'06 Draft: State of Michigan Draft Candidates

After having 11 players selected on the first day of the draft last year, the Wolverine State doesn't figure to have as much success in 2006 with a draft crop that is very thin.

After winning a series at Penn State this past weekend, Michigan finds itself tied atop the Big Ten standings with Northwestern, and is in good shape to reach the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers control the rights to catcher Jeff Kunkel, and should he go back into the draft, he would be U-M's top prospect with a good chance of going in the first 10 rounds.

The Wolverines have three other players to watch, two of whom should make solid senior signs. Junior right-hander Andrew Hess has a loose arm and works in the 90-92 range with a good changeup, but may not get drafted high enough to warrant leaving school.

As a fifth-year senior, left-hander Paul Hammond could sign as a free agent before the draft if Michigan fails to make the NCAA Tournament. Hammond works in the 88-89 range with his fastball and has a good slider with a curveball and a developing changeup. Left fielder Mike Schmidt has an intriguing combination of speed and power and he leads the Wolverines with nine homers and has eight stolen bases.

Michigan State has a pair of pitchers that should garner some attention on draft day. Senior right-hander Jeff Gerbe has hit 94 and is honing his slider, while left-hander John Dwan sits in the 86-89 range with a good changeup and is also a draft-and-follow candidate being a redshirt junior.

The Spartans also have two position players that could be taken in senior infielder Alan Cattrysse and junior outfielder Ryan Basham. Cattrysse has primarily played second base this year, but has played all over the diamond in his college career. He has a pro body and average tools across the board. With an appropriate last name of Basham, the junior appropriately bashes the baseball with his bat being his best tool. He is hitting .370 with seven homers and 50 RBIs through Sunday's action, but is limited to left field defensively, and may not get drafted high enough to turn pro.

Of the three MAC schools, Eastern Michigan could be the team that loses the most players to the draft. First baseman Steve Bradshaw is a draft-eligible sophomore who has a good glove and should hit for average at the next level and might work his way into the first 10 rounds.

Catcher Matt Moffett should be a nice senior sign who offers power potential at the plate, and has good catch-and-throw skills behind the plate. Moffett leads EMU with seven homers and shares the catching duties with junior Derek Lehrman, who offers a similar profile to Moffett.

Center fielder Trumaine Riley could be drafted, but he also plays on the football team, which clouds his status. Riley is a solid defender and has great speed, but is still raw on the diamond due to his two-sport commitment.

The Eagles will lose at least one pitcher in senior right-hander Will Stewardson, who throws only 87-88, but has good command of four pitches, and could also lose junior right-hander George Biddle, who can run his fastball into the 90-91 range with a slider and a changeup.

Had Central Michigan left-hander Jayson Ruhlman not signed with the Cubs just before classes started last fall, he would've been a good choice for being the top prospect in the state this year, but the Chippewas have a few players to keep an eye on.

Senior right-handers Ty Dunham and Nathan Pung should be senior signs, with Dunham using a three-pitch mix, and the big-bodied Pung (6-foot-6, 210 lbs.) working in the 86-92 range with a splitter and a curveball, although Pung has had some arm discomfort and has worked just 15 innings, posting a 7.20 ERA.

CMU has a pair of bats that bear watching on draft day. Junior first baseman Ben Humphrey has good power potential, and has hit .354 with 12 homers and 62 RBIs, but may not go high enough to sign a pro contract. Left fielder Bryan Mitzel also brings power potential to the table, and has the arm to play in right field. Mitzel took a medical redshirt in his freshman year due to knee surgery, so he is a draft-and-follow candidate. Mitzel is hitting .322 with 14 home runs and 52 RBIs.

Draft day should be a quiet one in Kalamazoo, where Western Michigan has only one player drawing serious interest in junior left-hander Dan O'Brien, who works in the 87-90 range and also throws a cutter, curve, slider, and a changeup. O'Brien has gone 6-2 with a 2.89 ERA and has 81 strikeouts in 74 2/3 innings, while issuing just 19 walks. With those numbers, O'Brien is a candidate to sneak into the first 10 rounds.

After having at least one player selected in every draft since 2000, including ninth-rounder Paul Phillips last year, Oakland doesn't figure to have a player selected this June.

Grand Valley State has had a terrific year with a 44-8 record, and is currently ranked third in the country in Division II. The Lakers were awarded the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament after the GLIAC Tournament was washed out last weekend, and they have a pair of pitchers that could get looks as free agents after the draft.

The Pitcher of the Year in the GLIAC was right-hander Jeremy Dow, and he works in the upper 80s with a slider. Left-hander Grant Payton tops out at 85, but has four quality pitches.

Wayne State has two intriguing players in first baseman Jon Weisman and center fielder Adwin Springer.

Weisman runs well for someone his size (6-foot-5, 230 lbs.) and has some power to go with it. Weisman hit nine homers and was a perfect 6-for-6 in stolen bases. Weisman is a redshirt junior and should be a nice draft-and-follow selection, but will need better plate discipline, having drawn just 16 walks and striking out 58 times this year.

Springer is a Toronto native who could blossom as a pro. He has a solid frame that offers power potential and he also runs well, having swiped 11 bases in 12 attempts. Springer also has above-average arm strength, but like Weisman, he will need better plate discipline (19 BB/50 K) to become a solid prospect.

The junior colleges in Michigan have been fertile for the in-state schools and two of the top programs are Grand Rapids Community College and Kellogg Community College.

GRCC won the regular season in the MCCAA, and has several players that scouts have been keeping an eye on.

Right-hander Eric Lawrence is under Arizona's control, but his velocity has dipped a little this spring and he is topping out at 90. Lawrence also throws a slider, curveball, and a changeup. If Lawrence doesn't sign with Arizona, he will head to Central Michigan.

Left-hander Brandon Ritchie has great size at 6-foot-5 and has touched 90 with a hard slider. Ritchie could throw harder in time as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery and should be a draft-and-follow. Another left-hander that could get drafted is Adam Slusher, who has signed with Michigan State. Slusher has hit 88 and has a good curveball.

The Raiders have an interesting two-way player that could make a nice draft-and-follow selection in Andre Benjamin. Benjamin has a strong at frame at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, and has gotten more work on the mound this spring. He has a delivery that is similar to that of Marlins ace Dontrelle Willis, and has been clocked at 88. He has a great changeup and his breaking ball is more of a slurve right now. As a right fielder, he has lots of power and runs well, but is raw.

The Raiders have two more players that will be moving on to the University of Pittsburgh next year in shortstop Mike LePor and right-handed pitcher Ben Knuth.

KCC has two players that could merit attention, but lost a third player due to injury. Outfielder Brad McElroy has average tools across the board and has committed to UNC-Charlotte and third baseman Kevin Mailloux is an above-average hitter with average power. He has a good arm, but the Canisius signee suffered a horrific knee injury that not only ended his 2006 season, but may also jeopardize his '07 campaign.

If you're looking for a deep sleeper as a draft-and-follow, then outfielder Joe Sheets is your man. Sheets is a raw player with big potential. Sheets has great athleticism and also pitches for the Bruins, working in the 87-88 range with little action on the mound (only seven innings pitched).

The high school ranks are very thin, with Alan Oaks of Dearborn Divine Child being the lone candidate to go in the early rounds of the draft. Complicating matters for scouts is Oaks' signability, as he is committed to Michigan. Oaks is a solid two-way player who could either play first base or the outfield in college as a position player, and he works in the low 90s as a pitcher.

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