleticism. Wilkerson has the arm strength for shortstop if he can harness the accuracy on his throws, and he's an above-average runner, having run sub-6.6-second times in the 60-yard dash at the East Coast Pro showcase last summer. He has potential with the bat as well, though he's a bit raw at the plate. Some scouts see him more as a second baseman at the pro level. It may be difficult to pry him away from his Clemson committment, but the home-state Braves could be the team to do it.
A longtime fixture on the travel-ball circuit, Kennesaw State recruit Tyler Austin
was expected to be signable and could go out as high as the fourth round. He compares favorably to Miles Head, the Georgia prep slugger whom the Red Sox signed last year for $335,000. Austin's a similar hitter and is more athletic, with more defensive ability than Head. Austin is rough defensively behind the plate, negating his arm strength, and might be better served by a move to third base or perhaps a corner outfield spot. He has excellent raw pull power and runs well enough for a move to the outfield, though he figures to slow down as he matures and fills out.
Outfielder Dale Carey
has an impressive body and looks the part at a trim, wiry 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, but there's split opinion on his value. While his speed rates at least above-average and he shows center-field ability, most scouts seemed to think his bat was too light to buy out of his Miami commitment. Another outfielder caught in the state's glut of talent was Trey Griffin
. Griffin's older brother Xavier Avery was the Orioles' second-round pick in 2008, but Avery is more athletic and bats lefthanded, while Griffin is a righthanded hitter. Griffin has exhibited some of his brother's tools but lacks his speed and will have to move to a corner spot in pro ball. An Oklahoma State signee, Griffin has quick hands and loft power potential, if he can improve his plate discipline and feel for the barrel. He plays with energy but generally didn't fare well in comparison to more toolsy peers in Georgia this spring.
Georgia Tech recruits Mott Hyde
and Chris Triplett
are middle infielders who potentially could team together for three years in the Yellow Jackets infield. Hyde's tools are all average or fringe-average aside from his throwing arm, which should allow him to stay at shortstop in college. Triplett's best attributes are his arm and speed, which both play average to a tick above. He figures to move to second, either in college first or as a pro. Chase Butler
could join them eventually at third base, as he's a solid infielder and veteran of the East Cobb program. He has some strength and balance at the plate and solid agility and arm strength at third, and he pitches well enough to be a two-way player in college. No tool stood out as plus.
Yellow Jackets Dominate College Crop
Georgia State got one of its biggest recruits ever when righthander David Buchanan
didn't sign as the Mets' sixth-round pick last year out of Chipola (Fla.) JC. Buchanan was evolving from arm-strength thrower to pitcher when a ligament problem in his middle finger put him on the sidelines for a month. He has a pro body at 6-foot-3, 198 pounds, with a long, athletic frame, a decent arm action and extension out front. His funky delivery gives him deception but also makes it hard for him to repeat. He's still somewhat raw, and it shows up the most when he loses focus on the mound, which leads to command issues. Buchanan tended to pile up big pitch counts because of his wildness and averaged roughly five innings a start. He sat 92-93 mph with his fastball as a starter, touching 95, and has improved the consistency of his slider, which flashes good spin and tilt.
Georgia Tech closer Kevin Jacob
started the year high on most clubs' follow lists after he was the top prospect in the Alaska League last summer, while other clubs don't like him at all due to his extreme mechanics. Jacob points his lead arm straight up into the sky and nearly reaches the ground with his throwing hand as he tilts back, giving him tremendous leverage toward home plate. He had made just 10 appearances this spring due to a weightlifting injury to his throwing shoulder that kept him out for two months. He has touched 98 mph in the past, and was sitting 94-97 when he returned in mid-May. He also throws a hard slider in the mid- to upper 80s that has some depth when he backs off it a bit. He also flashes a split-finger fastball to lefthanded hitters. Jacob's injury, odd mechanics and track record, as well as being advised by Boras Corp., make it tough to read where he'll go in the draft.
Jacob is part of a big crop of Yellow Jackets after top draft picks Derek Dietrich and Deck McGuire who could go in the first 10 rounds. Outfielders Thomas Nichols
and Chase Burnette
and catcher Cole Leonida
lead the hitters. At one time, Leonida seemed to have the most draft helium, and he could still go out higher than his other teammates due to position scarcity. The Colorado prep product was a part-time player for two seasons and took over as the starter this year. He got off to a hot start but and his production this season slowed down as the spring wore on, and he was batting .302/.386/.526. Leonida lacks bat speed and has holes in his swing, though his long arms also help give him leverage and power. He's a take-charge catcher who leads the pitching staff, blocks and receives well, with a solid-average arm and good accuracy. He's always going to strike out a lot, and his bat fits the profile more of a backup than of a regular.
Nichols has moved around defensively (and even tried catching) without finding a home and probably will wind up in the outfield, though he could also become a utility player. He has plus arm strength and good bat speed. His best tool is his bat, as he's patient, has a feel for the barrel and surprising power. He led the Yellow Jackets in batting at .375/.509/.637. Burnette is more athletic, with average tools across the board and an arm that could grade as above-average. He was batting .350/.398/.664 but is viewed as too aggressive for his own good offensively and profiles as a fourth outfielder, complete with the lefthanded bat.
Senior slugger Tony Plagman
, the first baseman who led Tech with 19 home runs and 70 RBIs and has been a consistent power bat throughout his career, draws less interest from scouts. He has become more selective this season and was batting .357/.449/.709, and his track record will make him a senior sign.
Aside from McGuire and Jacob, Georgia Tech's next-best pitching prospect is righty Brandon Cumpton
, who had trouble throwing his average 89-93 mph fastball and inconsistent curveball for strikes for much of the season but still was 8-2, 4.86 and pitched in the weekend rotation all season. Cumpton's delivery is so clean that he lacks deception and gets hit harder than his stuff would indicate. He has shown better velocity in relief stints, touching 95-96 mph in the past. He fits in the sixth- to 10th-round range. He should go a little bit earlier than righthander Andrew Robinson
, who served as Tech's closer when Jacob was out. He was 4-0, 2.45 with seven saves, though he had a .261 opponent average. His 90-92 mph fastball and slider have been sharper this season. He also has a decent changeup and has proven resilient, working twice on weekends if needed. He should get pick in the 10th-20th round.
Even beyond Justin Grimm, the University of Georgia's draft talent was concentrated on the mound, even though the Bulldogs' performance was horrific there this spring. Senior lefty Alex McRee
, once a potential first-round pick, fought chronic wildness and never got on track. He ended up working just 22 innings on the season, compiling a 7.25 ERA with 38 strikeouts and 32 walks. Physical senior righty Jeff Walters
, who has a good body at 6-foot-3, 192 pounds, posted a 2-6, 7.90 season as he constantly elevated his plus fastball, which tops out in the mid-90s. Walters also has flashed a plus slider and has been drafted every year since 2006: out of high school in Orlando, twice out of St. Petersburg (Fla.) CC and last year out of Georgia as a 17th-rounder. Sophomore-eligible righty Michael Palazzone
became a draft non-factor despite his arm strength, which produces a low-90s fastball. He went 4-6, 8.66 in 61 innings, as opponents hit .361 against him.
Only Jucos Lag Behind
Georgia's junior colleges don't have much going on. Scouts aren't high on Reggie Williams Jr.
, the son of the ex-pro of the same name, in spite of intriguing tools. His brother J.D.
is a better prospect in Florida's high school class. Reggie Jr. is a plus runner who runs 6.3- and 6.4-second 60s, but he doesn't carry that speed over to games due to a lack of instincts. While he made strides offensively, he still doesn't have a polished approach or a good idea at the plate. He has bat speed yet lacks the aptitude to use it, flailing at breaking stuff.
Middle Georgia's top players were sophomores, infielder Jonathan Hester
and two-way player Javier Sujo
. Hester has played shortstop as an amateur but profiles better at third. He has committed to Georgia and has solid hitting tools. Sujo is a Florida International transfer who was recruited as a pitcher but has turned heads after being pressed into service at second base. His good hands work at the plate and in the field, and he clearly has good arm strength, touching 90 mph in bullpens. His lack of quickness and speed profiles him better for third base. He has committed to Florida Gulf Coast.
Georgia Perimeter has two righthanders who could get drafted in smallish Alan Busenitz
and tallish Nathan Fawbush
. At 6-foot-1, Busenitz outperformed Fawbush all spring and has a plus pitch in his power slider, which comes in at 80-82 mph with depth and nasty late action. He also throws a good curve and has solid control of his fringe-average fastball, which sits 87-88 mph but touches 90-91 in short stints. He's a Kennesaw State signee.
Fawbush is the more conventional prospect and touched 90-91 mph after moving to the bullpen. He's projectable and skinny at 6-foot-7 and 185 pounds with wide shoulders. He wore down as a starter due to his lack of strength. He does throw strikes and did a better job of staying tall in his delivery after moving to relief than he did earlier in the season.
, who was drafted last year by the Twins, remains raw both at the plate, where he has bat speed but lacks plate discipline and pitch recognition, and on the mound, where he sits at 88-90 mph. Some Division I teams had late interest in righthander Bryan Benzor
, who has four fringe-average pitches and throws strikes.