Early Draft Preview

High School Preseason Best Tools

Rating the top talents in the 2008 draft

BEST ATHLETE: This year's high school class is impressive athletically and contains a mixture of both raw and polished players. Xavier Avery (26), a University of Georgia running back commit, stands out with his pure athletic ability and speed. Tim Beckham (1) is the most polished athlete with baseball skills that play now. California boasts three others, including two two-way threats in Aaron Hicks (6) and Anthony Gose (24). Both are plus runners in the outfield with plus arms, touching 95 mph off the mound. Isaac Galloway (11) is a more advanced athlete now but is less projectable than Hicks.

BEST PURE HITTER: Beckham is near the top of every category but hitting is his best tool. He has a quick bat with pop that can turn around any fastball. The catcher position has two of the top hitters in Adrian Nieto (20) and Kyle Skipworth (5). While Skipworth's lefthanded bat makes him attractive, Nieto is the better pure hitter. Harold Martinez (7), Eric Hosmer (4) and Zack Cox (21), all corner infielders, grade out with plus bats.

BEST POWER: This year power and hitability are going hand in hand. Hosmer has the greatest power potential while Cox, Martinez and Nieto have big league, middle-of-the-order capabilities. Ethan Martin (22) and Bobby Stone (NR) were the best power hitters at the East Coast Pro and Area Code Games showcases respectively.

FASTEST RUNNER: Speed within this class is a tool that is exciting the scouts. Jay Austin (NR) and Avery each run sub-6.4 60-yard dashes. Randall Thorpe (64) is in their category as is Matt Howard (NR), who had the fastest time at the Tournament of Stars, clocking in with a 6.47. Cutter Dykstra (43) registered a 6.52 and Hicks a 6.59. Brent Warren (57) and Gose are not far behind at 6.6.

BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Skipworth is creating a buzz as the best overall catcher in this class. He has a plus arm and soft hands and the tools to stay behind the plate up into the big leagues. Rolando Gomez (23) is a smooth fielding middle infielder from Florida with good feet and fluid actions. Even though he is undersized, his fundamentals and strong arm play at the next level. Beckham has all the tools, and defense is no exception. Casey Kelly (17) is the most advanced fielder consistently and fundamentally. Martinez is thought of as the best corner infield defender, drawing gold glove projections. Hicks, Galloway and Robbie Grossman (15) are all instinctive outfielders with plus speed.

BEST FASTBALL: Gerrit Cole (3) has a big power arm, touching 97. Righthanders Sonny Gray (9), Daniel Webb (14) and Alex Meyer (8) have each hit 96. Tim Melville (2) is clean and consistently hits 94 from the right side. Michael Palazzone (16) has an unorthodox delivery but a feel for pitching and touches 94. As noted earlier, Hicks and Gose are both lefthanders that can hit 95. Hicks has tremendous arm speed and is a legitimate two-way prospect. Gose is raw off the mound. Brett DeVall (12) is the hardest throwing pure lefthanded pitcher, getting up to 94.

BEST SECONDARY PITCH: Gray is a max effort guy and offers a sharp hammer curve. Meyer and Hicks throw hard, above-average breaking balls sitting around 82. Lefthander Kyle Lobstein (10) has shown great feel for an impressive breaking ball that creates a lot of swings and misses.

BEST COMMAND: Proven on the international stage as the ace of the US Junior National Team, righthander Ryan Weber (85) has incredible feel and pinpoint control of three pitches. Nick Maronde (19) is a polished lefthander with excellent command and body control. Melville is the class's best all around pitcher. Robbie Ross (18) and Walker Kelly (NR) are both lefthanders with plus command.

MOST INTRIGUING BACKGROUND: Warren is back to playing weight and shape a year after recovering from not one, but two, life threatening heart ailments. This class also includes Dykstra and Kelly, sons of former big leaguers Lenny Dykstra and Pat Kelly. A two-way star, Kelly is committed to play quarterback for the University of Tennessee.

CLOSEST TO THE MAJORS: Beckham is the clear favorite as the most polished and advanced position player. On the mound, Melville shows poise and has the makings of a major leaguer. Cole has the fastball closest to the big leagues. With the steep learning curve and scouting reports, it's hard to dub a high school catcher as close to the majors. However, Skipworth has the tools to make an appearance faster than most.

MOMENTUM POTENTIAL: Warren will be heavily scouted this spring. His speed, athleticism and makeup have scouts intrigued. Quinton Miller's (82) stock dropped after having arm problems and missing most of the fall. However his plus three-pitch mix and command could resurface, moving him up the lists quickly. Destin Hood (38), an athletic outfielder is a name worth watching.