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Draft : : State Preview
State Preview: Nebraska
David Rawnsley        
Published: Saturday, May 28, 2011

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Perfect Game will be providing a detailed overview of each state in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, as well as Canada and Puerto Rico. These overviews will list the state's strengths, weaknesses and the players with the best tools, as well as providing mini-scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players.

Nebraska State-by-State List

Nebraska Overview:
New CWS Facility, Other Off-Field News Trump Short List of Draft Prospects

Nebraska has become used to seeing more baseball news generated off the field during the spring, and 2011 is certainly no exception.

The most notable event, and one of national importance in the baseball world, was the opening of TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha. As the successor to outdated Rosenblatt Stadium, it will serve as the new site of the College World Series for at least the next 25 years, and enable “Omaha” to remain synonymous with success in college baseball.

The new facility, which debuted April 19 with Creighton hosting Nebraska before more than 22,000 fans, has received very favorable reviews, although many regret that old, venerable Rosenblatt was condemned to the wrecking ball and the land sold to the Omaha Zoo. TD Ameritrade has every amenity one could imagine in a modern ballpark, from locker rooms to luxury boxes, and could easily pass for a new-age major-league ballpark with the addition of 15-20,000 more seats.

TD Ameritrade hosted the Missouri Valley Conference tournament from May 24-27, with Creighton serving as the host school, and it served as a dress rehearsal for the 2011 College World Series, which begins June 18.

The second piece of major off-the-field news was the May 23 firing of Nebraska head coach Mike Anderson after nine years at the helm. The Cornhuskers, who reached the CWS in 2005 for the third time in five years with a 57-15 record, had fallen on hard times in recent years under Anderson, failing to reach the Big 12 Conference tournament in each of the past three years. They finished the 2011 season with a 30-25 record overall, but only 9-17 in conference play.

While early talk about Anderson’s successor centered on some very well-known coaches around the country, the reality is that all of Nebraska’s sports teams will be moving from the Big 12 to the Big Ten Conference in 2012. For baseball, it will mean taking an unavoidable step down in competition as the Big Ten, with all its teams in northern climates, is not as strong as the Big 12, where the concentration of power is in Texas and Oklahoma.

While Nebraska was able to recruit extensively in the southern tier of the country, due to the geographic concentration of Big 12 teams in the area, that possibility is less likely now with Nebraska scheduled to play the likes of Iowa, Northwestern and Penn State.

Despite its disappointing 2011 season, Nebraska should still produce the top draft pick in the state in third baseman Cody Asche, who hit .327-12-56 and solidified his position in the top three rounds with his easy transition to the new composite bats used this season in college baseball. There are questions still, though, whether he has the lateral range to play third base in the future.

The big winner in all of the 2011 machinations that have impacted baseball in the state clearly appears to be the Creighton Blue Jays.

Initially, Creighton was not scheduled to use TD Ameritrade as its home ball park, even though the school and new facility are located within a half mile of one another and Creighton’s on-campus field is well below normal Division I standards. Behind the scenes negotiations resolved the issue, however, and the Blue Jays will now play in one of the top venues in the country, which should be a boon to recruiting. Attendance for a handful of Creighton home games in late April and May was far in excess of games played at that time of year in the past.

On the field, the current season has been just as successful for Creighton, although it did lose two of its three games against in-state rival Nebraska. Creighton entered the MVC tournament at 42-14, and even if it doesn’t win the event it is almost assured of receiving an NCAA tournament berth because of a favorable RPI ranking.

Creighton’s best prospect is sophomore lefthander Ty Blach (10-2, 2.83), who has a fair chance to go in the top five rounds of the 2012 draft because of an 88-92 mph fastball and sharp slider. The team’s best prospects for this year, meanwhile, are two seniors, outfielder Trever Adams and righthander Jonas Dufek, who were instrumental in the team’s 2011 success. Adams (.395-14-55) led Creighton in virtually every offensive category, while Dufek posted a 10-1, 2.23 record and struck out 113 in 101 innings.

Creighton and Nebraska have historically been Nebraska’s only Division I programs, but will soon be joined by a third D-I program, Nebraska-Omaha. The Mavericks have been a national factor in Division I hockey for years, but participated at the Division II level in other sports. The baseball team, which has been consistently competitive under former Kansas City Royals minor-league coach Bob Herold, will become part of the Summit League.

The 2010 draft represented the first time in recent memory that a Nebraska high-school player was a factor. Nebraska City High lefthander Logan Ehlers was taken in the eighth round by the Toronto Blue Jays and turned down a reported bonus offer of $800,000 to honor his scholarship with Nebraska. Ehlers created his own national news this spring, when he was suspended for 60 percent of the 2011 season for NCAA violations relating to his negotiations with the Blue Jays. He was inconsistent after returning to action, posting a 1-3, 4.30 record in 29 innings.

The Nebraska high-school ranks are pretty much back to normal this year as no Nebraska high schooler is a sure thing to even be drafted. Righthander A.J. Ladwig from state-runner-up Millard West High is given the best chance of being selected as he has a projectable 6-foot-4 frame with an upper-80s fastball. Ladwig is one of three players from the state with scholarships to Wichita State.

Nebraska in a Nutshell:

STRENGTH:
Cody Asche, Creighton seniors.
WEAKNESS: Premium high-school talent.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 2.

BEST COLLEGE TEAM:
Creighton.
BEST JUNIOR-COLLEGE TEAM: Western Nebraska.
BEST HIGH-SCHOOL TEAM: Papillion La Vista South HS, Omaha.

PROSPECT ON THE RISE:
Cody Asche, 3b, University of Nebraska. Asche has high-level hitting tools from the left side and projects plus power. There are questions, though, about his long-term future at third base stemming from his lack of lateral quickness around the bag.

PROSPECT ON THE DECLINE:
Joe Holtmeyer, rhp, University of Nebraska-Omaha. Holtmeyer was the NCAA Division II strikeout leader in 2010, and a projected top-5 round pick coming into the spring. His mechanics and raw stuff were not nearly as good, though, and his performance (8-2, 4.56) predictably suffered.

WILD CARD:
Khiry Cooper, of, University of Nebraska. A fifth-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Angels in 2008 out of a Louisiana high school, Cooper has played both baseball and football (wide receiver) at Nebraska. While scouts appreciate Cooper’s speed and athleticism, he has shown little progress with the bat (.260-0-12) in three years of part-time play.

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Nebraska Connection:
T.J. Walz, rhp, University of Kansas (Attended high school in Omaha).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT: Ty Blach, lhp, Creighton University.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT: Logan Ehlers, lhp, University of Nebraska.

HIGHEST DRAFT PICKS
Draft History: Darin Erstad, of, U. of Nebraska (1995, Angels/1st round, 1st pick).
2006 Draft: Joba Chamberlain, rhp, U. of Nebraska (Yankees/1st round, 41st pick).
2007 Draft: Drew Bowman, lhp, U. of Nebraska (Reds/5th round).
2008 Draft: Aaron Pribanic, rhp, U. of Nebraska (Mariners/3rd round).
2009 Draft: Mike Nesseth, rhp, U. of Nebraska (Angels/15th round).
2010 Draft: Michael Mariot, rhp, U. of Nebraska (Royals/8th round).

TOP PROSPECTS, GROUPS ONE and TWO

GROUP ONE
(Projected ELITE-Round Draft / Rounds 1-3)

1. CODY ASCHE, 3b, University of Nebraska (Jr.)
Strong build (6-2/200), + LH bat (.327-12-56), + bat speed/lift in swing, + arm at 3B, lacks lateral quickness.

GROUP TWO
(Projected HIGH-Round Draft / Rounds 4-10)

2. TREVER ADAMS, of, Creighton University (Sr.)
Ex-JC transfer; 2011 season (.356-12-58) a duplicate of 2010, + bat speed, solid run/throw tools for SR sign.
3. JONAS DUFEK, rhp, Creighton University (Sr.)
6-5/210 workhorse; 22-11 as 3-year starter; stuff gradually improved, FB now 88-92, flashes + SL, good CH.



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