Pitching was down in Mississippi in 2000, a situation that has reversed itself this spring. Six hurlers have a chance to go in the first five rounds, and Mississippi State has several pitchers who can light up a radar gun. Mirroring the situation across the nation, there's little in the way of position players.
Projected First-Round Picks
Projected Second- to Fifth-Round Picks
Tanner Brock. Southeastern Conference tournament champion Mississippi State has four draft-eligible pitchers with fastballs that can touch 94-95 mph. Brock is the most polished and has the best body (6-foot-4, 206 pounds) of the group, and he has been the Bulldogs' most effective starter. He regularly works at 88-92 mph and gets nice movement on his fastball. He also throws a pretty good slider and a developing changeup. Brock figures to go between the third and fifth round.
Les Dykes. Mississippi State will have to replace its quality arms next year, and Dykes is one of the top candidates to do so if he doesn't turn pro. He's a 6-foot-5, 215-pound lefthander who can reach the low 90s, and a lot of projection remains. He needs to complete the transition from thrower to pitcher. He's a good athlete who runs well for his size and has power in his bat. If he goes to college, the Bulldogs may be tempted to use him as a two-way player at first base or in the outfield.
Josh Grant. Grant follows in the Hattiesburg High pitching tradition that has produced second-round picks in Jermaine Van Buren (Rockies, 1998) and Matt Butler (Braves, 2000). He probably won't go quite that high. Other than being righthanded, Grant is similar to Dykes. He has a tremendous body (6-foot-7, 225 pounds) and a fastball to match. He throws in the low 90s with plenty of life, and his breaking ball has its moments. Like Dykes, he's still raw and offers power at the plate if needed. Florida high school righthander Alan Horne is Mississippi's top recruit, but Grant is more likely to wind up in Oxford.
Dewan Day. One of the more intriguing two-way players in college baseball, Day gets overlooked because he plays in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Scouts are well aware of the draft-eligible sophomore, however. An all-conference DH this spring, his pro future is as a pitcher. He's projectable at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, and he already throws 91-92 mph with a decent slider. A hamstring injury hampered him in 2001, but his legs should be healthier and he should develop better once he gives up hitting. He needs to be more aggressive on the mound.
Pete Montrenes. Mississippi contended for its first Southeastern Conference title since 1982, thanks in large part to Montrenes, a transfer who would have been lost in the shuffle on a deep Southern California staff. He succeeds more with savvy than with pure stuff. He throws an 88-90 mph fastball, a curveball he trusts even when behind in the count and a changeup. None qualifies as an out pitch at the next level, and he throws over the top, which costs him movement on his fastball. He's big (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) and durable, and it's possible he'll make adjustments to pick up velocity or life once he turns pro.
Taylor Tankersley. Dykes and Grant throw harder, but Tankersley was the best high school pitcher in the state this spring. He's a 6-foot-1, 195-pound lefthander who tops out at 88 mph, though he gets good tailing action on his fastball. He throws both a two-seamer and a four-seamer, as well as a curve with nice bite and a deceptive changeup. He locates all four pitches within the strike zone and has a tremendous pickoff move. He bounced back after a lackluster junior season, going 13-0 with eight shutouts to pitch Warren Central to the state 5-A championship.
Others To Watch:
RHP/C Craig Tatum is a legitimate prospect at both positions, though scouts prefer him as a pitcher. He has a strong arm, capable of touching 94 mph, and is one of several possible draft picks from Hattiesburg High. Another is RHP Cliff Russum, who has an 89-91 mph fastball and throws three pitches for strikes . . . OF Brian Johnson might be the best athlete in the state, high school or college. He's raw, but he can run the 60-yard dash in 6.4 seconds and has power potential . . . RHP Lance Davis, who also played quarterback and third base at George County High, throws 92-93 mph and has a loose arm and ideal body (6-foot-3, 190 pounds). He missed all of the 2000 football season with a knee injury that required surgery . . . C Eli Whiteside was one of four Delta State players batting .400 before the Division II College World Series, and he had thrown out 37 percent of basestealers . . . Besides Brock, Mississippi State's contingent of strong-armed righthanders also includes Ryan Carroll, Adam Larson and Brandon Medders. Carroll has size (6-foot-6, 220 pounds) to go with his fastball, but he doesn't locate his pitches well and barely was used this spring. Larson has two hard breaking balls (85-86 mph slider, 77-78 mph downer curve), a soft body (6-foot-2, 254 pounds) and a delivery he doesn't repeat well. Medders throws harder than anyone in the group, touching 95 mph, but scouts are concerned about changes he made to his delivery . . . 1B Chamar McDonald, a Louisiana State signee, was slow to come back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. He's a three-sport athlete with above-average power, and may be the best hitter in the state, including colleges . . . OF/1B Seth Smith provides a ton of lefthanded power. He's a quarterback recruit ticketed for Mississippi, where he'll play behind Eli Manning, Peyton's little brother . . . One of the better juco prospects in the nation is Itawamba OF Jonathan Van Every. The Indians control his rights and will try to sign him because he has four plus tools. Only his hitting ability is in question.
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