By Alan Simpson
(National ranking in parentheses)
1. JOSH ZEID, rhp (National rank: 85)
School: Hamden Hall Country Day HS.
Hometown: New Haven, Conn.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 225. Birthdate: March 24, 1987.
College Commitment: Vanderbilt.
Scouting Report: Scouts have been awaiting Zeid’s arrival since the day he set foot in high school. As a ninth-grader, he was throwing 85-86 mph. A year later, he had bumped his velocity to 94 and was a key member of the national youth team that won a gold medal at the 2003 World Youth Championship in Taiwan. He had all the makings of a future first-round pick, but he hadn’t shown a lot of improvement since and his attitude became an issue, causing scouts to re-evaluate his worth this spring. There were times when his fastball dropped to 88-90, touching 92, and fell off to 86-87 in the middle innings. He wasn’t repeating his delivery and his breaking stuff was inconsistent. Through it all, he continued to dominate a weak private school league in Connecticut, going 6-1, 0.43 with 89 strikeouts in 44 innings. Once the New England weather began to warm up in May, however, Zeid’s velocity also heated up and he was soon back up to his customary mid-90s with an 82-84 mph slider that touched 86. If teams are convinced that he has matured, still has room for growth and development in his big frame and can be bought away from a college commitment to Vanderbilt, he could still go in the first five rounds, possibly as high as the second.
OTHERS TO WATCH
(Numbers in parentheses indicate rank in Lower New England)
While his twin brother Jeremy was twice picked in the first round, signing with Cleveland in 2004, RHP Josh Sowers (2) has yet to be drafted. But that's about to change as Sowers may have been the best college pitcher in New England this spring. He went 6-1, 2.10 for Yale and led the team in strikeouts for the third straight year, with 63 in 60 innings. While heís smaller than Jeremy, the biggest difference between the two is merely that one is lefthanded and the other righthanded. Josh may have a better slider than Jeremy. He repeats his delivery so well on the pitch that it resembles a fastball coming out of his hand. His 86-90 mph fastball also has good late movement. Sowers is polished, with his brotherís same intelligent approach to pitching.
Six-foot-3, 230-pound RHP Jon Hollis (4) is not as polished as Sowers, but has more upside. His fastball tops out at 92 mph, though he has trouble throwing it and an average slider for strikes from a three-quarters arm slot. He projects as a reliever as he has a resilient arm and has yet to develop an effective third pitch.
Six-foot-2, 210-pouind LHP Zach Zuercher (3) is the best of three draftable arms at Rhode Island. A Rhode Island high school product, he spent his freshman year at North Carolina before returning home and becoming the Atlantic-10 Conferenceís pitcher of the year as a sophomore. He didnít have as dominating a season as in 2004, when he set school records with nine complete games and four shutouts, but Zuercher has four pitches he can throw for strikes. His curveball is his most effective pitch. His fastball normally ranges from 84-88 mph, but it touched 90.
With a 29-3, 1.50 record and a nine-inning average of 11.8 strikeouts in three years at Eastern Connecticut State, LHP Ryan DiPietro (5) is one of the most successful pitchers in NCAA Division III history. But he fell short of his performance as a sophomore, when he was 11-1, 1.04 with 162 strikeouts in 112 innings. He walked a lot more batters this year and his velocity slipped to 86-87 mph after touching 92 in the past. He has a good feel for pitching, especially in locating his curveball. Physically, he resembles Casey Fossum.
OF Matt Kutler (7) was eligible to sign before the draft as a fifth-year senior after missing the 2004 season with an injury. Kutler has a history of swinging the bat, though he is not overly physical and has tended to struggle against lefthanders. He was the MVP of the 2002 Cape Cod League playoffs and led the Ivy League in hits and RBIs in 2003. He showed little ill effects for missing 2004 by hitting .427-8-41 this year. A poor arm relegates him to left field. 3B Eric Campbell (6) has above-average power and performed as well as any high school player in Connecticut this spring. He has committed to Boston College.