Selected By Major League Scouting Directors and Division I College Recruiters
• First, Second and Third Teams with statistics and college commitments
Baseball America’s annual Preseason High School All-America teams often provide an early snapshot of June’s first-year player draft. For good reason.
They are selected in conjunction with major league scouting
directors and major college recruiters, whose main focus is less on
past performance and more on trying to establish what a player can do
both this year and in the future. While scouting directors and
recruiters factor performance into their evaluation, their emphasis is
on physical tools and overall future potential.
The most informed opinions in the industry have expressed mixed
sentiment on this year’s class of high school prospects. In 2005, prep
hitters such as Justin Upton, Andrew McCutchen, Cameron Maybin and Jay
Bruce displayed the tools and ability that made plenty of clubs
comfortable considering them as first-round draft picks. With less than
four months remaining before the 2006 draft, this class lacks any
position players who appear to be first-round locks.
The high school crop of pitchers is more defined and populated with
hard-throwing, projectable righthanders, as well as a collection of
advanced lefthanded pitchers who piqued the interest of scouts last
summer. The southpaws could rapidly climb draft boards with strong
performances as seniors.
Here’s how the best’"and most objective–minds in the scouting industry see the cream of the crop among this year’s prep talent.
Scouts never seem satisfied with the depth and quality of amateur
catching, and sentiment regarding this year’s crop is no different.
Typically, the depth chart offers at least a couple of strong college
candidates, but this season high school backstops Hank Conger and Max
Sapp (Bishop Moore HS, Orlando) are the consensus best options
overall–and there’s considerable doubt either one of them will make it
to the majors as a catcher. Both have playable defensive skills, but
power is their trademark.
Sapp doesn’t look much like a ballplayer. Last summer he performed
well on major showcase stages, but his barrel-chested, heavy frame
leads to concerns about his conditioning and athleticism. By the fall,
he had slimmed down and improved his agility. His lefthanded power is
awesome, however, and might catapult him over Conger on draft boards.
HANK CONGER, Huntington Beach (Calif.) HS
Conger’s name has been mentioned in baseball circles since he hit 34
home runs with the Ocean View, Calif., Little League team that fell one
win shy of reaching the 2000 Little League World Series. A native of
Korea, Conger’s grandfather gave him the nickname Hank, after Hall of
Famer Hank Aaron, and the moniker remains appropriate, as the
switch-hitting slugger has plus raw power from both sides of the plate.
He has an aggressive approach at the plate, but also has a good feel
for the strike zone and good pitch recognition.
Behind the plate, Conger shows playable hands, serviceable receiving skills and above-average arm strength.
This year’s crop of prep first baseman is underwhelming. Chris
Parmelee might be the classes’ best pure hitter, but scouts have not
given up hope he can hold down a spot on an outfield corner. Cody
Johnson also features plus hit and power tools, but would upgrade his
profile if he could prove he can handle the outfield, as well. “I’d
start (them) somewhere else,” a scouting director said. “I think of
first base as the final frontier. You hate to have to start (them)
Of course, if the raw power Parmelee, Johnson, Dustin Dickerson
(Midway HS, Hewitt, Texas) and third-team selection Andrew Clark (New
Palestine, Ind., HS) possess translates into games, where they play
becomes more of a caveat than a dilemma in their evaluation.
CHRIS PARMELEE, Chino Hills (Calif.) HS
Parmelee has been well known as one of Southern California’s best
rising prospects since competing in a skills competition at the 1998
All-Star Game in Denver. His swing has balance and fluidity, and he has
an advanced feel for the strike zone. He sprays line drives to all
fields, and many scouts believe those doubles will turn into home runs
as he fills out and gets stronger.
“If he’ll show us his plus power, he’s going to be (a first
rounder),” the scouting director said. “Everyone assumes because he’s
such a good hitter that the plus power will come, which is a giant
assumption to make.”
Organizations targeting high school infielders in the early rounds
of the draft in recent years have been rewarded. Baseball America’s Top
100 Prospects (See Pages 10-18) are littered with both corner and
middle infielders that were not without their faults as preps, but have
developed steadily since signing.
Few scouts have proclaimed this year’s class of infielders as the
next crop of Brandon Woods or Ian Stewarts, but players such as Ryan
Adams, Marcus Lemon, Chris Marrero, and third-teamers such as Ryan
Jackson (Florida Christian, Miami) and Stephen King (Winter Park, Fla.,
HS) possess several above-average tools and enough present ability to
project similar success.
RYAN ADAMS, Jesuit HS, New Orleans
Adams is an avid ping-pong player, which likely accelerated his
outstanding hand-eye coordination and has helped him become an
above-average, offensive-minded middle infielder. He’s patient at the
plate and will use the whole field. He doesn’t have much present power,
but can drive balls into both alleys when he keeps his weight back and
allows pitches to travel deep into the hitting zone. He lacks the range
and arm strength to profile as a shortstop down the line, but he has
soft hands and good instincts.
Adams was uprooted from Jesuit High last fall because of Hurricane
Katrina, but was back on campus this spring and preparing to help his
school defend its Louisiana Class 5-A state title.
MARCUS LEMON, Eustis (Fla.) HS
Advocates of Lemon grew exponentially last summer and fall when he
displayed his all-out, hustling approach to the game and solid-average
toolset at numerous national showcase and tournaments. The son of
former major leaguer Chet Lemon was not off to a great start this
spring, but his pedigree and championship-caliber makeup are two
reasons scouts might be reluctant to let his name slide down their
Lemon’s best tool is his glove. He makes all the routine plays at
shortstop and has average range in the hole. His arm is erratic. He’s a
catalyst at the plate, making consistent contact and spraying the ball
to both alleys, with the potential for average power as he gets
CHRIS MARRERO, Monsignor Pace HS, Opa Locka, Fla.
After Marrero struggled last summer, missing significant time with a
hamstring injury, he reestablished himself as possibly the best high
school hitter in the class with a strong showing in the fall. His
strong, sinewy body can easily be envisioned filling a big league
uniform. When he gets his arms extended and front foot down on time, he
can put a charge into balls, with tremendous loft and carry. He’s an
adequate defensive third baseman with well above-average arm strength.
Marrero, whose brother Christian is an outfielder at Broward (Fla.) Community College, will have plenty of opportunities this spring to prove his mettle, as he plays on a nationally-ranked team in a traditional hotbed for high school talent.
There’s no matching last year’s incredible depth and quality in high school outfielders.
Maybin (Tigers), McCutchen (Pirates) and Bruce (Reds) all went off
the board in the top half of the first round of the draft, and Colby
Rasmus (Cardinals) and John Drennen (Indians) were popped later in the
first round or supplemental first-round. Throw in Austin Jackson
(Yankees), Jordan Schafer (Braves), Daryl Jones (Cardinals) and Jordan
Danks, who opted for college, and the class filled out nicely.
Johnson, Drew Rundle and Travis Snider rest atop this year’s crop of
outfielders at the season’s outset, but the picture could look
considerably different by June. Johnson’s raw power is awe-inspiring,
but his performance has been inconsistent, and Snider and Rundle will
be faced with the challenge of the climate in the Pacific Northwest.
Florida’s Jonathan Pigott (Seabreeze HS, Ormond Beach) and
third-teamers David Christensen (Douglas High, Parkland) and Derrick
Robinson (P.K. Yonge HS, Gainesville) offer considerable upside but
lack polish at the plate.
“There’s decent depth with high school outfielders,” an AL scouting
director said. “I really don’t see any sure-fire first rounders in the
CODY JOHNSON, Mosley HS, Lynn Haven, Fla.
Johnson established a reputation as the prep ranks’™ most feared
hitter last summer when he racked up accolades at tournaments and
showcases using a wood bat. He has excellent plate coverage and quick
wrists, allowing him to whip the bat head through the hitting zone with
fierce speed and power. Young for the class (with an October, 1988
birthday), he’™s still learning how to maximize the leverage his
wiry-strong, 6-foot-5 frame lends.
He doubles as his high school’s closer and can generate low-90s heat
from the mound. That arm strength, as well as slightly above-average
speed, fills out an impressive package of tools that makes Johnson a
solid candidate to be the first high school position player drafted
with a strong showing this spring.
DREW RUNDLE, Bend (Ore.) HS
Rundle fits the prototype of the raw, projectable high school
hitter. He’s rail-thin but extremely athletic, as he showed on the
gridiron as a receiver on Bend’s high school football team. He has good
arm strength and shows good instincts in the outfield. While he’s an
above-average runner presently, he profiles to play a corner outfield
position down the road.
Rundle has good looseness to his swing, although it does have some
length. He’s shown a knack for centering balls consistently with wood,
as well as promising raw pop.
TRAVIS SNIDER, Jackson HS, Mill Creek, Wash.
Some scouts don’t believe it was a coincidence last year when three
college outfielders with Northwest backgrounds–Trevor Crowe
(Portland), Jacoby Ellsbury (Madras, Ore.) and Travis Buck (Richland,
Wash.)–were drafted in the first round. All three were underrated
coming out of high school, which might help raise the profile of
players like Rundle, Snider, third-team infielder Stephen Englund
(Bellevue, Wash., HS) and righthander/infielder Jake Locker (Ferndale,
Snider was considered one of the best all-around hitters at the 2005
Area Code Games. He’s got a fluid lefthanded stroke with the ability to
hit for average and power.
“He’s a have-to-see guy up there, and I think he’s that way with every (scouting director),” an AL scouting director said.
On many high school and college All-America teams, the “utility”
category provides an extra spot to slide an extra player onto the team.
On the contrary, not only does this category have a more distinguished
designation’"it’™s home to the country’s top two-way players–but its
candidates are legitimate future stars.
Big league progeny Kyle Drabek was the lone underclassmen on the
Preseason All-America team a year ago, and a year’s physical maturation
has fortified his reputation as the country’s most dynamic high school
prospect. Fellow Texan Aaron Miller (Channelview HS), a third-team
All-America selection, also has good tools as a hitter and a pitcher.
As for second-teamer Robert Stock’s (Agoura, Calif., HS) tools, how
many 16-years-olds pump 95 mph heat from the bump, catch and swing a
powerful lefthanded bat? And he couldn’™t even crack the first team.
KYLE DRABEK, The Woodlands (Texas) HS
Because scouting directors and college recruiters select BA’s
Preseason All-America teams, the honor is usually reserved for seniors,
although each season the country’s best junior typically garners enough
support to find his way on the list. Last year Drabek was a first-team
pick before the season, and his reputation continues to grow. The
youngest son of former Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek, Kyle has a
mid-90s fastball, a filthy spike-curveball and is also a formidable
hitter with a short, powerful righthanded stroke.
One scouting director had a matter-of-fact reply when asked whether
Drabek would be a hitter or pitcher as a pro: “He’s going to be real
There’s lots more to evaluating pitching than radar gun readings,
but arm strength is the most outstanding quality represented among the
pitchers who fill out this year’s first-team. Jordan Walden enters the
season as the No. 1 overall prep prospect, based in large part on the
99 mph fastballs he unfurled last summer.
But Drabek, Dellin Betances, Jeremy Jeffress, Matt Latos, Chris
Tillman and lefthander Brett Anderson could all hear their names called
as the first prep pitcher selected in June if they successfully
separate themselves from the deep, if not muddled pack of arms.
Jeffress has been up to 98, Drabek and Cory Rasmus 97, Latos 96 . .
. the list of hard throwers is long, and the pitcher who best maintains
his velocity this spring–and shows a feel for pitching–should rise to
BRETT ANDERSON, Stillwater (Okla.) HS
While Anderson’s low-90s fastball velocity isn’t in the neighborhood
of others on this list, he enters the spring as the best of a handful
of promising lefthanders in the draft class. “I see more lefthanded
pitchers than I’ve seen in 10 years,” said a scouting director with an
American League club. “There are four or five guys you have to have in
lefthanded pitchers. Obviously you’re not going to get them all but
there are a lot of clubs hoping they can land one or two.”
The son of Oklahoma State baseball coach Frank Anderson, Brett has a thick, durable frame and an outstanding feel for pitching. He was limited to 46 innings as a junior because of some arm tenderness but finished the summer strong.
DELLIN BETANCES, Grand Street HS, Brooklyn, N.Y.
A gangly 6-foot-9 product from New York’™s inner-city, Betances
belies the prototype of a first-round pick. His stuff, however, should
help him overcome shortcomings and stereotypes. His fastball has
movement and life at the plate, and his mid-70s breaking ball has tight
rotation and nice tilt.
His mechanics need work, but most scouts see some ability to repeat
his delivery and the athleticism to do so more consistently as he
learns how to control his body over the rubber. “When I see a little
off-the-chart delivery, I ask, ‘Would you want to hit against him’, and
the answer is no,” another AL scouting director said.
JEREMY JEFFRESS, Halifax County HS, South Boston, Va.
Virginia was loaded with prep talent in 2005, and while this year’s
crop in the Old Dominion State isn’t as top-heavy or deep, Jeffress
will make the small town of South Boston a popular stop for
crosscheckers and scouting directors. He’s undersized but offers a
quick arm that generates a lively mid-90s fastball and a sweeping 78-79
mph slider. Jeffress led his high school basketball team in scoring and
three-pointers as a senior, an indication of his premium athletic
CHRIS TILLMAN, Fountain Valley (Calif.) HS
Like Latos, Tillman offers considerable upside. His delivery is
smooth, simple and clean, and his arm works well. The ball jumps out of
his hand, and has good, late life, thanks in part to the downhill plane
generated from his 6-foot-5 frame. Tillman has good command of his
three-pitch mix: a fastball that sits at 90-91 mph, a spike curveball
and a changeup.
He plays in the same high school conference as Conger, the
first-team All-America catcher, and has become friends with Conger
since they’ve played with and against each other in high school and
other amateur events.
JORDAN WALDEN, Mansfield (Texas) HS
As the ace pitcher on one of the top high school teams in Texas,
Walden will deal with plenty of fanfare this season. He’s got the
even-keeled yet competitive attitude to handle the pressure, and his
stuff is equally impressive. Walden locked up a starting job in the
2005 Area Code Games all-star game when he ran his fastball into the
high-90s during a tryout, then pitched two scoreless innings as the
West’s starter in the third annual Aflac game last summer. His breaking
ball has good downward bite, although his changeup requires lots of
work. He gets plenty of swings and misses with his stuff but will need
to improve his overall command as he advances. His frame is strong and
durable, and he’s very athletic. He played basketball at Mansfield High
as a freshman and sophomore, and he bats in the heart of its batting