Despite the likelihood that the Diamondbacks choose prep star Justin Upton; there are still rumors that St. John's University closer, Craig Hansen, could be in the mix for the top spot. The 6-foot-5 Hansen has been dominating during his junior campaign, logging 50 innings of relief with a 1.09 ERA and 66 strikeouts, against just 13 walks. Hansen is the latest in a recent trend of polished collegiate closers who are expected to reach the Major Leagues quickly.
While few of the pitchers scream "high impact," like several of the hitters, there is an abundance of top-flight arms that could scatter throughout the top ten. Among them are Tennessee right-hander Luke Hochevar, and Wichita State right-hander Mike Pelfrey. This duo has battled all season for honors as the top available pitcher. Two equally dominating pitchers, many draft boards consider them nearly interchangeable.
Pelfrey mixes three plus pitches, with tremendous poise, while Hochevar's calling card is his outstanding performance as Team USA's ace last summer. Pre-draft rumors have Pelfrey linked to the Tigers by virtue of David Chadd's ties to Wichita and also their previous good dealings with agent Scott Boras. If Pelfrey falls to the bottom of the top ten, don't be surprised to see the Tigers take another power arm, furthering their stockpile of top flight pitching talent.
Returning to the draft this spring is 2004 Orioles' draft choice, Wade Townsend from Rice University. Negotiations between the O's and Townsend broke down late last summer, and due to NCAA regulations, Townsend was not able to resume his collegiate career. Wade has been working out for teams all spring, and his stock appears to be rising. Despite the increased depth of this year's draft, it is likely that Townsend could still come off the board in the top half of the first round.
Another successful college hurler, who could easily be drafted in the top ten, is Cal-State Fullerton's Ricky Romero. Romero's outstanding three-pitch mix makes him the top lefty available in the 2005 draft. If he falls out of the top ten, it will be quite a surprise.
The top prep pitchers in the draft are PB Gardens' (Florida) Chris Volstad and Springville, Utah's Mark Pawelek. Volstad is considered one of the most polished high school arms in the draft, possessing a plus fastball and very good control, in spite of his youth.
Pawelek has been absolutely dominating this spring, not allowing an earned run in 51 innings, while striking out 109 batters. The only questions surrounding Pawelek's performance center around the level of competition he has faced pitching in Utah, someplace not typically considered a hotbed of baseball talent.
With the tremendous depth of position players, and the top-notch collegiate pitchers ahead of them, it will be tough for either of these youngsters to scratch their way into the top ten. The 2005 draft is loaded with high-end talent, leaving the Tigers with many choices at the 10th pick. Only time will tell which direction they'll take, but it's going to be an exciting couple of days.