Posted by: bhyman | June 4, 2008

Position breakdown: Outfielders

The draft is only two days away. If you haven’t ordered your copy of our 2008 Draft Manual, you’re missing out on our exclusive rankings of the 450 best draft prospects plus a first-round mock draft and scouting reports on our top sleepers (none of whom have been previously mentioned on this website). To order, click on the 2008 Draft Manual tab at the top of the page and follow the instructions to pay via PayPal.

This post is the fifth in a series where we’ll breakdown the top available talent by position and describe consensus first-rounders and sleepers alike. Today, we’ll tackle outfielders. Centerfielders and corner outfielders are evaluated differently. Range is a priority for centerfielders; they must have the speed and instincts to patrol the biggest part of the outfield. Hitting is less important than it is for rightfielders and leftfielders. Right fielders and left fielders aren’t required to have much range or speed, but rightfielders must have a stronger arm than any other outfielders. Here are our five favorites outfielders:

Top 50 overall

  1. Aaron Hicks, cf/rhp, HS Sr., Wilson HS (California)
  2. Eric Thames, lf, Jr., Pepperdine
  3. Chris Swauger, lf, Sr., The Citadel
  4. Andy Dirks, cf, Sr., Wichita State
  5. Zach Collier, rf, HS Sr., Chino Hills HS (California)

Aaron Hicks, cf/rhp, HS Sr., Wilson HS (California)

Hicks has more potential than any other player in the draft. He is also the farthest from reaching it. Hicks is a two-way player with five plus tools. He has great arm strength and is an above-average runner. Offensively, Hicks’ quick reflexes make scouts believe he’ll be a good big league hitter, but his hitting mechanics need a lot of work. He is a switch-hitter. Some teams like Hicks more as a pitcher, where his mid 90s fastball and wicked curveball could boost him to the top of the rotation. He should be drafted in the first half of the first round. The Giants love raw talents like Hicks, so don’t be surprised if he’s selected with the fifth overall pick.

Eric Thames, lf, Jr., Pepperdine

What happens when you cross one of the best hitters in college baseball with a package of tools that draws comparisons to Eric Davis? You should get a first-round pick, but Thames probably won’t be drafted until the second or third round. He’s done everything asked of him since transferring from West Valley Junior College after the 2006 season. Entering the NCAA Regionals, Thames is hitting .407/.513/.769 with 13 home runs. He does this while playing in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the country. Thames also has plus speed but needs to improve his defense in left-field.

Chris Swauger, lf, Sr., The Citadel

Swauger has enjoyed an outstanding four-year career at The Citadel and should be considered a valuable senior-sign. He showed good defensive skills at first base as a freshman, but was moved to left-field in 2006. He hits no matter where he plays, however. In a tough pitchers’ park, Swauger hit .360/.485/.603 in 56 games in 2008. He led the Coastal Plains League in home runs in the summer of 2007 and smacked another 10 in 2008. He’s not particularly big (6-foot, 195 pounds), but he can really hit and should tear up minor league pitchers.

Andy Dirks, cf, Sr., Wichita State

Dirks is an underrated centerfielder who has put up outstanding numbers in his two year Shocker career.  After two years at Hutchinson Community College, Dirks enrolled at Wichita State in 2007.  His ’08 season was outstanding, as he hit .399/.510/.639 with 10 home runs.  He’s been an excellent college leadoff hitter, working counts and extending at bats.  He’s also a fast baserunner, having stolen 45 bases at WSU.   Dirks will be drafted in the middle rounds and is a good sleeper candidate.

Zach Collier, rf, HS Sr., Chino Hills HS (California)

Collier has one of the best power-speed combinations of any potential draft pick.  He pounds balls and shows the ability to smack even the best fastballs.  He doesn’t have as much raw power as some of the other premium high school prospects, but he is less risky than those players because he has been a steadier performer to date.  Collier is also an above-average runner.  Right field is a likely destination for Collier and his average arm plays well there.  Collier could be drafted as high as the first round.  The Los Angeles Dodgers would be a nice fit with the 15th overall pick.

Our series concludes tomorrow with pitchers.

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