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Drafting outfielders could be dicey

Drafting outfielders could be dicey

In an ideal world, teams want everything from an outfield prospect: power, speed, a strong arm -- the proverbial five tools. The hope is that in any given Draft, a team might find one of those toolsy guys who can play center and maybe a slugger to man a corner.

Looking at this year's Draft class, that might be a bit of a challenge, because there is a relatively weak group to choose from. This is nothing new for scouting directors: the 2007 Draft wasn't exactly outfield-heavy, with only three outfielders -- four if you count the converted Matt LaPorta -- taken in the first 30 picks.

Those three were all from the high school ranks and it appears again that there is a little more to choose from on that front. A number of toolsy, but raw, outfielders from Southern California in particular, could whet the appetites of some teams in the first round.

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"There are some athletic guys. The high school class is a different group," said one scouting director. "A little on the raw side, but that seems to be a pretty good group. Some are dual sports guys, some aren't, but there are some run and throw guys, some speed guys, some guys with power. Those guys are out there this year from the high shcool ranks. Some teams have a different appetite for those types of guys, but they are out there to talk about."

It's a different story in the college ranks. Heading into the season, there was the hope that there'd be some interesting choices from campuses, with guys like the Texas duo of Jordan Danks and Kyle Russell leading the way. They have indeed led the way, but in the wrong direction, with subpar seasons the norm at the college level.

"Some of them haven't gone out and had the years we were hoping to have, at least statisically," the scouting director said. "We thought there were some outfielders that would be more appealing with their offensive performances. That hasn't translated to what we hoped or expected."

It's not as though outfielders won't be taken, however, and undoubtedly some from this class will go on to be big leaguers. Here's a smattering of the top outfield prospects teams are contemplating as Draft day approaches.

Zach Collier, Chino Hills HS, Calif.: He's had as much helium as just about any player and certainly has the most buzz among the outfielders. Raw and toolsy, he's moved up draft boards with consistently strong performances. He's got some serious power now, with more to come. as well as some speed, and seems to be rising to the challenge of the increased spotlight on him. He's a first-rounder for sure; it's just a question of how high a team will be willing to take him.

Ike Davis, Arizona State: While most of the college outfielders have underperformed this season, Davis -- the son of former big-league reliever Ron -- has played well. He's hit for average and power for the Pac-10 champions and the only thing that's slowed him has been an oblique injury. He's also capable of playing first base. The lefty has been mentioned as a possibility in the second half of the first round.

Jaff Decker, Sunrise Mountain, HS, Peoria, Ariz.: He's not part of the "toolsy" high school set, though he is a prepster with plenty to offer. A left-handed hitter with some pop despite his smaller frame, he's a pretty good hitter and as a guy who's been up to 93 mph off the mound, he's got a good arm from the outfield. He's a gamer who plays hard and could be a right field type in the Matt Stairs mode in the future.

Isaac Galloway, Los Osos HS, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.: There hasn't been that much buzz surrounding Galloway, at least not compared to Zach Collier or Aaron Hicks. That doesn't mean he's without skills and Galloway does have all the tools in his box. He's shown more aptitude at using them at times, but might not have the ceiling of his fellow SoCal outfielders.

Anthony Gose, Bellflower HS, Calif.: Once considered to be atop the toolsy SoCal high school outfield list, Gose's stock has dropped for a couple of reasons. Shoulder tendinitis more or less limited him to DH duties for a chunk of the spring and signability has become an issue. Further complicating things is that many teams prefer him as a pitcher -- he's a left-hander who can throw 97 mph, but he's made it clear he wants to be taken as an outfielder only or he'll likely take his many talents to the University of Arizona.

Robbie Grossman, Cypress-Fairbanks HS, Cypress, Tex.: A grinder who plays all-out at all times, Grossman maximizes his tools with his aggressive style. The switch-hitter has some pop, with more to possibly come as he matures. He can run well and likes to use his speed on the basepaths. He's a little bit of a tweener in terms of which outfield position he can play and it will be interesting to see if he gets drafted high enough to keep him from heading to the University of Texas.

Aaron Hicks, Woodrow Wilson HS, Long Beach, Calif.: Like Gose, Hicks is a toolsy sort who can do it all, perhaps a tick behind with the bat but with speed and defensive ability particularly standing out. Like Gose, he's impressed many on the mound to the point where some teams would prefer him as a pitcher. And like Gose, he's told some teams that he doesn't want to be drafted as a pitcher. It's likely someone -- a team in the first round -- will fulfill his wish and take him as an outfielder.

Destin Hood, St Paul's Episcopbal HS, Mobile, Ala.: A two-sport star with a football scholarship to Alabama, Hood's preference is to play baseball. He's got raw tools aplenty, with power and speed. He's played a lot of shortstop for his high school team, but the outfield is definitely his home in the future. If things don't go his way on Draft day, he's slated to play both sports at Alabama, but there's a chance a team will draft him early enough, thinking about how those tools project once he's given the chance to focus on them full-time.

Roger Kieschnick, Texas Tech: Another college outfielder who had the chance to be a top-notch prospect but who's been inconsistent this season, Kieschnick has some intriguing power from the left side of the plate. He's a pretty good outfielder who still profiles as a prototypical right fielder if he can find a better approach than the one that has led to him barely hitting over .300 the past two years.

Dennis Raben, University of Miami: After a Cape Cod season in which he led the league in RBIs and his team in a host of other offensive categories en route to making the league's all-star game, there were high hopes for Raben in his junior season. It got off on a slow note when he missed the beginning of the season with a back injury. He's picked it up a little later on the season but there is concern over his ability to make consistent-enough contact -- his career average at Miami is under .290 -- to get to the raw power from the left side that teams would be interested in.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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