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June 8, 2004

Draft Sleepers

Players Who Slipped Under the Radar

by Jim Baker

Time was that the baseball amateur draft was held in relative quietude, unnoticed by fans and media alike. In the past few years, that has changed dramatically. While still not as over-the-top as its football and basketball counterparts, baseball's drafting of schoolboy and collegiate talent gains more notice with each passing year.

In spite of the increased scrutiny, there are still a large number of young men out there who escape notice in the days and weeks leading up to the draft. Baseball Prospectus presents here a few of those players more deserving of national attention.

  • Kip Durst
    Pitcher. Lovebite Junior College; Priscle, Arizona

    Scouts love his desire to win. The fact that he never does is beside the point. "What we got here," said one assistant to an assistant director of scouting, "is a player who wants so much more than he can ever hope to have, and you can't put a price on that kind of drive."

  • Fergus Floyd-Floyd
    Center fielder. The Ozark Center for the Especially Non-Traditional; Mayville, Missouri

    "I don't pretend to understand genetics," one former scout told me anonymously, "but this youngster defies all its known laws." If a team can get past the obvious indications of inbreeding, they will be rewarded with a 19-year old who can drive a ball 425 feet with frequency. That he doesn't know what to do once he has hit said long drives is one of the matters his minor league instructors will have to address.

  • L'Dartagnan Mills
    No position. St. Plyus High School; Fort Sandbag, Florida

    "You can't teach speed," the friend of a scout confided to me, "which is good because whoever drafts Mills is going to have to teach him everything else." Who is willing to take a chance on a young man so raw he has not only never played baseball, he's never even tried the game? Mills was first noticed a year ago running errands for his mother--very quickly. "I was motoring down the highway outside of town and he run by me on foot," said a different friend of the same scout. A lifelong distaste for sports is an obstacle the team that drafts Mills will have to overcome.

  • Buck Songstred
    Shortstop. University of California at Tijuana, Mexico

    "This guy's got more tools than a tool set with a whole lot of tools in it," said a person who wishes he were a scout. "He looks good in his uniform and still smells nice after six or seven innings of play." And did somebody say handsome? "He'll sell a lot of baseball cards to women who are keen on men who smell nice and look good and who want to imagine themselves with a ballplayer who has those qualities," a close confidant of a major league team's director of marketing told me.

  • Derrick Spanion
    Shortstop. University of Western Oklahoma; Dalhart, Oklahoma

    "He's like Mickey Mantle," a scout's dentist told me recently, "he's always closing out one bar or another." Nor does the resemblance end there. Like the Mick, Spanion aspires to have his name on a New York restaurant after he retires.

  • Mark Brimmel
    Shortstop. PHS 732; Bronx, New York

    If overcoming adversity counts for anything, then Brimmel should have been a first-rounder. Attending a school so poor that varsity games were played in the narrow street in front of the school, Brimmel still managed to make the All-City team. "A lot of these kids had to play barefoot because of budget cuts," a scout's alter ego recently confided to me, "and these streets aren't in very good shape." In spite of games frequently halted by passing traffic, Brimmel still managed to play his entire senior season without committing an error.

  • Robert "Sticky" Gonzalez
    Catcher. Traveler High School; Lee, Texas

    Don't let the nickname fool you: He's nothing like a stick. So-called because of his love of candy, Sticky's uniform is actually two different uniforms sewn together. Reminds some scouts of Ernie Lombardi, while other scouts admit to never having heard of either person.

  • Norty Satchet
    Pitcher. Buster Keaton High School; Rancho Cucaracha, California
    Pitcher. Lyvester High School; South Rancho Cucaracha, California

    Some kids show up and some kids come to play. Norty Satchet is one of the latter. Such is his love of the game that he enrolled at and attended classes at two different schools so that he might be able to pitch twice as much as state limits would allow. Using a mullet wig for a disguise, Satchet wasn't discovered until his senior year when his two schools met in a postseason tournament and it occurred to umpires around the fourth inning that something wasn't quite kosher. "In this game, you gotta want the ball," one birddog told me, "I don't believe anybody ever wanted the ball more than this boy." Shoulder surgery may limit him to the lower rounds.

  • Billy Suggs
    Center fielder. Truman High School; Rusty Razor Lick, Indiana

    As an actor who once played a scout in a play asked me recently, "Doth not everyone deserve a second chance at fortune? Who are we, fellow mortal, to hold the actions of a misguided child against the man that child becomes?" You know the name Billy Suggs from the Little League World Series fix scandal seven years ago. Suggs, then 11 and a resident of Griggs, Ia., conspired with parents from the nearby town of Talmadge to throw a regional qualifier. In return, the star pitcher was rewarded with a game system, imported sneakers, a year's supply of candy and a custom stereo system for his bicycle. The resultant scandal forced his parents to move. After a five-year stint in a reformatory, Suggs recently took up the game again with dramatic results: a .712 batting average in his senior year. Reformed? Is it worth a draft pick to find out?

  • Buzz Hooka
    Pitcher. Stoner Community College; Dallas, Texas

    "I'm telling you, nothing fazes this kid," said the ghost of a former scout. "Bases loaded, no outs, big tournament game--he's one cool customer." Hooka saved 19 games in 19 tries this year. He'll have to watch a tendency to overeat after games, however.

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Prospectus Q&A: B.J. U... (06/09)

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