Early Draft Preview: College Best Tools

Dissecting the Top 100's Players Tool By Tool




BEST ATHLETE: For pure athleticism, it's OF Jared Mitchell (32), who is also a wide receiver on Louisiana State's football team, with which he won a national championship in 2007. OF Eric Decker (77), another wide receiver, has broken Minnesota's single-season record for receptions in each of the last two years. For athleticism translated into all-around baseball skills, it's OF Brett Jackson (16), who could go in the middle of the first round if he continues to improve with the bat. OF Kentrail Davis (10) has the best combination of raw power and speed among the top college prospects, though his below-average arm and defensive instincts may relegate him to left field in pro ball. Grant Green (2) is a shortstop with four plus tools and solid-average range, making him the top position player in the draft.

BEST PURE HITTER: 1B Dustin Ackley (4) hit .402 as a freshman, .417 as a sophomore and .415 in the Cape Cod League last summer. One crosschecker said Ackley has the best bat control he ever has seen. OF A.J. Pollock (12) won the Cape MVP award and finished second in the batting race (.377). Both could enhance their value if they show they can handle more challenging positions, center field for Ackley and second base for Pollock. Other hitters of note include Green and OF Marc Krauss (42).

BEST POWER: No one has more raw power than 3B Chris Dominguez (45), though he strikes out so much that scouts wonder how usable it would be in the major leagues. His 21 homers last year are tied for the most among returning college players. Davis also has a lot of raw power, though his line-drive, all-fields approach cuts down on his home run totals (13 as a freshman in 2008). 1B Rich Poythress (21), who combines strength and plate discipline, might have the most reliably consistent power in this college draft class.

FASTEST RUNNER: Mitchell is the fastest player on our College Top 100, though he's still raw as a basestealer. So, too, are Davis, Decker and Jackson. Pollock and OFs Matt den Dekker (17) and Jason Kipnis (31) know how to use their plus speed, with den Dekker going 20-for-20 swiping bases last spring. Ackley is a plus runner who has been clocked better than that by some scouts, hence the interest in seeing him move to center.

BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Ryan Jackson (15) is the best defender in college baseball, with pure actions at shortstop and all the tools to make all the plays. But his bat remains a major question mark. Tommy Medica's (58) arm strength stands out among the catchers, and he's also athletic enough to play the outfield on occasion. He threw out 37 percent of basestealers last summer in the Cape Cod League, where he ranked third in hitting (.352). Den Dekker and Jackson are good center fielders with solid arm strength. 3B Tommy Mendonca (47) made several dazzling defensive plays during Fresno State's improbable College World Series championship run last June.

BEST FASTBALL: RHP Stephen Strasburg's (1) impressive package starts with a 95-97 mph heater that he can run up to 100. RHP Ben Tootle (18) was the hardest thrower on the Cape last summer, regularly pitching at 94-98 as a reliever. RHP Alex White (3) carries quality velocity (93-95 mph, peak of 97) into the late innings as well as any college starter. Among lefties, Alex McRee (25) has the best combination of velocity (low 90s), life and downward plane (he's 6-foot-6).

BEST SECONDARY PITCH: He calls it a slider and some scouts call it a curve, but everyone agrees that Strasburg has a nasty two-plane breaking ball in the low 80s. LHP Andrew Oliver (7) has a big-breaking curveball, while RHP Jason Stoffel's (9) curve and mid-90s fastball give him the best pair of power pitches among the draft's relief prospects. White's slider and splitter both can devastate hitters. RHP Kyle Gibson (5) has an 82-85 mph slider, leading to the thinking that he'll add more velocity to his 89-92 mph fastball. LHP Mike Minor (8) and RHP A.J. Griffin (68) have the best changeups. Hitters know that RHP Scott Bittle (53) will throw cutter after cutter, but they still can't hit it.

BEST COMMAND: Strasburg throws strikes, too, as his 133-16 K-BB ratio ranked second in NCAA Division I last year. Minor has repeatable yet deceptive mechanics, which allow him to hit his spots and generate swings and misses despite the fact that his changeup is his lone consistent plus pitch. RHP Mike Leake (13), the nation's best two-way player, has won 24 games over the last two years, more with savvy than pure stuff.

MOST INTRIGUING BACKGROUND: Strasburg was the lone collegian on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team that won a bronze medal in Beijing. Clemson 1B Ben Paulsen (22) is the son of Tigers associate head coach Tom Riginos. RHP Brad Boxberger (37) is following in his father's footsteps at Southern California. Rod Boxberger was named Most Outstanding Player at the 1978 College World Series and went 11th overall in the June draft that year. Mendonca and RHP Jorge Reyes (81) were the MOPs of the last two College World Series.

CLOSEST TO THE MAJORS: The top four prospects—Strasburg, Green, White and Ackley—shouldn't require much minor league seasoning. Strasburg should reach the majors the fastest, perhaps by mid-2010. With his power arsenal, ability to pound the strike zone and the makeup to pitch the late innings, Stoffel should rocket to a big league bullpen.

HELIUM POTENTIAL: RHP Alex Wilson (26) missed all of last season following Tommy John surgery, but he came back in the Cape Cod League and hit 98 mph during fall practice. RHP Kyle Heckathorn (19), who pitched just four innings on the Cape before going down with a minor elbow injury, showed similar velocity in the fall. If they both stay healthy and pitch like that in the spring, they could push their way into the upper half of the first round. Decker could sneak into the top two rounds if he continues to develop on the diamond and expresses a willingness to give up football.