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By Allan Simpson
(Talent Ranking: *** out of five) The state may not produce a premium draft pick, but scouts still beat a steady path to New Mexico to see La Cueva High, which has three Division I pitching prospects and went undefeated for a second straight year; New Mexico Junior College, which has three projectable arms that combined to go 29-4 and struck out 255 batters in 228 innings; and New Mexico State first baseman Billy Becher, who could lead Division I hitters in home runs and RBIs for the second year in a row.
Projected First-Round Picks
Second- to Fifth-Round Talent
Others To Watch
• RHPs James Parr (Hawaii), Jordan Pacheco (New Mexico) and Kevin Beringer (Bradley), all Division I recruits, were instrumental in leading La Cueva High to consecutive 3-A state titles and a streak of 56 wins in a row--12 shy of the national record. Parr, who hit .548-14-51 and played shortstop when he didn't pitch, was the unquestioned ace, going 9-0, 1.25. A year ago, he posted similar numbers: .573-14-61 as a hitter, 8-0, 1.94 as a pitcher. A 6-footer, he has good arm strength, though his velocity fluctuated from a high of 93-94 mph to 85-87. Parr attracted national crosscheckers, but it's unclear whether he could go in the first four or five rounds, or in the teens. If he doesn't sign, he's expected to go both ways at Hawaii and be in the rotation as a freshman. The 6-foot Pacheco, who hit .500-5-35 and played shortstop when Parr pitched, has a better breaking ball than Parr but lacks his velocity. He went 4-0, 3.58. Beringer may have more upside than either pitcher because he's 6-foot-5 and 185 pounds, but he's not as far along in his development.
• 1B Billy Becher has been one of the most prolific and publicized players in college baseball the last two years, though few scouts have bought into the hype. Even though the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder hit .420 and led the nation with 32 homers and 120 RBIs a year ago, he wasn't drafted until the 18th round. His was pitched around this year, and while his 25 homers and 90 RBIs still topped Division I entering regional play, his average dropped nearly 100 points and he struck out a lot more often. He was especially vulnerable to superior pitching. New Orleans righthander Thomas Diamond, a projected first-rounder, struck him out three times in an April showdown. Becher has good bat speed and hits breaking balls well, but scouts say his numbers are inflated because of the thin air of eastern New Mexico and say his bat won't play anywhere near as well in pro ball. Becher's teammate, 2B Xardiel Cotto, also put up big numbers (.379-11-57, 51 walks), yet may not have enough offensive punch to play second base. He committed just five errors in 59 games.
• LHP/OF Joe Salas was a productive two-way player in Division I, hitting .302-12-55 while going 4-2, 5.23 with five saves and 53 strikeouts in 43 innings as New Mexico's closer. He has the two pitches needed to go forward as a pitcher, an 87-90 mph fastball and a hard-breaking breaking ball. He should be a solid senior sign before the 20th round.
• OF Brian Fryer's numbers took a back seat to almost no one at the Division II level as he hit .493-9-71 with 34 stolen bases. He started the year at shortstop, but struggled there and moved to center field. None of his tools stand out, but he does everything well and should be a solid draft.
• New Mexico JC had five pitchers who topped 90 mph, led by RHP John Lujan, whose fastball registered mostly 91-93 but topped out at 95. He was among the national leaders with a sub-1.00 ERA before his final outing and finished 11-2, 1.61 with 103 strikeouts in 78 innings. But he had so-so command of three pitches. RHP Matt Averitt (8-1, 3.31) might be the best prospect on the staff. He's a projectable 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds and threw his fastball effortlessly at 92. He struck out 80 in 73 innings and gets a lot of ground balls because of his fastball's darting and sinking action. RHP Mitch Goins (10-1, 2.34) was the lone New Mexico JC pitcher under control and signed with the Royals before the draft. His fastball peaked at 93. SS Luis Rodriguez, a native of Puerto Rico, is the school's best position player and hit .407-7-48. He, too, has an above-average arm and was clocked at 91 mph across the infield. His speed (6.6 seconds in the 60-yard dash) is another above-average tool. Six-foot-5, 245-pound 1B Logan Parker provided most of the team's power, hitting 15 homers and driving in 84 runs.
• While most of New Mexico's best high school talent was on one team, two lefthanders managed to attract attention. Brian Flores flashed a quick arm and touched 91, while Jesse Hall's fastball peaked at 89, but he used his curve and an outstanding changeup to become the state's leading strikeout pitcher.