2007 Early Draft Preview: College Best Tools

Taking a look at the best tools among this year’s college crop.

Oklahoma State OF Corey Brown (No. 39) leads an outfield crop with some quality athletes of different stripes. His combination of size, wiry strength and plus speed is tantalizing, though scouts would like to see his effort improve. Brown is more of an explosive, fast-twitch athlete than Tennessee OF Julio Borbon (6), who stands out more for his easy, graceful speed and refined actions. Borbon earns comparisons to Johnny Damon, though it remains to be seen if he’ll have Damon’s power. OF Brad Chalk (31) is also a plus runner. He’s more tightly wound than Borbon, and he lacks Borbon’s pop at the plate. OF Michael Taylor (51) doesn’t have the agility of Borbon or Chalk, but he’s built like a linebacker and has above-average speed once he gets going. He also has mammoth power potential that he has yet to really tap into.

BEST PURE HITTER: No one in this class stands out like Evan Longoria did last year or Ryan Zimmerman two years ago, but Oklahoma State’s Matt Mangini (9) could be the latest third baseman to follow in their footsteps. Mangini strikes out more than he should, but the Cape Cod League batting champion can pepper hard line drives to the gaps and projects to hit for at least average power. A pair of guys making the move from third base to second might be better hitters than Mangini but without as much power. 2B Brad Emaus (50) generates strength with a short, choppy wrist action, and 2B Matt Cusick (80) has a pretty, more traditional line-drive stroke. 1B/LHP Sean Doolittle (15) could be a first-rounder as a pitcher, but his sweet lefthanded swing has good leverage and reminds some scouts of Blue Jays prospect Adam Lind’s. C Matt Wieters (2) has the best approach in the class.

BEST POWER: Wieters is so strong that even when he gets out on his front foot he can easily flick balls out of the park with wood bats. He has easy, well above-average power from both sides of the plate. 1B Matt LaPorta (23) led Division I with 26 homers two years ago before slumping in 2006, but he still has huge power to all fields. 3B/1B Beau Mills (26) established himself as an elite power bat at Fresno State and in the Alaska League. He took his act to NAIA power Lewis-Clark State this season. 1B Matt Rizzotti (43) has huge raw power from the left side but needs to iron out his mechanics to make it more usable. SS Todd Frazier (14) and OF Joe Dunigan (94) are in a similar boat, with massive raw power that has yet to be fully unlocked in game action.

FASTEST RUNNER: OF Adrian Ortiz (100) was clocked below 6.5 seconds in the 60-yard dash in the Cape Cod League and edges out Borbon and Chalk, who are both plus runners.

Best Defensive Player: SS Zach Cozart (17) makes most of the plays a solid big league shortstop would be expected to make, and dazzles at times. His arm is above-average, his range is excellent and his hands are very reliable. Instinctive SS Darwin Barney (37) seems to always be in the right position to make plays. Chalk and Borbon are both quality defenders despite poor arms.

BEST FASTBALL: RHP Andrew Brackman (3) runs his fastball into the high 90s consistently and easily, and the pitch has good downward plane thanks to his 6-foot-10 frame. LHP David Price (1) has a lively, above-average fastball that sits in the low 90s and jumps up to 95-97 when he needs it to. RHP Joshua Fields (11) has a plus-plus fastball in the 95-98 range, but he has the advantage of pitching in relief, while Price and Brackman have to sustain their velocity for longer periods. Other closers with plus fastballs include RHP Eddie Kunz (21), LHP Brett Cecil (16) and LHP Daniel Moskos (4). All have heavy fastballs with plenty of life.

BEST SECONDARY PITCH: Fields and Cecil both have nasty, hard sliders in the 85-87 range. Price has a plus slider with good tilt but not as much power. RHP Damon Sublett (48) owns the best curveball in the class, a sharp, late-breaking pitch in the 78-82 range. LHP Tony Watson (28) has a plus circle changeup that rates as the best in the class.

BEST COMMAND: RHP Wes Roemer (18) has 80 command on the 20-80 scouting scale, and he issued just seven walks in 155 innings a year ago. Price also stands out for his outstanding feel for pitching with power stuff.

MOST INTRIGUING BACKGROUND: As a power forward, Brackman was a major contributor to North Carolina State’s 2005 basketball team that reached the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16. Borbon came to Tennessee from a high school in the Dominican Republic. Frazier has two older brothers who have played professionally: Charlie, a sixth-round pick by the Marlins out of high school in 1999, and Jeff a 2004 third-round pick of the Tigers out of Rutgers. Jeff played in the Little League World Series for Toms River (N.J.) in 1995, and Todd followed in his footsteps, playing a key role on the 1998 Toms River team that won the LLWS.

CLOSEST TO THE MAJORS: Price could be this year’s Andrew Miller, who jumped from the College World Series to the major leagues with the Tigers in the same year. RHP Tommy Hunter (45) of Alabama is a polished strike thrower with a mature body who should move quickly. The large group of college closers, led by Fields, could shoot through the minors as well.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT: North Carolina senior RHP Robert Woodard has underwhelming stuff but impeccable command, and he has proven himself on the biggest stages, throwing a three-hit shutout against Clemson in the 2006 College World Series. Tar Heels teammate Chad Flack provided his own heroics in the super-regionals; he and Washington’s Matt Hague are righthanded bats with upside who could dramatically improve their draft stock if they show they can handle third base defensively. Texas Christian OF Matt McGuirk must show he’s healthy after redshirting in 2006 but could jump up draft boards with a strong full season.