2007 Early Draft Preview: High School Best Tools

Taking a look at the best tools among this year’s high school class.

Best Athlete: This year’s high school class is intriguing in many ways. Many of the class’ top players feature well-rounded baseball skills as opposed to the more common prep profile of off-the-charts athletic ability and unrefined tools. The Texas twosome of Taylor Grote (No. 28) and Eric Eiland (15), as well as Drew Cumberland (25) are speedy, middle-of-the-diamond athletes. Grote returned kicks and was The Woodlands (Texas) High’s go-to wide receiver, while Cumberland was an all-state selection as a defensive back and running back. Ryan Dent (13) has the quick-twitch muscle attributes scouts savor in middle infielders. Kentrail Davis (14) was a Division-I college caliber football player before he turned his focus to baseball as an underclassman. Mike Stanton (44), 6-foot-5, 205 pounds, is a standout defensive back and wide receiver and could play either sport in college. Several pitchers in this year’s class, most notably Michael Main (10), and Jack McGeary (7), possess two-way ability.

Best Pure Hitter:Josh Vitters (4) was rated as the top hitter at the 2006 Area Code Games in California while Davis claimed the same designation at last summer’s East Coast Showcase. Southern California is loaded with hitters–Matt Dominguez (9), Dent, Andrew Lambo (31) and Nick Noonan (16) complement Vitters among SoCal’s best. Jonathan Kaskow (67) has a sweet swing from the left side. Jon Gilmore (35) has an aggressive approach with a lightning-quick bat, and Kevin Ahrens (20) makes consistent hard contact, too.

Best Power: Take your pick, as this year’s crop of everyday players offers players with refined approaches as well as middle-of-the-order power. Michael Burgess (3) is a man-child. His max-effort swing has holes and lots of moving parts, but he connects consistently, driving awe-inspiring, light-tower shots. Danny Rams (36) can do the same from the right side of the plate. Dominguez, Vitters, Freddie Freeman (41) and Mike Stanton (44) are among the top West Coast mashers. Hunter Morris (53) and Cameron Rupp (58) have somewhat grooved swings, but also have shown plus-plus raw power.

Fastest Runner:Garrett Nash (60) is the fastest prospect in this year’s class. He was clocked at 6.27 seconds in the 60-yard-dash at the Area Code Games. Ben Revere (83) is a well-above-average runner, as is Main. Justin Jackson (11), Cumberland, Davis and Dent have turned in 6.5-second 60s, while Chad Mozingo (54) and Eiland (15) have been timed in 6.6 seconds.

Best Defensive Player:Peter Kozma (21), Christian Colon (18) and Cumberland all show natural middle-infield actions and outstanding hands at shortstop. Kozma and Cumberland have a chance to stay at shortstop as professionals. Jackson is a taller, longer athlete but also has a plus arm and supple hands. Jason Heyward (5) does it all, and his instincts and agility play well in right field as well as at first base. Dominguez is smooth and has plenty of arm at the hot corner. The top two defensive catchers are Yasmani Grandal (19) and Travis d’Arnaud (89).

Best Fastball: Main had a bout with rotator cuff tendonitis as a junior, but has dialed his fastball up to 98 mph with an incredibly quick arm. Rick Porcello (2) can touch 97, while Matt Harvey (1) delivers 96 mph heat with ease. Madison Bumgarner (8) has a strong, durable frame, clean arm action and has touched 94 from the left side. Blake Beavan (6), Neil Ramirez (12), Jarrod Parker (29) and Greg Peavey (17) are among at least a dozen other righthanders that can touch 94. The late life the fastballs of Harvey and Porcello have shown separates them from this group.

Best Secondary Pitch: The premium arms from the Northeast are far from the typical raw throwers. Harvey, Porcello, McGeary and Evan Danieli (30) could dominate their competition off their fastballs alone, but each of them has flashed above-average secondary stuff as well. Porcello’s slider is a tick ahead of his curve, while McGeary’s curveball and changeup are potential plus offerings. Each member of the California contingent of Erik Goeddel (34), Kyle Blair (38) and Kyle O’Campo (43) has shown an ability to spin filthy breaking balls. Goeddel has above-average command of his 12-to-6 downer. Blair features a 75 mph curve with two-plane break. Five-foot-8 lefty Isaiah Fronenberger (70) can also change hitter’s eye level with his hammer.

Best Command: McGeary has feel for three pitches and an ability to set up hitters with all of them. He spots his stuff to all four quadrants of the strike zone. Tim Alderson (26) recorded 122 strikeouts and eight walks as a junior, and pounds the zone with a two-pitch mix. Ramirez and Nicholas Barnese (74) can also fill it up with more than just their fastball.

Most Intriguing Background: Colon was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the U.S., when he was 13. He went by the last name Rodriguez until he inherited his stepfather Elfrin’s last name. Blair took a year off from middle school to travel the world. Among the stops were Mount Kilamanjaro, an African safari, Spain, Germany, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, Japan, the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador and Peru. Mark Adzick’s (75) father Scott is a renowned pediatric surgeon who has performed a rare surgery on fetuses while still in their mother’s womb. Gilmore’s brother-in-law, Dan Heefner is the hitting coach and recruiting coordinator at Dallas Baptist. Vitters is the younger brother of Christian, a shortstop who was the Western Athletic Conference player of the year in 2006 and signed with the Athletics as a 10th rounder. Jackson’s dad Chuck played professionally in the Astros, Giants and Rangers organizations. Derek Dietrich’s (48) grandfather Steve Demeter played, coached and managed professionally, debuting with the Tigers in the majors in 1959. His sister Dawn, 26, was a professional figure skater.

Closest To The Majors: McGeary and Vitters are the most polished players in the class. Cumberland, Victor Sanchez (33) and John Tolisano (24) have also shown some advanced feel for multiple phases of the game.

Don’t Forget About: If the ability of athletic outfielders Denny Almonte (Florida Christian High, Miami) and Chad Jones (Southern Lab High, Baton Rouge) and righthander/third baseman Joey Mahalic (Wilson High, Portland, Ore.) catches up to their raw tools, they could climb into the top three rounds of the draft. Catchers Thad Griffen (Barbe High, Lake Charles, La.) and Tobias Streich (Ridgeway, Pa., High) tend to get overlooked in a deep pool of catchers this year, but have intriguing catch-and-throw skills.