2005 Draft: Midseason High School Update
By Allan Simpson
Top 50 High School Prospects
Virginia shortstop Justin Upton is the No. 1 high school player in this year’s draft class. North Carolina outfielder Cameron Maybin remains a solid No. 2.
On that score, little has changed over the first half of the 2005 season.
Upton, the younger brother of Devil Rays prospect B.J. Upton, has done little to change the minds of scouting directors, even as more are coming to the conclusion that Upton’s future may be in center field, and not at shortstop. One scouting director even said Upton’s upside as a center fielder is so high that he would compare favorably to the Braves’ Andruw Jones, arguably the best defensive outfielder in the game.
“He’s a natural center fielder, a potential 80 (on the 20-80 scouting scale),” a National League crosschecker said. “It’s a waste of his time staying at shortstop. He’s going to fight just to be an average player at that position.”
“Upton can’t play shortstop,” an American League scouting director said. “Well, if you want to stick with him for five to six years, you could bash him enough ground balls and he has enough athletic ability that he could probably play shortstop. But if you stick him in center field right now, he could be an all-star in two to three years. The problem is, I think he wants to play shortstop.”
Not all scouting directors are ready to give up on Upton as a shortstop just yet. He has the speed, range, hands and arm strength for the position, but even his biggest supporters acknowledge he is having difficulty making accurate throws across the diamond.
“He has trouble getting his arm and feet lined up,” an AL scouting director said. “He’s become very mechanical throwing the ball. He can pick it up OK and he’s got arm strength; he just has trouble throwing it accurately.”
Maybin, meanwhile, has played a steady center field this spring while continuing to swing a hot bat. Through his first 20 at-bats, he was hitting .800-5-13 with 11 stolen bases.
Pitchers On The Move
While Upton and Maybin continue to rank 1-2 in a Baseball America midseason survey of scouting directors, the high school pitching has experienced a shakeup.
California righthander Sean O’Sullivan was the No. 1 hurler at the start of the year, but he has been plagued by delivery problems leading to a significant loss of velocity. He came out throwing 86-87 mph, not the 95 he flashed consistently in 2004.
“O’Sullivan has definitely not been at his best,” an AL scouting director said, “but he still has some time to turn it around.”
In his place, 6-foot-7 Florida righthander Chris Volstad has surged to the head of the pack. He had allowed one earned run, nine hits and three walks in his first 38 innings, while striking out 61. He was particularly impressive in an early-season matchup against Wellington High’s Tyler Herron that drew a throng of scouts.
“Volstad had everything—he was 94 with power stuff,” an AL crosschecker said. “He had it all that night.”
No prep pitchers have climbed further than Utah lefthander Mark Pawelek and Tennessee righthander Bryan Morris.
“Without a doubt the high school player making the biggest push this spring is Pawelek,” an AL scouting director said. “Guys are running in there to see him. I know in his last outing he topped out at 94-95 and didn’t throw a pitch under 91.”
Morris was a relative unknown entering 2005 after he did not attend any major showcase events last year. But his stock skyrocketed when he spun no-hitters in his first two outings with an outstanding curveball and a fastball that touched 95.
The other pitcher who has made a big early impression is Texas righthander Craig Italiano. With a fastball that has touched 98 mph, he’s been the hardest-throwing pitcher in the high school ranks this spring. But scouts are reluctant to move him ahead of Volstad, Pawelek and Morris because they aren’t sold on his violent delivery.
With two months remaining before this year’s draft, scouts were reserving judgment on some of the pitchers in colder climates. But they are eager to bear down on such arms as the Illinois tandem of Michael Bowden and Mike Broadway, Ohio lefthander David Duncan, Michigan righthander Zach Putnam, Kentucky righthander Chaz Roe and Connecticut righthander Josh Zeid.
“There’s more pitchers than there were last year,” an AL scouting director said, “but there’s no one like a Homer Bailey or Mark Rogers or a healthy Nick Adenhart. Chris Volstad is good, but he’s not that good. There’s a lot of depth.”
With Upton (assuming he moves) and Maybin headlining the list, this year’s crop of prep outfielders is one of the strongest in draft history. As many as seven or eight have been crosschecked as potential first-round talents.
Florida’s Andrew McCutchen has been everything scouts were hoping for, showcasing the speed and overall hitting ability to justify his being selected in the top half of the first round.
The biggest mover has been Jay Bruce, who has leapfrogged outfielders Jordan Danks, Austin Jackson and Kyle Russell to become the top position player in Texas.
“Bruce has been really impressive,” an NL crosschecker said. “He’s got five above-average tools; he can run and throw, and he has big power. We just need to see more playability.”
California’s John Drennen and Alabama’s Colby Rasmus have been two of the nation’s hottest high school hitters for two of the hottest teams. Rasmus was hitting .539-15-43 in 76 at-bats for Russell County High, the nation’s No. 1 team. Drennen was hitting .542-10-31 in 48 at-bats for Rancho Bernardo High, the No. 3 team.
“We expected a (position) player-oriented draft, and it has held up,” an AL scouting director said.
Contributing: Jim Callis.
Top 50 High School Prospects