Scouting Reports: Mississippi

***** One for the
**** Banner
*** Solid, not
** Not up to
* Nothing to see

year after Mississippi produced just four single-digit-round draft
picks, the talent isn’t a whole lot better. The state’s four-year
college talent and junior-college crop is improved, but not markedly.
After starring at Olive Branch (Miss.) High, Ed Easley carried his game
to Mississippi State and fulfilled expectations. Three years later,
he’s in position to be drafted highly, as is Ole Miss standout
shortstop Zack Cozart.

In the prep ranks, Justin Woodall and
Justin Reed both took significant steps forward last spring, turning
their premium athletic ability into playable baseball skills. This
spring Wendell Fairley made a similar transformation. Once known as a
raw athlete, Fairley wowed scouts from the outset of the season, and
his two-way play was the highlight of the spring in the Magnolia State.
Based on pure talent, Fairley is the best prospect to come out of the
state since 2003, when Jonathan Papelbon and Paul Maholm were drafted
out of Mississippi State.

There is more high-end talent on the
way, as Ole Miss sophomore righthanders Cody Satterwhite and Lance Lynn
should make Oxford a frequent stop for scouting directors and
crosscheckers in 2008.

National Top 200

1. Wendell
Fairley, of, George County-Lucedale (Miss.)
2. Zack Cozart, ss,
3. Ed Easley, c, Mississippi

Other Prospects Of

4. Jordan Brown, rhp, Meridian (Miss.) CC (CONTROL: Braves)
5. Will Kline, rhp, Mississippi

6. Jeff Flagg, of, Mississippi State
7. Justin Henry, of, Mississippi

8. Mitch Moreland, 1b/lhp, Mississippi State
9. Tyler Moore, 1b, Meridian (Miss.) CC (CONTROL: Nationals)
10. Carlos Moncrief, rhp/of, Hillcrest Christian HS, Jackson, Miss.
11. Michael Lehmann, rhp, Pearl River HS, Carriere, Miss.
12. Marcus Davis, of, Alcorn State
13. Brett Bukvich, lhp, Mississippi
14. Brian Leach, rhp, Northwest Mississippi CC
15. Jeff Rea, 2b, Mississippi State
16. Michael Guerrero, of, Meridian (Miss.) CC (CONTROL: Diamondbacks)
17. Trey Sutton, 2b, Southern Mississippi
18. Matt Warren, rhp, Petal (Miss.) HS
19. Andy Rice, of, Mississippi State
20. Ryan LaMarre, of, Jackson (Miss.) Lumen Christ HS
21. Robert Carson, lhp, Hattiesburg (Miss.) HS


1. Wendell Fairley,
of (National rank:

George County-Lucedale (Miss.) HS. Class:
B-T: L-R.
Ht.: 6-0.
Wt.: 190.
Although Fairley’s athletic ability and talent
were recognized early, he has been somewhat of a mystery to most scouts
because he split time between football (as a wide receiver) and
baseball in high school. He also never showed interest in playing in
showcases. Fairley’s tools are unquestioned. He shows ability to hit
for average as well as plus power, and his quick lefthanded stroke
allows him to pull balls out of the park or line them to left field.
He’s a plus runner with solid-average arm strength and defensive
ability that play perfectly in center field. He’s just scratching the
surface of his potential, and could develop into a player in the mold
of Carl Crawford. As a 19-year-old father, his makeup has been analyzed
closely, and he faced charges this season–which were later
dropped–for his part in a school-bus prank on a 16-year-old teammate.
Because of his limited baseball experience, he’s somewhat of a wild
card, but because of his tools he could be taken as early as the back
of the first

2. Zack Cozart, ss
(National rank:

Mississippi. Class:
B-T: R-R.
Ht.: 6-1.
Wt.: 190.
In this year’s draft class, Cozart is a
commodity as a college position player with passable skills in the
field and at the plate. One scout described him as a “manager’s dream”
for his hustle and steadiness. He swung the bat best down the stretch
this year and may have played his way into the supplemental round. A
player in the mold of Adam Everett, his glove is ahead of his bat and
he’s an above-average defender with solid-average range, supple hands
and enough arm to make the play in the hole. He is a solid-average
runner. Cozart is a dead-pull hitter with solid-average bat speed and
gap power. He cheats on fastballs on the inner half and can be
susceptible to balls on the outer half of the plate. How well he
handles the wood bat will determine his ultimate value, but he’s a
backup big league shortstop at

3. Ed Easley, c
(National rank:

Mississippi State. Class:
B-T: R-R.
Ht.: 6-1.
Wt.: 185.
Easley was a second-team high school
All-American out of Olive Branch, Miss., who has steadily become a
reliable catcher with an offensive mindset. Though he has played third
base and catcher during his college career, Easley’s value lies in his
ability to remain behind the plate. He’s similar to 2006 Mississippi
State draftee Chris Coughlan in that he makes consistent hard contact
but doesn’t have the type of power potential to profile as an everyday
third baseman in the majors. He has a simple approach, using all fields
and keeping his hands inside the ball effectively. He has plenty of bat
speed and leverage in his swing to develop average power. His
catch-and-throw skills are passable, but his arm isn’t as strong as his
statistics might suggest. He threw out a Southeastern Conference-high
22 runners this season, including nine in the Louisiana State series.
He uses a quick release and easy exchange to his advantage. He’s a
solid-average runner. Easley will benefit from his reputation as a good
college hitter in this draft, and might be taken as early as the second
or third

Rebel Yell

Scouts will have to wait a year to get their hands on
Satterwhite and Lynn, but Ole Miss redshirt junior righthander Will Kline
pitched his way into the top five rounds of the draft this spring for
the Rebels. As a star pitcher and quarterback in high school in Tupelo, Kline seemed destined for stardom until his amateur
career was interrupted by Tommy John surgery during his senior season.

Kline sat out 2004 and has slowly regained the promise he showed in high
school. He showed a penchant for pitching well on big stages, like
his eight-plus innings in March against Vanderbilt when he matched
David Price pitch for pitch. He was roughed up against rival
Mississippi State in the regular season, then came back with a
10-strikeout performance in a complete-game win against MSU in the
first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament. It’s that type
of determination and moxie on the mound that give Kline an edge. He works ahead in the count and uses all of his pitches to keep
hitters off balance. His stuff is underwhelming–his fastball has
ranged from 88-92 mph this season, and his slurvy breaking ball and
changeup grade no better than solid-average–but he has plus
command and moves the ball around the strike zone well. While Kline’s
arm action is long, he repeats his delivery and generally has sound
mechanics. His durability and competitiveness are pluses, and he might
be drafted as high as the fourth round.

The Henry brothers were responsible for providing Kline with plenty of
run support this season, with matching .376 averages during the
regular season. Freshman Jordan has the best pro potential of the pair,
but junior Justin Henry
has shown enough ability at the plate to warrant
consideration in the top 10 rounds of this year’s draft. Justin
is a 65 runner on the 20-to-80 scale, which helped him steal 21 bases
in 26 attempts for Ole Miss this spring. He has a simple, line-drive
approach and he uses his hands well throughout his swing, showing good
barrel awareness. He works counts well and has a good two-strike
approach. He spent most of the season manning left field, though he can
play all three outfield positions and ultimately profiles as a
utilityman as a professional. He has no power and rarely pulls the ball.

Mississippi State’s draft-eligible talent isn’t as strong as the Rebels’. After Easley, sophomore-eligible outfielder Jeff Flagg
and junior first baseman/lefty Mitch Moreland
could be taken on the
first day of the draft. Flagg is a physical specimen, with a tall,
lean, muscular body. He shows plus speed and above-average raw power.
tends to collapse on his back side during his swing and has
below-average pitch recognition and strike-zone awareness. Flagg missed
significant time with a back injury this season, and as a result might
slide in the draft and return for his junior season. Moreland might be
drafted as a first baseman, where plus raw power is his best asset.
Because he’s limited defensively and has an uppercut swing that’s full
of holes, he has received more interest as a pitcher. His ceiling on
the mound is also modest, but he has an aggressive approach and comes
right after hitters with an 86-90 mph fastball and a curveball that has
good spin.

Prime Meridian

Meridian Community College boasted a roster with seven
Division-I signees and was the cream of the state’s junior college
crop, running off a 41-15 record. The Eagles’ top prospects are Jordan
and Tyler Moore, both of whom were under control after being
drafted in 2006.

Moore, a first baseman, hit an astonishing .471 and led the team in almost every
offensive category, including home runs (19), on-base percentage (.535)
and slugging (.927). He committed to Mississippi State, but
the Nationals could make a run at signing him. Whether his power
translates with wood is the biggest question. He improved his approach
and refined his feel for the strike zone, which enabled him to get into
hitter’s counts and take advantage of pitches out over the plate. His
swing has length, however.
Brown is a good athlete with above-average arm strength. Primarily a
shortstop in high school, he’s still mostly a thrower, and his delivery
has some effort. He gets rotational, as well, and throws across his
body. He’s been up to 94 mph with his fastball, but pitched near 89 mph
more often that in the mid-90s. His curveball has potential to be a
plus offering, but it’s inconsistent. The Braves were negotiating with
him, and he was expected to sign as oppose to honor his commitment to
Louisiana State.

High And Dry

Other than Fairley, Mississippi’s high school scene has little to
offer. West Lauderdale High of Collinsville climbed as high as
No. 13 in the Baseball America/National High School Baseball Coaches
Association Top 50 poll with a team loaded with good college talent.
Otherwise, Carlos Moncrief and Michael Lehmann were the only prep
players expected to draw interest in the first 10 rounds this year.
Moncrief is a physically mature two-way player with arm strength and
raw power. His game is raw and he doesn’™t show much ability to make
consistent hard contact, and his velocity wavered during the
spring. He has bumped 94 mph with his fastball, but like Brown this
year, more often pitched in the high 80s with his fastball. His
delivery is unrefined. He throws across his body, has below-average command
and little in the way of secondary stuff. He can overpower the ball at
the plate, showing plus raw power from the left side. He
also has solid-average speed and could profile as a right fielder if
he refines his approach and improves his feel for hitting.

Lehmann has a quick arm and some projection, making him and Moncrief
potential sixth- to ninth-round picks, depending on their signability.
He improved the tempo in his delivery and showed average fastball
velocity and occasionally flashed an average curveball at 73-75 mph.