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Baseball: Players to watch in MLB Draft

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TRD

posted on Jun, 4 2004 @ 04:24 PM
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1) STEPHEN DREW, SS, FLORIDA STATE

Is now likely the top choice of the San Diego Padres, who have the No. 1 overall selection...Hit .353 with 14 homers and 52 RBI this season. He was also voted to the ACC All-Tournament team...Widely considered the top shortstop in the country...Struggled with a hip injury in 2004, but has since recovered...Younger brother of Atlanta Braves outfielder J.D. and former first round pick Tim (Montreal)...Trying to join J.D. and Tim as first round selections to complete the first trio of brothers ever drafted in the first round.


2) JERED WEAVER, RHP, LONG BEACH STATE

Has lost just once in 15 decisions in 2004...That first defeat came on May 27 as the big righthander gave up an uncharacteristic eight hits and seven runs in 6 1/3 innings to Miami-Florida...Tossed 45 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings for Team USA and a record 0.38 ERA last summer...Has 14 games of 10 strikeouts or more in 2004...Holds school record for wins (33)...Leads the nation in ERA, wins and strikeouts and also strikeouts per nine innings (13.4)...This season has 193 strikeouts against just 18 walks in 128 1/3 innings...Record six-time National Pitcher of the Week in 2004...Powerful fastball that consistently hits the lower 90s...Needs to work on complimentary pitches such as the curve, slider and changeup...A finalist for a number of prestigious national awards...Younger brother of Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Jeff and cousin of Denver Broncos tight end Jed Weaver.


3) JEFF NIEMANN, RHP, RICE

Was just 5-3 this season with a 3.38 ERA for the Owls after a dominant 17-0 mark in 2003...Was named Player of the Year in several preseason publications..Physically imposing at 6-foot-9...Can reach the mid 90's with his fastball and possesses the best slider in the draft...Can also throw a knuckle curve, as well as a nasty changeup...Has been hampered by a sore groin...Could run into some injury problems down the road due to size, but has potential to be dominant at the big league level...Definite first round selection.


4) PHILIP HUMBER, RHP, RICE

Finished the regular season at 12-2 with a 1.93 ERA. Also struck out 132 batters in 98 innings...Was not as dominant as Jered Weaver this year, but just as consistent...Does not have as good of stuff as teammate and fellow top- prospect Wade Townsend, and is not as big as Jeff Niemann, but could be the more polished of the three...Throws in the mid 90's and has the best curveball of the three big pitchers from Rice...Started the most crucial game of the year last season for the Owls against Stanford in last year's College World Series...Definite first round selection.


5) WADE TOWNSEND, RHP, RICE

One of five finalists for the 2004 Golden Spikes Award as the top player in amateur baseball...Finished the 2004 regular season with a perfect 10-0 record to go along with a sparkling 1.79 ERA...In 105.2 innings of work this season Townsend struck out 130 hitters and held all opponents to a composite .174 batting average...Throws in the mid 90's consistently...Also throws a big breaking knuckle curveball and a decent changeup...Has been used as a closer at times and recorded two saves this season...Only knock is some character issues...Body comparisons have been made to Roger Clemens, as well as Curt Schilling and Sidney Ponson.


6) CHRIS NELSON, SS, REDAN HIGH SCHOOL (STONE MOUNTAIN, GA)

A good contact hitter, Nelson comes from the same high school where current Cleveland Indians minor league infielder Brandon Phillips played...Phillips was a second-round pick of Montreal in 1999, but Nelson could be a first- rounder in the draft...Nelson is a smart five-tool player, who is a solid RBI and run producer and he has good range at shortstop...Started his high school career as a pitcher, winning on the average of 10 games per year before undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last fall...A spray hitter, Nelson was batting nearly .600 through 26 games this season...Has soft hands and a great arm.


7) MATT BUSH, SS, MISSION BAY HIGH SCHOOL (SAN DIEGO, CA)

One of the top shortstops available for the draft, Bush is likely to be chosen high in the first round...A strong five-tool player, who has a great attitude on the field...Was batting .420 with nine homers this season as the team's leadoff hitter...Has plus speed with 15 steals...Has great range and instincts and has also been used as a pitcher this season, going 7-1 with a 0.56 ERA...Can reach 95 mph on the mound and that translates into a huge advantage at shortstop...Head coach Dennis Pugh notes in his 30 years of coaching Bush is the best player he's ever seen and at this point he could actually be ready defensively at the major league level...Bat speed a plus and hits for power despite his small frame..Played quarterback and safety as a sophomore, but stopped playing football to remain injury-free in pursuit of baseball career...Committed to play at San Diego State, but likely will sign immediately with the team that drafts him and will skip college.


8) HOMER BAILEY, RHP, LAGRANGE HIGH SCHOOL (LAGRANGE, TX)

Should be one of the top high school players chosen in draft...Consistently throws 93-94 mph and also in the mid-90's at times...Sometimes go to 97 mph in the late innings...Good curve ball that ranges from 81-83 mph and has a sharp break...Had to work on his change up, which used to be 85 mph, but has been lowering the speed on the pitch...Burst onto the scene as a freshman and was 13-1 and the team won the state championship with him anchoring...Pitched seven innings (complete game) in the semifinal and the next day retired the final eight batters (28 pitches) in order to get both wins...This season he's 11-0 and has pitched 66 innings and fanned 157 against only nine walks and six hit batters...Has allowed five runs, but just two earned for a 0.27 ERA...Hitters have a .079 average against him...Never had any arm trouble...Second on team with .437 batting average and 24 RBI in 27 games...Head coach Ralph Ferguson describes Bailey as having good work ethic and great command of his pitches...Has signed with University of Texas, but will only attend if he doesn't land a lucrative contract.


9) JUSTIN VERLANDER, RHP, OLD DOMINION

Finished the 2004 regular season 7-5 with a 3.19 ERA and two complete games in 15 contests this year...May have the best pure stuff of any pitcher in the draft...Fastball regularly reaches mid-90's, but has topped out at 99...Above average breaking ball, but is inconsistent with it at times...Compared to last year's No. 8 pick Kyle Sleeth...Was a member of Team USA in 2003, helping the squad earn the silver medal at the Pan American Games with a 1.34 ERA in starts.


10) JEREMY SOWERS, LHP, VANDERBILT

Many scouts expect Sowers to be selected early in the first round...Crafty lefthander relies heavily on outstanding control of his pitches, yet still owns a fastball in the low 90s...Also has good changeup and curve and extremely quick pickoff move...Has compiled an 8-5 record and 2.97 earned run average in 2004 and is probably the top southpaw heading into the draft...Selected by Cincinnati Reds in first round (20th overall) of the 2001 amateur draft.

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