Draft : : State Preview
Sunday, May 15, 2011

State Preview: Mississippi

Allan Simpson        
Photo: Southern Mississippi
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.
Mississippi State-by-State List
Mississippi Overview:
Premium Prep Crop Could Lead to Most Productive Draft in State History
In the baseball draft’s 46-year history, no state in the traditional Sun Belt region of the country has been a greater wasteland for talent than Mississippi, particularly at the high-school level.
Since the baseball draft was instituted in 1965, just 60 Mississippi high-school players have been drafted in the first 10 rounds. A mere six have been claimed in the first round.
That inglorious summation includes the likes of third baseman Ted Nicholson, drafted third overall in 1969 by the Chicago White Sox; lefthander Donnie Castle, chosen eighth by the Washington Senators in 1968, and righthander Kirk Presley, picked eighth overall by the New York Mets in 1993. They represent the three highest draft picks ever from Mississippi high schools.
Castle went on to play four games in the big leagues, while Nicholson and Presley (a distant cousin of Elvis) didn’t even progress in the minor leagues beyond Class A. Nicholson’s brief career was short-circuited when he was required to fulfill two years of mandatory military obligation within a year of being drafted, and he was released shortly after attempting to resume his career. Presley’s career hardly got off the ground, either, as he was sidelined by arm problems.
Things got particularly rough for Mississippi, from a draft standpoint, in the three-year period from 1975-77, when the state produced just one player overall (college or high school) who was drafted in the first 10 rounds. In 1976, a total of just seven players were drafted from Mississippi schools.
The tide began to turn in 1985, though, when first baseman Will Clark (a Louisiana high-school product) and outfielder Rafael Palmeiro (a Florida high-school product) led Mississippi State to unparalleled heights at the collegiate level, and subsequently were selected in the first round of that year’s draft—Clark, second overall by the San Francisco Giants, Palmeiro later in the round by the Chicago Cubs. Though neither player attended a Mississippi high school, the national attention they brought to baseball in the state was noteworthy, and it served as a springboard to greater baseball awareness over the next 25 years.
Though Mississippi continues to lag far behind its neighboring states in terms of the production of professional baseball talent, the tide could take another pronounced leap forward this year as veteran area scouts are calling the 2011 Mississippi prep crop easily the best and deepest in the state’s checkered draft history.
On the basis of pure talent, Mississippi high schools could yield as many as five or six picks in the top five rounds alone. To say the least, the state has been a popular destination for national-level scouts this spring.
Through the years, Mississippi high schools have produced as many as three players in the first 10 rounds on only four occasions, including a high of four in 1990 and 1998. This year’s crop could blow that record away.
The 2011 Mississippi prep class was already shaping up nicely this spring, when it suddenly received a significant shot in the arm when previously-unknown Sumrall High shortstop Connor Barron flew up draft boards and quickly laid claim to becoming the state’s best potential draft in June.
Barron’s overnight emergence stemmed directly from his getting bigger and stronger over the course of the last year, and his obvious strength gains translated positively to every aspect of his game. Not only did Barron swing the bat this spring with much more authority, but his running speed and arm strength benefitted as well.
If scouts believe Barron can continue to play shortstop on an everyday basis at the professional level, he could edge his way into the back end of the first round by Draft Day. Barron gained notoriety a year ago as he was a key member of the Sumrall High team that ran off 67 wins in a row, until losing late in the season. The team fell eight wins short of the national record.
In the end result, signability may play a significant factor where the wealth of Mississippi high-school talent will be drafted this year, and no player may be impacted more than Pascagoula High outfielder Senquez Golson, who has committed to play football at the University of Mississippi. Golson is regarded as one of the 4-5 top athletes in the entire draft, and could land in the first round, along with Barron—if he communicates to scouts what they want to hear, that he prefers to pursue a baseball career. Golson has all the natural tools to excel in baseball, including bat speed and raw power potential, but lacks a fluid, easy swing that compromises his overall approach to hitting,
Beyond Barron and Golson, other players in the mix who could be drafted in premium rounds are hard-hitting George County High outfielder/lefthander Mason Robbins; hulking 6-foot-8, 245-pound righthander Hawtin Buchanan and obscure Wheeler High righhander Brandon Woodruff.
Buchanan and Woodruff have been clocked as high as 93-95 mph at various points this spring. Robbins himself has topped out at 90, but he is clearly seen as an outfielder in the eyes of scouts. At this point in his development, in fact, he is considered much more advanced as a hitter than Golson, but lacks his explosive athletic ability.
With all the strides Mississippi has made as an emerging baseball region over the last 25 years, it now ranks 20th nationally among states in terms of the number of draft picks from 2004-10 that were produced by each state’s high schools.
A vast majority of the 152 players with Mississippi roots that were drafted in that seven-year period weren’t actually selected at the time they graduated from high school, but customarily were selected after two or three years of development in college or junior college. In 2008, just five players were drafted directly out of Mississippi high schools; in 2009, the tally was six; a year ago the number bumped up to eight. It’s safe to say those figures will jump exponentially when this year’s draft has run its course.
Unlike every other Sun-Belt state, where young best baseball talent is generally evident to scouts and coaches by the time players are sophomores or juniors in high school, legitimate prep baseball talent in Mississippi often doesn’t surface or define itself until the players are seniors—and, in many cases, until they have advanced to a higher level of competition. This phenomenon generally stems from a majority of Mississippi’s best future players being raw, undeveloped athletes who are often significantly behind the normal baseball development curve while in high school.
Slowly but surely, though, that perception is starting to change, and Mississippi high-school baseball is beginning to get its due national recognition.
With all the attention paid this spring to Mississippi high schools, the normally-fruitful Mississippi college ranks have been overshadowed somewhat—especially with no sure-fire first-rounder like 2010, when Ole Miss lefthander Drew Pomeranz was chosen fifth overall.
University of Southern Mississippi power-hitting third baseman B.A. Vollmuth is the state’s top-ranked college talent, and could conceivably challenge Barron and/or Golson to become the state’s first draft, though he is generally regarded as a second- or third-round pick. Vollmuth is hardly a sure thing, though, as has been slowed this spring by a nagging hip flexor and scouts remain skeptical of his offensive upside, based on his highly-unproductive 2010 summer season in the Cape Cod League, where he hit a woeful .177-1-7 and struck out 50 times in 126 at-bats.
Though only five of the state’s top 25 college prospects (see attached follow list) attended Mississippi high schools, the state’s prospering high-school ranks can take some solace in the fact that the top three college prospects—Vollmuth, along with Mississippi State righthander Devin Jones and Ole Miss righthander David Goforth—did attend Mississippi high schools prior to enrolling in college.
Both Jones and Goforth have the superior raw stuff to go out in higher rounds than they are projected to be drafted, but Jones has had difficulty harnessing his impressive raw stuff throughout three seasons with Mississippi State. The undersized Goforth, meanwhile, has a big arm with a fastball that has touched 98-100 mph this spring, but his smaller frame will likely scare most teams off.
The talent in Mississippi junior colleges typically lags behind most of the nation’s better, more-competitive two-year programs, and consequently almost every team in the state plays at the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II level, a less-challenging level. But slick-fielding Hines CC shortstop Travious Relaford, just a freshman, is one player who could play almost anywhere in the country and he is a legitimate candidate for the first 10 rounds.
But this year’s Mississippi draft class is all about the high-school talent, and it could be a record-breaking year on many counts for a state that has had little to boast about through the years.
Mississippi in a Nutshell:
STRENGTH: Premium high-school talent.
WEAKNESS:Depth of college position talent.
OVERALL RATING(1-to-5 scale): 4.
BEST COLLEGE TEAM:Southern Mississippi.
PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Connor Barron, ss, Sumrall HS. Mississippi’s once-in-a-generation high-school crop was already well established, but Barron added icing to the cake by bursting on the scene midway through the spring. His combination of advanced hitting skills, pure speed, superior arm strength and easy defensive actions could vault him right over everyone in the state and into the first round.
PROSPECT ON THE DECLINE: Matt Crouse, lhp, Ole Miss. Crouse is a stylish 6-foot-4, 185-pound lefthander. He leads Ole Miss starters in wins (6-4, 3.56) and has generally been the most successful of the team’s three weekend arms, but he has simply not posted enough wins or good enough secondary numbers for scouts to look past his modest stuff, which includes an 85-87 mph fastball. In all probability, Ole Miss’ other weekend starters, RHP David Goforth and LHP Austin Wright, will be drafted 10-15 rounds ahead of Crouse.
WILD CARD: David Goforth, rhp, Ole Miss. For the second year in a row, Goforth has earned this designation. Despite a fastball that routinely continues to light up scouts’ radar guns at the dizzying speed of 97-100 mph, Goforth has struggled again to win on a steady basis (4-7, 5.03 this year; 1-5, 8.27 a year ago). For all his arm strength, Goforth is also just 5-foot-10, and it may be too risky for teams to invest an early-round pick in a player that has two obvious strikes against him.
BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Mississippi Connection:Demarcus Tidwell, of, Southern Poly (Ga.) College. (Attended high school in Grenada).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT:Anthony Alford, of, Petal HS.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT: Reid Humphreys, ss, Northwest Rankin HS, Brandon.
Draft History:Will Clark, 1b, Mississippi State U. (1985, Giants/first round, 2ndpick).
2006 Draft: Chris Coghlan, 3b, U. of Mississippi (Marlins/1st round, 36thpick).
2007 Draft: Wendell Fairley, of, George County HS, Lucedale (Giants/1st round, 29thpick).
2008 Draft: Lance Lynn, rhp, U. of Mississippi (Cardinals/1st round, 39thpick).
2009 Draft: Billy Hamilton, ss, Taylorsville HS (Reds/2nd round).
2010 Draft: Drew Pomeranz, lhp, U. of Mississippi (Indians/1st round, 5thpick).
Best Hitter:Connor Barron, ss, Sumrall HS, Hattiesburg.
Best Power: B.A. Vollmuth, 3b, Southern Mississippi.
Best Speed:Senquez Golson, of, Pascagoula HS.
Best Defender:Travious Relaford, ss, Hinds CC.
Best Velocity:David Goforth, rhp, Mississippi.
Best Breaking Stuff:Devin Jones, rhp, Mississippi State.
GROUP ONE (Projected ELITE-Round Draft / Rounds 1-3)
1. CONNOR BARRON, ss, Sumrall HS, Hattiesburg

Big growth spurt in last year, now 6-3/190; Reid Brignac comparisons; ++ LH bat (.484-7-34), 80 runner.
2. SENQUEZ GOLSON, of, Pascagoula HS
FB stud as DB/Ole Miss recruit; ++ runner/athlete; profiles as CF, + bat speed (.345-3-23), ++ raw skills.
3. B.A. VOLLMUTH, 3b, University of Southern Mississippi (Jr.)
Big raw power, + arm for 3B are readily evident; slowed by hip flexor, must prove his hitting skills are legit.
4. MASON ROBBINS, of, George County HS, Leakesville

Top all-around athlete, most pro-ready MS prep player; power bat (.500-14-39), upper-80s LHP (59IP/93).
5. HAWTIN BUCHANAN, rhp, Biloxi HS
XXL frame (6-8/240), D-I QB prospect; easy/loose arm, + downhill tilt, 95 mph FB, off-speed developing.
GROUP TWO (Projected HIGH-Round Draft / Rounds 4-10)
6. BRANDON WOODRUFF, rhp, Wheeler HS
Tough for scouts to see (15 IP this spring, late from BKB); mystery man, but ++size/raw arm, FB up to 95.
7. DEVIN JONES, rhp, Mississippi State University (Jr.)
First-round-calibre arm/frame (FB at 94-95, ++ SL), but still struggles to win (2-5, 4.44); harness raw stuff.
8. DAVID GOFORTH, rhp, University of Mississippi (Jr.)
Huge arm (FB at 97-100) in small frame (5-11/180); ++ struggles to win, throw quality strikes, miss bats.
9. JACOB LINDGREN, lhp, lhp, St. Stanislaus HS, Kiln
Got + national attention, but mixed appeal; FB at 88-92/T-94, useable SL; small frame/2010 injury hurt stock.
10. AUSTIN WRIGHT, lhp, University of Mississippi (Jr.)
Well-traveled LHP has size, throws hard, but lacks consistency with FB/cutter, gets hit; profiles as a reliever.
11. TRAVIOUS RELAFORD, ss, Hinds CC (Fr.)
Easy top JC prospect in state; has 3 + tools (range at SS, arm strength, speed); contact hitter only at this stage.
12. JOSH LAXER, rhp, Madison Central HS, Madison

Mature frame (6-1/190); 11-0, 1.84, 61IP/93 K for state top HS team; FB 89-91/T-92 mph; SL is best pitch.
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