NORTH CAROLINA **
North Carolina high schools can boast of outfielder Josh Hamilton, the No. 1 overall pick in 1999, and righthander Jason Neighborgall, the nation's top prep prospect for 2002. But in 2000 and 2001, the state's high school talent has been thin. The colleges may not offer anything more than a third- or fourth-round pick, though East Carolina shortstop Lee Delfino is the top Canadian prospect in the draft.
Projected First-Round Picks
Projected Second- to Fifth-Round Picks
David Bush. Bush signed with Wake Forest as a catcher but has blossomed into a quality reliever. He ranks among the Division I leaders with 15 saves, following a summer when he was one of the top closers on the Cape. His 6-foot-2, 211-pound build reminds scouts of Troy Percival, another catcher-turned-closer. For some reason, Bush's stuff is average at the beginning of weekend series and dominant at the end. He has thrown 88-91 mph on Fridays and 92-94 afterward. He consistently throws strikes with his fastball and slider. Scouts are divided on Bush. Some see him as a possible closer, while others think he'll be a set-up man.
Scott Light. Light has the best pure arm in North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia. Though he can throw 92-95 mph, he struggled this spring, posting the worst ERA on Elon's staff. His velocity tailed off toward the end of the season, though he helped his cause in his final start, striking out nine and allowing two hits in eight innings against High Point. He may not be much more than a 6-foot-1, maximum-effort pitcher. His secondary pitches and command are nothing special, and he telegraphs his breaking ball by changing his arm slot.
Lee Delfino. Delfino was a fifth-round pick by the Blue Jays out of high school in 1998 and should go in the same area this June, or maybe a little higher. Scouts are somewhat disappointed that he hasn't progressed much in three years at East Carolina. Those who like him praise his arm and range and believe in his batting potential. Those who don't see him as a below-average runner who lacks a plus tool. Most agree he'll have to move from shortstop to second base. His .170 average last summer in the Cape Cod League isn't a ringing endorsement of his ability to hit with wood.
Taft Cable. Cable opened eyes on Cape Cod last summer, leading the league in saves and shutting out Team USA for 2 2/3 innings in an all-star game. He throws 89-92 mph and he pounds the strike zone with hard stuff. His secondary pitches are a splitter and a slider, both of which arrive at the plate at 80 mph. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Cable would be more projectable than Bush if Bush's arm weren't looser. Scouts see Cable as a set-up guy and he's not a consensus early pick, though a couple of teams really like him.
Devon Lowery. Before 2001, Lowery drew more attention as an outfielder than a pitcher. That changed when he threw 90-92 mph with regularity, becoming North Carolina's top high school prospect. He still has a long way to go as a pitcher, because his mechanics need to be cleaned up and his control and offspeed pitches need more consistency. He starred as an option quarterback and played basketball for South Point High, and he must use his athleticism on the mound.
Tyrell Godwin. Godwin is the biggest enigma in the draft. He turned down $1.9 million as a first-round pick of the Yankees out of high school. He agreed to a $1.2 million bonus from the Rangers as a supplemental first-rounder last year, but a physical showed damage to the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Texas wanted to reduce his bonus, so Godwin declined to sign. He also decided not to play as a senior at North Carolina, sitting out the season before working out for teams in May. Scouts weren't impressed, because Godwin was limited by a strained hamstring and didn't show much. He has plenty of speed and power potential, but he lacks baseball instincts and didn't improve significantly in three years with the Tar Heels. Many scouting directors question his desire to play baseball, and several have said they won't touch him in the draft.
Others To Watch:
RHP Carter Harrell, who will be tough to sign away from the University of North Carolina, could be a premium pick in three years. He's 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, has shown more life on his 88-90 mph fastball and has tightened his breaking ball. He threw a one-hitter with 19 strikeouts in a state playoff game . . . OF/LHP Cory Sullivan was the most valuable player in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, starring as both a hitter and pitcher, though Florida State's John-Ford Griffin won player-of-the-year honors. Scouts like him more as an outfielder and compare him to Diamondbacks outfielder Steve Finley before he developed power . . . 1B/3B Chad Tracy and OF Brian Wright have two of the prettier lefthanded swings in the state. Tracy has the hands to possibly try catching, while Wright is limited to left field . . . Former outfielder Tom Bayrer showed great promise as a righthander early in the spring, touching 94 mph and showing a plus curveball. His lack of command made it difficult for Campbell to use him in games, and he was down to 84-87 at season's end . . . LHPs Brad Pinkerton and Carlos Berdecia are opposites. Pinkerton throws 88-91 mph and will show three above-average pitches at times, but he has poor mechanics and an unrefined approach. Berdecia throws just 85-88 mph but is much more polished . . . The four best senior signs behind Sullivan are 3B Corey Slavik, 1B Joseph Hastings, RHP Jason Blanton and East Carolina OF John Williamson. Slavik is a lefthanded hitter with decent tools and could be a utilityman. At least one national crosschecker came in to see him. Hastings, a fifth-year senior who can sign before the draft, was MVP of the Shenandoah Valley League last summer. He's a lefthanded hitter with gap power. Blanton has had little success, but he's 6-foot-4 and 232 pounds and he throws 90-93 mph. Williamson is a switch-hitter with power and a strong arm, and could be another catcher in the making . . . Slavik's teammate, SS Jamie Athas, is another utility prospect. His speed and bat are positives . . . SS Mickey Burgess should be the first North Carolina high school player drafted. He's an offensive player better suited for second base, and he's been clocked at 88-89 mph on the mound. Six-foot-5 RHP Alex Obert surfaced this spring. He's raw, however, topping out at 88-89 mph and needing work on his curveball and mechanics.
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