NORTH CAROLINA ****
1. *Josh Hamilton, of/lhp, Athens Drive HS, Raleigh
Scouts have flocked to North Carolina's Triangle (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill) this spring, most notably a large delegation from the Devil Rays organization to see OF/LHP Josh Hamilton, who emerged in March as the probable No. 1 pick. Hamilton is a legitimate two-way talent who grades out highest as a hitting prospect. He also got a strong look as a pitcher because he was clocked up to 95 mph. Were it not for his prowess as an everyday player, Hamilton would have been looked at seriously as a late first-round pick as a pitcher. He's a five-tool talent who does everything easily, with fluid actions and grace. He has outstanding bat speed and extension on his swing. He projects top-of-the-scale power. His arm strength also is first rate. He does not have the speed for center field and should settle in as a prototype right fielder. Hamilton has made subtle adjustments to his game this spring. He's gotten stronger and understands how to play the game. He's tweaked his swing to eliminate a slight hitch. If anything, he needs to address pulling off pitches with the bat and use his legs more in his swing--all things that are correctable . . . Interest from scouts has been equally high for RHP Kyle Snyder, who has had more of an up-and-down spring, causing his stock to drop marginally. He should still be among the first 10 players drafted. Snyder shot to the top of the charts after one outstanding performance last summer in the Cape Cod League, when his fastball registered 96 mph and he showed masterful command of all his pitches. He did not reach that velocity this spring, settling for a high of 94, and he was more commonly in the 89-93 range. He was shut down briefly with triceps tendinitis. The 6-foot-8 Snyder pitches on a good downward plane and is a good athlete who excels at basketball and golf. He has never won consistently at any level. At his size, it has taken a little longer to get his body under control. He has an average curve, and lack of consistency with that pitch hurt his performance this spring. He also lost the feel of his changeup for a time. That was an outstanding pitch for him a year ago . . . Snyder's teammate, LHP Mike Bynum, also has been inconsistent this spring. He has dominated at times with an 89-91-mph fastball and an outstanding slider, his out pitch. He is on top of his game when he's aggressive in the strike zone. He generally has a good feel for pitching and has a tireless work ethic. He tends to press when he gets behind in the count. . . . SS Vaughn Schill wilted under the pressure of trying to carry a disappointing Duke team. He struggled early when a lot of national crosscheckers saw him, then improved as the season wore on. While he makes all the plays demanded of a high-profile shortstop, some scouts believe he'll eventually move to second or third. He demonstrated good power with wood on the Cape last summer . . . Few college players have moved up more than RHP Mike MacDougal, who pitched so poorly a year ago as a draft-eligible sophomore that he fell to the 17th round. He now projects as a solid first-rounder. He had a tough time dealing with draft hype last season, throwing too much for the radar guns and losing his mechanics in the process. Offseason video review helped him regain them, and the improvement has been dramatic. He has a long, lanky body like Jack McDowell, outstanding stuff and has routinely hit 95-96 mph this spring with good movement on his fastball. He has sustained his velocity well throughout games. His breaking ball also has been much sharper . . . OF Eric Johnson, a Division I-AA all-America safety, decided to try his hand at baseball on an everyday basis for the first time this spring and caught the attention of a number of scouts, even crosscheckers. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound speedster had a 28-game hitting streak and was among national leaders with 45 stolen bases. He's a probable pick in next year's NFL draft . . . Johnson was discovered in the course of scouting RHP David Pember, a bulldog with a plus slider and a fastball that touches 90 . . North Carolina has an unusually high number of seniors who should be decent filler picks after being passed over in the draft a year ago . . . The exception is OF Jarrett Shearin, an 11th-round pick of the Mariners last year who has lost power. He has solid tools across the board otherwise . . . 1B Jon Palmieri has average size and is one of the best hitters to pass through the ACC in years. Even when fooled by a pitch he finds a way to get the fat part of the bat on the ball. He has gap power. An average arm limits him to first base or possibly left field . . . After Josh Hamilton, the high school talent in North Carolina falls off dramatically. The one exception is 3B/OF Alec Zumwalt, a powerful hitter primed to be drafted in the second or third round. Zumwalt, a below-average runner, kills mistake pitches and has an above-average right-field arm.
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