Early Draft Preview: High School Best Tools

Breaking the prep class down over 11 categories

BEST ATHLETE: Several of the top high school prospects for the 2009 draft pull double-duty between the diamond and gridiron. OF Donavan Tate (1) is committed to North Carolina on a football scholarship, though he would play both sports if he goes to college. With the ability to be a five-tool player, he's a better prospect in baseball by a considerable margin. With a 35.8 inch vertical leap and 6.70 60-yard dash speed, OF Jake Marisnick (21) is the best athlete in Southern California and another five-tool candidate as well as Brian Goodwin (9), MVP of the Aflac All-America Game. An unfortunate characteristic of the 2009 class is the presence of several superlative athletes who have questionable bats, including SS Kenny Diekroger (84) and OFs Matt Moynihan (53) and Kyrell Hudson (60). Another potential two-sport player in college, Hudson would head to Oregon State if he doesn't sign a pro contract.

BEST PURE HITTER: This is perhaps the thinnest category in 2009. The top players this year would not have sniffed the same recognition last year. C Max Stassi (13) uses the entire field to collect hits and is simply a cage rat. 1B Jonathan Singleton (79) has one of the class's easiest swings and takes a pretty batting practice, yet some mechanical glitches prevent him from producing consistently in game situations. OF Randal Grichuk (70) has a short backswing and is exceptionally strong, allowing him to drive balls consistently in all directions.

BEST POWER: Raw, dazzling BP power is far from absent in this high school draft class. 3B Matt Davidson's (16) strong, pro-ready body fuels his raw power. 1B/OF KC Hobson (66) and Singleton can also hammer the ball while 3B/1B Bobby Borchering (8) delivers serious power from both sides of the plate.

FASTEST RUNNER: OF LeVon Washington (20) puts enormous pressure on opposing defenses and has been clocked at 6.35 seconds in the 60-yard dash while Hudson covered 60 yards in 6.33 seconds at the Area Code games last summer. Other burners include OF Reggie Williams (No. 80, 6.4 sec.), Tate (6.4) and OF Billy Hamilton (No. 99, 6.4), who packs only 150 pounds onto his 6-foot frame.

BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: One of the biggest risers in the class last summer, SS Jiovanni Mier (12) takes the crown for high schoolers. Mier's glove, range and arm all project to be well above-average, and scouts rave about his feel for the game. SS Deven Marrero (28) also possesses the ability to stay at short with impressive defensive actions, good range and a strong arm. SS/2B David Nick (47) has plus defensive tools except for his arm, which may force a move to second base as a professional. Stassi earns praise on defense for his proper mechanics and strong, accurate throwing arm.

BEST FASTBALL: Radar gun readings are fun, but velocity remains only one component of a big league fastball. RHP Matt Hobgood (22) touches 95 mph and sits at 93, but his command of his four-seamer is a bit spotty. If command, movement and velocity are all figured into the equation, LHP Tyler Matzek (2) and RHP Shelby Miller (5) have the best fastballs in the class. Miller pushes 94 with his explosive and deceptive heater while Matzek sits at 90-93 and can spot it to both sides of the plate. RHP/SS Mychal Givens (7) was up to 96 at Jupiter but remains raw in terms of command and movement.

BEST SECONDARY PITCH: Matzek is one of the finest Southern California high school lefthanders seen in quite some time, and his curveball, slider and changeup all merit recognition as this year's top secondary pitches. RHP Bryan Berglund (37) has recently been displaying a monster two-plane 81-86 mph slider. LHP Matt Purke's (3) slider warrants recognition, as does RHP Jacob Turner's (4) downer, mid-70 mph curveball.

BEST COMMAND: Matzek blows the competition out of the water in this one. He exhibits command of four pitches, which is exceptionally advanced for a high schooler. LHP Tyler Skaggs (11), who is growing into his tall and lanky frame, shows the ability to move the ball around the strike zone in order to alter timing and change hitters' eye levels. With his easy delivery, RHP Scott Griggs (14) throws consistent quality strikes.

MOST INTRIGUING BACKGROUND: Stassi is a relative of Myril Hoag, an all-star outfielder who played with both Ruth and DiMaggio on the 1930s Yankees. Tate's father Lars played football for Georgia and the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Like Cutter Dykstra in 2008, both 3B/1B Cade Kreuter (96, son of Chad) and Hobson (son of Butch) boast big league dads. Marrero's cousin Chris is a top Nationals prospect. RHP Keyvius Sampson (23) was expelled from his first high school at age 15 for his role in a gun-related incident and missed his sophomore year, but has come back from that and the death of his mother after moving in with the parents of a high school teammate.

CLOSEST TO THE MAJORS: Matzek's four-pitch arsenal will help him advance through the minor leagues quickly. Pitching is the strength of this class, so other top pitchers like Purke, Miller and Skaggs could follow suit. Adjusting to professional baseball will be easier for Stassi because of his polish and knowledge of the game, and could put him on a faster track than other high school catchers.

HELIUM POTENTIAL: Despite the almost overwhelming presence of offseason tournaments and showcases, a player's showing in the spring strongly influences his draft position. That makes this the toughest category to nail down. Berglund is gaining helium in Southern California, as is C/1B Josh Leyland (89). RHP/SS David Renfroe (44) stole the show in the Under Armour All-American game at Wrigley Field last August. Renfroe struck out five of the eight batters he faced and hit the game's only home run. There is no consensus on 2B Scooter Gennett (35), but his strong, quick swing and advanced approach could help him climb draft boards throughout the spring. SS Daniel Fields (65) rates about average across the board in tools, but cold weather prospects sometimes sneak up the charts late.