Michigan captured the Big Ten Crown and is hosting the conference tournament this week in Ann Arbor, but in spite of their solid mark, they have only a couple of guys to watch for in the draft. Junior Doug Pickens went undrafted last year when he was eligible as a sophomore, but he has a chance to start his pro career this year. The junior is hitting .352 with five homers and 37 RBIs this spring while playing a super-utility role for the Wolverines. Pickens has predominantly played catcher this spring, and done so with aplomb, but he has also played second base and both outfield corner spots. He figures to go in the first 10 rounds.
Outfielder Eric Rose should make a solid senior sign thanks to his fleet feet, which has allowed him to steal 32 bases in 38 attempts. He is hitting .322 and had a 28-game hitting streak earlier in the season. Fellow senior Andrew Hess (7-1, 3.46 ERA) should also get a look from someone next month. A final name to watch out for is junior first baseman Nate Recknagel, who is hitting .358 with 10 homers and 54 RBIs.
Although the Wolverines don t have much in the way of draft prospects this year, they ll be loaded next year, as sophomores Mike Wilson (LHP), Adam Abraham (3B/RHP), and Zach Putnam (RHP/OF) all profile as potential early choices next year.
Michigan State had a chance to have two players go in the first 10 rounds in sophomore catcher Kyle Day and junior Mark Sorensen. However, Day hit just .295 and Sorensen went 1-2 with a 7.59 ERA in 11 1/3 innings before an arm injury derailed his season. There is a chance someone could take a flier on Day, particularly if they remember his great summer in the Jayhawk League, but both Spartans are good bets to return to East Lansing.
Central Michigan entered the final weekend of the MAC schedule in first place, but a series loss to Ball State dropped the Chippewas to third place. Nevertheless, CMU stands to be the school that could lose a good portion of its squad to the pros, particularly its pitching staff.
Junior Josh Collmenter (9-3, 1.49 ERA) has been the Chippewas' ace this spring. In 108 2/3 innings, he has allowed just 73 hits and has 112 strikeouts. Collmenter has a solid four-pitch mix that includes a very good changeup with a cutter and a curveball. CMU has two other hurlers in Chris Kupillas and Jeff Richard, who are both sophomore eligible. Both have been used in swing roles, and Kupillas reached 94 with his fastball last summer in the Great Lakes League. His breaking ball continues to evolve, although his changeup needs lots of work. Richard also topped out at 94 last summer and uses a split-finger fastball and an average breaking ball.
One player Central Michigan will lose regardless of the draft is senior first baseman Ben Humphrey, who is hitting .360 to go with a team-leading 10 homers. Also keep an eye on junior catcher/outfielder Tyler Stovall, who was the MAC Player of the Year, and is hitting 100 points this year than he did last year (.409 BA, 6 HR, 59 RBI, 20-26 SB).
Eastern Michigan captured the MAC West title with a sparking 21-4 record, and is hosting this week s conference tournament. Like CMU, they have a bonified ace of their own in Jeff Fischer, who has gone 7-4 with a 2.87 ERA this spring. The junior right-hander has solidified his draft stock by working in the low-90s with his fastball to go with a solid slider and changeup. As it stands, Fischer could be the first Michigan product off the board and could sneak into the first five rounds. Junior shortstop Jeff Hehr is a solid athlete who is has been solid defensively. He has a good arm and hits with power, but could face a position move at the next level.
EMU should have several seniors who will get a chance to be drafted. Catcher Derek Lehrman is a solid catch-and-throw receiver with power, while right-hander George Biddle has a fastball that reaches the low-90s with a very good changeup and a overhand curveball. One player the Eagles could retain is sophomore closer Matt Shoemaker, who has 13 saves. In addition to reaching 94, Shoemaker has a splitter and slider in his arsenal.
Western Michigan may have had a disappointing season, but the Broncos should have a couple of players selected in junior catcher Nathan Marquardt and redshirt junior pitcher Dan Coberley. Marquardt has the potential to be an outstanding hitter with power potential who made only one error behind the plate all season. Coberley, a right-hander, has more of a finesse approach by sitting only 87-88 and touching 90 with a good slider and changeup combo.
The Broncos also have two solid arms for 2008 in right-handers Ethan Hollingsworth and Billy Morrison, who both have been up to 92 with evolving secondary pitches. After being shut out in the draft last year for the first time since moving to Division I, Oakland should get back on the map with senior catcher Kevin Carkeek, who is hitting .333 with nine homers and 42 RBIs.
One out of state resident who will go early is New Boston native Eric Niesen, who pitches at Wake Forest. Since moving into the bullpen, the left-hander has been clocked at 94, and has a chance to be selected in the first five rounds.
The junior college ranks are thin this year, as Lake Michigan right-hander Jon Kessick profiles as one of the few options for clubs. Kessick signed with Wayne State, but is also under control to the Braves, who drafted him in the 47th round last year.
The high school ranks has a top-heavy feel to it, as Birmingham Brother Rice s D. J. LeMahieu leads the prep contingent. The AFLAC All-American and LSU signee has a frame that you normally associate with a pitcher, but it's very projectable, and he is just beginning to tap into his power potential. If he makes it to Baton Rouge, don t be surprised if he emerges as a first-rounder three years from now.
Baseball runs deep in the blood of the Killian family. Bill Killian is a part-time scout in Michigan, and first son Billy was a third-round pick of the Padres in 2004. Now comes Danny, who like his older brother, is a catcher who signed with Kentucky. With the dearth of catchers available this year, Killian could slide far enough in the draft to windup in school, where he would be Sean Coughlin's heir in Lexington.
Marshall right-hander Ryan Sharpley has just a 4-3 record this year, but has allowed only a handful of earned runs on the season. Sharpley has a very projectable frame, and could have two plus pitches in time with his fastball and slider, but he has committed to Notre Dame, where his older brother Evan plays.
Jackson Lumen Christi outfielder Ryan LaMarre just might be the best athlete in the state. He has led the Titans to a state title in football and had offers to play junior hockey, but is focusing solely on baseball. Through 25 games, LaMarre had 15 homers and 50 RBIs to go with a .575 average, and on the mound he has authored two no-hitters. He has great speed to cover a lot of ground in center field, and he got a good taste of quality pitching at the Area Code Games last summer, but a commitment to Michigan will cloud his signability.
The player with easily the most famous last name is Colin Kaline, who is the grandson of Tigers legend Al Kaline. Colin is a second baseman at Birmingham Groves, and will be playing his college baseball at Division II power Florida Southern, which is just down the street from where the Tigers train in Lakeland.
A trio of right-handers to keep an eye on are Northville's Bryce Jenney (Western Kentucky), Farmington's Burny Mitchem (Dayton), and Utica Ford's Trevor Borsak (Central Michigan). The latter two have good size and can touch the low-90s, while Jenney doesn't throw as hard, but gets good movement on his pitches.
Overall, the crop of 2007 should be one to keep a close eye on, because even if the majority of these players windup in school, they have shown plus tools in the past, and could be really solid drafts in the years to come.