By Allan Simpson
(Talent Ranking: *** out of five) Oregon is not a traditional college baseball hotbed, but 2004 is a noteworthy year. Oregon State, while just 9-12 in the tough Pacific-10 Conference, could produce as many as seven or eight draft picks. That's not to mention a possible 2005 first-rounder in center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. The Beavers also could play a role in the draft in another way, as most of the state's best high school prospects are committed to Oregon State. Concordia College and George Fox College also advanced to the NCAA Division III and NAIA World Series, respectively, behind top pitching prospects.
Projected First-Round Picks
Second- to Fifth-Round Talent
• Aaron Mathews, of
You can't find a consensus opinion on the value of the 5-foot-10, 195-pound Mathews. Scouts who like him in the early rounds overlook his size and see tools. Those who view him as a fringe prospect say he's too small, and that his power and speed are weaker than former Beavers outfielder Seth Pietsch, an eighth-round pick in 2003. Mathews is a blue-collar worker, a feisty leader who plays hard. He thinks nothing of crashing into walls to make acrobatic catches. He has played mostly right field for the Beavers in deference to the fleeter Ellsbury but projects as a center fielder in pro ball. Mathews has power potential in his short, powerful body. It's also helped that he's been more selective at the plate this year, and the result has been a .340 average and team-leading totals in home runs and RBIs.
• Jake Postlewait, lhp
Postlewait, who pitched sparingly his first two years at Oregon State, has evolved into one of the nation's most attractive senior signs. Undrafted a year ago, Postlewait made huge strides last summer in Alaska and made himself a legitimate big league prospect. He earned all-star honors in the Alaska League, but more importantly added a cut fastball to his repertoire. He continued to refine the pitch this spring, giving him four solid-average pitches and he led the Beavers with 10 wins. He throws his fastball to both sides of the plate at 88-89 mph, and occasionally up to 92. His changeup is an above-average pitch, enabling him to change speeds effectively. Scouts like his athletic ability and the way he battles.
• Scott Hyde, rhp
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Hyde is one of college baseball's biggest strikeout machines this side of Long Beach State's Jered Weaver. With 161 in 102 innings--14.2 per nine innings--he led NCAA Division III by a wide margin and had the second-highest single-season total in D-III history. He also assembled an impressive 11-1, 1.76 record, with an opponent average of .169. A year earlier, he went 11-1, 2.41 with 116 strikeouts in 101 innings. He has compiled gaudy numbers against lesser competition, but most area scouts say his stuff is legitimate. He has a moving fastball in the 87-91 mph range, a hard-breaking slider and a solid changeup. His arm action is just average. He has improved significantly since enrolling in college, yet some scouts say he'd be no better than a Sunday starter for a Pac-10 team. He might not be drafted ahead of any of the more established Oregon State players, but he's safely in the fifth- to 10th-round range.
• Andy Baldwin, lhp
Scouts have paid equal attention to Baldwin and teammate Jake Postlewait, though they are vastly different lefthanders. Postlewait is a crafty senior with a limited ceiling, while the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Baldwin has a dynamic arm with a big upside. He's also unpolished. His straight fastball has peaked at 94 mph, and his control of it has been so erratic that he's been in and out of the Oregon State rotation. He has particular difficulty pitching out of the stretch. He was so unrefined when he entered college that he was redshirted, making him eligible for the draft as a sophomore.
Others To Watch
• Oregon's top three recruits will end up at Oregon State if they don't sign. RHP Eddie Kunz is less inclined to go to college than either SS Darwin Barney or RHP Daniel Turpen, so he's the favorite to go off the board first. The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder isn't athletic or consistent with his stuff, but his fastball has reached 93 mph and he has a decent slider to go with it. Kunz has told scouts his ability warrants being picked in the top three or four rounds, but he's more likely to go in the eighth- to 12th-round range. The 6-foot-5, 180-pound Turpen is more projectable, but his fastball tops out at 90. He also tips off his curve, his second pitch, and lacks a third pitch. Barney is the most polished and most unsignable, with a strong college commitment. He has solid shortstop actions and swings the bat well for his size, but at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds is too frail now for pro ball. He also doesn't run particularly well for a middle infielder.
• With Barney's draft status complicated by signability, the first shortstop likely to be drafted is Wally Backman, son of the former big leaguer who was a 1977 first-round pick of the Mets out of an Oregon high school. The 6-foot-2 Backman, a lefthanded hitter, is bigger and stronger than his dad, but less polished at the same age. He may end up at third base in pro ball and has the power potential for the position. Backman has not committed to a college and is looking to sign.
• RHP Mike Stutes is the most noteworthy high school player to make a commitment to a school other than Oregon State. He signed with Santa Clara. At 5-foot-11, he reminds scouts of Tim Hudson, one of the most athletic pitchers in the big leagues. Stutes has flashed a 90-93 mph fastball and sharp breaking ball. He also plays a regular position in the field and was the quarterback on his high school football team. Stutes' mechanics need a little refining, as his delivery is so rough that his hat flies off on almost every pitch.
• LHP Matt Duryea staked his claim to becoming the top prep draft pick in the state. He added several ticks to his fastball over the course of the spring and the result was 97 strikeouts in his first 43 innings. Like Stutes, Duryea has a funky delivery that will need tinkering.
• OF Dylan Bruck is raw and a long way off, but he has blazing speed, the one exceptional tool that could get him drafted.
• Teammates RHP Nate Fogle and LHP Shannon Wirth are both under control to the Giants. Fogle, one of the best juco pitchers on the West Coast, was likely to sign with San Francisco, while Wirth's status was less clear. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Fogle throws from a low three-quarters angle and gets good sinking action on his 87-91 mph fastball. He also has an above-averge slider but lacks an effective pitch to get lefthanders out. The 6-foot, 200-pound Wirth had a comparable year statistically to Fogle and has a better delivery, but he's not as projectable. His fastball is in the 88-90 mph range.
• RHP Byron Cragg is the best juco player not under control. He generated a lot of interest in the eastern half of the state with a 92-93 fastball and hard slider. On the down side, he has mechanical flaws in his delivery and lacks command.
• Oregon State has a number of quality arms, possibly none better than freshmen Dallas Buck and Kevin Gunderson. Their presence, along with Postlewait and Baldwin, has limited the opportunity for seniors Nate Pendley, Jared Sanders and Ben Rowe, all of whom throw 90 or better. Sanders holds Oregon State's career (12) and season saves record (nine, in 2002), but hasn't saved a game in two years because he has been relegated to a set-up role. Six-foot-5 junior LHP Kyle Aselton also throws 90 mph and has drawn his share of attention.
• RHP Matt Peters is Portland's best prospect, but scouts are wary of a history of injuries. Peters didn't even play baseball a year ago but decided to give the game another shot. He asked for a tryout, threw 20 pitches over 90 mph, and not only made the team but also became the Pilots' Friday starter. Scouts were impressed with his arm strength and 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame. Peters had a stress fracture in his forearm at a Nevada high school and later injured his back swinging a bat as a freshman at Feather River (Calif.) JC, prompting him to quit the game. He transferred to Portland, where both his parents graduated, to be just a student but eventually decided to play again. Healthy this spring, he put up decent numbers for a team with a 12-44 record, though he didn't pitch well late in the season.
• RHP Michael Devaney didn't create as much buzz this spring among small-college players as Hyde, but he still pitched his team into the NAIA World Series. His fastball ranged from 86-90 mph and he had two workable secondary pitches. He could be a decent senior sign.