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Expos Pull First Round Surprise

June 3, 2003
By Michael Levesque

MONTREAL--The Expos were viewed as a wild card entering the draft, and they didn't disappoint.

Montreal selected Cal State Fullerton righthander Chad Cordero with the 20th overall pick. Cordero, who was generally regarded as a third-round talent, appears to be a signability pick for the MLB-operated franchise. However, Expos scouting director Dana Brown, who has coveted Cordero for a couple of years thinks otherwise.

"We felt that Cordero was the closest college pitcher to the big leagues in the draft," Brown said. "With us taking a high school kid last year, we felt it would be a good complement to get a college pitcher that is almost ready. He has a good fastball with a plus slider and we'll likely break him in as a closer, but we think he has a chance to be a quality number three starter down the road. I was surprised he was available."

The 6-foot, 195-pound Cordero has been a high profile closer at Fullerton since he was a freshman. Selected by San Diego in the 26th round of the 2000 draft, he led the Big West Conference in saves his first two years, racking up a total of 26, while averaging two walks and 11 strikeouts per nine innings. He is 5-1, 1.52 so far this season with 60 strikeouts in 47 innings pitched. He has allowed 36 hits and only seven walks while adding seven saves.

"I was absolutely shocked. (To be selected in the first round)," Cordero said. "I expected to go maybe in the third round, but never in the first. (Cal State Fullerton pitching) Coach (Dave) Serrano pulled me aside at practice and told me. I didn't know what to say. I'm still shocked."

"It's great," Cordero added. "They're a good young team and I don't really have any reservations about everything going on with the franchise. I'm just happy to be drafted and have the chance to play pro ball."

Despite being a smallish righthander, the 21-year-old Cordero has a durable, resilient arm. He has a strong lower half and does a good job of incorporating his legs into his delivery and gets good extension out front. He has command of three pitches that he can throw from different arm angles, including a fastball that ranges from 91-94 mph, a sharp 75- 84 mph slider, and 79-81 mph circle change.

"We were looking for the best available player at that pick and when you can get a college arm like his, that close to the big leagues you have to be excited," Brown added. "We feel he is close because he has command of his stuff and he has a slider that we view as an out pitch. He's ready to go out and start his professional career and we think he can make it to the majors in inside of two years."

With the selection of Cordero, it marked the fifth straight year that the Expos drafted a pitcher in the first round. The previous four picks were righthanders Clint Everts (2002), Josh Karp (2001), Justin Wayne (2000) and lefthander Josh Girdley (1999)

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