Breaking down the Draft's top outfielders
Plenty of talent but deeper digging needed to identify it
In a perfect Draft, there are scores of hitters to be had, ones who can roam the outfield with speed, throw rockets and hit with power. Alas, there has never truly been a perfect Draft and there may never be one.
Some of that is because there are never enough impact hitters to go around and some of it is because it's a scout's job to be hypercritical. Even with those qualifiers, however, it seems like the Class of 2010 does not contain the most inspiring group of outfielders.
"Unfortunately, I don't know that there's any area group that's strong," one scouting executive said. "I wouldn't consider any of the outfielder groups strong, college or high school."
With no impact hitters like Dustin Ackley coming from one of the big college programs, there has been more attention paid to some at "smaller" schools. Players like Bryce Brentz (Middle Tennessee State) and Michael Choice (University of Texas-Arlington) lead this crop and neither calls a conference like the SEC or ACC home. That doesn't mean, however, that they should be considered huge surprises. And as every scout says, there will be Major Leaguers from this group.
"I wouldn't consider them smaller schools," the executive said. "Middle Tennessee is in a regional every year, and it's been on the scouting trail for years. Texas-Arlington is, too. They're not LSU or Fullerton, but those are guys from strong programs. Those guys would be there, period."
To find out where "there" is for any of the outfielders in the Class of 2010, be sure to check MLB.com, which will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft on June 7-9, on MLB Network and MLB.com. Here are some of the key names of players who one day could be big-league outfielders.
Bryce Brentz, Middle Tennessee State: After a huge sophomore season and fine showing with Team USA, Brentz was slowed this year by an ankle injury. He's still managed to show a good amount of power and should be fine in an outfield corner. That should have him off the board at some point in the first round.
Gary Brown, Cal State Fullerton: If a team is looking for a leadoff-hitting, center-field-playing speedster, Brown might be the guy. He's got plus speed on both sides of the ball and should get better in both stealing bases and playing center as he gains experience. He's picked a terrific time to have one of the better seasons in the college game during his junior year, and his skill set should have him gone by the supplemental first round, if not sooner.
Michael Choice, University of Texas-Arlington: Choice really put himself on the map with Team USA last summer and kept on improving his stock with his performance this spring. He's got as much power as anyone on this list while showing a good approach at the plate. There's a good chance he's the first outfielder taken off the board on June 7.
Delino DeShields Jr., Norcross HS (Ga.): The son of the former big leaguer of the same name, DeShields has an intriguing combination of bloodlines and outstanding tools in his own right. He's got a great bat and his plus speed is a game-changer. He should be a good center fielder in the future, though he could probably handle second base -- his father's position -- if needed. DeShields has come on strong and has been mentioned in connection with certain teams that have multiple picks in the first round.
Reggie Golden, Wetumpka HS (Ala.): The proverbial raw, five-tool high school athlete, the emphasis with Golden should be on the word raw. He has the ability to do just about everything on the field, but simply needs to play and gain experience. He could be a find for a team willing to be patient and there was some buzz that there might be some teams as high as the end of the first round that might be.
Ryan LaMarre, University of Michigan: There were few hitters in this Draft moving up the charts more than LaMarre as college's regular season drew to a close. After returning from a thumb injury and performing well once strength returned to the hand, he's being mentioned in first-round conversations. LaMarre has improved hitting skills after a rough Cape Cod season, should develop some power, can run well and plays excellent outfield defense. As a former hockey player, he's got that kind of mentality, and that's a good thing.
Kyle Parker, Clemson: While most may know him as Clemson's quarterback, he's been making a strong name for himself as a hitter this spring. He's shown power in the past, but this year, he's put it all together with a better approach and an ability to hit for average as well. Some parts of his game are raw, but if he were to focus only on baseball, he could shorten the learning curve. He's got some signing leverage with years of football eligibility remaining, but that probably won't prevent a team from taking him in the first 50 picks.
Josh Sale, Bishop Blanchet HS (Wash.): Outside of that Bryce Harper fellow, there might not be another player with more raw power than Sale. He is extremely strong and can hit the ball a long, long way, though there is some concern about his ability to make contact consistently enough to tap into that power. While he's not awful defensively, it's his bat that will get him drafted and up to the big leagues one day. And it's probably enough to get him off the board before the first round is over.
Austin Wates, Virginia Tech: Wates doesn't fit a particular profile well because he's a college outfielder with tools and because it's not totally clear what position he should play. What he does consistently well is hit and run, though he doesn't project to have power. He could be an everyday left fielder or maybe play center, but he hasn't done that at Tech. He could be a fine pick for a team in the supplemental first round or the top of the second round when all is said and done.
Austin Wilson, Harvard-Westlake HS (Calif.): Big, strong and athletic, Wilson looks the part of a future, run-producing right fielder. He's got the power and the arm to profile extremely well there and he runs well for a guy his size. His work ethic and makeup are off the charts. The main issues with Wilson are that he's a little raw in his overall hitting approach and there are some concerns as to what it might take to sign him away from his Stanford commitment. Based on tools alone, he's a first-round-type player.
Others to watch: Ryan Bolden, Maidson Central HS, Miss.; Chevez Clarke, Marietta HS (Ga.); Todd Cunningham, Jacksonville State; Gauntlett Eldemire, Ohio University; Ty Linton, Charlotte Christian HS (NC); Jarrett Parker, University of Virginia; Mel Rojas Jr., Wabash Community College.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.