Major League Baseball's amateur draft will be held from June 7th-9th, so we're going to introduce you to some of the top players available between now and then.
College righthanders are always a hot target come draft day, and coming into the season the best one this class had to offer was Anthony Ranaudo of Louisiana State. He made a name for himself by winning the clinching game of the 2009 College World Series, giving the Tigers their first National Championship since 2000.
Despite all his promise, Ranaudo's season was derailed by a sore elbow that not only cost him a month of the season, but also some of his effectiveness. ESPN's Keith Law recently ranked him as the 20th best prospect in the draft, while Baseball America had him 23rd (sub. req'd for both). Expected to be no worse than a top five pick a few months ago, now it's a question of whether or not Ranaudo will even be selected in the first round. He owns an 8.02 ERA with a 39/21 K/BB ratio in 42.2 innings this season, and opponents are hitting .301 off him.
Looking beyond the stats, it's easy to see why scouts like Ranaudo. He towers over the competition quite literally at 6-foot-7 and 230 lbs., and MLB.com's Draft Report says he throws his fastball up to 93. He backs it up with an over-the-top spike curveball and an average changeup, and when he's right he commands everything well. After the injury, his stuff wasn't as sharp and the control wasn't there. The MLB.com link offers video.
Law said in this week's chat that Ranaudo's strong outing in the SEC Tournament on Wednesday "threw him right back in the first round mix," but it's unlikely to get him back in the top ten picks because of the injury and his price tag. Baseball America's Aaron Fitt provided a first hand report from that game. A Scott Boras client, Ranaudo will not be cheap, nor should teams expect a discount due to the injury and poor overall performance.
Baseball America's Jim Callis projected the Red Sox to roll the dice and select Ranaudo with the 20th overall pick in his latest mock draft (sub. req'd). Boston received that pick from the Braves as compensation for losing Billy Wagner. Ranaudo is the draft's wildcard, a team willing to gamble on his health could grab him, as could a team with extra picks (Angels, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Rays). It's entirely possible that the team who drafts him will be unwilling to meet his asking price, and Boras takes Ranaudo to an independent league next year before re-entering the draft, similar to what he did with Luke Hochevar.