Scouting Reports: New Jersey

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

A high school north of the Mason-Dixon Line had never opened the season as Baseball America’s No. 1 team, but because of capable underclassmen, a pair of plus runners in the outfield and a pitching staff that stacks up with any in the country, Seton Hall Prep was the preseason No. 1 team. The ranking also was a tribute to the improvement the state’s prep players have shown over the last few years.

Behind the strong arm of Rick Porcello and fellow Aflac All-American Evan Danieli, the Pirates were in contention for a national title, and scouts across the country lauded Mike Shepard’s team for its competitiveness, as well as its prospects.

Although the school’s college big brother, Seton Hall, had a disappointing season thanks in part to the inconsistency of righthanders Dan McDonald and Dan Merklinger, both players were still likely to be taken in the first six rounds.

Where the Garden State’s depth comes in is among its high school class, as the state is showing benefits from the large number of high school underclassmen who have taken their summers seriously, and hit wood bat tournaments and showcases.

“It’s been a real good year here,” said an American League scout based in New Jersey. “In the past you’™ve gone to the ballpark and had to wonder what you were going to get, but this year, every time you head out you know you’re going to see a player. It’s been a good year, and I think that that will be reflected in the draft with the players taken from the Northeast.”

National Top 200

Rick Porcello
, rhp, Seton Hall Prep, West Orange,
2. Todd Frazier, 3b,
3. Anthony Ranaudo, rhp, Saint Rose
HS, Ocean Township, N.J.
4. Evan Danieli, rhp,
Seton Hall Prep, West Orange, N.J.
5. Dan
McDonald, rhp, Seton Hall

Other Prospects Of

6. Dan Merklinger, lhp, Seton Hall
7. Sean Bierman, lhp, Kinnelon (N.J.) HS
8. Jaren Matthews, of/1b, Don Bosco Prep, Teaneck, N.J.
9. Nick Natale, of, Seton Hall Prep, West Orange, N.J.
10. Steven Brooks, of, Seton Hall Prep, West Orange, N.J.
11. Chris Berroa, of/1b, Pennsauken (N.J.) HS
12. Gerald Haran, 1b/c, College of New Jersey
13. Robert Segedin, 3b, Old Tappan (N.J.) HS
14. Frank Meade, c, Rutgers
15. Greg Sherry, 2b, Delbarton HS, Mensham, N.J.
16. Christian Staehely, rhp, Princeton
17. Jimmy Principe, of, Brookdale (N.J.) CC


Rick Porcello1. Rick Porcello,
rhp (National rank:

Seton Hall Prep, West Orange, N.J. Class:
B-T: R-R.
Ht.: 6-5.
Wt.: 188.
The top pitcher in the long awaited, much
anticipated high school Class of 2007, Porcello was tabbed as a
can’t-miss prospect by the time he was a 15-year-old on the showcase
circuit. His maternal grandfather, Sam Dente, played shortstop in the
majors, appearing in the 1954 World Series with the Indians. Porcello
has shown steady improvement during his prep career, and was pitching
at his best heading down the stretch, tossing a seven-inning perfect
game for the nation’s No. 1 high school team in May. He’s long, lean,
athletic and projectable with a clean delivery. His fastball sits at
93-95, touching 98. He holds his velocity deep into outings. He throws
a tight curveball at 74-76 and a harder, sharp-breaking slider at
80-82. He shows feel for his changeup. He
can spot his fastball to both sides of the plate, and mixes his pitches
effectively. He tends to finish his delivery across his body, and if he
improved his extension, his stuff could have better life, which would
make him profile as a true top-of-the-rotation pitcher. He still is
likely to be the first high school pitcher

2. Todd Frazier, 3b
(National rank:

Rutgers. Class:
B-T: R-R.
Ht.: 6-4.
Wt.: 215.
Todd is the third Frazier brother who will be
drafted, following Jeff (Mariners) and Charlie (Marlins) in the legacy
of the famed Tom’s River, N.J., Little League teams of the late 1990s.
He has been a three-year starter at Rutgers and carved a reputation as
a solid all-around player with a long track record of performance
despite a modest tool set. He raised his profile by showing plus power
with wood last summer with the college national team, but scouts are
apprehensive about his long-term ability to hit for average because of
unorthodox swing mechanics. He’s a solid-average runner with adequate
hands and an average arm, tools that might play at third base or
second, but not at shortstop. His instincts and makeup are outstanding,
and if he gets to his power as a pro, he’ll play his way into a big
league lineup. He should be drafted no later than the second

3. Anthony Ranaudo,
rhp (National rank:

Saint Rose HS, Ocean Township, N.J. Class:
B-T: R-R.
Ht.: 6-8.
Wt.: 230.
It’s a banner year for pitching in the Garden
State, and Ranaudo is one of a handful of the state’s projectable arms
who could be drafted in the top five rounds. Relatively inexperienced
as a pitcher, Ranaudo is raw in all phases of the craft. He split time
between basketball and baseball and was gradually showing improvement
with his delivery and pitches. His fastball sits at 88-91 mph and shows
fair life with occasional late movement. He spins a hard, downer
curveball that could be a serious weapon if he learned how to command
it better. He tends to bury it for a chase pitch. He shows some feel
for a changeup, and if he fills out his 6-foot-8 frame he could be a
three-pitch workhorse starter. Some scouts don’t believe he has the
dexterity and athleticism to do that, however, and there was not a
consensus on where he would be drafted. Some scouts thought he could go
as early as the second round, with others saying they’d prefer to see
him head to Louisiana State for more experience and

4. Evan Danieli, rhp
(National rank:

Seton Hall Prep, West Orange, N.J. Class:
B-T: R-R.
Ht.: 6-8.
Wt.: 225.
It isn’t often pitchers who are the No. 3
starter on their high school teams, as late as their junior season, are
considered top-five round draft choices, but that’s the case for
Danieli. He’s pitched behind the No. 1 pitcher in this year’s high
school class, Rick Porello, and last year was also behind Michael Ness,
who went on to pitch at Duke, when Seton Hall Prep won a state title.
As a sophomore, Danieli was limited to DH duty because of an arm
injury. His father, Steve, played baseball and lacrosse at Alfred (
N.Y.) University, and his mother, Janet, swam in high school. An avid
chess player, Danieli won his eighth-grade chess championship. At
6-foot-8, 225 pounds, Danieli has a well-built body but lacks fluidity
in his delivery. He tends to drop his back shoulder, which causes him
to pitch uphill and lose velocity on his fastball. He’s been up to 93
mph, but at times this season has pitched closer to 88. His low-80s
slider can be a legitimate weapon, but like his velocity it’s
inconsistent, as is his command. The ingredients are all there with
Danieli, but he’s considered a tough sign and with all likelihood will
honor his commitment to Notre

5. Dan McDonald, rhp
(National rank:

Seton Hall. Class:
B-T: L-R.
Ht.: 6-0.
Wt.: 195.
McDonald entered the spring as a player that
many scouts in the Mid-Atlantic had pegged as a potential riser. He’d
shown above-average velocity in high school as well as last summer in
the Cape Cod League, when he posted a 1.04 ERA and struck out 18 in 17
relief innings. He also has athleticism, another reason scouts were
optimistic about him. While McDonald’s velocity was climbing back
toward 92 mph as the Pirates’ season was winding down, but has pitched
more in the 88-90 mph range. He’ll flash an average slider at times,
though he tends to get around it. McDonald has good feel for pitching
and solid-average command, but with limited room for additional growth
and mediocre success this spring, he probably won’t be drafted until
the fourth- to seventh-round

Lots Of Tools, Lots Of Questions

Although Dan Merklinger has
flashed brilliance, he has been inconsistent and most teams had him in
the fifth- to seventh-round range on their boards. His fastball has
been up to 91 mph, while he doesn’t show much feel for pitching or
ability to locate his stuff. His curveball is below-average, and he has
not been able to develop much feel for his changeup. He pitched much
better in the Cape Cod League last summer than he did this spring, so
if a team believes it can rekindle that form, it could jump up and take
Merklinger as high as the fourth round.

Steven Brooks and Nick Natale
have been mainstays on the showcase tour over the past few years. They
are both plus runners and have developed into solid-average defenders
who can track down fly balls with the best of them. Neither player is
terribly instinctive. Natale has a better feel for hitting, while
Brooks has more bat speed and pop, although he tends to try to hit the
bottom half of the ball, rather than keeping it on the ground and
taking advantage of his speed. Brooks has committed to Wake Forest and
Natale is bound for Rice, and both players could develop into reliable
everyday players in those college programs.

Lefty Sean Bierman
is two inches and three miles an hour on his fastball from being a
top-five-round pick. He’s 6-feet, 185 pounds with a quick arm and a low
three-quarters arm slot that can be tough on lefthanded hitters.

Like Brooks and Natale, outfielder/first baseman Jaren Matthews
can light up workouts, but he doesn’t show much feel for the game. He
has a plus arm, solid-average bat speed and plus raw power, but doesn’t
make consistent hard contact, and his lefthanded swing has holes.

Chris Berroa
is a thick, athletic corner outfielder who has enough bat speed to
garner interest in the top six rounds. The Phillies were one team that
could be intrigued enough by his plus raw power and leveraged swing to
take a shot at signing him. He has enough arm for right field, and is
an average runner under way.