Longoria tops list of corner infielders
Long Beach State third baseman projects as top-five pick
You know the old saying "Pitching, pitching, pitching and defense?" Well, the 2006 First-Year Player draft picture is more like "Pitching, pitching, pitching and ... pitching." As a result, don't look for a repeat of 2005, when college third basemen were the cream of the crop, going in three of the top five slots -- Alex Gordon to Kansas City at No. 2, Ryan Zimmerman to Washington at No. 4 and Ryan Braun to Milwaukee at No. 5.
There is, however, significant parity among the handful of hitters who could crack the first round, making the draft picture blurrier than it's been in a long time. Here are some corner infielders who could see their names flash on the computer screen in the first or second round:
Evan Longoria, 3B, Long Beach State
To answer the question he's probably been asked most in the last year, no, he is not related to "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria. But he might end up more of a household name down the line.
Longoria is expected by most to be the first position player taken. After posting a breakout summer campaign for Chatham of the Cape Cod League in 2005, when he earned league MVP honors with eight homers and 35 RBIs, Longoria has done nothing to hurt that reputation for the Dirtbags this year. He projects as a third baseman, but he's flexible enough to see time at both middle-infield positions as well.
Longoria's best tool, however, is his big-time power to all fields. He added about 15 pounds during the offseason, which only added to that power without really costing him anything on the basepaths. Longoria has a quick bat and compact swing, and he's an all-around polished player who could make a quick jump to the Majors, depending on which team takes him. Though his defense is his weakest tool, he has soft hands and a strong arm. Expect to see him off the board within the first four picks.
"He's Major League-average in almost every category, with a chance to be above-average as a hitter," said one scouting director. "His performances have been super steady, and he might be what is called more of a 'safe' pick, with power to boot."
"Bottom line, he's the best position [player] in college baseball and the best in the draft," said a scout. "He should hit for average and power. He's got a pretty fluid swing, strength and lift to his swing, and he's [got] pretty soft [hands] over at third base, too."
Chris Marrero, 3B, Monsignor Pace H.S. (Fla.)
Marrero came into his senior season at Pace ranked as arguably the top high school prospect in the upcoming draft, but it was his teammate, shortstop Adrian Cardenas, who had the better season statistically.
Marrero is still, however, considered among the elite of his draft class. He has plus power to all fields, good bat speed and excellent plate discipline, especially for his age. He has a strong arm that profiles well at third base, and he's a fine defender at the hot corner with soft hands. The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder, who has signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Miami, has also been lauded for his attitude, hard work and dedication.
"People were expecting more from him because his teammate [Cardenas] has had a hell of a year, and that's taken away from his glimmer. Every time people went in there, it took away his luster," one scouting director noted. "But he's got a tremendous arm, good hands and he's athletic. I just think he's pressing a little, but he'll be fine. I like him."
Bill Rowell, 3B/SS, Bishop Eustace Prep (N.J.)
No, you're not seeing double. Rowell's name was also included in the package featuring top middle infielders. Technically, he is still listed as a shortstop when it comes to this year's draft, but most scouts and powers that be think he'll end up at the hot corner, so we're including him here as well.
Rowell was flying somewhat under the radar before the season started, but his stock has risen enough that he could end up being selected in the first half of the first round. He has big-time power to all fields, as much as any high schooler in the draft this year, while his strong arm, soft hands and good footwork have enabled him to stay at shortstop for his high school campaign. His range, just average, might be what prompts the move over to third down the line.
Scouts have also been impressed by his fine instincts and attitude. A real gym rat, Rowell is expected to turn pro despite having committed to Florida State University.
"He put on 15-20 pounds since last year. He's going to be a big man," said one scouting director. "He has a chance for a lot of power, above-average power. He catches the ball OK, has good hands and a good enough arm. There is some athleticism there. But he'll have to stay on top of his frame, because it looks like he could get bigger and bigger and bigger."
Matt LaPorta, 1B, Florida
As LaPorta closed in on his school's record for career homers -- 55, set by Brad Wilkerson -- with 54 through May 16, the Gators had already been eliminated from postseason play and the SEC tournament. Just a year after making it to the College World Series finals against Texas, as LaPorta paced the way with an NCAA-best 26 homers as a sophomore, Florida was going to have to scramble to finish over .500 this year. LaPorta, meanwhile, is likely headed to the pros.
An oblique strain that cost him several games earlier this season dampened his overall stats, but this 6-foot-1, 220-pound right-handed hitter with an explosive bat still ranked among the top power prospects in the draft. A poised and polished hitter who could make a quick rise to the Majors if taken by a club with a clear path, LaPorta is a solid defensive first baseman. The converted catcher's ability to strap on the shinguards in a pinch will add further to his stock. He has excellent instincts.
"He has huge raw power. Some are going to question if his swing is a little long, and some will question where he'll play on the field, but you're gambling on the power," said a scouting director. "He's a better hitter for average than he's shown this spring."
Matt Antonelli, 3B, Wake Forest
Antonelli is something of a wild card in this draft. While his sheer tools don't rank him as highly as some of the other corner infielders in some scouts' eyes, there are others who think he could be among the first position players taken.
The former football and hockey standout from Massachusetts hits to all fields with gap power and has good patience at the plate. A consistent contact hitter with a fine eye, Antonelli is very athletic with a plus arm. He has surprising speed for his position, plus range and is very agile. He's also impressed folks with his hard-nosed competitive attitude.
"He's a very, very good baseball player. Probably, after Longoria, he's the next 'safe' pick," one scouting director observed. "He handles the bat well, has some gap-to-average power. He does everything about average. Some people have said he reminds them of Aaron Hill, maybe a little bit better."
Chris Parmelee, 1B, Chino Hills H.S. (Calif.)
Perhaps the best pure hitter among the high schoolers in the 2006 draft class, Parmelee has line-drive power to all fields, which could translate to home run power down the line. He has a short, compact swing and excellent plate discipline. Though not exactly fleet of foot, he is not a baseclogger, either, making up with aggressiveness on the bases what he lacks in sheer speed. He is also a smart, savvy player who impresses with his hard-nosed confidence. Look for him to go in the second half of the first round.
"He's an offensive player, a guy we think can really, really hit," said one scouting director. "We think the power will come, but like with most good hitters, it's the last tool that comes. We think his bat is definitely his best tool, and that's what will get him drafted. He's a really exciting hitter."
Lars Anderson, 1B, Jesuit H.S. (Calif.)
Anderson could be another wild card of this bunch. Hailing from northern California, the two-sport star, who has a football commitment to Cal, has flown under the radar somewhat. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder has huge power from the left side. He is a free-spirited leader on and off the field.
"He's a big strong kid who can run, throw and project as a corner hitter or center fielder," said one scouting director. "He has as many tools and as high a ceiling as anyone. He's a great athlete, and could be a five-tool All-Star type of player if it all comes together. The football could affect some clubs' decision on him."
Wes Hodges, 3B, Georgia Tech
A smooth contact hitter with good mechanics and an easy stroke, Hodges has power potential that isn't quite there yet. He's shown good bat speed and a fine eye at the plate to go with a strong arm and soft hands in the field. Though he's slow out of the box, he is better on the bases from first to third. A smart player with a quiet demeanor, he profiles as a solid third baseman down the line.
"He should be a true third baseman. He has plenty of arm to play over there," said a scouting director. "He's got a chance for average to a little better than average power."
Also keep an eye on: Cody Johnson, 1B/OF, Mosley H.S. (Fla.); Mark Hamilton, 1B, Tulane.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.