2004 Collegiate Position Prospect Preview

Although the college class of 2004 is heavy on pitching, there are plenty of stellar position players ready to make an impact as well. However, because pitching is so deep and talented in the upcoming draft, these position prospects may have to wait until the lower part of the first round to get a look. Plenty of familiar names abound to San Diego Padres fans, including Texas A&M's Corey Patton, drafted by the Friars in the fourth round of 2003 and several brothers of current Major Leaguers.

Included in this group are several players who were drafted in 2003, but elected to return to school for their Senior campaign, including two Cubs picks: catcher Landon Powell (25th Round), and OF Sam Fuld (24th Round).

CATCHERS

Jason Jaramillo, Oklahoma State, 6'1, 200, Jr.: Johnny Bench Award semifinalist in 2003. Led the Cowboys with a .385 batting average, with 9 HR's and 46 RBI's. He is a terrific, strong-armed defensive catcher with plenty of offensive skill. Very athletic and smart behind the plate.

Mike Nickeas, Georgia Tech, 6'0, 208, Jr.: Accurate, strong arm. Knows how to manage a pitching staff. Terrific clutch hitter, batting .378 with runners on base. Batted .333 as a sophomore.

Landon Powell, South Carolina, 6'3, 225, Sr.: Drafted by the Cubs in the 25th Round of the 2003 draft. Switch hitter with power from both sides of the plate. Has led the Gamecocks to two straight College World Series appearances. As a Junior, Powell batted .339 with 10 HR's and 61 RBI's. Fielding percentage of .994 should definately move up on the draft board with a successful senior season.

INFIELDERS

Jeff Larish, 1B, Arizona State, 6'2, 195, Jr.: Left-handed hitter who is arguably the best position player in the draft. Offensive machine for the Sun Devils batting .372 with 18 HR's and 95 RBI's in 2003. Terrific eye at the plate, walking 78 times as a sophomore. Led Team USA with 27 RBI's and 8 HR's. Drafted out of high school in 2001 by The Cubs (Round 32). Plays 1B for ASU, but can also play 3B and corner outfield.

Florida State's Stephen Drew. (AP Photo)
Stephen Drew, SS, Florida State, 6'0, 193, Jr. Left-handed hitter drafted in the 11th Round by the Pirates in 2001. Great speed, recording 33 steals in 2003. Fractured his foot in 2002, missing 28 games, but has since returned strong. Finoshed his sophomore season with a .327 batting average with 11 HR's and 59 RBI's. Off to a rousing start in 2004 for FSU, batting .400 with 2 HR's in four games.


Eric Patterson is the younger brother of Cubs CF Corey Patterson. (AP Photo)
Eric Patterson, 2B, Georgia Tech, 5'11, 173, Jr.: Familiar name to Cubs fans as the younger brother of CF Corey Patterson. Tremendous baserunner who ranks fifth on the GT career stolen base list with 76 steals in just two seasons. Left-handed leadoff hitter, who batted .346 as a freshman, but fell off to .274 as a sophomore. Stole 13 bases for Team USA in 2003.

Micah Owings, 1B/P, Georgia Tech, 6'5, 220, Soph.: Draft-eligible Sophomore who is a terrific hitter, but will probably be drafted as a pitcher. Posted a .593 SLG% for the Yellow Jackets in 2003, with a .306 average and 15 HR's. Will DH for Tech while remaining their No. 1 starter on the mound. Finished the season with a 9-3 record and 3.99 ERA. Member of 2003 Team USA, as both a pitcher and third baseman.

Eddy Martinez-Esteve, 3B/OF, Florida State, 6'2, 200, Soph.: Draft eligible Sophomore who was drafted in the third round by the Mariners in the 2002 draft. Outstanding hitter with power. Batted .371 in 2003 with 9 Hr's and 43 RBI's. Posted a slugging % of .608. Named a Freshman All-American despite being hampered by a hamstring injury in the second half of the season. Will move from 3B to RF for the Seminoles this season.

Josh Fields, 3B, Oklahoma State, 6'2, 210, Jr.: Two-sport star for the Cowboys. In addition to his exploits on the diamond, Fields in the starting quarterback on the OSU football team. Great hitter, especially against left-handers. Batted .358 with 12 HR's and 55 RBI's in 2003. Sees most of his action at 3B, but can also play 1B.

Dustin Pedroia, SS, Arizona State, 5'8, 180, Jr.: Pac-10 Co-Player of the Year in 2003. Has a career .379 batting average through two seasons for the Sun Devils, ranking him No. 11 on the all-time ASU list. Also named the 2003 Easton/Collegiate Baseball Defensive Player of the Year. In his career, Pedroia has committed only 12 errors in 542 chances. Lack of size may scare away some teams, making Pedroia a potential steal in the draft.

Wes Whisler, 1B/P, UCLA, 6'5, 227, Jr.: Outstanding, physically imposing athlete for the Bruins who gets it done both at the plate and on the mound. UCLA's top left-handed starter as a pitcher. Recorded a team high 15 starts, finishing with a 5.66 ERA in 2003. However, his future is probably as a hitter, although pro scouts have grown to like his size as a pitcher. Great power hitter from the left side, batting .310 with 9 HR's, and 21 multi-hit games.

Brad McCann, 3B, Clemson, 6'3, 200, Jr.: Excellent offensive skills. Batted .347 with 9 HR's and 57 RBI's in 2003.

Paul Janish, SS, Rice, 6'1, 180, Jr.: Smooth fielding shortstop for the No. 1 rated Owls. His offensive play lags a bit, but he shows strong potential. Batted .294 with 44 RBI's during his Sophomore season. Strong arm with great range.

OUTFIELDERS

Seth Smith, OF, Ole Miss, 6'3, 205, Jr.: Can play all three OF positions. .333 batting average for the Rebels during 2003. A bit behind in his baseball development after spending two years as a back-up quarterback on the Ole Miss football team behind Eli Manning. Has all the tools, starting with a sweet swing. Batted .322 for Team USA in 2003, and is now devoting all his energy to baseball. Should prosper this season.

Sam Fuld, OF, Stanford, 5'10, 180, Sr.: Drafted by the Cubs (24th Round) in 2003, but opted to return to Stanford for his Senior season. Intense competitor with terrific all-around skill. Possesses speed and a great arm playing centerfield for the Cardinal. Batted .321 in his junior year with 4 HR's and 35 RBI's. Was a perfect 10-for-10 in stolen bases. Starting the 2004 season with a bang, Fuld is currently batting .417 with 4 RBI's. Looks to move up in a big way in the 2004 draft.

Jonathan Zeringue, OF, LSU, 6'2, 210, Jr.: Selected by the White Sox in the third round of the 2001 draft. Played RF for the Tigers in 2003, batting .339 with 15 2B, 13 HR's and 45 RBI's. Batted an impressive .375 in SEC conference play. Led the Tigers in the 2003 College World Series with a .500 average. Was a catcher in high school.

Jeremy Slayden, OF, Georgia Tech, 6'0, 190, Jr.: Tech's regular starter in RF. Batted .294 in 2003 with 8 HR's and 40 RBI's. Had a stellar freshman season, batting .348 with 18 HR's and 66 RBI's, earning him Freshman All-American honors. Can hit to all fields and has a strong arm in the outfield. 20th Round draft pick of the Padres in 2001.

Ben Harrison, OF, Florida, 6'3, 220, Sr.: Drafted in the fourth Round of the 2003 draft by Cleveland. Speed and power at the plate with a strong arm. Led the Gators in 2003 with a .362 batting average and tied for the team lead with 14 stolen bases. Played 40 games in centerfield and 18 in right, posting a .969 fielding percentage. Batted a perfect 4-for-4 in the Gators first game of 2004.

Corey Patton, OF, Texas A&M, 5'10, 210, Sr.: Drafted by the Padres in the sixth round of the 2003 draft. Started every game in RF for the Aggies, posting a .331 batting average with 13 HR's and 58 RBI's. Led the team with 27 multi-hit games. Plenty of power.

Danny Putnam, OF, Stanford, 5'11, 195, Jr.: A dangerous and powerful hitter. Batted .348 with 16 HR's and 66 RBI's for the Cardinal in 2003. Batted .300 in the 2003 College World Series leading to a spot on the All-CWS Team. Underrated defensively. 2003 member of Team USA. Currently batting .421 thru five games for Stanford.

Justin Maxwell, OF, Maryland, 6'5, 215, Jr.: A player who combines speed with power. Batted .317 with 10 HR's and 43 RBI's in 2003. Also stole 11 bases. Shows outstanding range and speed playing centerfield for the Terps. Batted .307 in the 2003 Cap Cod League. Excellent student athlete with a 3.93 GPA.

Jeff Frazier, OF, Rutgers, 6'3, 200, Jr.: Outstanding bat, especially when facing lefties, hitting .395 against left-handed pitching in 2003. Finished the year with a .315 average, 8 HR's and 54 RBI's. Batted .352 in league play. Strong arm.

Others to watch

OF JC Holt (LSU); 1B Billy Belcher (South Florida); 1B Joey Metropoulos (Southern Cal); 2B Steve Sollman (Donny Lucy (Stanford); 1B Cesar Nicholas (Louisville); SS Matt Tolbert (Ole Miss); OF Sean Gambe (Auburn); OF/3B Michael Girrifn (Baylor); OF Marcus Townsend (Southern Cal).

Lori Foote is an expert on college baseball and Major League draft analysis. E-mail Lori at cubswin@alltel.net.


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