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2005 Draft Scouting Reports: North Carolina

By John Manuel
June 1, 2005

***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
Cameron Maybin made a run at giving North Carolina its third-ever No. 1 overall draft pick from its high school ranks. He's not likely to make that happen, but he figures to go in the first 10 picks. Perhaps it's best that he avoid the No. 1 tag, which didn't seem to help Brien Taylor (1991) or Josh Hamilton (1999). Scouts say that while Maybin and Hamilton are different, Hamilton's bat was more ready for pro ball than Maybin's. Maybin should be the only prep player from the state drafted in the first 10 rounds, if not the first day. The state's colleges aren't fertile this year, either, and figure to be much stronger next year.

(National ranking in parentheses)
Potential First-Round Picks
1. Cameron Maybin (3), of, T.C. Roberson HS, Arden
2. Joey Devine (35), rhp, North Carolina State
Potential Second-Fifth Round Picks

3. Chris Mason (82), rhp, UNC Greensboro
4. Zach Ward (117), rhp, Gardner-Webb

Others Of Note
5. Ricky Brooks, rhp, East Carolina
6. Drew Taylor, lhp, Wake Forest-Rolesville HS, Wake Forest
7. Jeremy Synan, ss, Northeast Guilford HS, Brown Summit
8. Nick Conaway, rhp, South Stokes HS, Walnut Cove
9. Jeff Moore, rhp, UNC Wilmington
10. Jake Muyco, c, North Carolina State
11. Ronald Hill, rhp, UNC Wilmington
12. Woods Fines, rhp, Louisburg JC (CONTROL/Devil Rays, 14)
13. Marcus Covington, rhp, Louisburg JC (CONTROL/Braves, 46)
14. Adam Warren, rhp, New Bern HS
15. Tyler Leach, rhp, Kings Mountain HS
16. Aaron Bates, 1b, North Carolina State
17. Mark Minicozzi, 3b, East Carolina
18. Jared Greenwood, c, Western Carolina
19. Adam Kalkhof, lhp, North Carolina
20. Josh Dowdy, rhp, Wakefield HS, Raleigh
21. Mike Daniel, of, North Carolina
22. Nick Starnes, rhp, UNC Greensboro
23. Jay Heafner, 3b, Davidson
24. Garrett Bullock, lhp, Rose HS, Greenville
25. Jay Mattox, of, East Carolina

1. CAMERON MAYBIN, of (National rank: 3)
School: T.C. Roberson HS, Arden, N.C.
Hometown: Asheville, N.C.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 200. Birthdate: March 4, 1987.
College Commitment: Southern.
Scouting Report: Baseball America’s 2004 Youth Player of the Year, Maybin entered the year as the No. 2 high school player on the board and stayed there, nipping at Justin Upton’s heels. Maybin has a rare combination of premium athletic ability, bloodlines (his cousins include former North Carolina basketball star Rashad McCants) and baseball savvy. Maybin has grown up around the game, serving as a batboy for the hometown Asheville Tourists, and has begun to translate his physical tools to the diamond. He has broad shoulders and long limbs and fingers, and physically evokes comparisons on the low end to Preston Wilson and on the high end to Vladimir Guerrero. He should be a premium defender in center field with experience, with long, graceful strides gobbling up turf and an average arm. As he fills out, he could move to right field and be a more athletic Cliff Floyd. Maybin has not faced great competition in western North Carolina during his high school career--though he has faced the best of the best in youth and showcase play--and some scouts think his bat might take time to develop once he starts seeing good breaking balls consistently. His makeup—including good work habits, maturity and love for the game--endears him to scouts, as does his family. His Southern commitment isn’t scaring anyone away.

2. JOEY DEVINE, rhp (National rank: 35)
School: North Carolina State.
Hometown: Junction City, Kan.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 212. Birthdate: Sept. 19, 1983.
Previously Drafted: Never.
Scouting Report: Devine has been one of college baseball’s success stories the last three years. Lightly recruited, he was expected to be a two-way player for the Wolfpack before developing into one of the nation’s elite closers as a freshman. Working with weights caused him to drop his arm angle below three-quarters, and his stuff took off. Forearm tendinitis affected him in the summer of 2003 and contributed to his erratic 2004 performance, but he still became North Carolina State’s all-time saves leader as a sophomore and was impressive in the summer with Team USA, pitching as a set-up man. Devine, whose brother Matt is the Wolfpack’s starting third baseman, has dominated as a junior and is one of the closest players to the majors in this year's draft. He has plenty of stuff, starting with a mid-90s fastball that touches 97, and throws it from a funky arm angle--not quite sidearm but lower than three-quarters. His frisbee slider, thrown in the mid-80s, is death to righthanded hitters, whom he dominates. Scouts like Devine’s competitiveness, makeup and athletic ability, which allows him to repeat his unorthodox delivery. He may need a changeup or split-finger pitch, though, to better attack lefthanded hitters in pro ball.

3. CHRIS MASON, rhp (National rank: 82)
School: UNC Greensboro.
Hometown: Cherryville, N.C.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 170. Birthdate: July 1, 1984.
Previously Drafted: Never.
Scouting Report: Mason would be drafted as a hitter if that’s all he did. He’s a plus defender at third base, runs well and has juice in his bat. However, it’s his lightning-quick arm that teams really covet, as he set UNC Greensboro’s single-season strikeout record with 126 in his first 103 innings. Mason’s size, athletic ability and stuff have elicited comparisons to Tim Hudson. He’s a fierce competitor who has built a reputation for dominance. He broke Kevin Millwood’s North Carolina record for strikeouts in high school, and he was an American Legion ball legend. He posted a 49-inning scoreless streak for Cherryville (N.C.) Post 100, which lost in the national championship final in 2003. Mason has a quick arm like Hudson and a fastball that reaches the 89-92 mph range. It’s a plus pitch because he commands it and it has good life. His hard curveball is a little slurvy but grades out as a plus pitch as well because he commands it and keeps it down in the strike zone. He figures to be drafted well north of the sixth round, where the Athletics snared Hudson in 1997.

4. ZACH WARD, rhp (National rank: 117)
School: Gardner-Webb.
Hometown: Kannapolis, N.C.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 235. Birthdate: Jan. 14, 1984.
Previously Drafted: Never.
Scouting Report: Ward was unheralded out of high school and began to emerge as a prospect while pitching in American Legion ball the summer after his freshman year in college. Ward first attracted attention for his slider, but he has since earned attention and outs with two potential plus pitches. His fastball reaches the low 90s with good sink, and his breaking ball has morphed from his high school slider to a power curveball. Add in a show-me change, and Ward has a chance to throw three pitches for strikes from a durable, innings-eating body. He was dominant in the Cape Cod League last summer, striking out 57 in 43 innings, yet failed to dominate the Atlantic Sun Conference this spring. Ward was used heavily (five of his 15 starts were complete games) and at times lacked command of his fastball, leading to 49 walks in 109 innings and 19 wild pitches. He has a short-arm delivery reminiscent of the late Darryl Kile, and some scouts think it will lead to an arm injury unless Ward moves to the bullpen, where he could concentrate on his fastball and curve.

(Numbers in parentheses indicate rank in North Carolina)

Top-Heavy Tar Heel State

Beyond Maybin, North Carolina offers one of its weakest draft crops in years, particularly on the prep side. LHP Drew Taylor (6) had the best chance of going high; he has good arm strength and a changeup that at times looks like a plus pitch. Taylor has shown better velocity at times than the 87-89 mph heater he showed in Perfect Game's predraft showcase in Iowa in mid-May. His lack of a consistent breaking ball and role as North Carolina State's top recruit (it reportedly will take a significant bonus to buy him out of school) make it unlikely he'll be more than an insurance pick.

While other pitchers such as Nick Conoway (8), Josh Dowdy (20), Tyler Leach (15) and Adam Warren (14) could be picked, none has done enough to warrant the money it would take to buy them out of college. Conoway is signed to Oklahoma, Dowdy is headed to East Carolina, Leach to Virginia Tech and Warren to North Carolina.

The prep that scouts and college recruiters agree took the biggest step forward in 2005 was SS Jeremy Synan (7), a lefthanded hitter with a bat ready for pro ball. Synan has room to fill out physically and hit for more power, and he's athletic and runs well enough to be picked in the first 15 rounds. Synan doesn't help himself with the glove and profiles best as a second baseman rather than as a shortstop down the road.

The state's college crop isn't much better, but that will change next year when North Carolina's young roster, featuring sophomores Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard, offers several tantalizing picks. Many other college programs in the state, such as Duke and Wake Forest, are either rebuilding or in dire need of it.

North Carolina State, however, is on its way to its third straight regional and continues to produce solid draftees who weren't drafted out of high school. Devine, a possible first-round pick, will lead off the board, and scouts can't wait to get their hands on 6-foot-10 freshman RHP Andrew Brackman, a two-sport star who plays on the basketball team.

This year, State's biggest contributions after Devine will be C Jake Muyco (10) and 1B Aaron Bates (16). Muyco is a typical catch-and-throw receiver with questions about his bat, but scouts know him well; he was drafted in 2003 after his freshman season at Columbia Basin (Wash.) Junior College. Bates, who played catcher in 2003 at San Jose State, transferred after a bureaucratic snafu left him ineligible in 2004. He has had a big spring, and he has a track record of hitting with wood, batting .339 and winning team MVP honors last summer in the California Collegiate League. He maintained his performance there even though his father died in the middle of the summer. He moved to first base to accommodate Muyco and emerged as one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's top hitters. He's strong and has good hands at the plate, allowing him to drive the ball to all fields. Bates doesn't have great loft in his swing yet and will need to hit for more power, and his 6-foot-4, 228-pound size might make a move back behind the plate difficult.

Other colleges offer mostly mid-round picks, such as UNC Wilmington RHPs Ronald Hill (11) and Jeff Moore (9). While Hill has the longer track record of success, having become the Seahawks' career wins leader, his stuff is typical. He used to throw more consistently in the low 90s but now touches 90-91. He's a sinker/slider pitcher without a strikeout pitch, and his competitiveness works to his advantage. Moore has come on this spring while moving from the bullpen to the rotation. He's retained most of the velocity on his fastball, in the 90-94 range, yet remains better suited for the bullpen because of his maximum-effort delivery. Moore is deliberate to the plate and doesn't have pretty mechanics, but his power-pitching style and improving slider could get him drafted higher than Hill.

Louisburg Junior College has an impressive array of draft talent, much of it already under control to other clubs, starting with RHPs Woods Fines (12), who has had bouts of tendinitis in his arm this spring, and Marcus Covington (13), who has arm strength but is short and lacks consistent command.