Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lookin' Ahead

Hey, the Bucs have a day off, and the coaches were good enough to let the boys run free today, so we're sure they're out golfing, beach-bumming, or whatever else young guys in Florida with clubhouse fever do with a hooky day.

We're off too, news-wise, so we thought we'd spend the time looking at what's become a big event now that Dave Littlefield and Ed Creech got their walking papers - draft day. Here's a capsule look at some of the young guns:

Top Five Pitchers: Stephen Strasburg, RHP, San Diego State - he's da bomb, throws 100 MPH heat with movement plus a slider and change. Scott Boras is his agent, of course, and the Nats couldn't sign their #1 Aaron Crow last year, so we'll see what nest he ends up in. Strasburg is everyone's primo beast this year.

Alex White, RHP, North Carolina - he reaches the mid-90s with a splitter and slider. The junior has 196 K's in 200 innings going into this year. White is still a little on the wild side, with 90 walks over that period.

Aaron Crow, RHP, Missouri/Fort Worth Cats - last year, he threw 107 innings for the Tigers, going 13-0 with a 2.35 ERA, 127 strikeouts and yielding 38 walks. Crow was an All-American and won the 2008 Roger Clemens Award, given to the best college pitcher. But he and agent JD Smart ended up about a $1M smackeroos short of a deal with the Nats, so back into this year's pond he goes after some indy ball.

Andy Oliver, LHP, Oklahoma State - he was suspended for having an agent when first drafted in 2006, but that was thrown out of court last month. He dumped the first rep for Scott Boras, and that's what is alleged to have set off the fireworks. Anyway, he's compared to ex-Angel Chuck Finley. His sits in the 89-93 range, touching 95, works inside, has good control and sink, and gets a ton of groundouts. Oliver needs to improve his secondary pitches.

Kyle Gibson, LHP, Missouri - the 6'6" junior's fastball hits the low ninties, and he has a good slider and change. Probably a mid-round pick; he's what the scouts like to call "projectable."

Next Up: Mike Minor, LHP, Vanderbilt; Kendal Volz, RHP, Baylor; Tanner Scheppers, RHP, St. Paul Saints/Fresno State (yah, him); Jason Stoffel, RHP, Arizona; Sean Black, RHP, Seton Hall.

Top Five Position Players: Grant Green, SS, Southern Cal - last year, the junior batted .390 with 15 doubles, five triples, nine home runs, 10 stolen bases and 46 RBI. He made Baseball America's third team All-America and tore it up in Cape Cod over the summer. Green is probably a top-five pick.

Dustin Ackley, 1B/OF, North Carolina - the junior is a pure hitter with good speed, but not enough power to play first. Might be a tweener, but belts line drives out almost every at-bat and has hit over .400 both years at UNC. Ackley projects as a LF and #2 type batter in MLB.

Kentrail Davis, LF, Tennessee - the soph was selected to the Freshman All-America team and is on Rivals and Baseball America's A-A squads this year. He led the Vols in batting average (.330), home runs (13), and RBI (44), hits (68), triples (3), total bases (120), hit-by-pitches (15) and on-base percentage (.435).

D.J. LeMahieu, SS, LSU - he was the Tigers’ starting shortstop as a true freshman in 2008, and hit .337 with 11 doubles, one triple, six homers, 44 RBI and 10 steals. LeMahieu was rated the #6 prospect in the Cape Cod League last year by Baseball America and was his team's MVP.

Ryan Jackson, SS, Miami (FL) - the junior hit .360 in 2008 with 19 doubles. He was one of the top defensive shorstops in the NCAA last season, committing just eight errors in 310 chances (.974) at SS. Jackson was a member of the USA Baseball National Team last year.

Next Up: Blake Smith, OF/RHP, California; AJ Pollock, OF, Notre Dame.

Top Five High School Players: Matt Purke, LHP, Klein HS (TX) - he's considered by many to be the top pitching prospect in the 2009 high school class. He pitches in the low 90’s with top flight movement to his fastball. Purke has an easy delivery and mixes in his secondary stuff; he projects as a potential #1 pitcher in the show.

Tyler Matzek, LHP, Capistrano Valley HS (CA) - he's a 6-foot-3, 215-pound pitcher with a 94 MPH fastball. Matzek reestablished himself with a series of post-season tournament games; his junior year was up and down as his dad was fighting cancer during the school year. But his father, we're glad to say, has recovered, Matzek put on 20 pounds and added some velocity to his heater, and looks like an early pick.

Donovan Tate, CF, Cartersville HS (GA) - son of Bulldog and Tampa Bay running back Lars Tate, Donovan is a five-tooler. He profiles similarly to Cameron Maybin. Tate already has Scott Boras for an agent, and is a football star, too, which may or may not affect his draft slot, though he could be a top-five baseball pick.

Mychal Givens, RHP, Plant HS (FL) - he's is a contact hitter who profiles as a number two type batter and also a smooth fielder. And don't question the kid's arm; he throws a mid 90’s fastball. Some thought he was the number two scholastic SS last year, behind top pick Tim Beckham.

Shelby Miller, RHP, Brownwood HS (TX) - Miller can do it all. His pitching line last year was 8-2 with a 1.11 ERA and 119 K's in 57 innings of work. He also hit .413-9-32. Miller committed to Texas A&M, so someone will have to show him the money to get him into the fold.

Next Up: Jacob Turner, RHP, Westminster Christian Academy (ME), Zach Wheeler, RHP, East Paudling HS (GA); and Luke Bailey, C, Troupe HS (GA).

OK, guys, that's our first look at the draft class; we're sure they'll jockey positions as June approaches. And it ain't that far away - could another Scott Boras soap opera be in the cards?

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