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Insider

If not Harper, who is No. 1?

3/13/2010

Bryce Harper is still the consensus top talent in the 2010 class, but we've certainly heard more about him not being the No. 1 pick than we have about legitimate alternatives. As Keith Law said yesterday, "if Harper isn't No. 1, who is?"

It's the best way to put it right now, as LSU right-hander Anthony Ranaudo remains sidelined by elbow soreness and almost a half-century of history rages against top prep prospect Jameson Taillon. Even if the Washington Nationals were to reach with the top pick, it's unclear who might make sense.

If we eliminate the possibility that the Nationals take a high school pitcher -- if they do, Taillon remains the top candidate -- the rest of those expected to challenge for the Top 10 haven't done much in the season's first three-plus weeks to separate themselves from the rest of the first round, with the possible exception of Georgia Tech right-hander Deck McGuire.

The top college bats in the class after Harper -- Bryce Brentz, Zach Cox and Austin Wates -- aren't getting the kind of praise thrust upon them to be locks for the first 10 picks, let alone as a potential No. 1 pick, if Washington looks to save money by passing on the top talent.

"There really isn't that second one," said one club's assistant scouting director. "Last year there were a couple that could have gone there, and usually there's a nice battle between a few legit guys -- which is why [the Nationals] will take [Harper] and sign him."

If Washington does pass on Harper, that's when things could get interesting, because -- would Pittsburgh take him at No. 2? Would Baltimore at No. 3 having Matt Wieters as their catcher? If you believe teams draft for positional need and that the small-market clubs would pass on Harper, he could fall all the way to the New York Mets at No. 7.

Among those capable of moving up into slot No. 2 for the Pirates include OF Austin Wilson and RHPs Karsten Whitson and A.J. Cole, as well as McGuire, who ranked No. 4 on the Preseason Top 50.

"We anticipate Washington taking the No. 1 player, and right now that player is Bryce Harper," said one west coast crosschecker, whose clubs drafts outside the top five. "I've seen him, what, four or five times, but late in the game I think I'll be on other players. He's not getting to us, and he shouldn't get to Pittsburgh, either. A lot would have to happen for that to be justifiable."

Around the Diamond

• Right on queue, Harper hit his seventh home run of the season Friday and finished a double-header with two hits, a walk and two strikeouts. He leads the CSN Coyotes in all major categories, including average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, doubles, home runs and bases on balls.

• LSU's Leon Landry hit his first home run of the season in a loss to Kansas, the Tigers' first of the season. Landry's blast came in a five-run seventh that got them to within two runs.

• The class of 2011 is going to be dominated by college pitching. Check this out: While Virginia's Danny Hultzen was throwing six shutout frames for Virginia against Florida State, Texas right-hander Taylor Jungmann was striking out 17 Iowa Hawkeyes in 7 1/3 innings, and UCLA's Gerrit Cole later punched out 15 against Corpus Christi.

• Florida State's Tyler Holt couldn't touch Hultzen, going 0-for-4, while highly-ranked Louisville, led by 2B and senior-sign Adam Duvall and first baseman Phil Wunderlich, who combined for a .400 average and a 1.200 OPS, had problems hitting Ole Miss lefty Drew Pomeranz. Pomeranz struck out 12 over 6 1/3 innings, allowing just three hits and an earned run. It was the most telling performance of the night, as Pomeranz threw well against a legit opponent, and his breaking ball led the way, according to one scout in attendance.

• Arkansas 3B Zach Cox singled three times versus Milwaukee, but where's the corner power? The left-handed hitting sophomore-eligible has but three extra-base hits in 53 at-bats. Howevever, he is making consistent contact, which was one of the concerns surrounding his draft stock coming into the season.

• McGuire tossed a three-hit shutout for the Yellow Jackets, fanning eight, walking two and yielding just one run. In four starts, the right-hander is 3-0 with a 0.87 ERA and a 33-5 K/BB ratio in 31 frames. He's allowed 21 hits, though 16 have been singles and none has left the yard.

• Kentucky's Logan Darnell went eight strong, striking out six and walking a pair. He's surrendered three extra-base hits in 29 innings, but as one area scout said, "Let's see what he can do when the big boys come to town," referring to the SEC schedule, which starts for the Wildcats next week when Darnell and Mississippi's Pomeranz are scheduled to go toe-to-toe.

Christian Colon broke out of a slump, singling three times and swiping his fourth base of the year. His line still remains poor, but as the weather warms up, his bat should as well. Colon is still a Top-30 pick, according to an AL West club's area scout. "If we picked No. 30 and he was there, I can't imagine who else would be there that we'd like more," he said.

• Texas A&M right-hander Barret Loux, who came into the season as a potential Top-100 pick, struck out 11 of 22 batters faced Friday versus Washington State. He walked two and gave up only five hits, but was pulled because of pitch count, as his defense and deep counts helped him reach 111 pitches in 5 1/3 innings.

• Miami and Virginia Tech were each shut out, but both Austin Wates and catcher Yasmani Grandal finished with two hits.