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Insider

Who's after Buxton and Correa?

5/21/2012

In my conversations with area scouts, scouting supervisors and crosscheckers, with a few scouting directors sprinkled into the mix, it's become obvious and apparent that Appling County (Ga.) High School centerfielder Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy are the top two "prep" position players in the class. After that, however, there seems to be a lack of consensus on which players will be selected next.

The same goes for prep arms, college arms and college bats.

In Keith Law's most recent draft prospect rankings, Mater (Fla.) Academy centerfielder Albert Almora is the No. 3 prep bat, coming in at No. 7 overall and he very well could be the third high school position player off the board. There is enough buzz centered on Carroll (Texas) High School's Courtney Hawkins, however, to avoid shock should he hear his name earlier than Almora.

That isn't to say Hawkins is a better player, per se, but the industry belief is that Hawkins is as "signable" as any player in the round, despite his commitment to the University of Texas, and his upside may get him selected among the first 10-15 picks.

It depends on the club and their philosophy, but if there are enough looking for the higher-ceiling player, Hawkins may get the nod over Almora.

Upside for a prep hitter generally refers to the long-term power potential and speaking of the bat alone, here's how the top 10 might rank:

1. Correa

2. Hawkins

3. Buxton

4. Corey Seager, 3B -- Northwest Carrabus (N.C.) High School

5. Joey Gallo, 3B -- Bishop Gorman (Nev.) High School

6. Almora

7. Stryker Trahan, C -- Acadiana (La.) High School

8. Carson Kelly, 3B -- Westview (Ore.) High School

9. Addison Russell, SS/3B -- Pace (Fla.) High School

10. Gavin Cecchini, SS -- Barbe (La.) High School

Arms race

• Stanford's Mark Appel, the projected No. 1 overall pick in Law's first Mock Draft, has now strung together two straight very strong performances with his complete-game shutout, 13-strikeout showing at Utah Friday night. The right-hander yielded just four hits and a walk. Appel has now fanned 23 batters in his past 17 frames and improved to 9-1 with a 2.45 ERA and a 108-22 K/BB ratio in 103 innings of work.

• Louisiana State ace Kevin Gausman kept pace with his own complete game, surrendering two earned runs on five hits versus top ranked South Carolina. He struck out six and walked two enters the SEC Tournament at 9-1 with a 2.86 ERA and 118-23 K/BB ratio in 100 2/3 innings.

• Two potential first-round college arms went toe-to-toe when Texas A&M's Michael Wacha and Oklahoma State lefty Andrew Heaney took the mound in Stillwater. Wacha lasted 6 2/3 innings, allowing six hits and an earned run. He did not walk a batter and whiffed four. Heaney cruised through eight shutout frames, striking out a dozen along the way, before getting into trouble in the ninth and giving up two earned runs. Heaney has a shot to be the fourth college pitcher taken come draft day, behind the aforementioned Appel and Gausman and San Francisco's Kyle Zimmer.

• Zimmer, after USF had the weekend off, is slated to get back on the mound Friday versus Martin Agosta and St. Mary's to close out the schedule.

• Mississippi State's Chris Stratton was solid and efficient over the weekend, needing just 87 pitches to get through 6 1/3 strong innings. He struck out eight and did not issue a walk.

In the batter's box

• Clemson's Richie Shaffer and Stanford's Stephen Piscotty are the top two college hitters in the class after Florida catcher Mike Zunino, whose draft stock relies heavily on the fact that he profiles as a pro backstop.

Piscotty began the year as the second-best bat to Zunino, but Shaffer's performance and progress between his sophomore and junior seasons has vaulted him above Piscotty on Law's pref list. Piscotty, however, is making a late run. He's now playing left field, where he profiles best at the pro level, and has 14 hits in his past 30 at-bats to improve to .343/.434/.500 on the season.

• Among the top small college prospects in the class is Stony Brook outfielder Travis Jankowski, who possesses plus speed and enough range to stick in center. He collected six more hits over the weekend. He handles the bat well, is smart on the bases and is performing very well against second-level competition. His lack of power keeps him from getting first-round grades, but he could be a sandwich round pick.

Jankowski does have strength and size at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, so there might be more pop in the bat down the road. Whether he profiles as a leadoff hitter in pro ball is another question altogether. He doesn't draw a lot of walks -- 18 in 53 games -- and is generally aggressive at the plate.