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WWBA Top 20 Prospects

By Alan Matthews
October 27, 2004

ALWAYS LOOKING AHEAD
The World Wood Bat Fall Championship was chock full of prospects, for both the 2005 and 2006 drafts. Here's a sneak peek at how some of the top high school prospects from the class of 2006 in attendance in Fort Myers grade out based on their overall ceiling with some consideration to performance at the event:
  1. Kyle Drabek, rhp
    The Woodlands (Texas) HS
  2. Ryan Jackson, ss/2b
    Gulliver Prep, Miami
  3. Gavin Brooks, lhp
    Rancho Buena Vista HS, Vista, Calif.
  4. Marcus Lemon, ss
    Eustis (Fla.) HS
  5. Taylor Hammack
    lhp, Angleton (Texas) HS
  6. Ryan Jenkins, rhp
    Cypress Falls (Texas) HS
  7. Corey Rasmus, 3b/c/rhp
    Russell County HS, Seale, Ala.
  8. Chris Marrero, ss
    Monsignor Pace HS, Opa Locka, Fla.
  9. Cedric Hunter, of
    M. L. King HS, Lithonia, Ga.
  10. Dellin Betances, rhp
    Grand Street HS, New York City
FORT MYERS, Fla.--The Perfect Game/Baseball America World Wood Bat Association Fall Championship is the final major stop on the showcase and national tournament schedule for the calendar year. In the past six years, the event has produced more than 100 premium draft choices, and this year's crop should prove fruitful as well.The 2004 draft was particularly thin in high school position prospects, as just 16 of the top 101 picks were such players. However, if the talent on display over the weekend was any indication, the 2005 draft should be heavy on everyday players out of the high school ranks, beginning with Justin Upton, who finds himself atop yet another ranking.

Here's a look at the Top 20 2005 prospects at the event, with an emphasis on overall ceiling and some consideration to performance at the event, as judged by BA Associate Editor Alan Matthews in conjunction with scouts in attendance.

1. Justin Upton, ss, Great Bridge HS, Chesapeake, Va.

After a ho-hum summer showcase tour, Upton shined for Team USA in the World Junior Championships in Taiwan in September, leading the team in runs (eight), hits (10), triples (four), total bases (21) and slugging percentage (.875). He was sharp again in Fort Myers and remains the top overall draft-eligible prospect."He's the premiere guy as far as having tools on both sides of the game," a National League scouting director said, and scouts agree that Upton's tools grade above-average in all five categories. Accustomed to being pitched around, he also has developed discipline and rarely chases pitches out of the zone. His range is exceptional and he gets to balls few other players at the position reach. Still, some scouts think he fits better in center field, where his speed is an asset and his strong though erratic arm plays better. He still has a tendency of not getting his front foot down, causing the ball to sail and creating overthrows in the infield.

2. Cameron Maybin, of, T.C. Roberson HS, Arden, N.C.

Maybin did not perform particularly well on the heels of receiving BA's Youth Player of the Year award. In the weeks leading up to the tourney he had mouth surgery and also spent time working on batting lefthanded, though he hit exclusively righthanded in Fort Myers. He struggled especially with breaking balls in two-strike counts, something that is not uncommon with young hitters. He remains near the top of draft boards, however, because of his upside and projection. Maybin has tremendous raw power and excellent speed. "There's a little more swing and miss than I would like, but he's got a live body and all the tools. I'll be interested to see if he improves the consistency of his contact," an NL scouting director said. "It looked like he was trying to pull everything, wasn't staying in the middle of the field," another NL scouting director said. "He has immense potential."

3. Chris Volstad, rhp, Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) HS

It was atop the Tropicana Field mound at a showcase in St. Petersburg in June where Volstad established himself as a potential first-round pick. He has good control of two above-average pitches: a fastball that touches 91 mph and a 78-79 mph breaking ball. He projects to improve both pitches and throw harder, especially if he continues to throw downhill as consistently as he did in his lone outing in Fort Myers."He has the biggest upside, projection-wise, when you consider now stuff and projection," an NL scouting director said. "His stuff has great life."

4. Jeremy Hellickson, rhp, Hoover HS, Des Moines, Iowa

The organization willing to ignore the bias against undersized righthanded pitchers could rack up with some special arms in June. Hellickson, along with Buster Posey, are both in the 6-foot range (though Poseys listed height is 6-foot-2) but have plus stuff and an advanced feel for pitching. Hellickson was not pitching at 100 percent, as he continues to recover from a growth plate fracture that shelved him for much of the summer, but little rust was apparent. He provided one of the event's most memorable moments when an opposing hitter was called out on strikes while sitting on his backside, after bailing on one of a handful of filthy curveballs Hellickson flashed. He has easy velocity, pitching at 90 mph over the weekend and touching 92.

5. Ivan DeJesus, ss, American Military Academy, Guaynabo, P.R.

DeJesus joined Upton as a pure shortstop prospect. He has excellent range, a strong arm, soft hands and exceptional instincts inherited from his father Ivan, who played shortstop in the majors for 15 seasons and managed in the Astros system in 2004. DeJesus is a natural righthanded hitter but alternated from one side of the plate to the other in the tournament, regardless of who he was facing. He showed a nice, level, line-drive swing from the right side and the looseness and eye-hand coordination that led observers to believe he could become a similar hitter from the left side."(Organizations) that don't have a Latin program are going to jump on him," an NL scouting director said. "He's one of the better guys out of Puerto Rico in a while."

6. David Adams, ss/3b, Grandview Prep, Margate, Fla.

Scouts are as split on Adams' future as any player in the high school class. He out-performed every player--including Upton--on the showcase circuit this summer and challenged Maybin for BA's youth award. The consummate gamer, Adams has great all-around feel for the game, similar to Mets third baseman David Wright. His only well-above-average tool is his bat. He is a polished hitter with a good approach and balanced swing with good leverage, and he allows pitches to get deep. Adams has average range up the middle and will likely move to third base in pro ball, making some scouts wonder if he projects to hit for enough power to be an everyday third baseman. He is a 4.0 student and has signed with Virginia, where he could follow in Ryan Zimmerman's footsteps.

7. Brandon Snyder, c, Westfield HS, Centreville, Va.

One of five potential first round picks out of high school and college from Virginia in 2005, Snyder was solid at the event. As one scout put it, "there's going to be a lot of days spent in the state of Virginia in the spring."Snyder, who splits time between catcher and shortstop on his high school team, played predominantly behind the plate in Fort Myers and showed well. His catch and throw skills are raw, as are his blocking mechanics, but he has the athleticism and aptitude to become a good big league backstop. He registered sub-2.0 second pop times from home to second base. Snyder also has a good, short stroke and a good approach at the plate.

8. Brett Jacobsen, rhp, Cactus Shadows HS, Cave Creek, Ariz.

Jacobsen and Volstad are similar in that they are both projectable, tall and slender righthanders with good present stuff. Jacobsen draws comparisons to Expos righty John Patterson with his fast arm and lean body. He touched 93 mph in Fort Myers during a complete game, 10-strikeout performance. His breaking ball is a hard, slurvy pitch that is inconsistent but promising. He needs to repeat his delivery more regularly."He just keeps getting better and better," an American League scouting director said. "He looks athletic for a guy that big, he moves around well, and you think with a little instruction he can repeat (his delivery). There's a lot of upside. You can really on dream on this kid."

9. John Drennen, of, Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego

Like Adams, Drennen has an advanced approach at the plate but doesn't come without uncertainty. He uses all fields and peppered both gaps with line drives at the tournament. His muscular, compact frame and solid all-around tools are similar to Athletics outfielder Mark Kotsay. He's a slightly above-average runner and has excellent instincts on the basepaths as well as in the outfield. Whether those instincts can help him overcome his modest foot speed enough for him to handle center field is what scouts have to decide. Some scouts believe he'll hit for enough power to play a corner outfield position regardless."The question with Drennen is does he have enough speed to play center and power to play the corner," an NL scouting director said.
"He's a real baseball player, he knows how to play and he gets a lot of mileage out of his tools. He's advanced and is a polished high school outfielder."

10. Zach Putnam, rhp/3b, Pioneer HS, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Putnam was considered by many observers as the top pitcher at USA Baseball's junior national team trials in Joplin, Mo., this summer, and he pitched well in one inning at the AFLAC All-America Classic in August. He again showed well on a big stage, showing good arm strength from the mound as well as sound mechanics. He has a sturdy, durable frame, spins a nice, tight breaking ball, and he showed some feel for a third potential plus pitch in a changeup that at times had sinking action. He has narrowed his list of colleges to Michigan and Vanderbilt and could become a legitimate two-way star in college if he chooses that path.

11. David Duncan, lhp, New Richmond (Ohio) HS
12. Kyle Hancock, rhp, Rowlett (Texas) HS
13. Josh Bell, 3b, Santaluces HS, Lantana, Fla.
14. Jay Bruce, of, West Brook HS, Beaumont, Texas
15. Buster Posey, rhp, Lee County HS, Leesburg, Ga.
16. Shooter Hunt, rhp/c, Ramapo HS, Franklin Lakes, N.J.
17. Josh Zeid, rhp, Hamden (Conn.) Hall Country Day
18. Michael Bowden, rhp, Waubonsie Valley HS, Aurora, Ill.
19. Jon Egan, c, Cross Creek HS, Hephizabah, Ga.
20. Preston Parramore, c, Allen (Texas) HS

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