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2005 Draft Scouting Reports: Alabama

By John Manuel
June 1, 2005


THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
It should be one of Alabama’s biggest contributions in the draft in years, as the state offers several solid college players and a good crop of high school pitchers. Most significantly, Russell County High product Colby Rasmus could be the state’s first prep player drafted in the first round since Terrence Long went 20th overall to the Mets in 1994. Colby’s brother Cory and teammate Kasey Kiker, a lefthander likely to be a first-round pick next year, will make Alabama a must-visit state in 2006 as well.

(National ranking in parentheses)
Potential First-Round Picks
1. Colby Rasmus (30), of, Russell County HS, Phenix City
Potential Second-Fifth Round Picks

2. Clete Thomas (99), of, Auburn
3. Josh Sullivan (105), rhp, Auburn
4. Josh Bell (114), c, Auburn
5. Michael Nix (162), rhp, Auburn
6. Aaron Weatherford (181), rhp, Fairhope HS, Fairhope
7. Trevor Holder (197), rhp, Mountain Brook HS, Birmingham

Others Of Note
8. Adam Godwin, of, Troy
9. T.J. Large, Alabama
10. John Madden, rhp, Auburn
11. Evan Crawford, lhp, Prattville HS
12. Austin Graham, rhp, Spain Park HS, Birmingham
13. Alex Aucoin, lhp, Faulkner
14. Landon Brazell, rhp, Troy
15. Blake Cooper, rhp, Shelton State JC (CONTROL: Angels/41)
16. Gabe Scott, of, Alabama
17. Karl Amonite, 1b, Auburn
18. Kyle Cofield, rhp, Southside HS, Rainbow City
19. Evan Bush, 3b, Alabama
20. Brent Carter, lhp, Alabama
21. Arnold Hughey, lhp, Auburn
22. Danny Andres, rhp, Jacksonville State
23. Trevion Griffin, of, Wallace JC
24. Matt Montgomery, rhp, Alabama Southern JC
25. Michael Davitt, rhp, Davidson HS, Mobile


1. COLBY RASMUS, of (National rank: 30)
School: Russell County HS.
Hometown: Phenix City, Ala.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 183. Birthdate: Aug. 11, 1986.
College Commitment: Auburn.
Scouting Report: Rasmus emerged as an elite prospect as the MVP of the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Fall Championship last year, going 12-for-21 with 15 RBIs. He has since added 15 pounds of muscle to his frame and had a tremendous spring. His father Tony coaches Colby and his brother Cory, a junior infielder and pitcher, at Russell County High, which advanced to the state championship series behind a three-hit shutout from Colby. Colby and Cory helped take Phenix City to the Little League World Series in 1999, and the team won the United States bracket before losing to Japan in the championship final. Now Colby Rasmus could go nine rounds higher than his father, who was a 10th-round pick in 1986. Rasmus’ tools grade out average or above across the board. He covers 60 yards in 6.7 seconds and has a plus arm, throwing fastballs up to 91 mph off the mound. Besides his tools, scouts love his maturity and savvy for the game. Some compare Rasmus to Steve Finley, while others believe he evokes Shawn Green; it depends on whether the scout believes Rasmus can stay in center field. He has a short, simple lefthanded swing that he repeats, and the barrel of the bat stays in the hitting zone a long time. While he could use a better load to his swing, he at times produces good leverage, leading scouts to believe he'll hit for at least average power. He’s considered motivated to sign despite his Auburn commitment.

2. CLETE THOMAS, of (National rank: 99)
School: Auburn.
Hometown: Lynn Haven, Fla.
B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Birthdate: Nov. 14, 1983.
Previously Drafted: Twins 2002 (5).
Scouting Report: Thomas was a premium draft pick out of high school along with current Auburn teammate Josh Bell, and both will probably go in the same range or slightly better as college juniors. Neither has improved dramatically in college, distressing for scouts who see plus tools in both players. Thomas’ tools fit a center-field profile, but he plays right field for the Tigers, and scouts aren’t sure if he has the instincts for center. He lacks the power for right, and in attempting to hit for more power this spring, he’s become a dead-pull, guess hitter, leading to more homers (seven, after hitting six in his first two seasons combined) and more strikeouts (55 in just 209 at-bats). Thomas is an above-average runner and good basestealer with a strong throwing arm, but his production has not matched his tools.

3. JOSH SULLIVAN, rhp (National rank: 105)
School: Auburn
Hometown: Little Rock
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 200. Birthdate: April 5, 1984.
Previously Drafted: Never.
The offensive backfield of Auburn’s football team produced three first-round picks in the NFL draft in April, and could produce a premium pick in baseball’s draft. Sullivan followed in Blue Jays farmhand Gabe Gross’ footsteps, starting off at Auburn as a two-way player and earning playing time at quarterback in 2003 as a redshirt freshman before playing baseball full-time. He then made another transformation, from catcher/third baseman to pitcher, starting last summer in the Coastal Plain League. He quickly became Auburn’s No. 2 starter. Sullivan’s fresh arm, clean delivery, athleticism and live body make him one of the more intriguing college pitchers on the board. His fastball sits in the 88-91 mph range and touches 92 with good sink. At times, Sullivan flashes a power curveball and less often a solid changeup, but he’s still inexperienced on the mound and lacks confidence in his secondary stuff. One scout said if Sullivan brings it all together, he could be a No. 3 big league starter, a significant ceiling for a pitcher who could last until the third round.

4. JOSH BELL, c (National rank: 114)
School: Auburn.
Hometown: Jackson, Tenn.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 200. Birthdate: July 3, 1984.
Previously Drafted: Cardinals 2002 (5)
Three years ago Bell came to Auburn with high expectations, but he’s just now starting to deliver on them. For scouts who like Bell, his struggles can be blamed on his versatility. He caught and pitched while mixing in time at the infield corners in his first two seasons, and touched the low 90s working as a closer. First-year Auburn coach Tom Slater stuck him behind the plate and left him there, and Bell has made more progress. He’s improved as a receiver, though he’s still below-average. He's adequate blocking balls, and Slater has entrusted him to call many of the pitches for the Tigers staff. The tools that made him a high pick out of high school are still there—his arm is at least a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and he has plus raw power. He’s become a more consistent hitter this season with a better-defined overall role. Teams that think Bell can catch as a pro will be hard-pressed to pass on him when the annual run on college catchers starts.

5. MICHAEL NIX, rhp (National rank: 162)
School: Auburn.
Hometown: Auburn, Ala.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 240. Birthdate: May 21, 1983.
Previously Drafted: Never.
Scouting Report: Nix has been around the Auburn baseball program all his life, and he was throwing in the mid-80s when he was a 14-year-old attending Tigers baseball camps. His uncle Paul coached on the Plains, and his father was a basketball/baseball player at the school. Scouts never made a serious attempt to draft him until he performed, in spite his big arm, knowing how much he wanted to play for the Tigers. Now he has done it, teaming with sidearming John Madden to form—BOOM!—the Southeastern Conference’s best bullpen tandem. Nix is a physical power pitcher who pitches at 90-92 mph and touches 94. New Auburn pitching coach Matt Meyers has done an excellent job quieting Nix’ delivery, helping him throw more consistent strikes and making his slider a fringe-average pitch. He’s also fiddled with a split-finger fastball. Even with secondary stuff that needed work, Nix led the SEC in saves and could throw harder if he continues to refine his mechanics. He projects as a set-up man.

6. AARON WEATHERFORD, rhp (National rank: 181)
School: Fairhope HS.
Hometown: Fairhope, Ala.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 175. Birthdate: Dec. 19, 1986.
College Commitment: Mississippi State.
Scouting Report: Thanks to arm strength, an athletic body and a competitive streak, Weatherford had come on as much as any Alabama prep other than Rasmus this spring, and had a chance to get drafted well if scouts get a good read on his signability. He earned an invite to Perfect Game’s mid-May draft showcase and pitched all right, but didn’t really improve his stock. He committed to Mississippi State, where he’d become their top power arm after throwing up to 93-94 mph at times this spring. From his arm slot, it tends to be relatively straight, but he maintains his velocity despite his slight frame. Weatherford, who also played three years of high school football as a quarterback, has flashed a power slider that has shown the potential to be an average big league pitch, and he throws a split-finger fastball and changeup as well. While he has unique mechanics, turning his back to the batter, he repeats what he does and has shown a fairly consistent ability to throw strikes while doing it. Teams would rather take him in the sixth- to 10th-round range, but might have to go higher to keep him out of school.

7. TREVOR HOLDER, rhp (National rank: 197)
School: Mountain Brook HS.
Hometown: Birmingham.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Birthdate: Jan. 8, 1987.
College Commitment: Georgia.
Scouting Report: Holder has the best raw arm in the state, yet he’s expected to bypass the draft and honor his commitment to Georgia. His family is academically oriented, and Holder had never made a C in a class in high school. Scouts wanted to see Holder blow them away this spring to make them have to make a run at him high enough to buy him out of school, and it didn’t happen. Holder was fine, but he didn’t clean up his mechanics, which keep him from throwing consistent strikes. He rarely settles on the same arm slot during a game, leaving his fastball velocity and movement fluctuating. At times, he runshis heater up to 93 mph, and at times it has intriguing sink and boring action. However, his secondary stuff never came around this spring, and he was hittable despite his velocity and quick arm. After three years at Georgia, scouts should have a better read on his talent.


OTHERS TO WATCH
(Numbers in parentheses indicate rank in Alabama)

Troy Duo Marches Toward Draft

The Troy Trojans won the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season championship with their best team in years, spearheaded by the league’s best leadoff man and most consistent pitcher. Senior righthander Landon Brazell (14) impresses scouts with his ability to throw four average pitches for strikes, while maintaining his velocity and stuff through heavy workloads (up to 60 pitches). The fifth-year senior became a free agent after Troy lost in the A-Sun tournament, so he could spark a mini-bidding war reaching $10,000-$20,000. His fastball tops out at 92 mph, and he is effective when he keeps it down in the zone.

His Trojans teammate, outfielder Adam Godwin (8), made headlines all spring as he ran away with the Division I stolen base lead (he had 81 in 89 attempts at the end of the regular season, 27 more than his closest rival). Godwin had improved his draft stock significantly as a senior after collecting just six extra-base hits as a junior. Godwin hit five homers as he improved his swing mechanics and got stronger, but speed is still by far his best tool, a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He also has fearlessness and great instincts on the bases and should be a basestealer at every level. None of his other tools grades above-average, and his swing still doesn’t convince scouts he can even be a big league starter and profile more as an extra outfielder in the mold of Kerry Robinson.

Auburn, Alabama Just OK

Alabama got off to a fast start in Southeastern Conference play before struggling down the stretch. Righthander T.J. Large (9), a fourth-year junior motivated to sign, figures to be the first Crimson Tide player drafted due to his arm strength, ability to throw his breaking ball for strikes and durability. Large was viewed as a better prospect in junior college in Florida (he’s been drafted twice before), but since coming to Alabama he’s had a torn lateral muscle that prompted him to take a medical redshirt last season. He’s come back with a less powerful but effective breaking ball and average velocity, where he used to touch 92-93 mph. Still, he’s impressed with his competitiveness and should be picked on the draft’s first day.

The Crimson Tide also offers outfielder Gabe Scott (16), who has battled injuries throughout his career but became a starter as a fifth-year senior, then had a ferocious April when he hit nine homers and carried the Tide offense. He’s scrappy with average bat speed and some strength, and should be picked in the first 10 rounds as a cheap senior sign.

Auburn offers its own version of Scott in first baseman Karl Amonite (17), who missed the 2004 season with a right arm injury but has been the Tigers’ cleanup hitter for most of his two seasons on the Plains. He lacks athleticism and his bat speed is just fair, but he’s strong and should hit in the middle of a minor league lineup. As a Canadian, he benefited from a recent change to visa rules that should allow him to start his pro career this summer. Another Canadian is Jacksonville righthander Danny Andres (22), who has some projection and arm strength, as well as a decent slider. His inability to repeat his delivery and throw strikes dampen his draft prospects.

While Nix has 13 saves, reliever John Madden (10) had seven at regular season’s end and should be picked as well, possibly in the first 15 rounds. He resembles former Auburn closer Colter Bean, who got a callup to the Yankees this season, with his arm angle. Madden has a live 86-89 mph heavy sinker and eats up righthanded hitters, much like former Auburn star Scott Sullivan. His slider is fringy, but he figures to be picked ahead of fellow seniors Brent Carter (20), Alabama’s all-time strikeouts leader, and Arnold Hughey (21), a fixture in Auburn’s rotation for three years. Neither has the arm of tiny Faulkner’s Alex Aucoin (13), who has a quick arm, has touched the low 90s with his fastball and can spin a breaking ball. He has some effort in his delivery and hasn’t dominated weak competition (4.17 ERA), so getting drafted in the first day would be an accomplishment.

Arms Drop Off After Holder, Weatherford

Scouts had high hopes for the state’s pitchers—particularly the high schoolers--entering the spring, but many of them regressed and seemed headed for college. Mobile righthander Michael Davitt (25) was one who came on, combining a long, loose arm with a projectable frame. He touched 91 mph throughout the spring, but his lack of a breaking ball means he’s most likely a draft-and-follow. He has committed to Okaloosa-Walton (Fla.) Junior College.

Prep arms such as Evan Crawford (11), the state’s top lefty, and Kyle Cofield (18) have had their moments, particularly Crawford, who flashes an above-average fastball for a lefty that touches 91 mph and has a good curveball. He’s not physical and has a brother at Auburn, and he’s expected to join him on campus in the fall. Cofield had a strong summer with Georgia’s East Cobb program and had a chance to go in the first five rounds. He has lost his arm slot this spring, dropping his velocity from the low 90s to the 86-88 mph range while flattening out his slurvy breaking ball, and he’s expected to head to Alabama. The Crimson Tide also should keep righty Austin Graham (12), who has as much pitching savvy and feel for the strike zone as anyone in the state but has had shoulder problems all spring. The state’s high schools aren’t expected to produce a player drafted in the first 20 rounds.