Impact bats. Everyone wants them, but they don't exactly grow on trees.
Ideally, some of them come in the form of fleet-footed outfielders, the types with all five tools who can change the game on both sides of the ball. While this year's outfield crop isn't the deepest anyone's seen, there are definitely players with tools to be found. If a team is willing to draft a player, both high school and some in the college ranks, based on projection, there are some intriguing possibilities listed below.
Not on the list are some outfielders in the college ranks who will undoubtedly appeal to the stats-minded crowd, guys like Arizona State's Jason Kipnis or Loyola Marymount's Angelo Songco, who'll undoubtedly get drafted pretty highly because of their performances this season, but didn't quite make it on to the list below.
"It doesn't seem particularly deep, but there is an interesting mix of high-end tools guys, college performers as well as a few balanced guys who have also performed at a high level," one National League scout said. "If you want to go get one early you will get to choose the type of guy you want."
To find out when any of the outfielders in the Class of 2009 go, be sure to check MLB.com, which will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft on June 9-11, on MLB.com/Live, where host Vinny Micucci will be joined by MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo and Major League Scouting Bureau director Frank Marcos. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on June 9, noon on June 10 and 11:30 a.m. ET on June 11.
Kentrail Davis, University of Tennessee: Davis entered the year as a first-round hopeful, but struggled offensively as his Volunteers team had a down year as well. He strikes out too much, but when he's locked in, he's got good raw power, though he hasn't reached it much this season. He runs well now, but might slow down in the future, meaning a move to left. There, the bat better play more than it has. As a Draft-eligible sophomore and Scott Boras advisee, he has some leverage, and a return to Tennessee for his junior season isn't out of the question.
Reymond Fuentes, Callego HS, Puerto Rico: Fuentes has been sneaking up on Draft boards late thanks to some extremely impressive workouts. He's got plus speed. While he's got some pop, he seems to understand that his game is to go gap-to-gap, get on base and let his legs do the work. He's got a below-average arm, but his speed gives him more than enough range to stay in center field. More than one person has compared him to Johnny Damon as a future leadoff type.
Brett Jackson, California: The Cal center fielder has some definite tools, with good speed on both sides of the ball, a strong arm from the outfield and above-average bat speed. He doesn't, however, consistently let that bat speed work for him, as his swing doesn't really let him tap into his raw power and he strikes out too much for a leadoff hitter. The raw tools alone, though, could have Jackson off the board by the supplemental first round.
Jared Mitchell, LSU: Mitchell was a wide receiver for LSU's football team as well as an outfielder and it's his speed and athleticism that stand out. He uses his plus speed to steal bases and run down balls in the outfield and that's without really having honed skills in either department. He's got some bat speed, so there's hope for more future power, but whoever takes him will be betting on the projection more than on any here-and-now tools.
A.J. Pollock, Notre Dame: The Notre Dame center fielder might be one of the better pure bats in the college ranks this year. He's got a great approach at the plate and makes consistent contact with some pop, though he's more of a gap hitter. He's got pretty good speed which should help him on both sides of the ball, though as a converted infielder he's still learning the nuances of the outfield. Last summer's Cape Cod League MVP might be able to parlay his skills into a late first-round pick.
Donavan Tate, Cartersville HS, Ga.: To give you an idea of what kind of athlete Tate is, he's ranked in the top 100 high schoolers in both baseball and football. His dad, Lars, played in the NFL, and he's signed to go to University of North Carolina to play two sports. There's some split about what kind of hitter Tate might be, but he'd still be ranked by most as the top prep position player in the class. Perhaps filling a greater role in his draft status are the facts that he's advised by Scott Boras and that it's largely believed it's going to take a large above-slot bonus to sign him away from playing two sports in Chapel Hill.
Michael Trout, Millville HS, NJ: After Tate, Trout is probably the high school outfielder getting the most attention as the Draft approaches. He was on the radar already, but definitely soared up boards with plenty of helium even if rain in the Northeast didn't help. He just started switch-hitting and he's got the chance to hit for power and average, run well and play a good center field. It's that proverbial five-tool package that's so enticing and elusive, and a big reason why his name was being mentioned all over the first-round board.
LeVon Washington, Gainesville HS, Fla.: Looking for someone to compete with Tate in terms of pure athleticism, then Washington might be your guy. He's got plus speed and knows how to hit. He was a little hard to get a read on because rotator cuff surgery limited him to DHing or playing second base. He's played shortstop in the past as well, but he profiles best in the outfield where he can use his speed to his advantage. He won't be the first prep outfielder to go off the board, but that pure speed should ensure he's not waiting too long to hear his name called.
Tim Wheeler, Sacramento State: After a strong Cape Cod League showing, scouts were interested to see if Wheeler continued to progress as a junior back in California. He did more than that with a huge offensive year. He's always had a good approach at the plate and most saw him as a guy who'd hit for average, but he showed more power than he had in the past and there might be more there than initially thought. He runs well, both offensively and defensively, and maximizes it with excellent instincts. Whether he can stay in center field remains to be seen, but his bat may have played him into the first round.
Everett Williams, McCallum HS, Texas: Another high schooler with some tools, Williams might have more "now" bat than the others on this list. His strikeout rate has been a bit high in the past, but the bat speed and power potential are legitimate and overall he's got a pretty good idea at the plate. He runs well, both on the bases and in the outfield and he should be able to stay in center, despite not having the strongest arm in the world. Tate and Trout might rate higher in the five-tool world, but Williams, too, could very well be taken off the board in the top 32 picks.