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May 25, 2007

Future Shock

High School Draft All-Stars

by Kevin Goldstein

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Catcher

Top High School Prospect: Mike Moustakas, Chatsworth HS, CA
Overall Quality: Good

While teams with picks in the upper half of the first round initially were initially heading to Chatsworth to see third baseman Matt Dominguez, they came away liking Moustakas more. It has nothing to do with Dominguez hurting his stock as much as it has to do with Moustakas exploding this year, as he re-wrote parts of the state record book, including a new record for career home runs that continues to climb, as he hit two more in a postseason game this week. To put him at catcher is a bit of a projection. He's caught in the past, but was primarily a middle infielder this year, though the general thinking is that a team that takes him with a top ten pick will put him back behind the plate in order to get the maximum value from his bat. He's a good athlete with plus-plus arm strength, proven by some 97 mph readings on the guns when he came on as the team's closer. As far as real, full-time catchers go, scouts felt like they were put in the movie Groundhog Day when they went to see Punxsutawney High's Devin Mesoraco, as every time out he showed solid hitting abilities and excellent catch-and-throw skills. He could got towards the end of the first round, and about 10-15 picks before Yasmani Grandal of Miami Springs High, a Cuban immigrant who has Gold Glove potential behind the plate, to go with plus raw power but some questionable contact skills.

Sleeper: Austin Romine, El Toro HS, CA. The son of former big leaguer Kevin Romine, Austin has two big time tools in power and arm strength, but the rest of the package still lags behind a bit. He projects as a second round pick.

First Base

Top High School Prospect: Kevin Patterson, Oak Mountain HS, AL
Overall Quality: Poor

There is no Casey Kotchman or James Loney in this draft, in the sense that there's no first-round pick in this group. Patterson's school name is fitting, because he's a mountain of a kid, with a smooth swing and plus-plus power, though there are some signability issues as he's made some indications that he's expecting first-round money to sway him from playing at Auburn. Mike Stanton of Notre Dame HS in California is bigger and has even more raw power than Patterson, but is overly pull-conscious with an all-or-nothing approach that drew one comparison to Russell Branyan.

Sleeper: David Mailman, Providence HS, NC. The mailman delivers hit after hit in high school, but teams look for power over average at the position, and he's over-the-fence ability projects as average at best. He's still a fourth- or fifth-round pick for teams looking for a player who could hopefully land somewhere between Dave Magadan and John Olerud.

Second Base

Top High School Prospect: Ryan Dent, Wilson HS, CA
Overall Quality: Average

Currently a shortstop, Dent projects as more of a right-side infielder because of below-average instincts. It's certainly not because of his athleticism, which ranks with anyone in the draft. His speed, wiry strength, and fluid actions afield give Dent plenty of projection, but there's also a lot of risk, as he's a long way from translating those tools into baseball skills. A team not adverse to risk should take him in the supplemental round. Nick Noonan of Francis Parker HS in San Diego will go a few picks before or after Dent, but he's a very different beast. He's not especially toolsy, but the one thing he can do is hit. Like Dent, he's currently a shortstop who projects to change positions.

Sleeper: John Gilmore, Iowa City HS, IA. Gilmore has as much raw power as any high school middle infielder, but like most players from his state, he lacks the experience and refinement of top prospects from warm-weather states.

Third Base

Top High School Prospect: Josh Vitters, Anaheim, CA
Overall Quality: Excellent

Vitters is the top position player in the draft, and will either go second overall to the Royals or third to the Cubs. He has top-line bat speed and hand-eye coordination, drawing one comparison to Howie Kendrick, but with more size and pop. His defense is solid but unspectacular. He's just part of the best high school hot corner group in recent memory, one that includes at the very least two more first-round picks. While overshadowed by Moustakas, Dominguez is viewed by many as a right-handed hitting version of Eric Chavez --a big athletic third baseman with remarkable defensive skills and middle-of-the-order bat. The top position player in Texas, Kevin Ahrens, is currently a shortstop who projects to slide over--his power and switch-hitting ways have drawn some comparisons to Chipper Jones.

Sleeper: Travis Mattair, Southridge HS, WA. Mattair has more size (6'4", 220) than any of the players listed above, and scouts are convinced he has the athleticism to stay at the position. He could go in the third round, and would be a steal there.

Shortstop

Top High School Prospect: Justin Jackson, T.C. Roberson HS, NC
Overall Quality: Fair

Like the college class, shortstops are a weak link here, and it's likely none will be selected in the first round. Scouts have been watching Jackson for three years now, as he was a high school teammate of top Tiger prospect Cameron Maybin. The son of former Astro Chuck Jackson, Justin is an incredible athlete with plus range, plus instincts, and an outstanding arm. Offensively, teams are hoping his line-drive bat and above-average speed will fit well into the No. 2 spot in the lineup. He's likely to get picked off of the board in the middle of the sandwich round. Some scouting directors prefer Oklahoma prepster Peter Kozma, who is a better hitter, but not in Jackson's class defensively. Puerto Rico's Nefi Soto fits that new breed as a big, athletic shortstop with above-average power, though he's a bit raw.

Sleeper: Christian Colon, Canyon HS, CA. Seen by some as a potential first-round pick a year ago at this time, Colon is undersized, but might outclass even Jackson as a defender. There are some makeup concerns, but teams might get a bargain with a third- or fourth-round pick here.

Outfielders

Top High School Prospect: Jason Heyward, Henry County HS, GA; Michael Main, Deland HS, FL; Kentrail Davis, Theodore HS, AL
Overall Quality: Poor

In terms of size, athleticism, and tools, no other player in the draft is even in the same stratosphere as Heyward. He's 6-foot-5, 220 pounds of pure muscle, and features plus-plus power, plus-plus arm strength, and above-average speed. Scouts pull out scouting legends like Dave Winfield and Darryl Strawberry when reaching for comps. The only issue is that scouts haven't seen him step in much against good competition--he'll still be a top ten pick. Unfortunately, Heyward is the only first-round talent among high school fly chasers. Main might legitimately be the second best in the country, thanks to plus-plus speed, a great arm, and a solid bat, but he has first-round talent has a pitcher, and will begin his career on the mound. Davis also has an impressive array of tools, but scouts wonder how much power will come out of his small frame, and if he'll maintain his speed because of a thick lower half.

Sleeper: Angel Morales, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. Morales gets mixed reviews from scouts, but nobody can argue with his tools. He's a true center fielder with speed and power projection, but might be a bit too raw for some. Some think he's a first-round talent who will be available in the latter half of the seemingly never-ending sandwich round.

Pitchers

Top High School Prospects: Rick Porcello, Seton Hall Prep, NJ; Phillipe Aumont, Ecole Du Versant HS, Quebec; Jarrod Parker, Norwell HS, IN; Blake Beaven, Irving HS, TX; Madison Bumgarner, South Caldwell HS, NC
Overall Quality: Very Good

The first round could see as many as 10 of the first 30 picks being prep arms. Porcello is a monster talent, touching 98 mph consistently this spring, supplemented with a plus-plus power curve and deceptive changeup. Throw in excellent command and a long, lean, projectable frame, and scouts have trouble finding fault. At least one scouting director has indicated that he'd seriously considering taking Porcello over David Price if he had the number one pick, calling him the top high school arm since Josh Beckett. Aumont is kind of the high school version of Andrew Brackman--he's tall, he throws hard, but he's also a bit of a project who will require significant development time. Parker is the player on this list who has moved up the most this spring, suddenly popping 98 mph fastballs nearly every time out, though his secondary stuff lags behind, and scouts haven't had many opportunities to see him against advanced competition. Beaven is this year's Texas power pitcher, a six-foot-seven beast who sits in the mid-90s, and employs it to even better effect with outstanding command. Bumgarner is the top high school southpaw, with scouts loving his 6-foot-5 frame and mid-90s fastball, and not so much loving his low arm slot, and the slurvy breaking ball that comes of it.

Sleeper: Kyle Blair, Los Gatos HS, CA. More of a well-rounded talent than a guy who lights up radar guns, Blair nonetheless has velocity that consistently sits a tick above average, with both his control, curveball and pitchability rating as well above-average. He's a borderline first-rounder who will almost certainly have a better career than those drafted ahead of him who have greater flameout potential.

Closer

Top High School Prospect: We don't know yet.
Overall Quality: To be determined.

Great high school pitchers start, they don't close, so any ranking here is pure speculation. Educated guesses could be Parker and Beaven as pitchers staring in this role at some point down the road. Parker isn't exceptionally physical, and currently lacks a starter's arsenal. Beaven is big, aggressive, and throws hard, but has violent mechanics, and some worry that his shoulder won't hold up over a 100+ inning workload.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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