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College : : Recruiting
Scouting Southeast Texas on a Baseball Trip
Published: Monday, March 15, 2010

I lived in Houston for 10 years (1989-1998) while working in the Houston Astros front office and while I was never an area scout, I certainly spent my share of time out on the roads in Southeast Texas and into southern Louisiana. I’ve been back now and again over the years for baseball reasons, including last year’s Sunshine South Showcase at Blinn JC in Brenham, but this is my most extended visit since leaving.

Texas is much too large and populated for a single scout to cover the state, and what most teams typically do is divide it north and south. The southern-based scout, who typically lives in Houston, Bryan/College Station or Austin, will cover an area that includes those three cities, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and often into Louisiana to include Lake Charles and Lafayette. The northern line of demarcation would likely include Waco and Lufkin in their territory, but nothing north of that.

The northern-based scout will typically have the Dallas Metroplex, the expanses of West Texas (although El Paso would normally belong to the Arizona-based Four Corners scout) and some combination of northern Louisiana, Arkansas and/or Oklahoma.

The Southeast Texas area is doable for a single scout because of some demographics which are too complicated to go into here but which leaves San Antonio, the seventh biggest city in the United States and hardly 80 miles from player-rich Austin, with few prospects to spend time on. Many scouts in this area also pretty blatantly ignore Corpus Christi (Brooks Kieschnick, Cliff Pennington, Baylor’s Logan Verrett) and the “Valley” down by the Mexican border.

The area is not surprisingly one of the most productive in the country. Texas, Texas A&M, Rice, Baylor and Houston are just some of the Division I schools in the area. Seven Texas junior colleges have won a combined 17 national NJCAA championships, with Houston’s San Jacinto (5) the all-time leader on that list.

A total of 54 players from the Southern Texas/Louisiana area have been drafted among the first 30 picks in the June draft in the last 20 years.

Rice leads in that category with nine total players, while Texas is close behind with eight. Bellaire High School, the No.1 ranked team nationally in the PG Crosschecker pre-season 2010 national high school poll, has had four of its graduates (Kelly Wunsch, Jose Cruz Jr, Bubba Crosby and Kyle McCullough) drafted in the first round, while the 1995 Kingwood High School team had three future first rounders (Andrew Yount, Jeff Austin and Mark Mangum) on the same pitching staff ... and didn’t make it out of districts.
A very representative Major League team of those picks could take the field except for the anomaly that there hasn’t been a first-round SE Texas catcher drafted in that period. Josh Beckett, Jeff Niemann, Scott Kazmir, Gil Meche and John Danks would form a hard-throwing starting rotation, with David Aardsma in the bullpen to close out. The offense would be led by Lance Berkman, Brian Loney, Jay Bruce and Cliff Pennington.

The 2010 draft will be representative at the top of the draft for the area (RHP Jameson Taillon, RHP Brandon Workman, SS Rick Hague, RHP Barrett Loux, C Cameron Rupp, 3B Garin Cecchini, RHP John Simms) but 2011 could be a class for the ages. 3B Anthony Rendon and RHP Taylor Jungmann both could easily be among the top 4-5 picks, with others such as RHP John Stilson, RHP Carson Smith, RHP Logan Verrett and transplanted local LHP Matt Purke also strong first-round candidates, just among the college players.

Wednesday: RHP Jameson Taillon (The Woodlands HS) and RHP John Simms (College Park HS) match up at The Woodlands Tuesday evening in what should be one of the top pitching matchups of the year anywhere. I’d be surprised if there weren’t dozens of national level scouts in attendance. Taillon is the No.1-ranked HS player in the country and has been up to 98 mph already this spring, although he did lose a 2-0 game last week to Corpus Christi Moody HS. Simms, who beat Taillon in their rivalry matchup last year, has been excellent early in the spring, pitching at 90-92 mph with an outstanding slider.

(Perfect Game’s David Rawnsley is spending the next week traveling in Southeast Texas and Louisiana. When he’s not taking the mornings off to go fishing, he’ll be reporting  on high profile games in the area.  Check back for updates, starting Wednesday.)