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NEW YORK ***

Inclement weather plagued the Northeast this spring, making it difficult for scouts to get a good look at some of the top prospects, much less a second look. The one player who made a notable impression was righthander James Johnson, who could be picked as high as the second round. Signability concerns aren't likely to affect him but could play a big part in the status of the other top high school players, who committed to Atlantic Coast Conference schools. The ACC cornered the state's five best prep prospects.

1.James Johnson, rhp, Union-Endicott HS, Endicott
2.Chris Flinn, rhp, Stony Brook
3.Tim Layden, lhp, Deer Park HS
4.Jason Fardella, rhp, St. Francis
5.Garry Bakker, rhp, Suffern HS, Sloatsburg
6.Eric Thomas, rhp, Briarcliffe CC
7.Collin Mahoney, c, Michael Academy, Patterson
8.Charlie Bilezikjian, of, St. John's
9.Andrew Edwards, rhp, Briarcliffe CC
10.Jeff Montani, rhp, SUNY Binghamton
11.Paul DeMarco, rhp, Honeoge-Lima HS, Honeoge Falls
12.Brian Hansen, 1b, Longwood HS, Coram
13.Jeff Muessig, rhp, Briarcliffe CC
14.Jaime Steward, lhp, LeMoyne
15.Jon Connolly, lhp, Oneonta HS
16.Mike Lewis, rhp, McQuaid Jesuit HS, Rochester

Projected First-Round Picks

Projected Second-Fifth Round

•James Johnson. Johnson was one of four or five prominent New York high school players entering the season, but he clearly separated himself from the pack. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound righthander has a strong, well-proportioned body with sound mechanics. He was clocked up to 95 mph this spring and showed he can hold his velocity deep into games. He had one poor outing when he got unnerved with 50 scouts watching him. One start later, in front of an equal number of scouts, he tossed a no-hitter. A year ago, his fastball topped out at 89 mph. His secondary pitches--a curve and change--are less projectable, and his command of those pitches is suspect. Johnson is part of a deep Georgia Tech recruiting class that may rank as the best in the country.

•Chris Flinn. Flinn was the best college pitcher in the Northeast this spring, according to a number of scouts and coaches. He continued to get better as the season progressed. A four-pitch pitcher, his fastball was normally in the 89-91 mph range with a high of 94. His best weapon is a knuckle-curve that one scout compared to Mike Mussina's, the standard by which that pitch is measured. Flinn, whose nine-inning average of 12.5 strikeouts was one of the nation's best, has sound mechanics and has never been hurt. The one knock on him is that he's a 6-foot righthander, which may knock him out of the early rounds.

Others to Watch:

For LHP Tim Layden and RHP Paul DeMarco to be picked in the first 10 rounds, scouts will have to decide they'll sign despite commitments to Duke. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound Layden is the better talent. He has two quality pitches, including a 90-92 mph fastball, and knows how to pitch. Scouts question his mechanics, as he tilts his head violently during his delivery. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound DeMarco's velocity has ranged this spring from a low of 86 to a high of 94. He lacks Layden's pitching instincts and quality arm action . . . RHP Jason Fardella has moved up fast with a dominating season in the Northeast Conference, going 8-2, 1.70 with 70 strikeouts in 66 innings. He's not overpowering at 88-90 mph, but his curve and change are decent pitches and he has a good pitcher's body . . . Six-foot-3, 205-pound RHP Garry Bakker, a North Carolina signee, has been well known to area scouts since he was clocked at 89-92 mph as a high school sophomore. He was late arriving from basketball this spring and didn't pitch consistently to his previous level. His velocity dipped to 84-85 mph, concerning some scouts, but others who have watched him for a couple of years say he's a notoriously slow starter and picks it up as the weather warms . . . C Collin Mahoney, a Clemson signee, has drawn considerable interest--mostly mixed. His defensive skills are the best part of his game, but he has been plagued this spring by an ulnar nerve problem in his elbow, limiting his time behind the plate. A quirky throwing motion concerns scouts though he has good arm strength. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he has the size desired in a catcher. He also has above-average power but has difficulty making consistent contact. He'll need to shorten his swing to be an offensive contributor . . . OF Charlie Bilezikjian was a 10th-round pick out of high school but may be hard pressed to go that high again after three years at St. John's. His detractors point out that he's only 5-foot-10 and burdened with a long swing and little power. He has excellent speed and arm strength, and he's a sound defensive center fielder . . . RHP Jeff Montani began pitching only as a senior in high school and has made great strides in a short period. He has a power arm, often touching 94 mph, but pitches most effectively at 91-92. Command is also a strength. But he's generously listed at 6 feet and is seen as a maximum-effort pitcher with mechanical flaws . . . Briarcliffe CC has four interesting pitchers for the draft, led by 6-foot-8 RHP Eric Thomas. Some scouts say he has the best arm in the New York City area. He's essentially a one-pitch guy with a fastball that touches 92-93 mph, but he has done a lot this spring to improve his command and his secondary pitches. Thomas transferred from the University of New Haven (Conn.) to make himself eligible for the draft . . . With 23 homers this spring, Stony Brook C Alex Trezza ranked among the Division I national leaders. The ball jumps off his bat, but scouts see holes in his swing and no real position at the next level.

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