05/22/09 10:00 AM ET
Draft Notebook: High school grades
Playoffs allowing for final chance to impress before Draft
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
That might seem counter-intuitive, what with all the college conference tournaments going on right now. But we'll save that information for next week, then the tournaments are over and Regional schedules are set up.
High school playoffs are under way as well, and those high-pressured situations are setting up some good last looks at a number of the top prepsters in the class. Let's take a look at who's making news among the teen set.
There aren't too many of those five-tool high school types with tons of upside in this Draft. The first one usually mentioned is Donavan Tate, the two-sport star in Georgia. With him comes many questions, led by what it might take to sign him away from playing football and baseball at the University of North Carolina.
Coming up quickly on the "toolsy" list is a high school outfielder from New Jersey, Michael Trout. Often compared to Aaron Rowand, Trout's stock has been rising steadily as the weather in the Northeast improved. He's got speed and should hit for power, especially once he starts to figure things out at the plate more. He's learning to switch-hit and he's got a terrific arm from the outfield.
Trout's season is over now, but he'll continue to work out for teams as the Draft looms closer. There has been plenty of teams in to see him, including some general managers. His name worked its way into first-round talk a little while ago. Now it's creeping up higher with at least one team in the top 10 particularly interested. It's not out of the question that Trout will get drafted before Tate, with signability being a big reason why.
Lead ballon update
Speaking of signability, it can often be the cause of a player sliding on Draft boards. A price tag gets floated and a player sees his name plummet. It doesn't even have to be based in reality; it's not uncommon for a rumor about bonus demands to at least make some question where a prospect should go.
That's part of the reason why it seems, at least for now, that Texas high school lefty Matthew Purke appears to be falling. Long considered to be one of the better high school arms in the class based on ability, his name has not been mentioned as much in the top third of the first round as rumors spread about a high bonus demand.
But that might not be the only reason Purke's stock is slipping. The young southpaw last pitched in a game on May 1. He last worked out, throwing a bullpen, on May 7. There's been no word from the Purke camp that any workouts have been, or will be, planned between now and Draft day on June 9. Perception can mean everything, and if Purke indeed does not throw in front of scouts for a month, teams will wonder -- some undoubtedly already are -- if he's got something to hide. Stay tuned on this one.
Something to prove
While on the topic of high school lefties, the only one who's rated ahead of Purke, talent-wise, is Tyler Matzek out in Southern California. He's been at or near the top of Draft lists from the get-go and he's certainly showed top-of-the-Draft ability on the mound. Sometimes.
And that's the issue with the 6-foot-3 southpaw. For all the talent he has, scouts have found him to be a bit of an enigma on the mound. When he's locked in, he's arguably the best arm in the Draft. But he has a tendency to not go all out at all times. It even can happen over the course of a start, where he'll begin like a world-beater, then seemingly lose interest and thus his performance suffers.
This "just getting by" attitude troubles some, because at the next level, you can't just decide to take an inning off. He's got a playoff start coming (see below) and scouts will undoubtedly be watching him closely to see how he responds to the postseason pressure.
On the shelf
Technically, he's just coming off the shelf, but Max Stassi definitely lost some time and maybe a little of his Draft value by missing a chunk of the year behind the plate because of a shoulder issue. He's at or near the top of a pretty deep list of high school catchers in this class, so being able to show his throwing arm is sound will be important to his future.
He's been doing just that. He threw on Tuesday and reports were that the arm strength was there. He's always graded out as average in that regard and he seemed to be back to that from a velocity/strength standpoint. Where he was still a bit behind, it seemed, was with his accuracy. His arm in the past has played up because he got rid of the ball quickly and made accurate throws. That might be rust more than anything and there was confidence he'd be fine in the future. Assuming there are no setbacks with the shoulder, he's still a pretty good bet to go late in the first round, early in the second at the latest.
Where to be
Southern California High School Playoffs
Sure, there are conference tournaments aplenty, but with most of the top pitchers having thrown on Wednesday and Thursday, why not head to SoCal to see some younger early-round hopefuls throw in meaningful, pressure-filled postseason situations?
That's what you can see on Friday in the high school ranks with a trio of intriguing arms getting the ball as the playoffs get underway in earnest. At the top of the list is the lefty Matzek, who will be on his Capistrano Valley High School mound in Mission Viejo. Not far behind him is right-hander Matt Hobgood, the ace for his Norco High club. And, to finish the trifecta, you can hit Temecula Valley High School to watch right-hander Brooks Pounders in action.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.