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June 7, 2005

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Digging Deep

by Boyd Nation

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You know that feeling you get as a parent at about 7:05 a.m. on Christmas morning (6:05 if you've got a five-year-old, 8:05 in Indiana, 11:05 if you've got teenagers), when they've ripped through the last of the presents and all that's left is to go get started on the dressing and, oh, yeah, there's that big family gathering this evening and you just found out your sister-in-law's bringing a boyfriend and your mom asked you offhandedly at ten o'clock last night to pick up a gift? Well, here's the MLB front office equivalent: It's Tuesday night, and all those guys you've been tracking for the last 11 months and two weeks are gone. Everybody identifiable as worth tracking went in the first 20 rounds, you've got thirty picks left and your GM really doesn't want to look bad by not having a pick ready when the time comes.

Now, all you really want from your 47th-round pick is somebody to throw the ninth inning when you're Arizona League team is down 19-3 on August 18th; that's not a high-expectation pick. Given that, why not take somebody who might actually have an upside--someone from the little BP Box of Really Miscellaneous Awards, our equivalent of that box of generic gifts that you keep in the back of the hall closet if you're smart? I mean, we're talking about a signing bonus of $38.50, so what have you got to lose?

Best Pitcher in Front of a Really Bad Defense: Matt Mead, Davidson, 6.52 ERA, 3.69 DERA. Sure, it would be nice if you could watch these guys in a lab or something where all other factors would be equal, but you don't get that luxury. Anybody can look good in front of the Texas defense, but you try pitching for a team that's really bad at turning hit balls into outs. Spotting guys like this is one thing that separates the future GMs from the guys who are still answering their own phones at 50. Honorable mention: Danny Hall, Mississippi Valley State, 7.61 ERA, 3.42 DERA against really weak competition.

Best Pitcher with a Really Offensive Park Factor: Dave Horlacher, Brigham Young, 3.80 ERA, 94.2 IP, 82 K, 28 BB, 11 HR, 140 PF. We probably ought to call this one the Jamie Vermilyea Award, under the theory that if you ever spot a pitcher with an ERA under 5.00 in New Mexico, you take him. There aren't any of those this year, but Horlacher has a well-below-national-average ERA up in the mountains (it's not just BYU, most of the Mountain West Conference is up from Denver). Honorable mention: Joe Ness, Ball State, 4.01 ERA, 142 PF.

Best Player at a School You'd Need Google, an Atlas, and Good Gas Station Directions to Find: Gerald Smith, Savannah State, .400/.487/.785, 88 PF, 89 SoS. So, you know every Pac-10 Sports Information contact's phone number by heart, and you've even thoroughly scouted the mid-major conferences and even the best of Division II and the NAIA. There are still going to be cracks, and sometimes the guys growing in those cracks are worth a look. Savannah State is an odd place athletically even by HBCU standards, but Smith looks like he might have some potential. Honorable mention: Damian Gomez, Dallas Baptist, .373/.448/.661, 99 PF, 106 SoS.

Best Isolated Patience: Luke MacLean, Minnesota, .280/.411/.301. He's a second baseman, so the lack of power might not kill you. Mostly, you just have to figure a guy with 32 walks against 186 at-bats might be worth a flyer. Honorable mention: Ryan Chiarelli, Santa Clara, .267/.390/.297. OK, they can't all be gems.

So, there you go: One ready-made shopping list, and it doesn't even include a festive scarf. Use and enjoy.

Boyd Nation is the author of Boyd's World and provides college data services to a few major-league teams. He can be reached here.

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