Draft : : State Preview
State Preivew: Georgia
Saturday, May 14, 2011
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.
Georgia State-by-State List
By Georgia’s Lofty Standards, This Year’s Prep Draft Class Ranks Below Par
established itself over the last two decades as one the nation’s top four
talent-producing states. But even by the state’s lofty standards, the 2010 draft
represented a once-in-a-generation windfall pool for Georgia.
were six players with Georgia connections that were selected in the first round,
led by outfielder/second baseman Delino DeShields Jr. (Woodward Academy), chosen
by the Houston Astros with the eighth pick overall. He was one of five
high-school selections, and was subsequently joined in the first round by
outfielder Jake Skole (15th/Rangers, Blessed Trinity HS), third
baseman/righthander Kaleb Cowart (18th/Angels, Cook HS), righthander
Cam Bedrosian (29th/Angels, East Cowetta HS) and outfielder Chevy
Clarke (30th/Angels, Marietta HS). The Los Angeles Angels snapped up
three of the selections themselves.
Georgia high-school players were taken in the first 103 selections. That total
ranked second behind only California (11 players), and ahead of the other
traditional baseball talent hotbeds, Florida (6) and Texas (5).
righthander Deck McGuire (10th/Blue Jays) was the sixth first-round
selection, but the only player to come from the Georgia college ranks.
It was an
unprecedented haul in the first round for Georgia, but there were actually more
players drafted in 2009 (79) that originally attended high school in the state
than were drafted overall a year ago (72). Those two years represent the highest
single-year totals in state history.
By any standard
of comparison, the 2011 draft will not be so kind to Georgia. It will produce
nowhere close to the kind of impact-level talent that last year’s draft did or
number of draft picks overall, and is actually well below Georgia’s accustomed
output on both counts.
Only one Georgia
high-school prospect, McIntosh High outfielder Dwight Smith Jr., son of the
former major leaguer, has even a remote chance of being drafted in the first
round. More likely, he will be one of 27 supplemental first-round picks in this
After Smith, it
is conceivable that no Georgia prep player will be picked in the next 2-3
rounds. And that will all depend on signability issues and how players like
Luella High shortstop Julius Gaines, Berrien County High outfielder Larry Greene
and Richmond Hill High lefthander Kevin Matthews are evaluated.
that is almost entirely missing from the traditionally-strong Georgia
high-school talent pool this year is pitching. Matthews is acknowledged as the
best pitching prospect in the state, but he’s a sub-6-footer with a near-binding
scholarship offer to Virginia, which normally holds on to players its best
recruits. Given that dilemma, it’s conceivable that no Georgia high-school arms
could be taken in the top 10 rounds—a far cry from 2010.
The situation is
a bit brighter on the college front, thanks in large part to the top three
starting pitchers in the state that are eligible for the 2011 draft, Georgia
Tech’s stellar twosome of lefthander Jed Bradley and righthander Mark Pope, and
Georgia righthander Michael Palazzone.
Huntsville, Ala., native who topped out only in the mid- to upper-80s out of
high school and was not drafted before enrolling at Georgia Tech, has the
potential to be among the first 4-5 picks in this draft. He is linked with
Virginia lefthander Danny Hultzen as the two top college southpaws in the
country. Bradley began his Georgia Tech career in inglorious fashion by going
2-3, 6.65 as a freshman, but improved to 9-5, 4.83 as a junior and has been
dominant in almost every outing this spring, going 6-2, 2.63 with 83 strikeouts
in 75 innings.
As productive as
Bradley has been this year, Pope has been even better, going 10-2, 1.27 as
Georgia Tech’s Friday starter. He has put himself on the short list of
candidates for national pitcher-of-the-year honors. Pope, a 17th-round
pick of the hometown Braves out of a Georgia high school, began his career at
Georgia Tech as a closer, saving eight games, before being switched to a
starting role as a sophomore. He is now 23-4 over his college career, but may
not be a premium draft selection because he has just an average fastball.
If Bradley and
Pope aren’t a difficult enough tandem for most teams that face Georgia Tech in a
three-game weekend series, the Yellow Jackets have a third starter of some note,
6-foot-5 righthander Buck Farmer, who has a legitimate chance to become a
first-round pick in 2012.
picked in the 18th round by the Braves in 2008, just one round after
the Braves took Pope. Though they play on rival college teams, Palazzone and
Pope were teammates on the same East Cobb youth teams during their high-school
years. Palazzone has recovered sufficiently from both Tommy John surgery in the
past and the meltdown by Georgia’s entire pitching staff in 2010 to become one
of the top starters in the Southeastern Conference this season. He was 8-2, 2.15
through his first 12 starts.
best pitch being a changeup, he may lack the true power pitch to propel him into
the top 3-5 rounds, but his three-pitch arsenal, command and maturity should
easily land him in the first 10 rounds.
Perfect Game pre-draft rankings, the best talent in Georgia at the
junior-college level is concentrated at one school, Middle Georgia College. The
Warriors feature the state’s top six prospects, led by Georgia-bound lefthander
Matt Taylor. But Middle Georgia finished no better than third this spring in the
state junior-college standings, a sign of the team’s inexperience. Taylor is the
only one of the team’s top half-dozen prospects, all products of Georgia high
schools, who wasn’t a freshman.
While 2011 may be
considered a down year overall for baseball talent in Georgia, things should
turn around in a hurry.
The talent on the
rosters of the elite teams in the vaunted East Cobb youth program is usually a
good barometer for young talent coming through the state. Skole, Cowart and
Clarke were all East Cobb alumni from the 2010 draft, but last year’s
upper-level East Cobb teams were noticeably down in talent, and it is reflected
in the sparse crop of Georgia high-school prospects this year.
The good news for
Georgia in 2012 and beyond, though, is East Cobb’s 2012 and 2013 draft classes
appear to be exceptionally talented, especially the 2013 class.
Georgia in a Nutshell:
Georgia Tech pitchers, high-school position players.
(1-to-5 scale): 2.
BEST COLLEGE TEAM:
BEST JUNIOR COLLEGE TEAM:
BEST HIGH SCHOOL TEAM:
Wayne County HS, Jesup.
PROSPECT ON THE RISE:
Mark Pope, rhp, Georgia Tech. Pope won’t overwhelm hitters with his
marginal raw stuff, but has achieved significant success this spring with
consistency and command. His 10-2, 1.27 record also includes 16 walks and 75
strikeouts in 92 innings, so Pope cannot be ignored by big-league teams looking
for proven college performers in the early rounds.
PROSPECTS ON THE DECLINE:
Kevin Jacob, rhp, Georgia Tech / LHP Cecil Tanner, rhp, Georgia. Both
pitchers have massive frames (6-feet-6, 240 pounds) and fastballs that have
peaked in the past in the high-90s. Had they developed in college, as expected,
both could have been sure-fire first-rounders. But Jacobs was slowed by medical
issues in 2010, and has never come close to regaining his previous form, while
Tanner has been plagued throughout his career by mechanical issues that prevent
him from throwing strikes on a consistent basis—much less reaching even 90 mph,
at times. It’s unlikely either pitcher will be drafted before the 10th
Julius Gaines, ss, Luella HS, Locust Grove. Opinions vary across the
board on the flashy defensive shortstop, who missed a key early part of the
season with a shoulder injury. Gaines struggled to find a rhythm at the plate
this spring, but has a demonstrated history of success swinging wood bats in
BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Georgia Connection: Grayson Garvin, lhp,
Vanderbilt University (attended high school in Suwanee).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT:
Buck Farmer, rhp, Georgia Tech.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT:
Wesley Jones, ss/rhp, Redan HS, Lithonia.
HIGHEST DRAFT PICKS
Ron Blomberg, 1b, Druid Hills HS, Atlanta (1967, Yankees/1st round, 1st
pick); Mike Ivie, c, Walker HS, Decatur (1970, Padres/1st round, 1st
pick); Tim Beckham, ss, Griffin HS (2008, Rays/1st round, 1st
Brooks Brown, rhp, U. of Georgia (Diamondbacks/1st round; 34th
Matt Wieters, c, Georgia Tech (Orioles/1st round, 5th
Tim Beckham, ss, Griffin HS (Rays/1st round, 1st pick).
Donavan Tate, of, Cartersville HS (Padres/1st round, 3rd
Delino DeShields Jr., of/2b, Woodward Academy, College Park (Astros/1st
round, 8th pick).
Dwight Smith, of, McIntosh HS, Peachtree City.
Matt Skole, 3b, Georgia Tech.
Zach Cone, of, University of Georgia.
Julius Gaines, ss, Luella HS, Locust Grove.
Jed Bradley, lhp, Georgia Tech.
Best Breaking Stuff:
Mark Pope, rhp, Georgia Tech.
TOP PROSPECTS, GROUPS ONE and TWO
Draft / Rounds 1-3)
1. JED BRADLEY,
lhp, Georgia Tech (Jr.)
Ideal 6-4 profile
build; FB sits 92-93/touches 96, SL/CH are + pitches, easy mechanics from high-
2. DWIGHT SMITH,
of, McIntosh HS, Peachtree City
(son of Dwight Sr.); very polished bat/line-drive machine, average speed/arm, +
3. ZACH CONE, of,
University of Georgia (Jr.)
with 5-tool potential; 6.45 in 60, excellent OF, + raw bat speed, but very
4. LARRY GREENE,
of, Berrien County HS, Nashville
strength/power in 6-1/230 build; bat is best tool/ball jumps at contact, 6.8
speed; corner OF, OK arm.
5. MARK POPE, rhp,
Georgia Tech (Jr.)
competitor/performer (10-2, 1.27); gets+ sink on 90-mph FB/commands SL from
deceptive ¾ release.
6. JULIUS GAINES,
ss, Luella HS, Locust Grove
Missed time with
shoulder issue; ++ defensive SS, +hands, flashy/confident style, bat
(Projected HIGH-Round Draft / Rounds 4-10)
7. MATT SKOLE,
3b, Georgia Tech (Jr.)
Polished LH power
bat (.354-5-47, 42 career HR), patient plate approach; playable defender at 3B,
MATTHEWS, lhp, Richmond Hill HS
pitches at 88-92 mph/touches 95; has big/hard CU, nice CH, repeats delivery, +
9. MATT TAYLOR,
lhp, Middle Georgia JC (So.)
dominated (67 IP/112 SO) with 88-93 FB, + SL; + competes, excellent feel for
10. JAKE BURNETTE,
rhp, Buford HS
basketball standout; throws downhill with 88-91 FB/projects more velo; downer
CU, feel for K zone.
11. MATT MURRAY,
rhp, Georgia Southern University (Jr.)
re-invented himself this spring as closer (4-2, 1.73, 7 SV, 52 IP/55 SO), FB at
steady 91-93, + CH.
12. CONNOR LYNCH,
c, Pope HS, Marietta
catcher; has + arm strength/agility, blocking skills; aggressive bat/power, +
performer, 7.0 in 60.
13. TYLER GIBSON,
ss, Stratford HS, Macon
Son of Mercer
head BB coach; broad frame (6-2/190), LH bat, smooth swing, + power potential,
PALAZZONE, rhp, University of Georgia (Jr.)
UGA ace (8-2,
2.15, 88 IP/8 BB), OK stuff (88-92 mph FB/+ CH/downer CU), but works ahead
ARNOLD, rhp, Middle Georgia JC (Fr.)
has focused on pitching (32 IP/45 SO); just scratching surface, but consistent
91-92, + SL.
16. LEVI HYAMS,
2b, University of Georgia (Jr.)
tools/approach, but very steady at bat/in field; has average
bat/speed/range/arm, hit .335-2-29.
McCLAIN, rhp, Northview HS, Johns Creek
frame (6-2/185); easy delivery with 88-92 mph FB, 81 SL with bite/depth, strike
PENTECOST, c, Winder Barrow HS, Winder
this spring for 6-2/190 athlete, 6.8 runner, power in swing; hurt elbow in
April, TJ surgery.
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