State Report: Mississippi

Magnolia State blooms with another first-rounder






See also: Baseball America's Complete 2010 Draft Map


THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
Mississippi hasn't produced a first-round pick since Paul Maholm went eighth overall back in 2003 out of Mississippi State. Lefthander Drew Pomeranz of Ole Miss figures to end that streak this year and could be the first four-year college player selected.

The state had an eventful draft season with Pomeranz, a better-than-average high school crop and one of the South's best pop-up stories of late in Copiah High catcher/outfielder Hunter Renfroe. It's also a good year for the state's junior colleges, led by outfielder Corey Dickerson.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Drew Pomeranz, lhp, Mississippi (National Rank: 4)
2. Ryan Bolden, of, Madison Central HS (National Rank: 141)
3. Jacoby Jones, 3b, Richton HS (National Rank: 166)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

4. Hunter Renfroe, c/of, Copiah Academy, Crystal Springs
5. Corey Dickerson, of, Meridian CC
6. Connor Powers, 1b, Mississippi State
7. Aaron Barrett, rhp, Mississippi
8. DeMarcus Henderson, ss, Waynesboro HS
9. Deshun Dixon, of/lhp, Terry HS
10. David Goforth, rhp, Mississippi
11. Todd McInnis, rhp, Southern Mississippi
12. Jaron Shepherd, of, Mississippi State
13. Austin Hartzog, rhp/ss, Hillcrest Christian HS, Jackson
14. Matt Smith, 1b/of, Mississippi
15. Donnie Tabb, ss/rhp, East Central JC
16. Scott Copeland, rhp, Southern Mississippi
17. Jimel Judon, 1b/rhp, Myrtle HS
18. Trent Rothlin, rhp, Mississippi
19. Kevin Mort, ss, Mississippi
20. Ashley Graeter, 3b/rhp, Pearl River CC
21. Miles Hamblin, c, Mississippi
22. Adam Doleac, of, Southern Mississippi
23. Boomer Scarborough, rhp/ss, St. Stanislaus HS, Bay St. Louis
24. Cedric Pomerlee, lhp, Alcorn State
25. Darren Farmer, c, Meridian CC
26. Joey Archer, 3b/1b, Southern Mississippi
27. Mark Ellis, 1b, Southern Mississippi
28. Braden Jones, rhp/3b, Madison Central HS
29. Joseph Koon, rhp, Itawamba JC
30. Willie Wesley, of, Jackson State

SCOUTING REPORTS

Drew Pomeranz, lhp
Mississippi

Pomeranz, whose brother Stuart was the Cardinals' second-round pick out of high school in 2003, nearly signed himself out of high school, as a Rangers 12th-rounder in 2007. The deal fell through and Pomeranz instead embarked on a stellar career with Ole Miss, averaging 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings over nearly 300 career innings. He nearly pitched the Rebels to Omaha himself in 2009 with a 16-strikeout complete-game win on two days' rest in the regional final, followed by a 10-strikeout, seven-inning, 146-pitch effort the next week in a super regional. He was no worse for wear last summer with Team USA or this spring, when the Rebels have used him more judiciously. He even was removed from a start at South Carolina in a 0-0 game after seven innings. Pomeranz still was slowed in May by a mild pectoral muscle strain, which caused his fastball velocity to dip into the upper 80s in a start against Arkansas. When he's right, Pomeranz sits 90-94 mph with his fastball and creates tough angles for the hitter, pitching to both sides of the plate. Coaches assert that he's nearly unhittable at the college level when he's throwing his hard curve for strikes, a 12-to-6 downer. His changeup is solid-average as well, as he has shown feel for using it. Control has been Pomeranz's biggest concern. He walked nine in a showdown letdown with Louisiana State's Anthony Ranaudo and was averaging nearly 4.5 walks per nine innings. He said he has fixed the problem with a more consistent takeaway with the ball when he begins his windup, keeping him a better rhythm.

Ryan Bolden, of
Madison Central HS

Mississippi has produced plenty of raw, toolsy outfielders over the years, with recent examples including Wendell Fairley (Giants, first round, 2007), Justin Reed (Reds, fourth round, 2006) and Bill Hall (Brewers, sixth round, 1998). Hall is the last Mississippi high school signee to reach the major leagues for more than a cup of coffee. Bolden has excellent size at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, and big tools to go with his athletic body. He's a 65 or 70 runner on the 20-80 scale, and his strength gives him above-average raw power. He is raw in all phases of the game. He has bat speed and hitting ability—he's unusual as he bats right but throws left—but hit at the bottom of the order as a junior, when Madison Central won a state title, and still swings and misses a lot as a senior. Scouts question his pitch recognition and ability to hit breaking balls. While he has played center field, Bolden also logged time in right because of his inability to get good reads in center. He profiles better in center field due to his fringe-average arm. While Bolden is an Ole Miss recruit, most clubs considered him signable, and he fits the mold for teams that love pure athletes, such as the Phillies, Rays and Marlins. He also would be a better risk for a club with multiple selections.

Jacoby Jones, 3b
Richton HS

Jones led his Richton High team to the Mississippi 2-A championship game, playing shortstop and pitching. His Louisiana State commitment, and the fact he's being advised by the Boras Corp., had many scouts going in to see him once or twice but not following him closely during the spring. For those still interested, Jones showed excellent tools, including the athleticism, arm strength and infield actions to warrant a long look at shortstop at the pro level. Any team willing to buy him out of LSU would do so believing Jones is a shortstop, not a third baseman. Some scouts have questioned his bat, as he has more of a metal-bat swing with low hands in his set-up and no real load in his swing. He does have bat speed and some strength, and with adjustments he should be able to drive the ball consistently with wood. He's an average runner out of the box and has turned in above-average 6.6-second 60 times in the past. In some ways, Jones is a better prospect than David Renfroe, the Red Sox' 2009 third-round pick who signed for $1.4 million, as his arm and athletic ability are better. His price tag also is said to be higher. On talent alone, Jones factors into the second- to fourth-round range.

Talent Spreads Across Magnolia State

Mississippi State's program hopes it has hit rock bottom. The Bulldogs have posted three straight losing seasons for the first time since 1938-41, and a 14-game losing streak in Southeastern Conference play set a dubious record. The team doesn't figure to make a significant impact on the draft, with senior first baseman Connor Powers the top prospect. He hits and throws righthanded and turned down decent money last year as an 11th-round pick. He showed better plate discipline this year, laying off breaking balls more and making more use of his best tool, his above-average raw power. He's stiff and his defense and body lead some scouts to dismiss him as a DH, but he figures to go with a single-digit pick thanks to his power and improved performance.

The Bulldogs' next-best prospect is speedy outfielder Jaron Shepherd, a junior-college transfer who hit just .250/.382/.371 this season. At 6-foot-2, 177 pounds, Shepherd lacks strength but is an above-average runner and thrower.

Mississippi State will keep a close eye on some of the players it's looking to for a turnaround, led by Meridian JC outfielder Corey Dickerson. He's the best juco prospect from the state since Desmond Jennings, a 10th-round pick of the Rays in 2006. Dickerson has the hitting ability to step right into the Bulldogs' lineup, having hit .474 with 19 home runs in 137 at-bats at Meridian. He has a pro body and present strength, he plays hard and his best tool is his bat, an attractive profile. He's a fringe-average runner and profiles as a left fielder. He had right labrum surgery in 2007, and his arm has never bounced back, with one evaluator giving him a well-below-average grade.

The rest of the state's juco talent is more likely to end up at college, such as Pearl River's Ashley Graeter, who could step in as the third baseman next season at Southern Mississippi. He has arm strength and power, with 10 homers this spring. He also impressed scouts with wood bats in the Prospect League last summer.

Five-foot-8 shortstop Donnie Tabb wasn't drafted coming out of high school last year, thanks to his size and unrefined tools. He had a strong year at East Central JC and might be able to stay in the middle infield thanks to excellent arm strength and quickness.

It's a strong year in the state's prep ranks, with Ryan Bolden and Jacoby Jones giving Mississippi two Top 200 players. Next on the list is Hunter Renfroe, who hit 20 home runs this spring after sprinting out to a fast start. That set a single-season record for state's private-school ranks. He has big raw tools, led by his power and arm (he's been up to 94 mph off the mound), with a pro body and pro bat speed. Renfroe played against weak competition and got pitched around a lot, and he's raw defensively behind the plate. He has shown pop times below 1.9 seconds, but his receiving is well-below-average right now and he lacks experience handling velocity. He may be a better fit in right field in the short term, and his bat may be good enough to keep him there. He's a Meridian JC recruit.

Three other prep players in the state could be drafted, led by speedy shortstop DeMarcus Henderson. A Mississippi State recruit, he's athletic and was the starting quarterback on a 5-A state championship football team. Henderson has present strength and speed that rates 60 on the 20-80 scale. His defensive tools include an average arm and good lateral movement, though he lacks consistency on routine plays. He likely fits better at second base down the road, though he would have a chance to start at short at Mississippi State. Henderson has some hitting ability, but breaking balls will give him trouble out of the box in pro ball.

Deshun Dixon has quite a legacy to live up to. His older brother Rashun plays in the Athletics system, while older brothers Antwon and Anthony play college football at Midwestern (Texas) State and Mississippi State. The youngest of the family, Deshun may have drawn the short straw athletically. He's shorter and not as physical as his brothers and lacks explosiveness as a hitter. He's an above-average runner but at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, he's not a burner and is a tweener offensively. On the mound, Dixon has flashed an average fastball but pitched in the 80s most of the year. He has hand speed and a solid breaking ball, and his arm works. He got better as the season went on, leading Terry High to the state finals, but wasn't expected to be picked with a single-digit pick or to approach brother Rashun's $600,000 signing bonus.

As Dixon, an Under Armour All-American last summer, fell back, 6-foot-3 righthander Austin Hartzog came forward to emerge as the state's top prep pitcher. He Has a fringe-average fastball that touches 91 and a solid slider and changeup.

Slugging first baseman Jimel Judon is 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, with raw power potential from both sides of the plate and decent arm strength from the right side that allows him to pitch. He's an Ole Miss signee and was considered one of the state's better hitters, though he probably lacks the tools to come out to pro ball straight from high school.

Mississippi, seeking its first trip to the College World Series since 1972, lacks Mississippi State's tradition but has had a better run of it of late and has more pro talent. After ace Drew Pomeranz, though, the Rebels may not have another player drafted until the 10th round.

Righties Aaron Barrett and David Goforth were the next players on most scouts' pref lists. Barrett improved over his sophomore season, when the junior-college transfer bombed. He works primarily off two pitches, an 88-91 mph fastball that in the past has touched 94, and a slider with above-average potential at 79-82 mph. Barrett throws a lot of sliders and profiles as a reliever in pro ball. Goforth is the staff's hardest thrower, reaching 95 mph and sitting at 92-94 even as a starter. At 5-foot-11, 191 pounds, the redshirt sophomore has fringy secondary stuff and wasn't fooling anyone this spring, as evidenced by his 1-5, 8.41 numbers. Opponents where hitting .363 with 15 home runs in just 56 innings.

The rest of the Ole Miss roster was filled with draftable college players, such as right fielder Matt Smith, a fourth-year junior who still has contact issues; catcher Miles Hamblin, another touted JC transfer from Howard (Texas) who hit just .225 but has big raw power; and righthander Trent Rothlin, who lives off an upper 80s sinker and fringy slider. Smith is the best player of the trio, with better athletic ability than might be expected. He played more right field than first base in 2010, and can use the whole field at the plate. He's better suited for left field at the pro level. Shortstop Kevin Mort will also get a chance to play pro ball because of his reliable defensive ability at shortstop.

Southern Mississippi made the College World Series a year ago but had to rally and win the Conference USA tournament to reach the NCAA tournament in 2010. First-year coach Scott Berry coaxed a tourney run out of his team on the arms of the team's top two prospects, righthanders Todd McInnis and Scott Copeland. McInnis was an eligible sophomore last year but wasn't drafted, due mostly to his size—he's listed at 6-foot-1, 160 pounds and may be smaller—and signability. McInnis' best attributes remain his command of a fringy fastball and his solid-average curve. Copeland is a fifth-year senior who had an 11-0, 3.38 record entering regionals thanks to a good sinker, fringe-average slider and competitiveness to spare. He allowed just four home runs in 91 innings.