By Jim Callis
Additional reporting: Josh Boyd, John Manuel, Allan Simpson May 25, 2003
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.
A year after producing five first-round picks (including one supplemental first-rounder), Texas is going to outdo itself. LHP John Danks from Round Rock High, the nation's No. 1 team, should lead a contingent of seven first-rounders, and four more players have at least a chance to go that high. Vince Sinisi was a known quantity, but fellow draft-eligible sophomores Ryan Wagner and Logan Kensing have come out of nowhere to become premium picks. While pitchers will dominate the state's early selections, there's also some position-player depth for later in the draft.
1. John Danks, lhp, Round Rock HS
2. Vince Sinisi, 1b, Rice U.
3. Ryan Wagner, rhp, U. of Houston
4. Craig Whitaker, rhp, Lufkin HS
5. Brad Sullivan, rhp, U. of Houston
6. Adam Miller, rhp, McKinney HS
7. David Murphy, of, Baylor U.
8. Kyle McCulloch, rhp, Bellaire HS, Houston
9. Logan Kensing, rhp, Texas A&M
10. David Aardsma, rhp, Rice U.
11. Drew Stubbs, of, Atlanta HS
12. Omar Quintanilla, ss, U. of Texas
13. John Russ, rhp, Frank Phillips JC
14. Wardell Starling, rhp/of, Odessa JC (CONTROL: Pirates)
15. Charles Benoit, lhp, Carroll HS, Southlake
16. Matt Nachreiner, rhp, Round Rock HS
17. Doug Frame, lhp, Tomball HS
18. Steven White, rhp, Baylor U.
19. Mark Hamilton, 1b, Episcopal HS, Bellaire
20. Brad Lincoln, rhp, Brazoswood HS, Clute
21. Chris Durbin, of, Baylor U.
22. Adam Hale, of/rhp, Bellaire HS, Houston
23. Cory Van Allen, lhp, Clements HS, Sugar Land
24. Jeff Manship, rhp, Ronald Reagan HS, San Antonio
25. Michael Bourn, of, U. of Houston
26. Tim Moss, 2b, U. of Texas
27. Josh Smith, rhp, U. of Texas
28. Scott Beerer, rhp/of, Texas A&M
29. Andy LaRoche, ss, Grayson County CC (CONTROL: Padres)
30. Dustin Majewski, of, U. of Texas
31. Clayton Jerome, rhp, Texas Christian U.
32. Brad Depoy, rhp, The Woodlands HS
33. Jeff Jorgensen, of, Rice U.
34. Cory Patton, of, Texas A&M
35. Philip Stringer, ss, Klein Oak HS, Spring
36. Travis Schlichting, ss/rhp, Round Rock HS
37. Jared Wells, rhp, San Jacinto JC (CONTROL: Padres)
38. Matt Farnum, rhp, Texas A&M
39. Brian Finch, rhp, Texas A&M
40. Adrian Alaniz, rhp/3b, Sinton HS
41. Matt Leva, rhp, Ball HS, Galveston
42. Josh Baker, rhp, Rice U.
43. Danny Zell, lhp, U. of Houston
44. Trey Webb, ss, Baylor U.
45. Daniel Hamblin, 3b, Rowlett HS
46. Omar Arif, lhp, Poteet HS, Mesquite
47. Randy Boone, rhp, Yoakum HS
48. Kevin Nail, of, Clear Creek HS, League City
49. Clint Goocher, lhp, San Jacinto JC (CONTROL: Diamondbacks)
50. Enrique Cruz, 2b, Rice U.
51. Kelly Shearer, lhp, Elkins HS, Missouri City
52. J.R. Towles, c, Collin County CC (CONTROL: Athletics)
53. Craig Stansberry, 3b, Rice U.
54. Christian Colonel, ss, Texas Tech
55. Clayton Stewart, rhp, San Jacinto JC (CONTROL: Mariners)
56. Eric Sultemeier, of, U. of Texas
57. Hyung Cho, 3b, U. of Houston
58. Humberto Aguilar, 1b, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
59. Chris Kolkhorst, of, Rice U.
60. Nick Stavinoha, c, San Jacinto JC (CONTROL: Astros)
61. Chase Bassham, lhp/of, Grayson County CC (CONTROL: Mariners)
62. Josh Stinson, c, Port Neches-Grove HS, Port Neches
63. Matt Lenderman, c, Plano East HS, Plano
64. Kyle Parcus, lhp, Texas A&M
65. Jeff Mandel, rhp, Jersey Village HS, Houston
66. Austin Davis, of, Rice U.
67. Justin Simmons, lhp, U. of Texas
68. James Casey, rhp, Azle HS
69. Mark Ion, rhp, Lamar U.
70. Justin Ruchti, c, Rice U.
Projected First-Round Picks
John Danks, lhp
Danks has passed Florida's Andrew Miller as the top high school lefthander in the draft and could be the first southpaw drafted, unless a team prefers a college player and opts for Mississippi State's Paul Maholm. Danks threw in the mid-80s last summer, but created a lot of buzz early this year when he kept hitting 93-94 mph and showing a picture-perfect delivery. He hasn't quite maintained that combination of velocity and mechanics, but he has sat at 88-92 and showed a power curveball at times. He has decent but not overwhelming size at 6-foot-2 and room to grow at 175 pounds. He's one of three premium prospects at Round Rock High, the nation's No. 1-ranked team, along with righthander Matt Nachreiner and shortstop/righthander Travis Schlichting.
Vince Sinisi, 1b
Sinisi ranks right behind Southern's Rickie Weeks and Tulane's Michael Aubrey as one of the best pure college hitters available. But his draft status is slightly shaky because he has three signability strikes against him: he's a sophomore-eligible who can re-enter the draft next year without compromising his leverage; he's at Rice, a school where it's often difficult to get players to come out early; and he's advised by Scott Boras. He's often compared to Lance Berkman, the best hitter ever produced by Rice, and he has similar aptitude at the plate. Sinisi doesn't have Berkman's powerhe's more of a 20-homer guybut is more athletic and probably will be moved to the outfield after he signs. He has enough speed and the instincts to play left field. Sinisi might be a good fit at No. 9 for the Rangers, who like polished/productive college players and have a good relationship with Boras.
Ryan Wagner, rhp
Brad Sullivan was the must-see pitcher on the Houston staff at the outset of this spring, and while Sullivan still will be a first-round pick, Wagner has passed him. His regular-season average of 16.8 strikeouts per nine innings led Division I and will smash a 39-year-old NCAA record if it holds up. Wagner has the most unhittable slider in the draft and uses it 60-70 percent of the time. He complements it with a 91-93 mph sinker, and occasionally throws a curveball and splitter. There are concerns about Wagner's delivery, which features a lot of effort and a head jerk. Some scouts think his arm action eventually will lead to an injury, while others say his 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame is strong enough to survive it. Wagner will go in the middle of the first round, perhaps higher if a team thinks they can convert him from a reliever to a starter. He's attractive to the Reds (No. 14) and Red Sox (No. 17), two clubs that do a lot of statistical analysis. A draft-eligible sophomore, he's not expected to be a tough sign.
Craig Whitaker, rhp
It's not a good year to be a high school righthander, because it's a risky demographic early in the draft to begin with and this year there are several college-oriented teams that won't give the prep ranks more than a passing glance. But Whitaker should do just fine and find a taker in the mid- to late first round. He finished a 14-strikeout no-hitter in early April with a 94-96 mph fastball, and reached 98 mph in early May. More than just a hard thrower, he has a curveball with plus potential and gets life on his heat from a three-quarters arm angle. He's still growing at 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds and should blossom into a four-pitch pitcher in time.
Brad Sullivan, rhp
Sullivan's track record stacks up against any pitcher in the draft. He topped NCAA Division I with 157 strikeouts in 2002 and followed up in the summer by outpitching Kyle Sleeth on Team USA. If he can catch Wright State's Casey Abrams, whom he trailed by 10 whiffs at the end of the regular season, Sullivan will become the first repeat strikeout leader since Hawaii legend Derek Tatsuno (1977-79). But because he's only 6 feet tall and has been a little inconsistent this spring, he has slid from a potential top-10 pick toward the bottom of the first round. His 82-85 mph slider is his best pitch, and he also has a 91-93 sinker. He varies his arm slots, location and velocity to keep hitters off balance and is a tenacious competitor. He also can mix in an overhand curveball, his out pitch on a day when he tied a Houston record with 16 strikeouts against Saint Louis, and a decent changeup. His combination of stuff, command and mound presence is difficult to beat.
Adam Miller, rhp
Though most teams prefer Whitaker, Miller was making a late surge and could go ahead of him in the late first round. He has the same build (6-foot-4, 180 pounds), a better breaking ball (in his case, a hard slider) and changeup, and more overall pitchability. He doesn't throw as hard as Whitaker, but Miller generates tremendous sink on his 90-92 mph fastball. He throws it so easily that he projects to reach the mid-90s in time. Add it all up, and some scouts compare him to two-time Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen.
David Murphy, of
After a wrist injury led to a disappointing sophomore season, Murphy rebounded with a strong summer in the Cape Cod League. He has ridden that momentum to an outstanding junior season that has made him a likely late or supplemental first-round pick. His tools play well across the board. He has size (6-foot-3 and 195 pounds) and strength, and hits for average with gap power. His plate discipline and sweet lefthander stroke make him tough to strike out, though he'd hit for more power if he added loft to his swing. Murphy has solid average speed and arm strength, and he plays a quality right field. At least one team has asked Baylor to play Murphy in center field so it can gauge his potential there, but Chris Durbin's presence eliminates that option.
Possible Second-Fifth-Round Picks
Kyle McCulloch, rhp
Traditional high school power Bellaire has two strong two-way prospects. McCulloch, who will be drafted as a pitcher, also will play in the middle infield if he doesn't sign and attends the University of Texas. Adam Hale, who has more upside as an outfielder than as a righthander, has tailed off and may wind up at Rice. McCulloch has the chance to have three average or better pitches. He has an athletic 6-foot-2, 170-pound frame and a smooth arm action that allow him to throw 87-92 mph. His changeup is very advanced for a high school pitcher and his curveball has improved.
Logan Kensing, rhp
Another draft-eligible sophomore, Kensing surfaced as a possible first-round pick when he unveiled an explosive sinker in a season-opening tournament at the Astros' Minute Maid Park. The pitch usually arrives at 90-92 and is so heavy that batters struggled to put it in play in the air. He also has a four-seam fastball that has topped out at 94 mph, a high-70s slider and a splitter that serves as his changeup. He generates so much arm speed that it sometime affects the command of his slider. More of a position player in high school and never a regular starting pitcher before 2003, Kensing wore down at midseason and earning a temporary demotion to the bullpen. Now he probably will last until the second round.
David Aardsma, rhp
Aardsma was the best Cape Cod League reliever last summer, regularly throwing 94-95 mph, topping out at 97 and showing a quality slider. He posted a 45-5 strikeout-walk ratio and limited opponents to a .084 average. He started out well this spring, but mechanical problems have sapped his stuff and knocked him out of the first round. His velocity has dipped to the low 90s, and his command, movement and slider all have dropped off as well. Aardsma has a long, loose build (6-foot-5, 190 pounds) but sometimes gets his elbow up and flattens out his stuff. The consensus is that he's no better than the fourth-best pitching prospect at Rice, behind sophomores Philip Humber, Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend. Aardsma still will get taken in the second or third round, though whether he'll sign for less than first-round money is unknown.
Drew Stubbs, of
Stubbs easily has the best combination of tools among position players, drawing multiple comparisons to Dale Murphy. He's 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, quarterbacked Atlanta High's football team, was a member of two state champion relay teams and also played basketball. His power, speed and arm are all very enticing, but there's also risk involved. Stubbs is extremely raw and never has faced quality pitching because he plays at a small school and didn't attended any major showcases. He's intent on playing at the University of Texas and a seven-figure bonus might not be enough to change his mind.
Omar Quintanilla, ss
Quintanilla doesnt do anything spectacularly, but he's a solid all-around player with exceptional hand-eye coordination. His strong suit is his ability to hit for average and being lefthanded only helps his cause. He makes contact, draws walks and provides the occasional stolen base and extra-base hit. While Quintanilla has played mostly shortstop and third base at Texas, his size (5-foot-9 and 185 pounds) and range will fit better at second base as a pro. Then again, he's bigger and has more arm strength than David Eckstein. At worst, Quintanilla should be a super utility player, and he's generating third- to fifth-round interest.
John Russ, rhp
Russ has emerged as the top Texas juco prospect not already under control to a big league club. His fastball has started to catch up to his projectable 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame. After throwing 87-90 mph in the past, he has improved to the low 90s with a high of 96 this spring. He throws strikes, shows a good curveball on occasion and has averaged 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings. However, he hasn't been able to dominate juco hitters, posting a 4.50 ERA and allowing more hits than innings. Still a project, he could go as high as the third round and can fall back on a Texas A&M scholarship if he doesn't sign.
Wardell Starling, rhp/of
Along with fellow two-way star James Loney, Starling led Elkins High (Missouri City) to the 2002 national high school championship. While Loney signed as a Dodgers first-round pick, Starling slid further than expected to the Pirates in the fourth round. After a season at Odessa JC, he'll likely sign as a draft-and-follow. Odessa coach Rick Zimmerman, who has won 1,030 junior college games, says Starling is as good as any player he's even had with the exception of his former Trinidad State (Colo.) JC ace, ex-big leaguer Danny Jackson. Starling hit .420-12-80 to rank among the national juco leaders in all three categories but projects as a pro pitcher. He's very athletic at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, and he throws 92-94 mph and pushes 97. His changeup and slurvy breaking ball need more work. If the Pirates don't land Starling, he could go as high as the third round this June.
Charles Benoit, lhp
Benoit left the Carroll High baseball team this spring after a dispute over his pitch counts. The day after he threw 120 pitches in a game, angering his father, Benoit didn't show up for practice and was dismissed from the team. He since has pitched in Perfect Game's spring league in Iowa and stood out at their predraft showcase in mid-May. He pounded the strike zone with an 88-92 mph fastball and a slider that was as good as any breaking ball at the event. There isn't much projection remaining for Benoit, who's 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, and some scouts view him as a maximum-effort pitcher. Still, a lefthander with two plus pitches won't last too long in the draft.
Matt Nachreiner, rhp
The No. 2 pitcher behind Danks at Round Rock High, Nachreiner easily has first-five-rounds stuff. The life on his 91-94 mph sinker and his slider draw comparisons to Mike MacDougal, and Nachreiner has better command. But his knees are a major concern. When he was a freshman, the cartilage in his knees was degenerating so much that doctors told him he wouldn't be able to play baseball much longer. Nachreiner refused to accept that diagnosis and had surgery that has allowed him to continue his career. Multiple clubs aren't willing to take the medical risk with him because they're uncertain how long he'll hold up.
Doug Frame, lhp
Frame is another of the draft's more talented prospects with a serious medical question. He's legally blind in his right eye, so scouts are concerned about his injury risk on hard line drives hit back at him, and he also has had some back problems. He's a lefthander with two plus pitches, a low-90s fastball and a slider, and he helped himself with a strong performance at the Perfect Game predraft showcase. In the past he was a little heavy and threw with some effort, but he has trimmed his 6-foot-2 frame and is throwing smoother this spring. Someone likely will take a chance on him by the fourth or fifth round.
Steven White, rhp
White entered 2002 as a near-certain early pick, but the combination of an off year and his choice of advisers (Scott Boras) caused him to plummet to an 18th-round choice of the Brewers. He has been better this spring but not as good as he was as a sophomore two years ago or in the Cape Cod League last summer. He has a classic pitcher's build (6-foot-5, 205 pounds) and a lively 90-94 mph fastball. But he's still lacking a consistent breaking ball and leaves his fastball up in the zone at inopportune moments. He doesnt get ahead in the count enough to make use of his changeup. His potential still makes him an attractive senior sign but with Boras representing him, it's unlikely that he'll come with the typical discount.
Mark Hamilton, 1b
The best high school hitter in Texas, Hamilton is virtually unsignable. He's a top student who wants to be a doctor like his father, so it will be difficult to buy him out of his Tulane scholarship. If talent were the only factor, he could go as high as the third round. He's big (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and loaded with lots of potential lefthanded power. He starred at the Area Code Games and hit .600 for the select team chosen to play a Japanese club last summer. Hamilton is merely an adequate first baseman and moving him to the outfield would be a stretch.
Brad Lincoln, rhp Though he'll get drafted in the first five rounds, scouts would be more interested in Lincoln if he were taller than 6 feet. While he may not be very projectable, he throws in the low 90s without effort and maintains his velocity. He also has a solid breaking ball and good command. Lincoln threw the first no-hitter of his high school career against Galveston's Ball High in the state 5-A regional quarterfinals. If he doesn't sign, he could replace the similarly built and athletic Brad Sullivan in the Houston rotation.
Chris Durbin, of Durbin's size also gets held against him, as he's only 6 feet tall as well. But after he was passed over entirely in the 2002 draft, he responded with a career-high 17 homers in the regular season. Now he projects as high as the third round, and not just because he's a senior sign. Power was the question about Durbin, who showed few other weaknesses. He's a leadoff man with on-base ability and speed, and he's an excellent center fielder with a very strong arm.
Adam Hale, of/rhp Pro teams like Hale more as an outfielder, though their interest started to wane when he didn't fare well against quality pitching. His 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame provides plenty of leverage for power, though his bat looked slow this spring. His slippage makes him more likely to wind up at Rice, which doesn't lose too many recruits. The Owls would use Hale as a two-way player, though they think his ceiling is higher as a pitcher. He commands and maintains the velocity on a low-90s fastball, and his slurvy slider has potential.
Cory Van Allen, lhp Van Allen combines pitchability and stuff, which was evident at the Baseball America/Perfect Game World Wood Bat showcase last October. He threw a six-inning, 11-strikeout shutout against the defending champion Miami Sluggers. Van Allen throws a high-80s fastball that reaches 91, a tremendous changeup and a curveball. His smooth delivery allows him to throw all three pitches for strikes. The biggest drawback from a pro standpoint is Van Allen's questionable signability, as third-round money might not be enough to lure him away from Baylor.
Jeff Manship, rhp Manship has a reported $1 million dollar price tag, which may cause him to slide out of the draft altogether. He's more likely to get that money after three years at Notre Dame. Manship has the most unhittable curveball of any high school pitcher in the nation, but he's not very sturdy at 6-foot-1 and 165 pounds so scouts worry about the stress the curve puts on his elbow. Manship throws in the high 80s to low 90s and has very good command. Assuming he does join the Fighting Irish, he'll be a leading contender to be BA's 2004 Freshman of the Year. His brother Matt has become Stanford's top reliever as a freshman this spring.
Michael Bourn, of Bourn is as fast as any prospect in the draft. After leading the Cape Cod League with 23 steals last summer, he missed four weeks early this season after breaking the hamate bone in his right wrist. He's perfectly content to play a speed game, slapping balls to the left side of the field and putting pressure on the defense. For a potential leadoff man, he was too aggressive this spring and his walk rate plummeted. He's good at chasing balls down in center field and has a playable arm.
Tim Moss, 2b Speed is also the best tool for Moss, though he's not as explosive as Bourn. He would have been a better pick last year, possibly a first-rounder, had he been eligible as a sophomore. He struggled horribly on defense at the start of 2003, repeatedly playing grounders into bad hops. His hands and arm are average at best. Offensively, Moss hasn't been a catalyst like he was on Texas' 2002 College World Series champions. He doesn't control the strike zone and doesn't hit enough balls on the ground. Still, a team that values quickness up the middle could take him in the early rounds in hopes that he'll regain his previous form. The Astros have scouted him heavily.
Josh Smith, rhp Smith turned down $150,000 as a Yankees draft-and-follow last year in order to pitch for the Longhorns. He has the best pure arm at Texas, but he hasn't been able to grab more than a middle-relief role on a deep staff. He still has a 92-94 mph fastball, but his slider is often flat and his pitches come in on the same plane. His velocity and body (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) make him desirable despite his lack of exposure.
Scott Beerer, rhp/of A transfer from Orange Coast (Calif.) JC, Beerer has been the most valuable player in the Big 12 Conference this spring. He ranks among the national leaders with a school-record 12 saves and entered NCAA regional play second on Texas A&M in homers (10) and RBIs (53). He'll definitely be a pitcher in pro ball, thanks to his fastball/slider combination. He throws 91-94 mph with good movement, though there's some effort to his delivery. He also shows feel for a changeup, so he's worth a look as a starter.
Others To Watch
SS Andy LaRoche has good bloodlines, as his father Dave was a two-time all-star reliever and his brother Adam is one of the Braves' best hitting prospects. Andy went the Albert Pujols route in 2001-02, graduating from a Kansas high school in December so he could enter junior college in what would have been the second half of his senior year. The Padres drafted him in the 22nd round and still control his rights as a draft-and-follow. He's an offensive middle infielder who has power to all fields. Defensively, his hands and instincts are his best assets, and his arm and range are solid at shortstop. The only knocks on LaRoche are that he doesn't run as well as a typical shortstop after having knee problems in the past, and he's committed to Rice and thought to be fairly unsignable.
He may be just 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, but OF Dustin Majewski has been the University of Texas' most dangerous hitter since arriving from Blinn (Texas) JC two years ago. He hit .401-10-50 as a junior and .392-11-78 entering regional play this spring. He has a sound swing, makes good adjustments and will show more power when he escapes Disch-Falk Field.
RHP Clayton Jerome beat out Sullivan and Wagner for Conference USA pitcher-of-the-year honors. He gets a lot of deception with a high leg kick, pitches into the low 90 effortlessly and throws strikes.
Texas high school pitchers show that size isn't everything, as Lincoln and Manship are far from the only quality arms in the 6-foot range. RHP Brad Depoy pushes 94 mph and has improved his slider. He's committed to Houston, which may affect his signability. RHP Matt Leva is just 5-foot-10 but has a curveball close to Manship's and an 88-90 mph fastball. He answered Lincoln's no-hitter with one of his own before Brazoswood won the third and deciding game. He's unlikely to turn pro after Stanford offered him a scholarship. LHP Omar Arif will come more easily. He often reaches the low 90s and has a slurvy breaking ball.
OF Jeff Jorgensen can run with Bournand anyone else, for that matter. He went to the national 60-meter semifinal as a high school sprinter and ran track for his first two years at Rice. Former high school teammate Austin Davis persuaded him to try out for baseball, and he practiced with the Owls last year but saw no game action. Now he's their center fielder. Jorgensen still is learning the nuances in every aspect of the game, and his development was hindered when he had to leave his summer team last year after a brown recluse spider bit him. Still, he gets from the right side of the plate to first base in 3.85 seconds and will beat out just about any two-hop grounder. He also has some as-yet-untapped power. He's more signable than most Rice juniors because he'll graduate in May, with a triple major in economics/managerial studies/sports management. If he returns to the Owls, the team that selects him would control his rights until the 2004 draft.
Both Davis and Chris Kolkhorst are 5-foot-10, line drive-hitting Rice outfielders with strong arms. Both could get popped but are more likely to sign as seniors in 2004.
The National Junior College Athletic Association named OF Cory Patton its 2002 male athlete of the year after he led all juco players with 31 homers and 119 RBIs as a Cowley County (Kan.) CC sophomore. That still didn't get him drafted, perhaps because he's 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds. He's not an athlete but he has lots of power, leading Texas A&M in homers and RBIs this spring. He offers plate discipline and arm strength as well.
Philip Stringer and Travis Schlichting are two of the draft's top shortstop prospects but will be tough to sign away from Tulane and Baylor, respectively. Often compared to Jimmy Rollins, the 5-foot-9 Stringer doesn't have quite that much bat or speed but is solid across the board. Schlichting, also the No. 3 pitcher on the Round Rock High staff behind Danks and Nachreiner, hit a 450-foot homer when several scouts were on hand to see Danks pitch. He has more of a pro body (6-foot-3, 175 pounds) than Stringer but isn't as polished.
San Jacinto, the No. 1-ranked team in the last regular-season national juco poll, has several prime draft-and-follows. RHP Jared Wells (Padres) hit 97 mph this spring. LHP Clint Goocher (Diamondbacks) throws in the mid-80s but is the Gators' ace because he can put his fastball and slider wherever he wants. He was redshirted at Texas two years ago. RHP Clayton Stewart (Mariners) closes for San Jac with a low-90s sinker/slider combination. C Nick Stavinoha (Astros) has massive pull power. In the Gators' opener at the Junior College World Series, Stavinoha homered and Goocher struck out 10 to beat Indian Hills (Iowa) CC. That upped Goocher's record to 16-1. RHP Kyle Marlatt (Yankees) has arm strength but pitched his way out of the San Jac rotation.
Texas A&M has its usual bevy of arms. Beyond Lensing and Beerer, the Aggies also have RHPs Matt Farnum and Brian Finch and LHP Kyle Parcus. Farnum was a potential third-rounder a year ago, when he threw 91-95 out of the A&M bullpen, but his desire for a seven-figure bonus caused him to slide to the Blue Jays in the 24th round. After turning down $300,000 from Toronto, he pitched at 88-92 mph in 2003 and won't get offered that much again. Finch achieves a lot of sink on both his fastball, which has touched 96 mph, and his changeup. Parcus has been more effective than either with a more pedestrian 84-87 mph fastball, thanks to his changeup and command. He set the Texas state career home record with 49.
RHP/3B Adrian Alaniz, RHP Randy Boone, OF Kevin Nail and 3B Daniel Hamblin all were accomplished high school football players who will concentrate on baseball. Alaniz and Boone have a lot in common: both were quarterbacks, both are University of Texas recruits and both have topped out at 92 mph. Alaniz is more well-rounded, with a plus slider, decent change up and better command. Nail who left Clear Creek High's baseball team after a dispute with his coach, is a 6-foot, 205-pound version of Lenny Dykstra. After rushing for 1,336 yards as a senior, several Division I football programs wanted him as a tailback, but he signed to play baseball at Miami. Hamblin, a former quarterback, is a power hitter who has enjoyed a strong senior season.
RHP Josh Baker played with Davis and Jorgensen at Spring Branch Memorial High and rejoined them at Rice this year after transferring from Alabama. He has more extensive bloodlines than LaRoche. Baker's father Johnny spent five seasons as an NFL linebacker; his uncle Frank was a big league infielder for four years; his brother Jacob played four years at Rice; and his brother-in-law Lance Berkman is a star with the Astros. A fourth-round pick out of high school, he probably won't be drafted nearly as high this year because he's considered a tough sign as a Rice sophomore-eligible, and his stuff hasn't improved the last two years. He's still 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds and throws strikes with his 89-91 mph fastball and his slider.
2B Enrique Cruz is another Rice player with multiple athletic relatives. His father Jose was one of the best hitters in Astros history; his uncles Hector and Tommy also played in the majors; and his brother Jose set several school records for the Owls and now plays for the Giants. Enrique was a 13th-round pick last year after leading the Western Athletic Conference with 16 homers. But he also hit .226 and was so shaky defensively as a shortstop that he wound up at DH. Returning to Rice has been good for him, as he has stopped trying to pull everything and has hit .360 with a team-high nine homers. He also has found a home at second base.
Danny Zell rooms with Sullivan at Houston and could go in the first 10 rounds. He's a 6-foot-5, 210-pound lefthander and deftly mixes an 86-90 mph fastball, a curveball and a changeup. Another interesting Cougars prospect is 3B Hyung Cho, who had more homers (13) than strikeouts (eight) entering the NCAA playoffs. Cho was MVP of the Canadian national team in 1999 but has been plagued by knee, foot and shoulder injuries almost ever since. He'd be an intriguing catching prospect if he hadn't had two surgeries on his left knee, but his bat and hands would be assets at second base.
The draftwide shortage of shortstops should have played in Trey Webb's favor. He was the top prospect at short on Cape Cod last summer, where he also won the league's 10th player award for sportsmanship. But he hasn't answered the questions he raised when he hit .222 with wood on the Cape by batting .273 with aluminum this spring. His range and arm are obvious, but he's error-prone in the field and hasn't convinced anyone he can hold his own at the plate.
LHP/1B Kelly Shearer performed in the shadows of Starling and Dodgers first-round pick James Loney on Elkins High's 2002 national championship team. He's now the star of the team, which was still alive in the state 5-A quarterfinals. He's more of a prospect as a pitcher, because he's a projectable lefty at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, and he throws 85-88 mph. But that also was the consensus on Loney before Los Angeles made him a first baseman, and Shearer has hit well this spring.
C J.R. Towles is the best prospect ever at Collin County CC, and he'll stay that way because the school is dropping its baseball program. A 32nd-round draft-and-follow of the Athletics, he put on 20 pounds as a freshman and hit .484 with 10 homers. He's quick behind the plate and has a strong arm.
3B Craig Stansberry is a standout defender who may be able to move to shortstop as a pro. At the least his feet, body control and pivot skills will allow him to handle second baseman. Wiry strong with some gap power, he helped North Central Texas CC win the 2001 Junior College World Series.
At 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds, Christian Colonel has one of the best bodies among the draft's shortstop prospects. A ninth-round pick by the Mets out of the JC of Southern Idaho in 2002, he has sure hands and a strong arm. Big 12 observers weren't impressed by his bat, which was helped by Texas Tech's hitter-friendly Dan Law Field, though he did make good contact and showed a little power.
OF Eric Sultemeier turned down $175,000 as a Reds 14th-round pick out of high school. He broke his hand diving for a ball in fall practice, had surgery and wasn't 100 percent until March. That hasn't stopped him from having his best college season to date. While he's not as polished as teammate Majewski, he has some speed and power and may be able to play center field as a pro.
1B Humberto Aguilar hit .402-20-74 to rank among the NCAA Division I leaders in all three categories. Counting his two seasons at Odessa JC, he has hit 71 homers in college. He's a purely offensive player, but he has a sweet swing and should get a chance as a senior sign.
Grayson County CC gave the state a second team in the Junior College World Series. Along with LaRoche, the Vikings are led by LHP/OF Chase Bassham, who has hit 94 mph and bats cleanup. Grayson County also has RHP Mark McDonald, who's listed at 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds but may be closer to 300. He relies almost solely on his fastball, which also reaches 94. The Mariners selected Bassham in the 24th round last year, while McDonald isn't under control.
It isn't a good year for catching in Texas. The top high schoolers are Josh Stinson and Matt Lenderman, while Justin Ruchti is the best of the four-year college crop. All of them are more advanced defensively, especially Ruchti, who has thrown out 56 percent of basestealers.
RHP Jeff Mandel has an 88-90 mph fastball and a loose arm. A 6-foot-3, 180-pound athlete, he also plays shortstop and lettered two years in basketball as a swingman.
A year ago, LHP Justin Simmons led NCAA Division I with 16 victories, including one in the College World Series finale. Scouts weren't sold on him because he threw in the low 80s, and they aren't any more enamored after he's had a rough junior season. He still lives off his straight changeup, but his command has been off and he has been hit hard. Simmons may be an almost impossible sign, because he's a serious student and he's not going to go high enough to get offered significant money.
The Major League Scouting Bureau gave RHP James Casey a 57 grade on the 20-80 scouting scale, which put him right behind Whitaker and Miller among the state's prep righthanders. Casey won't go nearly that high, but he's a 6-foot-3, 200-pound former quarterback with arm strength.
Converted catcher Mark Ion helped end Rice's 30-game winning streak with two innings of middle relief, then beat the Owls in the same role two weeks later. His 88-93 mph fastball and mean slider work well out of the bullpen.
Several prospects have had their draft chances ruined by injuries. Sealy High RHP Mark Krampitz has a low-90s sinker and a nifty slider when healthy, but came down with a tender shoulder and probably won't get picked high enough to divert him from Rice. Owls RHP Steven Herce didn't sign with the Rangers as a 2002 ninth-rounder and missed most of this season because of a tissue buildup in his shoulder. He showed a solid average fastball and command of three pitches in the past. Houston 1B/RHP Brad Cooley tied for the Cape Cod League lead with seven homers last summer, but redshirted after partially tearing a tendon in his left hamstring. His 86-88 mph sinker may lead to a future on the mound. Klein High (Spring) RHP/SS Austin Creps, a member of Team USA's 2002 junior national team, came down with a sore shoulder after showing a high-80s fastball with life and a good slider.
Two of the state's most prominent college coaches have prospect sons. Power-hitting 1B Brett Lawler's father Jim is Texas A&M's pitching coach. Athletic SS Cory Zimmerman's dad Rick is the head coach at Odessa JC. Lawler has signed with Arkansas, Zimmerman with Auburn.