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Senioritis: Top Seniors in Draft

Fifth-Year Senior Signings

College seniors are normally viewed as afterthoughts in the baseball draft, the kind of players that can be had for a bargain price. But there may be more such players drafted in the first round this year than any draft ever, and little of it is for signability reasons. As many as three college seniors are projected to go in the first round, and a number of others are projected in the first five rounds.

Here's how Baseball America ranks the top 10 seniors for this year's draft, and where those players were drafted a year ago as juniors:

RankPlayer, Pos., SchoolDrafted '00 (Round)

1. Kenny Baugh, rhp, RiceAthletics (5)

2. Aaron Heilman, rhp, StanfordTwins (1)

3. Jason Arnold, rhp, Central FloridaReds (16)

4. Jon Skaggs, rhp, RiceOrioles (4)

5. Jason Bulger, rhp, Valdosta StateNot drafted

6. John Rheinecker, lhp, SW Missouri StateNot drafted

7. Kirk Saarloos, rhp, Cal State FullertonNot drafted

8. Taggert Bozied, 3b, San FranciscoTwins (2)

9. Cory Sullivan, of-lhp, Wake ForestNot drafted

10. Greg Dobbs, 1b-of, OklahomaNot drafted

Fifth-Year Seniors

Brigham Young righthander Nate Fernley, the leading winner in NCAA Division I this year with 16 victories, signed a free agent contract this week with the Indians which takes him out of the pool of talent eligible for next week's first-year player draft.

As a fifth-year senior who went undrafted a year ago, Fernley was eligible to sign with any of the 30 major league clubs up to a week before the June 5 draft--once BYU was eliminated from the NCAA tournament.

"I took advantage of the fifth-year senior rule," Fernley said. "I felt it was right; it was a good fit. The plus side is I got to pick the organization and I'm excited to continue playing."

Fernley, a sidearmer with a low 80s fastball, led the Mountain West Conference with a 16-3 record, 3.12 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 152 innings. He will start his professional career with short-season Class A Mahoning Valley.

He was one of several prominent college seniors to sign before the draft, taking them out of the mix for this year's draft. Among those who signed were outfielders Brian Baron, who hit .443-2-47 for UCLA, and Greg Dobbs, who hit .428-10-62 for Oklahoma, and righthander Brandon Roberson, who went 13-3, 4.18 with 105 strikeouts for Texas Tech. Baron and Dobbs ranked among the nation's top hitters.

Dobbs signed with the Mariners while Roberson signed with the Astros. Baron signed with the Twins, the only team he was able to negotiate with since he was picked by Minnesota in the 46th-round of last year's draft.

Here's a list of fifth-year college players who would have been drafted next week had they not signed:

Player, Pos., College—Signing Team

Brian Baron, of, UCLA—Twins

Brian Birk, lhp, Twins—Marlins

Greg Dobbs, of, Oklahoma—Mariners

Dwight Edge, of, Tampa—Diamondbacks

Nate Fernley, rhp, Brigham Young—Indians

Kyle Nichols, 1b, Erskine (S.C.)—Diamondbacks

Fehlandt Lentini, of, Sonoma State (Calif.)—Astros

Corey Mattison, rhp, North Carolina State—Cardinals

Brian Nickerson, 3b, Dartmouth—Dodgers

Eric Reese, 1b, UCLA—Devil Rays

Brandon Roberson, rhp, Texas Tech—Astros

Pete Smart, lhp, Kansas—Brewers

Sam Swenson, of, Utah—Angels

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