2010 FOLLOW LIST
COMPILED by ALLAN SIMPSON
Was it not just two years ago that Arizona State’s and Arizona’s combined draft haul of 26 players, which included four first-rounders, was the highest combined total ever by the two long-standing college baseball powers? The Sun Devils alone had a draft-record 15 players taken, topping the mark of 14 that they originally set in 1982, and had been duplicated twice since.
This year, the pickings from the state’s only two Division I colleges will be extremely thin, possibly no more than 6-7 picks between them.
That’s not to say that the Sun Devils and Wildcats have fallen on hard times—though ASU has had to pick up the pieces from the fallout of long-time successful coach Pat Murphy’s sudden resignation last November. With a week remaining in the 2010 Pacific-10 Conference season, Arizona State was a rosy 45-7. Arizona was a more modest 32-20, but had already topped its 2009 win total.
It’s just that both clubs are extremely young this year, with most of the best players ineligible for the 2010 draft. The top eight hitters for ASU are freshmen or sophomores; same for the top four at UA. The Sun Devils have some significant draft-eligible talent on their pitching staff, though it also is littered with impressive underclassmen. Every key arm on Arizona’s staff is a first- or second-year player.
ASU’s 2010 season has been all the more remarkable because senior lefthander Josh Spence, an unsigned third-round pick from 2009 who went 10-1, 2.37 with 125 strikeouts in 103 innings as the No. 2 starter behind current Cincinnati Reds righthander Mike Leake, has missed all of this season with a nagging arm injury. But junior righthander Seth Blair, the state’s best prospect, has substantially elevated his game, as has sophomore closer Jordan Swagerty, No. 2 on the list.
The Sun Devils have also gotten big seasons from unexpected sources, notably senior outfielder Kole Calhoun and sophomore righthander Jake Borup. A fringe prospect for the purposes of the draft, Calhoun leads the team in homers (12) and RBIs (51). Borup is an unheralded 23-year-old sophomore who was on a Mormon mission in 2007-08 and red-shirted in 2009, and has given the team a huge boost as a Sunday starter (10-1, 3.77). He has significantly elevated his value for the draft, as well.
Arizona may have no one drafted in the first 25 rounds in June, depending on how scouts view outfielder Steve Selsky’s sophomore-eligible status. On talent, he fits solidly in the top 10 rounds.
As Arizona State and Arizona go, so generally goes the state each year for the purposes of the draft. It’s not a particularly strong year at the junior college or high school levels, either. It’s possible neither of those demographics will produce a pick in the top three rounds.
Outfielder Demarcus Tidwell, who ended up at Yavapai JC after being dismissed from the team at Bossier Parish (La.) JC last year, is generally acknowledged as the best talent in the Arizona juco ranks. He has superior athleticiam, speed and hitting tools (.410-4-41 with wood), but not all scouts have come to grips with some of his alleged off-field indiscretions in the past.
The Arizona junior college ranks have become a major talent source, and take a back seat to only California, Florida and Texas in terms of the number of players drafted annually. It’s possible they could produce upwards of 25 players this year (vs. 19 in 2009).
Desert Mountain High infielder Taylor Lindsey is the top hitter in the Arizona prep ranks, and possibly the best hitter in the state overall since most of the talent coming out of college and junior college is pitching. Lindsey hit .594-13-40 this spring, and didn’t strike out once. But there’s concern on the part of scouts where the Arizona State recruit will play in the field, marginally suppressing his value.
Almost every top high school talent in the state this year is heavily committed to major college programs, and it’s unlikely many will end up signing professionally. A year ago, when the crop was considered superior, only six signed.
Over the six-year period from 2004-09, Arizona high schools produced the fifth-most players (297) who were drafted (whether directly out of high school, or subsequently out of college), among all states. That standing is notable as Arizona high schools were almost a non-factor as a talent source when the draft was implemented in 1965.
In 1969, only 19 players were drafted who came from Arizona’s prep ranks. By 1989, that number was 37. A year ago, it was 57—representing a 300 percent increase over a 40-year period, the greatest increase of any state in the country.
IN A NUTSHELL
STRENGTH: Arizona State arms, depth of JC talent.
WEAKNESS: Depth of college talent.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 2.
BEST COLLEGE TEAM: Arizona State.
BEST JUNIOR COLLEGE TEAM: Central Arizona.
BEST HIGH SCHOOL TEAM: Desert Ridge HS, Mesa.
PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Jake Borup, rhp, Arizona State. A 2005 HS graduate, he pitched eight innings since (all in 2009), but is 6-foot-5 with a 91-92 mph fastball, low-80s slider.
PROSPECT ON THE DECLINE: Josh Spence, lhp, Arizona State. Little Australian hasn’t throw an IP all spring after three consecutive 100-inning seasons in college.
WILD CARD: Demarcus Tidwell, of, Yavapai JC. Talent and athleticism are unmistakeable, but may be a risk because of alleged off-field issues.
BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Arizona Connection: Sammy Solis, lhp, U. of San Diego (attended high school in Litchfield Park).
TOP 2011 PROSPECT: Jett Bandy, c/of, U. of Arizona.
TOP 2012 PROSPECT: Deven Marrero, ss, Arizona State.
HIGHEST DRAFT PICKS
Highest Pick, Draft History: Rick Monday, of, Arizona State U. (1965, Athletics/1st round, 1st pick); Floyd Bannister, lhp, Arizona State U. (1976, Astros/1st round, 1st pick); Bob Horner, 3b, Arizona State U. (1978, Braves/1st round, 1st pick).
Highest Pick, 2006 Draft: Jason Donald, ss, U. of Arizona (Phillies/3rd round).
Highest Pick, 2007 Draft: Tim Alderson, rhp, Horizon HS, Phoenix (Giants/1st round, 22nd pick).
Highest Pick, 2008 Draft: Brett Wallace, 3b, Arizona State U. (Cardinals/1st round, 13th pick).
Highest Pick, 2009 Draft: Mike Leake, rhp, Arizona State U. (Reds/1st round, 8th pick).
Best Hitter: Taylor Lindsey, ss/of, Desert Mountain HS, Scottsdale.
Best Power: Travis Flores, 3b, Desert Vista HS, Mesa.
Best Speed: Demarcus Tidwell, of, Yavapai JC.
Best Defender: Drew Maggi, ss, Arizona State.
Best Velocity: Seth Blair, rhp, Arizona State.
Best Breaking Stuff: Kyle Ottoson, lhp, South Mountain JC.
Full scouting reports available on players ranked on national Top 250 list (click on National Top 300)
GROUP ONE (Projected ELITE-Round Draft / Rounds 1-3)
1. SETH BLAIR, rhp, Arizona State (Jr.) National Top 250 (Rank 49)
Fastball has touched 97, but success (10-0, 3.21) stems mostly from command, ability to mix three pitches
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