Tennessee's traditional high school powers, Germantown and Murfreesboro's Oakland High, are surprisingly quiet this year, but the state isn't lacking in talent. Three colleges have sure first-round picks. Middle Tennessee State has the second-best college righthander available (Dewon Brazelton), Cumberland has the second-best college lefty (Chris Smith) and Tennessee has the second-best middle infielder (Chris Burke).
Projected First-Round Picks
Dewon Brazelton. On a Team USA staff that featured Southern California's Mark Prior and UCLA's Josh Karp, Brazelton went 6-0 and set a record with a 0.65 ERA. He showed that was no fluke this spring, going 13-1, 1.44 in 14 starts before the NCAA tournament, tossing 10 complete games and posting a 148-22 strikeout-walk ratio in 119 innings. Opponents batted just .181 against him. Brazelton has a great body (6-foot-6, 210 pounds), a great fastball (92-97 mph, and he takes that velocity deep into games) and a great changeup he throws with confidence. His curveball is his third-best pitch and needs work. Known for his free-spirited personality, he has matured and become more composed as a junior. He's one of the draft's top five talents and should be the easiest player to sign from that group.
Chris Smith. As a sophomore right fielder, Smith hit .375-14-66 and was a key cog in Florida State's College World Series team. He also had the best pure arm on the team, touching 93 mph in four relief appearances, but focused on hitting because Seminoles coaches considered him their top athlete. Realizing he had a future on the mound, Smith asked for a spot in the club's 2001 rotation. When coach Mike Martin refused to give him more than an opportunity to win a job, Smith asked for his release. Martin wouldn't grant it, reducing Smith's options to NAIA schools. He wound up at Cumberland and showed an arm that ranked with Stanford's Mike Gosling's as the best among college lefthanders. Smith threw as hard as 94 mph and showed potential with a curveball and changeup. He also dominated as a DH/outfielder, batting .414-17-67 with 18 steals. As a position player, all five of his tools grade out as average or better. He could get drafted as an outfielder, but it's more likely he'll go in the middle of the first round as a pitcher.
Chris Burke. A second baseman who focused on reaching base and running wild in his first two seasons at Tennessee, Burke remade himself and emerged as the 2001 Southeastern Conference player of the year. He added loft to his swing and showed home run power, and he moved to shortstop when Stevie Daniel faltered defensively. Though he faces a move back to second as a pro because he lacks the arm for short, Burke still could go late in the first round to a team such as the Diamondbacks or Athletics. His on-base ability and speed suit him perfectly for the leadoff role. There's some question whether his new swing will work with wood. Using his old approach, he had no problem with wood last summer with Team USA. His .376 average was second on the team, trailing only Mark Teixeira, who hit .385.
Projected Second- to Fifth-Round Picks
Wyatt Allen. Some managers thought Allen had the best arm in the Cape Cod League last summer, and he may have had the best arm in the Southeastern Conference this spring. He worked consistently at 92-94 mph and got as high as 97. He has a classic pitcher's body at 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds. He mixes in a curveball and splitter and varies his arm angle so much that it drives scouts nuts. The different arm slots make Allen deceptive but cost him control. He walked 50 in 80 regular season innings, falling behind in counts as hitters tagged him for a .283 average and a 6.44 ERA. If he pitches well in the NCAA regionals, he could sneak into the supplemental first round
Dan Uggla. Uggla keyed Memphis' turnaround from 15-37 last year to 34-24 in 2001, providing power for new head coach Dave Anderson. Uggla set a school single-season doubles record and made a run at the home run mark as well. He stays on pitches well and rarely is fooled at the plate. He's an offensive player who saw time at second base, third base, shortstop and catcher for Memphis in his first two seasons before settling in at second base as a junior. He's kind of stocky at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds and has the bat for third base if he needs to move as a pro.
Jeremy Slayden. The best prospect from a lackluster Tennessee high school crop, Slayden is part of a sterling Georgia Tech recruiting class. He might be a tough sign because a hamstring injury sidelined him or limited him to DH. He didn't get much of a chance to show he could play third base. He's athletic and strong-armed, struggles making plays on the run and may not have the hands for the hot corner. His fallback position is the outfield, and he has the swing to produce enough offense to play there. He's the season and career home run leader at one of the state's top prep programs.
Others To Watch:
Hard to believe, but RHP Jim Ed Warden's February grade from the Major League Scouting Bureau was a 57two points higher than Brazelton's. That was a bit of a stretch, but Warden is 6-foot-7, lean and has touched 91 mph, so he's projectable . . . RHP Jay Sadlowe is the best high school pitching prospect in the state and probably will wind up in college because he's not tall (6-foot-1) and is committed to Tennessee. He throws 88-89 mph and has an effective breaking ball . . . RHP Jason Moates was Tennessee's top college prospect a year ago before Tommy John surgery. He has thrown 92-93 mph this spring, down from a high of 96 in the past, and his breaking ball hasn't returned to form. He's stronger than ever at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds . . . Stevie Daniel was the Volunteers' shortstop before trading positions with Burke. He has more shortstop potential than Burke and is much more erratic. He runs well and strokes line drives, and his best position might be center field . . . Chad Farr is a rare lefthander with a plus fastball (89-92 mph), and he's 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds. He hasn't committed to a four-year college, so he should be signable, though he's raw . . . RHP Brian Gates didn't pitch up to expectations at Tennessee after transferring from Sacramento CC, but he has four pitches, including an 89-93 mph fastball. Gates' best outing was eight innings of shutout ball with 11 strikeouts against Tennessee Tech in the NCAA regionals, his first victory in more than two months . . . Justin Parker, who doubles as an outfielder, and Memphis' Jason Wiedmeyer are two senior lefthanders with decent potential. Both have an average fastball and good breaking stuff . . . The state has a couple of prospects with good bloodlines. OF Jon Ashford, the son of former major leaguer Tucker, is an athletic center fielder with solid tools. Middle Tennessee State 2B Josh Renick is the son of ex-big leaguer and current Expos coach Rick. Renick was named Sun Belt Conference player of the year, and his two best attributes are his bat and his speed . . . LHP Michael Weel had a disappointing year for Austin Peay State, but draft-eligible sophomore RHP Dustin Smith returned from Tommy John surgery and threw 88-91 mph.
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