2007 High School Preseason All-America Team
See also: 2007 High School All-American Preseason Team Chart
It was less than two weeks after the final name of the 2006 draft was called when a couple of hundred scouts and college coaches settled in behind the backstop at Baum Stadium at the University of Arkansas, ready to start the process all over again.
It was the first wide-scale scouting event of the summer, and it quickly became evident that the high school class of 2007 had lots of potential. As the college coaches licked their chops and inked their recruits, the pro scouts copiously etched opinions into notebooks, and an eventful summer and fall got into gear.
Now, the high school season is upon us, and choosing who is the best won't be easy as the nation's top prep players jockey for draft position. There's plenty to choose from in this year's high school class, as every position offers multiple options.
Baseball America has asked major league scouting directors to decide which players held the pole position entering the spring and to pick the Preseason High School All-Americans. Here's how the best, most objective minds in the scouting industry see the cream of the crop among this year's prep talent.
This year's crop of catchers is exceptional. There are at least three potential first-round picks in the college ranks, and the supporting cast in high school is intriguing, if not for its upside than its remarkable depth. Of course, the number of players willing to sign in the third- to 10th-round range will determine how many of them carry their game to college, or round out one of the deepest catching drafts in recent history.
Yasmani Grandal, Miami Springs (Fla.) HS
Grandal has established himself as the best catcher in the high school class, based partly on his agility and flexibility behind the plate. A switch-hitter with average bat speed, Grandal has a quiet, disciplined approach at the plate, and is a better hitter from the left side. Fellow Cuban catcher Danny Rams (Gulliver Prep, Miami) has more power and better raw arm strength and Tennessee's J.P. Arencibia, another Miami product, is a better hitter, but Grandal's overall package could land him a spot in the supplemental round.
Pure hitters are a premium in any draft, and fortunately this year's prep class offers a handful of them, supplementing an otherwise thin crop of draft-eligible college hitters. First basemen David Mailman (Providence High, Charlotte) and junior Eric Hosmer (American Heritage High, Plantation, Fla.) and third baseman Mike Moustakas (Chatsworth, Calif., High) all narrowly missed making one of this year's All-America teams, but all show power and playable swings.
It's a tough year to be a pitcher in Southern California, specifically Los Angeles and Orange County, where at least seven of the class' top 20 hitters can be found within an hour's drive—even in L.A. traffic.
Andrew Lambo, Newbury Park (Calif.) HS
The balloting between Lambo and Freddie Freeman (El Modena HS, Orange, Calif.) was extremely close, but ultimately, Lambo's edge in athleticism might have given him enough support to land him on the first team. A three-sport standout, Lambo has garnered Ventura County honors as a guard in basketball and called signals as Newbury Park's quarterback, as well. His sweet lefthanded swing and sinewy actions around the first base bag make him a potential supplemental round choice this June.
Josh Vitters, Cypress (Calif.) HS
A treat of last summer's showcase circuit was the five days Vitters spent playing third base opposite Chatsworth (Calif.) High's Matt Dominguez at the Area Code Games. They both have outstanding bat speed and a knack for squaring balls with wood bats, but Vitters' feel for hitting is unrivaled among this year's high school hitters. He's the younger brother of Christian, who signed with the Athletics as a 10th-round pick in 2006 following three years at Fresno State. Josh could be the first high school player drafted this year.
Whether you're watching high school ball in SoCal or Schenectady, it's always a good bet the best players on the field can be found playing up the middle. But finding the player that can remain there as a professional is challenging, which is yet another reason this year's high school class is so promising. At least four shortstops—Carmen Angelini (Barbe HS, Lake Charles, La.), Drew Cumberland (Pace, Fla., HS), Rick Hague (Klein-Collins HS, Spring, Texas) and D.J. LeMahieu (Brother Rice HS, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.)—were left off this year's All-America teams due to the talent and depth of their competition.
"Best position in high school in a long time," said a crosschecker with a National League team.
"I really like the athleticism and depth offered," said an American League scouting director. "Perhaps the deepest position available in the draft this year is high school middle infield."
Ryan Dent, Wilson HS, Long Beach
This year's first-team middle infield played on the same travel ball team last summer, the Midland Redskins. Dent and Justin Jackson are completely different players, however, as Dent is the prototypical fast-twitch, fleet-footed middle infielder that will maximize his value if he can hone his plate discipline enough to bat leadoff. He's one of the fastest players in the class, and his hands are almost as quick as his feet.
Justin Jackson, Roberson HS, Asheville, N.C.
Having played alongside Tigers prospect and 2005 first-round choice Cameron Maybin and growing up as the son of former big leaguer Chuck Jackson, Justin's pedigree is impressive. His swing is longer than Dent's, but he's a more refined player, with savvy, feel, soft hands and an extraordinary arm.
The theme of depth and talent holds true for high school outfielders, as well. No fewer than 30 outfielders, including juniors Isaac Galloway (Los Osos HS, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) and Aaron Hicks (Wilson HS, Long Beach) received at least one third-team vote in balloting, and the trio that led the way is powerful, athletic and dynamic.
"This is much better than the college group of outfielders," AL scouting director said. "It lacks speed but has some hitting potential."
Michael Burgess, Hillsborough HS, Tampa
Burgess and righthander Rick Porcello were the only unanimous choices as first-teamers this year. A product of the same high school as Doc Gooden and Gary Sheffield, Burgess boasts huge raw power and a ferocious approach at the plate. He was one of three underclassmen to be named to last year's postseason All-America teams and his power will be tough to pass up during the first half of this year's first round.
Kentrail Davis, Theodore (Ala.) HS
Davis' combination of tools is uncommon. Country-strong and NASCAR-fast, he has plus raw power, and some clubs believe his 6.6-second 60-yard dash speed plays in center field. When he wasn't playing baseball, Davis spent his summers hauling cement and pouring concrete alongside his father, Kenney, which resulted in his rock-solid frame and well-developed hands, forearms and wrists.
Jason Heyward, Henry County HS, McDonough, Ga.
Like Davis and Burgess, Heyward is a lefthanded hitter with superb athletic ability. He lacks Davis' speed and Burgess' power, but his instincts and feel for all phases of the game are valuable assets. He has never missed a high school game in three years, and led his school to a Georgia Class 4-A title in 2006.
A year ago, Braves first-rounder Cody Johnson, a Florida State signee, left scouts shaking their heads in bewilderment with his extreme inconsistency. This year's version of the enigmatic prospect with immense tools also committed to FSU, and this spring is an important one for Michael Main. Main, Jon Gilmore (Iowa City HS), Derek Dietrich (Saint Ignatius HS, Cleveland) and Boston's Jack McGeary are the top two-way players in this year's high school class, and all three could play both ways in college if they choose to pass up the hefty bonuses that await them in the draft.
Michael Main, Deland (Fla.) HS
With a lightning-quick arm that has generated 98 mph heat, Main looked like the best prospect in the class when he returned to the mound following a bout with tendonitis late in his junior season. His feel for pitching and command are unrefined, and his 70 speed on the 20-80 scale and above-average bat speed have some teams thinking about selecting him as a top-of-the-order outfielder, rather than a slightly-built flamethrower.
The top five pitchers in this year's high school class would form a frightening rotation and are illustrative of the well-rounded group that's tuning up for its final high school season. More than 35 different pitchers received support in balloting, but the top five were able to separate themselves last summer and fall.
"Very good ceiling players and depth," said an AL scouting director. "There are many top third- to fifth-round talents. It's as good a group in years."
Blake Beavan, Irving (Texas) HS
USA Baseball's junior national team fell a run short of winning a gold medal during the World Junior Championship in Cuba last September, but Beavan put Team USA in position when he dominated Cuba in a showdown in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, in an elimination game. His delivery isn't without its flaws, but he has a nasty two-pitch mix that he delivers from a low-three-quarters arm slot and a big, durable frame.
Madison Bumgarner, South Caldwell HS, Hudson, N.C.
Bumgarner evokes comparisons to former big league lefty Chuck Finley for his tall, athletic body and smooth, easy arm action. He needs to sharpen his slider, but his fastball has been up to 94 mph and it's easy to project improvement in his stuff, velocity and physical development.
Matt Harvey, Fitch HS, Groton, Conn.
Harvey enters the spring as the top player in the prep class, but not without some debate. He's tall, lean and projectable, has flashed 96 mph heat and owns a filthy, if inconsistent curveball. He wasn't as sharp as Beavan for Team USA in Cuba, and will have fewer opportunities to acquit himself this spring in the chilly New England weather where high school seasons are abbreviated.
Jack McGeary, Roxbury Latin HS, West Roxbury, Mass.
McGeary made the biggest leap forward of any of this year's draft-eligible high school players last summer—and he still has room to improve. He's athletic, repeats his delivery and has the best command in the class. He tightened his curveball, and at times it shows two-plane break, to go along with a solid-average changeup and 86-92 mph fastball.
Rick Porcello, Seton Hall Prep, West Orange, N.J.
Porcello and Main are the hardest throwers in this year's high school class, and Porcello has shown feel for his secondary stuff, as well. He generates good downhill plane and the ball explodes out of his hand, with late life at the plate. He was at his best late last season, when he bumped 97 mph during a wood bat tournament in Jupiter, Fla., and flashed a pair of above-average secondary offerings.