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Draft : : State Preview
State Preview: Montana
Allan Simpson        
Published: Sunday, May 29, 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.

Montana State-by-State List

Montana Overview:
Roberts, Once-in-a-Generation Talent, Inspires Montana Draft Hopes

As the only two states in the country that don’t have formal high-school baseball programs, remote Montana and Wyoming have to resort to different means for high-school-aged players in those states to get both experience and exposure.

They must be doing something right.

Both of the neighboring states have a prospect of note this year that be will historically-relevant in the context of the modest baseball draft exposure that Montana and Wyoming have received through the years, if the players are drafted where they are projected to be taken.

Wyoming’s contribution to the draft is outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who could be drafted as high as the sandwich round. That would represent a record for that state as no Wyoming player has ever been drafted before the fourth round. For more on Nimmo, please refer to the state preview on Wyoming.

The Montana player that has generated a buzz this spring is Missoula outfielder Ben Roberts, possibly the most-talented athlete ever developed in that state. He is a record-setting wide receiver in football (108 catches last fall, 235 in his career) and excels at basketball, but the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Roberts has made it abundantly clear that baseball is his game.

He is being projected as a third-round pick in this year’s draft, which wouldn’t be a record for Montana, but Roberts would become the highest draft pick in the state since 1966, when Billings High lefthander Leo Pinnick was selected in the second round by the Minnesota Twins. Roberts could conceivably close in on that mark, but has no chance of eclipsing the state record set in 1965 by Les Rohr, also a lefthander from Billings High, who was taken with the second overall pick in the very first draft in 1965.

Regardless of where he is picked, Roberts’ prospect status is significant for a state that is far off the beaten track for most scouts. Only four Montana high-school players, including Rohr and Pinnick, have ever been drafted in the top 10 rounds. The last such occurrence was in 1984. No Montana player has been drafted since 2007, and none earlier than the 41st round since 1998.

Roberts has committed to play baseball at Washington State, and that obligation appears to be the only obstacle that might prevent him from being drafted anywhere but where his talent warrants.

For a non-traditional baseball state like Montana, Roberts is a rare breed. He is a superior all-around athlete with all the tools to excel on a baseball field. He has excellent bat speed from the left side, and can pull balls with authority. He has 6.65-second speed in the 60 and excellent first-step quickness, and uses those assets proficiently on the bases and to track balls in center field. He has plenty of arm strength to play anywhere in the outfield.

The one area of Roberts’ game that appears to be furthest behind in his development is his bat. Though he has a fluid stroke and will show occasional loft power, mainly in BP, he may need some minor tinkering with his hitting mechanics.

With no high-school team to play on, Roberts has received most of his exposure playing American Legion ball for the Missoula Mavericks, the 2010 state Legion champs. Roberts played a key role on that team, hitting .415-16-76 with 19 triples and 27 stolen bases in 30 attempts. Obviously, the competition in Montana is not as advanced as it is in other states, but scouts who have seen Roberts play this spring have indicated that all his tools are legit, and that he may have even more upside than the more-publicized Nimmo.

Some scouts have even gone so far as to compare Roberts to a young Josh Hamilton—both in terms of physical appearance and raw tools. The comparison to Hamilton is apt as Roberts’ mother has been quick to show visiting scouts a picture she took last summer of a home-run ball her son caught at Anaheim’s Angel Stadium—hit by none other than Hamilton.

Roberts is not the only talent of some significance who may come from Montana this year. Kalispell lefthander Joe Pistorese has a loose, live arm with a fastball in the high-80s, and a documented history of dominating his competition in American Legion ball. Over his last two full seasons, Pistorese won 18 games, posted a 1.44 ERA and fanned 306 in 187 innings. He also threw the only perfect game in state Legion tournament competition, and achieved a personal-best in May of this year by striking out 19, while walking none, in a seven-inning game.

Montana in a Nutshell:

STRENGTH:
Ben Roberts.
WEAKNESS: Depth of draftable talent.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 5.

BEST JUNIOR-COLLEGE TEAM:
Miles.

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Montana Connection:
Gabe Weidenaar, of, Oklahoma State University (attended high school in Bozeman).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT: Jamin Weidenaar, ss, Bozeman HS.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT: No candidate.

HIGHEST DRAFT PICKS
Draft History: Les Rohr, lhp, West HS, Billings (1965, Mets/1st round, 2nd pick).
2006 Draft: None selected.
2007 Draft: Tyler Gilder, rhp, Butte HS (Phillies/41st round).
2008 Draft: None selected.
2009 Draft: None selected.
2010 Draft: None selected.

TOP PROSPECTS, GROUPS ONE and TWO

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

1. BEN ROBERTS, of, Sentinel HS, Bozeman
Best athlete ever from Montana; has all the tools (speed/arm/defense/bat), but need to project on the power.



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