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2005 Draft Scouting Reports: Arizona

By Allan Simpson
May 26, 2005

***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
With 11 players in our top 200, Arizona’s influence on the draft will be significant—particularly the University of Arizona’s. But it could have been greater had the state’s three best high school talents at the start of the year—Brett Jacobson, Ike Davis and Matt Hall—not backed up a bit. Arizona State, which has had more players drafted than any college in history, has one of its less talented teams, and even Arizona’s rich junior college ranks are thinner than in recent years.

(National ranking in parentheses)
Potential First-Round Picks
1. Trevor Crowe (29), of, U. of Arizona
2. Travis Buck (42), of, Arizona State U.
Potential Second-Fifth Round Picks
3. Brian Matusz (66), lhp, St. Mary’s HS, Cave Creek
4. Donald Veal (86), lhp, Pima CC
5. Brett Jacobson (91), rhp, Cactus Shadows HS, Carefree
6. Nick Hundley (94), c, U. of Arizona
7. Jordan Brown (113), 1b, U. of Arizona
8. Ike Davis (119), 1b/lhp, Chaparral HS, Scottsdale
9. Jeff Larish (170), 1b, Arizona State U.
10. Milton Loo (176), ss, Yavapai JC (CONTROL: Reds)
11. John Meloan (190), rhp, U. of Arizona
Others Of Note
12. Matt Hall, ss, Horizon HS, Scottsdale
13. T.J. Steele, of, Canyon del Oro HS, Oro Valley
14. Brent Fisher, lhp, Tolleson HS
15. Dylan Johnston, ss, Hamilton HS, Chandler
16. Kyle Blanks, 1b, Yavapai JC (CONTROL: Padres)
17. Bryan Casey, rhp, Arizona Western JC (CONTROL: Orioles)
18. Jeff Van Houten, of, U. of Arizona
19. Jason Urquidez, rhp, Arizona State U.
20. Brad Boyer, 2b/3b, U. of Arizona
21. Gilbert de la Vara, lhp, Pima CC (CONTROL: Royals)
22. Jeff Urlaub, lhp, Horizon HS, Scottsdale
23. Jesse Hall, lhp, Yavapai JC
24. Reid Kelly, rhp, Desert Mountain HS, Scottsdale
25. Tyson Brummett, rhp, Central Arizona JC (CONTROL: Giants)
26. Kevin Guyette, rhp, U. of Arizona
27. Rene Garcia, rhp, South Mountain JC (CONTROL: Rockies)
28. Cory Burns, rhp, Mountain Ridge HS, Scottsdale
29. Sean O’Neill, lhp, Salpointe HS, Tucson
30. Blair Brejtfus, rhp, Arcadia HS, Phoenix

1. TREVOR CROWE, of (National rank: 29)
School: Arizona.
Hometown: Portland.
B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 185. Birthdate: Nov. 11, 1983.
Previously Drafted: Athletics 2002 (20)
Scouting Report: Crowe has played himself into a potential first-rounder on the strength of one of the best offensive seasons in college baseball. As the catalyst atop a potent Arizona lineup, Crowe has hit .422 with 43 extra-base hits, most in the country. Even with a .766 slugging percentage, he is an ideal leadoff man with a .500 on-base percentage, above-average speed and the kind of fiery personality that can light a fire under a team. Though he can be undisciplined at times at the plate and lacks raw power, Crowe has juice in his bat and can hit almost anything thrown at him. A switch-hitter, he tends to be a slightly better hitter from the left side while displaying more power from the right. Crowe arrived at Arizona as a second baseman and may end up back there, though he has spent most of his college career in left field. Center field also would be an ideal defensive home, but some scouts say he doesn't have enough arm or speed for the position. Crowe has an interesting athletic resume. He's a former junior national racquetball champion, and his father was a professional golfer. Crowe played for Team USA last summer and earned all-tournament honors at last year’s College World Series. He isn’t a consensus first-rounder, but area scouts say he may be a more complete player than former Wildcats and current White Sox minor league outfielder Brian Anderson, who was the 15th pick in the 2003 draft.

2. TRAVIS BUCK, of (National rank: 42)
School: Arizona State.
Hometown: Richland, Wash.
B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Birthdate: Nov. 18, 1983.
Previously Drafted: Mariners 2002 (23)
Scouting Report: Buck had the highest profile of any college outfielder heading into the 2005 season. He hit .373-9-58 as an all-Pacific-10 Conference performer in 2004 and hit .412 in leading Team USA to the gold medal at the World University Games last summer. He looked like a sure first-round pick but hasn’t had the year scouts envisioned, even though he has been Arizona State’s best player and leading hitter at .389. He’s handled the expectations of being in the limelight, but he hasn’t hit for the same power he’s shown in the past and his run production is down, a factor of being pitched around. He’s still a hitting machine who sprays line drives to all fields and handles lefthanded pitching. His present power is below-average but he has power potential if he gets stronger. He shows respectable wood bat power in batting practice and had little difficulty hitting with wood for Team USA. He has all the actions and other tools to play in the big leagues, though his speed is just average. He can play all three outfield positions and gets good jumps, though he will likely end up in left field as his arm strength has decreased slightly each year at ASU. A baseball rat, he’ll do whatever it takes to win, which is why he agreed to take a turn at third base this spring when the Sun Devils had a gaping hole at the position.

3. BRIAN MATUSZ, lhp (National rank: 66)
School: St. Mary’s HS.
Hometown: Cave Creek, Ariz.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 175. Birthdate: Feb. 11, 1987.
College Commitment: San Diego.
Scouting Report: Lefthander/first baseman Ike Davis and righthander Brett Jacobson garnered most of the early-season attention among Arizona prep prospects, but Matusz (pronounced MAT-is) has come on fast this spring and is the favorite to be the first player drafted—possibly as early as the sandwich round. A tall, skinny lefthander with an underdeveloped body, Matusz has a classic projectable frame. His fastball ranges from 87-90 mph now, touching 91-92, but there is the potential for a lot more, particularly because he has a clean, polished delivery. He is advanced enough to throw a curveball when behind in the count. His build and stuff reminds scouts of White Sox lefthander Mark Buehrle at the same stage of development. He has the same free and easy arm action, throws strikes and works fast.

4. DONALD VEAL, lhp (National rank: 86)
School: Pima (Ariz.) CC.
Hometown: Tucson.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Birthdate: Nov. 18, 1984.
Previously Drafted: White Sox ’03 (12).
Scouting Report: Little righthander Gilbert de la Vara, a 15th-round draft-and-follow of the Royals, was the dominant pitcher on the Pima Community College staff this spring, leading the competitive Arizona junior college ranks with 109 strikeouts and a 1.28 ERA. But scouts showed more interest in Veal, a strapping lefthander whose long arms, imposing body and pitching style evoke a young Vida Blue. Veal’s velocity was inconsistent, but his running fastball sat at 94 mph when he was on top of his game, and touched 97. He also threw his curveball with more speed and command than in the past, though it remains a below-average pitch. Veal was one of Arizona’s top high school prospects in 2003, when he was drafted by the White Sox, but elected to attend college at Arizona. As a freshman, he didn’t pitch because he injured his labrum, didn’t throw strikes consistently and generally got lost in the shuffle on a team that advanced to the College World Series. He rebounded with a strong season at Pima, finishing second in the state to de la Vara in strikeouts, with 105, even as he had to endure the death of his mother because of stomach cancer. Projectable and anxious to get his professional career started, Veal projects as a second- or third-rounder.

5. BRETT JACOBSON, rhp (National rank: 91)
School: Cactus Shadows HS.
Hometown: Carefree, Ariz.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 195. Birthdate: Nov. 9, 1986.
College Commitment: Vanderbilt.
Scouting Report: Jacobson was the No. 1-ranked player in Arizona entering the 2005 season, but a drop in velocity has caused his stock to dip a round or two. With a college scholarship to Vanderbilt, his chances of signing now are shaky and he could take a significant drop if that becomes a central issue. Jacobson’s velocity in the fall was 94-95 mph, but this spring it’s been down to 88-91 while touching 92-93. With his coach calling most of his pitches, he relied much more on his improving breaking stuff to post a 9-1, 0.94 record with 96 strikeouts in 67 innings. Scouts have been perplexed by his drop in velocity and his change in approach and wondered if Jacobson might have been suffering from a sore arm. But they have not written him off and have expressed a long-held belief that if they’ve seen it once, it’s in there. It would surprise no one if a team with extra picks popped Jacobson in the sandwich round.

6. NICK HUNDLEY, c (National rank: 94)
School: Arizona.
Hometown: Redmond, Wash.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 205. Birthdate: Sept. 8, 1983.
Previously Drafted: Marlins 2002 (5).
Scouting Report: Hundley was drafted in the fifth round out of a Washington high school and has an opportunity to improve his draft stock marginally after three seasons at Arizona. He ranks right behind Southern California’s Jeff Clement, Texas’ Taylor Teagarden and Nevada’s Brett Hayes as one of the nation’s best catching prospects and could go as high as the second round if a team overdrafts for the position, as frequently happens. A solid defender with a strong, athletic body and above-average arm, Hundley has a quick glove-to-hand transfer that allowed him to throw out baserunners at a high rate this season, particularly in the second half. He has caught every day for the first time, unlike as a freshman when he was prone to passed balls and as a sophomore when he shared the job with the departed Richard Mercado. Hundley has also made considerable strides with the bat, improving from four home runs to a team-high 13 this season. He also boosted his average more than 50 points. Hundley comes from a strong athletic background. His father Tim is the defensive coordinator at Texas-El Paso and a member of the NAIA Football Hall of Fame after playing at Western Oregon.

7. JORDAN BROWN, 1b (National rank: 113)
School: Arizona.
Hometown: Vacaville, Calif.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 187. Birthdate: Dec. 18, 1983.
Previously Drafted: Never.
Scouting Report: Undrafted in 2002 out of a California high school, Brown has improved at Arizona each season and is now a solid bet to be drafted in the first five rounds, possibly even the top three. Scouts have compared his style, bat and career path to former Angels first baseman Wally Joyner, who went undrafted out of high school and became a third-round pick in 1985 after a productive career at Brigham Young. Brown has a similarly aggressive approach at the plate and a powerful lefthanded bat. He led the Wildcats in home runs a year ago with 13, was the No. 3 hitter in the Cape Cod League last summer with a .318 average and led the Pacific-10 Conference in RBIs this season with 72, while hitting .342 with 11 homers. He’s not athletic, but has made significant strides at first base and is a solid defender.

8. IKE DAVIS, 1b/lhp (National rank: 119)
School: Chaparral HS.
Hometown: Scottsdale, Ariz.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 205. Birthdate: April 22, 1987.
College Commitment: Arizona State.
Scouting Report: Davis has gotten attention since he was a sophomore, when he led Team USA to the 2003 Worth Youth Championship as a two-way player. A year later, he was MVP of the AFLAC Classic—a game that featured numerous potential first-round picks in this year’s draft. He also led Chaparral High to its second straight state 5-A championship in 2004, hitting .420-3-33 while going 8-0, 2.10 on the mound. What’s more, he’s the son of Ron Davis, an 11-year major league veteran and once one of the hardest throwers in the game. Davis had realistic expectations of going in the first round, both as a pitcher and hitter coming into the year, but he had a disappointing spring, in both roles, as Chaparral won a third straight state title. While he has excellent bat speed and continued to hit for average (.447), he drove balls only in spurts, which magnified his lack of speed and athletic ability. His velocity also slipped. It settled into the high 80s this spring after being 87-91 and touching 92 in the past. But he still gets exceptional movement from a three-quarters angle. Scouts are split on where to play Davis, but most see greater upside on the mound. His father, on the other hand, wants him to be an everyday player. The debate could benefit Arizona State, which recruited him to play both ways and has penciled him in as its starting first baseman for 2006. Davis could be a tough sign unless a team wants him as a position player or has a strong relationship with his father.

9. JEFF LARISH, 1b (National rank: 170)
School: Arizona State.
Hometown: Tempe, Ariz.
B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180. Birthdate: Oct. 11, 1982.
Previously Drafted: Dodgers 2004 (13).
Scouting Report: Larish has enjoyed a more productive senior year after a down season in 2003, when he was expected to be one of first position players drafted only to slump at the plate and tumble to the 13th round. He became the second player in Arizona State’s storied history to drive in 70 runs and walk 70 times in the same season in 2003, but he seemed burdened by high expectations last year and his numbers dropped precipitously—from 18 homers in 2004 to seven, from 78 walks in 2004 to 35, from a .528 on-base percentage in 2004 to .396. He became too selective at the plate and was bothered by a hand injury. He was still offered a reported $660,000 bonus, but he chose to return for his senior year and rebounded to hit 16 home runs. While he exhibited more patience at the plate, he struggled against quality pitchers who negated his power by pounding him inside. He also struggled against anything offspeed and struck out at a higher rate than in any previous season. Scouts have scrutinized his swing as much as any player in the draft, and among the theories regarding his problems are a suspect trigger and the way he blocks off his swing. Some now question whether he’ll ever hit with wood. A third baseman as a freshman, a first baseman as a sophomore and a left fielder as a junior, Larish returned to first base this year. But he may not have enough raw power to play there as a pro. Scouts either love or hate Larish, and having Scott Boras as his adviser only adds to the mystery about where he'll be picked.

10. MILTON LOO, ss (National rank: 176)
School: Yavapai (Ariz.) CC.
Hometown: Molokai, Hawaii.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185. Birthdate: April 2, 1986.
Previously Drafted: Reds 2004 (17).
Scouting Report: Loo created little buzz as Hawaii's first high school draft pick in 2004. He chose not to sign with the Reds in favor of attending junior college in Arizona, though he remains under Reds control. Yavapai coach Sky Smeltzer agreed to take Loo sight unseen, and after one year says Loo is the best player he’s ever had in the 11 years he’s been at the school. Loo was the top position talent in the Arizona juco ranks this spring, hitting .404 while ranking third in the state with 21 stolen bases. He showed five-tool potential, with power being the only tool still in the undeveloped stage. He played third base instead of shortstop in deference to a returning player but would take over the position a year from now—if he doesn’t sign. The Reds were expected to make a serious run at him before the draft, and if he goes back into this year’s pool he could go in the first five rounds.

11. JOHN MELOAN, rhp (National rank: 190)
School: Arizona.
Hometown: Houston.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 225. Birthdate: July 11, 1984.
Previously Drafted: Never.
Scouting Report: As a hard-throwing high school senior in Houston in 2002, Meloan wasn't drafted even though he led area schools in strikeouts per inning and threw a 20-strikeout no-hitter, the third of his career. He managed to get lost in the shuffle in a year when the Houston prep ranks had a pitching class for the ages, producing first-rounders Clint Everts (Expos), Scott Kazmir (Mets) and James Loney (Dodgers, who developed him as a first baseman), along with projected 2005 first-rounder Mark McCormick, who would have been a first-rounder had he not been committed to attending college. Meloan’s problem in high school was wildness. He would just as easily walk eight or nine hitters a game as strike out 16. He still averages a walk every two innings, but scouts say he’s now effectively wild and over the last two years as the ace of the Wildcats staff, he has gone 18-2. He’s always had good stuff and has four average, nearly equal offerings, including a 90-91 mph fastball that touches 93-94, along with a knuckle-curve, cutter and changeup. In 91 innings, he had 49 walks and 108 strikeouts. Meloan is well built for a pitcher, and scouts say he is almost too strong for his own good. If anything, he needs to work at losing weight to get lighter and looser.

(Numbers in parentheses indicate rank in Arizona)

Wildcats Overwhelm Sun Devils This Year

Arizona upstaged traditional rival Arizona State a year ago by reaching the College World Series, and the Wildcats have followed up by dominating the Sun Devils in every phase of their rivalry this season. It will show again on draft day, when the Wildcats should challenge any college in the country for most players drafted in the first five rounds, and most drafted overall.

Five-foot-9 senior OF Jeff Van Houten (18) has never been drafted before because of his size, but there will be no overlooking him this time. Two years after hitting .413-11-72 to lead the Pacific-10 Conference in average and a year after slumping to .319-3-40 in an injury-plagued junior season, he rebounded this year to hit a resounding .368-7-60. His bat is his best tool, but his arm plays adequately in right field.

2B/3B Brad Boyer (20) has shown glimpses of greatness at Arizona, notably as a freshman when he hit .351-5-47 and led the Pac-10 with 25 stolen bases, and last summer in the Cape Cod League, when he ranked among the league’s home run leaders. But he struggles to sustain his hot streaks. He hit .259-1-23 as a sophomore and .273-3-35 as a junior. He was error-prone in the field both years as he alternated between second, third and the outfield. Scouts are intrigued with his tools, but he lost the opportunity to be a premium pick this year with his erratic play.

With a 9-4, 3.75 record and 114 strikeouts in 98 innings, fourth-year junior RHP Kevin Guyette (26) pitched better this year than in any season since he was a top prospect as an Arizona high school senior in 2001. He significantly improved the command of his hard, biting curveball this year, but scouts say his suspect mechanics will prevent him from throwing his fastball harder than 86-88 mph.

Arizona State senior RHP Jason Urquidez (19) went 12-3, 3.41 while averaging nearly a strikeout an inning in 2004, when he was picked in the 11th round by the Reds. He chose not to sign, hoping to improve his draft position with another year in college. But the decision may have backfired as he went 7-4, 4.34 this season while striking out 71 in 87 innings. Urquidez has a complete repertoire but tends to be too fine with his pitches. He has a resilient arm, works at 88-89 mph, touches 91 and complements his fastball with a curve, slider and changeup—all of which he can throw from different arm angles.

Stark Contrasts Among Juco Players

Veal and Loo were the best prospects in the wood-bat Arizona junior college ranks this year, but neither enjoyed the success that 6-foot-6, 280-pound Yavapai freshman 1B Kyle Blanks (16) or 5-foot-11, 160-pound Pima sophomore LHP Gilbert de la Vara (21) had.

Blanks, Loo’s teammate, was named player of the year after leading the state in batting (.440), hits (85), doubles (25) and RBIs (47), and finishing second in home runs (8). Despite his bulk, he finished third in the state with 23 stolen bases. Blanks is surprisingly agile for his size and has been timed over 60 yards in 6.9 seconds—close to average major league speed. He’s limited defensively to first base but actually played shortstop in high school. While he mastered juco pitching with ease, scouts say he has holes in his swing and question whether he’ll catch up to big league fastballs. Picked in the 42nd round by the Padres in 2004, Blanks was expected to sign before the draft.

De la Vara was Arizona’s top juco pitcher, leading the state with 109 strikeouts and a 1.28 ERA. He has already signed with Kansas City after being picked in the 15th round a year ago. De la Vara, who formed a solid 1-2 punch with Veal at Pima, throws 85-88 mph but he competes well and he commands three pitches. His best offering is a hard-breaking curveball.

RHP/C Bryan Casey (17) has a sinking fastball in the 90-92 mph range and a good arm action, and could add velocity once he gives up catching. The Orioles drafted him a year ago and were expected to sign him before the closed period.

RHP Rene Garcia (27) attended the same high school and junior college as Royals righthander Luis Cota, who signed the largest bonus by a draft-and-follow in 2004. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Garcia looked like he would follow the same path, but he was frequently hurt this spring and didn't show the easy 92-94 gas he showed scouts a year ago.

Following In Wood’s Footsteps

SS Matt Hall (12) led Horizon High to the Arizona 5-A state title this spring, a feat 2003 Angels first-rounder and state player of the year Brandon Wood failed to accomplish as a senior at the same school. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Hall played alongside Wood as a freshman third baseman and sophomore second baseman before taking over from him at shortstop the last two years. The two are frequently compared. Hall has solid tools, particularly arm strength, but lacks the same shortstop actions, and may end up at third base—either in pro ball or at Arizona State. He has power potential along the lines of Wood, but some scouts say he has slider bat speed. Hall was projected as a possible second- or third-rounder at the start of the year, but his stock slipped.

SS Dylan Johnston (15) played on the losing side in the Arizona 5-A championship game and made a strong, late impression on scouts with his superior defensive play. He showed outstanding hands and arm strength, though he throws from a low arm slot. Johnston was one of the state’s top hitters a year ago and was slow to get started with the bat this year before a late resurgence.

OF T.J. Steele (13) hit .472-10-37 with 22 stolen bases this year and made up a lot of ground after not appearing on the high school showcase circuit last summer. He’s an excellent athlete with arm strength, speed (6.5 seconds in the 60-yard dash) and loft power, but his bat may not quite be ready for pro ball. He has committed to Arizona, just as Brian Anderson did out of the same high school on his way to becoming a first-round pick of the White Sox in 2003.