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2005 Draft Scouting Reports: Washington
By Allan Simpson
(National ranking in parentheses)
1. TIM LINCECUM, rhp (National rank: 72)
2. BRENT LILLIBRIDGE, ss (National rank: 88)
3. ZACH SIMONS, rhp (National rank: 135)
OTHERS TO WATCH
(Numbers in parentheses indicate rank in Washington)
Junior Colleges Provide Plentiful Talent
Bellevue Community College RHP Brad Clapp (4) was one of the top high school pitchers in Washington a year ago, but concerns about the effort in his delivery caused teams to shy away from him and he slipped to the Pirates in the 19th round.
Rather than fulfill a scholarship opportunity at Washington State, he elected instead to attend nearby Bellevue CC, where coach Mark Yoshino has reconstructed the mechanics of a number of Washington’s top pitching prospects in recent years. As a premium draft-and-follow, he was expected to sign with Pittsburgh prior to the draft. The 6-foot-5 Clapp has a major league look to him and showcased three big league pitches, including a fastball that touched 94-95 mph this spring. He also has a hammer curve, which he often has trouble controlling because the break is so pronounced. He has cleaned up his delivery, though he still labors a bit. With a better physique than Lincecum and more history of success than Simons, he may have the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the Pacific Northwest.
Along with Simons, RHP J.T. Zink (8) was part of a dynamic 1-2 pitching punch at Everett CC. He had an outstanding year after transferring from San Diego State, going 6-3, 1.51. While scouts aren’t sold on his sidearm delivery, they were impressed with the command of his 89-91 mph sinking fastball, as well as his 77-81 mph slider.
Huge numbers of scouts came for Simons and Zink, and they stayed for OF Aaron Cunningham (5). The unheralded freshman tore up the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges, hitting .489-10-56, earning MVP honors and nearly winning the league’s triple crown. Exceptionally strong at 6 feet and 190 pounds, Cunningham hit a number of long wood-bat home runs with one of the purest swings in the Northwest. His other tools, mainly his speed and arm strength, are slightly above-average.
Edmonds Community College 1B Ryan Streiby (19) can launch balls, too, but from a 6-foot-6, 235-pound frame. He had a tendency to struggle against good pitching, and scouts wonder if he’ll hit enough at the next level. A Dodgers draft-and-follow, he has committed to Kentucky.
Lower Columbia Junior College LHP Ryan Shaver (14) has a projectable 6-foot-5, 175-pound frame with an easy arm action, raising hopes he’ll add velocity to an already lively 90 mph fastball. A native Alaskan, he should be that state’s only product to get drafted this year, if he doesn’t sign as a draft-and-follow with the Giants, who selected him in the 29th round in 2004.
Columbia Basin Junior College SS/OF Steve Marquardt (20) continues to be a puzzle for Northwest scouts. Big and strong with above-average power and arm strength, he once looked like an almost certain first-rounder out of high school. But he has raised a lot more questions than he’s answered in the last couple of years. He’s been indecisive about going to school, choosing Washington State late last summer over Texas and Washington. But almost as soon as classes started at WSU, he decided to transfer to junior college in his hometown of Kennewick. As a shortstop and pitcher, he was the best player in last year’s American Legion World Series as he led Kennewick to a second-place finish. But he’s shown little of that talent this spring as he bounced from shortstop to third base to the outfield to the mound, and even DH. He also has shown little enthusiasm on the field. Marquardt was drafted by the Phillies in the 37th round a year ago, but he’s not under control because he enrolled in a four-year school before heading to junior college.
Bad Grades For High Schoolers
Washington has become one of the most productive states outside the Sun Belt in churning out high school talent, but this year marks an exception. Almost every top prep prospect went backward to some degree this spring, so the state may not have a high school player drafted in the first five or six rounds.
RHP Scott Deal (6) remains the state's best prospect, but he was inconsistent all season. He would show a fastball up to 93 mph with an average slider when at his best, but less velocity with a flatter slider on his off days. At 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, he has plenty of room for growth and needs work his curve and changeup. Deal has committed to Washington State, but is considered signable if he’s picked in the first 10 to 15 rounds.
RHP Mason Tobin (11) also committed to Washington State, but he probably will end up in a junior college. Like Deal, he was inconsistent all spring. A fastball that was clocked routinely at 91 mph in the past was 88-90 with late, heavy life this spring on a good day, but only 86-87 on others. RHP Mikey Griffith (10) has much the same story. A 92 mph fastball in the past topped out at 88-89 this spring, with a low of 83-86 on some days. But scouts say his arm works fine and his 75-78 mph curveball has a chance to be a plus pitch. Griffith has committed to play at Seminole State (Okla.) Junior College, which raises his chances of becoming the first high school player drafted from the state.
RHP Jared Prince (15) is one of the few Washington high school players whose stock improved this spring. He was the state’s top quarterback last fall but turned his attention to baseball when none of the area’s top colleges showed an interest in him as a football player. He signed in April to Washington State to play baseball. Athletic and projectable with a quick arm, Prince’s fastball was clocked at 86-90 mph and he showed a feel for three other pitches, including a changeup—his best pitch.
SS Danny Cox (16), whose cousin K.C. Herren was a second-round pick of the Rangers in 2004, is still coming back after breaking a bone in his back last year. Though he was cleared to play by doctors, he still seemed bothered by the injury, especially on defense where he was often stiff and tentative. At the plate, he showed a good approach to hitting and routinely put on a big power display in batting practice, though he didn’t always carry it into games. Cox has committed to Washington and is a prime candidate to be a late-round pick who a team would monitor through the summer and make a possible late run at.
In past years, many of Washington’s top high school players left the state to attend colleges in the South. Washington and Washington State managed to corral most of the talent this year except for C Max Kwan (22), who will attend Tulane if he doesn’t sign. Scouts are all over the map on him, with a handful appreciating his raw power and arm strength. More clubs, though, see a questionable approach to hitting, fringy receiving skills and slow feet.
Tough Year In College
It was also a disappointing year at the college level in Washington, as the injury-plagued Huskies fell far short of their preseason No. 8 ranking and rebuilding Washington State won just once in the Pac-10.
Washington senior 1B Kyle Larsen (9), who is represented by Scott Boras, wasn't drafted a year ago when he hit .344-11-55, and he went backward at the plate, hitting just .286-8-35. Scouts say his bat has gotten progressively slower and he no longer projects the power he did coming out of high school. Senior OF Taylor Johnson (13), on the other hand, finally showed what scouts said he was capable of. A career .250 hitter, Johnson batted .310-8-40 this year and showed all the tools—an above-average arm, average to plus speed, raw power—that he has flashed since he turned down a six-figure bonus out of high school.
Gonzaga C Kiel Thibault (7) didn’t repeat his success from 2004, when he hit .424-3-35 and was named the West Coast Conference player of the year. He still had three homers and 35 RBIs, but his average tumbled to .312. Still, he impressed scouts with his approach at the plate and a quick, short stroke that is geared more to contact than power. He has excellent receiving skills with a below-average arm, but he should do fine behind the plate because scouts praise his grit and determination. He projects as a backup at the big league level, similar to Gonzaga product Mike Redmond, who went undrafted but has hung around the big leagues for eight years.
Washington State senior C Brady Everett (21) will also be drafted, but nowhere near as high as Thibault. A transfer from Clemson, he had a bigger year at the plate than Thibault, hitting .340-15-62, but power is his only major league tool.
There could be a bidding war before the draft for Washington State LHP Jimmy Freeman (12), a fifth-year senior who pitched well early, with a lively fastball that touched 90. A poor arm action led to command issues later on, and he wasn’t nearly as effective over the second half of the season. Gonzaga 1B Jeff Culpepper (17) also was eligible to sign prior to the draft as a fifth-year senior—but only with the Cubs, who drafted him in the 24th round a year ago. A line-drive hitter with a good approach at the plate, Culpepper has never shown the consistent power scouts believe is in his bat.