Canada should have two first-round picks in the 2002 draft with 6-foot-5 British Columbia lefthanders Jeff Francis and Adam Loewen, but for this year the pickings are slim. East Carolina shortstop Lee Delfino and Nebraska outfielder Adam Stern are the top-rated Canadian natives, but beyond righthander John Axford and lefthander John Picco the nation won't make much of an impact this year. Two of the country's top prep talents entering the year--lefthander Sean Grimes and righthander Devon Monds--had disappointing seasons.
Projected First-Round Picks
Projected Second-Fifth Round
John Axford. The 6-foot-5, 190-pound Axford impressed scouts this spring while pitching for the Canadian junior national team in Florida. He has a smooth, effortless arm action with good extension, and throws consistently in the 87-91 mph range with his fastball. His changeup has effective late action and is an above-average pitch. He also shows the makings of a good curveball that gets good spin and bite, but because he has such good arm extension he doesn't always get on top of it. Axford is committed to Notre Dame, and that may compromise his draft position.
John Picco. Picco also helped himself with the junior national team. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound lefthander has a simple, compact delivery and plus command of three pitches. He pitches in the 86-88 mph range with his lively fastball, and he touches 89-90 at times. He throws a curveball with good two-plane break, and it should develop into a workable pitch for him down the road. He already has a good idea of how to pitch, and gets deceptive arm speed on his changeup. Picco is praised for his competitiveness and moxie on the mound, and has drawn comparisons to Mike Hampton and Tom Glavine.
Sean Grimes. Rated the top high school player in the country coming into the year based on his performance at the 2000 World Junior Championship, Grimes has seen his star dim considerably. He struggled with his mechanics, with a loss in velocity and movement. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound lefthander had a strong showing at a Major League Scouting Bureau camp in May, but he was shelled in Florida this spring. He uses a nice, fluid arm stroke but has been inconsistent with the velocity of his fastball that had been comfortably in the 87-89 mph range. His best pitch is a curveball with a nice downward break. He also has a workable changeup, but he lacks command and polish. He needs to soften his delivery because he lands on a stiff front leg.
Others to Watch:
RHP T.J. Burton, who has committed to Northeastern, has an ideal pitcher's build (6-foot-3, 175 pounds) and a smooth, effortless delivery. Scouts project him to fill out, which should enable him to throw harder. He doesn't generate a lot of movement on his 90-91 mph fastball coming from a high arm slot. His curveball and changeup have the potential to become average pitches . . . A member of the 1999 and 2000 junior national teams, C Cole Armstrong has sound receiving skills, but lacks agility behind the plate. His arm strength is decent, and he shows the leadership to take charge. A student at Delphi Academy, which offers intense sports training, the lefthanded-hitting catcher has good bat speed and projects to hit with power. If not for his lack of foot speed, Armstrong would project to go in the top five or six rounds . . . The Nova Scotia baseball player of the year and a member of the Canadian junior team in 1999, RHP Steve Nelson gave up a promising hockey career to commit to baseball. He was a defenseman for the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and would have been selected in the 2001 NHL draft. He has a strong, projectable 6-foot-3, 190-pound body. He also shows a solid balanced delivery and a clean, easy arm action. He complements an 86-89 mph fastball with a curveball and changeup . . . RHP Jeff McDonald plays at the Prairie Baseball Academy in Lethbridge, Alberta, and made a name for himself of late with his low-90s heat . . . LHP David Parker threw 88-90 mph in front of scouts in Florida. The projectable 6-foot-5, 200-pounder was aggressive on the inner half of the plate, and he demonstrated a good feel for his curveball and changeup. His frame softened up during the year, raising concerns about his weight . . . C David Corrente was a member of the Team Ontario 18s that toured Florida in March and was regarded as one of the top backstops at the 2000 Baseball Canada Cup. Corrente made huge strides this spring, showing a short, quick stroke, though he's still learning to drive the ball. He has good defensive skills with solid arm strength and a quick release . . . RHP Jonathan Forest is just 16, but he's a horse built along the lines of Roger Clemens. His fastball is a little short right now, topping out at 87 mph . . . RHP Chris Kemlo has a projectable body at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds. A bout with mononucleosis set him back after he entered the year as one of Canada's top prep righthanders. He hit 86-88 mph this spring after touching 90 last fall. He has workable arm action, so there may be extra velocity lurking as he matures. Kemlo comes over the top and doesn't have a lot of movement on his fastball. His most promising pitch is his a sharp, two-plane curveball that has a chance to be an above-average major league pitch . . . RHP Will Stewardson throws 86-88 mph and could increase his velocity as he fills out his 6-foot-2, 190-pound body. He gets good movement on his stuff, and throws a slow-breaking 67-mph curveball with good depth. He's just 17 and has signed to play at Eastern Michigan . . . RHP Devon Monds had a significant loss of velocity after touching 90 mph in 2000. He now throws 79-82 mph, a result of poor arm action.
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