By Michael Levesque
(Talent Ranking: **** out of five) It's rare that an Ivy League school produces a first-round pick, much less two off the same team in the same draft. Princeton has that good fortune this year. It's also uncommon for one family to have two premium picks in the same draft, but that could happen as brothers Jeff and Todd Frazier are projected to go in the early rounds.
Projected First-Round Pick
• B.J. Szymanski, of
Szymanski has been one of the biggest revelations in this year's draft class. After spending his freshman year as a starting wide receiver on the Princeton football team, Szymanski took part in a Reds tryout camp and was urged by scouts to give baseball a shot. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound center fielder was an instant hit, batting .330 and earning second team all-Ivy League recognition as a sophomore. He rocketed up the draft charts this spring after he hit a mammoth homer off Old Dominion righthander Justin Verlander in front of about 100 scouts in his first game of the 2004 season. He moved up to first team all-Ivy after batting .378-6-48 in the regular season and leading the Tigers in most offensive categories. Szymanski is a gifted, five-tool athlete with a long-limbed body. He has been clocked in the 60-yard dash at 6.45 seconds and shows loose, graceful actions in the outfield with above-average arm strength. At the plate, he has an upright, slightly open stance and a smooth swing. He's a switch-hitter whose swing is almost a mirror image from both sides of the plate, and he has above-average power potential. Szymanski's swing can get long at times, and he could stand to be more patient at the plate.
Second- to Fifth-Round Talent
• Ross Ohlendorf, rhp
Princeton is building a reputation for churning out top-notch pitching prospects, and Ohlendorf is this year's candidate. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Texan has a slow, easy delivery with a low three-quarters arm slot. His fastball tops out at 98 mph with armside sink and bore. He went 6-3, 3.66 in the regular season, with 73 strikeouts and 28 walks in 59 innings as the Tigers' No. 1 starter, but most scouts project him as a closer because his breaking pitch is only fringe average. At times he'll throw a tight slider, but it can flatten out because his arm slot varies and he doesn't stay on top of it.
• Jeff Frazier, of
While almost every scout in the area says Szymanski has superior tools, some prefer Frazier because he is a better pure baseball player. He was batting .376-11-53 for Rutgers with a .640 slugging percentage, all figures that put him among the Big East Conference leaders. Athletic with a long, loose frame, Frazier has solid tools across the board with excellent baseball instincts. From a straight-up stance, he has a line-drive swing with pull power and shows the ability to go the other way. Frazier has an above-average arm and gets good jumps and reads defensively in right field. His speed is slightly below-average. He is slow out of the box because of his swing, but is much better under way. Not only will Frazier's younger brother Todd be a draft pick this year, but his older brother Charles, also an outfielder, is a six-year veteran in the Marlins system.
• Sean Doolittle, lhp
Doolittle is a projectable lefty with an athletic frame who was dominant in the early going this spring. He was 8-0, 0.63 through nine starts, including a five-inning perfect game that featured 14 strikeouts of the 15 batters he faced. Overall, he had 86 strikeouts and nine walks in 44 innings. The Virginia signee has a full windup delivery and smooth arm action. He has a deceptive 88-91 mph fastball and a pitchfork change that has late downward movement. His curveball, a slow roller that lacks bite, is a below-average pitch right now. He also needs to add strength, as his velocity routinely fell into the mid-80s by the fourth or fifth inning. Doolittle also plays first base when not pitching, and is one of the state's top hitters.
• Todd Frazier, ss/of
Frazier's brothers Charles and Jeff are more accomplished, but Todd is the most famous baseball player in the Frazier household. He gained national notoriety as a 12-year-old when he was named the outstanding player at the 1998 Little League World Series as his Toms River team defeated Japan for the world title. We was a pitcher/shortstop then and has continued in that role through high school. He has playable hands and an average arm but scouts say he is more suited for the outfield. He is a free swinger at the plate with a slashing swing and slight wrap, but projects to hit for average power. He has committed to Rutgers, where his brother Jeff has starred for three years.
Others To Watch
• RHP Carlton Smith is athletic with a smooth delivery and loose arm action. He can run his fastball into the low 90s and is an arm strength prospect who needs to work on his breaking pitches. He's the brother of Corey Smith, the Indians' first round pick in 2000.
• LHP Dan Merklinger has a commitment to Seton Hall and could be a tough sign. He topped out at 92 mph this spring and showed a better breaking pitch than Doolittle, but he's not as projectable.
• SS Chris McConnell is athletic and small-framed with outstanding defensive skills. He has average arm strength with soft hands and quick feet, but his speed is below-average and he needs a lot of work with the bat.
• RHP Dan McDonald's father John starred at Mississippi State, while his brother Kevin was drafted in the 39th round by the Tigers in 2002. McDonald was in the low 90s with his fastball this spring and showed a decent breaking ball, but he stands only 5-foot-10 and lacks projection.
• LHP Jeff Gogal tore up the Cape Cod League last summer, going 40-plus innings before surrendering an earned run. He doesn't have overpowering velocity, throwing in the 85-88 mph range, but can flat-out pitch. He throws to both sides of the plate with impeccable command. He has an above-average changeup and a solid 12-6 curveball. Joining Gogal in the Montclair rotation is LHP Lou Wieben. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder has been drafted twice before (Indians 1999, Royals 2000) but has had three elbow operations since. He was healthy this spring and topped out at 92 mph with a power breaking ball, but struggled with his control.
• LHP Chris Noonan was Seton Hall's closer last season, but split time between the bullpen and the rotation this year. His fastball sits in the 86-88 mph range with good movement, and he shows a good feel for a breaking ball. Noonan's teammate, 6-foot-7, 235-pound RHP Jake Haggerty, should also get drafted. He flashed a fastball in the upper 80s, along with a good split and curve. But the first player drafted from the Pirates may be senior RHP/3B/OF Joey Scott. A versatile athlete, he batted .333-4-31, but most scouts like him on the mound, where he was 4-2, 2.68 with 51 strikeouts and 18 walks in 50 innings. He touched 90 mph with his fastball and showed a good breaking ball.
• RHP Jack Egbert has a good pitcher's body and feel for an above-average changeup. He throws his fastball in the 86-91 mph range, and his slider needs work.
• LHP Shaun Parker is another senior who could be a mid-round selection. He ran it up to 90 mph this spring but continued to struggle with his command. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder has an above-average slider and decent change.
• C Frank Meade is excellent defensively, has a plus arm and runs well for a catcher, but his bat is a question mark.