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Regional Scouting Report: South

By Jim Callis
Additional reporting: Bill Ballew, Alan Matthews, Allan Simpson

May 24, 2003

Click a region to jump directly to its report:
Alabama | Mississippi | Georgia | North Carolina | Puerto Rico | South Carolina | Tennessee

Each state or area is graded on a five-star scale, with one star indicating a particularly weak crop and five stars a particularly strong one. The ratings are based on the level of talent a place generally produces, so Southern California isn't graded on the same scale as Alaska.

GEORGIA ***

Georgia produced five first-rounders (counting one supplemental pick) in 2001 and has an outside chance of matching that total this year. Nick Markakis, the best draft-and-follow this side of Adam Loewen, and Matt Murton should go in the top 30 picks, and Tim Battle may not last past the sandwich round. Jimmy Barthmaier and Dennis Dove could go that high if they finish strong.

1. Nick Markakis, lhp, Young Harris JC (CONTROL: Reds)
2. Matt Murton, of, Georgia Tech
3. Tim Battle, of, McIntosh HS, Peachtree City
4. Jimmy Barthmaier, rhp, Roswell HS
5. Dennis Dove, rhp, Georgia Southern U.
6. Paul Bacot, rhp, Lakeside HS, Atlanta
7. Dustin Evans, rhp, Adairsville HS, Taylorsville
8. C.J. Bressoud, c, North Cobb HS, Kennesaw
9. Kyle Bakker, lhp, Georgia Tech
10. Tim Gustafson, rhp, Parkview HS, Lilburn
11. Lee Mitchell, 3b, U. of Georgia
12. Billy Buckner, rhp, Young Harris JC
13. Ryan Turner, lhp, Lumpkin County HS, Dahlonega
14. Mickey Hall, of, Walton HS, Marietta
15. Joey Carroll, rhp, Deerfield Windsor HS, Albany
16. Lee Hyde, lhp, Fayette County HS, Fayetteville
17. Brooks Brown, rhp, Portal HS
18. Brandon Lowe, 1b, Vidalia HS, Mt. Vernon
19. Scott Tolbert, rhp, Georgia Southern U.
20. Chris Goodman, rhp, Georgia Tech
21. Kevin Culpepper, lhp, Georgia Southern U.
22. Ryan Aldridge, rhp, Middle Georgia JC (CONTROL: Pirates)
23. Jo Jo Batten, of, Telfair County HS, McRae
24. Adam Brandenburg, lhp, Kennesaw State U.
25. Brian Rogers, rhp, Georgia Southern U.
26. Stacy Bennett, 3b/c, Armstrong Atlantic State U.
27. Barret Browning, lhp, Middle Georgia JC (CONTROL: Red Sox)
28. Kevin Bulger, 3b/rhp, Young Harris JC
29. Jeff Watchko, rhp, Georgia Tech
30. Grant Reynolds, rhp, Kennesaw State U.
31. David Coffey, of, U. of Georgia
32. Joey Side, of, South Gwinnett HS, Snellville
33. Blake Mitchell, rhp, LaGrange HS
34. Mike Mitchell, of, Brewton-Parker College
35. Aaron Walker, lhp, Georgia Tech

Projected First-Round Picks

Nick Markakis, lhp
Markakis was BA's 2002 Junior College Player of the Year after batting .455-17-74 and going 11-3, 4.53 on the mound. He has been even better this spring–leading national junior college players in strikeouts per nine innings (14.9) and RBIs (89) entering the district playoffs–creating a huge dilemma for the Reds. Cincinnati has drafted Markakis twice and controlled his rights as a 23rd-round draft-and-follow, but doesn’t have the money to both sign him and pay full slot money for the No. 14 overall pick. Rumors circulated that Markakis tried to scare off clubs by asking for a large bonus in an attempt to fall to the homestate Braves in the supplemental first round. He pitched at 92-94 mph for most of the season, though he sat at 88-90 in May. His slurvy breaking ball is a plus pitch and he has improved his changeup. There's some effort to his delivery, but he has a quick arm and few lefties can match his stuff. He's the second-best draft-and-follow on the market, trailing only Chipola (Fla.) JC's Adam Loewen, and like Loewen he could be an early pick if he were just a power-hitting right fielder. Assuming he re-enters the draft, Markakis will be a mid-first-rounder.

Matt Murton, of
Murton was hitting just .307 this spring with aluminum after batting a combined .345 with wood the last two summers in the Cape Cod League, where he also won the 2002 home run derby. He has fallen into bad habits, concentrating on pulling pitches and lengthening his swing. He hits better with wood because it forces him to focus more, using a shorter stroke and letting his considerable power come naturally. His best tool is his bat, though he does everything well except for throwing. He'll be limited to left field as a pro but will be able to carry the offensive load at that position. Murton would mesh nicely with the offensive approach of the Athletics, who pick twice near the end of the first round.

Tim Battle, of
Battle is an ultimate high-risk, high-reward player. Some scouts think he's a better athlete than Florida high schooler Lastings Milledge, and that makes it unlikely Battle will make it to the second round. He has an electric body (6-foot-1, 185 pounds), plus-plus speed and power and has thrown 90 mph off the mound. The downside is that he has come out of nowhere and hasn't faced quality competition. He tends to lunge at pitches and might get eaten up when he sees good breaking balls for the first time. Battle is so raw that he might need two years in Rookie ball. He's unable to get into a four-year school, so signability won't be a factor.

Possible Second-Fifth-Round Picks

Jimmy Barthmaier, rhp
Barthmaier was making a late push for the first round, throwing 91-95 for four innings in a mid-May regional playoff game. He also showed an 80-83 mph slider and easy mechanics. Big-bodied (6-foot-4 and 210 pounds) and very athletic, he's also a good quarterback prospect–and that may hurt his draft status. He has been recruited by several Southeastern Conference schools but is waiting to see how the draft goes before making a commitment. At the same time he has been vague about his signability and his willingness to give up football, making it tough for scouts to get a read on him.

Dennis Dove, rhp
Dove doesn't have much going for him besides a live arm, but that will be enough to get him drafted in the first two rounds. He repeatedly generates mid-90s heat, though it comes in straight and has been hit hard this spring. He relies almost solely on his fastball because he lacks a usable second pitch. He has a hard slider but throws it in the dirt more often than he does in the strike zone. Dove has tended to dominate below-average hitters who chase pitches, but he won't face nearly as many at the next level. He'll be a project and probably a late-inning reliever for whom refining his slider will be crucial.

Paul Bacot, rhp
Like Barthmaier, Bacot is a two-sport athlete who got better this spring. Lean and loose at 6-foot-6 and 200 pounds, he played point guard for the Lakeside High basketball team that reached the state 5-A finals. He didn't join the baseball team until mid-March and since has thrown 87-91 mph on a consistent basis. With his frame and actions, he could reach the mid-90s once he fills out and focuses on baseball. His fastball has good life and his slider has hit 83 mph. Bacot turned down hoops scholarships from mid-level NCAA Division I programs and has committed to play baseball at Georgia. Many of the state's top high school prospects are expected to be tough signs if they don't go high in the draft, Bacot among them, but he may get picked early enough to entice him to pro ball.

Dustin Evans, rhp
A member of the vaunted East Cobb baseball program, Evans pitched with Barthmaier on a team that went to the semifinals of the 2002 American League World Series. He has a lot going for him: an 88-90 mph fastball that touched 93 mph, a promising curveball, a projectable body (6-foot-4, 185 pounds), athleticism and easy mechanics. Though he's committed to Georgia Southern, he's expected to sign.

C.J. Bressoud, c
Bressoud's uncle, Eddie Bressoud was the first pick in the 1961 National League expansion draft and went on to become an all-star shortstop with the Red Sox. C.J. established himself as one of the top catchers for the 2003 draft by showing off the best arm among the backstops at the 2002 Baseball America/Perfect Game World Wood Bat showcase last October. He also has strong receiving skills and bat speed, and improved at the plate this spring. He didn't allow a single runner to steal against him this spring, or give up a passed ball. He also is athletic for his position. The Devil Rays have shown interest in him.

Kyle Bakker, lhp
Bakker outpitched Wake Forest's Kyle Sleeth for a 2-0 victory in mid-April, but that's been the highlight of his disappointing season. Though he's 6-foot-9 and 255 pounds, he never has thrown exceptionally hard but went a combined 17-3 in his first two years at Georgia Tech thanks to his command, deception and makeup. He pitched well for Team USA last summer, posting the best strikeout-walk ratio (40-4) in a rotation that also included Wake Forest's Kyle Sleeth and Houston's Brad Sullivan, and positioned himself as a possible first-round pick for 2003. But he got draftitis and tried to pitch to the radar guns, and lost his mechanics and control. Though he touched 90-92 mph at times, he's a better pitcher at 84-87. His arm isn't quick and he lacks an out pitch, so he must be precise with his location.

Tim Gustafson, rhp
Gustafson's impressive athletic rsum includes pitching on the U.S. junior national team last summer and starting as a wide receiver/cornerback on Parkview High's three straight 5-A state football champs. NCAA Division I football programs recruited him as a receiver, and he'd also be a legitimate prospect as a shortstop. But he's too good on the mound to move him elsewhere. He already throws 88-91 mph and there's more velocity in his lanky 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame. He also throws a power slider, a curveball and a changeup. His athleticism gives him solid mechanics and command.

Others To Watch

• 3B Lee Mitchell performed well in the Cape Cod League last summer and can put on a show in batting practice, but he was hot and cold this spring, batting .299 with 11 homers and more strikeouts (55) than RBIs (52). His bat isn't quick enough to allow him to hit inside fastballs or pull pitches consistently. He does have a strong arm and plays a solid third base. His younger brother Russ, a Cartersville High shortstop, could be drafted and will play with Lee at Georgia next spring if neither turns pro.

• RHP Billy Buckner rode the exposure that Markakis brought Young Harris to a possible third- or fourth-round pick before slipping at the end of the year. He tried to overthrow and lost his good curveball, a better breaking pitch than Markakis'. Buckner throws his curveball at 82-84 mph, leading scouts to project that his fastball will jump from 88-91 mph to 93-96.

• Another live arm on Young Harris was 3B/RHP Kevin Bulger, the brother of 2001 Diamondbacks first-rounder Jason Bulger. Kevin showed a 90-92 mph fastball and good slider in the bullpen but had trouble taking that stuff to the mound this spring. As a result, he barely pitched and spent more time at third base.

• Georgia Tech has its usual strong in-state recruiting class, corralling Gustafson, LHP Ryan Turner, OF Mickey Hall and LHP Lee Hyde. Turner's velocity has stayed in the mid-80s for much of the late spring because he was a late arrival after playing basketball, but he was up to 92 mph at the PG/BA Wood Bat Showcase last fall. He's stronger and more of a pitcher than Hyde, who also can hit 92 but doesn't hold his velocity for more than an inning or two. Hall is an athletic switch-hitter who didn't hit as expected this spring. His older brother Jake is a Yellow Jackets infielder. Turner, Hall and Hyde may not be signable if they aren't picked in the first two or three rounds.

• Rival Georgia can counter with Bacot, RHP Joey Carroll, RHP/3B Brooks Brown and OF Joey Side. Carroll, like Turner, got off to a slow start because of basketball but started popping 90-92 mph as the draft approached. He's 6-foot-5 and has a sweet arm action, so he could reach the mid-90s in the future. Brown would play two ways for the Bulldogs but is more likely to pitch as a pro. He has lefthanded power and throws as hard as 91 mph from the right side, and he's still growing. Side's best tools are his line-drive bat and his speed.

• 1B Brandon Lowe is one of the state's best power hitters and looks the part at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds. He's a bit raw and one-dimensional, however, and he hurt himself with a subpar performance at the Perfect Game national predraft showcase in May.

• RHP Brian Rogers seemed certain to be Georgia Southern's top draft pick after his 0.40 ERA nearly broke Eric Milton's Cape Cod record and earned him recognition as the league's 2002 pitcher of the year. He relied on his location and his slider, but this spring tried to overthrow and lost his mechanics and command. He usually sits at 85-88 mph and needs to get back to what worked last summer.

• Two teammates, RHP Scott Tolbert and sophomore-eligible LHP Kevin Culpepper, have now surpassed Rogers. Tolbert has a hard slider and a low-90s fastball. Culpepper is a very projectable 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds and already touches the low 90s.

• A star shortstop on Lassiter High's 1999 national championship team, RHP Chris Goodman hit .132 as a North Carolina State freshman in 2000 before transferring to Georgia Tech. He has been a consistent winner in two years as a pitcher, and his fastball and slider keep getting better. His 90-92 mph fastball touched 94 this spring and 96 in the fall. His younger brother John, a Lassiter shortstop, was a member of East Cobb's American Legion World Series club and signed with the Yellow Jackets. He'll play the middle infield and possible close for Georgia Tech if he doesn't sign.

• As a sixth-round pick of the Red Sox, LHP Barret Browning was the fourth-highest choice among 2002 draft-and-follows. But he didn't thrown well this spring and was passed by former Wayne County High and current Middle Georgia JC teammate Ryan Aldridge. A righthander, Aldridge showed an untouchable 92-95 mph fastball while pitching relief at the state juco tournament.

• OFJo Jo Batten is 5-foot-11 but swings a big bat. He led all hitters at the 2002 National Amateur Baseball Federation College World Series with a .590 average as his Ohio Warhawks team finished second. He also has plus speed.

• 3B/C Stacy Bennett also had a successful summer in 2002 playing for the Arlington (Va.) Senators club that won the All-American Amateur Baseball Association World Series. His best tool is his arm, and though he wasn't a full-time catcher for Armstrong Atlantic State, he threw out nine of 18 base stealers this spring.

• Australian RHP Grant Reynolds set a New England Collegiate Baseball League record with a 0.46 ERA and has been named the Peach Belt Conference pitcher of the year for two years running. He's just 5-foot-11 and doesn't throw hard, but he's plain hard to hit. He has pinpoint command and a frustrating changeup, and he struck out 19 against South Carolina-Aiken.

• LHP Adam Brandenburg, another member of the Kennesaw State rotation, is considered more of a prospect because he has more velocity (upper 80s) and a better body (6-foot-5, 205 pounds). He hasn't had nearly the success Reynolds has, though Brandenburg did pitch 7 1/3 strong innings in the game (won by Reynolds) that sent the Owls to the NCAA Division II College World Series.

• RHP Jeff Watchko was solid for his first three years at Georgia Tech, but had the worst ERA (5.01) on the staff this spring. An 18th-round pick of the Pirates last year, he still has his 86-88 mph but hasn't shown the same touch with his curveball. LHP Aaron Walker didn't pitch well for the Yellow Jackets either and his fastball sat in the mid-80s. But he'll probably get drafted because he touched 94 mph and showed an 80-82 mph slider in the fall, not to mention that he's a 6-foot-3 southpaw.

• OF David Coffey hit .295-6-20 to finish in the top 10 in all three categories in the Cape Cod League last summer. He's had his moments this spring, including an SEC record-tying six-hit game and an inside-the-park grand slam. Because he's not big, he might fit better as a pro second baseman.

• RHP Blake Mitchell is one of the nation's best quarterback recruits and signed with South Carolina. His older brother Jay was a Rockies fourth-round pick in 2001, and Blake would have a comparable ceiling if he focused on baseball.

• The biggest sleeper in the state may be OF Mike Mitchell, who attended Brewton Parker but did not play baseball. He has been offered minor contracts in the past because he has five-tool potential, with his speed and arm strength standing out the most.

SOUTH CAROLINA **

Though Clemson and South Carolina are both in line to host NCAA regional playoffs and Riverside High in Greer is ranked No. 3 in the nation, the talent is thin. All of the state's best high school players are Riverside underclassmen, led by junior two-way stars Brad Chalk and Brad Hawkins and sophomore catcher Kyle Enders.

1. Michael Johnson, 1b, Clemson U. (CONTROL: Padres)
2. Landon Powell, c, U. of South Carolina
3. Steven Jackson, rhp, Clemson U.
4. David Marchbanks, lhp, U. of South Carolina
5. Brian Buscher, 3b, U. of South Carolina
6. Justin Sturge, lhp, Coastal Carolina U.
7. Matt Lauderdale, c, College of Charleston
8. Steven Bondurant, lhp, U. of South Carolina
9. Tom Mastny, rhp, Furman U.
10. Lee Curtis, 2b, College of Charleston
11. Jeremy Plexico, lhp, Winthrop U.
12. Nick Mershon, ss, St. Joseph's HS, Taylors
13. Ryan McGraw, of, Coastal Carolina U.
14. Raymond Jenkins, rhp, U. of South Carolina-Aiken
15. Tyler Colvin, 1b/of, North Augusta HS
16. Brandon Powell, 2b, Coastal Carolina U.
17. Derek Norman, c, Furman U.
18. Josh McDonald, rhp, Lexington HS
19. Chris Hernandez, rhp, U. of South Carolina
20. John Coutlangus, of, U. of South Carolina

Projected First-Round Picks
None

Possible Second-Fifth-Round Picks

Michael Johnson, 1b
Negotiations with the Padres became acrimonious after they drafted him in the second round last June, and Johnson appeared to have made a mistake when he returned to Clemson and dislocated his right ankle during fall practice. But he has recovered to turn in another strong season, this time without the lineup support of All-Americans Jeff Baker and Khalil Greene. He won't come close to matching his 25-homer output from 2002, but he has been willing to take his walks when he has been pitched around. There's a division of opinion on whether he has more than average power and whether he could play left field as a pro. Because he's a fifth-year senior, San Diego still controls his rights. While that relationship has been repaired, the Padres may lose their window to sign him if Clemson advances past the NCAA regional playoffs. If that happens, he'd be a very attractive senior sign and could go in the second round again.

Landon Powell, c
Though scouts aren't sure exactly what to make of Powell, he'll get drafted in the second or third round because he's a college catcher with some upside. He's a switch-hitter who has shortened his stroke to make better contact in 2003, and it has worked. It also has reduced his home run power, however. He's tough behind the plate, where his arm, hands and blocking skills are all assets. But his body scares the bejeezus out of scouts. He's 15-20 pounds overweight and carries more than his listed 225 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame. Though he has improved in most aspects of his game, Powell has gotten heavier each year, which has slowed his feet and bat. If he doesn't get his body under control, his weight could severely hamper his career.

colvi Others To Watch

• Six-foot-5, 225-pound RHP Steven Jackson can hit 94 mph with his heavy fastball, but he rarely pitches to his potential. Clemson's Kevin O'Sullivan is one of the most respected pitching coaches in college baseball, so scouts wonder if Jackson will do much better as a pro. He barely had more strikeouts (38) than walks (32) entering NCAA regional play. He'll show velocity and a good slider at times, but mostly pitches around 90 mph with inconsistent breaking stuff.

David Marchbanks is the opposite of Jackson. He's lefthanded and rarely touches 90, but he parlayed his command and secondary stuff (cutter/slider, changeup) into Southeastern Conference pitcher-of-the-year honors. He led the SEC with 32 called third strikes during the regular season.

Steven Bondurant is another crafty Gamecocks lefty, best remembered for pitching a complete game to beat Clemson in the 2002 College World Series semifinals. He usually throws 85-87 mph and his top pitch is his changeup.

• 3B Brian Buscher is a poor man's version of former Gamecocks star Dave Hollins, who went on to play 11 seasons in the big leagues. Buscher has lefthanded power, arm strength and quick reactions at the hot corner. He also plays with intensity. Drafted twice previously, he's a quality senior sign.

• Along with Johnson and Buscher, most of the state's best college prospects are seniors. Justin Sturge and Jeremy Plexico are 6-foot-4 finesse lefthanders. Sturge has the best breaking pitch, a curveball, and threw a no-hitter in the Coastal Plain League last summer.

• C Matt Lauderdale has been the top catch-and-throw guy in the state for two years running-even with Powell around. He doesn't hit for power but has very good plate discipline. His sister Mandy was featured on FOX's first edition of "Temptation Island.".

• RHP Tom Mastny's 1.17 ERA led all NCAA Division I pitchers at the end of the regular season, while 2B Lee Curtis was tops with 11 triples. Mastny, the Southern Conference pitcher of the year, has a solid fastball/changeup/curveball combo and is 6-foot-6. Curtis has some pop, speed and arm strength.

• SS Nick Mershon is the only South Carolina high school player who's a good bet to be drafted. Power and arm strength are his best tools, and he'll likely wind up at either third base or right field.
1B/OF Tyler Colvin and RHP Josh McDonald are two other prep candidates but both are projectable and will be much better draft picks after three years at Clemson and South Carolina, respectively.

• The Royals have monitored Coastal Carolina's two best position prospects. OF Ryan McGraw is a 5-foot-7 speedster who covers center field very well and has a knack for drawing walks. 2B Brandon Powell also runs well and has more sock in his bat.

• RHP Raymond Jenkins has a power arm and a solid frame (6-foot-3, 190 pounds), but has been dismissed from The Citadel and South Carolina-Aiken the last two years. He's been working out for teams and is an obvious easy sign.

• C Derek Norman has made a nice transition from shortstop, though he hasn't hit as well as he did in his first two years at Furman. He might be better off as a senior sign in 2004.

NORTH CAROLINA ****

With the exception of a thin crop in 2000, North Carolina has consistently produced talent for the last five years. In 2003, prospects can be found all over the state at both the high school and college levels. Kyle Sleeth should be the highest Tar Heel State pick since Josh Hamilton went No. 1 overall in 1999.

1. Kyle Sleeth, rhp, Wake Forest U.
2. Daniel Bard, rhp, Charlotte Christian Academy
3. Matt Harrison, lhp, South Granville HS, Creedmoor
4. Daniel Moore, lhp, U. of North Carolina
5. Colt Morton, c, North Carolina State U.
6. Jamie D'Antona, 3b, Wake Forest U.
7. Adam Bourassa, of, Wake Forest U.
8. Ryan Basner, rhp, Western Carolina U.
9. Blake Murphy, c, Tuscola HS, Waynesville
10. Shane Matthews, rhp, St. Stephens HS, Conover
11. Adam Stanley, lhp, Garner HS
12. Cody Dickens, rhp, Surry CC (CONTROL: Angels)
13. Ryan Marion, rhp, Glenn HS, Kernersville
14. Kevin Allen, ss, West Henderson HS, Hendersonville
15. Jeremy Cleveland, of/1b, U. of North Carolina
16. Adam McLaurin, rhp, Fuquay-Varina HS 
17. Ryan Johnson, of, Wake Forest U.
18. Chad Orvella, rhp/ss, North Carolina State U.
19. Chad Lanier, lhp, Brevard College
20. Brad Blackwell, rhp, North Carolina State U.
21. Arik Hempy, lhp, Garner HS
22. Lee Land, 3b/rhp, Riverside HS, Durham
23. Brody Taylor, lhp, Louisburg JC (CONTROL: Expos)
24. Rob Wooten, rhp, C.B. Aycock HS, Fremont
25. Andy Mudd, of, Scotland HS, Laurinburg
26. Vern Sterry, rhp, North Carolina State U.
27. Brandon Yarbrough, c, Richmond HS, Ellerbe
28. Matt Kniginyzky, rhp, High Point College
29. Joe Gaetti, of, North Carolina State U.
30. Jeremy Dutton, 3b, North Carolina State U.
31. Jake Mullis, rhp, UNC Wilmington
32. Sean Farrell, of, U. of North Carolina
33. Sam Bradford, of/rhp, Gardner-Webb U.
34. Sammy Hewitt, 3b, U. of North Carolina
35. John Emmert, lhp, Wake Forest-Rolesville HS, Raleigh
36. Robert Woodard, rhp, Myers Park HS, Charlotte
37. David Smith, lhp, Pfeiffer U.
38. Jamie Hemingway, of, UNC Wilmington
39. Carter Harrell, rhp, Louisburg JC
40. Harris Honeycutt, rhp/1b, Fuquay-Varina HS

Projected First-Round Picks

Kyle Sleeth, rhp
The consensus is that Sleeth is better than Bryan Bullington, the No. 1 overall pick a year ago, though he won't go that high in this draft. He should be no worse than the second college pitcher drafted–Richmond's Tim Stauffer is the only one with a shot to go ahead of him–or the seventh overall choice. Sleeth's pitching has dropped off slightly since his NCAA record-tying 26-game winning streak ended, but he still has a long track record of success with Wake Forest and Team USA. Not to mention three nasty pitches, a 93-94 mph fastball with life, a low-80s slider that has improved this year and a power curveball. There's still some room for projection with his 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame. Sleeth also has a decent changeup and throws strikes. His delivery can get out of whack, and he'll sometimes throw across his body or leave the ball up in the strike zone. Consistency is all that stands between him becoming a frontline starter in the major leagues.

Possible Second-Fifth-Round Picks

Daniel Bard, rhp
Bard has borderline first-round talent but verges on unsignable. He comes from a wealthy family and it may take as much as $2 million to get him to pass on the University of North Carolina. His father completed his education at Tufts before signing as a Dodgers sixth-round pick in 1980. Bard has a live arm and just needs to settle on an arm slot. He dropped to a low three-quarters angle this year, adding movement but sacrificing command and velocity. He generally throws 90-92 and has hit 96 from a higher slot. He has work to do with his breaking ball and overall game. With his projectable 6-foot-3, 175-pound build, it's easy to imagine him becoming an early 2006 first-rounder if he opts to join the Tar Heels.

Matt Harrison, lhp
Harrison likely will get drafted ahead of Bard because he's expected to sign if he gets drafted in the first five rounds. He has some advantages over Bard: he's a little bigger (6-foot-4, 185 pounds), lefthanded and has more feel for pitching. He was only a mild prospect entering 2003, but then his fastball jumped from 85-86 mph to 88-93. He has a hard, slurvy breaking ball and an average changeup. The combination has been too much for his opponents, as he has thrown a perfect game and a no-hitter and has two other contests where he didn't permit a ball to be hit out of the infield. Though he's lanky, he's more athletic than he looks.

Daniel Moore, lhp
Moore is a tease. He's a 6-foot-5, 232-pound lefthander who has hit 94 mph in the past. He pitches inside well, gets good tailing action on his fastball and will flash good second (curveball) and third (changeup) pitches. Yet outside of a 2001 stint in the Cape Cod League, he never has dominated like that combination would suggest he should. He has taken some velocity off his fastball this year, working more in the high 80s to throw more strikes, but also has been more hittable. He has filled out, adding 30 pounds while at North Carolina, so he's no longer as projectable as he once was.

Colt Morton, c
Few players have made as much out of a .187 summer in the Cape Cod League as Morton did in 2002. His six homers were one shy of the league lead and he was the best defensive catcher around. Though he's 6-foot-6 and 227 pounds, he moves well behind the plate and has good throwing mechanics. His size also translates into considerable power. The one real flaw in his game is an inability to make consistent contact. He struggles to hit pitches down and away, swings and misses way too frequently and never has hit better than .272 in college. Morton does show some patience but still needs to shorten his stroke and use the entire field. How much he'll hit as a pro with wood remains to be seen. The general shortage of catchers in the 2003 draft makes him a second-round possibility.

Jamie D'Antona, 3b
D'Antona had the opposite experience as Morton on the Cape last summer. He came in with a much bigger reputation and bombed, looking sloppy at the plate and at third base. Worse, he looked like he didn't care, turning off managers and scouts. He has rebounded this spring, setting Wake Forest's career home run record and winning Atlantic Coast Conference player-of-the-year honors. His power is legitimate, though his swing is a little long and he's a bit of a mistake hitter. He threw 94 mph off a mound during the Deacons' scouts day in the fall, but has such limited range that he might have to move from third to first base as a pro. A better use of his arm would be to put him behind the plate, but D'Antona has expressed no interest in catching.

Adam Bourassa, of
Bourassa is very similar to former Wake Forest star Cory Sullivan, a 2001 seventh-round pick of the Rockies as a senior. Both are diminutive center fielders with plate discipline, speed and instincts, and both starred in the Cape Cod League, where Bourassa finished second in the batting race last summer. Four inches shorter than Sullivan, Bourassa doesn't have his gap power and is more of a slap-and-run style hitter. His defense and leadoff skills will make him an attractive senior sign who could go three rounds higher than Sullivan did.

Others To Watch

• RHP Ryan Basner attracted scouts in the second half, when he touched 94-96 mph. He's a strong 6-foot-3, 220-pounder who usually pitches at 90-92 mph. His breaking ball and changeup aren't as impressive, though he competes well. He's a senior, which enhances his draft status.

Blake Murphy is the best of a solid group of North Carolina high school catchers. He has improved his physical conditioning, which has helped his catch-and-throw skills as well as his bat. Brandon Yarbrough may have more offensive upside, though he's not as developed as Murphy. Kinston High's Chris Hatcher has a better arm than either of them, but his bat is questionable. He has some pitching potential with a 90-92 mph fastball.

• RHP Shane Matthews may have better life on his pitches than anyone in the state, even at the college level. He throws a 86-90 mph fastball with late, heavy sink and slide and run to either side of the plate. He has a lot of pitchability for a high schooler, as he can add and subtract from his fastball and shows feel for a slider. A quarterback for his high school team, he's also a good athlete. He's probably a sixth- to 10th-rounder, and if that's the case his parents will push for him to attend East Carolina.

• Garner High has two draftworthy southpaws, and Adam Stanley has moved ahead of the more publicized Arik Hempy. There are some makeup questions with Stanley, but he has a better body (6-foot-2, 190 pounds), has thrown 88-90 mph and reminds some scouts of Mike Stanton. Hempy, who's 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, was shut down for two weeks with a tender elbow and has thrown 86-88 mph for much of the spring. He has a high price tag and likely will wind up at the University of South Carolina.

• Surry CC suspended RHP Cody Dickens for an unspecified violation of team rules and he also has missed time with shoulder tendinitis, but he's still the top juco prospect in the state. He regularly throws in the low 90s and has touched 95 mph, and he also has shown flashes of a plus curveball. Right behind Pickens is LHP Brody Taylor, who pitches anywhere from 84-92 mph and wins at any velocity. He can throw his three pitches, which also include a curveball and changeup, anywhere he wants. Dickens is under control to the Angels, Taylor to the Expos. The best juco talent who can't sign before the draft is Taylor's Louisburg teammate, RHP Carter Harrell, who spent 2002 at North Carolina and led the Tar Heels with eight wins. Harrell threw 90-plus as a Tar Heel, but stretched his labrum in the fall and has been disappointing this spring. He lost a 3-0 duel with Dickens in March.

• RHP Ryan Marion and SS Kevin Allen are quite raw, but they have two of the highest ceilings in the state. Marion will show a 94-mph fastball in the bullpen but rarely in games, when he cuts down on his velocity to try to throw strikes. He also has a power curve but struggles with the command of it as well. Allen, who has led West Henderson High to a 25-0 record this spring, is more known as a tailback and can run a 6.3-second 60-yard dash. He's so inexperienced, however, that he swings at everything and takes bad routes on fly balls. He'll be a project.

• OF/1B Jeremy Cleveland had the Atlantic Coast Conference batting title well in hand with a .431 average at the end of the regular season, and his 18 homers put him just three behind D'Antona for the league lead. Opinion is very divided on him. Some teams think he's a legit hitter with great plate discipline who can play left field as a pro. Others think he's just a good college player destined for first base. OF Ryan Johnson wasn't as productive as he was in 2002, but he's a good senior sign and an ACC hitter in the same class with Cleveland.

• Nationally ranked and defending 4-A state champion Fuquay-Varina High has a 1-2 punch to match Garner's in RHP Adam McLaurin and RHP/1B Harris Honeycutt. McLaurin showed good stuff as a sophomore, then broke his thumb and had a down year in 2002. He's back throwing 88-92 mph with a hard breaking ball. Honeycutt pitched himself into the draft picture by touching 91 mph late in the spring.

Chad Orvella is a scrappy shortstop with a knack for getting on base, but his .173 summer in the Cape Cod League in 2002 killed scouts' interest in his bat. He still has a pro future, however, as he has been clocked up to 95 mph while pitching occasionally in relief for North Carolina State. He also has an 82-83 mph slider and good command. He's still learning on the mound, as his 10.24 regular-season ERA would attest.

• LHP Chad Lanier is a 6-foot-7 lefthander who touches 94 mph, albeit with a violent delivery that features a head jerk. When he calms down his mechanics to throw more strikes, he often pitches in the mid-80s. He's also deaf in one ear.

• RHP Brad Blackwell never got on the mound for North Carolina State this year because his credits didn't transfer properly from Seminole State (Okla.) JC. Blackwell, who set an Oklahoma state record for pins as a high school wrestler, throws a low-90s fastball with natural cutter action and a hard slider.

• 3B/RHP Lee Land is North Carolina's top two-way talent and will play both ways if he attends Wake Forest. D'Antona's possible replacement at the hot corner, Land provides power and good defense. In his first extensive taste of pitching, he has thrown in the low 90s and shown a decent slider this spring.

• Besides having similar names, Robbie Wooten and Robert Woodard are both 6-foot-2, 190-pound righthanders with commitments to the University of North Carolina. Wooten reaches the low 90s more consistently, while Woodard has better command.

• OF Andy Mudd broke out at the East Coast Professional Showcase in Wilmington, N.C., but hasn't looked as strong in games this spring. His swing, arm and speed all have been enticing in workouts.

• RHP Vern Sterry reminds area scouts of former South Carolina star Kip Bouknight, who won big despite pitching in the mid-80s. Sterry has done that this spring, going 11-0, 2.71 in the regular season for North Carolina State after transferring from Cypress (Calif.) JC. His out pitch is his changeup and he gets ahead of hitters.

• There's interest in Canadian RHP Matt Kniginyzky even though he went 1-9 at High Point this spring and pitched just 13 innings at Northeastern Oklahoma JC in 2002 because of elbow tendinitis. He's skinny at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, but he hit 93 mph toward the end of the season.

• North Carolina State OF Joe Gaetti and 3B Jeremy Dutton and North Carolina OF Sean Farrell and 3B Sammy Hewitt all could go toward the end of the first 10 rounds after reaching double figures in homers this spring. Gaetti plays with an intensity reminiscent of his father Gary, a two-time all-star third baseman. Dutton hit just four homers in his first three seasons with the Wolfpack and didn't go deep in 2002. The Athletics drafted Hewitt as a pitcher in the 28th round of the 2000 draft, but he no longer takes the mound after having shoulder problems.

• RHP Jake Mullis and OF Jamie Hemingway headline a deep crop of UNC Wilmington senior signs. Mullis commands his fastball/curveball/changeup combination and usually pitches at 86-89 mph. Hemingway is a 6-foot-3, 215-pound athlete with solid tools across the board.

• OF/RHP Sam Bradford is a switch-hitting center fielder who led Gardner-Webb in all three triple crown categories plus stolen bases. But pro teams may move him to the mound after he threw 93 mph last summer.

• UNC Charlotte RHP Zach Treadway's older brother Brion is a former 49er drafted in the third round by the Giants in 2000. Zach has a good curveball and a competitive streak.

TENNESSEE **

For the second straight year, Houston High in Germantown has yielded Tennessee's top prospect. Stuart Pomeranz follows Matt Cain, a 2002 Giants first-rounder who surged to the forefront after teammate Conor Lalor got hurt last year. Tiny Ooltewah (population 5,681) has two prep players who could go in the first five rounds.

1. Stuart Pomeranz, rhp, Houston HS, Collierville
2. Javi Herrera, c, U. of Tennessee
3. Adam Trent, rhp, Ooltewah HS
4. Wes Hodges, ss, Baylor School, Ooltewah
5. Nathan Kopszywa, rhp, Crichton College
6. Brad Rose, rhp, Walters State CC (CONTROL: Mariners)
7. Robert Ransom, rhp, Vanderbilt U.
8. B.J. Jenkins, rhp, Trevecca Nazarene College
9. Jeremy Laster, of, Hunters Lane HS, Nashville
10. Chad Etheridge, of, Volunteer State CC (CONTROL: Padres)
11. Taylor Bennett, rhp, Covington HS
12. Jeff McCollum, rhp, Covington HS
13. Derek Tharpe, lhp, U. of Tennessee
14. Keith Black, lhp, Trevecca Nazarene College
15. Casey Benjamin, ss, Tennessee Tech
16. Tim Turner, lhp/of, East Tennessee State U.
17. Josh Markum, lhp, Riverside HS, Murfreesboro
18. Brendan Murphy, 1b, Grace Baptist Academy, Chattanooga
19. Kevin House, of, U. of Memphis
20. Jordan Czarniecki, of, U. of Tennessee

Projected First-Round Picks
None

Possible Second-Fifth-Round Picks

Stuart Pomeranz, rhp
Though Adam Trent emerged suddenly and grabbed the state's highest Major League Scouting Bureau rating, the more established Pomeranz proved over the course of the spring that he's still Tennessee's best prospect. He went 9-0, 0.11 while averaging two strikeouts an inning. He has a stronger body at 6-foot-7 and 218 pounds to go with a deeper and more consistent repertoire. He has thrown in the low 90s every time out and shown good depth on a slurvy breaking ball. He has more room to improve than most of the top righthanders in this draft, but he doesn't have a real quick arm action so he may not reach the mid-90s. His only college commitment is to Chipola (Fla.) JC, so he's very signable and could go as early as the second round.

Javi Herrera, c
While Pomeranz is a better prospect, Herrera could go before him in the draft–possibly in the supplemental first round–because of the expected emphasis on college players and the shortfall of catchers. He missed most of the 2002 season after breaking his right hamate bone and having arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder. Herrera's catch-and-throw skills are his strength, though he threw out just 20 percent of basestealers this year. He has some power and uses the entire field, but he never has been very productive at the plate. His bat will determine whether he'll become an everyday catcher in the big leagues.

Adam Trent, rhp
Trent threw 93-94 mph at a Young Harris (Ga.) JC showcase last fall, but still was an unknown until he faced Ooltewah rival Wes Hodges early this spring. Trent hit 93 mph 10 times in that contest, and suddenly scouts were swarming to see him. He hasn't maintained that velocity, but at an underdeveloped 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds, he figures to surpass it in the future. He's all velocity right now, and his commitment to Young Harris may mean that a team will take a draft-and-follow approach with him.

Wes Hodges, ss
How much of a gamer is Hodges? He broke the hamate bone in his left wrist early in the year and didn't want to miss too much time, so he began hitting lefthanded for the first time in his life. Before he got hurt, Hodges drew comparisons to former Clemson slugger Jeff Baker, a 2002 fourth-round pick of the Rockies, and figured to go roughly as high in the draft. Because he wasn't able to hit for power, Hodges now may not go high enough to lure him away from Georgia Tech. He projects as a third baseman after high school.

Others To Watch

• Tiny Crichton, which has an enrollment of 821 students and is a member of the National Christian College Athletic Association, has two prospects. RHP Nathan Kopszywa has put on 35 pounds in college, growing into a 6-foot-6, 230-pounder with a 93-94 mph fastball. He also has a sharp slider, though his arm slot and command varies. This won't be the first time he'll have been drafted; the Marlins popped him in the 39th round out of a Mississippi high school in 2000. C Trave Hopkins has a strong arm and good bat speed, though his swing is a bit unorthodox.

• Trevecca Nazarene is another college off the beaten path that has a pair of likely draft picks. RHP B.J. Jenkins has a lively low-90s fastball and a solid slider. LHP Keith Black has less velocity (86-88 mph), a better breaking ball (a curve) and more command.

• RHP Brad Rose outpitched Young Harris' (Ga.) Nick Markakis, a first-round talent, in the opener of a regional playoff series, setting the stage for an upset that put Walters State in the Junior College World Series. Rose already throws in the low 90s, is very projectable at 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds, and has an effective slider. He's under control to the Mariners, who took him in the 37th round in 2002.

• RHP Robert Ransom turned in quality starts in each of his final four Southeastern Conference outings to build positive momentum heading into the draft. He has a workhorse body (6-foot-3, 225 pounds), an 87-91 mph sinker and a hard slurvy curveball. He has a good foundation but needs more consistency.

• If Hodges plummets because of his injury and signability, OF Jeremy Laster could be the first Tennessee high school position player drafted. He's a 6-foot-1, 185-pound athlete with a huge power/speed ceiling, but he's also very raw. A team may be content to draft-and-follow Laster, who's ticketed for Walters State.

• The state's top juco position player entering the year was SS Anthony Stevens, who resembles Royce Clayton but has more offensive upside. Then Stevens, a 28th-round pick of the Pirates in 2002, was declared academically ineligible at Volunteer State. He was supplanted by another Pioneer, OF Chad Etheridge, a switch-hitter with big-time power and arm strength. Editor's note: The Padres have signed Etheridge as a 45th-round draft-and-follow.

• RHPs Taylor Bennett and Jeffrey McCollum give Covington High a formidable pair of starters. Bennett, a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder, has the stuff (88-92 mph fastball, slider) to become a weekend starter for Mississippi State if he doesn't sign. McCollum has more projection remaining at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds. He pitches at 86-88 now and doesn't throw as many strikes as Bennett.

• LHP Derek Tharpe tied for the University of Tennessee lead with six victories after transferring from Samford. He's just 5-foot-11, but he ties up righthanders with an 86-89 mph cutter and also has a plus changeup and a hard, 11-to-5 curveball. He's similar to the Brewers' Shane Nance.

• A native of Fargo, N.D., SS Casey Benjamin ranked ninth in NCAA Division I with a .431 batting average at the end of the regular season. He's a contact hitter who's just fair at shortstop, so he'll probably move to second base as a pro.

Tim Turner, Kevin House and Jordan Czarniecki are athletic center fielders drawing draft interest. Turner should get picked first, but probably as a pitcher. He's a lefty with an 85-88 mph fastball and strong changeup. He led the Coastal Plain League in strikeouts last summer and should throw better if he focuses solely on pitching. House is the best hitter of the bunch, while Czarniecki is the fastest.

• LHP Josh Markum was attracting attention as the draft approached. He's a projectable 6-3 and 180 pounds, tops out at 87 mph and spots three pitches for strikes.

• Playing on the same summer team with Hodges gained exposure for 1B Brandon Murphy. He packs a lot of power into his 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame, but hasn't faced good competition and likely will be draft-and-followed.

• Tennessee's Brian Cleveland is one of the best defensive shortstops in the Southeastern Conference, with a strong arm, plenty of range and soft hands. But after hitting .400 in each of his two seasons at San Jose (Calif.) CC, he batted just .271. Teams may wait until next year to draft him as a senior.

ALABAMA ***

Mobile's St. Paul's Episcopal Academy, with five Division I signees, is one of the nation's top high school teams this year, but Pelham High has Alabama's top two prep prospects in RHPs Chris Vines and Derik Olvey. South Alabama has a dynamic duo of its own in RHP Clark Girardeau and slugger Ryan Mulhern.

1. Clark Girardeau, rhp, U. of South Alabama
2. Chris Vines, rhp, Pelham HS
3. Derik Olvey, rhp, Pelham HS
4. Javon Moran, of, Auburn U.
5. Ryan Mulhern, of, U. of South Alabama
6. Jessie Corn, rhp, Jacksonville State U.
7. Russ Johnson, rhp/1b, Benjamin Russell HS, Alexander City
8. Beau Hearod, of, U. of Alabama
9. Chase Christianson, rhp, St. Paul's Episcopal Academy, Mobile
10. Bill Kleinschrodt, of, St. Paul's Episcopal Academy, Mobile
11. Emeel Salem, of, Mountain Brook HS, Birmingham
12. Michael Rutledge, 3b, Cullman HS
13. Joey Doan, rhp, Baker HS, Mobile
14. Karl Amonite, 1b, Auburn U.
15. Adam Pavkovich, ss, U. of Alabama
16. Craig Lybarger, lhp, Jefferson State CC
17. Bobby Huddleston, c, Auburn U.
18. Brock Hunton, rhp, Wallace State CC (CONTROL: Red Sox)
19. Josh Touchstone, 2b, U. of South Alabama
20. Adam Bass, rhp, U. of Alabama-Huntsville
21. Caleb Crosby, rhp, U. of South Alabama
22. Tyler Eddy, rhp, Hartselle HS
23. Blake Heym, of, Hartselle HS
24. Tony Neal, rhp, U. of South Alabama
25. Wesley Wright, lhp, Goshen HS, Grady

Projected First-Round Picks
None

Possible Second-Fifth-Round Picks

Clark Girardeau, rhp
Girardeau has recovered from nagging injuries that bothered him for parts of two seasons to become Alabama's top prospect. Back problems contributed to him losing five of his last six decisions in 2002 and a tender shoulder sidelined him early this year. At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, he has the body to be a workhorse. He was at his best in mid-May as South Alabama wrapped up its third straight Sun Belt Conference championship. Girardeau was sitting at 88-91 mph and touching 94, complementing his fastball with a plus slider and getting outs with his changeup. He sometimes falls in love with his slider, but if he improves his command he has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter in the majors. He'll likely get popped between the third and fifth rounds.

Chris Vines, rhp
Very projectable at 6-foot-5 and 187 pounds, Vines has started to turn some of the projection into reality. His fastball jumped from 86-88 mph last summer to 89-93 this spring. His curveball also has improved and Vines knows what he's doing on the mound. His stuff isn't quite as good as teammate Derek Olvey's right now, but Vines should surpass him in the future. The University of Florida's top out-of-state recruit, Vines is expected to turn pro as a third- to fifth-rounder.

Derik Olvey, rhp
Olvey stood out as much as any pitcher at the Perfect Game's National Predraft Showcase in Iowa in mid-May. He threw in the low 90s with good life and showed a 12-6 power curveball. His arm action looked more effortless than it had in the past. More physically developed than Vines at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Olvey also made major strides in the last year. After throwing 87-90 mph last summer, he put up a lot of 92s and 94s this spring. Besides its velocity, his fastball is notable for its heavy life down in the strike zone. He's a diabetic but that shouldn't affect his draft status or future. Once regarded as a tough sign because of his commitment to Notre Dame, Olvey appears willing to accept slot money if he's taken before the fifth round.

Javon Moran, of
Moran's speed and instincts make him the best baserunner and top defensive outfielder in the Southeastern Conference. To be an effective major leaguer, he'll have to refine his approach at the plate. While he has good pop for a 5-foot-11, 175-pounder, Moran has to play more of a little man's game. He needs to learn to get on base more often via the bunt and the walk. He had drawn just nine walks in each of the last two seasons, minimizing his basestealing chances. His arm is slightly below average but more than playable for center field.

Others To Watch

• Dissatisfied with being selected in the 19th round by the Cardinals a year ago, OF Ryan Mulhern returned to South Alabama for his senior season and set the Jaguars career home run record. Counting his 2000 season at Trinidad State (Colo.), when he led national juco players with 28 homers and 108 RBIs, Mulhern has hit 73 homers as a collegian. He stays inside pitches and is naturally strong, so he should hit for power with wood. His arm is below average, but he's a capable left fielder.

• RHP Jessie Corn went a combined 4-10, 5.16 in his first two seasons at Jacksonville State before blossoming as a junior. His 2.02 ERA and three shutouts both rank among the NCAA Division I regular-season leaders. He doesn't have the height (6-foot-1) or velocity (86-89) scouts crave, but he has exquisite command of his fastball, curveball, slider and changeup.

• After elbow problems shut him down last summer, RHP/1B Russ Johnson bounced back to throw 92-93 mph this spring. He's close to being in the class of Vines and Olvey, though he's not as projectable at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds. He's also a capable slugger who will play both ways if he attends Jacksonville State.

• OF Beau Hearod led the Southeastern Conference with 20 homers and 72 RBIs at the end of the regular season. He's viewed as just a good senior sign because he's 5-foot-10 and limited defensively, but he can mash. The University of Alabama doesn't have its usual amount of prospects this year. The Crimson Tide's only other candidate for the early rounds is SS Adam Pavkovich. Pavkovich's forte is his defense, specifically a strong arm that could lead to a trial on the mound as a pro.

• RHP Chase Christianson and OF Bill Kleinschrodt led St. Paul's Episcopal to the state 5-A title. Christianson surged from 86-87 mph last summer to 89-91 this spring, and there's room for more growth in his 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame. Kleinschrodt has the same build and a nice power/speed combination. He's committed to Vanderbilt, which hurts his signability. St. Paul's has two other prospects of note. SS Bunky Kateon hit three homers in one inning in 2002, tying a national high school record. C Luke Peavy's older brother Jake is an up-and-coming pitcher with the Padres.

• With Kleinschrodt's signability a factor, OF Emeel Salem or SS Michael Rutledge could be the state's first prep position player drafted. Salem js a fluid athlete who just needs to get stronger to realize his five-tool potential. Rutledge, who has a lot of power and a strong arm, resembles a young Travis Fryman. He was the only Cullman High pitcher to keep St. Paul's in check in the state finals, throwing five scoreless innings.

• His Mobile Rawdogs team fell one game short of becoming the first to win three consecutive Babe Ruth (16-18) World Series, but RHP Joey Doan made history by tossing the first perfect game in the 35-year history of the event. He's not especially big or projectable at 6 feet and 172 pounds, but he has touched 94 mph and has a decent curveball.

• Behind Moran, Auburn's best draft prospects are a pair of (literally) big hitters, 1B Karl Amonite (6-foot-5, 222 pounds) and C Bobby Huddleston (6-foot-1, 235). Both have good plate discipline, and Amonite, a transfer from Connors State (Okla.) JC by way of Canada, has more power. Huddleston, a fifth-year senior who can sign as a free agent before the draft, is catching regularly for the first time since 2000. He's not refined behind the plate but has a chance to stick there in pro ball.

• LHP Craig Lybarger and RHP Brock Hunton are the class of Alabama's junior college crop. Lybarger throws 87-90 mph and has a good curveball. Hunton, who's under control to the Red Sox as a 32nd-round pick a year ago, has similar stuff and is less refined. His brother Bart, a catcher, led Columbus State (Ohio) CC to the Division III Junior College World Series.

• 2B Josh Touchstone is 5-foot-11, but he's a scrapper with good pop for his size. He holds South Alabama records for hitting streak (30) and homers in a game (three), both set last year. RHPs Caleb Crosby and Tony Neal are two other Jaguars who should go in the later rounds. Crosby's most notable accomplishments this year have been proposing to his fiance on the Eddie Stanky Field scoreboard and completing his business degree. He has a 7.78 ERA, but he's also a 6-foot-7 righthander who can hit 94-95 mph. Neal, a fifth-year senior who missed 2002 because he had Tommy John surgery, sits at 91 mph and has a plus slider. While he doesn't have Crosby's body (6-foot-2, 205 pounds), Neal can pitch.

• Birmingham-Southern LHP Derek Griffith outpitched Mississippi State's likely first-rounder Paul Maholm for a 4-1 victory in February. As a 6-foot-6 lefty with a high-80s fastball and smooth mechanics, he would have gone in the first 10 rounds had he not succumbed to Tommy John surgery. Now the state's best non-Division I college prospect is RHP Adam Bass, who has the same projectable body as Griffith. He owns Alabama-Huntsville's career records for wins (29-7) and strikeouts (245 in 282 innings).

• RHP Tyler Eddy set an Alabama high school record with 23 strikeouts in March, but lost the 10-inning game 1-0 to Brewer High's Tony Drinkard, who fanned 22. Eddy's best pitch is a 12-6 curveball and he throws 87-90 mph with some effort to his delivery. His Hartselle teammate, OF Blake Heym, has power, speed and arm strength. He could play outfield, first base or even catcher for Auburn.

• LHP/OF Wesley Wright made a late bid to boost his stock. He's just 5-foot-11 but ran his lively fastball up to 93 in the playoffs.

MISSISSIPPI ***

Mississippi should have a first-rounder for the first time since 1999, when the White Sox drafted Matt Ginter 22nd overall. Paul Maholm could go 10-15 picks earlier than that, highlighting the state's best year for pitching in recent memory.

1. Paul Maholm, lhp, Mississippi State U.
2. Cliff Davis, rhp, Eupora HS
3. Jon Papelbon, rhp, Mississippi State U.
4. Bob McCrory, rhp, U. of Southern Mississippi
5. Todd Nicholas, lhp, Mississippi State U.
6. T.J. Beam, rhp, U. of Mississippi
7. Steve Gendron, 3b, Mississippi State U.
8. Nick Tisone, rhp, Pearl River CC
9. Matthew Maniscalco, ss, Mississippi State U.
10. Tony Sipp, lhp/of, Mississippi Gulf Coast CC (CONTROL: White Sox)
11. Jeff Cook, of, U. of Southern Mississippi
12. Clint King, of, U. of Southern Mississippi
13. Jon Still, c, Madison Central HS
14. Matt Brinson, 1b, Mississippi State U.
15. Tim Dillard, rhp/c, Itawamba CC (CONTROL: Brewers)
16. Josh Johnson, rhp, Caledonia HS
17. Charlie Waite, c, U. of Mississippi
18. Matt Tolbert, 2b, U. of Mississippi
19. Justin Henry, ss, Vicksburg HS
20. Pat Ezell, rhp, Petal HS
21. Bruce Edwards, of, Columbus HS
22. Brandon Rousseve, ss, Meridian CC (CONTROL: Devil Rays)
23. Corey Bass, rhp, Petal HS
24. Jon Mungle, of, Mississippi State U.
25. Jonathan Hancock, rhp, Tupelo HS

Projected First-Round Picks

Paul Maholm, lhp
Of the state's seven pitchers expected to go in the first five rounds, Maholm has the lowest peak velocity at 92 mph. He'll still be the first one chosen because he's a lefthander with command of four solid-average or better offerings. He draws comparisons to Joe Saunders, the No. 12 pick by the Angels a year ago, and Eric Milton, though he has better breaking stuff than Milton. Maholm usually works at 88-90 mph and isn't afraid to pitch inside. His changeup is his second-best pitch, and he also has a slider he uses to put hitters away and a curveball he employs to get ahead in the count. He's a pure pitcher who's consistent from start to start. He has a durable build (6-foot-2, 214 pounds) and has been Mississippi State's best starter since arriving in Starkville three years ago. It's unlikely that Maholm will go any lower than No. 13 to the Blue Jays.

Possible Second-Fifth-Round Picks

Cliff Davis, rhp
Davis led Eupora High to the state 2-A finals in two sports. Better known as a quarterback, he threw for 29 touchdowns and produced a runner-up finish in football last fall. He topped that in baseball this spring, winning twice in five days in the best-of-three finals and turning in a 17-strikeout one-hitter in the deciding game. Davis topped out at 94 mph in the summer after his sophomore year, but didn't get a lot of baseball attention because of his football notoriety. He has accepted a football scholarship from Alabama, where former baseball prospects Brody Croyle and Spencer Pennington are 1-2 on the quarterback depth chart. But if Davis is drafted early enough–and the second round is a strong possibility–he'll probably give up football. He has a tremendous pitcher's body (6-foot-6, 215 pounds) and a 92-95 mph fastball. He'll show a hard knee-buckling curveball at times and has pretty good feel for someone who never has been a full-time baseball player.

Jon Papelbon, rhp
A redshirt junior, Papelbon turned down the Athletics as a 40th-round pick a year ago and would have gone much higher had he been considered signable. The Southeastern Conference's most overpowering reliever, he figures to be a third- to fifth-rounder this time around. More of a thrower in 2002, he has blossomed into a pitcher. He's capable of reaching 93-94 mph with his fastball but now has the command and savvy to succeed even if he's working in the high 80s. He has a quick arm action that generates a tough downward angle and movement on his pitches, which also include a hard, tight slider. Though he never has started a game for Mississippi State, that's expected to be his role as a pro. His stuff and durable build (6-foot-3, 232 pounds) are too good not to give him a shot in the rotation.

Bob McCrory, rhp
McCrory lights up a radar gun like few collegians can, which makes him a longshot possibility to become a supplemental first-round pick. He has touched 97 mph a couple of times this year and usually sits at 91-94 mph. A high school quarterback, he pitches with a football mentality. He goes all out on every pitch, backing up his fastball with a hard curveball. His command and breaking ball have been inconsistent this spring after he broke his pitching hand in January. McCrory rarely uses his changeup and only then for show, so he may fit best as a reliever in the pros. The Indians have scouted him closely as a possible second-rounder, and his arm strength should attract a team by the third round.

Todd Nicholas, lhp
A redshirt sophomore who pitched just eight innings in his first two years at Mississippi State, Nicholas has more pure stuff than Maholm. He throws in the low 90s with little effort, but he doesn't have Maholm's command or deep repertoire. To get his pitches over, Nicholas sometimes sacrifices velocity, making him more vulnerable to hitters. His second-best pitch is his changeup and he needs a more workable breaking ball. He has good upside and reminds scouts of Alan Embree. Papelbon was in a similar situation last year, and it's possible Nicholas could slide in the draft and be a higher and more signable pick in 2004.

T.J. Beam, rhp
A walk-on at Scottsdale (Ariz.) CC in 2000, Beam has developed into one of the best senior signs for the 2003 draft. He spent last year as a closer because he didn't have effective secondary pitches. Throwing 91-94 mph on a tough downward plane-he's 6-foot-7-got him drafted in the 11th round by the Phillies, but he didn't sign. Beam has improved his slider this year, enabling him to stay in the rotation, though he has thrown more at 87-91 mph as a starter. His changeup is still spotty, so he'll likely return to the bullpen as a pro.

Steve Gendron, 3b
Gendron could go as high as the third round based on his projection. He's a very gifted third baseman with plus arm strength and hands and above-average speed for his position. A gap hitter right now, he could develop into a power hitter if he fills out his 6-foot-3, 199-pound frame. He'll have to do that to be an effective pro after hitting .321 with three homers in three years at Mississippi State. Shortening his stroke a little also would help.

Nick Tisone, rhp
The Astros drafted Tisone in the 24th round last year but don't control his right because he attended McNeese State in the fall before transferring to Pearl River CC. While he originally chose McNeese State over Louisiana State and Tulane so he could continue to play both ways, he'll be strictly a pitcher as a pro. Just 6 feet tall, he has a very quick arm that allows him to reach 94 mph, and he also gets good sink and run on his fastball. He's still a work in progress, as he doesn't maintain his velocity, slider or command deep into games.

Others To Watch

• SS Matt Maniscalco is attractive because of his position and because he's a senior sign. A four-year starter at Mississippi State, he has the range and arm strength to play shortstop as a pro. He's much improved at the plate this season, making more contact and hitting .346 after batting a combined .259 in his first three years, and he can steal an occasional base.

• LHP/OF Tony Sipp had scouts as well as college recruiters from major programs pursuing him late in the spring. The best two-way player in the state, he's a center fielder with a quick bat and strong arm. Though he's just 5-foot-11, he's more desirable on the mound because he has a lively 86-90 mph fastball that reaches 92, plus a tight curveball. He struck out 16 against Southwest Mississippi CC in the state juco tournament. The White Sox control his rights as a 33rd-round pick from 2002.

• OFs Jeff Cook and Clint King both reached the 20-homer plateau for Southern Mississippi this spring, and the similarities don't end there. They're both roughly 6 feet and 190 pounds and both run well. Cook, the Golden Eagles' career home run leader with 47, is more polished at the plate and in the outfield, and has a stronger arm. King doesn't recognize pitches as well but has more raw strength. Cook is also more signable because he's a senior and King is a draft-eligible sophomore.

• C Jon Still is the best high school hitter in Mississippi, capable of producing for both average and power. He's 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds and is athletic, but he'll probably be more of a first baseman in pro ball. Central High teammate Travis Bogue has a great body for a lefthander (6-foot-5, 200 pounds) but is still putting everything together.

• 1B Matt Brinson has led Mississippi State in home runs and slugging percentage for three straight years, but scouts still want to see more power. He's 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, but he had just eight homers after hitting 14 a year ago. His uppercut swing can get long and slow. Brinson moves well for his size and is an asset as a defender.

• The Brewers selected RHP/C Tim Dillard in the 15th round in 2001 and the 34th round a year ago, and hope to sign him as a draft-and-follow. If he doesn't turn pro this time he'll head to the University of Mississippi, where his father Steve starred en route to the major leagues. Dillard has good catch-and-throw skills but teams want to use his strong arm on the mound. He touches 94-95 mph and is solidly built at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds.

• RHP Josh Johnson was named the most outstanding pitcher at the 2002 American Legion World Series, where he led his West Point team to the championship with a shutout in the final game. He also hit .469 there as a third baseman/shortstop. He's just 6 feet tall but can pitch at 92 mph and has a more consistent curveball than Davis.

• Mississippi C Charlie Waite and 2B Matt Tolbert are two of the SEC's best defenders. Waite has a strong arm and some observers think he's better behind the plate than more highly touted conference rivals Javi Herrera (Tennessee) and Landon Powell (South Carolina). Tolbert may turn the double play as well as any second baseman in the draft and moved to shortstop in the second half of the season. If either had hit much in college, they'd be higher draft picks.

• Behind Maniscalco, the state has several other shortstop prospects in Justin Henry, Bruce Edwards and Brandon Rousseve. A good high school quarterback, Henry needs to fill out his 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame. Edwards is a switch-hitter with blazing speed, and may be a candidate to move to center field. Rousseve, who's under control to the Devil Rays as a 39th-round pick, helped Meridian reach the Junior College World Series. His best tool is his arm, a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale.

• Petal High has three prospects who have committed to Southern Mississippi. RHP Pat Ezell hits the low 90s and is very projectable at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds. RHP Corey Bass isn't as big (6 feet) but has more command and a better curveball. 1B Brett Hoeflich has a promising bat and will move to right field if he joins the Golden Eagles.

• Redshirt sophomore OF Jon Mungle has the quickest bat on Mississippi State and is a plus runner. He swings and misses too much right now to be an early draft.

• RHP/3B Jonathan Hancock has a pro body (6-foot-5, 200 pounds) and an older brother who has pitched in the majors (Josh, now with the Phillies). He performs better as a hitter but is more of prospect as a pitcher, though his velocity fluctuates from 82-88 mph.

• Mississippi Valley State LHP Jermaine Shack has an 86-90 mph fastball, though he didn't help his cause when he got shelled by Southern in the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament.

PUERTO RICO ***

All of Puerto Rico's top prospects attended the Excellence Games, an early May showcase on the island. 3B Miguel Vega moved to the head of the class by drilling three homers, including one that traveled 500 feet.

1. Miguel Vega, 3b, Carmen B. Huyke HS, Arroyo
2. Luis Atilano, rhp, Gabriela Mistral HS, San Juan
3. Edgardo Baez, of, Jose S. Alegria HS, Dorado
4. Jose Ronda, ss, Gabriela Mistral HS, San Juan
5. Jayson Santiago, of, Maestro Ladi HS, Vega Alta
6. Charlie Fermaint, of, Jose S. Alegria HS, Vega Alta
7. Johnathan Ramos, rhp, Tomas C. Ongay HS, Bayamon
8. Gabriel Sosa, lhp, Lino Padron Rivera HS, Vega Alta
9. Eduardo Nunez, 2b/ss, American Military HS, Guaynabo
10. Emmanuel Vasquez, rhp, Delgado HS, Corozal

Projected First-Round Picks
None

Possible Second-Fifth-Round Picks

Miguel Vega, 3b
Vega's raw power was the talk of the Excellence Games and could propel him into the second round. He also has a strong arm, but his lack of agility and speed make him a rough third baseman. He'll probably have to move to first base, though catcher is an intriguing possibility.

Luis Atilano, rhp
Atilano received the highest Major League Scouting Bureau grade of any Puerto Rican, a tribute to his projectability. He's very thin at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, and could boost his 88-91 mph fastball to 94 if he put on 20 pounds. He has a loose arm, averaging breaking ball and feel for a changeup.

Edgardo Baez, of
The consensus top prospect in Puerto Rico before the Excellence Games, he didn't perform very well and dropped behind Vega and Atilano. Baez has a very quick bat but there's a slight hitch in his stroke that he'll have to iron out. He's an average right fielder.

Others To Watch

• SS Jose Ronda is a switch-hitter with good hands and instincts. His speed is below average, so he'll have to move to second or third base.

• OFs Jayson Santiago and Charlie Fermaint and INF Eduardo Nunez all have drawn interest with their speed. Santiago is the fastest of the group with a 6.4-second time in the 60-yard dash. Fermaint is the best hitter among them.

• RHP Jonathan Ramos is more projectable at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, but 5-foot-10 LHP Gabriel Sosa has better stuff right now. With a solid average (albeit straight) fastball and plus curveball, he could become a situational reliever.

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