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Draft Pulse

Compiled By John Manuel
May 13, 2004

With the draft less than a month away, Williamsport (Md.) High righthander Nick Adenhart had his shortest outing of the season.

In the first inning of Williamsport's 13-2 win Tuesday over South Hagerstown (Md.) High, Adenhart left the game due to discomfort in his pitching arm.

"He said, 'I probably could have pitched, I just was being precautionary,' " Adenhart's mother, Janet Gigeous, said Thursday.

Adenhart was at school Thursday and will have an MRI in the "next couple of days. "He's real sensitive and precautionary so we don't know anything yet," Gigeous said.

Adenhart was the consensus top high school prospect in the Class of 2004 entering the season and Baseball America's Youth Player of the Year in 2003. He was 5-1, 0.91 with 85 strikeouts and 14 walks and 20 hits in 38 innings prior to Tuesday's outing. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Adenhart was surpassed by La Grange ( Texas) High righthander Homer Bailey atop Baseball America's high school draft board in April.

Several scouts were in attendance Tuesday, and many have picked apart Adenhart's mechanics during his senior season. Even before Tuesday's game, speculation had the North Carolina recruit sliding on many draft boards. Some have said his motion, which is smooth and fluid but features a stiff front side, could lead to future arm trouble.

"He's throwing across his body a little bit and that front side puts pressure on his arm," a scouting director said.

--ALAN MATTHEWS

The South's Best

While several prep pitchers such as Adenhart are sliding on draft boards, the return to health of shortstop Chris Nelson has vaulted him into the upper echelon of the class of prep position players. At least one team ranks the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder No. 1 on its overall draft board, and most scouts consider him a talent worthy of going that high.

Offseason Tommy John surgery delayed Nelson's season for Redan High in Decatur, Ga., but he already had an excellent track record for a high school player before the season started. He was the MVP of last summer's inaugural AFLAC Classic and led the East Cobb Yankees to the Connie Mack World Series title.

While he showed mid-90s heat off the mound in the past, Nelson profiles better as a position player. He handled his three chances cleanly in the first inning of his first game back from surgery this spring and has all the tools to play shortstop professionally, including a plus arm. He's a Georgia signee, but he also has indicated to scouts that he is ready to begin his professional career.

"His tools are solid across the board," one area scout said. "He's athletic. Nothing blows you away, but he can play shortstop, the arm is a plus and he's a very good hitter."

Nelson's bat is ahead of where B.J. Upton was at the same stage of development, though he doesn't have Upton's power potential. Nelson's strength at the plate stems from his ability to make consistent hard contact, and his bat speed has scouts projecting him to hit for average power with wood.

"He's a special kid--very intelligent," another scout said. "He's the kind of guy you want in your organization."

Intriguing Senior

Missouri righthander Travis Wendte was expected to be the Show-Me State's top college prospect this year, but he had surgery to repair a partial tear in his rotator cuff during the fall. Into the fray has stepped Tigers righthander Danny Hill, who could go as high as the third round.

Hill's college senior status, which gives him less bargaining leverage and makes him a cost-saving option, certainly enhances his draft stock. But he's a legitimate top-five-round talent even without financial considerations.

Hill's rise has been somewhat unexpected. After two seasons at McLennan (Texas) Community College, he went 5-2, 4.59 at Missouri last year and wasn't drafted, even after striking out 11 in an NCAA regional win against Middle Tennessee State. At 5-foot-11 and 202 pounds, Hill doesn't have a classic pitcher's body.

But he does have two solid pitches, an 89-92 mph sinker and a slider. His fastball has been clocked as high as 94 mph, and his splitter has its moments. Hill has pitched well down the stretch, allowing one run in consecutive starts against Texas A&M and then-No. 1 Texas. For the season, he's 4-3, 3.44 with a 77-26 strikeout-walk ratio in 86 innings.

--JIM CALLIS

DRAFT NOTES

Louisiana is one of the strongest states in terms of talent this year. On the high school side, Central High (Baton Rouge) righthander Matt Walker has gone from unknown before the season to a third- to fifth-round pick. Two other prepsters have emerged as similar talents, though signability concerns likely will knock them down in the draft. St. Amant High shortstop Reid Brignac hit a bomb off Walker when they faced off. He projects as an athletic third baseman and has a strong lefthanded swing. St. Paul High (Mandeville) righty Jonathan Garrett is a former catcher who has thrown 88-92 mph with a hard curveball this spring. He's a lean 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, and there's little effort in his delivery. Brignac is committed to Louisiana State, Garrett to Tulane (where he has a partial academic scholarship).

It's shaping up as one of the best draft years on record in Tennessee, thanks to one of the nation's deeper prep classes and a potential top 10 pick in Vanderbilt lefthander Jeremy Sowers. The state also has several intriguing college position players who could be single-digit drafts thanks to a thin national class of hitters. Shortstops Ryan Klosterman (Vanderbilt) and Brent Dlugach (Memphis) present an interesting contrast, as the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Klosterman is more developed at the plate while the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Dlugach has effortless actions at short, especially for his size. Dlugach's bat worries some scouts, and his .308/.387/.541 numbers are career highs across the board. Klosterman, an all-star in the Cape Cod League last summer, makes more consistent contact, but may profile better at second base due to a below-average arm.

Contributing: Jim Callis.

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