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I did my annual mock-draft column for the magazine. It hasn't been posted online yet, but here's a sneak preview of my selections:

2006 Mock Draft (Picking 19th Each Round)
Round Player, Pos, School Real Life Draft
1st Brett Sinkbeil, rhp, Missouri State Fla, 1st
2nd Wes Hodges, 3b, Georgia Tech Cle, 2nd
3rd Matt Sulentic, of, HS/Texas Oak, 3rd
4th Ryan Morris, lhp, HS/North Carolina Cle, 4th
5th Chris Archer, rhp, HS/North Carolina Cle, 5th
6th Zach Daeges, of, Creighton Bos, 6th
7th Luke Gorsett, of, Nebraska StL, 7th
8th Kent Gerst, of, HS/Missouri CWS, 8th
9th Kyle Gibson, rhp, HS/Indiana Phi, 36th
10th Justin Woodall, lhp/of, HS/Mississippi Mets, 19th

For the record, below are my three previous drafts. I signed all of the players except for Luke Hochevar in 2005 and Myron Leslie in 2003.

2005 Mock Draft (Picking 17th Each Round)
Round Player, Pos, School Real Life Draft
1st Luke Hochevar, rhp, Tennessee LA, supp. 1st
Supp. 1st Michael Bowden, rhp, HS/Illinois Bos, supp. 1st
2nd Bryan Morris, rhp, HS/Tennessee TB, 3rd
3rd Jordan Schafer, of, HS/Florida Atl, 3rd
4th Seth Johnston, ss, Texas SD, 5th
5th Aaron Cunningham, of, Everett (Wash.) CC CWS, 6th
6th Jeremy Slayden, of, Georgia Tech Phi, 8th
7th Paul Phillips, rhp, Oakland Tor, 9th
8th Daniel McCutchen, rhp, Oklahoma StL, 12th
9th Mark Wagner, c, UC Irvine Bos, 9th
10th Mike Bell, 3b, Grayson County (Texas) CC Mil, 15th
Note: Supplemental first-rounder was 35th overall choice.

2004 Mock Draft (Picking 21st Each Round)
Round Player, Pos, School Real Life Draft
1st Jon Zeringue, of, Louisiana State Ari, 2nd
2nd Erik Cordier, rhp, HS/Wisconsin KC, 2nd
3rd Andrew Dobies, lhp, Virginia Bos, 3rd
4th Mike Butia, of, James Madison Cle, 5th
5th Brad McCann, 3b, Clemson Fla, 6th
6th Jason Quarles, rhp, Southern Pit, 7th
7th Grant Plumley, ss, Oral Roberts NYY, 9th
8th Richard Mercado, c, Arizona Ari, 12th
9th Jeff Gogal, lhp, Montclair State (N.J.) Fla, 12th
10th Micah Owings, rhp, Georgia Tech ChC, 19th

2003 Mock Draft (Picking 31st Each Round)
Round Player, Pos, School Real Life Draft
1st Ryan Sweeney, of, HS/Iowa CWS, 2nd
2nd Tony Richie, c, Florida State ChC, 4th
3rd Cliff Davis, rhp, HS/Mississippi Hou, 6th
4th Justin James, rhp, Missouri Tor, 5th
5th Clark Girardeau, rhp, South Alabama SD, 7th
6th Andy D'Alessio, 1b, HS/Florida Cin, 10th
7th Matt Maniscalco, ss, Mississippi State TB, 8th
8th Chris Durbin, of, Baylor Bos, 10th
9th Michael Brown, of, William & Mary Det, 13th
10th Myron Leslie, ss, South Florida Phi, 11th

There won't be an Ask BA next week because my two sons and I are making our annual pilgrimage to the College World Series. I'm picking Cal State Fullerton to defeat Clemson in the finals of the bracket that begins play Friday, and Georgia to beat out Oregon State on the other side. Though my heart says Bulldogs (I did graduate from Georgia), the Titans are my choice to win the national championship.

    What do you think of Preston Mattingly? Was he an overreach by the Dodgers with the 31st pick? What do you think of their draft as a whole?

    J.V. Siegel
    Sherman Oaks, Calif.

We dealt with the most surprising choice in the first round, Clemson outfielder Tyler Colvin to the Cubs at No. 13, in last week's Ask BA. So it's only natural to take a look at Mattingly, the biggest shocker in the supplemental first round.

You'd think if a player were a three-sport star and the son of a former batting champion and MVP, he'd draw a lot of attention from scouts. But Mattingly flew under the radar at Evansville (Ind.) Central High for most of the spring, with only a few clubs seriously following him.

His profile is somewhat unusual, which is why he didn't make our Top 200 Prospects list Premium. His bat speed, power and advanced approach all bode well for his future at the plate, but he may have a hard time finding a defensive home. His footwork and actions aren't very smooth and his arm grades out as slightly below average. He definitely will have to move from shortstop, with third base or center field likely to be his next stop. But he may not fit at those spots either, which might make him nothing more than a very athletic left fielder or first baseman.

Rumors about where Mattingly would get picked were swirling in the days before the draft. There was talk that the Yankees, for whom his father Don once starred and currently serves as batting coach, had orders from owner George Steinbrenner to make sure they didn't let Preston wind up in the clutches of another team. There was speculation that the Red Sox would try to stick it to their bitter rivals by grabbing Mattingly with one of the four picks they held before the second round.

Los Angeles, which took Mattingly at No. 31, didn't choose again until No. 113 in the fourth round. So much like the Cubs (who didn't have choices between the first and fifth rounds) with Colvin, the Dodgers had to take Mattingly where they did to ensure they'd get him. That's just the nature of the baseball draft, which doesn't allow trades. There's a good chance the Yankees would have popped Mattingly at No. 41 had he been available.

All in all, it was a typical draft for scouting director Logan White, who isn't afraid to invest in high school talent. Los Angeles had two first-round picks and landed two pitchers with huge ceilings in Texas prep lefthander Clayton Kershaw (the best high school prospect in the draft) at No. 7 and Motlow State (Tenn.) CC righty Bryan Morris at No. 26. If the Tigers had taken Kershaw right ahead of the Dodgers, they might have selected Morris with the seventh pick.

After that, the Dodgers' next choice was high school first baseman Kyle Orr, Canada's top prospect this year, who offers a ton of lefthanded power. Los Angeles also has its usual share of intriguing later-round possibilities in California high school shortstop Nick Akins (13th round), North Carolina prep righty Alex White (14th), Florida high school righty Billy Bullock (20th) and Texas A&M righty Jordan Chambless (43rd).

    What's the deal with Red Sox second-base prospect Jeff Natale? He ripped up low Class A pitching, hitting .343/.487/.571 with 10 homers, 41 RBIs and twice as many walks (41) as strikeouts (20) in 50 games. Is he a real prospect?

    Paul Montanari
    Newington, Conn.

Natale has raked since signing with Boston as a 32nd-round pick last summer. He broke into pro ball by going 20-for-41 (.488) at short-season Lowell, then moved up to low Class A Greenville and hit .338/.463/.544 with an excellent BB-K ratio (28-14). He returned to Greenville this year and lit up the South Atlantic League before moving up to high Class A Wilmington. He has cooled off in his first 13 games with the Blue Rocks (.231/.333/.423) but still is controlling the strike zone (11 walks, eight whiffs).

Natale never hit less than .412 in any of his four seasons at NCAA Division III Trinity (Conn.), where he set numerous school records, including his .446 career batting average. Natale also played hockey for three seasons at Trinity.

His bat makes him a prospect, as his uncanny hand-eye coordination allows him to make consistent hard contact. He's similar to fellow Red Sox infield prospect Dustin Pedroia in that regard. But there are two strikes against Natale. One is that he's already 23, so while his performance has been impressive he also has been quite old for his leagues. Two is that he's a below-average defender, and if he can't cut it at second base he doesn't profile well at another position.

    Mets fans have been hearing about Mike Pelfrey and, to a lesser extent, Philip Humber as potential future stars in the New York rotation. However, I've noticed that a prospect I'm not familiar with, lefthander Evan MacLane, has put up very impressive Triple-A numbers this year and was rated by Baseball America as having the best changeup and control among Mets prospects. What can you tell me about him and his ceiling?

    Josh Marker
    San Francisco

Like Natale, MacLane has a humble draft pedigree. A 25th-round pick out of Feather River (Calif.) CC in 2003, he went 23-10, 2.74 in the lower minors and reached Double-A in mid-2005. He seemed to hit a wall there, going 3-2, 4.14 in nine starts. MacLane didn't fare any better in six starts at Binghamton this year, but he has been lights-out since arriving at Triple-A Norfolk, posting a 6-0, 2.11 mark in seven starts. His other numbers (47 innings, 42 hits, 14 walks, 33 strikeouts) aren't as impressive as his record.

MacLane, 23, is a typical finesse lefthander. His mid-80s fastball and his curveball are fringy pitches most notable for his ability to locate them in the strike zone. His changeup is his best offering and he has little margin for error. He'll probably pitch in the majors but I don't see a huge ceiling. He looks more like a middle reliever than a starter to me.

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