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2004 MLB Draft: First Round

1. Padres: Matt Bush, ss, Mission Bay HS, El Cajon, Calif.
At 5-foot-10, his size would be an issue if not for his exceptionally strong arms and legs. His arm is also a special tool. His best asset may be his glove. He has outstanding lateral movement, lays out for balls in the hole and is quick at turning the double play. He's more of a contact hitter than a power hitter, but scouts say he should hit better with wood than aluminum. He projects as a .270-.290 hitter.
2. Tigers: Justin Verlander, rhp, Old Dominion
Verlander might have the best pure stuff in the draft. He has a tall, upright delivery with a lighting-quick arm, and a fastball that tops out at 99 mph with hard run and sink. He complements it with a curveball that has good late depth and sharp bite, and a deceptive changeup that has fastball arm speed and late fade and sink. Verlander's biggest obstacle is his lack of command as he struggles to repeat his delivery.
3. Mets: Philip Humber, rhp, Rice
Scouts considered Humber the safest pick among the three Rice aces. He has three plus pitches: a 90-94 mph fastball that scrapes 97, a true 12-6 curveball, and a splitter that he uses as a changeup. The run on his fastball is inconsistent and the pitch flattens out at times, but his curveball is a big-time strikeout pitch and his splitter keeps batters off balance. Strong and durable, he has been injury-free and has the most resilient arm of the Rice first-rounders.
Devil Rays
4. Devil Rays: Jeff Niemann, rhp, Rice
Niemann hasn't been at 100 percent this season. He had arthroscopic surgery last fall to clean out inflamed tissue in his elbow. His fastball registers 92-97 mph, and his 6-foot-9, 260-pound frame allows him to drive the ball down in the zone and make it that much more difficult to hit. His slider, the best breaking pitch in the draft, hits 87 mph. He also has a spike curveball and a changeup but hasn't needed them very often in college.
5. Brewers: Mark Rogers, rhp, Mount Ararat HS, Orr's Island, Maine
His fastball was so dominant against weak competition in Maine this spring that he struck out 99 in his first 38 innings, while allowing just three hits. Rogers' lean, athletic build with room to fill out and get stronger. His fastball generally sits in the 90-95 mph range, with natural, hard running action and occasional bore. Rogers' hammer curve has solid rotation with three-quarter break and excellent depth for his arm slot. He projects as a No. 2 or 3 starter.
6. Indians: Jeremy Sowers, lhp, Vanderbilt
A slender, efficient, strike-throwing machince, Sowers pounds the zone with four pitches: an accurate, active fastball he throws anywhere from 85-91 mph, a solid-average slider and curveball, and a changeup with good movement that he uses sparingly. His consistency and makeup impress scouts nearly as much as his stuff and command.
7. Reds: Homer Bailey, rhp, La Grange (Texas) HS
The undisputed class among the nation's high school crop, Bailey was 12-1, 0.39 on the season with 10 walks and 168 strikeouts in 72 innings. He has the best fastball (92-96 mph), the best righthanded breaking ball (a hard downer curveball), the best command and the most polish among high schoolers in the draft. He still has plenty of room for projection, and Bailey will need to improve his changeup and get stronger, but that's true of almost every prep pitcher.
8. Orioles: Wade Townsend, rhp, Rice
Many scouts are projecting Townsend as a big league closer, but he has the stuff to pitch in the front of a big league rotation. His fastball velocity has fluctuated this spring, sitting at 87-89 or 90-91 mph at various times, but he has also hit 95. He also throws the nastiest curveball among the Rice trio, though sometimes it breaks so much that he can struggle to control it. He'll throw an occasional changeup to lefthanders, a pitch that needs refinement.
9. Rockies: Chris Nelson, ss, Redan HS, Decatur, Ga.
Nelson has athletic ability to spare, and ranked first on at least one team's draft board. Nelson's best tool is his arm, even though he had Tommy John surgery in the fall. Smooth and easy at shortstop, Nelson has fluid infield actions, plenty of range and good baseball savvy. His short, compact swing, makes consistent contact and has solid bat speed. Scouts project him to hit for average power down the road. Plus-plus makeup.
10. Rangers: Thomas Diamond, rhp, New Orleans
With a strong 6-foot-2, 231-pound frame and solid mechanics, Diamond holds his mid-90s velocity deep into games. His secondary pitches have room for improvement. His slider is better than his curveball, but if he could refine the curve he could wreak havoc by changing hitters' eye level. His changeup shows promise, though he rarely uses it.
11. Pirates: Neil Walker, c, Pine Richland HS, Gibsonia, Pa.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Walker, the top-ranked catcher in the draft, has a large frame with a strong build and room for development. He has a sound approach at the plate, starting from a balanced stance, and shows a fluid uppercut stroke from both sides. He has a little more lift from the right side and projects to hit with above-average power. Behind the plate, he is an excellent receiver, blocks balls well and has an average arm with a quick release.
12. Angels: Jered Weaver, rhp, Long Beach State
An intense competitor with an excellent feel for his craft, he can throw strikes with Prior-like precision--in, out, up, down. On raw stuff, though, Weaver is a step behind Prior--and even Justin Verlander. Weaver pitches off his fastball, which he normally throws at 91-92, touching 95. His curve is just an average offering. He also throws two kinds of sliders, one with greater depth that he added just this year.
13. Expos: Bill Bray, lhp, William & Mary
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Bray has two above-average pitches, a 90-94 mph fastball with riding life and occasional sink, and an 82-84 mph slider with sharp tilt and late bite. He has a herky-jerky delivery with a loose arm action and a big pitcher's body, but some scouts worry about his mechanics and the softness of his build.
14. Royals: Billy Butler, 1b/3b, Wolfson HS, Jacksonville
Butler has a mature approach. He trusts his quick hands and allows balls to get deep in the zone, giving him excellent loft power. He has natural rhythm to his swing and excellent hand-eye and body coordination. He hasn't always stayed patient this year while being been pitched around. He'll have to move across the diamond to first, or take his plus arm strength to a corner outfield spot, but he has the raw power to make the move work.
15. Diamondbacks: Stephen Drew, ss, Florida State
Drew ranks as the best position player available. Scouts agree he's more like Todd Walker, though more athletic and better defensively. Stephen is a five-tool player, average across the board but with above-average speed and well-above-average hitting ability. He has fast hands and good plate discipline, and when he's locked in can dominate a game, a series, a week or a month. Scouts agree he doesn't play his best all the time--only when he wants to.
Blue Jays
16. Blue Jays: David Purcey, lhp, Oklahoma
Though he's a 6-foot-5, 240-pound lefthander with a 90-95 mph fastball, he earned a reputation as a one-pitch pitcher who lacked consistency. Purcey started to shed that tag last summer in the Cape Cod League. Purcey still has the big fastball, and now he can hit both sides of the plate with it. His curveball and overall command are much improved, if still inconsistent.
17. Dodgers: Scott Elbert, lhp, Seneca (Mo.) HS
The consensus top high school lefthander in the nation entering the season, Elbert struck out 17 in his first start and never looked back. His fastball has sat at 90-93 mph all spring and features plenty of sink, as does his changeup. He has scrapped his curveball in favor of a slider, which has reached the mid-80s. He's polished for a prep pitcher and has an athletic frame at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds.
White Sox
18. White Sox: Josh Fields, 3b, Oklahoma State
Fields should hit for average and power, and he's patient enough to take walks when he's pitched around. The Cowboys thought about moving him to first base last fall because he's raw at the hot corner, but he has stayed at third and should be a solid defender in time. He moves well, has good hands and a strong, accurate arm. He just needs more repetitions, which will come when he gives up football, in order to improve his reads and instincts.
19. Cardinals: Chris Lambert, rhp, Boston College
Lambert's strong frame enables him to produce fastballs in the 90-96 mph range. Lambert has a sharp curveball with 11-to-5 break and good rotation. It buckles hitters' knees when he throws it for strikes, which is only sporadically. Command of all his pitches has been an issue. His changeup is a fair pitch, but he slows his delivery when he throws it and drops his arm angle. Lambert has a full-effort delivery and needs to smooth out his mechanics.
20. Twins: Trevor Plouffe, ss, Crespi HS, Northridge, Calif.
Scouts remain divided on Plouffe's future position, but most say he'll be a shortstop in pro ball. He has a wiry frame, soft hands and fluid middle-infield actions in the mold of Robin Yount, and he's been clocked at 91 mph off the mound. His range and arm strength are a notch below Matt Bush, but Plouffe may be a better hitter. He has a flatter swing path and the wrist action needed to drive balls. He's also a better runner.
21. Phillies: Greg Golson, of, John Connally HS, Austin
Golson's package of five tools is as attractive as any in the draft. His most obvious tool is his top-of-the-line speed. He has the bat speed and hand-eye coordination to hit for power and average. Defensively, both his range and arm are plus tools. He will need to make some offensive adjustments as a pro, as his swing is more choppy than fluid, but scouts believe he'll be able to do so.
22. Twins: Glen Perkins, lhp, Minnesota
The draft-eligible lefthander who shows three plus pitches at times and commands them well. Perkins maintains an 88-92 mph fastball throughout games and can throw it to both sides of the plate. His changeup is his second-best pitch, and he has a good curveball that scouts would like to see him use more often. The only thing not to love is Perkins' body. While he won't grow much taller (5-foot-11, 190 pounds), he could firm himself up.
23. Yankees: Philip Hughes, rhp, Foothill HS, Santa Ana, Calif.
Hughes has the complete package, including a power arm that can generate 93-95 mph heat. He also has excellent body control for a pitcher his size, a fluid delivery and an advanced feel for his craft. He isn't a big strikeout pitcher because his fastball lacks movement, and he was more concerned with tightening his mechanics and developing his offspeed stuff, which ranges from a tight slider to a slurvy breaking ball.
24. Athletics: Landon Powell, c, south Carolina
The 235-pound Powell has firmed up this season with the help of a personal trainer and shown several above-average tools. He's especially dangerous from the left side. His arm strength and accuracy are pluses, and he quickens his throws at times by throwing from his knees. He blocks balls well and has shown durability and leadership. He got too big and soft last season, and clubs still fear his body could go south.
25. Twins: Kyle Waldrop, rhp, Farragut HS (Tenn.)
He didn't yield an earned run in his first 51 innings while batting .477-13-63. Scouts like him better on the mound for pro ball, as he throws an easy 88-91 mph fastball with an above-average spike curveball, while showing a feel for his changeup.
26. Athletics: Richie Robnett, of, Fresno State U.
Robnett led the Bulldogs in batting (.373), home runs (13), RBIs (50) and stolen bases (21). He showed better bat speed than in the past, and his stock soared when he held his own against Rice's stellar staff in a three-game series. All his other tools play well. He's an above-average center fielder who gets excellent jumps on fly balls. He has been timed in the 60-yard dash in 6.6 seconds.
27. Marlins: Taylor Tankersley, lhp, U. of Alabama
His sturdy 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame and strong lower half help him pump fastballs regularly in the 88-92 mph range with average life; he can run it up to 94 and maintains his velocity well. He's aggressive with the pitch, attacking hitters inside and making them prove they can hit it. Tankersley's breaking ball, a power slider, plays average, and he's shown a feel for a changeup in a starting role.
28. Dodgers: Blake DeWitt, 3b, Sikeston HS (Missouri)
Though scouts say he has been a little anxious this spring, DeWitt still has batted .544 with 11 homers and is one of the safest bets to hit among the draft's high school prospects. He's a sound, strong lefthanded hitter whose power still shows when he uses wood in batting practice. DeWitt has arm strength and athleticism, but he's not a true shortstop.
29. Royals: Matt Campbell, lhp, U. of South Carolina
Most scouts agree that if he doesn't cut it as a starter he would at least be a solid lefty specialist in the bullpen. Campbell commands an above-average curveball well. He's added a slider and a good changeup since coming to South Carolina, but his propensity for throwing breaking stuff has hurt his velocity. While he touched the low 90s out of the pen last summer, he worked in the 85-89 mph range for most of the spring.
30. Rangers: Eric Hurley, rhp, Wolfson HS, Jacksonville
Hurley has gone from pitching in the 90-93 mph range to 92-95 consistently, hitting at least 96 in eight straight outings and maintaining his velocity deep into games. Pitching for one of the nation's top teams, he went 13-1, 0.70 with 11 walks and 139 strikeouts in 90 innings. He's flashed an average slider and changeup. At times he gets around his breaking ball a bit, when he drops his elbow, and doesn't command it.

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