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2005 Early Draft Preview: Top 10 Storylines
By John Manuel
Here are the top stories scouts, players, parents agents—and, of course—Baseball America will be following as the spring unfolds and leads to the draft on June 7-8:
• Tools Abound: This year’s class of prep hitters is long on premium athletes who might need time for their skills to catch up to their tools. But teams that crave upside have plenty of players to watch, such as Asheville, N.C., outfielder Cameron Maybin, Georgia Tech basketball recruit Austin Jackson and speedster Andrew McCutchen.
• The Boras Factor. Not only does agent Scott Boras represent the two remaining unsigned picks from the '04 draft, he also represents four of the top college arms for '05, as well as Georgia Tech SS Tyler Greene.
• Whither Wade: After failing to come to terms with the Orioles as the eighth overall pick in 2004, Rice's Wade Townsend got his degree and re-entered the 2005 draft pool. Will he sign for less than the major league deals of $4.2 and $5.2 million his former Rice teammates, Philip Humber and Jeff Niemann, received in January?
• Sending And Receiving: Catching is a strength of this year's draft, particularly on the high school side, because of players who can both handle the defensively responsibilities of catching and send balls out of the park with their power. A quartet of prep backstops--Jonathan Egan, Brent Milleville, Preston Paramore and Brandon Snyder--slot in behind Southern California star Jeff Clement and Texas defensive standout Taylor Teagarden in the catching pecking order.
• Thicker Than Water: Bloodlines run strong in the '05 draft class. Prep stars Justin Upton (B.J.) and Jordan Danks (John) have older brothers who were recent first-round picks. Premium prospects such as Ike Davis (son of former Twins and Yankees reliever Ron), Snyder (son of former Mariners and A’s pitcher Brian) and John Mayberry Jr., are all big league progeny.
• Pick A Position: The college ranks are replete with two-way players who might give scouts tough choices of whether they should hit or pitch. Tulane's duo of Brian Bogusevic and Micah Owings can be watched together in a weekend. While scouts have a general consensus on high schoolers Sean O'Sullivan (probably better on the mound) and Justin Bristow (bat has more upside), both players have one more spring to change minds.
• Check The Medical: Three college players could be premium picks if they prove to scouts that they have come back from their injuries. Maryland outfielder Justin Maxwell lost most of 2004 (the spring and summer) with separate arm injuries resulting from being hit by pitches; he just has to shake off the rust. Florida righthander Alan Horne, a first-rounder out of high school in 2001, is coming back from Tommy John surgery. Georgia Tech outfielder Jeremy Slayden, a step behind that duo as a prospect, is returning from shoulder surgery and trying to regain his 18-homers form of his freshman season in 2002.
• The Old Dominion: Virginia’s reputation as a baseball hotbed continues to grow, and 2005 is just adding to the reputation with four potential first-round picks. No. 1 overall prospect Justin Upton will face No. 38 prep prospect Matthew Olson in conference play, while No. 4 prep prospect Bristow plays up Interstate 64 in Richmond. Further to the west, Virginia third baseman Ryan Zimmerman will give scouts a chance to visit Mr. Jefferson’s university.
• Radar Love: Righthanders Jason Neighborgall of Georgia Tech and Mark McCormick of Baylor both have registered fastballs in excess of 100 mph during Cape Cod League play. However, neither throws consistent strikes or wows scouts with their makeup, and both have high price tags.
• Search For Southpaws: No lefthander is projected to go in the first round heading into the season. Georgia’s Miers Quigley and Houston’s Aaron Thompson, a pair of high school arms, and college lefties Ryan Mullins (Vanderbilt), Cesar Ramos (Long Beach State) and Ricky Romero (Cal State Fullerton) are the best bets to pitch their way into the top 30 picks.