1. *Casey Burns, U. of Richmond
RHP Casey Burns is easily the top college prospect in the state. He began a nomadic college career at Northwestern, moved briefly to James Madison and finally settled at Richmond, where's he's felt right at home. He's grown to 6-foot-3 with a long, loose frame, and his rise to prominence has been sudden and dramatic. He has two major league pitches: an 89-91-mph fastball that he can maintain for nine innings, and an exceptional changeup. The curve, which needs work, put him over the top this year, though he tends to overuse it because of its effectiveness. Burns should advance quickly in pro ball . . . RHP Mike Steller was the state's highest-ranked college player at the start of the year, but he hurt his shoulder after his first two starts and got a medical waiver to gain another year of eligibility. The extent of his injury is still not clear. Steller was scheduled to see noted sports doctor James Andrews in June . . . Six-foot-4 RHP Blair DeHart picked a good time to pitch one of his best games of the year. He hooked up with Burns with several crosscheckers in attendance and matched him pitch for pitch. Though he hit 93 mph that day, DeHart normally pitches from 88-91. He has three average pitches, though each is inconsistent . . . LHPs Jimmy Gobble and Joe Saunders pitched as expected this spring after being ranked as the top two prospects in Virginia entering the season. Gobble added velocity and threw in the low 90s while averaging more than two strikeouts an inning. He's more projectable than Saunders, who doesn't throw quite as hard and didn't pitch as well as a year ago. College is not a major factor for either . . . SS Jeff Baker made a significant leap forward this spring. At one point, scouts couldn't decide whether he was a better pitcher or hitter, but he settled the debate by hitting .533 with 12 homers. The question now is whether he has the tools to remain as an everyday shortstop, though he has the arm for the position. No matter, because his bat will play at any position.
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