It's not like 1999, when Washington had a draft crop for the ages, but the state does have another strong group of high school prospects. As many as seven are projected to go in the top five rounds. Righthander Jeremy Bonderman added a twist to the proceedings by declaring for the draft as a high school junior, and he immediately moved to the head of the class. His presence offsets the loss of outfield prospect Todd Linden, who transferred from the University of Washington to Louisiana State for his draft year. That left the college crop on the thin side.
Projected First-Round Picks
Jeremy Bonderman. Despite being the most inexperienced pitcher on the staff, Bonderman was the ace of the U.S. team that finished second at the World Junior Championship last summer. His performance there set the wheels in motion for the 6-foot, 195-pound righthander to get into the draft a year earlier than normal. North Carolina high school catcher Landon Powell exposed a little-known draft rule last year that allows juniors to be eligible if they're 18 and obtain a general equivalency diploma, so Bonderman elected to travel the same path--even though Powell ended up in college rather than signing. At 18 years, seven months, Bonderman still is one of the older high school pitchers in the draft. His raw stuff matches up with almost any high school pitcher in the draft. His fastball has been clocked up to 96 mph and he has a hammer curve at 81-84 that acts much like a slider. His size and stuff reminds area scouts of Gerik Baxter, the first of the bevy of Washington draft picks in 1999. When it became apparent Bonderman would declare for this year's draft, he was considered a solid first-round pick. A hamstring problem and the pressure of trying to live up to enormous expectations combined to stunt his development this spring. He was shaky in a number of starts, including one in which he gave up seven runs and didn't make it out of the first inning. He'll still go in the first round if teams can look past his performance this spring and go off what they saw last year.
Projected Second-Fifth Round
Andy Sisco. The first thing that grabs your attention about Sisco is his size. He's a monster at 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds. He's agile and athletic for a big lefthander and throws with little effort from a high three-quarters arm slot. He has a heavy, moving fastball that registered consistently at 90-92 mph this spring and touched 95. With improved mechanics, he may hit 100. His breaking ball is still undeveloped, and he uses a splitter as his changeup. Neither he nor high school teammate Blake Hawksworth made big strides this spring, but both should still be picked in the top two or three rounds. Sisco has a college commitment to Miami.
Alhaji Turay. Turay can put a charge in the ball. He has excellent bat speed and homered 10 times in 60 high school at-bats this spring. He can be too aggressive at the plate and prone to strikeouts. His other tools play well, but he will go as far as his bat takes him. He has a strong, mature body (6 feet, 200 pounds) and runs a steady 6.8 seconds in the 60-yard dash. He also has a strong arm and can play any of the three outfield positions. He's attractive in the early rounds because his college options are limited.
Blake Hawksworth. Hawksworth and Sisco formed a powerful tandem for Eastlake High, but Hawksworth stumbled out of the gate this year. He showed above-average stuff later in the season but didn't dominate as he should have. His fastball touched 92-93 mph and his curveball showed steady improvement. He also has a circle change. Some clubs still like him as high as the third round, but most see him in the going between the fifth and 10th rounds. He has a commitment to Cal State Fullerton.
Luke Hetherington. Hetherington is the best all-around athlete among the elite Washington high school players. He's an excellent football player and a state champion wrestler. That speaks volumes for his speed and strength. He uses his above-average speed well going from first to third and covering ground in center field. He's an effective leadoff hitter with an on-base percentage of nearly .600 this spring. The biggest question is his bat. He has a long swing and is more of an opposite-field hitter.
Cody Gunn. In a draft thin in premier catching prospects, Gunn stands out. He's one of the better defensive catchers in the West and has the actions of a middle infielder. Gunn isn't physical at 6 feet and 175 pounds, but he has a live, athletic body and is the fastest player on his high school team. A lefthanded hitter with a good loft swing, he has shown average power in high school, though it doesn't project as well for pro ball. Gunn is a solid student and teams will have to consider his commitment to Oregon State.
Aaron Hathaway. Hathaway has excellent athletic ability and appeals as a both a pitcher and catcher. He ranks right behind Gunn among Washington catchers. His receiving skills and bat aren't as good as Gunn's, but he has a better arm--a tool that intrigues scouts on the mound.
Others to watch:
LHP/OF Barry Matthews has been one of the best two-way players in college baseball the last two years, producing consecutive 10-home run seasons with the bat and an 18-strikeout game as a pitcher. He has an outstanding changeup and command of four pitches, but is viewed by scouts as a soft-tossing lefty with limited tools. He's likely to sign before the draft as a fifth-year senior . . . Sophomore-eligible 1B Stefan Bailie should be the first player taken in an otherwise weak college crop. He has outstanding power potential and the rest of his game is limited. He would go higher if he could adapt to another position, namely third base . . . Six-foot-6, 240-pound 1B Shaun Evenhus, who is committed to Washington State and could replace Bailie at first base for the Cougars, is the same kind of one-dimensional player. His plus tool is power . . . The state's best junior college player, 1B Steve Mortimer of Yakima Valley CC, also is a one-dimensional slugger. He remained under the control of the Astros from the 2000 draft . . . RHP Gerald Smiley earned mixed reviews this spring. He is a superior athlete who was the point guard on a team that reached the state basketball finals. He has a live arm with an 89-91 mph fastball and low-80s slider, but his size works against him. Smiley's brother Jermaine is an outfielder in the Royals system . . . LHP Mike Ridgway also has a brother in pro ball: Jeff, a lefthander in the Devil Rays organization. Mike throws in the 85-87 mph range but should add velocity as he fills out a 6-foot-3 frame . . . RHP Jarod Matthews has three solid pitches he can throw for strikes, including a fastball that improved from 84 mph a year ago to a consistent 88-89 and a peak of 91.
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