As the ace of one of the nation's best college teams, Notre Dame's Aaron Heilman leads the Indiana crop for the second straight year. He has company this time around in a strong contingent of live-armed, projectable righthanders.
Projected First-Round Picks
Aaron Heilman. The 31st overall pick last June by the Twins, Heilman returned to repeat as Big East Conference pitcher of the year in a dominant senior campaign. He was 14-0 entering NCAA tournament play and led Notre Dame to its first-ever No. 1 ranking during the regular season. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound righthander, who led the nation in ERA as a freshman closer, has established himself as a workhorse over the last three years. While scouts don't project Heilman to add velocity to his fastball, he's one of the most polished hurlers available, with excellent command and stamina. His slider has become a dependable secondary pitch behind a 90-94 mph fastball with boring action. Last year he lacked an effective offering to combat lefties, so he has added a hard splitter with good downward bite while working on improving his changeup.
Preston Larrison. A 20th-round pick out of high school, Larrison catapulted into first-round consideration last summer on the strength of his Cape Cod League performance. He has been inconsistent this season, but there's no denying his 90-97 mph fastball and plus changeup. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, he has the frame and live arm that scouts crave. There have been questions about his inability to develop an effective breaking ball. Though he has tremendous arm strength, his fastball can be straight and is delivered on the same plane as his changeup, making him easier to hit. Larrison has yet to master the art of location, but he has drawn favorable comparisons to former Evansville star Andy Benes, the No. 1 overall pick in 1988.
Projected Second-Fifth Round
Garrett Berger. Berger emerged as the state's top high school prospect with a power 90-95 mph fastball. Questions have been raised about his 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame, but he's a strong farm boy with wide shoulders, thick legs and a barrel chest. He lacks the touch for changing speeds and his slider has been inconsistent. Though he's a long way from being a finished project, his upside will be worth some team risking a high draft choice on him and trying to pry him away from a Kentucky scholarship. Berger comes from an athletic family, and both of his sisters play softball at Florida.
Justin Wechsler. On the heels of a disappointing sophomore season disrupted by tightness and swelling in his forearm, Wechsler maintained his health and started to regain the velocity on his fastball that once consistently sat in the 93-94 mph range. The 6-foot-2 righthander's velocity varies between 89-93 mph now, his late-breaking slider has developed into his most dominant pitch and he has displayed a good feel for his changeup. He weighs 225 pounds, leading to some concerns about his body. His Ball State teammate, sophomore righthander Brian Bullington, stole the show as Mid-American Conference pitcher of the year and projects as one of the top picks in the 2002 draft.
Brian Stavisky. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Stavisky boosted his draft status in the Cape Cod League last summer. He finished second in the league with a .324 average to Fighting Irish teammate Steve Stanley. The sophomore-eligible outfielder was drafted in the 12th round out of high school, and would have gone higher if not for his college commitment, and his signability could be an issue again. One of the stronger players in the college ranks, Stavisky didn't produce the power numbers expected of him this year, but his outstanding bat speed and strong wrists have scouts convinced he'll drive the ball out of the park with more experience. A four-sport star in high school, Stavisky is athletic, but his weak throwing arm limits him to left field. He could wind up as a pro first baseman.
Jason Frome. Frome's best tool is a strong arm that he showcases with solid range in center field. At the plate, he shows no real weaknesses, with power potential and 6.6 speed. He missed the majority of the 2000 season with a broken wrist. Not all scouts agree on his ceiling, and some don't project him as more than a fourth outfielder.
Jesse Krause. A classic projection pick, Krause is picking up momentum as the draft approaches. His fastball sits consistently in the high 80s, but with his lanky frame and easy arm action scouts think he'll be able to add a few ticks to his velocity as he matures physically. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound righthander already has an advanced feel for changing speeds, and his slider projects as a potential out pitch.
Others to watch:
RHP Jason Paul throws a heavy, sinking fastball 88-92 mph and has the aptitude to develop a slider. The third starter in Ball State's rotation, the 6-foot-5, 225-pounder surrendered just three home runs in 92 innings through the Mid-American Conference tournament . . . RHP Jonathan Shull has a live 92 mph fastball that has reached as high as 95, but there are major concerns about his delivery. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder throws across his body, which could lead to arm problems. Competitive and aggressive, he has the makings of an effective slider . . . LHP Vince Serafini, whose twin brother Matt was his catcher, doesn't blow hitters away with his 85-89 mph fastball, but he spots it effectively and changes speeds with his overhand curve, solid changeup and cutter. Matt didn't hit enough to warrant being drafted . . . After establishing himself as a premium prospect as a high school freshman, 6-foot-6, 220-pound 1B/LHP Wes Whisler ranks as the state's most disappointing high school player. His raw lefthanded power is intriguing, but his lack of bat speed doesn't allow him to catch up with pitches up or away. He also has trouble turning on balls. On the mound, Whisler can approach 90 mph with minimal effort, but he doesn't express much interest in continuing to pitch. He has committed to UCLA . . . C Paul O'Toole turned it on in the second half of the season, but he didn't help himself by pressing at the plate and pulling off balls in the early going. A Cape Cod League all-star last summer, he displays promise behind the plate with quick footwork and blocking skills, though his arm is average at best . . . OF Eric Bava is an outstanding defensive center fielder with a plus arm and blinding speed. He missed the 2000 season due to off-field problems, which didn't help his draft status and brought his motivation into question. He came back this spring, though his subpar results were reflective of his time off . . . Senior RHP Danny Tamayo returned from Tommy John surgery in 1999 to flourish in Heilman's shadow at Notre Dame. The 6-foot-1, 240-pounder has exceptional command of two above-average pitches: an 88-92 mph fastball and a deceptive changeup . . . Notre Dame senior SS Alec Porzel got off to a slow start and was hitting just .283 entering regional play, but his glove has kept him in the lineup and attracted attention from scouts. Considered the best defensive shortstop in the region, he's surehanded and made several spectacular plays.
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