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Best of the preps

Closer look at top high school prospects in MLB Draft

Posted: Monday June 5, 2006 6:20PM; Updated: Monday June 5, 2006 8:38PM
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Top Five Pitchers

The son of former Cy Young winner Doug Drabek, The Woodlands pitcher Kyle Drabek has the pedigree to excel.
The son of former Cy Young winner Doug Drabek, The Woodlands pitcher Kyle Drabek has the pedigree to excel.
James Nielsen/SchoolSports
• Balancing act:  The playoffs/Draft juggle
• Draft profile: The Woodlands' Kyle Drabek
• Draft profile:  Mansfield's Jordan Walden
• Draft profile:  Coconut Creek's Mat Latos
• Draft profile:  Grand Street's Dellin Betances

By Matt Remsberg, Special to SI.com, SchoolSports.com

1. Kyle Drabek, RHP, 6-1, 195
The Woodlands (The Woodlands, Texas)
Key stat: 12.5 K/7 innings as a senior
Best pitch: Knuckle curveball
Plan B: San Jacinto JC
Breakdown: Drabek opened the year rated as the nation's No. 3 senior prospect by SchoolSports.com. But after carrying the Highlanders to a district title and a berth in the Class 5A state tournament, he takes the top spot this time around. The right-hander entered state with a 13-0 record, 147 strikeouts and a 0.91 ERA in 77 innings thanks to a heater that has touched 97 and a wicked knuckle curve. Drabek may not be the first high school player selected, but with his genes (his father Doug won the 1990 Cy Young Award with the Pittsburgh Pirates) and natural physical gifts, he has the best chance of developing into a major league All-Star.

2. Clayton Kershaw, LHP, 6-3, 210
Highland Park (Dallas, Texas)
Key stat: 15 strikeouts in a five-inning perfect game on May 19
Best pitch: Fastball
Plan B: Texas A&M
Breakdown: Kershaw is the odds-on favorite to be the top high school player selected in this year's draft thanks to a sensational senior campaign. In addition to his breathtaking performance in a 10-0 win over Justin Northwest on May 19 (he struck out all 15 of the batters he faced), the southpaw compiled a 13-0 record with a 0.67 ERA and 134 strikeouts in 62.1 innings this spring. Kershaw added 3-5 MPH on his heater this season without losing any command, vaulting him from No. 22 in the SchoolSports.com preseason rankings to No. 2.

3. Brett Anderson, LHP, 6-4, 205
Stillwater (Stillwater, Okla.)
Key stat: 11.3 K/BB ratio as a senior
Best pitch: Curveball
Plan B: Oklahoma State
Breakdown: Anderson possesses a full arsenal of pitches, Greg Maddux-esque control and is a lefty to boot. His gas paints the black in the low 90s and he boasts a sharp curveball and a well-developed changeup. During his senior campaign, he went 9-0 with two saves and 0.37 ERA in 57 innings. He struck out 102 in that stretch against only nine walks. Anderson was the ace of last summer's U.S. Junior National Team that placed second at the Pan Am Junior Championships in Mexico. He led the team in innings (19), wins (three) and strikeouts (30).

4. Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, 6-1, 175
Halifax County (South Boston, Va.)
Key stat: 0.19 ERA in his first 37 innings as a senior
Best pitch: Fastball
Plan B: Longwood
Breakdown: Jeffress was on the first-round radar entering his senior season, but questions about the durability of his 175-pound frame kept him from cracking the list of the nation's top-10 high school prospects. After a senior season in which he went 9-1 with 121 strikeouts in 64 innings with consistent mid-90s velocity, Jeffress now only has to worry about how high in the first round he'll go. The righty can reach back for a little extra and hit the upper 90s, while mixing in a strong slider and a changeup.

5. Jordan Walden, RHP, 6-5, 225
Mansfield (Mansfield, Texas)
Key stat: 13.6 K/7innings as a senior
Best pitch: Fastball
Plan B: Texas
Breakdown: Some say Walden's stock has dropped this spring. He was dominant last summer, when his heater was clocked at 99 and he was named the Best Pitching Prospect at the Aflac All-American game. If anything, he was probably overrated at the time thanks to one fantastic outing and is now at his appropriate level. Walden remains one of the elite right-handers in the nation. He struggled with injuries this spring, keeping his velocity in the low 90s most of the season. He still piled up 95 strikeouts in 49 innings to go with a 0.86 ERA.

Next Five Pitchers

Dellin Betances, RHP
Grand Street Campus (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Breakdown: Nicknamed "Baby Unit," the 6-9 Betances made a late push to get back into the first round of the draft. In his last few starts this spring, his velocity returned to the mid 90s and he fanned 16 in a one-hit shutout victory over New Utrecht in a PSAL playoff game on May 24.

Kasey Kiker, LHP
Russell County (Seale, Ala.)
Breakdown: Kiker complements a low-90s fastball with a nasty changeup and an above-average curveball. After helping Russell County to the top spot in the final SchoolSports.com National Baseball Top 25 in 2005, the lefty came back in 2006 with a 1.02 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 69 innings.

Mat Latos, RHP
Coconut Creek (Coconut Creek, Fla.)
Breakdown: Latos has a major league frame (6-6, 210 pounds) and a major league fastball that's been clocked in the high 90s. He also mixes in a slider, curveball and changeup. Latos closed his senior season with a 0.64 ERA, 110 strikeouts and only 14 walks in 66 innings.

Chris Tillman, RHP
Fountain Valley (Fountain Valley, Calif.)
Breakdown: Tillman opened the season rated the No. 9 senior prospect by SchoolSports.com, but a 5-5 record and a 2.50 ERA this spring likely dropped him out of first-round consideration. He has two solid pitches in a mid-90s fastball and a sharp breaking ball. He managed 98 strikeouts in 67 innings this spring.

Colton Willems, RHP
John Carroll Catholic (Fort Pierce, Fla.)
Breakdown: Willems and Kiker have the best shot of the second-tier pitchers to land in the first round on draft day. The 6-4 righty has pinpoint control of his mid-90s fastball, totaling 84 strikeouts against just five walks this season. He went 6-0 on the season with a 0.50 ERA.