The state's best prospect since Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor in the mid-1970s, Joe Mauer is the top high school position player and a potential No. 1 overall pick. He alone makes it a special year for talent in the Gopher State.
Projected First-Round Picks
Joe Mauer. Like reigning Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke before him, Mauer is a Cretin-Derham Hall star with a scholarship to play quarterback for Florida State. Some recruiting sources rank Mauer as the top passer in the nation, and he won three national player-of-the-year awards after tying a state record with 41 touchdown throws last fall. He has MLB and NFL potential, and he also averaged nearly 20 points a game for a basketball team that finished third in the state. He could be costly to sign, albeit a cheaper option than Southern California righthander Mark Prior for the hometown Twins with the first pick. Scouts are sold on Mauer's desire to play baseball and don't believe football will stand in his way. His best tool is his bat, and he led all players at the 2000 World Junior Championship with a .559 average and 15 RBIs in eight games. He has exceptional bat speed and drives the ball to all fields. He's athletic for a catcher, and his 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame reminds scouts of the Padres' Ben Davis. Mauer, as would be expected, has a strong arm and natural leadership skills. The scrutiny that comes with being the possible No. 1 choice hasn't bothered him in the least. He hit .553 with nine homers in his first 47 at-bats this spring, and didn't strike out.
Possible Second- to Fifth-Round Picks
Jack Hannahan. Another Cretin-Derham baseball/football star, Hannahan has focused on the diamond in college. The 2001 Big Ten Conference player of the year added tournament MVP honors as Minnesota won the league championship. An athletic 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, he was leading the Gophers in both homers and steals. He's considered Minnesota's best defensive third baseman since Terry Steinbach, and following Steinbach's career path to catcher could be Hannahan's ticket to the big leagues.
Others To Watch:
Star-crossed Minnesota LHP Ben Birk got hurt again in 2001, taking a line drive in the face after missing 1999 after rotator-cuff surgery. He came back at the end of the year but wasn't in peak form. He's a 6-foot-5, 210-pound southpaw who has thrown 88-91 mph when healthy. Another Cretin-Derham product, he's a fifth-year senior under control to the Marlins, who took him in the 24th round last year. His older brother Matt starts at center for the Minnesota Vikings . . . RHP Mike Kobow's stock plunged as he slumped after a strong sophomore season. He should have fared better, considering he has an 88-91 mph fastball and a changeup that drops as it arrives at the plate. His 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame is another asset . . . RHPs Joey Barr and Reed Mahon have 90 mph fastballs and pro bodies, but may be tough signs . . . Roseville High (Little Canada) SS Toby Gardenhire's father Ron played in the majors and coaches third base for the Twins. Toby has a short stroke and solid defensive tools.
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