TigsTown Draft Notebook: Looking Ahead to '08

With the 2007 draft officially in the books, scouts are beginning to make their assessments for the 2008 draft crop. At the outset, it appeared that next year's group wouldn't have the amount of potential impact players available that this year's draft crop had, but as the summer has worn on, several players have made major impacts.

The name Beckham won't be popular just with soccer fans over the next year. Two baseball Beckhams residing in Georgia who both play shortstop will have the opportunity to hear their names called very early in next June's draft.

Griffin High School's Tim Beckham has emerged as arguably the top position prospect available in next year's draft from the prep ranks. After a terrific showing at the East Coast Professional Showcase (which was held at the Tigertown Complex in Lakeland), Beckham headed west and brought home MVP honors at the Aflac Classic by driving in three runs, including the game-winner in the top of the ninth with a sacrifice fly. He also laced an RBI triple to deep right-center off of Illinois left-hander Austin Wilson on a high fastball away from the plate. The senior-to-be profiles as a five-tool shortstop who has great makeup to go with terrific athleticism.

After hitting .307 with a team-leading 13 home runs and 51 RBIs this spring for Georgia, Gordon Beckham had a superb season for Yarmouth-Dennis, who won the Cape Cod League championship. During the summer, Beckham hit .284 and led the Cape with nine homers. His 35 RBIs were good for a tie of the league lead, and he also had 19 extra-base hits. Heading into his junior year, Beckham has belted 25 homers for the Bulldogs, and there is no question scouts will be keeping a very close eye on the budding slugger next spring.

If there is one work that I could presently describe the high school class, it's raw. However, many of these players have terrific tools, so if everything comes together, this could be a special class not only at the top of the draft, but also from a depth standpoint.

Two cases in point would be Virginia's Kyle Long and Georgia's Xavier Avery. Both are football standouts (although Long committed to Florida State for baseball only), but have unbelievable ability on the baseball diamond. Long could go either way as either a powerful right fielder with five-tool ability, or a left-handed pitcher that can reach 96 off of a 6-foot-7 frame.

Avery offers game-changing speed (he has been clocked at 6.17 seconds in the 60-yard dash) which allows him to wreak havoc on the bases and chase fly balls down with ease in center field. However, he also has a lot of raw power in his bat, as his 400-foot home run at the East Coast Professional Showcase showed. Because of his tools and ability on the gridiron, he has drawn some comparisons to Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford.

It should be a good year for prep outfielders with Texas' Robbie Grossman and J.P. Ramirez, California's Aaron Hicks (who also could go out as a pitcher) and Isaac Galloway leading a great contingent of outfielders who offer plenty of tools and great upside.

Beckham isn't the lone prep shortstop who is loaded with tools. Florida's Harold Martinez was robbed of two hits by Grossman in the Aflac contest, but it is with his glove and arm where he presently stands out. He projects outstanding power potential in time, and if the bat continues to make strides, he could be a very early pick next year.

After a bit a of a slow start last summer, Peter Kozma emerged as a first-round pick this spring, and a player from Colorado is drawing comparisons to Kozma's game. Fort Collins resident Andy Burns doesn't have a standout tool, but he does everything well, and like Martinez, if his bat can continue to develop and come along, he could follow in Kozma's footsteps as a first-round pick next spring.

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