Another Intriguing Athlete For Atlanta

The Braves have a well-earned reputation for taking high-ceiling athletes in the draft, and they made one of the most intriguing picks of the first day when they took an outfielder from the University of Oregon in the fifth round.

That should get your attention right away because Oregon doesn’t have a baseball program. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that outfielder Dennis Dixon is a rising senior who is expected to be the Ducks’ starting quarterback when the 2007 football season gets under way.

Dig even deeper still, into Baseball America’s 2003 draft coverage, and you’ll see that Dixon was a premium baseball prospect coming out of San Leandro High School in California. We ranked him as the No. 21 prospect in Northern California that year, with this scouting report:

OF Dennis Dixon has more tools and upside than any high school player but hasn’t made a full commitment to baseball. An outstanding high school quarterback, he signed to play football at Oregon, which doesn’t have a baseball program. Scouts say he could have been a second- or third-rounder if he concentrated on the diamond. His arm, speed and raw power all rate above-average, but he doesn’t produce consistently enough with the bat. He needs a lot of repetitions in all phases and likely would be a two-year Rookie-ball player if he chose baseball.

The Reds took him in the 20th round of the 2003 draft but weren’t able to sign him because he was regarded as the top recruit in Oregon’s incoming football class. Dixon was the Ducks’ starter most of last season, passing for 2,143 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushing for 442 yards with two more TDs, though he lost the starting job to Brady Leaf (yes, Ryan’s brother) in the final two games. He was listed as the No. 1 QB throughout spring practice, however.