NORTHERN PLAINS **
(Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota)
1. Ryan Gripp, 3b, Creighton U.
3B Ryan Gripp reminds scouts of Jeff Bagwell at a similar stage of development. Bagwell, then a third baseman, was a fourth-round pick out of college, and Gripp projects there as well. Big and strong with good actions at third, it's his bat that gets scouts excited. He has outstanding bat speed and good raw power. He so terrorized Indiana State in a Missouri Valley Conference series earlier this year that he was intentionally walked eight times in a row . . . Six-foot-1, 250-pound 1B Ken Harvey also wields a big stick and led NCAA Division I in hitting heading into postseason play. He was over .500 most of the year. Scouts describe him as a shorter Frank Thomas. He has long arms for his short, thick frame and swings the bat aggressively. He is immobile around the bag and is really a one-tool player for practical purposes . . . OF Bryan Erstad was supposed to be the second coming in North Dakota, but he didn't even try out for baseball this spring. Instead, he ran track with a mission to break his brother Darin's state record in the 110-yard high hurdles. He wasn't expected to play any baseball until a week before the draft, when the local American Legion season began. Erstad intends to follow his brother's path by playing baseball in college for three years before giving professional baseball a whirl. He has committed to Wichita State. It's possible he may not be drafted at all, though the Angels may take him in a late round as a publicity stunt. Like his brother, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1995 draft, Erstad is athletic. His tools at this stage of his career do not measure up to his brother's . . . Six-foot-5 LHP Derek Verhelst has the dilemma of being from a state that doesn't play high school baseball and being too old to play in South Dakota's respected Legion program. He had an outstanding season in Legion ball last summer. His only real opportunity to showcase his stuff this spring has been in tryout camps. For the most part, he performed poorly. He finally got his velocity back up into the high 80s at the heavily attended Perfect Game Showcase in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on May 19 and may have convinced scouts he's worth a shot.
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