JUPITER, FL- Much of the talk among scouts over the summer was about what seemed to be a lack of power arms for 2002, after a 2001 draft that was by all accounts stacked with high school pitching.
But at the Perfect Game Baseball America World Championship in Jupiter, Florida, several pitchers emerged as potential first-rounders. Of the Top-10, eight are moundsmen.
For the most part, they had been previously rated as projectable arms, but have now developed a little faster than many of us expected.
Also, pitchers tend to stand out more at a tournament like this, where 64 teams are competing on 12 different fields across the Expos/Cardinals minor league complex. To catch a top position player prospect, you have to sit down for a while. To notice a premium pitcher, a few pitches and a radar gun will usually suffice.
This is the most difficult Top-10 of the year. Not just because of the overwhelming environment and the 1,200 players to sort through, but also because there was an awful lot of talent.
Unlike the previous top prospect articles on TeamOneBaseball.com, there are players listed here and others strongly considered whom I was unable to see first-hand over the weekend. Iíve partly relied on the expertise of various college recruiters, scouts, and agents with whom I discussed players with while in Jupiter. I have also seen many of those players in previous events.
1. Mark McCormick, RHP, Clear Creek (TX) HS R/R 6-2, 188
Did anyone "raise his stock" more than McCormick last weekend? Considered one of the hardest throwers in high school already, McCormick was consistently 93-94 MPH in his brief appearance. On top of that, he showed a hammer for a curveball, thrown 80-82 MPH. McCormick doesnít have mere size or exceptional projectability, just a very good arm. McCormick has verbally committed to Baylor.
2. Scott Kazmir, LHP, Cypress Falls (TX) HS L/L 6-0, 176
Kazmir has an electric left arm and has impressed scouts since the summer with his stuff. In a typical outing, heíll show 93-94 MPH for the first couple of innings, then settle into 90-91 MPH later on. That kind of velocity is extremely rare in a lefty at his stage. Kazmir also has the makings of a very sharp 80 MPH breaking ball. The only concern at all is his lack of size. Kazmir is committed to Texas.
3. B.J. Upton, SS, Greenbrier Christian (VA) HS R/R 6-2, 170
Upton the arm, agility, and hands to become an outstanding defensive shortstop as well as the blazing speed to steal bases. His bat is not quite as advanced, but he has a pretty good idea in the box and could project into an overall offensive threat as he fills out a very slender frame. Iím hard-pressed to think of a better high school shortstop prospect, at least since Alex Rodriguez. Upton has not verbally committed, but is reportedly close with Florida State.
4. Christian Madson, RHP, Bloomingdale (FL) HS R/R 6-8, 230
Last spring, Madson was no better than the third pitcher on his high school staff. Now, he is looking like a potential first-rounder. The 6-8 righty is coming of age as his fastball velocity is settling comfortably in the low-90s and he has added a splitter to go with a tilt-crazy curveball. His ceiling is as high as any pitcher in the country and he dominated in Jupiter with his five-inning, no-hit appearance. Madson is committed to Florida.
5. Chris Gruler, RHP, Liberty (CA) HS R/R 6-2, 195
I never doubted that Gruler could show first-round stuff. He was easy for scouts to like when he was throwing 88-90 MPH because of his projectability and his presence on the mound. But Gruler has taken it up another notch, throwing in the 91-93 MPH area with regularity and mixing in a 78-82 MPH curveball; it is looking like a "plus" major league pitch in the making. He has verbally committed to Arizona State.
6. Micah Owings, RHP, Gainesville (GA) HS R/R 6-3, 205
Owings had the heaviest fastball in Jupiter and probably in the country. At a comfortable 89-91 MPH, his fastball seemed to drop right before it came into the zone. He shows the potential for a "plus" slider and change-up as well, and has a keen idea on how to mix. Owings is built like a pitcher and has a loose arm-action, indicating the potential to both throw harder and to eat up innings.
7. Brian McCann, C, Duluth (GA) HS L/R 6-2, 190
Some already considered McCann the best catching prospect in the country, and he did nothing to disprove it in Jupiter. He is a power/power catcher, with a homerun swing and a strong arm. The lefthanded hitter was hitting shots all weekend and continues to make the stops as a receiver.
8. Friedel Pinkston, RHP, Hart County (GA) HS R/R 6-2, 185
This is looking like another banner year for the state of Georgia and Pinkston is a big part of it. Heís a very loose-armed righty who throws 90-92 MPH and also shows the ability to throw a variety of pitches. Pinkston loves to come from the side and change angles, and shows a competitive streak come game-time. He has verbally committed to Chipola JC in Florida.
9. Mark Romanczuk, LHP, St. Markís (DE) HS L/L 6-1, 188
There wasnít a more polished pitcher in Jupiter or perhaps in the country. Romanczuk doesnít over-power at 88-89 MPH, but his command is outstanding and he has confidence in three other pitches. Romanczuk has a picture-perfect delivery and repeats his slots as well as anyone. He has verbally committed to Stanford, which is notorious for developing cerebral pitchers. Romanczukís academics are perhaps even more impressive.
10. Nick Starnes, RHP, Graham (NC) HS R/R 6-2, 170
The rail-thin righty has one of the best curveballs in the country and an 87-91 MPH fastball to go with it. With his arm-action and impending strength gains, he should project to become more consistent with the higher velocities. There arenít many high schoolers with better pitchability, either. Unfortunately in Jupiter, he pitched at the exact same time as Scott Kazmir on a directly opposite field. Starnes is verbally committed to the University of North Carolina in Greensboro.