TigsTown Draft Notebook: Early Look Ahead

With the 2007 draft in the rearview mirror, it's never too early to take a look toward next season. So, it's now time to take an early look at the class of 2008.

If there are two things this class has compared to the class of '07, it's that college pitching (particularly right-handed) and first basemen will be in abundance. Tyson Ross (California), Josh Romanski (San Diego), Brett Hunter (Pepperdine), Jacob Thompson (Virginia), and Mississippi's Lance Lynn and Cody Satterwhite lead the way as potential first-rounders. They will all be a part of a loaded pitching staff for Team USA this summer.

The top left-hander in the country is San Diego's Brian Matusz, and he will also pitch for Team USA, which also boasts three of the top position prospects in the country in third baseman Pedro Alvarez (Vanderbilt), first baseman Justin Smoak (South Carolina), and outfielder Jordan Danks (Texas).

Alvarez is the favorite to follow teammate David Price as the first player taken in the draft, while Smoak should be one of the first five players off the board. Danks also is in the first-round mix, although he hasn't tapped into his power potential.

Two of the top college pitching prospects available next year are teammates on Falmouth's squad in the Cape Cod League. Eastern Kentucky left-hander Christian Friedrich already has racked up 28 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings and Wichita State right-hander Aaron Shafer (1-0, 2.00 ERA) are projected as potential first-rounders.

After Smoak, Wake Forest's Allan Dykstra, Miami's Yonder Alonzo, and Arizona State's Brett Wallace provide some of the best power bats available, not to mention that Florida first baseman Eric Hosmer (American Heritage HS) is the top prep prospect in the country. He has very polished hitting skills and enormous power to all fields.

College shortstops are always in demand, and this should be a good group with UCLA's Brandon Crawford, South Carolina's Reese Havens, Tennessee's Tony Delmonico, Oklahoma State's Jordy Mercer, Vanderbilt's Ryan Flaherty, and Baylor's Beamer Weems leading the way. One name to keep a close eye on is Georgia's Gordon Beckham, who has already hit four homers on the Cape and is hitting .328 thus far.

Scouts have already had a chance to see some of the top prep players in the country at a couple of showcases, and one player that is already making waves has some rich bloodlines, but not in baseball.

Kyle Long (St. Anne's Belfield HS, Va.) is the son of NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long, and his brother Chris is a defensive lineman at Virginia who could be a high selection in next April's NFL draft. At 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds, Kyle is a monster with incredible athleticism for someone his size. He runs very well and has touched 96 as a left-handed pitcher. He also has unbelievable power potential. As you might expect, he is also a prominent football prospect, but he has verbally committed to Florida State for baseball only. Long certainly needs refinement, and scouts will have plenty of debates as to whether he'll be a position player (first base for now, but projects to be a right fielder), or powerful left-handed pitcher.

One player that people around the country will be getting familiar with over the next year will be Iowa's Brent Warren. Several months ago, it was believed that his career would be over due to a genetic heart problem. However, Warren underwent successful heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic and got clearance from his doctor to resume baseball activities. He appeared at Perfect Game's National Showcase last month, and even though he isn't close to 100 percent, he showed his five-tool potential, and he will be on full display at the AFLAC All-American Classic, which will be played in San Diego next month.

Prep shortstops will also be in abundance next year with Florida's Harold Martinez and Tyler Pastornicky, California's Chris Amezquita and Dmitri DelaFuenta, Georgia's Tim Beckham, Colorado's Andy Burns, North Carolina's Garrison Lassiter all ranked among the best players in the country.

Some other prep players to watch are Georgia third baseman Ethan Martin, who has plenty of raw power and a very strong arm. California's Aaron Hicks has some filling out to do, but there is no questioning his impressive tools.

In addition to Warren, a couple of other outfielders to watch are Georgia's Xavier Avery, who has game-changing speed to go with a developing bat. Alabama's Destin Hood is a solid football prospect, but has the raw baseball tools that will keep scouts interested. Wesley Freeman (All Saints Academy HS, Lakeland, Fla.) has a great speed/power combination, and Texas' Robbie Grossman and J.P. Ramirez also rank as two of the top hitting players among the outfield prospects.

California's Gerrit Cole ranks as one of the top pitchers from the prep class with a fastball that has reached 96 to go with solid secondary stuff. Georgia's Michael Palazzone ranks with Cole with a potentially overpowering arsenal, as does Missouri's Tim Melville. After Jarrod Parker went in the first round, Indiana's Alex Meyer will try to do the same in 2008. He has huge size (6-foot-7) to go with a fastball that has peaked at 95. Maryland's Scott Silverstein and Florida's Brett DeVall rank as two of the top left-handers in the high school class. Silverstein sits in the 90-92 range, while DeVall has a great feel for pitching.

This overall class presently may not offer the upside or the depth of the 2007 class, but on the surface, this group has some very intriguing players that bear close watching over the next 11 months.

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