Miller leads the way among top 20 prospects

Originally Published: June 5, 2006
By Keith Law | Scouts Inc.
Editor's Note: Keith Law, formerly the special assistant to the general manager for the Toronto Blue Jays, is the senior baseball analyst for Scouts Inc. He debuts on ESPN.com with his top 20 prospects for Tuesday's first-year player draft.

1. Andrew Miller, LHP, University of North Carolina


The consensus No. 1 pick, Miller has been on prospect radar screens since he was a senior in high school in Florida, when he flashed a 94-95 mph fastball but fell out of the first round due to his seven-figure bonus demands. Tampa Bay selected him in the third round in 2003 but failed to sign him -- another parting gift from Chuck LaMar -- which has worked out well for Miller, who finds himself as the top left-handed starter in a draft thin on first-round talents. Miller's fastball sits in the low 90s, but he can run it up to 96-97 as needed, and he complements it with a plus breaking ball that he sweeps to left-handers but throws with more of a two-plane break to right-handers. Because he's 6-foot-6, Miller's delivery also causes trouble for left-handed hitters. And he was easily the best groundball pitcher among college starter prospects this year, with nearly 80 percent of his field outs coming on the ground.

2. Luke Hochevar, RHP, Tennessee/Fort Worth Cats


Hochevar was widely seen as a top-10 talent in the 2005 draft coming off his junior year at Tennessee, but he faded toward the end of that spring, walking four or more batters in six of his last 10 starts and seeing his velocity drop slightly. The decline in his performance combined with the perceived bonus demands of his "adviser," Scott Boras, led Hochevar to fall out of the first round all the way to the 40th pick, when the Dodgers took him with their first pick of the draft. That led to a sordid series of events around Labor Day when Hochevar switched agents, agreed to a bonus of nearly $3 million that was equivalent to slot money for a top five pick, then switched back to Boras, reneged on the deal, and blasted both the Dodgers and his erstwhile agent for somehow duping him into signing a bad contract. It's tough to sugarcoat Hochevar's actions; either he's a rube, or he's a weasel. But these sins are forgiven when your fastball is 94-97 and you throw two solid-to-plus breaking balls. There are rumors that Hochevar may go first overall, signing for roughly $4 million -- less than Miller is alleged to want, and more than Hochevar was offered by LA last year, making it a win for Boras.

3. Brad Lincoln, RHP, University of Houston


Although Lincoln is considered short (6-foot) by baseball standards -- at least for a right-handed pitcher -- he's solid enough to also serve as a DH when he's not on the mound, finishing second in the Cape Cod League in homers and third in slugging percentage in 2005. That aside, Lincoln's going to make his money as a pitcher, with a solid low-90s fastball with good sink, a power curve that ranks among the best in this draft, and a solid changeup that he sells well. Aside from the height concern ("you must be as tall as this sign to pitch in the big leagues"), Lincoln also suffers from a lack of projection, as he's already filled out physically and his secondary stuff is already quite good. He's the highest-probability collegiate arm in this draft and should go in the top five picks.

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