Lower New England
By Michael Levesque
Connecticut, Rhode Island
(Talent Ranking: *** out of five) Righthander Jay Rainville's stuff hasn't been as impressive this spring as it was last summer, but enough scouts have seen him pounding the mid- to upper-90s in the past that he should be gone by the end of the first round. He would join fellow Bishop Hendricken alum Rocci Baldelli as the only Rhode Island high school products drafted in the first round. It's been a historic year for colleges in Rhode Island, as well, as the University of Rhode Island set a single-season record for wins and Bryant College made its first appearance in the NCAA Division II World Series. Neither school, however, has players that will factor prominently in the draft. The top prospect in Connecticut is a high school junior, righthander Josh Zeid, who has a chance to go in the first couple of rounds next year. He throws in the low to mid-90s.
Projected First-Round Pick
• Jay Rainville, rhp
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Rainville was the Rhode Island high school athlete of the year after fashioning a 10-0, 0.18 record with nine walks and 165 strikeouts in 77 innings as a junior. He was one of the most dominant pitchers on the high school showcase circuit last summer and participated in the AFLAC Classic, a game featuring the top high school juniors in the country, and struck out five in two innings. He opened this season going 6-0, 0.00 with three walks and 70 strikeouts in 42 innings. He was also a second-team all-state defenseman in hockey as a sophomore before he decided to focus on baseball. Rainville has a mature body with an especially strong upper half, but he probably won't get much bigger. He works from the first-base side of the rubber and has a loose power arm. He finishes his delivery tall, which hinders his front side extension. He is aggressive on the mound, pounding away at hitters with a heavy, 90-94 mph fastball with late life and good command. Rainville's secondary pitches are less refined. He throws a slow slider and straight change and slows his arm on both pitches. Rainville tends to guide his slider and lacks feel for his seldom-used change. He has signed with Tennessee.
Second- to Fifth-Round Talent
Others To Watch
• RHP Mark Wyner is a 6-foot-6, 230-pounder with a lot of upside. He has good arm action from a high three-quarters slot, but his delivery has some stiffness and he needs to work on keeping his head straight and front side closed longer. He throws in the 86-92 mph range with tail and sinking action. His curveball has shown improvement over the past year, with tight rotation and occasional good depth. Wyner throws two changeups that are solid when he keeps them down. Wyner has signed with West Virginia.
• C/RHP Andy Carignan, who signed with North Carolina, is a stout two-way player for the top-ranked high school team in New England. His best tool is above-average arm strength. On the mound, Carignan has a max effort delivery with a solid arm action. He throws slightly across his body and is inconsistent with his mechanics, but is able to run his fastball up to 95 mph with heavy sinking action. His breaking pitch is a curveball with limited depth and bite. Behind the plate, Carignan is a raw receiver with quick feet and decent lateral movement. He does a good job of getting rid of the ball quickly, and gets the ball down to second in 1.92-1.94 seconds. He has an uppercut stroke with raw power.
• RHP Scott Meyer saw his velocity spike this spring, and now tops out at 94 mph. He has a long arm action from a low three-quarters slot, and is aggressive with his fastball. His curveball is a fringe-average pitch.
• Another projectable RHP is Jeff Katz. He has a low 90s four-seamer with good command, but his curve needs improvement.
• 1B Dan Batz is one of the best hitters in the history of Rhode Island baseball and among the school's career leaders in almost every offensive category. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder has a strong frame and can really swing the bat.
• RHP Mike James struggled this year after the Expos selected him in the 50th round in 2003, but scouts think he'll get drafted again. He tops out at 93 mph with a below-average breaking pitch.
• C Mike Leonard, James' UConn teammate, is a plus receiver with a strong, accurate arm and quick release. He projects to have an average bat with pull power.