Harrington Heading to Class, but Not for Long

TIMES STAFF WRITER

There's nothing to do now but sit, squirm and pass the time.

So excruciating. Especially for a ballplayer trained to make something happen, not wait for something to happen.

Matt Harrington can be certain only of this: By Monday afternoon, he won't be wondering what happened.

The Palmdale High senior will know which major league baseball team drafted him.

He'll know whether he became the first right-handed high school pitcher ever to be drafted No. 1 overall.

And he'll begin negotiations that undoubtedly will make him a millionaire, maybe three times over.

He describes his anticipation as similar to how he felt as a nine-year-old on Christmas Eve.

"This is one of most exciting things you can go through, but I'm not nervous," Harrington said. "I've worked for it and worked for it. I've done all I could this year. Now I'm just waiting."

Harrington plans to attend school Monday and figures he will be picked sometime during his third-period civics class.

"It's funny, I always want to get out of going to school, and on a day I could stay home, I want to go because I want to be with my friends," he said.

Harrington, whose fastball has been clocked at 97 mph, is a lock to be one of the first five picks, which would make him at least the highest draft pick from the region since Mike Lieberthal was taken No. 3 by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1990.

The highest a right-handed high school pitcher from the region has been drafted also is No. 3--Roger Salkeld of Saugus High by the Seattle Mariners in 1989.

The only player from the region to go No. 1 in the last 20 years was shortstop Kurt Stillwell of Thousand Oaks High, taken by the Cincinnati Reds in 1983.

The Florida Marlins hold the top pick but have talked to Harrington only once. The Minnesota Twins, who met with Harrington on Saturday, pick second and the Chicago Cubs pick third.

"Nobody has tried to cut a pre-draft deal with me," he said.

Harrington is one of several players from the region expected to be picked in the early rounds.

Sure Things

Dane Sardinha, catcher, Pepperdine: The draft is rich with quality catchers and Sardinha is acknowledged as the best defensively. His arm and athleticism are unquestioned. Scouts are split on his ability to hit, but he should be taken in the first half of the first round. Sardinha posted big numbers with the Waves but did not hit well in the wood bat Cape Cod League last summer while nursing a sore wrist.

Joe Borchard, outfielder, Stanford (Camarillo High): Drafted out of high school in the 20th round, Borchard has put together three consecutive sensational seasons for the Cardinal. Borchard might be the best athlete in the draft and will be a first-round pick. He has the option of signing, then returning to Stanford to play quarterback this fall, but probably would get a smaller signing bonus if he does so.

Bill Scott, outfielder, UCLA (Alemany High): Scott is one of the best hitters in the country, but his defensive skills are questionable. Expect him to be taken by an American League team, although he does not want to become a designated hitter. Scott, a tireless worker, is projected as an above-average hitter with average major league speed and power. He could go from the late first round to the fourth round.

Mike Schultz, right-handed pitcher, Loyola Marymount (Cleveland High): Schultz has been treading water since bursting on the college scene by being most valuable pitcher in the West Coast Conference as a freshman. His earned-run average was 5.50 this season and scouts point out few college pitchers with ERA's over 4.00 become successful major leaguers. Still, Schultz is 6 feet 7 and he throws 94 mph. He is no longer considered a first-round pick but should be picked soon after.

Matt Parris, right-handed pitcher, Highland High: Although Parris was injured last summer and missed Area Code Games exposure, he more than made up for it by pitching well in head-to-head competition with Harrington in front of dozens of scouts. Parris has a scholarship to UC Santa Barbara but is considered signable. Some scouts believe he could go as high as a compensation pick between the first and second rounds.

Jamie Shields, right-handed pitcher, Hart High. Last summer Shields was regarded as highly as Harrington. But a back injury sidelined him for much of the season, making it difficult for cross-checkers and scouting directors to evaluate him. Lately, Shields has come on. He hit 93 mph at a workout for scouts last week. Shields has a scholarship to Louisiana State, perhaps the nation's top program. A large-market team with a lot of picks such as the Atlanta Braves might take Shields and try to buy out the scholarship.

John Wilson, catcher, Kentucky (CSUN, L.A. Baptist). Originally a third baseman, Wilson flourished as a catcher after transferring when Northridge dropped baseball in 1997. Wilson has overcome being shot by his father and is a gifted hitter. Scouts project him as going in about the eighth or ninth round.

Tom Canale, right-handed pitcher, Cal Lutheran: Canale is everything a high school player is not--mature, reliable, somebody who can go straight to Class-A and handle it. He has good arm strength and has improved year by year. He's as good a prospect as scouts see in Division III. A certain mid-round pick.

Intriguing Prospects

Conor Jackson, third baseman, El Camino Real High: A premier athlete who many scouts believe someday will be a major league player. Jackson has first-round talent. However, scouts say his father has made it clear he wants Conor to attend California, which gave him nearly a full ride. Jackson's situation is a lot like that of Kevin Howard a year ago, who fell to the 20th round because no team believed he was signable. Howard was an All-American as a freshman at Miami.

Jason Kubel, outfielder, Highland High: Kubel, a left-handed hitter, plays with enthusiasm and is an excellent hitter with power potential. He has a scholarship to Long Beach State and some scouts believe he would be better off going to school than signing now. He plays right field, a position that requires tremendous offensive production at the major league level.

Doug Slaten, left-handed pitcher, Pierce College: The Orioles hold Slaten's rights after drafting him last year and offered him $250,000 last week to sign. He refused. Turning down solid fourth-round money is an indication Slaten plans to attend UCLA because he probably won't be taken any higher Monday.

Jesse Kozlowski, right-handed pitcher, Westlake High. Listed as the 99th best high school prospect before the season, Kozlowski did nothing to diminish his status during a solid senior year. Scouts believe he has plenty of room to improve. He wants to sign, which vaults him above players who appear headed for college.

Tyler Johnson, left-handed pitcher, Moorpark College (Newbury Park High): A year ago, questions about makeup kept the live-armed Johnson from getting drafted out of high school. At Moorpark, he displayed maturity and the ability to dominate junior college hitters, dramatically increasing his stock with scouts. Many scouts consider him a draft-and-follow prospect, although somebody could make him an offer.

Jack Cassel, right-handed pitcher, Pierce College (Kennedy High): After transferring from Loyola Marymount in the fall, Cassel had a superb year at Pierce, displaying a 90 mph fastball and good off-speed pitches. Cassel has signed with UC Santa Barbara.

Matthew Merricks, left-handed pitcher, Oxnard High: Scouts who love Merricks compare him to Houston Astros closer Billy Wagner. Scouts who don't point out his 5-10 stature. Everyone agrees he has a great arm. Merricks is only 17 and his parents wouldn't mind him honoring his commitment to Northridge.

Joey Hamer, catcher, Newbury Park High: Scouts love his makeup, his defensive ability and the fact he has made it abundantly clear he wants to sign rather than attend Iowa State. Hamer can hit too. He's slow, but how many catchers aren't?

Sleepers, Flyers

* Junior Avina, Pierce College (El Camino Real High): The Brahmas' closer, Avina is a late-bloomer who did not pitch much in high school. His arm is live and his improvement has been rapid.

* Larry Brown, College of the Canyons (San Fernando High): A 12th-round draft-and-follow pick by the Seattle Mariners a year ago, Brown looks great in his uniform, is big and fast but needs seasoning.

Chris Cordeiro, right-handed pitcher, Thousand Oaks High: Pinpoint control, a wicked slider and a strong mental approach make Cordeiro desirable. His scholarship to UCLA and lack of a 90 mph fastball could make him a better prospect three years from now.

* Andrew Corona, right-handed pitcher, Moorpark College (St. Bonaventure High): A sleeper last year, Corona was a draft-and-follow pick by the Orioles. They didn't make him an offer and Corona appears headed to Tulane.

* Matt Cunningham, catcher, Notre Dame High: Brains, brawn and a scholarship to Rice earmark him for college. He's played in the Little League World Series and a Southern Section final. The College World Series might be next.

* Brian Fatur, outfield, Moorpark College (Calabasas High): Versatile athlete who can play infield and outfield. Hits for average and runs. Not a student, so he's signable.

* Traviss Hodge, right-handed pitcher, Pierce College, Highland High: Drafted out of high school, Hodge has done little to raise his stock in two seasons at Pierce.

* Kurt Probasco, catcher, Ventura College (Buena High): Good all-around. Hits with some power and is hard-nosed. Similar to Ventura's catcher eight years ago--Robert Fick of the Detroit Tigers.

* John Santor, third base-catcher, Highland High: Power potential but no proven position. Could be third Highland player taken behind Parris, Kubel.

* Felipe Tetelboin, shortstop, Grant High: Can run and hit, probably will be switched to second base. Tetelboin is a draft-and-follow candidate headed for junior college.

Fernando Valenzuela, first base-pitcher, St. Francis High: A name ballplayer who played in the Area Code Games. His father always told young Dodger fans to stay in school. Will his son?

* Spencer Wyman, catcher, Camarillo High: Scholarship to Cal in hand, Wyman is smarter than the average bear. Wyman and Conor Jackson will chase Pacific 10 Conference titles.

* Delwyn Young, shortstop, Littlerock High: A switch-hitting infielder with power whose father is an associate scout. That's got to appeal to somebody.

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