Draft Dish: March 20

Washington coach Ken Knutson has heard what scouts
think about his ace, Tim Lincecum.

6-footer, whose listed weight is 165 pounds, is too small. His
delivery, likened by some to a pinwheel, requires too much effort. His
control–he walked 153 in his first 217 collegiate innings–is too

EDITOR’S NOTE: Each issue between now and our
Draft Preview, Baseball America will look at the top draft prospects at
each position as part of our in-season draft

2006 class has average middle-infield talent, with no superstar in the
Stephen Drew (2004) or Justin Upton (2005) mold. However, it does have
a breakout talent in Long Beach State’s Evan Longoria, who was the Cape
Cod League’s top hitter last summer and off to a strong start in 2006.
Longoria plays third for the Dirtbags but projects better as a second
baseman and could get a shot at shortstop in pro ball. He acquitted
himself well there last spring for Long Beach State when Troy
Tulowitzki, who went on to be the No. 7 overall pick, was injured. Most
of these players lack the tools to be true big league shortstops,
though, unlike players such as Upton, Tulowitzki and Cliff Pennington
in 2005.
projected by most scouts as a second baseman, leads the high school
class with his polished hitting approach. Suburban Houston’s Kyle
Drabek might be the best shortstop in the prep class with his arm
strength and power potential, but his stuff (and pitching pedigree)
make him an even better prospect on the
Rk. Player,
1. Evan
Long Beach State
2. Ryan Adams,
Jesuit HS,
New Orleans
3. Marcus
Eustis (Fla.)
4. Jason
5. Adam
6. Grant
Canyon HS,
7. Stephen
Winter Park (Fla.)
8. Josh
9. John
10. Scott

Knutson ain’t buying it.

“I get to
see a lot of (Mariners righthander) Felix Hernandez,” Knutson said from
the Huskies’ Seattle campus, “and his stuff looks like Tim’s stuff . .
. Tim’s strong and athletic, even though he’s 5-foot-11 or 6-feet tall,
and 165 pounds at most, and Felix is 6-foot-4, 220 or so.

“He’s got Felix’ stuff and delivery and a Pedro (Martinez) body.”

scouts shared Knutson’s enthusiasm for Lincecum, there’s no way the
Huskies righthander would be on campus as a junior. A draft-eligible
sophomore last year, Lincecum slipped to the 42nd round, where the
Indians took a late-round flier. His price tag dropped over the course
of the summer but remained a reported seven figures, far more than the
Indians were willing to spend. Instead, he went to the Cape Cod League,
struck out 68 in 39 innings and allowed just 14 hits while posting a
league-best 0.69 ERA.

And scouts who have seen him this
spring say Lincecum actually is better than the ’05 model, though he
regressed a bit in a recent start, a loss to San Diego in which he gave
up seven runs (three earned) in five innings. The Huskies’ career
strikeouts leader (he passed 1999 Mariners first-round pick Jeff
Heaverlo earlier this season) has shown both improved fastball velocity
and command during his 3-1, 3.72 start, which includes 49 whiffs and 18
walks in 29 innings.

“I call him ‘Plastic Man’ because of
his delivery and his arm, it just bounces back so well,” a scout with
an American League club said. “He’s like Roy Oswalt in some ways. His
fastball against Arkansas–on three days’ rest–was 91-96 mph, sitting
93-94. He’s been up to 97 and 98 at times this year. He’s been really
good, and he holds his stuff deep into games.

curveball’s been more inconsistent but it’s still a plus-plus pitch
sometimes. What’s different is, his changeup is better this year–it’s
average when I’ve seen it. And when he throws 91-92 with his fastball,
he does it easy and repeats it. He spins off his front foot and has
some recoil, a lot more effort, when he dials it up (to the high 90s).”

delivery, Knutson said, focuses his attention on his abdomen and his
legs-his arm is “along for the ride.” So his ace, who doesn’t use ice
after starts, can come back on short rest, as he did on the Huskies’
trip to Hawaii, when he threw 128 pitches against Arkansas on just
three days’ rest. His resiliency is one reason most scouts are
projecting him as a reliever down the line, but the development of his
changeup this year could affect those projections.

Kiker Shines In Showdown

of the most anticipated high school matchups of the season unfolded
with more than 20 scouts in attendance on a cool, cloudy day in
Florida’s Panhandle. Russell County (Ala.) senior lefthander Kasey
Kiker, a second-team preseason All-American, got the start against
Mosley (Fla.) High and pitched well, despite surrendering three runs in
Mosley’s win. He touched 97 mph and sat between 93-94 mph.

senior slugger Cody Johnson, a first-team All-American outfielder, hit
a two-run home run after Kiker was out of the game, but struggled
facing a top lefty like Kiker.

“There’s a reason we
shouldn’t go see good lefthanded high school hitters against good
lefthanded pitchers,” a scouting director with an American League
organization said. “Kiker had (Johnson) totally overmatched. He swung
at a curveball that must have bounced in the grass in front of home

“There are a lot of good-looking high school lefties out there, and I think (Kiker) is in the mix.”

area scout wasn’t quite as impressed with Kiker, though. “We’re picking
apart a guy who is an excellent pitcher, but sometimes he has a
tendency to pitch too much and that’s what he did a little bit against
Mosley,” the scout said. “His fastball now is plus, his changeup in the
past has been strong-average to plus . . . and he has a tendency to
guide the ball.”

Meanwhile, Johnson’s plus-plus raw power
and upside haven’t convinced at least one scout that he’s going to fall
in the first round this June, as some scouts predicted before the

“There is a little bit too much hype on Cody Johnson
right now,” the scout said. “He can’t get to anything above his belt
that is mid-80s and up. There is kind of a hitch in his swing. The raw
power is special, but he has a long way to go with the swing.”


Royals officials told the Kansas City Star that the organization, which
drafts No. 1 overall for the first time ever, has zeroed in on four
pitchers at the top of the draft board: North Carolina pitchers Daniel Bard and Andrew Miller, Southern California righthander Ian Kennedy and Missouri righty Max Scherzer. “I think everybody is pretty aware as to who the better pitchers are,” scouting director Deric Ladnier said. “Now it’s just a matter of who do we want? At this point, there is no definite-definite guy.”

• Righthander Colton Willems,
one of the top arms in the prep class of ’06, racked up 29 strikeouts
in his first 12 innings without allowing a hit. The senior from John
Carroll High (Fort Pierce, Fla.) combined on a no-hitter in his debut,
striking out 14 in 6 1/3 innings before leaving because of a 70-pitch
count. “He’s got a really good arm and a heavy, heavy fastball,” a
Florida area scout said. “He’s also shown a feel for a change. The day
I saw him, there were 20 (scouts) in to see him, and his fastball was
anywhere from 91-96 with heavy sink. I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s
moved up into the bottom of the first round.”

• While the third baseman for the top-ranked high school team in the nation, Monsignor Pace’s Chris Marrero, entered the spring as the top-ranked position player in the high school class, shortstop Adrian Cardenas
had taken advantage of the attention Marrero was getting with a strong
start this spring. Cardenas hits in front of Marrero and had 29 hits in
his first 37 at-bats with eight home runs and nine doubles. Marrero,
meanwhile, missed more than a week in March when he tweaked his right
hamstring during a double-steal in a game at Key West High. (He missed
significant time last summer with a similar injury.) While Marrero
wasn’t slipping in the draft, according to a pair of scouts who had
seen him, he wasn’t cementing his top-prospect status either. “He’s
just not dominating this level, and you’d like to think the top guy
would dominate,” a scout with an American League organization said.
“He’s not Justin Upton and he’s not Cameron Maybin, and those were the top guys last year. If Marrero is the top guy this year, then it’s definitely a pitcher’s draft.”

• Cal State Northridge righthander Craig Baker
had cooled off a bit, losing a start at Oklahoma State to fall to 3-2,
3.51, but the 6-foot-3, 210-pound junior had established himself as a
solid first-five-rounds selection with his good start, which included
8 1/3 shutout innings against UC Riverside. Baker ran his fastball up to
95 mph in that start, according to one scout, and sat at 93 with a
solid-average curveball that was above-average at times.