Draft : : State Preview
Saturday, April 21, 2012

State Preview: Mississippi

Ben Collman        
Photo: Perfect Game

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 scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players as ranked in Perfect Game's state-by-state scouting lists.

Contributing: David Rawnsley/Allan Simpson

Mississippi State-by-State List
2011 Mississippi Overview

Mississippi’s 2011 prep class was labeled the deepest and strongest in the state’s draft history, and with every top prospect spurning an offer to turn pro immediately in favor of attending in-state colleges, that scenario could be repeated in 2014 at the college level.

This year, things are pretty much back to normal as the 2012 Mississippi draft class fits the state’s recent trends almost to a “T.” As usual, the state is strong in two areas: highly-athletic high-school outfielders, and college pitching.

The top college arm is Mississippi State righthander Chris Stratton, a potential third- to fourth-rounder at the start of the season who has rocketed up draft boards this spring and barged his way into the first round. He signaled his arrival as a prime-time prospect when he went head-to-head with Louisiana State’s Kevin Gausman in the opening game of the Southeastern Conference season and outpitched one of the draft’s leading candidates to go first overall by striking out 17. He has only cemented his top-round status since by ranking second nationally with 88 strikeouts 66 innings.

The two high-school outfielders earning high-round grades are Petal High’s Anthony Alford and Stone County High’s D.J. Davis, and they rank as two of the more-intriguing athletes in the nation’s entire prep class. Alford’s draft status is somewhat tentative as he is heavily-committed to playing football at Southern Mississippi, and he could fall right out of consideration as a result.

Davis, meanwhile, has been one of the draft’s fastest risers with his combination of blazing speed and power potential, and like Stratton had his own coming-out game this spring before dozen of scouts when he launched two mammoth home runs.

Mississippi in a nutshell:

Athletic high-school outfielders.
WEAKNESS: College position players.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 3.

BEST HIGH SCHOOL TEAM: Oak Grove HS, Hattiesburg.

PROSPECT ON THE RISE: D.J. Davis, of, Stone County HS, Wiggins.
It is difficult to find a review of Davis’ performance this spring that isn’t glowing. A little-known prospect before last summer’s East Coast Professional Baseball Showcase, Davis ran an event-best 6.38 seconds in the 60. He then showcased his blinding speed and reckless abandon on the bases by hitting .375 with a tournament-leading five stolen bases at the World Wood Bat Association fall championship in Jupiter, Fla., in October. From all reports, he has only continued to get better in all phases of his game this spring, and gave a graphic demonstration of his evolving power potential when he slammed a pair of long home runs in a game before the watchful eyes of some 50 scouts, including several scouting directors and prominent front-office officials.

WILD CARD: Anthony Alford, of, Petal HS
. While Davis’ name was virtually unknown until last summer/fall, both baseball scouts and football recruiters have been familiar with Alford for years. He led Petal High to Mississippi 6-A state baseball titles as both a sophomore and junior, and is even better-known as one of the top dual-threat quarterback prospects in the country. His football commitment to Southern Mississippi significantly complicates his chances of being an early-round selection in the baseball draft in June, and big-league clubs may ultimately determine he is too high a risk to warrant spending a premium pick. Alford’s chances of passing up football are considered all the more unlikely because his former football coach at Petal High is now an assistant at USM, and he’s also a close friend of the son of Golden Eagles baseball coach Scott Berry

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Mississippi Connection:
Lex Rutledge, lhp, Samford University (Attended high school in Tupelo).
Top 2013 Prospect: Bobby Wahl, rhp, University of Mississippi.
Top 2014 Prospect: Connor Barron, ss, University of Southern Mississippi.


Draft History: Will Clark, 1b, Mississippi State University (1985, Giants/first round, 2nd pick).
2006 Draft: Chris Coghlan, 3b, University of Mississippi (Marlins/1st round, 36th pick).
2007 Draft: Wendell Fairley, of, George County HS, Lucedale (Giants/1st round, 29th pick).
2008 Draft: Lance Lynn, rhp, University of Mississippi (Cardinals/1st round, 39th pick).
2009 Draft: Billy Hamilton, ss, Taylorsville HS (Reds/2nd round).
2010 Draft: Drew Pomeranz, lhp, University of Mississippi (Indians/1st round, 5th pick).
2011 Draft: Conner Barron, ss, Sumrall HS (Marlins/3rd round).


College Players Drafted/Signed:
Junior College Players Drafted/Signed: 3/2.
High School Players Drafted/Signed: 10/1.


Best Athlete:
Anthony Alford, of, Petal HS.
Best Hitter: Alex Yarbrough, 2b, University of Mississippi.
Best Power: Matt Snyder, 1b, University of Mississippi.
Best Speed: D.J. Davis, of, Stone County HS, Wiggins.
Best Defender: D.J. Davis, of, Stone County HS, Wiggins.
Best Velocity: Chris Stratton, rhp, Mississippi State University.
Best Breaking Stuff: Chris Stratton, rhp, Mississippi State University.
Best Pitchability: Kendal Graveman, rhp, Mississippi State University.


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

1. CHRIS STRATTON, rhp, Mississippi State University (Jr.).
Stratton stamped himself as a legitimate first-round candidate when he went head-to-head with LSU righthander Kevin Gausman in the opening game of the Southeastern Conference schedule, and outpitched one of the top candidates to go No. 1 overall. Stratton struck out 17 in 8-2/3 innings, while walking two and allowing four hits. His fastball was a steady 92-94 mph, peaking at 95, but the difference-maker in his dominant outing was a nasty 85-87 mph slider, a pitch that he added to his repertoire in just the last year. Stratton has also resorted this spring to emphasizing a two-seam fastball vs. a four-seamer, and has responded by going 7-0, 2.71 with 88 strikeouts in 66 innings, while walking 16 and allowing just 49 hits. His performance to date has been a significant upgrade from his first two seasons at Mississippi State, when he served as a weekend starter but went only a combined 10-10, 5.25 with 152 strikeouts in 154 innings. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Stratton has an ideal pitcher’s frame. He also has a quick arm and a very easy, clean delivery that he repeats consistently. Stratton has always had a good feel for pitching and adapted well in the fall to changes in his style and approach to his craft. The addition of a slider not only provided him a second dominant pitch, but essentially solidified his case to be a starter down the road as he now has four solid pitches for the role, including a curve and changeup as his No. 3 and 4 pitches.

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