Draft Dish: March 29

DURHAM, N.C.–The life of a major league scouting director is never
boring, but check in with one 75 days before the draft, when things are really spinning, and there’s no telling what state he’ll be in–that’s state of mind or of the country.


college third basemen regularly have turned into big league sluggers in
the last decade–think Troy Glaus (1997 draft), Pat Burrell (1998) and
Mark Teixeira (2001)–and three such players were chosen among the
first five picks last year. There’s no Alex Gordon, Ryan Zimmerman or
Ryan Braun in this year’s class, but the Atlantic Coast Conference has
two hitters who should be drafted early. Georgia Tech’s Wes Hodges has
impressed scouts with his knack for making consistent, hard contact
since high school, while Wake Forest’s athletic Matt Antonelli was
building on a solid Cape Cod League performance with seven early home

a draft lacking in power, Chris Marrero entered the season as the
top-rated prep hitting prospect because of his future power potential.
While Marrero has yet to dominate his competition, he has helped lead
his school to a No. 2 national high school ranking. The high school
class also offers a solid bat in New Jersey’s Billy Rowell, who has
power from the left side.

Rk. Player School Projection
1. Chris
Monsignor Pace HS
Opa Locka,
First round
2. Wes
Georgia Tech First
3. Matt
Wake Forest Second
4. Billy
Bishop Eustace Prep
Third round
5. Chris
Mississippi Fourth

least a dozen of the most significant talent evaluators in baseball
tried to clear their minds and schedules for the third weekend in
March, when all three of the Atlantic Coast Conference schools in North
Carolina’s Research Triangle played host to conference opponents.

do scouts get to catch six college clubs within 22 miles of each other
on the same day, but that’s exactly what happened on a blustery, sunny
Saturday when most of Tobacco Road was immersed in college basketball.
It meant plenty of shuttling between the campuses of Duke, North
Carolina and North Carolina State.

“Maybe in Southern California
you could do this, but there you have to deal with the traffic. There
really aren’t that many chances to pull this type of thing off,” a
National League scouting director said as he settled in for his third
game of the day.

Miami was at Duke, where Hurricanes junior
center fielder Jon Jay was taking his hacks during batting practice.
The scout flipped through the index cards of players he had evaluated
that afternoon, counting each one. “I’ve already written up 11 guys
today,” he said. “And the third game hasn’t even started.”

watching a Friday night showdown between Georgia and Auburn in Athens,
Ga., the scout caught a flight to Raleigh-Durham and made it to his
hotel room shortly after 1 a.m.

Saturday’s first order of
business was batting practice in Raleigh, where N.C. State juniors
Aaron Bates and Jon Still showed their wares. Both players figure to go
on the first day of the draft, but with Georgia Tech in town the best
draft-eligible player on the field was Yellow Jackets third baseman Wes

Following batting practice, a handful of scouts zipped
west on Interstate 40 to Chapel Hill, where lefthander Andrew Miller
prepared for his start against Maryland. North Carolina’s junior duo of
Miller and righthander Daniel Bard were the weekend’s main attractions.
Both should be first-round draft picks in June, though neither
performed well against the Terrapins.

A day after Bard was lit
up for a career-worst 10 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings in a Friday
afternoon outing, Miller was touched for five earned runs off nine hits
in five innings, departing in time for some scouts to skip back over to
Raleigh to catch the end of the State-Tech game.

“The pitchers
from North Carolina obviously did not take advantage of (the chance to
pitch in front of numerous scouting directors),” a scout said. “It had
to be a disappointment, especially for the teams that were picking high
in the draft who were in there.

“But it’s another look. That
was probably the biggest thing for us, even though we didn’t get to see
them all good, just getting as many looks as you can.”

Saturday game in Raleigh was a wild, 12-11 extra-inning affair. Bates
went 4-for-6 with a home run and Still capped a three-run rally in the
10th inning with the game-winning base hit for the Wolfpack. Hodges
collected three hits as well, and maintained his status as one of the
top 10 players in this year’s pedestrian crop of hitters.

is just a hit collector,” an American League scouting director said.
“You don’t always like how it works–some days he’s got better bat
speed than others–but you look up and he’s got two or three hits, and
he’s done that a lot for me.”

The crowd of scouts wasn’t as deep
at Duke for the nightcap of the tripleheader, but after swinging by
Taco Bell the NL scouting director was rewarded for sitting through an
uneventful game. Hurricanes junior closer Chris Perez checked in for
the ninth inning and flashed a 94 mph fastball, though his command was
inconsistent. He slammed the door to hold off a late Blue Devils rally
in a 4-3 Miami victory, ending a long but productive day on the
scouting calendar.

“This weekend was a great opportunity for us,
and the players,” the AL scouting director said. “It gave us the
opportunity to go between three places . . . Unfortunately, we are not
put in that type of situation often to see so any quality players in
such as small area.”

Early Action Draws Attention

Va.–The week leading up to the college scouting cattle call in North
Carolina marked the regular season debut for one the Southeast’s
hardest-throwing high school pitchers.

Jeremy Jeffress, a senior
righthander from Halifax County High in Fairfax, Va., was less than a
month removed from leading the Comets basketball team in scoring and
three-pointers–and it showed.

With more than 30 scouts looking
on, including at least eight crosscheckers, Jeffress threw 41
pitches–27 strikes–in three innings with eight strikeouts and a walk.
Martinsville High hitters were overmatched, but reviews on Jeffress’
performance were mixed.

“It’s March, so let’s remember that,” a
scout said. “I’ve seen him up to 97, 98 miles an hour and I’m not sure
how realistic it is to see that today.”

“There’s going to be
some clubs who are going to go after him (in the early rounds of the
draft), but I don’t think we’re one of them,” said a crosschecker with
an AL organization. “He was 90-91, works up and down in the zone, and
there is just not much secondary stuff.

“He’s extremely athletic
and has off-the-charts arm strength, so you have to scout him, but I’m
just not buying into it at this point.”


• Notre Dame junior Jeff Samardzija
might have a difficult decision come June. The 6-foot-5 righthander
consistently pitched at 90-93 mph and touched the mid-90s in his first
22 innings. His 1-1, 4.09 record and 7-12 strikeout-walk ratio weren’t
impressive, but Samardzija didn’t start throwing off a mound until
football season ended in January. His secondary pitches were still
progressing, but scouts sold on his athleticism and arm strength said
they’d draft him among the first 50 picks if he’d give up football. The
problem is Samardzija, a standout wide receiver who caught a
school-record 15 touchdown passes as a junior, could play his way into
the top 50 of the 2007 NFL draft as well.

• Samardzija’s teammate Jeff Manship
is another junior righthander who was drawing interest. Fully healthy
for the first time in his college career, Manship was 2-0, 1.44 with a
32-5 strikeout-walk ratio in 25 innings. A high school All-American
from San Antonio, Manship was the highest-rated recruit ever to commit
to Notre Dame, but missed his freshman year and all but 23 innings last
year after having Tommy John surgery in February 2004. Manship’s 90-93
mph fastball and plus curveball have returned, and his changeup emerged
as a solid third option after he focused on developing it while curbing
his breaking ball use over the summer in the Cape Cod League.

• Teams will take power arms anywhere they can find them, so word that 6-foot-3 righthander Brian Omogrosso had
hit the mid-90s had scouts heading to Indiana State for a look. He
worked in the low 90s in high school in Beaver Falls, Pa., and struck
out 48 batters in 41 innings as a college sophomore in 2004, but missed
2005 following Tommy John surgery. Omogrosso was 2-0, 0.00 with two
saves and 15-3 strikeout-walk ratio through 16 innings, allowing seven

Contributing: Will Kimmey.