Lower New England Scouting Reports

***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here

With next to nothing coming from the prep ranks, only college righthanders Tim Norton and Stephen Holmes save Lower New England from a one-star rating. The overall lack of talent in the draft nationwide should allow Holmes to get selected earlier than Rhode Island teammate Zach Zuercher was a year ago (ninth round), and he could go as early as the fourth or fifth round. Norton’s Connecticut teammate Nick Tucci is the only other player with a chance to be drafted on the first day.

National Top 200 Prospects

1. Tim Norton, rhp, Connecticut
2. Stephen Holmes, rhp, Rhode Island

Other Players Of Note

3. Nick Tucci, rhp, Connecticut
4. Joe Witkowski, rhp/c, Xavier HS, Middletown, Conn.
5. Jay Monti, rhp, Sacred Heart
6. Jon Hollis, rhp, Yale
7. James Gillheeney, lhp, Bishop Hendricken HS, Warwick, R.I.
8. Marc Sawyer, 1b, Yale
9. Devin Thomas, C, Brown
10. Eric Larson, of, Brown
11. A.J. Pollock, ss, Rham HS, Hebron, Conn.
12. Paul Christian, 2b/of, Brown
13. Tim Binkoski, of, Quinnipiac
14. Scott Rembisz, rhp, Morgan HS, Clinton, Conn.

1. Tim Norton, rhp (National rank: 118)
School: Connecticut. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Pascoag, R.I.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 230. Birthdate: 5/23/83.
Scouting Report: A classic late bloomer, Norton didn’t even start playing baseball until eighth grade and garnered little attention out of high school, so he spent a year honing his game at Suffield (Conn.) Academy, a prep school. Norton joined the Huskies as a walk-on and was finally rewarded with a full scholarship after emerging in the second half of his junior season in 2005, though he still was not drafted. He went 5-1, 1.77 for Falmouth in the Cape Cod League last summer and continued to improve his stock in early April with a one-hitter against Villanova’s Kevin Mulvey, with plenty of scouts on hand. Norton’s background means he is old even for a college senior and his mechanics are unorthodox, but his arm is strong and relatively fresh. He relies upon a heavy, sinking 92-94 mph fastball that touches 96, and he complements it with an average split-finger that he uses as a swing-and-miss pitch. He struggles to locate his below-average slider, which has spin but lacks movement. Norton tends to dip on his back leg during his high-effort delivery, and he is not particularly athletic–one scout said he saw Norton fall off the mound onto his behind three separate times. But he is aggressive and competitive and figures to be a budget-saving senior pick in the top five rounds for some team.

2. Stephen Holmes, rhp (National rank: 187)
School: Rhode Island. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Lincoln, R.I.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Birthdate: 8/31/85.
Scouting Report: Holmes has gone 20-3 in his college career, giving him the URI record for career winning percentage (.870). That’s the best way to describe Holmes: He’s a winner. He doesn’t dominate with his stuff, but he is a fierce competitor with the best feel for pitching of anyone in the Northeast this year, and he always works around the plate. He has a solid-average 88-92 mph fastball that he locates wherever he wants, and his out pitch is a curveball that can be inconsistent. It is not particularly tight and lacks depth, but he still uses it to induce plenty of ground balls and some strikeouts. He also has good feel for a changeup, but he hasn’t used it nearly as much as his other two pitches. Holmes doesn’t have much projection left, so his ceiling is a back-of-the-rotation starter, but he has a clean delivery and is polished enough that he could move fast.

A Few Fliers, But Not Much Else

Two years removed from Tommy John surgery, righthander Nick Tucci has regained his stuff for the most part, pitching in the 86-90 mph range with his fastball. Tucci had surgery after pitching just two innings in 2004, and he tried to come back too quickly in 2005, ending his season after one inning. He rededicated himself to conditioning for his fifth year at UConn, and the result was a 9-1, 2.97 campaign, though he had just 38 strikeouts in 79 innings. Tucci’s strikeout numbers are down because his curveball lacks the bite it had before his surgery, but he has made the adjustment to a ground-ball pitcher. Tucci, who has also developed a changeup, struggles with his command sometimes, but he is a good competitor and owns a strong 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame, so he could get drafted in the between the 10th and 20th rounds.

Senior sign Jay Monti comes right after hitters with an 86-88 mph fastball from a number of different arm angles, but he needs to develop his secondary stuff. Another arm strength prospect is Joe Witkowski, a Marshall signee who showed low- to mid-90s velocity at a showcase last summer. His bat is suspect and he is raw off the mound, so college is likely his best option.

Witkowski is the best of a weak group of Lower New England prepsters that also includes lefthander James Gillheeney, whose stock dropped this year thanks to a velocity dip to the 82-85 range and below-average secondary stuff. Gillheeney, who showed high-80s velocity last summer, has a strong commitment to North Carolina State and might not get drafted at all.

At Yale, scouts like the physical 6-foot-3, 225-pound build of righthander Jon Hollis, but his 8.15 ERA and sloppy delivery turned most clubs off. He dropped his arm slot and saw his velocity drop as well, but he has flashed an 87-91 mph fastball with armside run when he’s right. If he can improve his below-average secondary stuff and fix his mechanics, Hollis could become a strike-throwing reliever with a bounce-back arm. His teammate, first baseman Marc Sawyer, has a Mark Grace-style game but struggled in the Cape Cod League last summer and needs another year in college to refine his game.

Catcher Devin Thomas is a switch-hitter with enough catch-and-throw skills to get drafted, though the chances of a team buying out of his senior year at Brown are low. The same goes for Eric Larson, an athletic outfielder who can hit the ball a mile when he runs into a fastball. Senior Paul Christian lacks a position but has good bat speed and could be a second-day selection.