1. *Richard Stahl, lhp, Newton County HS, Covington
East Cobb County in northwest Atlanta is acclaimed as one of the richest talent pools in the country, but three players from other parts of Georgia are at the top of this year's draft heap . . . Six-foot-6 LHP Richard Stahl grades out as a mid-first-round pick and may be the first lefthander drafted. He has an outstanding physique with a loose, quick arm. He is unpolished but has an exceptionally high upside. With the exception of a brief midseason slump, his fastball registered 93-94 mph this spring. His curve is also an above-average pitch when thrown for strikes . . . OF Vince Faison is the best athlete in the state. He has excellent tools and has been compared favorably to Corey Patterson, the third player drafted a year ago. Patterson is just more refined. Faison runs the 60 in 6.4 seconds, has an above-average arm and surprising pop. He has committed to Georgia as a defensive back, and that will give him leverage in his negotiations--especially if he is asked to forgo a football career. He would be a perfect pick for the Braves, who love talented-but-unfinished home-state players (see George Lombard). They don't pick until 82nd overall, though, and Faison should be long gone by then . . . Brandon Phillips is the best shortstop in the state, though he has his share of detractors. Largely unknown at the start of the year, he is a quality middle infielder with an athletic body, above-average arm and excellent bat speed. He will need to make adjustments at the plate. Like Faison, he has committed to Georgia, but he is considered a relatively easy sign. Those who aren't sold on Phillips say he is just an average runner and does little else . . . The most talented single team in the country may be Lassiter High in Marietta, which went wire-to-wire to win the Georgia 5-A title after being ranked No. 1 nationally in the preseason by Baseball America. Four or possibly five Lassiter players will be drafted, and at least five Lassiter players have signed with Atlantic Coast Conference schools . . . RHP/1B Jarrod Schmidt is Lassiter's best prospect. He led the team in wins and home runs and is a legitimate two-way talent. Some scouts dropped Schmidt's stock a bit, believing he has a limited upside as a pitcher and no defined position as a hitter. He exerts maximum effort on the mound and has two legitimate big league pitches: a fastball that sits on 91-92 mph and touches 93, and a tight slider. With the bat, he has a short, compact stroke like Jeff Bagwell. He would be a more premium pick if could master third base, which he has played on occasion. He doesn't run well but competes hard. Schmidt has committed to Clemson, where he could go both ways. It could take high-round money to buy him away, money his talent might dictate anyway . . . C Tyler Parker is a good receiver with an athletic body and good makeup. His arm is just average but improving. He is a solid hitter and the ball jumps off his bat. A strong commitment to Georgia Tech could take him out of the early-round mix . . . OF Michael DeRosa, a North Carolina signee, has battled Schmidt for the team home run lead all spring. While he lacks one exceptional tool, he has solid hitting skills . . . Lassiter does not have a monopoly on the talent in Cobb County. RHP Philip Perry slipped as a prospective draft pick when he was sidelined by a tender elbow. He showed an 89-90-mph fastball in his first few starts but was down to the mid-80s when he was shut down . . . Like Perry, RHP Aaron Sheffield has committed to Georgia Tech. It will take a lot of money to sign to him--more than most clubs may be willing to spend. His fastball, a maximum-effort pitch that lacks command at times, hits 92 mph . . . With most of Georgia Tech's talent in its freshman and sophomore class, the state's college ranks are thin . . . LHP Chuck Crowder, a third-rounder out of high school and an eighth-rounder last year as a junior, is the top college player. He has improved his stock marginally because the arm problems that plagued him as a sophomore have not returned. He's also shown a sharper breaking ball and better command. He still has the same violent arm action that scared off scouts in the past. His fastball ranges from 89-93 mph and he has no changeup to speak of . . . C Eric McQueen is a solid defensive catcher with an above-average arm. A suspect bat kept him out of the draft altogether last year and may keep him out of the first 10 rounds . . . Among the state's other top high school players, athletic OF Condor Cash has generated the greatest interest. His one big tool is power. He is below-average defensively, relegating him to left field.
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