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Top 100 College Sophomores

Draft : : Top Prospects
Allan Simpson        
Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2012

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Even by California’s Rich Standards, 
2013 Draft Promises to be One For Ages

With weather conducive to baseball, along with the state’s prominent year-round scout-league programs and a population base upwards of 35 million, California is the gold standard by which other states are measured when it comes to the production of baseball talent.

The Golden State has yielded more draft picks every year since the baseball draft was conceived in 1965—and it’s never been close. Not only has it been about quantity, but quality, too, as California players have populated the early stages of the draft.

Of 1,260 first-round picks through the years, 301 (or 23.9) have ties to California. That includes 107 players drafted directly out of California colleges (104) and junior colleges (3), 168 from California high schools and 26 from other colleges around the country who attended California high schools. On 10 occasions, the first overall pick in the draft has come from that state.

An overwhelming number of California first-round picks came from the high-school ranks through 1983 (102 vs. 14 from college), including a record 11 in 1972. But that ratio began to turn in favor of college talent from that point on, prompted mainly by changes in draft rules as they applied to college talent and a philosophical change on the part of major-league clubs.

On three occasions (1984, 1987 and 1992), as many as six California college players have been drafted in the first round, and the 2000 draft actually featured seven, if junior-college talent is factored into the equation.

With those numbers lending historical perspective, California’s impact on the draft could reach new heights in 2013 as the state’s current crop of college sophomores includes at least nine players who have realistic expectations of being first-round picks a year from now.

On Perfect Game’s recent ranking of the Top 300 Prospects in the 2013 draft class, all nine factored into the top 31 spots, beginning with Stanford outfielder Austin Wilson at No. 2 and ending with Fresno State outfielder Aaron Judge at No. 31. Both are highly-athletic talents who have just scratched the surface of their exceptional potential.

The California Nine obviously factors prominently in the accompanying list of the nation’s Top 100 Sophomores in the current college class. While a lot could change over the next two college seasons to possibly impact the draft status of the players, it is safe to say that California will be a popular destination for scouts a year from now. Additionally, eight of the nine are slated to play this summer in the Cape Cod League.

Buoyed by the depth of premium college talent in California, the 2013 draft is already shaping up as one with a decided college flair. Eight of the first nine players on Perfect Game’s list of the Top 300 Prospects in that class are current college sophomores.

The 2013 college crop has obviously been bolstered by the inclusion of University of Florida righthander Karsten Whitson and University of San Diego righthander Dylan Covey, two players that went unsigned as first-rounders two years ago. Whitson was picked ninth overall by the San Diego Padres while Covey was taken by the Milwaukee Brewers with the 14
th pick.

On six previous occasions—most recently as 1996, when four of the top 12 picks were declared ‘loophole free agents’ and ended up signing lucrative deals with the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays—have two players selected in the top half of the first round elected not to sign.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Whitson is slated to become the No. 2 starter this spring for Florida, the nation’s consensus No. 1 college team, after going 8-1, 2.40 with 28 walks and 92 strikeouts in 97 innings for the Gators as a freshman. He is the nation’s No. 1-ranked sophomore.

The 6-2, 195-pound Covey, meanwhile, struggled as a freshman for USD, posting just a 1-3, 7.86 record in nine starts. In 34 innings, he walked 28 and struck out 29. His status this spring for the Toreros is a little less certain because of the command issues that impacted his 2011 season.

His future may also be clouded, to a degree, by how he handles a diabetic condition. The Brewers elected not to sign Covey in 2010 when it was diagnosed as part of a routine physical that he has Type 1 diabetes. Nonetheless, he is ranked at No. 11 among the nation’s top sophomores—and No. 3 in California’s deep crop.

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