TigsTown Draft Notebook: Middle Infielders

Outside of catching, finding middle infielders is one of the tougher chores for the scouting community to find. In 2007, scouts will have their pick of a solid group of prospects who can man the middle of the diamond, particularly in the high school ranks.

Peter Kozma (Owasso, Ok.) presently ranks as arguably the top shortstop prospect in the country with a chance to land in the bottom of the first round, or early in the supplemental round. He doesn't have the raw tools that his contemporaries have, but his game is solid in every aspect, and the Tigers have already worked him out, so he could be a candidate for them with the 27th pick. Kozma ended the regular season with a .484 average to go with six homers and 39 RBIs. How good of a contact hitter is Kozma? He had three strikeouts in 93 at-bats.

Will Middlebrooks (Liberty Eylau, Texas) has also shot up draft boards with his athleticism and solid tools. The Texas A&M signee could go either in the first two rounds as a shortstop, or in the first five rounds as a right-handed pitcher. Another Texan who has moved up boards is Bellaire's Matt West, who has made a mockery of the pitching in the Houston area this spring with a .583 average, eight homers and 43 RBIs. West isn't as big as Middlebrooks, but also has a solid set of tools.

Other prep shortstops who figure to go early include Ryan Dent (Wilson, Ca.) and Christian Colon (Canyon, Ca.), who could be nice fits at the top of a club's batting order, while D. J. LeMahieu (Brother Rice, Mi.), Carmen Angelini (Barbe, La.), and Jon Gilmore (Iowa City, Iowa) offer plenty of power potential down the road. Justin Jackson (Roberson, N.C.) offers a good glove, and if the bat continues to make progress, he could be a really solid prospect. Jackson also recently had a private workout in front of 30 scouts.

Nick Noonan (Francis Parker, Ca.) and John Tolisano (Estero, Fl.) are shortstops who could move to second base, and offer above-average offensive production from there. Dent also could make the move to second base.

The college crop of shortstops doesn't offer as much upside, and North Carolina's Josh Horton figures to be the first one off the board, but some scouts aren't sold on him staying at shortstop in the future.

Mississippi's Zack Cozart and Oregon State's Darwin Barney both struggled mightily hitting with wood bats last summer, and may be utility players as pros. Texas A&M's Brandon Hicks and Pepperdine's Danny Worth have moved upward, with both showing great improvement with the bat to go with solid defense.

INJURIES TAKE TOP TWOSOME OUT
After taking several weeks hoping that rest would cure his ailing right elbow, Erik Goeddel (Bellarmine Prep, Ca.), was set to undergo Tommy John surgery and will be headed to UCLA.

Left-hander John Gast first came on the scene last fall with a 17-strikeout performance in the WWBA championships, and this spring he had continued to show low-90s heat to go with a nasty curveball, but he also is headed for surgery. Gast pitched well enough this spring to go in the first three rounds, so it will be interesting to see if a team takes the same approach with these two guys as the Angels did with Nick Adenhart. Gast has signed with Florida State.


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