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2005 High School Preseason All-America Team

Selected by major league scouting directors
Text by Alan Matthews
February 23, 2005

Baseball America's annual preseason high school All-America teams often provide an early snapshot of June's first-year player draft. For good reason.

They are selected in conjunction with major league scouting directors and major college recruiters, whose main focus is less on past performance and more on trying to establish what a player will do in the futureboth this year and beyond. While scouting directors and recruiters factor performance into their evaluation, their emphasis is on physical tools and overall future potential.

The most informed opinions in the industry told us who the best players in America were last year and not only were nine of the 13 draft-eligible players on BAs first-team All-America squad taken in the first round, but they were the first nine prep players selected.

This year's high school crop is generally considered much deeper and more balanced in position players. The pitching talent is deep as well, but may lack the frontline arms the 2004 draft featured.

Here's how the bestand most objective--minds in scouting see the cream of the crop among this year's prep talent.


CATCHER

Theory and philosophy run deep in player evaluation and there is no position on the field that remains more difficult to project than high school catching. Successful professional catchers must possess exceptional athletic ability, but rarely are the best high school athletes found crouching behind the dish.

Theres less debate about the tools needed behind the plate, though. Strength, agility and arm strength are why Brandon Snyder enters the season as the countrys best high school catching prospect, though three other catchers received nearly equal support.

Jon Egan, Preston Paramore and Brent Milleville (Maize, Kan., High) possess more present power than Snyder, but all are taller than 6-foot-2 and Egan and Milleville could grow to become as tall as 6-foot-5 or better. Scouts have become wary of the dubious track record of tall catchers.

Snyder, who is scheduled play at least 20 games at shortstop this season, could be the only one of the foursome that makes it to the majors as a catcher. But all swing the bat well enough to make it at other positions.

BRANDON SNYDER
Westfield HS, Centerville, Va.

Snyder and outfielder Cameron Maybin turned heads last summer while leading Cincinnatis Midland Redskins to the Connie Mack World Series title. Snyder, whose father Brian pitched for the Mariners and Athletics in the 1980s, continued to impress in the fall when he looked comfortable catching at showcases and tournaments.

While hes sound at shortstop presently, he has significantly more upside behind the plate. Not unlike Cubs catcher Michael Barrett, who was drafted in the first round as a high school shortstop, Snyder shows aptitude and instincts as well as a good, short stroke and a polished approach at the plate.

The fact that he showed he can catch will help his stock, a National League scouting director said.


FIRST BASE/DESIGNATED HITTER

Scouts were concerned that Billy Butler's body might get too big as he matured, but he garnered enough support to be the first baseman on last year's preseason All-America team. The Royals snapped him up in the first round four months later and he had a splendid debut in Rookie ball.

Six-foot-3, 260-pound Henry Sanchez is bigger than Butler but also can really hit, and he may have more raw power than anyone in this years high school class. He has plenty of company. High school first basemen are not typically a premium draft commodity but this year's group, which includes switch-hitting Justin Smoak, Chris Dominguez and Iain Sebastian (Columbus, Ga., High), might force its way into the early rounds.

"You dont see a lot of first basemen taken high in the draft unless they have a special tool," an American League scouting director said. "This group is stronger than normal, depth-wise and at the top."

IKE DAVIS
Chaparral HS, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Davis is the son of former big league righthander Ron Davis and is understandably well-schooled in all phases of the game. He has a fluid lefthanded swing, power potential, soft hands and a good arm. Davis also has a career pitching record of 22-0 and will again split time this season between the mound and first base for a top-10 ranked team, though most scouts believe his future is at first.

Hes been a fixture on the national prospect landscape since his sophomore season. He hit in the middle of the order for USA Baseballs youth national team in 2003, leading the team to a gold medal in Taiwan, and was named the MVP at last Augusts AFLAC All-America Classic.

HENRY SANCHEZ
Mission Bay HS, San Diego

Sanchez doesnt have a prototypical baseball body, but he is surprisingly agile and his hands are adequate at first base. His best tool is his bat. He was the best prospect at the Area Code Games last summer, making a name for himself with multiple blasts that either cleared the fence--or even damaged it they were hit with such force.

"He has an athletic body, he's not an empty chair (defensively) and he has some thunder to his stroke," an AL scouting director said.


INFIELD

If Ike Davis is well known in scouting circles, Justin Upton is legendary. His extraordinary blend of all five tools has been coveted for years, but scouts continue to debate where he can maximize his considerable abilityat shortstop or in center field? Hell remain at shortstop until he plays his way off the position.

David Adams and Justin Bristow will move to third base right away as they lack the range to play shortstop. Their bats will play at any position.

This years class is not lacking in true middle infielders, however. Third-team All-Americans Nick Romero and Matt Hall, as well as Puerto Rican Ivan De Jesus, are all viewed as pure shortstops.

DAVID ADAMS
Grandview Prep, Boca Raton, Fla.

Of the trio of infielders selected to the first team, Adams' package of tools is easily the most pedestrian. He earned the respect of scouts last summer when his polished approach helped him blister some of the nation's best prep pitching at high-profile showcases.

"David Adams is not going to run you a really good 60 (yard-dash), but he looks like a guy who's going to be a line-drive type of hitter early in his career," an NL scouting director said. "He's a real baseball player."

JUSTIN BRISTOW
Mills Godwin HS, Richmond, Va.

One of three players from prospect-rich Virginia chosen for first-team honors, Bristow could be drafted in the first two rounds as a pitcher or infielder. If he fulfills his college commitment to Auburn, he could be an outstanding two-way college player.

An excellent high school quarterback, Bristow's arm strength is his best tool. He touches 93 mph off the mound and his throws from the left side of the infield have plenty of carry. His hands are at least average, but what makes him scouts' choice as an infielder is his potential at the plate. He should become an above-average power hitter who also hits for average.

JUSTIN UPTON
Great Bridge HS, Chesapeake, Va.

Upton was considered the nations best prep prospect as a junior. Scouts say hes an even better talent than his older brother B.J., the second overall pick in the 2002 draft.

He's the best hitting prospect in high school, with a powerful stroke from the right side. He possesses 80 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale, enabling him to turn doubles into triples and make routine groundouts eventful. Upton also has the range, hands and arm strength to play anywhere on the diamond, but he struggled with the accuracy on throws from shortstop last summer. When he moved to center field briefly, he played the position with grace and elegance, and a blend of speed and power that no other player possesses.

"You have a really good athlete that can play several positions," an NL scouting director said. "He runs so well and there's no concerns on his bat."


OUTFIELD

While this year's high school class features a better crop of position players than last year's, the outfield is where the most dramatic improvement is found.

It features a dynamic blend of players, from relatively raw athletes with immense upside like Cameron Maybin, Austin Jackson and Jared Bogany; to polished hitters, like John Drennen and Diallo Fon; and exceptional defensive players who have an all-around game such as John Danks and Jay Bruce.

"This is as good a group as there has been in years," an AL scouting director said.

The 2003 high school class produced Ryan Harvey (Cubs), Chris Lubanski (Royals), Lastings Milledge (Mets) and Delmon Young (Devil Rays), all taken in the first 12 picks that year. The 2005 prep crop is comparable at the top of the list, but also offers depth, unlike the 2003 class.

"With Maybin and Upton, they separate themselves, and then there is a real nice group to follow them up," an NL scouting director said.

JORDAN DANKS
Round Rock (Texas) HS

The younger brother of Rangers lefthanded pitching prospect John Danks, a first-round pick in 2003, Jordan shares John's baseball bloodlines but not his toolset. Jordan is a long, lean, powerful player with a beautiful lefthanded stroke.

He put on a show at last year's AFLAC All-America game when he out-slugged Maybin in the home run derby, depositing numerous shots into an adjacent street beyond the right-field fence. His bat is ahead of his glove, but he has enough arm strength to profile as a right fielder and shows good instincts as well.

CAMERON MAYBIN
T.C. Roberson HS, Asheville, N.C.

Maybin has become one of the most celebrated players in this years prep class. He was the MVP of the North Carolina 3-A playoffs as a freshman in 2002, when he led T.C. Roberson to a state title. He earned tournament MVP honors while leading Cincinnatis Midland Redskins to the Connie Mack World Series title last summer, which led to his being named BAs 2004 Youth Player of the Year.

He's an exceptional athlete with the best raw power of the group. At Perfect Game's National Showcase last June in St. Petersburg, he homered at Tropicana Field with a wood bat from both sides of the plate during batting practice.

"He has a balance of speed and power that is hard to find," an NL scouting director said. "You can really dream on him and what he can become and some of it might just come to fruition."

ANDREW McCUTCHEN
Fort Meade (Fla.) HS

Although undersized by pro standards, McCutchen packs plenty of punch at the plate with bat speed rivaled only by Upton among this year's top tier of prep hitters. He centers balls on the barrel well and hits the top half of the ball with regularity.

He also has excellent speed. He ran on a state championship relay team as a high school freshman and his speed should make him a sound defender in the mold of the Giants Marquis Grissom.

He's a really good athlete and can absolutely fly," an NL scouting director said. "I like him at the plate, he's a line-drive guy, solid tools."


UTILITY

The best all-around players in high school often split time between a position and the mound, and while they might be successful at that level they rarely do both after graduating. However, this year's crop is littered with two-way players who have dominated in both phases of the game as preps and could conceivably continue to do so in college.

SEAN O'SULLIVAN
Valhalla HS, El Cajon, Calif.

OSullivan has been one of the best two-way players in the country throughout his teenage years, but a majority of scouts are projecting him as a pitcher. In fact, he could be the first prep pitcher drafted this year. Hes a strike-thrower with a low-90s fastball and a 12-to-6 curveball that should be a strikeout pitch.

Physically imposing with massive forearms and thighs, OSullivan is closer to reaching his ceiling than other players in his class but has above-average present power (as a hitter) and arm strength. He led all California high school hitters in home runs last year and was named San Diego Countys player of the yearbeating out No. 1 overall draft pick Matt Bush for the honor.


PITCHER

Teams have developed a bias against drafting high school pitching in the early rounds and there isnt an arm worthy of tempting a team with one of the first few picks this year. But the 2005 crop of prep arms offers less risk than normal as the class features a large number of pitchers who have average- to slightly-above-average velocity with good command of multiple offerings.

"(High school pitching) is very deep," an AL scouting director said. "There are more complete pitchers this year than the usual tools--velocity or spin."

KYLE DRABEK

The Woodlands (Texas) HS
Upton was the lone underclassman selected to last year's preseason team and Drabek, the youngest son of former Cy Young award winner Doug Drabek, claims that honor this year. He earned that distinction as the pitching star at last falls Perfect Game/Baseball America World Wood Bat Association championship, with no less an authority than Roger Clemens sitting on the bench as his team (the Houston Heat) won the title.

An exceptional athlete who is a standout wide receiver and shortstop as well, Drabek has an arsenal that is hard and powerful. He has good feel for a mid-90s fastball to go along with a mid-80s hammer curveball.

JEREMY HELLICKSON
Hoover HS, Des Moines

Hellickson seems to have everything working against him, yet continues to be one of the best pitchers in his class. He's barely 6 feet tall; he missed his junior season with a fractured growth plate in his right shoulder; and hes from Iowa, where the climate prevents him from playing a spring high school schedule and gaining the experience and seasoning of many pitchers from the south.

Despite it all, he's been a mainstay for Team USA, was a 2004 AFLAC All-American and ranked among the premium pitching prospects at the year's largest wood-bat event in Fort Myers, Fla., last October.

"He's not a real big guy, but there's been a lot of pitchers in the 6-foot range that have pitched real well in the big leagues," an NL scouting director said. "The key is how easy they do it and he does it real easy. (He's) not real consistent with his breaking pitch but he's got a good one when he's (on top of it)."

BRETT JACOBSON
Cactus Shadows HS, Cave Creek, Ariz.

The 6-foot-5 Jacobson spent his offseason posting double-doubles on the basketball court, but his future lies atop a mound. A true projection pitcher, he is tall and lean and has shown incremental increases in velocity from the time he was a sophomore. He's touched 94 mph and pitches consistently near 90 mph. Scouts compare him to big league veteran Andy Ashby and the Nationals John Patterson.

Jacobson needs to tighten his slurvy breaking ball, which has good diagonal tilt at times, but he has good control.

ZACH PUTNAM
Pioneer HS, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Putnam has a thick, rigid frame and perhaps the best arm strength of the elite members of the 2005 pitching crop. He operates with a three-pitch mix--a low-90s fastball, a tight-rotating breaking ball and a changeup. He has shown a willingness to use his changeup in any count, and the pitch is advanced considering Putnam's age, experience and Northern upbringing. His fastball has a tendency to flatten out when his arm angle drops, but when he's on top of it, it shows good arm-side run.

Putnam is equally proficient at the plate. He hit .466-16-67 while leading his high school team to the Michigan Division I title, but his future is clearly on the mound.

CHRIS VOLSTAD
Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) HS

Volstad made his mark as a junior when he shut down the nation's No. 1 ranked high school team, Monsignor Pace of Opa Locka, handing the team its first loss. He made steady progress last summer and was touching the mid-90s with a fastball he spots well by October showcases.

Volstad's breaking ball is one of the best in the country. He maintains a high three-quarters arm slot that gives his curve nice downward spin, and his arm works freely and easily.

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