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Some random non-draft thoughts before we get to your draft-related questions . . . Jon Lester could have been traded to the Rangers (for Alex Rodriguez) and to the Twins (for Johan Santana), and now he has both a World Series clincher and a no-hitter to his credit with the Red Sox . . . Several experts picked the Yankees, Tigers, Mariners and Brewers to win their divisions, and they all currently sit in last place . . . Two-time defending College World Series champion Oregon State is in grave danger of missing the NCAA playoffs with a 25-24 record, including an 11-13 mark (good for eighth place) in the Pacific-10 Conference. I believe the last reigning champ to not get a regional bid was Stanford in 1989.

OK, I'm done channeling Larry King.

    How does Anthony Hewitt's name not show up at all on any of your top prospects lists, and then he shoots into your recent first-round projections? I know a player's stock can rise and fall, but what took you so long to catch on?

    Paul Morgan
    Salisbury, Conn.

Paul has a particular interest in Hewitt because he's an assistant coach at the Salisbury (Conn.) School, where Hewitt stars as a shortstop. Hewitt is one of the more intriguing players in the 2008 draft, because he's not only the best pure athlete available, but he's also the ultimate high-risk, high-reward talent in this class. Thus there's some difference between how we regard him as a prospect and where he might go in the draft.

Hewitt's athleticism stood out on the showcase circuit last summer, but his performance didn't. As a result, he didn't make our preseason Top 100 High School Prospects list Premium. And though he has plenty of helium, Hewitt has yet to appear on our Draft Tracker.

Hewitt's power potential, speed, arm strength and overall athleticism are all tantalizing. At the same time, he's also extremely raw offensively and will have to move off of shortstop. As one front-office executive put it, "He has first-round tools. But he's not a very good player yet, and he will need some time."

When we release our Top 200 Draft Prospects later this week, you'll see that Hewitt didn't rank among the first 30 players. Yet he has a strong chance of going in the first 30 picks. I projected him to go 24th overall to the Phillies, and the Brewers (No. 16), Cubs (No. 19) and Rockies (No. 25) have shown varying degrees of interest.

    The past decade has seen Canada produce a remarkable amount of talented ballplayers: Jason Bay, Jeff Francis, Russell Martin and Justin Morneau, to name just a few. There are more on the way, including Philippe Aumont, who went 11th overall in the 2007 draft. My question is, are there any impact Canadian players to keep an eye on this year?

    Nick Vitale
    Montreal

If Hewitt has a rival for the player making the biggest jump into the first round, it's Brett Lawrie, a product of Brookswood Secondary School in Langley, B.C. The MVP of Canada's junior national team in 2007, Lawrie is one of the most gifted high school hitters in this draft. He has the ability to hit for power and average, along with an advanced approach and plate discipline for his age.

As with Hewitt, Lawrie doesn't come without questions. It's still uncertain what position he'll play. The best-case scenario is catcher. Lawrie has the arm strength and soft enough hands to make it work behind the plate, but he's also raw back there. Third base is another possibility, as is left field. Obviously, the lesser the position he plays, the more that will be expected out of his bat.

While Lawrie isn't a consensus first-rounder, his upside as a hitter and the possibility that he could catch could land him in the second half of the round. Teams such as the Blue Jays (No. 17) and Twins (Nos. 14 and 27) have been linked to him.

    I know college seniors usually sign for much less than juniors and high schoolers because they can't go back to school if they don't turn pro. But why don't seniors use independent leagues as a bargaining chip? Some Scott Boras-advised juniors (Luke Hochevar, Max Scherzer) have used the indy leagues to get more money.

    Chris Garmon
    Bowie, Md.

It all comes down to leverage. Hochevar and Scherzer ranked among the very best pitchers in their drafts, and that's why they got lucrative major league contracts. They didn't show better stuff with the American Association's Fort Worth Cats than they had in college, and they had less command than they had previously displayed. But they also proved they hadn't lost anything after a long layoff, which is why the Royals decided to use a No. 1 overall pick on Hochevar and why the Diamondbacks wouldn't let Scherzer re-enter the draft.

A college senior who isn't as talented as Hochevar and Scherzer isn't going to get any extra money by heading to indy ball. The average senior would damage his chances of reaching the majors, because he'd be 22 when he signed with the independent club and would be at least 23 when he entered Organized Ball. Also, indy leagues are tougher than the entry-level circuits in Organized Ball. If the senior struggled, it could cause major league organizations to lose interest.

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