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Prospects Are Bleak for Draft

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Talent is thin from coast to coast for the major league amateur baseball draft, which begins Tuesday. And the Valley area is no exception.

There are no Dmitri Youngs or Mike Lieberthals or Jeff Suppans, area players who in recent years were selected in the first or second rounds and signed for large bonuses.

“This is one of the weakest drafts for position players I can remember,” one area scout said. “The low talent level in the Valley is reflective of the whole country.”

Shortstop Junior Brignac of Cleveland High is projected by some scouts to go as high as the second round. Although Brignac possesses raw athletic ability of major league quality, many teams are wary because he has accepted a football scholarship from Washington.

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“I love playing baseball but I’m still not sure if I’ll sign or go to Washington and play football,” Brignac said. “I’ve been getting calls from scouts every single day, though. It’s getting exciting.”

Several of the most-promising players have made college commitments, including Chatsworth’s Danny Phillips (Cal State Fullerton), Kennedy’s Fernando Centeno (Miami), Crespi’s Brian Luderer (Oklahoma) and Chaminade’s Gabe Crecion (UCLA for football).

Local colleges are more fertile ground. Cal State Northridge is expected to have at least four players drafted, led by catcher Robert Fick and third baseman Eric Gillespie. Both are juniors but have indicated they would sign.

Junior colleges hold some intriguing prospects. Some scouts believe tall right-handed pitchers Garrett Lee of Glendale and Josh Towers of Oxnard can blossom into major leaguers. Sluggers Mike Glendenning of Pierce and Rick Nadeau of Canyons also are well-regarded.

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Several college players who attended area high schools will be drafted. California shortstop Dan Cey of El Camino Real might be the second area player drafted after Brignac. Scouts also like Cal pitcher Keith Evans, a 6-foot-5 right-hander who attended Crespi and Chaminade.

Proven college hitter Stacey Kleiner, a catcher from Nevada Las Vegas and Taft High, and left-handed pitcher Rico Lagatutta of Nevada Reno and Westlake High, were drafted out of high school and are certain to be taken again. First baseman Jeff Tagliaferri (Kennedy) and catcher Casey Snow (Crespi) of Long Beach State also might be drafted.

A large group of area high school players probably will be taken on the second or third day of the draft. They will be offered small bonuses to sign and some will even be encouraged to attend a junior college to sharpen their skills.

Known as draft-and-follow players, their progress will be monitored by the team that selects them. The players can sign before next year’s draft.

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“Day One is prospect day, Day Two is hunch day and Day Three is draft-and-follow day,” an area scout said. “I see a lot of guys from around here being Day Three guys.”

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Feeling a Draft

Listed are area players projected by scouts to be selected in the major league amateur draft, which begins Tuesday. Players are listed roughly in the order they will be drafted.

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Player Pos School Junior Brignac SS Cleveland HS Robert Fick C CSUN Eric Gillespie 3B CSUN Garrett Lee RHP Glendale JC Josh Towers RHP Oxnard JC Mike Glendenning 3B Pierce JC Danny Phillips 3B Chatsworth HS Brian Luderer C Crespi HS Rick Nadeau OF Canyons JC Fernando Centeno OF Kennedy HS Gabe Crecion RHP Chaminade HS Robert Crabtree RHP CSUN Greg Gregory LHP Pepperdine Dennis Konrady SS Pepperdine Mike Muller C Oxnard JC Jason LeBlanc RHP Pepperdine Andrew Barber RHP Cal Lutheran Nathan Rice LHP CSUN Jeremy Pierce RHP Ventura JC Henry Kenoi RHP Pierce JC Tim Carr RHP Westlake HS Jesse Daggett C Crescenta Vly. HS Fred Sanchez SS Burbank HS Brent Egan 2B Royal HS Bryan Garcia RHP Quartz Hill HS Joe Tillmon SS Chatsworth HS Derek Morse RHP Kennedy HS Sheld. Philip-Guide OF Glendale JC Steve Guerrero 3B Poly HS Ray Clinton RHP Oxnard JC Maki Kramer RHP Moorpark JC Nathan Kaup 3B Camarillo HS Matt Riordan OF Westlake HS Casey Roth C Cleveland HS

Player Comment Junior Brignac Best athlete in the area. Robert Fick All-American’s stock rising. Eric Gillespie Mature; left-handed power. Garrett Lee Tall; has excellent changeup. Josh Towers Tall, great curve, still growing. Mike Glendenning Definite power; wants to sign. Danny Phillips Long, lean with high ceiling. Brian Luderer Small but good bat, arm. Rick Nadeau Can run and hit with power. Fernando Centeno Excellent arm, good bat. Gabe Crecion Great potential; plays football. Robert Crabtree Polished, proven winner. Greg Gregory Savvy, off-speed repertoire. Dennis Konrady Smart left-handed hitter. Mike Muller Strong, good arm; decent bat. Jason LeBlanc Savvy veteran; average arm. Andrew Barber Knuckle-curve opens eyes. Nathan Rice Tall; improved rapidly. Jeremy Pierce Hard thrower might develop. Henry Kenoi Has velocity; needs command. Tim Carr Great velocity; had poor year. Jesse Daggett Good body; desire questioned. Fred Sanchez Good arm and bat, but is slow. Brent Egan Popeye build; wants to sign. Bryan Garcia Draft and follow. Joe Tillmon Draft and follow; decent tools. Derek Morse Unbeaten for City champions. Sheld. Philip-Guide Scouts like tools. Steve Guerrero Good hitter; draft and follow. Ray Clinton Good body; decent command. Maki Kramer Shows flashes of good stuff. Nathan Kaup Can hit; also potential pitcher. Matt Riordan Touted in preseason. Casey Roth Big, strong, good arm.

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