Print and Go Back Baseball [Print without images]

Friday, June 5, 2009
Tate, Miller among high school players to watch in the MLB draft

By Chris Lawlor

Several MLB scouting experts seem to be enamored with outfielder Donavan Tate, a two-sport star from Cartersville (Ga.), in advance of the June 9 MLB first-year player draft. But ESPN Scouts Inc.'s Keith Law reserves judgment.

"The main knock on him in the industry is a perceived lack of effort," he said of No. 17-ranked player and the possible third pick to the San Diego Padres in Law's latest mock draft. "I haven't seen any of that."

One thing's for certain, Tate's a winner.

Last weekend, Cartersville won its second straight Georgia Class 3A state championship best-of-three series and fifth in the past nine years. The Purple Hurricanes rallied to win the final two games, including a 10-7 triumph in the decisive game over nationally ranked Columbus.

Right-hander Shelby Miller (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) of Brownwood (Texas) High is ranked No. 5 in Law's Top 100, but Law sees the Texas Rangers picking him up with the 14th overall pick in the draft.

Last week Miller showed durability, throwing his third game in 12 days and his second four-hit shutout in as many starts, striking out 10 during a 9-0 win over Lubbock Cooper in the UIL Class 3A, Region 1 semifinal series. In the regional semifinals on Saturday, Miller (10-1) pitched a three-hitter with a season-high 17 strikeouts in a 3-1 victory over West. Miller, named Texas' Gatorade Player of the Year, slugged his fifth homer, a two-run bomb, breaking a 1-1 tie and moving his RBI total to 37. Miller's heroics have Brownwood one win from a berth in the state tournament.

Donavan Tate
A potential first-round MLB draft pick, Donovan Tate could play two sports at UNC instead.

"His frame is just what you want in a pitcher, with some room left to fill out. He's one of the top 10 prospects in this draft," Law said.

Here's a look at other prep prospects for the draft:

Overview: This is the first year the first-year player draft expands from two days to three; the final two days will be conducted via teleconference from the MLB offices in New York. The draft opens Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET from the MLB Network studios in Secaucus, N.J. The first day is highlighted by the first round, compensation round A, second round, third round and compensation B. The compensation round A or the "sandwich round" is for teams whose Type A or B free agents signed with other clubs or to a team which did not sign a player taken in the first three rounds of the 2008 draft. Rounds 31-50 comprise the final day. Five organizations -- the Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners, Washington Nationals, Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies -- will have two selections in the first round.

The Nationals have the first overall pick and undoubtedly will select Stephen Strasburg, a fireballing right-handed pitcher from San Diego State.

Left-handed pitchers: Tyler Matzek, Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo, Calif.); Matt Purke, Klein (Texas); Chad James, Yukon (Okla.); Tyler Skaggs, Santa Monica (Calif.).
The top southpaw is Matzek, whose fastball tops out at 94 mph. He is a surefire top-10 selection. "Matzek is the most polished of the top high school arms [in this year's draft class] and in a perfect world could develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter with a legitimate four-pitch mix and above-average command and control," Law said.

Right-handed pitchers: Miller; Jacob Turner, Westminster Christian (St. Louis); Zack Wheeler, East Paulding (Dallas, Ga.); Matt Hobgood, Norco (Calif.); Mychal Givens, Plant (Tampa, Fla.).
Wheeler, a hard thrower who signed with Kennesaw State, is a lock for the top 10. Law says: "His fastball comes out of his hand easy and runs from 91-96 mph with tremendous late life. His main secondary pitch is a hard slurve at 74-78 mph that is a future out pitch." Turner (6-5, 205) might be the hardest thrower in high school, possessing a scorching 98-mph fastball. His coach is former St. Louis Cardinal Todd Worrell. Turner signed with North Carolina and has agent Scott Boras aboard. "He's second to only Stephen Strasburg for consistent velocity," Law said.

Corner Infielders: Matt Davidson, Yucaipa (Calif.); Bobby Borchering, Bishop Verot (Fort Myers, Fla.).
Davidson (6-4, 205) is the top pure hitter in the draft. His below-average speed could hinder him down the road. "He's about as high-probability a prep bat as you'll find, so even if he has to move off third base, he should hit his way to the majors," Law said. Borchering, a switch-hitting third baseman, signed with Florida. He may drop out of the opening round, but it wouldn't be a surprise if he sticks.

Middle Infielders: Jiovanni Mier, Bonita (La Verne, Calif.); Deven Marrero, American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.); Chris Owings, Gilbert (S.C.).
It's a thin year for shortstops but Mier, a Southern California recruit, is the best. His speed, range and arm strength eventually should punch a ticket to the majors. Scouts say he's a first-rounder because of defensive prowess.

Catchers: Wil Myers, Wesleyan Christian (High Point, N.C.); Max Stassi, Yuba City (Calif.); Tommy Joseph, Horizon (Scottsdale, Ariz.); Geno Escalante, Rodriguez (Fairfield, Calif.); Andrew Susac, Jesuit (Carmichael, Calif.).
Myers (6-3, 185), who signed with South Carolina, is ticketed for the first round. Not quite sure where he'll play. He's good enough to catch but don't be surprised if he winds up playing third. "He has an explosive bat," Law said. Stassi may be tough to sign after committing to UCLA last summer. He's a leader and a coach's son who was a four-year regular and helped Yuba City claim its third straight CIF Sac-Joaquin Division III championship last month. Joseph, an Arizona recruit, slugged 15 homers and drove in 36 runs, throwing out 18 runners.

Outfielders: Tate; Mike Trout, Millville (N.J.); Reymond Fuentes (Puerto Rico); Jake Marisnick, Poly (Riverside, Calif.); Brian Goodwin, Rocky Mount (N.C.); Everett Williams, McCallum (Austin, Texas); Slade Heathcott, Texas High (Texarkana, Texas).
Trout and Tate will be the first two outfielders taken, but remember Fuentes (6-0, 160), who is the nephew of New York Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran. Fuentes has blazing speed, covers plenty of ground in the gaps but has a weak bat and arm, but Law contends "he's a high-risk, high-reward guy in a draft that doesn't have a lot of those players, and the bloodlines should help boost his stock." Tate, whose father Lars played in the NFL and was a standout at the University of Georgia, might play football and baseball at North Carolina. He has Gold Glove potential and size (6-3, 205) and may quarterback the Tar Heels this fall.

Overall analysis: "It's a pretty good year for [high school] pitchers and a lousy year for hitters," Law said. ESPN's Top 100 has 45 high school players, including 25 of whom are pitchers, but only six left-handers. California has several high-end prospects, spread around the diamond. With the advancement of technology and with scouts scouring the nooks and crannies, sleepers are rare. "Clubs are aware of the players; the real bargains are usually the players that move up to the second round."

Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA Today, where he was the head preps writer responsible for national high school rankings in football, baseball, and boys' and girls' basketball. He also worked for Scholastic Coach magazine, for which he ran the Gatorade national Player of the Year program for nine years. Lawlor, a New Jersey resident, grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.