By Allan Simpson
(Talent Ranking: *** out of five) Washington's talent falls short of 1999, when the state produced 11 picks in the first two rounds. It might have come close this year if many of the state's better prospects hadn't suffered through disappointing seasons. One notable change this year: While many of the state's best high school prospects would commit to out-of-state schools routinely in the past, almost every top prep player will stay close to home and play at Washington or Washington State. That should pay dividends for the state in future drafts.
Projected First-Round PicksNone
Second- to Fifth-Round Talent
• Matt Tuiasosopo, ss
Tuiasosopo comes from a celebrated football family and is a top quarterback recruit of the University of Washington. His father Manu was a defensive tackle in the NFL, and his oldest brother Marques is a quarterback for the Oakland Raiders. Brother Zach is Washington's starting fullback. His brothers were also top baseball prospects out of high school, though they never gave the sport more than a passing thought in college. Things may be different for the youngest Tuiasosopo brother, despite pressure to fulfill his football commitment. He has showed more interest in a baseball career, and scouts say his upside is higher in baseball than football, even though he has rarely focused on baseball. He could also be swayed to baseball by knee injuries that interrupted both his junior and senior prep football seasons. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Tuiasosopo is physical like his brothers, and has a chance to be a five-tool talent. His speed and arm strength are his most advanced tools. He also has excellent bat speed with power to all fields. He's the best pitcher and position player on his high school team and has the aptitude to play any position on the field. Scouts say he would probably start out as a shortstop, his primary position, and settle in at third base or right field down the road. Tuiasosopo has the talent to go late in the first round and would almost have to go in the top two or three rounds or risk being lost to football. Former Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, now a special assignment scout for the Yankees, has been among the droves of scouts to see Tuiasosopo play this spring.
• Brandon Verley, of
Hidden in White Salmon, a community of less than 2,000 on the Washington-Oregon border, Verley played in obscurity most of the spring. He put on impressive batting practice sessions for area scouts, but word of Verley's lefthanded power didn't gain attention from crosscheckers until he showed it more consistently in games. In 59 at-bats, he hit .644 with eight home runs. Powerfully built at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Verley has some of the best raw power in the draft. All his other tools are average, at best. The Twins, who have five picks before the start of the second round, have paid particularly close attention to Verley, a Washington State signee, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see them pop him in the sandwich or second round.
• Aaron Hathaway, c
Even though Washington has been one of the nation's better college teams this spring, challenging Stanford for first place in the Pacific-10 Conference, Hathaway is one of the few draft-eligible Huskies to play up to expectations. That he did so while batting .302-7-32 speaks to his defense. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder has excellent catch-and-throw skills and ranks among the best in the nation at his position. His tools behind the plate are not unlike 11-year Mariners veteran Dan Wilson's. He has a few rough edges, but Hathaway shows quickness, athleticism and agility behind the plate. He also has a lightning-quick arm and picked off numerous baserunners this spring. Hathaway's bat isn't as advanced, but he can put a charge in the ball when he hits it. He got off to a slow start this year, but as in the last two years he heated up in the second half. On his defensive skills alone, he'll be targeted in the third or fourth rounds.
• Brad Clapp, rhp
Clapp got attention in late April when he went head-to-head against Tuiasosopo in a game that attracted about 60 scouts. Not only did the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder stop Woodinville 3-1, but he had rare command of two above-average pitches: a 94 mph sinking fastball and a 12-to-6 power curve. Though he's been 90 or better every time out this spring, he has thrown with effort and an inconsistent delivery. Still, he has thrown strikes consistently, while going 4-3, 2.09 with 72 strikeouts in 67 innings. While scouts who saw Clapp shut down one of the state's top teams say he could go as high as the second or third round, others say his stuff isn't as sharp, and he's not as athletic as the best prep righthanders in the Northwest last year, none of whom went before the fifth round. No matter where he's picked, Clapp is expected to sign and pass up a scholarship offer from Washington State.
• Bryce Chamberlin, rhp
Chamberlin found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time in mid-April, when he tried to break up a dispute in his yard between a man and woman and had his jaw broken in two places. He was out of action for four weeks before easing his way back in a relief role. Before the altercation, the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder was Washington State's best starter and had surpassed Washington's Will Fenton as the state's top college pitching prospect. He has a loose, easy arm action and one of the best sliders in the draft, a power offering in the 84-87 mph range. His fastball is only slightly quicker at 89-92 mph--and most effective at 88-90--but it's an above-average pitch because of its sinking action. His change continues to evolve. Chamberlin's stuff is only marginally better than a year ago, but he has thrown his fastball and slider more consistently for strikes while going 7-3, 5.91 with 60 strikeouts in 56 innings. Scouts say the altercation will not affect his draft standing. He's expected to be picked in the third or fourth round.
• Steve Marquardt, 3b/rhp
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Marquardt could go as early as the fifth round, which would qualify as a disappointment after he was regarded as the state's top talent at the start of the year. A legitimate two-way player, his higher upside appears to be as a hitter even after he made more progress this spring on the mound. A shortstop in high school, he would likely move to third base in pro ball. His average hovered around .500 and he posted a sub-1.00 ERA this spring, yet scouts say Marquardt struggled both ways. His actions were stiff and his effort often lethargic. He didn't show the consistent power he has in the past; nor did he dominate on the mound even though his fastball ranged from 87-92 mph, supplemented by a plus slider. Marquardt seems bent on a professional career. He was recruited last fall by just two schools--Washington and Texas--and had not committed to either.
• Kyle Larsen, 1b
At 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, Larsen has the look of a prototypical major league first baseman. He also has powerful agent Scott Boras as his adviser. Larsen did not live up to expectations in the first half, especially when he showed a slow bat to a large delegation of scouts during an early road trip to California. He picked it up in the second half of the season, pushing his average into the .350-.370 range and taking over the team lead in homers and RBIs, though he still didn't show the power scouts were looking for. A late slump dropped him to .330-10-45. He's a solid defender at first base with good hands, but the lack of consistent power will probably push him down to the sixth or seventh round.
• Will Fenton, rhp
It would be nearly impossible for the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Fenton to top a 2003 season when he didn't allow a run in 32 innings, struck out 49 and led the Pacific-10 Conference in saves. But as impressive as last season was, his 2004 campaign has been a disappointment. He's been inconsistent and ineffective. He struggled with his control from the outset, posting a 4.82 ERA while walking 22 in 28 innings, and lost his closer job. His fastball and slider, both above-average pitches in 2003, became ordinary as he struggled with his mechanics. He didn't bounce back well from relief outings, raising concerns he's not cut out to carry the workload of a closer. Accustomed to success, he did not handle his adversity well. He received medical clearance from noted orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum after he missed last summer and pitched sparingly in the fall, so his slide this spring has left scouts searching for answers.
Others To Watch
• LHP Greg Goetz was supposed to be the latest Bellevue CC product to make a splash after Blake Hawksworth (Cardinals) and Evan Meek (Twins) were among the nation's more prominent draft-and-follow signings the last two years. Goetz transferred to Bellevue after spending his freshman season at Washington State. The 6-foot-4, 180-pounder has everything scouts like, including a 91-92 mph fastball and an unhittable hammer curveball. But Goetz has been little more than a tease to scouts since being drafted by the Marlins in 2002 out of high school. He has had major control issues and has taken his team out of games by throwing 70-80 pitches in the first two innings. He showed flashes of brilliance this spring, exciting scouts, but went 3-2, 3.18 with 34 walks in 34 innings while striking out 47. A team will have to look past his history of wildness to invest an early-round pick.
• Goetz' inconsistency opened the door for RHP David Patton to become the state's first junior college draft pick. Patton also has a lightning-quick arm capable of generating 94 mph heat. He has much better command than Goetz, but questions about Patton's maturity may scare off some clubs.
• Five-foot-11, 160-pound OF Brent Thomas, a teammate of Goetz, has a live, athletic body, but he projects almost no power. He's a plus runner, capable of running 60 yards in 6.7 seconds.
• OF Andre Piper-Jordan enrolled at Eastern Washington last fall to play college football, knowing the school does not have a baseball program. The urge to continue playing baseball caused him to transfer to a junior college. His best tool is speed, but his bat is a little short to warrant early-round interest.
• Edmonds CC has several potential draft picks. The most attractive is 6-foot-6, 230-pound 1B Ryan Strieby, who launched numerous home runs this spring. He has holes in his swing, raising questions whether his power will play against better pitching. LHPs Tony Snow and Owen Williams are both under control to the Pirates. Snow was drafted last year even though he missed the 2003 season with Tommy John surgery, but his fastball was back up to 92-94 in early May, the first time he had shown above-average velocity in more than a year. With an 86-88 mph fastball that can touch 90, Williams projects a specialist role.
• OF K.C. Herren was one of the state's most productive high school players this spring. He hit almost .600 and reached double digits in home runs while leading undefeated Auburn High to a national top 25 ranking. Herren has an above-average bat, power potential and arm strength, and projects as a seventh- to 10th-round pick. But he has let scouts know that he's a better player than Alhaji Turay, a 2001 second-round pick of the Mets from the same school, and wants to be treated accordingly. Otherwise, he'll attend Washington.
• Lefthanded-hitting C Brett Linnenkohl, a Wake Forest signee, generated a lot of late interest. Most scouts think he's better suited for another position, probably center field, to maximize his speed, his best tool.
• Led by Tuiasosopo, RHP Duke Welker and RHP/OF Andy Lentz, three of the state's five best high school prospects at the time, Woodinville High was Washington's top-ranked high school team at the start of 2004. But Welker injured a muscle in his back in his first start and missed most of the season. That not only hurt Woodinville but also diminished Welker's draft status. With a fastball at 84-85 mph and limited command when he returned, he didn't throw as well as he did in 2003. His velocity eventually returned, in bursts, to a more customary 88-91, but the 6-foot-5, 185-pounder most likely is headed to Washington State. Lentz is also a good bet to attend college at Washington, where older brother Richie is a freshman righthander, and a second brother Ryan was previously a top player. Their father Mike was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1975 draft. The younger Lentz, a lefthanded hitter, has sound two-way ability but projects as a power-hitting outfielder.
• OF Garrett Kimbrel generated early curiosity when the Major League Scouting Bureau gave him a premium grade. His hitting and throwing skills justified the rating, but scouts have since downgraded his overall package.
• Like Kimbrel, OF Matt Stevens has two intriguing tools. He can run and throw, but a below-average bat will also keep him out of the early rounds.
• In addition to Chamberlin, Washington State has two more starting pitchers that should be middle-round picks. Six-foot-4, 225-pound RHP Aaron MacKenzie, who took over as the Friday starter for the Cougars when Chamberlin was injured, may be the most attractive college senior in the state. He has a solid four-pitch mix, including an above-average overhand curve and 86-88 mph fastball. He's an Australian, which could become a complicating factor because of the limits on work visas to foreign players. With a 90-91 mph fastball and plus slider, RHP Aaron Trolia has slightly better stuff than MacKenzie and may go a round or two earlier. With a lower arm release, he gets good sink and run on his pitches. C Brandon Reddinger is a sound receiver with an accurate arm, but has limited offensive potential. 1B Grant Richardson led the Cougars in homers (12) and RBIs (63), and should be a fringe draft.
• Gonzaga had two solid draft picks at the start of the year, but neither RHP Eric Dworkis nor 1B/OF Jeff Culpepper performed to expectations. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound Dworkis suffered a drop in velocity, down to 84 mph at times, as his mechanics went askew. He went just 8-4, 4.86. Culpepper, a 39th-round pick of the Red Sox in 2003, showed power potential in his lefthanded bat last summer in Alaska but returned to being mostly a slap hitter this spring and produced just two home runs.
• Six-foot-7, 200-pound RHP Keaton Everitt, a draft-eligible sophomore, had the size and arm strength to become a potential early-round pick for Washington, but he couldn't throw strikes consistently or develop a second pitch to go with his low 90s fastball. He was rarely used in the second half. Lefthanded-hitting 2B Greg Isaacson has above-average speed and led Washington with 21 stolen bases while batting .314-6-42. He heads a group of senior-sign possibilities for the Huskies that includes 3B John Otness (.308-9-46) and C Ben Johnson (.225-7-28). The switch-hitting Johnson showed above-average power but played sparingly behind Hathaway. Another Johnson, junior OF Taylor Johnson, might have become a better pick had he produced more than a .259 average and five homers. Johnson is put together at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, and the rest of his tools are all above-average, particularly his arm.