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UPPER NEW ENGLAND ***
(Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont)

The window of opportunity to scout players in this corner of the country is small anyway, but unusually harsh spring weather made it even more difficult to get a fair read on the limited available talent. Still, a couple of college pitchers drew looks from more than just area scouts and are solid candidates for the first 10 rounds.

1.Justin Blood, lhp, Franklin Pierce (N.H.) College
2.Rusty Tucker, lhp, Maine
3.Kyle Jackson, rhp, Alvirne HS, Litchfield, N.H.
4.Jeff Dutremble, lhp, Dartmouth
5.Joe Drapeau, 3b, Maine

Projected First-Round Picks

None

Projected Second-Fifth Round

•Justin Blood. A 6-foot-3, 215-pound lefthander, Blood has obvious physical attributes and scouts drop the name of the Mets' Al Leiter as a point of reference. Blood dominated the small-college competition in his area with a fastball that touched 91 mph and a slider that was unhittable when he had command of it. He has a curve and change but deferred mostly to his two primary pitches to gain favor with scouts. He's not as advanced as the area's other premium college arm, Maine's Rusty Tucker, but has more appeal to scouts because of a better body and raw arm strength. With a little tinkering with his delivery, he's expected to throw even harder.

Others to Watch:

RHP Rusty Tucker had a solid season for Maine, leading the America East Conference in ERA and earning league pitcher-of-the-year honors. He's a two-year veteran of the Cape Cod League, where he proved he can pitch against better competition. Tucker has fringe-average stuff with a fastball clocked as low as 83 mph and as high as 91, but usually 87-89. He also has a solid changeup. His command and competitiveness are his greatest strengths, and he projects as a middle reliever . . . RHP Kyle Jackson ranks as the best high school player in the three-state region. The St. John's recruit drew a lot of late-season interest with three potentially above-average pitches--a fastball that touched 91-92 mph, a changeup and curve--that combined to overwhelm New Hampshire high school hitters . . . Long, loose senior LHP Jeff Dutremble played in the shadows of Ivy League player of the year Brian Nickerson most of his career at Dartmouth, but drew stronger interest from scouts. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Dutremble strained a ligament in his arm before the season and pitched just 10 innings, but was clocked at 91 mph his first time out. Nickerson, meanwhile, signed with the Dodgers as a fifth-year senior shortly after Dartmouth fell to Princeton in the Ivy League championship series.

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