The nationwide lack of position players isn't apparent in Louisiana. Five hitters factor into the first round, counting supplemental picks, and a sixth, Louisiana State shortstop Ryan Theriot, could sneak in as well. There's not much depth after the top eight prospects, especially at the high school level.
Projected First-Round Picks
Jake Gautreau. With Georgia Tech's Mark Teixeira sidelined for most of the spring, Gautreau emerged as arguably the best all-around hitter in college baseball. He entered NCAA tournament play as the Division I leader in RBIs (84) and the Conference USA leader in homers (20). He has passed the wood-bat test, hitting .348 with power as Team USA's first baseman last summer. That might be Gautreau's position as a pro as well, though Tulane coaches can't figure out why scouts knock his third-base defense. He lacks speed, but he has the hands and arm for the hot corner. The two-time Conference USA player of the year could go in the first five picks, but he's more likely to be a mid-first-rounder.
Michael Woods. Woods will become the Southwestern Athletic Conference's first first-round pick since Jackson State righthander Earl Sanders in 1986. He made a run at the Division I batting title this spring, batting .469 entering regionals, and stole 32 bases in 35 attempts while battling hamstring injuries. He doesn't have plus speed, which limits him to second base, where he'll be an above-average offensive performer. Balls jump off his bat. Scouts praise his instincts and leadership. He reinjured his hamstring during the conference tournament but played through it to win MVP honors as Southern took the title. Though Woods is attractive to teams putting a premium on signability, he has legitimate first-round talent.
Mike Fontenot. It's not often that a second baseman gets drafted in the first round, but Louisiana colleges should produce two such players in 2001. Fontenot turned down a six-figure bonus as the Devil Rays' 21st-round pick in 1999, choosing instead to continue Louisiana State's rich second-base tradition, which includes Todd Walker and Warren Morris. Fontenot had hamate surgery on his wrist in December but continued to sting the ball in impressive fashion for a 5-foot-8, 165-pounder. He had hamstring problems as well. When he's healthy he has plus speed and knows how to use it. He's a sound defender at second base. If he were taller, he'd probably be a top 10 pick. A draft-eligible sophomore, Fontenot's name has been associated with the Devil Rays if they want to go cheap with the No. 3 pick. He's more likely to go at the end of the first round.
Todd Linden. The Cape Cod League's top prospect in 2000, Linden showed four strong tools and figured to be one of the first picks in this year's draft. He hasn't lived up to that billing after transferring from Washington to Louisiana State and now looks more like a sandwich pick. It's possible a team will take him earlier than that based on last summer. Linden offers power from both sides of the plate. This spring he has used an all-or-nothing swing that good pitchers have been able to exploit. He has missed a lot of pitches, though his production did increase in the second half of the season. He hasn't run as well or looked as smooth as he did on the Cape. He has played both left and center field for the Tigers, with left his likely destination as a pro because his arm is average at best. His immaturity, which prompted a transfer, bothers some scouts.
Jonathan Zeringue. Zeringue will be the second catcher drafted, following Minnesota three-sport star Joe Mauer. Zeringue is a 6-foot-2, 220-pound athlete with four above-average tools, a rare package for a catcher. His bat speed and compact swing enable him to hit for both power and average. He's also a plus runnerand not just for his positionwith a strong arm. He has touched 92 mph as a pitcher this spring. His receiving skills are the weakest part of his game. A pro team may move him to third base or the outfield to get around that shortcoming and take advantage of his athleticism. If he attends Louisiana State, he'll definitely stick behind the plate.
Possible Second- to Fifth-Round Picks
Ryan Theriot. Theriot teams with Fontenot to form college baseball's most talented double-play combination, and they were dazzling together on the Cape Cod League's Wareham Gatemen last summer. He's undersized at 5-foot-11 and 177 pounds, though he's answered questions about his bat by hitting .299 with wood on the Cape and a career-high .360 this spring. He's a catalyst from the leadoff spot, where his speed, ability to make contact and patience are assets. Theriot has a solid arm and hands at shortstop despite making careless errors this season. Tennessee's Chris Burke projects as a pro second baseman, so Theriot will be the first pure shortstop drafted out of college. A team looking for infield help could take him as early as the supplemental first round.
Thomas Diamond. Diamond helped his cause more than any player who attended Perfect Game's predraft showcase in late May. He displayed a 91-92 mph fastball, plus changeup and improved curveball, moving from the 10th round or later up to the third or fourth. Scouts had taken note of his strong 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame and his solid mechanics, but most had seen him pitch at 85-87 mph and occasionally top 90. He'll be a pitcher as a pro, but could see action at third base if he attends New Orleans.
Austin Nagle Nagle helped Barbe High win three consecutive state 5-A championships, but he peaked offensively as a sophomore when he batted .520 with 17 homers. Though he still can put on a show in batting practice, he hasn't hit for that kind of power since. If he can eliminate holes in his swing, his power might come back. He has developed more speed, moving from third base to center field, where he's a quality defender. His family reportedly expects him to be drafted in the first round, but he's a third- or fourth-rounder at best, which may mean he'll wind up at Louisiana State.
Others To Watch:
LHP Ray Liotta could blossom if he makes some adjustments. He throws over the top, causing his stuff to flatten out. He's also a 6-foot-3, 187-pound projectable southpaw who has reached 90 mph . . . Louisiana high schools offer several righthanders who at times have shown major league average velocity or better, among them Clayton Harris, Matt Green, Chad Gaudin and Calvin Carpenter. Carpenter, who at 90-92 mph consistently throws the hardest of the group, was the pitcher scouts went to see on the night they discovered Texas sensation Colt Griffin . . . Woods isn't Southern's only viable prospect. Marcus Chandler could have been drafted as a pitcher in 2000, but he wanted to return for his senior season and play the outfield. Still coming along as a hitter, he has a plus arm and average speed. RHP Carl Primus will be attractive to teams that rely on radar-gun readings. He's 6-foot-4, athletic and throws 93 mph. Both will need time to develop . . . Likewise, Tulane's depth extends beyond Gautreau. Senior OF Matt Groff runs the 60-yard dash in 6.6-6.7 seconds and might make a nice pro second baseman, a position he played as a junior. A quality athlete, Groff was a second-team all-Mid American Conference punter as a Kent State freshman. 1B James Jurries was Baseball America's 1999 Freshman of the Year, earning the nod over Georgia Tech's Mark Teixeira. Jurries broke his wrist in the season's first week and has hit well since getting back in the lineup. Senior Andy Cannizaro has the arm, speed and instincts to play shortstop as a pro . . . Like Groff and Cannizaro, OF Jordan Robison and SS Rick Haydel are solid senior signs . . . Athletic SS/3B Gerard Barrow could be tough sign. He quarterbacked Southern Lab to the state 1-A championship game and signed to play football at Northwestern State . . . Louisiana State has three players who could go in the first two rounds, then might wait awhile to have another of its players selected. The Tigers still should produce more draft picks than any of the state's college programs. RHP Billy Bryan threw 92-93 mph last summer and fall, and he's 6-foot-5 and 231 pounds. He has pitched sparingly this spring because of control problems. A redshirt junior, he's 22. Louisiana State brought in two power-hitting junior college first basemen this season, and scouts prefer Brian Moore (Indian River, Fla., CC) to Zeph Zinsman (Mission, Calif., JC). Zinsman, who was more highly regarded coming in, has outhomered Moore 16-7 entering super-regional play but scouts think his swing is too long for wood bats. Moore has outhit Zinsman .375-.310, showed more plate discipline and relegated him to DH. Shane Youman struggled this spring, but he's a 6-foot-4 lefthander with a solid fastball. RHPs Weylin Guidry (rib) and Bo Pettit (shoulder) both had surgery during the offseason and haven't pitched much, but they've interested scouts in the past and could get drafted.
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