Early Draft Preview

College Preseason Best Tools

The top talents for the upcoming 2008 draft




BEST ATHLETE: 2B Jemile Weeks (17) offers a quick bat, surprising pop for his size, plus-plus speed and quality defense. His older brother Rickie was the best athlete in the 2003 draft. SSs Gordon Beckham (16) and Brandon Crawford (18) have solid tools across the board and are more well-rounded players than Weeks, but they aren't as explosive. OF Jordan Danks (40) is a 6-foot-5, 209-pounder with the speed to steal bases and play center field.

BEST PURE HITTER: 3B Pedro Alvarez (1) is the consensus top prospect in this draft because of his bat. He hit .386 as a sophomore and led Team USA with a .315 average during the summer. With his bat speed and strength, he can't be overpowered by fastballs. 1B Yonder Alonso (5) and 3B Conor Gillaspie (23) established themselves as elite hitters in the Cape Cod League last summer. Alonso was the league's best pure hitter and also led the Cape in walks (36) and on-base percentage (.468). Gillaspie consistently put the sweet spot of his bat on the ball, winning the batting title (.345) and MVP award.

BEST POWER: Alvarez is the best hitter for average and power in the college ranks, though the competition is stiffer in this category. Still, it's hard to argue with his 40 homers in two college seasons or the team-high seven he hit with the U.S. national team last summer. 1B Justin Smoak (4) can do something that Alvarez can't: generate big-time power from both sides of the plate. OF Dennis Raben (12) displayed the best raw power on the Cape last summer. OF Kyle Russell (31) led NCAA Division I with a Texas-record 28 homers last season. Raben and Russell can't match the polish that Alvarez and Smoak show at the plate, however. 1B Allan Dykstra (24) could ride his considerable power into the first round.

FASTEST RUNNER: Weeks stands out easily, with 70 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale, though he was slowed by groin problems last year. OF Blake Tekotte (57), the third-fastest runner among the top college prospects, also plays for Miami. He led the Cape with 22 steals in 23 tries last summer.

BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Beamer Weems (89) can get to balls that most shortstops can't, though questions about his bat may keep him out of the first couple of rounds. Danny Espinosa (76) has a similar profile. Tekotte covers the most ground in center field. There's no true standout defender behind the plate, but C Buster Posey (8) could achieve that distinction with more experience. He's in just his second full season as a backstop after starting his college career as a shortstop.

BEST FASTBALL: RHP Aaron Crow (3) has the best total package, as he sits at 93-96 mph, touches 98, features nice life and commands his fastball to both sides of the plate. RHP Cody Satterwhite (15) shows a lot of his lanky arms and legs in his delivery before unleashing heat that can approach 100 mph. RHP Brett Hunter (7) hit triple digits during fall practice. RHPs Ryan Perry (9), Luke Burnett (13) and Tanner Scheppers (14) all can push their fastballs into the upper 90s.

BEST SECONDARY PITCH: Along with the top fastball, Crow also can boast of having the best slider, a tight low-80s pitch that he locates well. Scheppers also has a quality slider and throws his harder. LHP Christian Friedrich (6) owns the best curveball, a 12-to-6 breaker he throws with an over-the-top delivery. LHP Tim Murphy (31), who began his college career as an outfielder, has more power to his curveball but it isn't as consistent as Friedrich's. The best changeup belongs to LHP Brian Matusz (2), who has the potential for three plus pitches and ranks as the top mound prospect in the draft.

BEST COMMAND: Crow offers the best combination of command and stuff. RHPs Tyson Ross (20), Preston Guilmet (28) and Jacob Thompson (11) also fill the strike zone but aren't as dominating. Among southpaws, Eric Surkamp (51) and Jeremy Bleich (60) stand out the most.

MOST INTRIGUING BACKGROUND: Alvarez could make Vanderbilt the first school ever to produce consecutive No. 1 overall picks, following David Price. Weeks, Danks (John) and RHP/OF Luke Greinke (91, Zack) all have older brothers who were first-round choices and currently play in the majors. 1B/OF/LHP Ike Davis' (39) father Ron was an all-star reliever.

CLOSEST TO THE MAJORS: The top three prospects—Alvarez, Matusz and Crow—should fly through the majors the quickest. As a lefty with three quality pitches, Matusz could get there first. If they're used as relievers, Hunter, Perry and Burnett won't require much minor league seasoning.

HELIUM POTENTIAL: If Scheppers shows premium stuff on a regular basis this spring, he could surge into the top 5-10 picks. Murphy, who is inexperienced as a pitcher, could jump into the middle of the first round if he harness his stuff. RHP Chris Carpenter (35) and LHP Cole St.Clair (36) will get first-round consideration if they're healthy.