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By Alan Simpson
(National ranking in parentheses)
1. CRAIG HANSEN, rhp (National rank: 10)
School: St. John’s.
Hometown: Glen Cove, N.Y.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 195. Birthdate: Nov. 15, 1983.
Previously Drafted: Never.
Scouting Report: Hansen stamped himself as a potential premium pick last summer as an all-star closer in the Cape Cod League, where he went 1-1, 0.00 with 10 saves, striking out 41 and walking two in 22 innings. He has continued his domination this spring at St. John’s, where he was 2-2, 1.41 with a school-record 14 saves to go with 77 strikeouts and 17 walks in 57 innings. He has electric stuff to match his numbers. He pounds the strike zone with a fastball that has been clocked consistently in the mid-90s and tops out at 97 mph. The velocity on his slider has been even more impressive, sitting at 85-86 mph with a high of 90. Though his fastball command wavers, he has an excellent approach to pitching and isn’t afraid to go right at hitters. He should be even more effective against wood bats. He’s suited to be a closer because of his temperament, short arm stroke and full-effort delivery. He prefers pitching in pressure situations and has an inclination to dial up his velocity with a game on the line. In recent draft history, college closers have tended to be the fastest players to the big leagues and Hansen may as ready as any player in the Class of 2005. There’s talk that he could be in the big leagues by September if he signs quickly, but as Scott Boras client he's not sure to do that. Some teams have also talked about trying him as a starter because they see a pitcher with No. 1 stuff. He was used in that role in high school—when he wasn’t drafted despite going 8-0, 0.00 with 119 strikeouts in 69 innings—and as a freshman at St. John’s. But he would have to develop his changeup, which he showed this spring in brief glimpses. It has the potential to be a third plus pitch. But the sentiment is clearly for him to be a closer, and he was on a short list of four candidates by the Diamondbacks to be the No. 1 pick overall.
2. ANTHONY VARVARO, rhp (National rank: 62)
3. PEDRO ALVAREZ, 3b (National rank: 102)
4. JAMES AVERY, rhp (National rank: 152)
OTHERS TO WATCH
(Numbers in parentheses indicate rank in New York)
Red Storm Leads Deep College Group
Sophomore-eligible RHP Anthony Sullivan (9) has nearly been forgotten behind Hansen and Varvaro, but he is a third big arm at St. John’s. He went 7-3, 2.78 for the Red Storm, while striking out 64 in 68 innings. He’s only 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, but pumps fastballs consistently at 88-92 mph and has touched 94. He doesn’t command his stuff well yet and projects as a set-up man or short reliever.
OF Greg Thomson (6) was St. John’s best offensive player this spring, leading the team in average (.377), on-base percentage (.480), slugging percentage (.639), home runs (7), RBIs (43) and stolen bases (17). He projects as a fourth outfielder in the big leagues as his tools are a bit short, though he has a good approach at the plate, runs well and is a good center fielder with an accurate arm. Injury prone, Thomson missed 29 games last year and was forced to wear a mask this spring when he was hit by a pitch that broke a bone in his face.
Some scouts say 6-foot-7, 225-pound sophomore RHP Dan Griffin (5) will be the first Niagara pitcher drafted, ahead of Avery. Griffin has a higher ceiling, but is nowhere near as polished--even though he made strides this spring. Griffin was so gangly and unrefined that he redshirted as a freshman and went 1-7, 9.55 with 27 walks and 26 strikeouts in 33 innings as a sophomore. But this year, he went 6-4, 4.37 while walking only 30 and striking out 120 strikeouts in 78 innings—one of the best ratios in the country. His fastball was 82-83 mph when he enrolled in school, but with improved mechanics now registers 90-94, and he complements it with a power curveball. His changeup needs a lot of work, and his command remains problematic.
LeMoyne’s chances of returning to the NCAA tournament this season dimmed in April when OF Aaron Bulkley (11) broke the hamate bone in his hand and SS Mike Affronti (14) broke his wrist. Bulkley had finally been showing scouts the talent that led the Pirates to draft him in the 10th round out of a New York high school in 2001. After hitting a combined .227-6-26 in his first three seasons for the Dolphins, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Bulkley changed his approach at the plate and was hitting a team-best .377. He has above-average speed, and has run 60 yards in 6.5 seconds. Affronti was hitting .343 at the time of his injury. He’s a solid player with arm strength and adequate range at shortstop, but lacks the tools and speed to be a premium pick.
The LeMoyne player scouts focused most of their attention on this spring was 3B/RHP Andre Enriquez (7), who led the team with nine homers and 49 RBIs. While he is more established as a position player, scouts were intrigued with his arm strength. He will be drafted as a pitcher, even though he worked in just eight innings this spring. He has an unrefined arm action but generated easy 92-95 mph heat. He didn’t throw a breaking ball after tweaking his elbow prior to the season; he was reluctant to work it into his repertoire for fear he would hurt his arm again. As a position player, he’s capable of putting on an impressive show in batting practice, but his long swing results in a lot of strikeouts.
Six-foot-5 LHP John Lannan (8) enjoyed a strong 2005 season, going 10-2, 2.29 while striking out 83 in 83 innings. But his fastball topped out at only 88 mph and scouts question whether his delivery will allow him to add velocity. He commands his changeup to both sides of the plate, but has no real breaking pitch as he struggles to spin a curveball. His teammate, 6-foot-7 RHP Ken Grant (21), did not have as much success this year but throws harder, topping at 91.
Six-foot-3, 220-pound RHP Andrew Bailey (12) generated a lot of early buzz with two plus pitches, a fastball that topped out at 94-95 mph and a nasty slider, but he underwent Tommy John surgery in April and likely won’t pitch again until 2006.
Six-foot-3, 190-pound LHP Chris Tracz (15) bounced back after missing 2004 with an injury to go 9-3, 2.85 and lead Marist to an NCAA regional berth--which cost Tracz a chance to sign before the draft as a fifth-year senior. Tracz doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but has been consistent throughout his college career, winning nine game as a junior in 2003 and 10 as the Metro Atlantic Conference pitcher of the year in 2002.
RHP Pedro Beato (10), who moved to New York from the Dominican Republic six years ago, is projectable at 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds. He might have challenged Alvarez to be the first high school draft in the state had he not had Tommy John surgery in April of 2004 and come back slowly this year. His velocity, up to 92 mph as a sophomore and 93 as a junior, was mostly in the 86-88 range this spring, though it occasionally reached 90. He didn’t show much of a breaking ball because he was afraid to cut loose with the pitch. Beato has indicated he won’t sign, but should be a prime draft-and-follow candidate as he has committed to Seminole (Fla.) Community College.