2009 MLB Draft: Names To Follow, P. 2

With college and high school baseball seasons starting up again, it is a good time to start thinking about the 2009 June amateur draft. In each article, we will profile 10 players to watch for the first round in this year's draft. Our second profile features a local star, some top collegiate pitchers, high school talent and more...

As a reminder, the Oakland A's are slotted to pick 13th in this year's draft. They also had the 13th selection in the 2008 draft. Note that these names appear in no particular order and aren't rankings. (The A's are actually the 12th team to select, but the Washington Nationals have an extra pick after pick nine because of their failure to sign Aaron Crowe out of last year's draft.)

Mike Minor: Minor is a left-hander out of Vanderbilt University, so naturally there is the temptation to try to compare him to another recent Vandy star, David Price. Minor isn't in Price's league, but he might not be lagging too far behind. Like Price, Minor is long and lanky at 6'4''. During the summer of 2007, Minor starred for Team USA, going 5-2 with a 1.64 ERA in 33 innings. He struck-out 37 and walked only four for the stars-and-stripes. He took over for Price as Vandy's top starter in 2008 and he struggled some in the role as the team's top starter, as his ERA jumped from 3.09 his freshman year to 4.28 during his sophomore campaign. Minor saw his stock rise dramatically once again last summer, however, as he put together another outstanding campaign for Team USA, going 3-0 with an 0.64 ERA and beating the Cuban national team twice.

He is a pre-season All-American and is widely considered one of the top collegiate lefties eligible for the draft. He features a low-90s fastball that reportedly has good late action, as well as a plus-change-up. Minor has been working to add a curveball and a slider to his repertoire. If available at pick 13, Minor would represent a classic A's draft pick, although he wouldn't fill a need in the system given the strength of the A's minor league pitching.

Andrew Oliver: Oliver has been in the headlines a lot over the past year, but not in the way that he wanted to be. The Oklahoma State hurler has been embroiled in a fight with the NCAA over his eligibility relating to alleged illegal involvement with agents. The lefty posted a 2.20 ERA for Brett Anderson's father Frank's Cowboys in 2008 and ranked third in the Big 12 in strike-outs with 96. Oliver was suspended by the NCAA for improper contact with an agent after his former legal representatives reported that Oliver had had dealings with super-agent Scott Boras. It is an open secret that most elite college baseball players have relationships with agents before they use up their eligibility, but the rule is rarely enforced for baseball players, likely because many of them are represented by agents as high school players before even coming to college, making it difficult to enforce the rule. Oliver sued the NCAA upon being suspended and an Ohio court ruled in Oliver's favor, stating that the rule could not be selectively enforced and that the NCAA did not have jurisdiction over regulating the scope of an attorney's representation (most agents are also lawyers). Oliver's court victory, which was issued in February, could have a dramatic and lasting impact on the NCAA's ability to regulate their athletes' contact with agents in the future. Over the summer, he was a teammate of Mike Minor's on Team USA over the summer and helped to lead that squad to a 24-0 record.

With the lawsuit behind him, Oliver has returned to Stillwater and is currently 3-0 with a 4.74 ERA in 19 innings. He has 25 strike-outs. Oliver features a low-90s fastball that can touch 94 with a change-up and a good curveball. He has excellent command. Oliver is still represented by Scott Boras and could be expensive to sign. He turned down $400,000 as a 17th round pick of the Minnesota Twins in 2006 coming out of high school.

Luke Bailey: Bailey is one of the top high school catchers in the nation. The 6'0'', 200 pound native of LaGrange, Georgia, has a strong throwing arm and good footwork behind the plate. He has a strong and compact build and decent speed for a backstop. He has committed to Auburn University, but he is believed to be interested in going pro. During his junior season at LaGrange High School, Bailey hit .505 with 13 homeruns. He was a 2008 AFLAC All-American. Although they are seemingly set at the catcher position with Brian McCann, the Atlanta Braves could target Bailey with their top pick if he puts together a senior season similar to his junior campaign. The Braves have been known to target Georgia athletes, and Bailey is one of the best available in the draft.

Mike Leake: A's fans may remember Leake, who was the highest A's pick (7th round) not to sign out of the 2006 draft. Leake is from the San Diego area and competed against current A's prospect Trevor Cahill in high school. The right-hander has been a two-way player for Arizona State. On the mound, Leake has been one of the winningest pitchers in the NCAA, collecting 24 victories against only four losses in his first two seasons. His ERAs have been impressive, as well, sitting at 3.60 and 3.49, respectively. He is off to a good start on the mound again this season, having been named the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week for the week of March 3rd. He is 3-1 with an 0.64 ERA with 30 strike-outs and only four walks in 28 innings thus far this year.

Out in the field, Leake was a jack-of-all-trades, seeing time at first, second, short and all three outfield spots last season. Despite not playing in the field during his freshman season and the early part of his sophomore campaign, Leake showed surprising offensive talent last year, batting .340 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 47 at-bats. He has had only two at-bats thus far this season and is 2-4.

Although Leake is a two-way player, his professional future is on the mound. He is a strike thrower, having walked only 51 in 267 career innings. Leake isn't a big guy, standing at only 5'1l'', which could hurt his draft stock some among teams that tend to shy away from diminutive right-handers. Leake is an exceptional athlete and fields his position like an infielder. His best pitch is his sinking fastball. The A's love guys who can sink the ball and who throw strikes, and certainly Leake is already on the team's radar screen, since they selected him three years ago. However, his stuff doesn't blow anyone away, although his make-up is off-the-charts. He might be a reach at pick 13.

Brett Jackson: The A's went local with their second pick in the 2008 draft, and they may look in their own backyard again this season. If they are searching for an impact outfielder, Jackson may be one of the top collegiate choices on the board. The Cal centerfielder has plus speed and a hard-charging style of play that has reminded some scouts of Billy Beane's former minor league teammate Lenny Dykstra. Jackson is a lot bigger than Dykstra, however, standing at 6'2'', 200 pounds. A left-handed hitter, Jackson batted .307 with 12 stolen bases and 15 extra-base hits for the Golden Bears in 2008 as a sophomore. He competed in the Cape Cod League last summer and hit .238 with six doubles, four homeruns and eight stolen bases. Jackson, a native of Oakland suburb Orinda, California, was as shortstop for the Miramonte Matadors in high school and is considered by many to be the closest thing to a true five-tool collegiate outfielder eligible for this year's draft. He is currently batting a scorching .429 with three homers, four stolen bases and a 1216 OPS in 13 games for the Bears.

Jackson is a line-drive hitter with gap power, although many scouts see Jackson adding more homerun power as he develops. Defensively, Jackson has the range to stick in center, although his throwing arm is only average. He is a right-handed thrower despite being a left-handed hitter.

Tanner Scheppers: Scheppers was one of the top right-handers eligible for last year's draft, but his stock dropped dramatically when it was revealed that he had a stress fracture in his throwing shoulder just weeks before the draft. He was considered a top-10 pick before the injury, but wound-up going in the second round to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He elected not to sign with Pittsburgh, but rather than going back to Fresno State, Scheppers signed-up to play with the St. Paul Saints of the independent American Association. It is a route that has been used by a number of college pitchers who fell in a draft and didn't sign in an attempt to raise their draft stock, including former number one pick Luke Hochevar.

Before the injury, Scheppers had an electric arsenal of stuff, featuring a mid-90s fastball to go along with a big curveball and a change-up. He has a projectable frame, standing at 6'4'', but he weighs only around 185. There are few questions about his talent, but lots of questions about his health. He will need to show that he is back to full strength for the Saints to find himself back in the top-half of the first round discussions once again.

Kendal Volz: The Baylor right-hander was a teammate of Mike Minor and Andrew Oliver on Team USA last summer, helping that squad compile a stunning 0.88 ERA in 24 games. Volz acted as the team's closer, allowing only one unearned run in 14 innings for the US and he saved eight games. As a sophomore last season for the Bears, Volz was a starter. In 12 starts, he went 3-6 with a 4.20 ERA. He struck-out 85 in 70.2 innings, a record number per nine innings for Baylor pitchers. Despite his summer success as a closer, the Bears have moved Volz back into the starting rotation, where he has a 1.86 ERA and 13 strike-outs against nine walks in 19.1 innings thus far this season.

Although Volz has acted as a starter for Baylor, his future may very well be in the bullpen in the pros. He is a big, strong guy, standing at 6'5'' with a muscular base. He has a good sinking fastball that ranges from 91-95 and a power curveball that almost looks like a slider. His change-up is only so-so, but that should be less of an issue for Volz if he is in the bullpen. Teams may give him a chance to start before moving him to the bullpen. If he can improve his change-up and clean up his mechanics a bit (he throws a little across his body), he could stick as a starter. Otherwise, he stands a good chance of being a solid power reliever in the big leagues, not a bad thing to have on any team.

Chris Dominguez: Many A's fans have been looking for years for Oakland to take a third baseman in the early rounds who could take over for Eric Chavez. Is Dominguez that third-baseman? The Louisville product made a splash this summer when he tied Frank Thomas' Cape Cod single-game record for homers in one game (three). He is built a bit like Thomas, standing at a solid 6'4'', 250 pounds. As a sophomore for the Cardinals, Dominguez hit .365 with 21 homers and 75 RBIs. He was a draft-eligible sophomore and was taken in the fifth round of the draft by the Colorado Rockies. Dominguez didn't sign with the Rockies, electing to go back to Louisville for his redshirt junior season to see if he could improve his draft standing above the fifth round. He is currently hitting .354 with five homers and 22 RBIs in 12 games.

In some ways, Dominguez is a similar player to Brett Wallace, who was taken one pick after the A's took Jemile Weeks in last year's draft. Like Wallace, Dominguez is a pure slugger with a big frame that many scouts predict will eventually get too thick to stick at third base. Dominguez is more athletic than Wallace and has a greater chance of playing third base for at least some period of time in the big leagues. He doesn't have great mobility and his hands are only average, but he has a plus throwing arm (he reportedly hit the mid-90s with his fastball in high school). Dominguez isn't in Wallace's league as a hitter, however. Although he makes consistent hard contact like Wallace, Dominguez doesn't have Wallace's advanced plate coverage and Dominguez struggles with pitches with movement. Strike-outs are likely to be a problem for Dominguez in the pros. The A's are always searching for right-handed power, however, and Dominguez has that in spades. He could be a nice selection in round three, if he is still on the board.

LeVon Washington: Washington is an athletic high school outfielder/infielder from Gainesville, Florida. He is a three-sport athlete, playing basketball and football in addition to baseball, but baseball is thought to be his primary athletic interest. Washington has committed to attend the University of Florida on a baseball scholarship. He is a speedster who stole 38 bases during his junior season and 20 bases as a sophomore while hitting .381 and .375, respectively.

When we say that Washington is a speedster, we may be understating it. He ran the fastest 60-yard dash time (6.21) of any player at the 2008 Perfect Game National Showcase, which is one of the premier high school prospect showcases in the country. His best tool is his speed, and that tool alone makes him a very intriguing prospect. Very rarely do athletes with his speed stick with baseball over football or track. He is still a raw prospect and has refining to do with his game both out in the field and at the plate. Washington has mostly been a middle infielder in high school, but he has played out in centerfield at the prospect showcases. His speed and athleticism might make him a better fit in the outfield. At the plate, Washington is a left-handed hitter and that helps him beat out a lot of infield hits. He isn't a big guy (5'10'', 175), but he still has room to fill out his frame. Washington would be a tools-pick and might be too risky for spot 13, but if he shows more refinement in his game during his high school senior season, he might move up the draft boards.

Bobby Borchering: Borchering could be a teammate of Washington's next fall if both elect to go to Florida rather than sign with a major league team. Borchering is a two-way player, playing third base and serving as a right-handed pitcher. He has good arm strength, but most scouts project him as a position player at the next level. At the plate, he is a switch-hitter with good power from both sides of the plate. He has a smooth swing and is still growing into his frame, which could equal more power as he gets older. Borchering has is athletic and has a strong throwing arm. As a pitcher, he works generally in the high-80s with good command. He may grow to be too big for third base eventually, but he should have the power to stick at either corner. Fun fact: Borchering once robbed Albert Pujols of a homerun during the All-Star Game Home Run Derby in Milwaukee. Bud Selig ruled it a homerun because the kids shagging flyballs in the outfield during the derby weren't supposed to interfere with the flight of balls headed out of the park.

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