By Jim Callis
(Talent Ranking: **** out of five) University of Minnesota lefthander Glen Perkins will be the state's earliest pick since Joe Mauer went first overall in 2001. He has a chance to be the Golden Gophers' first first-rounder since their three-year run with Dan Wilson, Brent Gates and Jeff Schmidt from 1990-92. Righthander Aaron Craig may be the only Minnesota high schooler drafted.
Projected First-Round Pick
Glen Perkins, lhp
If Perkins was bigger than 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, he'd be a lock first-rounder. Even still, he's drawing interest in the back half of the first round and likely won't make it past the supplemental picks. He's a lefthander who shows three plus pitches at times and commands them well. Perkins maintains an 88-92 mph fastball throughout games and can throw it to both sides of the plate. His changeup is his second-best pitch, and he has a good curveball that scouts would like to see him use more often. At the same point of their careers, his stuff is much better than that of former Gophers lefty Denny Neagle, a third-round pick in 1989. The only thing not to love is Perkins' body. While he won't grow much taller, he could firm himself up. Academically ineligible in 2002, Perkins set a Minnesota record with 117 strikeouts in 105 innings as a redshirt freshman last year. He also became the first pitcher to run the table with an 8-0 conference record since the Big 10 switched to an eight-series regular season. Perkins has been nearly as dominant this spring, going 6-0, 2.02 in his first seven conference starts. He could be attractive to the hometown Twins, who have five choices before the second round.
Second- To Fifth-Round Talent
Others To Watch
As usual, most of the state's talent can be found at the University of Minnesota. RHP Craig Molldrem has emerged as a solid No. 2 starter behind Glen Perkins after winning just one game as a junior last year. He had better stuff than Perkins early in the season and is very good when his 88-91 mph sinker and his slider are working in tandem. He throws a lot of strikes for a tall pitcher (6-foot-6, 200 pounds). OF Sam Steidl, a fifth-year senior eligible to sign as a free agent once the Gophers' season ends, also is much improved from 2003. He got in better shape and improved his speed, arm and gap power. He draws walks and makes contact, and his overall package reminds scouts of Steve Stanley, the second-round pick in the Athletics' "Moneyball" draft of 2002though Stanley is a better center fielder. C Jake Elder might be a senior sign for 2005, but he has a solid-average arm and righthanded pop. He played on Canada's junior national team in 2000 and 2001.
RHP Aaron Craig won three games for Rochester at the 2003 American Legion World Series, including the championship clincher over Cherryville (N.C.). Also a star hockey forward, Craig throws a heavy 89-92 mph sinker and has a good curveball when he doesn't overthrow it. Because he's committed to Grayson County (Texas) CC and not a four-year college, he at least should be a draft-and-follow.
RHP Tim Radmacher has similar stuff to Craig and more polish. His changeup might be his best pitch. But scouts think it will be tough to sign him away from Nebraska.
LHP Ryan Morse, a redshirt sophomore, didn't throw as well this spring (85-86 mph) as he did last summer (88-90) in the Northwoods League. But he is a lefty with a 6-foot-3, 197-pound frame.
C Chris Herbert and OF Bryan Jost are more likely to be drafted after they spend three years at Minnesota. Herbert has a strong body (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) with arm strength and power potential. Jost is athletic and could become a potent lefthanded hitter once he fills out his 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame.
OF Brylee Callender is another aspiring Gopher, albeit as a running back. He carried Lakeville to the state 5-A championship last fall, rushing for 2,132 yards and accounting for 40 touchdowns. He's a tremendous athlete with power and bat speed, but he's raw on the diamond and isn't ready for pro ball. He also hasn't gotten much exposure, as a ruptured appendix cut short his sophomore year and he was suspended for rules violations for his junior season. His senior season ended prematurely as well with another suspension, reportedly for smoking.