1. *Ben Sheets, rhp, Northeast Louisiana U.
With several prospective first-round and high-round picks, Louisiana ranks right behind the state of Washington as a talent hotbed . . . Pound for pound, RHP Ben Sheets is the top pitcher in the country. Just 6-foot-1, size has never been an issue with Sheets. He has three legitimate big league pitches and command of each. Scouts say he is so polished that he could easily debut in Double-A and be in the big leagues within a year. His fastball is a comfortable 93-94 mph, occasionally hits 96 and doesn't fade in the late innings. He has two outstanding breaking balls--one a hammer 83-84-mph strikeout pitch--and two variations of a changeup. Everything in his repertoire was working in a May game against Louisiana Tech, when he struck out 20, the high in Division I this year. That performance moved him to the head of the class with 153 strikeouts (an average of 12.4 per nine innings) entering regional play . . . Sheets established himself as a potential first-round pick last summer; RHP Brian West entered that high-rent district only in the weeks leading up to the draft. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound West was throwing in the 88-91-mph range when his velocity jumped up to 94-95. West committed to Texas A&M to play defensive end, a sign of his strength and athleticism. His career goal always has been to play baseball, so signability may not be an issue. West is a year older than most high school players, and his age and mature body have some scouts wondering how much better he can get . . . Six-foot-4, 185-pound RHP Kurt Ainsworth is among the growing number of top pitching prospects who have had Tommy John surgery and are actually better for the experience. He missed his freshman year and worked in only eight innings last season while rehabbing his arm. He more than made up for it this spring. His arm held up fine under a heavy workload. He displayed good whip action and threw loose and easy while clocking in at 92-93 mph, occasionally touching 95. He has a nice breaking ball and his change continues to evolve. Ainsworth is a borderline first-rounder, and if he goes any lower he could be a tough sign because he is a good student with two years of college eligibility remaining . . . At the outset of the 1999 season, RHP Josh Teekel and LHP/1B Nick Bourgeois were the hot commodities in the state's high school ranks. Both players slipped this spring, replaced by West and two or three previously unheralded prospects . . . Teekel did not throw as hard as he did in 1998 and didn't perform as well, though he threw five shutouts, 12 complete games and struck out 150 in 100 innings. At times, he seemed reluctant to throw his fastball and resorted more to a curve and split-finger. If he slips far enough, his commitment to Louisiana State becomes a viable option . . . OF Antron Seiber was best known as a football player and pitcher prior to the season. His speed in center field and on the bases soon caught the attention of scouts. Seiber can fly. His other baseball skills are raw, but he has decent bat speed and above-average arm strength. Some clubs view him as high as a sandwich pick; others don't have him turned in at all. A football scholarship to LSU complicates the issue . . . Six-foot-5 RHP Casey Daigle seemed headed for Tulane before he ended Barbe High's 47-game winning streak. Since then, his stock has surged. His mechanics are more fluid, his velocity rose to 90-91 mph and he found the strike zone more consistently . . . Six-foot-7 RHP Andrew Green is another name that popped on the scene late. Though he reported late from basketball and threw just 30 innings this spring, teams flocked in to see him. His velocity bounced from 86-87 mph at times to 88-91 . . . Louisiana State can claim more big leaguers than any college, but the current class does not rank as one of its best. With the exception of Ainsworth, no LSU players should be selected in the first five rounds . . . C Brad Cresse, son of former Dodgers coach Mark Cresse, projected as a high-round pick on the basis of 29 home runs in 1998. His power numbers fell dramatically this year, in part because he broke his hand and was out for three weeks. He still puts on amazing displays in batting practice. The heavier aluminum bats used this year in college led to more long, lazy flyouts. He'll go only as far as his bat takes him because there are holes in all other areas of his game. His lack of defensive skills behind the plate may eventually push him to first base . . . RHP Devin Rogers will get the opportunity in pro ball that he didn't get in college--a chance to pitch. The 6-foot-6 Rogers oozes athletic ability and throws 93-95 mph with a loose action, but worked only 17 innings because he couldn't find the plate . . . Five-foot-9 Canadian LHP Phil Devey, on the other hand, is an artist. He has excellent command of three pitches, including an outstanding slider. His lack of size and velocity (85-86 mph) will keep him out of the top rounds . . . 1B Ben Broussard was the hitter of the year in the Southland Conference in 1998 but wasn't drafted. He took that snub as an incentive to get bigger and stronger for his senior year. He hit 27 homers and drove balls farther and faster than before, and now is looked as a legitimate lefthanded bat.
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