1. Brad Pautz, rhp, U. of Minnesota
This is a rare year for Minnesota in which 10 players--and possibly more--will be drafted. The University of Minnesota alone could have eight or nine . . . The same player who was the state's highest-drafted player a year ago should be top dog again. RHP Brad Pautz, a sixth-round pick in 1998, is back in the mix after turning down $125,000 from the hometown Twins. Pautz projects a round or two higher this time around. His price tag reportedly has more than doubled, though he is now a senior and has lost most of his bargaining leverage. Pautz, a good athlete, has a fastball that sits on 91 mph while occasionally touching 93. He has shown better consistency . . . LHP Ben Birk might have been a first- or second-rounder before he had a nagging problem with the ulnar nerve in his elbow in January. It was thought to be a short-term setback for Birk, but he was shut down for the year when the irritation didn't go away. He avoided surgery, and rest and medication appear to have cured the problem. Birk turned down an invitation to pitch in the Cape Cod League this summer. Some scouts discount the severity of Birk's problem and may draft him anyway. As a sophomore, he was a better pitcher at the same stage than former Gopher Denny Neagle. He had a better body, threw harder (89-91 mph) and threw more strikes . . . 1B Robb Quinlan set most of Minnesota's career batting records this season. Righthanded-hitting first basemen are plentiful, diminishing Quinlan's appeal . . . A year ago, only one Minnesota high school player was drafted. That number should increase this year despite disappointing seasons by 2B/OF Barry Quickstad and SS Casey Spanish, the top-rated players at the start of the year. Quickstad has all the tools, especially speed, but didn't hit. Scouts are skeptical that he ever will because of a hitch in his swing . . . Six-foot-3, 185-pound RHP Ben Hendrickson jumped into the void. He blew away the local competition with an 87-89 mph fastball.
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