1. *Ryan Ludwick, of, U. of Nevada-Las Vegas
OF Ryan Ludwick was projected as the only college outfielder to crack the first round at the start of the 1999 season, but those prospects dimmed when he didn't show the consistent power expected from a corner outfielder. All his other tools measured up. He is strong and runs well for his size. He is also an aggressive and instinctive outfielder with sound hitting skills. His older Eric has bounced around the big leagues in the last four years . . . RHP Mike Esposito is the latest in a long line of undersized Las Vegas high school pitchers who have uncanny polish and command that belies their age. The first was Greg Maddux in 1984 and the list has expanded to include Taylor Myers, a second-round pick in 1996, and Mike Nannini, a first-rounder in 1998. The 5-foot-10 Esposito, an Arizona State signee, is as refined as any high school pitcher in this year's draft. His height probably will keep him out of the first round. He has the ability to work three pitches, including a 92-93-mph fastball, in and out on hitters and shows no hesitation about throwing his curveball when behind in the count. The downside is that Esposito's already close to his ceiling . . . C Kenny Riley is fundamentally sound behind the plate with an excellent arm. He also pitches on occasion and has been clocked as high as 90 mph off the mound. Riley, who has committed to Arizona, is not nearly as advanced with the bat. His hitting mechanics are a little long and stiff . . . James Burgess, a Tulane signee, is an outstanding athlete but just a fair runner. His bat lags even more behind. He has a long swing and doesn't make regular contact . . . Jake Laidlaw is a shortstop now but will probably end up at third base. His defensive skills are just average but he can swing the bat . . . RHP Randy Messenger has good arm strength and can run up radar-gun readings to 92 mph, but he turns off a lot of scouts who think he's immature. He could be an easy sign.
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