1. Brian Barden, 3b, Oregon State
2. Trevor Crowe, ss, Westview HS, Portland
3. Casey Aguilar, rhp, Franklin HS, Portland
4. Travis Hanson, ss, Portland
5. Mark McLemore, lhp, Oregon State
6. Marshall Looney, lhp, LaPine HS
7. Jason Hamell, rhp, Treasure Valley JC (Control: Devil Rays)
8. Justin Ehlers, of/lhp, Century HS, Aloha
9. Steve Chamberlain, rhp, Portland
10. Andy Jarvis, 1b, Oregon State
11. Jacob Ellsbury, of, Madras HS
12. Jim McKenzie, rhp, Treasure Valley JC
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA ****
While last year's crop from this talent hotbed wasn't considered on par with the best the region has produced in the past, emerging prospects Dan Denham, Mike Gosling, Jeremy Guthrie and Jesse Foppert actually made it a strong year. Guthrie is back, and improved, while Chris Gruler might be the best high school righthander in the draft. Draft-and-follows Manny Parra and Sean Smith have first-round arms but are expected to signed by their controlling teams from last year. The overall strength of the area will take a hit if they sign prior to the draft, but an abundance of prospects who could go by the fifth round would remain.
1. Chris Gruler, rhp, Liberty HS, Brentwood
2. Jeremy Guthrie, rhp, Stanford
3. Manny Parra, lhp, American River JC (Control: Brewers)
4. Sean Smith, rhp, Sacramento CC (Control: Indians)
5. Jason Cooper, of, Stanford
6. Trevor Hutchinson, rhp, California
7. Ben Fritz, rhp/c, Fresno State
8. Sean Scobee, of, Rio Linda HS
9. Jerrod Page, of, San Leandro HS
10. Mark Teahen, 3b, St. Mary's College
11. Tim Cunningham, lhp, Stanford
12. Tim Gilhooly, of, Pacific
13. Adam Elliott, rhp, Clayton Valley HS, Concord
14. Paul Keck, c, Granada HS, Pleasanton
15. Ryan Schreppel, lhp, Lincoln HS, Stockton
16. Aaron Parker, rhp, Sonoma State
17. Don Gemmell, rhp, San Jose State
18. Drew Olson, c, Piedmont HS
19. Caleb Maher, of, Ceres HS
20. Joey Gomes, of, Santa Clara
21. Jason Waugh, of, St. Mary's
22. Chris O'Riordan, 2b, Stanford
23. Darin Naatjes, rhp, Stanford
24. Cardoza Tucker, rhp, Bullard HS, Fresno
25. Josh Kruezer, 1b, West Valley JC
26. Adam Shorsher, c, San Jose State
27. Brett McMillan, 1b, Ponderosa HS, Shingle Springs
28. John Baker, c, California
29. Adam Moreno, rhp, Fresno HS
30. Dayton Buller, c, Fresno CC (Control: Giants)
31. Neil Walton, rhp/ss, Santa Cruz HS
32. Mike Cooper, rhp, Redwood HS, Visalia
33. Luke Steidlmayer, rhp, UC Davis
34. Ryan Garko, c/1b, Stanford
35. Andy Topham, ss, Stanford
36. Bob Runyon, rhp, Fresno State
37. Adam Carr, rhp, San Lorenzo Valley HS, San Lorenzo
38. Kirk Koehler, rhp, Pinole Valley HS, Pinole
39. Jeff Stevens, Campolinda HS, Moraga
40. Richie Gardner, rhp, Santa Rosa JC (Control: Rangers)
Projected First-Round Picks
Chris Gruler, rhp
Gruler became the area's best draft prospect as he continued to get better through the spring. He thrived in his final start in front of nine members of the Reds' front office and scouts from several teams in the top 10, pumping 95 mph heat in the seventh inning. He sits in the 91-94 mph range, touching 94-95. He's been as high as 96-97 mph and his two-seamer has good riding life. His best pitch is a 12-to-6 hammer curveball that he spins for strikes, and he's shown a feel for a changeup and an occasional splitter. While his stuff has drawn comparisons to Denham, last year's top prep pitcher in Northern California, Gruler's mechanics are more advanced, and overall he's a more polished product. Scouts also like his mental toughness and makeup. He played on a weak high school team and wasn't fazed when mistakes were made behind him. Rated as a fringe first-rounder last summer when he threw in the high 80s, Gruler won't make it out of the top 10 now, and maybe not the top five.
Jeremy Guthrie, rhp
Ranked behind Denham and Stanford teammate Gosling last year, Guthrie slipped to the Pirates in the third round. Questions about his signability as a draft-eligible sophomore caused him to slide, and he returned for his junior year to anchor the Cardinal staff. He handed Mark Prior his only loss last year but suffered his worst outing of the season in the College World Series, leading to speculation that he was worn down. Guthrie, who transferred from Brigham Young and spent two years on a Mormon mission in Spain, is a polished, near major league-ready pitcher. He has been compared to Stanford alumnus Mike Mussina, but Guthrie's ceiling isn't quite as high. He works with a 90-95 mph fastball and has command of four pitches. He generates good boring action on his two-seamer, but his fastball tends to be on a flat plane. His slider has a late, quick break and is an occasional strikeout pitch--he led the Pac-10 with 109 strikeouts in mid-May--and his curveball and changeup can be effective. Represented by Scott Boras, Guthrie is expected to go in the first half of the first round to a team looking for immediate pitching help.
Manny Parra, lhp
The Brewers tabbed Parra in the 26th round last year and may have been better off signing him then, as it will cost them close to first-round money to keep him. Parra blossomed into one of the top junior college pitchers in the country and has signed with UCLA. The Brewers saw projection in the lanky southpaw a year ago, and he increased his velocity from 89 mph to 89-94 and was clocked as high as 96 mph. Scouts believe even more velocity could come for Parra, who is a conditioning nut. He has a good feel for pitching and has command of a splitter, curveball and changeup.
Sean Smith, rhp
Like Parra, Smith has emerged as a potential first-rounder after being selected as a draft-and-follow in 2001. The Indians selected Smith in the 16th round last year. His easy delivery produces explosive 90-94 mph heat, and while he tired late in the spring, he never dipped below 89 mph. Smith's slider and changeup are potential plus pitches. Some scouts speculate it will take more than $1.5 million to prevent Smith from going back into the draft, where he would be a borderline first-rounder. He's still 18, making him younger than many high school players in this year's draft.
Projected Second- to Fifth-Round Picks
Jason Cooper, of
Cooper, the highest-drafted player in 1999 who did not sign, was part of a once-in-a-lifetime trio drafted out of Moses Lake (Wash.) High. While high school teammates B.J. Garbe (Twins, first round) and Ryan Doumit (Pirates, second round) signed, Cooper went to Stanford and turned in a .247 average in his first two seasons. He has battled nagging injuries throughout. A shoulder injury 18 months ago has taken everything out of his arm and forced him to DH this spring, causing National League clubs to steer away from him. Cooper's best tool is his raw power. He has the best power potential in college and hits balls farther than former Stanford teammate and first-round pick Joe Borchard. Once considered a first-round pick himself, Cooper now projects as a late second-rounder. The Yankees, whose first pick is 71st overall, may be lying in wait for him. His powerful lefthanded swing would go over big in Yankee Stadium.
Trevor Hutchinson, rhp
At one point last spring, Hutchinson was regarded as a possible first-rounder, but his perceived contract demands and a poor second half caused him to slide to the Mets in the 20th round. He's built like his brother Chad, who quit baseball and signed to play quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys after four years in the Cardinals system. Trevor lacks the overpowering stuff of his brother, with a fastball that sits in the 86-90 mph range with heavy sink from a high three-quarters arm slot. Building a reputation as a durable workhorse, he was much more effective as a senior, when he allowed 106 hits in a conference-best 117 innings--compared to 141 hits in 115 hits as a junior. Hutchinson's control of his fastball sets up a good, hard-breaking slider, and he's gone away from the splitter he relied on in the past.
Ben Fritz, rhp/c
One of the top two-way players in the country, Fritz has attracted more attention throwing pitches than catching them. He has pitched on Fridays, played first base on Saturdays and caught on Sundays. His preference is to play everyday, and his arm strength and ability to frame pitches and move well as a catcher could convince some scouts. He has good power with natural loft to his swing, though he'll have to make adjustments to hide the holes in it. On the mound, Fritz uses a solid-average fastball with late life. He works at 89-91 and touches 93 mph as a starter. Some scouts compare him to another catcher-turned-pitcher, Troy Percival, and think he would benefit from shorter outings. He mixes in a decent changeup with sink and fading action, and a hard cutter.
Sean Scobee, of
Scobee is one of the best power bats in the country, and he put on a power display last summer at the Area Code Games. He has a compact stroke and the ball jumps off his bat to all fields. Scobee plays the game with intensity. He hits the low-90s off the mound, but his arm in the outfield is just average. He has a strong frame and should continue to bulk up, adding to his intrigue as a power threat but detracting from his other tools. He shouldn't last beyond the third round, which will likely be enough for him to forgo his Cal State Fullerton scholarship.
Jerrod Page, of
Page, one of the best prep defensive backs in the country, has signed with UCLA. That will affect where he's drafted, and scouts were unsure whether he'll try to combine a football and baseball career or stick with one sport. The switch-hitter draws physical comparisons to Twins outfielder Torii Hunter, and while scouts project him to hit for power from both sides of the plate, he still needs to develop his swing. A gifted natural athlete, Page impressed football scouts with his quickness; he ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash and has a 35-inch vertical leap. Those tools translate well on the diamond, where he's a well above-average runner with a good arm capable of playing almost any position on the field including catcher, pitcher and center fielder. Some teams envision him as an offensive second baseman.
Mark Teahen, 3b
Teahen was a high school shortstop and spent his freshman year at St. Mary's at second base. He grew to 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and moved to third base. A contact hitter with a fluid stroke, Teahen hit .369-1-36 as a sophomore and raised his average to .405 as a junior with six home runs. He's been content to take pitches the other way and could develop more power as he learns which pitches to pull and drive. For now, his power is a concern. Known as a hard worker, he has a strong arm and an outstanding glove. He reminds some scouts of Cubs third baseman Bill Mueller and projects to go in the third or fourth round.
Tim Cunningham, lhp
Cunningham earns inevitable comparisons to Tom Glavine as a finesse lefty who relies on changing speeds and moving his fastball in and out. His velocity is usually below-average, around 86 mph, but he demonstrates a good feel for pitching. His delivery and deceptive arm speed keep hitters off balance, and he induces a lot of ground balls by cutting and sinking his fastball. His curveball and cutter can be effective pitches. Cunningham, who worked with pitching guru Tom House during the offseason, has been inconsistent and struggles to work out of jams.
Tim Gilhooly, of
Gilhooly transferred to Pacific from Chabot JC and answered questions about his bat with a school-record 29-game hit streak, smacking 10 home runs in a tough hitter's park and leading the Big West Conference with 61 RBIs. A strong athlete, he's a plus runner with promising raw power. His arm also grades out as above-average. He could be drafted in the first five rounds.
Adam Elliott, rhp
Elliott has been a solid two-way contributor in high school, but his future is on the mound. He has a live arm capable of touching 93-94 mph, though his velocity consistently in the 88-91 mph range this spring. Elliott is a physical specimen who keeps himself in good shape. He delivers the ball from an over-the-top release point and mixes in a solid changeup and tight-spinning curveball with hard downward rotation to put hitters away. He has cleared up questions about his attitude. If the draft doesn't work out for him, he'll help out an up-and-coming program at Nevada-Las Vegas.
Others to Watch
C Paul Keck has all the tools scouts look for in a receiver, with a 65 arm on the 20-80 scouting scale and a quick release. Some teams might find it hard to resist his loose, projectable arm on the mound. He has plenty of power and athletic ability but needs to shorten up his stroke . . . Whoever drafts C Drew Olson--the Phillies have been following his progress as much as anyone--will have to sway one of the top prep quarterbacks on the West Coast away from UCLA. He's a tremendous athlete with power potential at the plate, and all the tools to develop into an advanced receiver behind it. He loves football and could compete with returning UCLA starting QB Cory Paus and another heavily-recruited freshman Matt Moore . . . OF Caleb Maher has solid-average tools across the board and attracted a lot of attention late. He plays in a remote area against weak competition but has power, a good arm and good wheels. Scouts like Maher's body and project him to mature into a premium athlete with a good bat . . . 1B/3B Brett McMillan has a sweet swing and has some teams thinking about taking him in the second or third round. His bat is his only plus tool and he'll probably be limited to first base, and possibly even DH. His father Doug scouts for the Giants . . . LHP Ryan Schreppel improved his stock significantly this spring. His fastball was sitting in the upper-80s and touching 90-92 with a good curveball before a finger injury affected his performance and velocity. He has signed with Cal State Fullerton, a strong option if he doesn't regain his early form . . . RHP Cardoza Tucker has put himself in bad situations, like missing the team bus for the first game of the sectional playoffs. That and his disappointing performance have adversely affected his draft stock as much as any player. He has a lively 89-91 mph fastball and hard breaking ball, but scouts aren't sure what to make of him . . . RHP/SS Neil Walton didn't garner interest until late, but he has the projectable frame and loose arm scouts covet. He should increase the velocity on his 87 mph fastball in a hurry . . . RHP Adam Moreno has a projectable 90 mph fastball and the makings of a good, hard breaking ball . . . RHP Aaron Parker's fastball has been timed as high as 94 mph, and he used an above-average slider and average change to go 7-4, 3.94 and strike out 81 in 75 innings this spring for Sonoma State . . . Drafted in the 45th round last year by the Rangers, RHP Luke Steidlmayer reportedly turned down $75,000-$100,000 to return to UC Davis. He is a strike-thrower, though his unconventional delivery may turn off some teams . . . RHP Don Gemmell transferred from Stanislaus State, where he sat out the end of the 2001 season after slicing a tendon in his finger. The burly righthander was a candidate for the first 10 rounds before the injury, and reestablished himself with a nasty four-pitch mix as the closer at San Jose State. He fires his fastball between 89-94 mph and uses a slider, splitter and changeup to slam the door . . . The Devil Rays found a sleeper in 19th-rounder Jonny Gomes last year, and now his brother Joey Gomes is attracting attention for his powerful bat. Like Jonny, who has 24 home runs in his first 100 pro games, Gomes is a free swinger who takes an all-or-nothing cut. Some scouts say his raw power is the equal of Joe Borchard's. Gomes was battling Teahen for the West Coast Conference lead with a .405 average, and his 29 doubles were second in the nation . . . A fourth-year junior at St. Mary's, OF Jason Waugh sat out the 2001 season after breaking his leg sliding into home a week before the season started. He rebounded in the summer Northwoods League and resumed his torrid hitting this spring, hitting .399-14-43. Waugh has a quick bat and makes consistent contact. He is a solid runner who is aggressive on the bases and in center field . . . 2B Chris O'Riordan wasn't drafted after a strong junior season that earned him second-team All-America honors. If three solid years as Stanford's leader wasn't enough to convince scouts, maybe a fourth was. He is a gamer in the Craig Counsell mold, and a team could find a sleeper between the sixth and ninth rounds . . . RHP Darin Naatjes is one of the most interesting players in the draft. He was an all-America prep football player in Iowa and was drafted in the 22nd round by the Rockies. He opted for a two-sport career at Stanford and grabbed three touchdowns as a tight end over the last two seasons. A power-hitting outfielder in high school, Naatjes works as a power pitcher these days and can dial up his fastball to the 94-95 mph range. He remains unrefined and still has interest in playing football, leaving his status in doubt. He could be a gamble for someone this year or a potential premium pick in 2003 with another year of pitching under his belt . . . C Adam Shorsher is one of the top catch-and-throw backstops in college. The question is whether he'll hit better pitching. He has the power to make pitchers pay for their mistakes, and he's known as a blue-collar worker. Undrafted a year ago, he'll get picked this time after leading the Western Athletic Conference with 13 homers . . . C John Baker is another solid receiver with good catch-and-throw skills. Some scouts question his potential with the bat--even though his .393 average ranked second in the Pacific-10 Conference and he's a lefthanded-hitting catcher . . . Stanford C Ryan Garko, on the other hand, has drawn attention with his powerful bat. Scouts say he doesn't have the skills to catch as a professional, though, making a move to first base probable . . . C Dayton Buller could go as high as the fifth round if he goes back into the draft. He's a polished defender with a strong arm. The Giants will try to sign the 18th-round draft-and-follow . . . Six-foot-6 slugging 1B Josh Kruezer's potent bat could keep him from going to Louisiana State, but pro pitchers will expose the holes in his long swing if he doesn't make adjustments. He has tremendous bat speed, which should give him an advantage.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ***
San Diego's Rancho Bernardo High has become a baseball factory. It produced Rangers prospect Hank Blalock in 1999 and twin first-round picks Scott Heard (Rangers) and Matt Wheatland (Tigers) in 2000. The program an outside chance at two more first-rounders this year in lefthander Cole Hamels and shortstop Jake Blalock, Hank's brother and the nephew of Rancho coach Sam Blalock. No high school has produced such a steady run of frontline talent since Tampa's Hillsborough High produced Dwight Gooden, Gary Sheffield and two other first-rounders in the 1980s, and Sarasota (Fla.) High yielded three first-rounders in four years in the 1990s.
Scouts have been busy in San Diego, visiting not only Rancho Bernardo but also San Diego State, which could produce three picks in the first three rounds in Jim Dietz' 31st and final year as coach. The entire area, not just San Diego, is strong in lefthanded pitching, with Rancho's Cole Hamels and San Diego State's Royce Ring the headline performers.
College powers Southern California and Cal State Fullerton, who have won 15 College World Series between them, usually have a large impact on the draft. USC's won't be as significant as expected because several players have not lived up to expectations, while Fullerton's impact will be negligible. The sophomore-dominated Titans should have several high-round picks in 2003.
A potential wild card is righthander Matt Harrington, who was drafted by the Padres in the second round last year and has until May 28 to sign. If he doesn't sign, the 2000 first-round pick will go back into the draft for a third straight year. Harrington has pitched sparingly since his selection by the Rockies two years ago.
1. Scott Moore, ss, Cypress HS
2. Cole Hamels, lhp, Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego
3. Royce Ring, lhp, San Diego State
4. Anthony Reyes, rhp, Southern California
5. Sergio Santos, ss, Mater Dei HS, Santa Ana
6. Greg Miller, lhp, Esperanza HS, Yoba Linda
7. Bill Murphy, lhp, Cal State Northridge
8. Matt Clanton, rhp, Orange Coast JC
9. Jon Felfoldi, lhp, Glendale CC (Control: Diamondbacks)
10. Jake Blalock, 3b/ss, Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego
11. Matt Harrington, rhp, Long Beach (Western League) (Control: Padres)
12. Taber Lee, ss, San Diego State
13. Jesse English, lhp/of, Rancho Buena Vista HS, Vista
14. Rory Shortell, rhp, San Diego State
15. Steve Kahn, rhp, Servite HS, Orange
16. Chris Lewis, ss, Irvine HS
17. Alex Merricks, lhp, Oxnard HS
18. Alberto Concepcion, c, Southern California
19. Kevin Correia, rhp, Cal Poly
20. Fernando Pacheco, 1b, Montgomery HS, San Ysidro
21. Hector Ambriz, rhp, Valencia HS, Placentia
22. Eduardo Baeza, rhp, Poly HS, Sun Valley
23. Adam Simon, rhp, Bishop Amat HS, La Puente
24. Joel Zumaya, rhp, Bonita Vista HS, Chula Vista
25. Don Murphy, ss, Orange Coast JC
26. Ryan Broderick, of, Palm Desert HS, Rancho Mirage
27. Ben Francisco, of, UCLA
28. Jeremy Reed, of, Long Beach State
29. Kris Krise, rhp, Crescenta Valley HS, La Crescenta
30. Hayden Penn, rhp, Santana HS, Santee
31. Ricky Barrett, lhp, San Diego
32. Ryan Spilborghs, of, UC Santa Barbara
33. Sean Tracey, rhp, UC Irvine
34. Jim Anderson, c, UC Riverside
35. Chad Decker, lhp, Valley View HS, Moreno Valley
36. James Guerrero, ss, Fontana HS
37. Chris Miller, c, UC Irvine
38. Josh Womack, of, Crawford HS, San Diego
39. Chris Walston, 1b, El Capitan HS, Lakeside
40. Chad Clark, rhp, Southern California
41. Juan Razzo, rhp, San Diego CC (Control: White Sox)
42. David Uribes, 2b, South Hills HS, Covina
43. Kameron Loe, rhp, Cal State Northridge
44. Daniel Miltenberger, rhp, Laguna Hills HS, Mission Viejo
45. David Bagley, 3b, San Diego
46. Paul Coleman, lhp, Temescal Canyon HS, Lake Elsinore
47. Cesar Ramos, lhp, El Rancho HS, Anaheim
48. Chris Smith, rhp, UC Riverside
49. Eric Verbryke, of, Cal State Northridge
50. Mark Wagner, c, Mayfair HS, Lakewood
51. Anthony Lunetta, 2b, Southern California
52. Delwyn Young, 2b, Santa Barbara CC (Control: Braves)
53. Robert Andrews, of, Rancho Buena Vista HS, Vista
54. Andrew Tisdale, rhp, Chapman College
55. Paul French, rhp, UC Irvine
56. Shaun Larkin, 2b, Cal State Northridge
57. Bill Peavey, 1b, Southern California
58. Chris Dunwell, rhp, San Diego State
59. Brett Martinez, c, Redlands HS
60. Francisco Enriquez, ss, JC of the Canyons
61. Jordan Swaydan, c, Bishop Amat HS, La Puente
62. Duke Sardinha, 2b/3b/of, Pepperdine
63. Steve Moss, of, Notre Dame HS, Sherman Oaks
64. Jose Rodriguez, c/rhp, Cypress JC (Control: Reds)
65. Brian Barre, of, Southern California
66. Bob Paschal, lhp, Chaminade Prep, Northridge
67. Scott Robinson, 1b, Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego
68. Brian Manfred, c, San Diego State
69. Allen Craig, ss, Chaparral HS, Temecula
70. Rob Harrand, rhp, San Diego State
Projected First-Round Picks
Scott Moore, ss
Moore has supplanted the more heralded Sergio Santos as not only the top shortstop prospect in Southern California, but also the top player. He should be picked in the middle of the first round, with the nearby Angels, who select 12th, particularly interested. Moore has legitimate speed (6.7 seconds in the 60) and arm strength (89 mph across the infield) and excellent instincts for the game. His best tool is a lefthanded bat that has been compared to that of Athletics third baseman Eric Chavez at a comparable stage of development. Scouts say he should have no trouble adapting to wood while projecting 20-25 home runs down the road. He is quick to the ball, his bat stays in the hitting zone and he gets great extension. As an all-around player, Moore resembles Chipper Jones, with good hands, good body control and a good baseball body. He is better suited for third base than shortstop and lacks the range to play shortstop at the next level. The only real knock on the Cal State Fullerton signee is what some scouts perceive as cockiness.
Cole Hamels, lhp
Hamels qualifies as one of the feel-good stories of the spring. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound lefthander broke the humerus in his left arm as a sophomore and missed all of last season. It's not the same injury that ended the careers of major leaguer lefthanders Tom Browning, Dave Dravecky and Tony Saunders; Hamels first injured the arm in an off-field accident before aggravating it while he was pitching. He has come back stronger than ever this year, and his performance has rivaled any high school pitcher in the country. He went 6-0, 0.48 with 77 strikeouts in his first 43 innings. He has excellent command of three pitches: an 89-92 mph fastball that has topped out at 94, an outstanding overhand curve and a major league-caliber changeup. He also has a confident mound presence, an easy, mechanically sound delivery and a strong pickoff move. Scouts project even more improvement, and he has shown no fear of a recurrence of his injury. Still, several clubs are wary of investing in a first-round pick with Hamels' medical history. The hometown Padres have a strong interest, as do teams with extra picks. San Diego's team doctor helped treat Hamels and says his arm is stronger than before the accident. The circumstances of the injury remain a bit of a mystery, and Hamels will be one of the most scrutinized picks in the draft in recent years. His selection will be based as much on medical judgments as on ability.
Royce Ring, lhp
Ring is the nation's best closer. He has three pitches he can throw effortlessly for strikes: an 88-91 mph fastball that tops at 94, a knee-buckling curveball and a changeup that has improved significantly this year. He resembles Randy Myers with his arm action, body type (6-foot-1, 215 pounds) and mound demeanor. He is a bulldog and wants the ball with games on the line. He led the Mountain West Conference with nine saves in 2001 in his introduction to the closer role, and his 15 saves this season ranked second in the country. A 41st-round pick in 1999 out of a San Diego high school, Ring should be picked late in the first round this year.
Anthony Reyes, rhp
A year ago, Reyes outpitched former teammate Mark Prior in several starts leading to Southern California's appearance in the College World Series. Instead of following Prior's lead with a monster junior season, though, Reyes developed tendinitis in his elbow and missed last fall and the first half of the 2002 season. He's back on the map, but his chances of going in the first round will depend on how he pitches down the stretch. He won his first four decisions as USC recovered from a slow start to take over first place in the Pacific-10 Conference. His velocity has ranged from 89-94 mph, with a comfort zone of 90-92. He has shown well above-average velocity at times, but has not thrown as consistently hard as he did as a freshman, though the command of his fastball is better. His 74-77 mph curve shows good depth and is a potentially special pitch. His changeup is superior to Prior's at the same stage of development. While he has top-of-the-draft stuff, his 6-foot-1, 205-pound frame, time on the sidelines and ties to agent Scott Boras mean he'll probably get picked at the end of the first round--if he performs well in his last few starts.
Sergio Santos, ss
Santos has a fair share of supporters and detractors. He has been known to scouts since he was a sophomore from his time at Mater Dei High, one of the nation's best-known high schools for sports, at major showcases and with Team USA's junior national team. He looked like a cinch first-round pick as a senior, as scouts pictured a big, strong shortstop in the mold of Alex Rodriguez. At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, he has an ideal major league body but his offensive game has not developed as expected. He doesn't drive the ball with any consistency, which becomes more important if he has to move to third base, as expected. Santos is smooth and polished, but his glove and speed are considered average at best. He has arm strength and it is a treat to watch him throw during infield, but his other tools always seem to play best in a showcase environment. He runs the 60 in 6.7 seconds but has a big swing and is slow getting down the line. He has nice hands and quick reactions, yet doesn't play shortstop with a lot of energy. He shows only occasional power. Santos has committed to Southern California and could end up there if he is not drafted in the first round, which now looks like less than a 50-50 proposition.
Projected Second- to Fifth-Round Picks
Greg Miller, lhp
A 6-foot-5, 190-pound 17-year-old, Miller is a late bloomer. No one paid attention to him last summer and fall when his fastball was clocked in the low 80s. After his velocity and feel for pitching improved noticeably in the last six months, he's now regarded as a fringe first-round prospect. His fastball is normally in the 87-89 mph range and has touched the low 90s. He has an excellent curveball and the makings of a solid changeup. His body isn't athletic, but his loose, easy arm works well from a deceptive delivery. He keeps everything down and works the corners well. Once thought to be a good bet to attend school at California, Miller will be a longshot to enroll now.
Bill Murphy, lhp
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Murphy reminds area scouts of Pepperdine lefties Randy Wolf (Phillies '97, second round) and Noah Lowry (Giants '01, first round). He's not physical and survives as much on character as raw stuff. Few pitchers compete harder. A two-pitch pitcher prior to this season, Murphy added a changeup and improved his control, though he still dances in and out of trouble and has high pitch counts. In his first 99 innings this season, he walked 59. But he also struck out 122 and his nine-inning average of 11.1 strikeouts was one of the best ratios in the country. His fastball ranges between 88-91 mph and has touched 92 when he has been used in one-inning relief stints. Murphy projected as high as the late first round in April, but a succession of ordinary starts in May might have knocked down a round or two.
Matt Clanton, rhp
Clanton was unknown to scouts at the beginning of the season and now ranks as the most attractive of three players at Orange Coast College who should factor into the first 10 rounds. The 6-foot-3 righthander quit baseball as a senior at Fountain Valley High in 2000 and pitched fewer than 40 innings last year, when he was rusty and his velocity peaked at 85 mph. In better shape this year, Clanton's velocity is up to 90-91 mph. He also has a hammer curve and a decent changeup. Some teams see him as high as a sandwich pick, but he profiles better as a third-round pick.
Jon Felfoldi, lhp
Felfoldi attended San Diego State as a freshman but dropped out of school before pitching for the Aztecs. He was selected in the 44th round last year by the Diamondbacks and enrolled at Glendale Community College. Felfoldi's stock has skyrocketed this spring and the Diamondbacks are expected to make a serious run at signing him as a draft-and-follow. If they don't, he'll re-enter the draft as a second- or third-round pick. Felfoldi is just 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds but has a clean, loose arm action and is projectable. His fastball ranges from 86-88 mph and touches 90-91, though it lacks the tailing action most lefthanders have. He has an outstanding overhand curve and a solid straight change.
Jake Blalock, 3b/ss
The development of Blalock's brother Hank into one of the top hitting prospects in the game has prompted scouts to take a closer look at Jake, a bigger and stronger player at the same stage of development. Some see Jake as a product of his brother's growing reputation and rate him as a fifth- to eighth-round pick. A handful of clubs say he's a comparable talent and want to avoid repeating the mistake everyone made in 1999, when Hank slipped to the third round. While the lefthanded-hitting Hank was a better all-around hitter in high school, the righthanded Jake has more power. A 6-foot-4, heavy-footed shortstop in high school, Jake will move to an infield corner, probably third base to take advantage of an above-average arm. Jake is a gamer who knows the game well and plays hard. He has committed to Arizona State, but college is a secondary option at this point.
Matt Harrington, rhp
Most Baseball America readers know Harrington's story. When last heard from, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound righthander replaced agent Tommy Tanzer in favor of Scott Boras and had hopes of a striking a deal with the Padres, who drafted him in the second round last year. Harrington has worked hard on the sidelines to return to his form of 2000, when he was regarded as the top high school pitcher in the country. He signed with Long Beach of the independent Western League and wasn't scheduled to make his first appearance until late May.
Taber Lee, ss
In a draft lacking in quality middle infielders, Lee stands out. Some scouts say he would be no better than an eighth- to 12th-round pick in a normal year, but he is expected to go as high as the second or third round. The top prospect in the New England Collegiate League last summer, Lee has improved his skills dramatically since his sophomore season. He has shown excellent actions, hands, range and arm strength at shortstop and had committed just six errors in almost 200 chances this season. He also runs well. His game bears little similarity to that of older brother Travis, a first baseman with the Phillies. Travis signed a record $10 million deal with the Diamondbacks in 1996 out of San Diego State as a draft loophole free agent and had considerably more power than his younger brother. Even though his average has hovered around .370 this season, Taber's bat is weakest tool. He has little or no power.
Jesse English, lhp/of
English's stock has risen steadily this spring and he projects as a third- to fifth-round pick. He has attracted interest as both a hitter and pitcher, but most see more upside on the mound. He doesn't have a reliable second pitch or a good feel for pitching yet, but scouts can see a resemblance to Indians lefthander C.C. Sabathia. English has a similar (though smaller) frame at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds and a fastball clocked at 92-93 mph. Like Sabathia, a first-round pick in 1998, English has to tone up his body. He competes well but pitches with a lot of effort.
Rory Shortell, rhp
Picked in the fourth round out of an Oregon high school in 1999, Shortell might go a round earlier this time. He pitched sporadically his first two seasons at San Diego State but has shown a marked improvement this year. His stuff is not overpowering--as shown by his 65 strikeouts in 99 innings--but he has shown better arm strength and a better breaking ball than in high school. His fastball has been clocked at 92-93 mph. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, he has an appealing pitcher's frame.
Steve Kahn, rhp
Kahn entered the 2002 season with a reputation as the hardest-throwing pitcher in Orange County, the nation's richest talent hotbed. He threw well early, up to 92-93 mph, but went through a dead-arm period later in the spring and slipped a bit. He has a good feel for his curveball and a tendency to use it at the expense of his fastball. At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Kahn has a sound delivery and a lot of projection. He has committed to Loyola Marymount but is considered a safe bet to sign if he's picked in the first four or five rounds, as expected.
Chris Lewis, ss
Lewis profiles as a third- to sixth-round pick but may slide because of a commitment to Stanford. His bat is his best tool, and scouts who have seen both play this spring say Lewis' bat from the right side is nearly the equal of Scott Moore's from the left. He has an excellent swing with great extension that should translate to above-average power with wood. Like Moore, Lewis does not project as a shortstop in pro ball. He lacks the speed for the position and will move to second or third base. All his other tools work and he plays the game like a veteran. He has good hands and an above-average infield arm.
Alex Merricks, lhp
At 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, Merricks lacks the size desired in a pitcher. He more than makes up for it with a powerful left arm, one of the liveliest in the country. He throws his fastball in the 90-94 mph range, though he loses command of the pitch when he tries to rear back and overpower hitters. He's more effective at 88-90 mph because he gets natural sink at that velocity. He needs to throw strikes more consistently and work on his other pitches as well, though he has made progress with a changeup. Merricks has two brothers who play pro ball--Charles, 23, in the Rockies system, and Matt, 19, in the Braves system. Both are products of the 2000 draft and like Alex are smallish, hard-throwing lefthanders.
The jury is still out on Concepcion, a second-round pick in 1999 who has gotten maximum exposure in three years at Southern California catching the likes of Mark Prior and other high-profile pitchers. Scouts aren't sure he can catch he can catch professionally, though he will get the opportunity. He is polished mechanically behind the plate, but questions remain about his arm and footwork. His bat is not as much of an issue. He doesn't show consistent power, but he was leading the Pac-10 with a .399 average--a surge over the.314 mark he compiled in his first two seasons at USC. Scouts attribute the improvement to staying better balanced on offspeed pitches. He has learned to turn on balls more consistently, leading to a career-best 10 homers, and hits to all fields.
Kevin Correia, rhp
Drafted in the 23rd round by St. Louis last year, Correia turned down a $25,000 offer for a chance to improve his worth as a senior. He has succeeded. Just a thrower in 2001, he has improved his slider and changeup this year while improving the velocity on his fastball from 88-89 mph to 91-93 with a high of 95. His slider has jumped to 82-83. He has held his velocity deeper into games and has a good bounce-back arm, often closing Big West Conference games on Fridays and starting on Sundays.
Fernando Pacheco, 1b
Pacheco has parallels to Adrian Gonzalez, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2000 draft. Both are sweet-swinging, lefthanded-hitting first basemen from a predominantly Mexican population in the suburbs south of San Diego. While Pacheco looks like a third-round pick at best, he has a lot of the same ability and mannerisms. While not in Gonzalez' class as a pure hitter, he has a quiet approach with solid line-drive power--more raw power than Gonzalez in high school. He also is a solid defender and plays the game with the same enthusiasm as Gonzalez. He is very signable.
Hector Ambriz, rhp
Scouts are wary of Ambriz' 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame because it doesn't project well, but they don't question his arm strength or ability to pitch. He shows a major league average fastball at 88-91 mph and a quality, true slider. He competes well and finds a way to win on days he doesn't have his best stuff. He has excellent command. A UCLA commitment isn't expected to deter clubs from making Ambriz an early-round pick.
Eduardo Baeza, rhp
If Baeza were three inches taller, he would be a clear first-round pick. He has qualities prompting comparisons to Pedro Martinez--excellent arm strength, often reaching 94 mph, a dynamite curveball and a solid feel for pitching. The 6-foot, 165-pound Baeza delivers all his pitches with an easy, effortless action. He missed several weeks this spring with a strained muscle in his forearm but the injury was not considered serious. An easy sign, he should go in the first five rounds.
Adam Simon, rhp
Another of the smallish righthanders in the area this spring, Simon is the ace for Bishop Amat High, which was ranked No. 1 in Baseball America's preseason poll and overcame two early-season losses to remain in the top three. Simon has an electric arm, and with his slender 5-foot-10, 160-pound frame, he too has drawn Martinez comparisons. Unusually strong with stuff belying his size, his build may scare teams from drafting him in the first three or four rounds. Simon brings a sinking 91-93 mph fastball to the table and can sustain it. He has command of a 73-76 mph curve with a tight spin that he throws from several different angles. A solid changeup is also part of his repertoire. Signed to UCLA, he will go in the first four to six rounds or fall way down on the list.
Joel Zumaya, rhp
Zumaya has a limited pitching background and came out of nowhere this spring. A 6-foot-3 frame, fresh arm, arm strength up to 93 mph with the possibility for more and easy signability make him an attractive target in the first three to five rounds. The downside is questionable arm action, inconsistent velocity and limited secondary pitches.
Ryan Broderick, of
Broderick has not been seen much this spring because he has been hurt. When healthy, he reminds scouts of Dodgers outfielder Shawn Green, with his hitting stroke, body and arm. Broderick has committed to Southern California and is viewed as a risky sign, but at least one club has shown enough interest to draft him early enough to justify a bonus that would steer him away from college.
Ben Francisco, of
UCLA sends a lot of players to pro ball, but the Bruins won't be much of a factor in this year's draft. Francisco is the team's best prospect this year, and even he missed the latter part of the season with a broken collarbone. A solid college player who plays hard and can run, hit (.368-6-37) and field, Francisco was leading the Pac-10 in stolen bases (20) at the time of his injury.
Jeremy Reed, of
Reed hasn't played up to expectations this spring after two solid years at Long Beach State and a summer season in which he led Team USA's college squad in batting (.366 in 101 at-bats). He projects as a fourth outfielder. An accomplished center fielder, he isn't a burner, doesn't throw that well and has nothing more than gap power.
Kris Krise, rhp
Projected as a fifth- to seventh-round pick, the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Krise has a high ceiling. He is advanced for a high school player. He has an 86-91 mph fastball with good tailing action and a solid curve with tight spin. The ball comes out of his hand easy. He has committed to UC Irvine.
Hayden Penn, rhp
Penn did not help himself with a mediocre senior season. He struggled with inconsistent performances, yet could still go in the first five rounds if a club buys into his projection. He has a good, loose athletic body and could excel if he gets things straightened out. His velocity fluctuated between 86 and 91 mph, and he'll need to come up with an offspeed pitch to complement his fastball. Penn, who was a good enough high school basketball player to command Division I interest, has committed to San Diego State but would prefer to try his hand at pro ball.
Ricky Barrett, lhp
Statistically, Barrett's 2002 season hasn't been much different than 2001. He's 9-1, 3.42 with a West Coast Conference-leading 89 strikeouts in 105 innings as opposed to 9-3, 3.19 with 86 strikeouts in 96 innings a year ago. But he has averaged 13.1 baserunners per nine innings this year, as opposed to 10.7 last season. His lack of command and consistency, and his failure to sustain his secondary pitches this season have cost him, and he's no longer considered a second- to third-round pick. Barrett has a quick arm, still throws hard--up to 90 mph--and goes right at hitters.
Ryan Spilborghs, of
From a school that had 10 players drafted in 2001, Spilborghs is UC Santa Barbara's only noteworthy prospect this season. All five of his tools play, but he didn't help himself with a late-season tailspin. A strong-armed right fielder in college, Spilborghs has the speed to play center field. A fluid stroke and good bat speed, which have translated to 13 homers, should help him make the transition to wood.
Sean Tracey, rhp
Tracey might have been a second- or third-rounder based on his early-season performance, but his stock has slipped as his velocity dipped late in the season. A gutsy righthander, he has gotten tired as the workhorse at UC Irvine. A fastball that touched 91-92 mph early in the year backed up to 88-89. He has a solid slider, but without a third pitch he projects as a big league set-up man.
Chad Decker, lhp
A sleeper until the Major League Scouting Bureau turned in a strong grade on him midway through this season, Decker threw 84-86 mph until this year. He improved his velocity to 87-88, touching 90, but what really set him apart is an excellent arm stroke and one of the best sliders around. He won't be an easy sign because his parents would like him to go to school. He has committed to UC Riverside.
Others to Watch
Matt Clanton has garnered the most attention this spring at Orange Coast College, but SS Don Murphy and LHP Justin Azze have earned solid secondary interest. Murphy wouldn't be eligible for this year's draft if he had gone to Long Beach State, but he was a non-qualifier and went to OCC instead. He doesn't run well, though the rest of his tools are playable. He has good shortstop actions and swings the bat in the same style as Atlanta's Keith Lockhart. His lack of raw power may not play if he is forced to another position, especially on a corner . . . While Azze has an ideal pitcher's body and good arm speed, he is erratic and his fastball and curve are slightly below-average. Like Murphy, he should go before the 10th round . . . USC's impact on the draft would have been greater if 6-foot-6 RHP Chad Clark hadn't struggled and 2B Anthony Lunetta hadn't come back slowly from Tommy John surgery. Clark has an excellent arm and was considered a possible first-rounder entering the season. He couldn't find the plate with a fastball that ranged from 92-96 mph and showed no confidence or deception in his secondary pitches. His 0-2, 18.84 record and 22 walks and 29 hits in 14 innings paint a grisly picture, but scouts remain intrigued. Lunetta's stock also has plummeted, but he still may go before the 10th round. He continues to rebound from an unfortunate incident in 2001 when USC coach Mike Gillespie auditioned potential closers for his beleaguered bullpen. Lunetta tried and was clocked at 92-93 mph but blew out his elbow in the process. He has played second base but has not been able to take pregame infield most of the year or return to shortstop, his high school position. Lunetta, who hit .343-12-50 as a freshman, also hadn't driven balls with any authority. His paltry .265 average included no home runs . . . Big 1B Bill Peavey has had a productive senior year for the Trojans. He has toned up his 6-foot-4, 250-pound frame, which has enabled him to turn better on inside pitches and be more flexible around the bag . . . OF Brian Barre should be another solid senior sign for USC. A little lefthanded hitter, he can run and make contact and has some power . . . UC Riverside RHP Chris Smith is not overpowering, but throws three quality pitches for strikes, including an 88-92 mph fastball. His batterymate, C Jim Anderson, is a solid catch-and-throw receiver who has intriguing power potential . . . UC Irvine C Chris Miller ranks with Anderson on most draft boards. He has been catching for just three years, is athletic and agile and has thrown well all year. His bat is a little more suspect than Anderson's . . . RHP Paul French, who like Miller joined Irvine's revived program as a juco transfer, should be drafted between rounds eight and 12. He was a third-round selection of the Angels in 1998 before Tommy John surgery derailed his career. French works between 87-91 mph and has command of three pitches . . . San Diego 3B David Bagley had a career-altering experience of his own last year when he was ill with a mysterious virus and lost 30 pounds. Back up to 190 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame, he has shown an outstanding bat with juice to all fields. The former Rancho Bernardo High star has above-average power and speed but may lack the range to remain at third base. He is a draft-eligible sophomore . . . Power-hitting 2B/3B/OF Duke Sardinha was a late-round Rockies draft pick last year as a sophomore and returned to Pepperdine after hand surgery foiled his efforts to swing the bat. He hit just .226 last year. After splitting time between second base, third base and right field, he should upgrade his draft standing significantly after adding almost 100 points to his average. He would become the third Sardinha brother in pro ball. Dane, a former Pepperdine All-American, was a second-round pick of the Reds in 2000; Bronson was a supplemental first-rounder of the Yankees last year . . . 2B Shaun Larkin missed last year after he transferred from Texas Tech to Cal State Northridge. He played well in the New England Collegiate League last summer and was an offensive force in the Big West. Plate discipline is the strength of his game. He was leading the conference with 55 walks, a .516 on-base percentage and .687 slugging percentage while batting .368 with 14 homers. As a fifth-year senior, Larkin is eligible to sign before the draft if the Matadors don't make it out of regional play . . . Larkin's 6-foot-7 teammate, RHP Kameron Loe, would generate more excitement if he threw harder and didn't come from a low three-quarters angle. His velocity reaches just 86-88 mph, but he throws strikes and has a well above-average slider . . . Six-foot-2, 220-pound OF Eric Verbryke has some interesting qualities--size, power and an outstanding arm. Below-average speed compromises his draft status . . . San Diego State's impact on the draft won't end with its big three of Ring, Lee and Shortell. RHP Chris Dunwell will be a solid senior sign. Like Red Sox righthander John Burkett, he has a good four-pitch mix, including an 88-90 mph fastball. His stuff is marginal . . . Draft-eligible sophomore RHP Rob Harrand has not had a good year for the Aztecs but the 6-foot-5 former Canadian basketball and volleyball star has interesting stuff and upside . . . Six-foot RHP Andrew Tisdale often gets lost in the shuffle at tiny Chapman College. His 88-90 mph fastball that touches 92 and an 86 mph slider haven't been lost on scouts . . . C/RHP Jose Rodriguez heads up the second-level group of junior college players in the area. The Reds' eighth-round pick last year--making him the earliest draft-and-follow pick--has an outstanding arm, and Cincinnati's wish to see him converted to a pitcher was fulfilled this spring . . . Switch-hitting 2B/SS Delwyn Young starred for two-time defending state champion Riverside CC as a freshman, then transferred to a more pedestrian program at Santa Barbara CC. He still might be the top juco hitter in the state and was expected to sign with the Braves, who controlled his rights . . . RHP Juan Razzo, a White Sox draft-and-follow, is the best player in a sparse San Diego juco crop. His velocity has fluctuated widely this spring and topped out at 92 mph . . . C Brett Martinez is one of the nation's elite high school defensive catchers . . . C Mark Wagner excelled at Perfect Game USA's national predraft showcase in Iowa. That may boost him in the draft, as more than 100 scouts saw him perform head-to-head and excel against some of the nation's top high school catchers. Wagner swings the bat well and has average catch-and-throw skills . . . Bishop Amat's Jordan Swaydan is another catcher who has made strides this spring. His defense is his top attribute . . . SS James Guerrero and 2B David Uribes are smallish middle infielders who are solid all-around offensive and defensive performers. Neither is likely to be picked in the first few rounds because Guerrero is only 5-foot-8 and Uribes is a couple of inches taller . . . Six-foot-6, 220-pound 1B Chris Walston has one tool: plus-plus raw power. He may have the best power bat on the West Coast. While he can hit it a long way, he doesn't make regular contact and often struggles getting the bat around on some of the better arms in San Diego . . . Someone likely will bite on OF Josh Womack from the fifth to 10th round. His bat is a ways off, but his other tools all play. More of a line-drive hitter, he struggles against better pitching . . . OF Robert Andrews got heavy play this spring in part because he's a teammate of Jesse English at Rancho Buena Vista. Andrews runs exceptionally well and is a sound center fielder, but he's a little raw in his approach at the plate . . . 1B Scott Robinson, son of ex-big leaguer Bruce Robinson, might be a sleeper pick in the top 10 rounds, though scouts have seen a lot of him this spring at Rancho Bernardo. He's small and doesn't run especially well, yet he has a sweet swing and easy power. The ball jumps off his bat . . . Two UCLA recruits, OF Steve Moss and RHP Daniel Miltenberger are candidates for the first 10 rounds. Scouts like Moss' athleticism, and Miltenberger fits into the area's group of smallish prep power arms. Miltenberger may be Mike Mussina or Greg Maddux in the rough. He hits 90 mph with an easy, effortless delivery. He has tried too hard on occasion this spring to throw hard and hasn't enjoyed the success he's known in the past . . . Six-foot LHPs Bobby Paschal and Cesar Ramos have solid three-pitch assortments and fit the definition of crafty lefthander. Paschal has committed to USC . . . LHP Paul Coleman is long and lanky with a fastball that ranges from 86-89 and touches 92. He complements it with an average curve and change.
Arizona State traditionally plays a large role in the draft, though the Sun Devils have just two players who will be meaningful picks this year. Next year will be better, but of more interest now is the fate of a ballyhooed recruiting class, the biggest and best in the nation by a considerable margin. The Devils expect lose first baseman Prince Fielder (Florida), lefthanders Adam Loewen (British Columbia) and Jon Lester (Washington) and righthander Chris Gruler (California) in the first round alone.
1. Mike Esposito, rhp, Arizona State
2. Jason Pridie, of, Prescott HS
3. Tom Wilhelmsen, rhp, Tucson HS
4. Sean Rierson, rhp, Arizona
5. Klent Corley, rhp, Grand Canyon
6. Mike Nixon, c/of, Sunnyslope HS, Phoenix
7. Mike Muscato, c, Mountain Ridge HS, Glendale
8. David Shafer, rhp, Central Arizona JC (Control: Reds)
9. Chris Cunningham, c, Arizona
10. Bryce Kartler, lhp, Arizona State
11. Ryan Coffin, rhp, Chandler-Gilbert CC (Control: Diamondbacks)
12. Dennis Wyrick, c/3b, Arizona State
13. David Brockman, rhp, Grand Canyon U,
14. Ray Neal, of, Mountain Pointe HS, Phoenix
15. Frank Mesa, ss, Arizona Western JC
Projected First-Round Picks
Projected Second- to Fifth-Round Picks
Mike Esposito, rhp
The 6-foot, 185-pound Esposito was drafted in the fifth round out of a Las Vegas high school in 1999 and has struggled living up to the pick. Most of his struggles have been health-related. Tommy John surgery sidelined him after two appearances as a freshman in 2000, and he hasn't been 100 percent healthy since. He battled arm soreness almost on a weekly basis this season in rolling up an 8-5, 3.21 record with 85 strikeouts in 85 innings. Some starts were outstanding, some less so, and his overall performance left scouts scratching their heads. When he's on top of his game, such as when he struck out 17 in a Pac-10 game against Washington, Esposito has three pitches working. His fastball ranges 89-92 mph with a high of 94, and he has a big hammer curve and a lively changeup. When it's not working, he loses the command and velocity on his fastball. Through it all, Esposito has shown a great feel for his craft. Most teams view him as a third-rounder, with a couple that like him enough to spring him by the second round.
Jason Pridie, of
The athletic Pridie is one of the few high school position players in this year's draft with five-tool ability. He is a good lefthanded hitter with power potential, though he has a hitch in his swing that will need to be corrected. He runs a legitimate 6.7 seconds in the 60 and his speed plays well on the bases. He also pitches up to 92 mph, evidence of his arm strength. His outfield skills are solid. None of his tools may be as impressive as his instincts for the game or his versatility. He is ahead of the game for his age and can play almost anywhere on the field. He almost singlehandedly led Prescott High to the Arizona 4-A title this year, pitching the last three innings and winning the game in extra innings with a three-run homer. One of the few players to elude Arizona State, Pridie committed to Vanderbilt. Pro ball is an attractive option as his brother Jon is a rising prospect in the Twins system and has extolled the virtues of signing out of high school.
Tom Wilhelmsen, rhp
Wilhelmsen remains raw, which might cause some teams to pass on him in the early rounds, but few players have as much capacity for improvement. A 6-foot-6, 190-pound frame and a fastball that peaks at 94 mph qualify him as a top prospect with a lot of projection. He has had awkward moments growing into his body but seemed to turn a corner this year, when his velocity picked up and he started to develop a feel for and command of a hard breaking ball and changeup. His fastball rides in the 89-93 range with good sink. He also has tinkered with a split-finger. He has an effortless, whip-like delivery.
Sean Rierson, rhp
Either you like Rierson or you don't. Some scouts see the 6-foot-3, 190-pound sophomore-eligible righthander as a craftsman who can get by on mediocre stuff; others see him as just another pitcher who lacks velocity. Rierson's fastball is clocked between 84-88 mph and tops out at 90. He gets good sinking action on his fastball and has excellent command of his stuff, as well as a history of success. A fourth- to seventh-round pick for some, others wouldn't even draft Rierson.
Others to Watch
Six-foot-5, 215-pound RHP Klent Corley spent two injury-plagued seasons at Arizona before transferring to Division II Grand Canyon. He flashed a 94 mph fastball with plus sink and life, easily the best velocity of any pitcher in the state . . . LHP Bryce Kartler didn't win a game in his first two years at Arizona State and was still picked in the 20th round last year as a draft-eligible sophomore. With a good season, the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder might have been drafted ahead of Esposito. He won just two games, lacked command and dealt with a lot of baserunners. But his size, strength and stuff intrigue scouts . . . C Chris Cunningham sat on the bench most of his first three seasons at Arizona, playing in only 37 games. Given a chance to play this year, he led the Wildcats in most offensive categories and threw out baserunners at better than a 40 percent clip . . . On talent, C Mike Nixon ranks in the first five rounds. His signability is clouded by a commitment to play safety at UCLA. One of the nation's top prep football players, Nixon turned down offers to play quarterback at Arizona State and Notre Dame . . . C Mike Muscato is a strong defender and another top athlete. He was once the second-ranked junior triathlete in the country . . . The traditionally strong Arizona junior college ranks are thin this year. The top prospect is 6-foot-3 RHP David Shafer, who has an average fastball and good slider and is under control to the Reds.
NEVADA ***Las Vegas has been a hot spot for high school talent over the last several years, while most of the attention this season is focused to the north around Reno, where there are two potential first-round picks. Las Vegas isn't likely to have anyone taken in the first five rounds.
1. Kevin Jepsen, rhp, Bishop Manogue HS, Sparks
2. Darrell Rasner, rhp, Nevada
3. James Holcomb, rhp, Nevada
4. Zeke Parraz, ss, CC of Southern Nevada (Control: Royals)
5. Matt Elliott, rhp, Basic HS, Henderson
6. Jeff Jacobsen, rhp, Durango HS, Las Vegas
7. Jared Bonnell, rhp, Nevada-Las Vegas
8. Jake Vose, rhp, CC of Southern Nevada
9. Nate Nowicki, rhp, CC of Southern Nevada
10. Micah Schnurstein, if, Basic HS, Henderson
Projected First-Round Picks
Kevin Jepsen, rhp
Word spread quickly early this year when Jepsen's fastball lit up the radar guns at 98 mph and his slider chimed in at 91. That solidified his stock as a first-round pick. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound righthander hasn't repeated that velocity since, but he has shown three quality major league pitches with good mechanics and an effortless delivery. His fastball, which was 89-92 mph last year when he battled minor injuries, settled in at 93-95, and his slider in the mid-to-high 80s. His slider lacks good bite and consistent command. He also has the makings of a major league-quality changeup. Jepsen doesn't have the same upside as a lot of his first-round peers because he is almost physically mature now.
Darrell Rasner, rhp
Rasner's record at Nevada has fallen from 14-2 as a freshman, to 6-3 as a sophomore to 5-7 as a junior, yet his professional worth continues to rise. He now ranks as a late first-round or supplemental first-round pick, with the two Bay Area teams showing the greatest interest. He struggles at times with his command but has four pitches that work, including a fringe-average fastball. He throws at 88-90 mph and occasionally gets it up to 93. He also has an outstanding power curveball, which is impressive in the high altitude of Reno and even more so at sea level, though it lacks consistency. His other pitches are a slider and change.
Projected Second- to Fifth-Round Picks
James Holcomb, rhp
Scouts differ widely on Holcomb's worth based on how much they think he can improve. The 6-foot-5, 190-pound righthander has a great pitcher's frame and can touch 94 but is just learning how to pitch. He has struggled throughout his career. Holcomb redshirted his first year at Nevada, then went 0-4, 11.05 as a freshman and 2-6, 6.00 this season while allowing 122 runners in 66 innings. He is eligible for the draft as a 21-year-old sophomore; most scouts say he's not ready to go out yet. He's nowhere near as polished as Rasner, but intrigues scouts because he is bigger, throws easier and has more upside. He lacks consistency and command of his breaking ball.
Others to Watch
SS Zeke Parraz was one of nine draft-and-follows at the Community College of Southern Nevada. A 30th-round pick of the Royals in 2001, Parraz improved offensively, hitting more than .400 in a wood-bat conference. He projects to go in the first 10 rounds if he re-enters the draft. A quality defender, he has an excellent arm . . . RHPs Jake Vose and Nate Nowicki, among the few CCSN prospects not under control, both run their fastballs up to 90-93 mph. The 6-foot-5 Nowicki was primarily a shortstop in high school before he went to Colorado, which does not have a baseball program. He soon transferred to CCSN, where he generated interest as a prospect after being switched to the mound . . . RHP Matt Elliott was the best high school pitcher in Las Vegas this season. He is polished and his fastball has reached 93 mph. His 6-foot, 165-pound frame lowers his ceiling . . . Six-foot-7 stringbean RHP Jeff Jacobsen was dominant as a high school sophomore and junior and transferred to a Florida high school for his senior year. When he was declared ineligible to play there, he came back home and had an up-and-down spring as his velocity dropped 3-4 mph . . . RHP Jared Bonnell went 4-5, 7.17 for UNLV, thanks in part to an ineffective breaking ball. His 88-91 mph fastball makes him the Rebels' best prospect.
SOUTHERN ROCKIES (Colorado, New Mexico ) ***
After producing five first-round picks in a five-year stretch from 1993-97, including future big leaguers Roy Halladay and Scott Elarton, Colorado has seen its talent dry up considerably. New Mexico's high school ranks are barren.
1. Sean Thompson, lhp, Thunder Ridge HS, Denver
2. Doug Brubaker, rhp, New Mexico JC (Control: Orioles)
3. Cody Montgomery, ss, Fairview HS, Boulder, Colo.
4. Ryan Kenning, 1b/of, New Mexico State
5. Greg Atencio, rhp, Lamar (Colo.) JC
6. John Parscal, lhp, North Glenn HS, Westminster, Colo.
7. Corey Harrington, ss/of, New Mexico State
8. Luke Hochevar, rhp, Fowler (Colo.) HS
9. Drew Jackson, c, Stanley HS, Westminster, Colo.
10. Bryan King, rhp, Mesa State (Colo.) College
11. Jhsan Page, rhp, New Mexico JC
12. Brandon McCarthy, rhp, Lamar (Colo.) JC
Projected First-Round Picks
Projected Second- to Fifth-Round Picks
Sean Thompson, lhp
Thompson, 19, moved from his home in La Junta to Denver for his senior year of high school to play at the highest level of competition in Colorado and get greater exposure. And he has a strong chance of becoming the state's top draft pick. Thompson isn't physical but competes so hard that he needs to be reigned in at times. His fastball is slightly below-average at 88-89 mph, but he more than offsets it with a dynamic curveball that scouts say is already pro quality. College is a secondary option for Thompson, who first committed to Hawaii for football, later selected Arizona State for baseball and now has Arizona's Yavapai JC for leverage. All of that should be academic, as Thompson's goal is get his professional career off the ground.
Doug Brubaker, rhp
Brubaker's impact on this year's draft is expected to evaporate as the Orioles control his rights and will make a serious run at signing their 44th-round pick from last year. Since transferring from Hill (Texas) JC, his stock has soared. The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder has been clocked at 91-93 mph, with a high of 95; his slider normally registers 81. He has command of both pitches. Brubaker ranks as one of the nation's leading strikeout pitchers, averaging 12.4 per nine innings. If the Orioles don't sign him, he could re-enter the draft anytime after the fourth round. A opportunity to pitch at Arizona is also an option.
Others to Watch
At 6-foot-5, SS Cody Montgomery does not fit the profile for the middle infield, so he'll slide over to third base in pro ball or college (Arkansas). He doesn't have the power needed for the position but is a solid hitter and should add power as he grows into his slender frame. He has the arm strength, agility and quick release to stay on the left side of the infield . . . Canadian OF Ryan Kenning has piled up some of the best power numbers in the country, leading NCAA Division I with 93 RBIs while hitting 22 home runs. His stats are partly a product of the light, dry air and hard fields of New Mexico, but scouts say his power will play anywhere . . . SS/OF Corey Harrington is one of the two or three best athletes in the four-corners area of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona. He is an outstanding runner who led the Sun Belt Conference with 31 stolen bases. While capable of making spectacular plays at shortstop, his inconsistency at the position may drive him to center field, where below-average power won't play as well . . . LHP John Parscal's low three-quarters delivery reminds scouts of a younger, smaller Randy Johnson. His fastball tops out at 89 mph and he gets under his breaking pitch too often . . . RHP Greg Atencio's nine-inning average of 12.2 strikeouts is one of the nation's best ratios, making him the best juco prospect in Colorado.
NORTHERN ROCKIES (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming) **Perennial NAIA power Lewis-Clark State always produces its share of draft picks but rarely a premium selection. That was supposed to change this year with righthander Collin Perschon, projected as a possible third- to fifth-rounder before the season. He had as disappointing a season as any elite prospect in the draft and his stock has tumbled. The junior college ranks will carry the load in Idaho. Montana and Wyoming are unlikely to produce a single draft pick.
1. Ryan Lindstrom, rhp, BYU-Idaho
2. Kody Kirkland, 3b, CC of Southern Idaho (Control: Pirates)
3. Christian Colonel, ss, CC of Southern Idaho
4. Collin Perschon, rhp, Lewis-Clark State
5. Julius Smith, lhp-of, Lewiston (Idaho) HS
6. Aaron Gabriel, rhp, Lake City HS, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
7. Troy Cates, lhp, BYU-Idaho
8. Andy Torres, rhp, Lewis-Clark State
Projected First-Round Picks
Projected Second- to Fifth-Round Picks
Others to Watch
Scouts had high expectations for RHP Collin Perschon at the start of the year, and he was unable to meet them. Perschon was out of shape, throwing off his mechanics and dropping his velocity 8-10 mph. In a highly anticipated showdown with projected first-round pick Jeff Francis of British Columbia, he topped out at just 85 mph. This is just the latest misstep in Perschon's career. He didn't graduate from high school or play baseball his senior year and has been drafted twice before, including in the 13th round by the Mets in 2000 after his freshman year at Bellevue (Wash.) CC. He turned down a six-figure bonus then and may not see that kind of money again . . . Lewis-Clark State's first pick could be RHP Andy Torres, who won 13 games at Arizona State in 2001 and has gone unbeaten for the Warriors as a senior. Torres knows how to pitch but his velocity peaks in the mid-80s . . . Six-foot-5 RHP Ryan Lindstrom surfaced as a candidate for top prospect in the state when he was clocked at 94 mph late in the spring, after being clocked at only 87-88 earlier this spring . . . Scouts also came in late on Lindstrom's BYU-Idaho (formerly Ricks College) teammate, LHP Troy Cates. He was in the high 80s this spring and projects to throw harder . . . SS Christian Colonel and 3B Kody Kirkland both attracted interest at the College of Southern Idaho. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Colonel is not a true shortstop but has the tools to move to third base or the outfield. He made a quantum leap with the bat this season as he gained strength, experience and maturity. Kirkland's draft status will depend on whether the Pirates, who selected him in the 30th round last year, sign him before the draft. He's a pure hitter with power to all fields and has room to grow. He is only 18 . . . LHP Julius Smith is considered Idaho's top high school draft prospect, though his size and maximum-effort delivery work against him. He was also suspended from his team during season, further clouding his status. His fastball tops at 87-88 mph and he supplements it with a functional power curve.
PACIFIC RIM (Alaska, Hawaii) *
Hawaii has been a solid contributor to the draft in recent years, but both the high school and college ranks are down this year. Things should return to normal in the next couple of years with strong junior and sophomore classes at the high school level and the University of Hawaii on the rebound.
1. Micah Kaaihue, 1b, Iolani HS, Honolulu
2. Keahi Rawlins, rhp/1b, Molokai HS, Kaunakakai, Hawaii
3. Chris George, rhp, Hawaii
4. Corey Madden, rhp/ss, East HS, Anchorage, Alaska
Projected First-Round Picks
Projected Second- to Fifth-Round Picks
Others to Watch
1B Micah Kaaihue has received the most attention from scouts in Hawaii but is regarded more as a draft-and-follow candidate--someone who should be drafted after the 10th round. The only high school recruit the University of Hawaii wasn't able to keep at home, he has good lefthanded power and has committed to Nebraska . . . RHP/1B Keahi Rawlins spent most of last summer at 260 pounds and worked hard to lose weight and tone up his body. His fastball, delivered from a three-quarters arm angle, sits at 91 mph. Rawlins has committed to Hawaii, where he will be a two-way player . . . RHP Chris George, a transfer from Cypress (Calif.) JC, is the Rainbows' best draft possibility. His fastball tops at 91 mph but it may be a stretch for him to be picked on the first day.