Early Draft Preview: College Best Tools
OF LeVon Washington
(13) draws comparisons to Carl Crawford and might have played with him in the Tampa Bay outfield if he hadn't turned down the Rays as a first-round pick last June. Washington's lone shortcoming is his arm, which hasn't bounced back since labrum surgery before his high school senior season. OFs Gary Brown
(24) and Austin Wates
(27) are similar players with tools on a lesser scale. OF Leon Landry
(26) has four solid or better tools and offers more strength than Washington, Brown or Wates. OF Gauntlett Eldemire
(55) flies under the radar because a stress fracture in his foot sidelined him last summer, but he hit 21 homers as a sophomore and has well above-average speed. RHP/OF Brett Eibner
(14) is college baseball's most talented two-way player, showing a 92-94 mph fastball and huge raw power. Scouts think he has a brighter future as a pitcher, but he may want to hit in pro ball.
BEST PURE HITTER:
SS Christian Colon
(6) handles the bat consistently well, making consistent hard contact and hitting line drives to all fields. He hit .362 with wood bats with Team USA's college national team last summer, striking out just six times in 94 at-bats. OF Bryce Brentz
(9) led NCAA Division I with a .465 batting average as sophomore, then hit .366 with Team USA. OF Todd Cunningham
(15) has won batting titles in each of the last two summers, hitting .310 in the Texas Collegiate League in 2008 and .378 in the Cape Cod League last year. Scouts thought SS Jedd Gyorko
(12), who finished third in the Cape batting race at .323, was the best pure hitter in the league last summer. Washington has the approach, bat speed, solid strength and electric foot speed to hit for high averages.
C Bryce Harper
(1) may be just 17, but he can crush balls farther than any player in the college crop. Check out YouTube to see the show he put on at the 2009 International Power Showcase, including a 502-foot blast off the back of the wall at Tropicana Field, albeit with a metal bat. Scouts said OF Michael Choice
(20) had the best raw power on Team USA last summer, even more than Brentz, who topped NCAA Division I in homers (28), total bases (214) and slugging percentage (.930) last spring. Eibner, C Cameron Rupp
(34) and 1B Hunter Morris
(43) all have well above-average raw power.
Washington has legitimate 80 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale, having run the 60-yard dash in 6.2 seconds at showcase events. Brown, Wates and Eldemire are all 70 runners. OF Tyler Holt
(46) isn't as fast but uses his speed extremely well, ranking second in NCAA Division I with 87 runs and stealing 34 bases in 39 tries last spring and playing a good center field.
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER:
C Micah Gibbs
(28) has solid catch-and-throw skills and has been likened to Jason Varitek for the way he runs a pitching staff. Colon doesn't have spectacular defensive tools, but his instincts allow him to make the plays he needs to at shortstop. He pushed SS Rick Hague
(10) to third base on Team USA. While Gibbs and Colon stand out as the best catcher and infielder, there's less consensus concerning the top defensive outfielder. OF Matt den Dekker
(95), Holt, Brown and Landry all earn strong reviews.
In terms of pure velocity, RHPs Jesse Hahn
(18), RHP Chad Bettis
(19), RHP Kevin Jacob
(25) and RHP Sam Dyson
(31) all operate in the mid-90s and can touch 98. James Paxton
(21) is the hardest-throwing lefty, peaking at 97, as does RHP Brandon Workman
(11). Of that group, Bettis has the most movement on his fastball and the best track record. For the total package of velocity, life and command, RHPs Anthony Ranaudo
(2) and Deck McGuire
(3) stand out most. They top out around 94 but can put their fastballs where they want.
BEST SECONDARY PITCH:
LHP Rob Rasmussen
(37) has a quality curveball and is a harder-throwing version of J.P. Howell. Ranaudo, Workman and LHP Drew Pomeranz
(4) also can buckle knees with their curves. RHP Kyle Blair
(16) edges Jacob for the best slider, though he relies on it too much. LHP Chris Sale's
(5) changeup helped him rank as the No. 1 prospect in the Cape Cod League and was named its pitcher of the year last summer. LHP Josh Spence
(62) has a nifty changeup as well.
Spence has a mid-80s fastball, yet he went 10-1, 2.37 with 125 strikeouts in 103 innings last season because he locates and mixes his pitches so well. Among pitchers with quality stuff, Ranaudo and RHP Alex Wimmers
(8) have the best command of multiple pitches.
MOST INTRIGUING BACKGROUND:
Harper took the unprecedented step of getting his GED diploma so he could bypass his final two years of high school and enter junior college, becoming draft-eligible a year ahead of schedule. 2B Ross Wilson
(51) is more famous for his football exploits. He quarterbacked Hoover (Ala.) High to a state title that was chronicled on the MTV reality show "Two-A-Days." RHP Tommy Kahnle
(50) pitched 12 scoreless innings and won MVP honors at the NCAA Division II College World Series last May as Lynn (Fla.) won its first national title. Spence became the highest-drafted Australian ever when the Angels took him in the third round last June. C Blake Forsythe's
(45) older brother Logan was a Padres supplemental first-round pick in 2008 and ranked second in the minors with 102 walks last year.
CLOSEST TO THE MAJORS:
Ranaudo gets the nod because he has the best combination of stuff and polish among the college pitchers in this crop. The other elite starters—McGuire, Pomeranz and Sale—also should move quickly. Relievers typically advance faster than starters, so Bettis and Jacob could beat them to the big leagues. There's no obvious position player who will jump on the fast track. Harper is clearly the best one in the draft, but he'll be 17 if and when he signs this summer. Colon figures to be the first college hitter to reach the majors.
A year ago at this time, RHP Matt Harvey
(30) projected as the top prospect for the 2010 draft. After an inconsistent sophomore season and a terrible summer, he's the ultimate wild card. Similarly, RHP Nick Tepesch
(42) flashes quality stuff but hasn't harnessed it on a consistent basis. LHP Sammy Solis
(32) took a medical redshirt last season with a herniated disc in his lower back, but early reports from fall and preseason workouts indicate that he could be poised to pitch himself into the middle of the first round. In a draft short on position players, Eldemire has the tools to rise up the charts.