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By Michael Levesque
(Talent Ranking: * out of five) It's a down year for talent in New York, with perhaps as few as two players projected to go in the first 10 rounds. Next year looks more promising, with St. John's righthander Craig Hansen looking like a potential early-round selection.
Projected First-Round Picks
Second- to Fifth-Round Talent
Rafael Gonzalez, rhp
Gonzalez is a wild card in this year's draft. He attended George Washington High in the Bronx before dropping out and briefly moving to the Dominican Republic last year. After watching him in a tryout, the Yankees signed him for $200,000, but the commissioner's office voided the contract after discovering Gonzalez was an American citizen and the Major League Scouting Bureau had reports on him. Gonzalez returned to George Washington for his senior year, but was declared ineligible. He played on a scout team this spring, pitching every Sunday, while working out for clubs on the side. Gonzalez is a soft-bodied player with a good delivery and easy arm action. He was inconsistent this spring, creating a split camp in the scouting community on his potential. In some outings he was in the 93-95 mph range with a power curve and above-average changeup, while in others he was in the high 80s with a fringy breaking ball.
Others To Watch
After Gonzalez, the high school player with the best chance of going in the first 10 rounds is LHP Pat McAnaney. He has a loose, athletic body with a weak upper half, but projects to get stronger. McAnaney has an easy arm action and sits in the mid- to upper 80s with his fastball with late sink and tail. He also throws a slow curveball and a circle changeup with late sink. He has committed to Virginia.
Gonzalez' former batterymate at George Washington High, C Angel Salome is a 5-foot-10, 190-pounder with a cannon for an arm. A native of the Dominican, he is fluid behind the plate with quick feet and solid blocking skills. He has a 70 arm on the 20-80 scouting scale with a short, quick release, but needs work on his receiving skills. Even though he hit .720 with 14 homers--comparable numbers to those posted by Manny Ramirez at the same high school in the early 90s--his bat is a question mark and he has limited power.
RHP Matt Scherer leads a contingent of three LeMoyne players who should be drafted. He went 3-1, 2.30 with three saves in the New England Collegiate League last summer, and continued the stellar pitching this spring by going 9-2, 2.08 with 75 strikeouts against eight walks in 86 innings. He works in the low 90s with a nasty slider/split combination. OF Kyle Brown went undrafted as a junior last year but should get picked this year. After helping the Dolphins to last years NCAA regionals--they won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season again this year but will have to win the tournament to return to regionals--he batted .369-2-34 with 42 stolen bases in 49 attempts this year. He is an above-average runner and is excellent defensively, with good range and arm strength. OF Jeff Justice is a strong kid who can really swing the bat. He batted .404-12-47 this spring. Justice is solid defensively, with an average arm and speed. The other member of the LeMoyne outfield, Aaron Bulkley, was drafted in the 10th round out of high school by the Pirates but has struggled this year and may go undrafted. He has above-average speed (6.5 seconds in the 60-yard dash) with a great arm, but at the plate he needs to adjust his approach. He has limited power, and instead of keeping the ball on the ground and utilizing his speed, he puts ball in the air too much. He batted .221-6-19 this spring.
Six-foot-3, 215-pound RHP Mike Parisi broke his own single-season strikeout record at Manhattan this spring, with 97. He has raw arm strength and topped out at 94 mph this spring with a downer curveball. While he strikes a lot of batters out, he has also struggled with his command as he walked 41 in 75 innings. He has some effort in his arm action and his delivery needs work.
2B Vince Ircandia is one of 11 Canadians at Niagara, which is coached by Mike McRae--the only Canadian head coach of a Division I team. Ircandia, a Calgary native, is an excellent defensive player with above-average speed and gap power. His double-play partner, SS Reed Eastley, was the Manitoba high school athlete of the year as a senior. He has good actions at short with an average arm and range. He has a quick, line-drive stroke with average power.
Marist could have three players drafted, led by OF Keith Brachold, who led the Red Foxes' offense this spring batting .368-7-39 with 23 doubles and 14 stolen bases. He has a solid line-drive stroke with good bat speed and some pop. The 6-foot, 170-pounder is a good athlete with 6.9-second speed and a playable arm. RHP Scott Chambers has an easy arm action but rushes his delivery, which has affected his command. He can get his fastball up to 92 mph and complements it with an average slider. A possible late-round pick is 6-foot-2, 190-pound RHP George Heath. He pitches in the upper 80s with an above-average breaking pitch.
Some scouts regarded RHP Brian Johnson as the top high school player in the state entering the spring. He moved onto the radar screen last fall when the Major League Scouting Bureau put a big number (55 on the 20-80 scale) on him. He started out throwing in the mid-90s with a hammer curve, but by early May had lost velocity and was in the 83-85 mph range.
RHP Ryan Bitter spent two seasons at San Diego Mesa Junior College before transferring to Siena. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound California native has two solid pitches: an upper-80s fastball with good movement, and an above-average slider.
SS Blake Hanan is a top-notch defensive shortstop, with above-average range and a strong arm. He has a line-drive stroke at the plate, and is an above-average runner.
RHP Rob Semerano missed the 2003 season because of Tommy John surgery, but has recovered and was throwing 96 mph this spring.
2B P.J. Antoniato transferred from Briarcliffe (N.Y.) JC to St. John's, where he was batting .310-3-15. He is a solid hitter with gap power and a good glove man.
A sleeper in the state is 6-foot-3, 220-pound RHP Tom Koehler, who popped up this spring throwing 90-92 mph. He has signed with Stony Brook.