Prep pitching not as deep but good
Scouts comment on young prospects' talents
While most of the talk surrounding pitchers and the 2006 draft class has focused on colleges, that doesn't mean there is no high school talent on the mound. It's not as deep a group as it's been in the past, but there will be a number of teams that will let the college guys go by and take the few top-rated prepsters on the board. Here they are, sorted by handedness.
Clayton Kershaw, Highland Park HS, Texas
Despite an oblique strain that has kept him out of action for a while, Kershaw has remained at the top of the high school pitching class. He has a projectable body at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds. He's seen both his fastball velocity and his curve improve markedly this season. His fastball now sits in the low-to-mid 90s and it's a heavy pitch he likes to keep down in the zone. He got national team experience last summer, and this year he went 10-0 with a 0.46 ERA and 104 strikeouts before his injury.
Scout says: "He has an above-average fastball with life, an above-average breaking ball and change-up. The command is the biggest thing. He's not a project, but it's going to take some time to develop pitchability."
Kasey Kiker, Russell County HS, Alabama
Coming from the same school as Colby Rasmus, a first-round pick a year ago, Kiker has tremendous arm strength. He comfortably gets his fastball up to 95 mph as the ace for the 2005 national high school champions. He also features a change-up and developing curve. He's just 5-foot-11, but has proven to be very durable and consistent. The one question about him has been about makeup, something Kiker hopes he can put behind him before draft day.
Scout says: "His stuff is good. He's a very talented young man."
Brett Anderson, Stillwater HS, Oklahoma
Perhaps the anti-Kiker, Anderson is 6-foot-4 with a non-athletic body and a tremendous amount of polish. His father, Frank, was a pitching coach at Texas before becoming Oklahoma State's head coach. His curve and change-up are probably his two best pitches, though he can get his fastball into the low 90s. He throws all of them for strikes.
Scout says: "He's probably the most advanced high school pitcher in the draft. He's not very athletic, but he has good command of the fastball. He can throw his breaking ball in any count. It's like scouting a college player."
Jeremy Jeffress, Halifax County HS, Virginia
In the mood to take a risk with a high ceiling, strong-armed prepster? Then Jeffress might be your guy. He was clocked in triple-digits this season and has occasionally shown a plus slider. The question is consistency and the ability to maintain the velocity as a starting pitcher. Nevertheless, he's a very good athlete with a body that suggests he can add strength, which would help his stamina as he learns the nuances of pitching.
Scout says: "He's got a big arm. He's a pretty exciting guy, I think."
Kyle Drabek, Woodlands HS, Texas
The son of former big leaguer Doug Drabek might have the best pure stuff in the draft, with a mid-90s fastball and two-plus breaking pitches. A good athlete who'd be a top-rated middle infielder, if scouts didn't like him as a pitcher. On stuff alone, he'd be taken in the top third of the draft. But makeup issues have made several teams pause, leaving his draft status somewhat uncertain.
Scout says: "He's got an above-average fastball and breaking ball. He's had spurts of wildness. He's very athletic and aggressive, even though he's a little small."
Chris Tillman, Fountain Valley HS, California
At 6-foot-7, Tillman is the epitome of projectable. He throws in the low-90s and with that body (185 pounds), the possibility of added strength and velocity has some excited. He also throws an outstanding curve and has pretty good polish for a high schooler. He was inching up draft boards until some lackluster performances of late, particularly against top high school catcher Hank Conger, possibly sliding him to the back of the first round.
Scouts: "He's a guy people kept going back to. He's been a little of a teaser this spring. It'll be interesting to see what happens to him. He hasn't been a great performance guy this spring. Everything fits right in terms of size and he's shown it in the past, but when you go out and see him, and one guy is performing and another guy is not always giving it to you, it makes you wonder. He's still a pretty good prospect."
Cory Rasmus, Russell County HS, Alabama
Coming from one of the top high school programs in the country, Rasmus saw his older brother Colby go in last year's supplemental first round. That might be the same kind of spot he finds himself drafted in this year. He's not big, but he can consistently crank up his fastball into the upper 90s.
Scout says: "There's a spot for him. He's one of those guys, he's in the eye of a beholder as a sub-six foot right-hander. He'll give you some numbers on the radar gun. He's OK, though he's not my kind of guy."
Jordan Walden, Mansfield HS, Texas
Walden, when he's on, has a ton of upside. He has a projectable body at 6-4 and has touched 97 mph on the radar gun. He's shown the ability to sit in the mid-90s consistently, though he had a drop in velocity that concerned some earlier this season. He'd been coming on strong of late.
Scout says: "He's got a big arm. He's been a little bit of a disappointment. I don't think he's the kind of guy who's increased his stock. I think his stock was higher coming in than it will be going out. But he's got a good arm."
Colton Willems, Carroll Catholic HS, Florida
Willems is a high schooler with a projectable body and three good pitches. His fastball has touched 96 mph and consistently sits in the low-to-mid 90s and he complements with a curve and slider. He may be on the rise heading into the final weeks before the draft.
Scout says: "I think he's a good-looking, young, projectable prospect. He's one of those guys I can see somewhere in the latter part of the first round or sandwich round. A guy like him is a pretty good draft because of his size and his arm works well. He's kind of taken it to the next level. Sometimes with the Florida kids, they get scouted so early, then you run around to the rest of the country. Unless you do a good job at circling back, scouting directors haven't seen these kids since February."
Matt Latos, Coconut Creek HS, Florida
Latos has a good combination of stuff (fastball that tops out in mid-90s and curve) and size (6-5, 200 lbs). He repeats his delivery consistently and is very athletic, both on the mound and as a hitter.
Scout says: "It's the same thing with him as with Willems. But I think there's more of a swing on him. There are more questions about his character than Willems."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.