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Breaking down the top prep pitchers

5/30/2011

The draft is now just a week away and clubs are now having draft meetings. The overwhelming majority of the data has been gathered by the area scouts, and the crosscheckers, scouting directors and even GMs have already been out to get their own final glance at the top prospects. But that doesn't mean any organization has their draft board set yet.

"I've been here eight years," said one crosschecker, "and we've never set ours until the night before or even the morning of the draft. We'll get late information that changes something for us and have to make an adjustment."

Translation: There's a lot of work yet to be done and a lot is unsettled.

One of those unsettled areas is which prep arm most deserves to rank No. 4 behind right-handers Dylan Bundy (Owasso HS, Okla.), Archie Bradley (Broken Arrow HS, Okla.) and Tyler Guerrieri (Spring Valley HS, S.C.). The top candidates include Alonso High School (Fla.) right-hander Jose Fernandez, Alhambra High School (Calif.) righty Robert Stephenson and Dillon Howard from Searcy High School in Arkansas. Science Hill (Tenn.) left-hander Daniel Norris, right-hander Joe Ross from Bishop O'Dowd High School (Calif.) and Lawrence Academy's Tyler Beede are also in that mix along with Edison High School (Calif.) southpaw Henry Owens.

Each pitcher has his own claim; Fernandez's fastball has touched 98 mph this spring while Stephenson may have the best combination of present velocity and projectable frame. Howard's consistent stuff may top that of the rest of the group while Norris may be the top left-hander. Joe Ross's low-90s fastball and fluid delivery also earn notice.

Beede finished his season strong, touching the mid-90s and striking out 13 in the league title game. He's held his velocity deep into games, thrown three no-hitters and compiled a 102-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 51 innings.

"I haven't seen the other high school pitchers in the country this year but Ty was very consistent this season," said an area scout. "His breaking ball got a little better as the season went along and at times he really spotted his fastball."

Despite those endorsements, the scout admits that neither Beede's command or curve receive high grades, but his velocity is above average, he has a projectable frame and he repeats his delivery. However, the biggest x-factor in regards to his draft stock is his strong commitment to Vanderbilt, which could keep him out of the initial round. Because he's from Massachussets, Beede is naturally linked to Boston in the second half of the first round and could also fit nicely at No. 24 with Tampa Bay, 25 with San Diego or 28 to Atlanta. Keith Law has Beede ranked No. 30 in the latest Top 100 and projected the Twins to tab him at No. 30 in his latest mock.

College bats

Anthony Rendon's latest showing in the field -- he played second base last week in the Conference USA Tournament -- could solidify his place as the top college bat in the class, if not the No. 1 overall player. That's partially because the rest of the college position players have major holes in their game. Or in the case of LSU's Mikie Mahtook, just not quite enough upside.

"I love him, so don't ask me to tell you why he won't go in the top 10," quipped one area scout. "I think he moves quickly through the minors and plays center in the bigs in two years. But no, he's probably not going to hit 30 homers." Mahtook, however, has displayed the ability to square up pitches and get consistent loft, and combined with the proof that he can handle center field, his tools suggest a potential all-star.

Dear Scouting Bureau

Dalls Jesuit Prep outfielder Josh Bell has reportedly sent a letter to the MLB Scouting Bureau alerting clubs that he will attend the University of Texas next season. The letter apparently indicates that Bell does not want to start his professional career just yet, suggesting to clubs that drafting him would be a waste.

Of course, this could be posturing by Scott Boras, Bell's adviser, meaning it may take top-10 money to get Bell to pass up college. Law ranked Bell at No. 21 overall in the Top 100 and projected him to land in Boston in the latest mock draft.

Notes

• Georgia Tech lefty Jed Bradley rebounded from a handful of mediocre starts to flash a better breaking ball that helped him rack up eight strikeouts against North Carolina State Thursday in the ACC Tournament. He did, again, work deep counts and had some problems putting hitters away, but the Wolfpack couldn't square up his fastball much.

• Shorewood (Wash.) High School southpaw Blake Snell pitched his team into the state finals with a complete-game that featured 10 strikeouts. Shoving aside some early-season struggles, Snell, a projectable 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds, showed a better curveball than when I saw him in March and April; it was a bit firmer in the 70-72 mph range and he knew when to bury it down in the zone to get the hitter to chase. He sat 87-91 mph, tagging 92 twice for me Friday and an area scout says he had Snell up to 94 a week ago. He's not a first-round talent, but he's signable despite a commitment to the University of Washington and isn't likely to last long if he gets past the initial sandwich round.