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Go west, young man -- and find talent

5/19/2010

Editor's Note: Detailed rundown of the MLB draft order is now available here.

There are a handful of prep position players that could go among the first 50 picks, including potential top 15 picks Manny Machado and Nick Castellanos, both infielders from Florida. The Sunshine State also offers infielder Yordy Cabrera, while the state of Georgia presents the likes of Niko Goodrum and Kaleb Cowart.

But the West may be on par with the South when it comes to high school hitters, thanks to Josh Sale, Marcus Littlewood, Tony Wolters and Kris Bryant. Let's take a look at the most recent notes on each of the four.

Bryant, SS/3B, Bonanza HS (Nev.)

At least a few clubs have had Bryant graded as high as a late first rounder this spring, but one American League scout we spoke with recently isn't as optimistic. "I think he's going to struggle (in pro ball)," he said. "He had a good junior summer against average pitching, but when he faces the good pitching he struggles. He doesn't adjust to the better velocities and has problems going from 92 (mph) one day to 75 the next."

Bryant has also shown a tendency to strike out a lot, and despite hitting 22 home runs this season, making contact could be a problem, especially considering the transition to the wood bat.

"He's not a player I would want on my side," the scout continued. "I'd rather go against him."

Littlewood, SS, Pine View HS (Utah)

"He's not going to play shortstop -- he's too big, he'll outgrow the position," the scout said of Littlewood's defensive future. "But he can play third -- and then it's (a question of) will he have the power. I think he might, I've seen him do it with the wood bat. What's that, Evan Longoria minus the (third base level) power? And a better defender, maybe, too."

The wood-bat transition is always one scouts have to consider strongly, but Littlewood has shown the ability to handle it.

Sale, RF, Blanchet HS (Wash.)

"He continues to impress me," said an NL area scout. "His swing is very consistent, which is one thing I came (into the season) worrying about some. It's kind of noisy, his hands are bouncing and it's like 'can he get to everything with all that going on every pitch?' But he can, and he does. Whoever takes him will clean that up a little bit, but he gets great loft and drives the ball with such authority. (Sale is) the best high school power bat I have seen since I came here."

Sale and his teammates are participating in the postseason this coming weekend. The scout wonders if he will get to see the left-handed Sale swing even once. "If they are smart, he'll get four wide ones every time. Why even mess with him?"

Wolters, SS, Rancho Buena Vista HS (Calif.)

Wolters reportedly worked out for the Toronto Blue Jays recently and could be ruled ineligible to play for his high school by the state of California. He's sat out three games so far, just as a precaution -- so his team won't have to forfeit any games they may win with him in the lineup -- but the final verdict has yet to come down.

"I'm waiting to hear just like everyone else," Wolters told the North County Times.

The paper reports that there is a chance that the state commissioner could decide not to penalize Wolters since the practice of working out for pro clubs is considered "rampant." Wolters didn't believe he was violating any rule.

"But my dream is to play in the big leagues," he said, "and when a big-league club asks you to work out, what are you supposed to say? No?"

If cleared by next week, Wolters would be available for the postseason, as the regular season ends Thursday.

Around the MLB draft as of May 19, 2010

• Castellanos and his mates at Archbishop McCarthy (Fla.) will compete in the state semis Friday, thanks in part to the infielder's 3-for-4 outing last weekend.

• Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal hit home run No. 13 on the season Tuesday versus Florida Gulf Coast. He didn't get to face left-hander Chris Sale, who started over the weekend, but Grandal is hitting everyone, including Deck McGuire last Friday night.

• Arkansas 3B Zack Cox did not play Tuesday, missing his first game of the season after straining a muscle in his back on Sunday versus South Carolina. It's not considered serious and head coach Dave Van Horn even thought it was possible he might use Cox at DH or as a pinch hitter. Neither occurred, but Cox isn't expected to miss much time, which is a good thing since the Razorbacks head to Vanderbilt this coming Friday.

• For the fun of it, again, let's check in on Rice's Anthony Rendon, who is the early favorite to go No. 1 overall next year. The third baseman went 2-for-4 with his 11th double and home run No. 22 on the season. He also walked, raising his season total to 56 against just 18 strikeouts.

Rick Hague, who is back playing shortstop for the Owls, has been among the country's hottest hitters over the past few weeks, went 3-for-5 Tuesday with his 11th home run. Hague is still not considered to be a candidate for the top 100 picks, but his draft stock has improved since the middle of the schedule -- although he's still not going to be a long-term shortstop.

• Dr. James Andrews has circulated a memo to teams informing them that Louisiana infielder Garin Cecchini, who tore his ACL earlier this spring, will likely be cleared to spring by early to mid-July and should be able to hit BP and take groundballs before the August 15th signing deadline. Cecchini was a likely top-50 pick before the injury and is committed to LSU.