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MLB Draft Unpredictable

June 5, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ Good luck trying to handicap the major league baseball draft.

The most unpredictable draft in recent memory had scouting directors scrambling to determine which players are the cream of a subpar crop.

Although there was a report the Florida Marlins would make California high school first baseman Adrian Gonzalez the No. 1 pick in today’s first-year player draft, the subsequent selections were not so clear-cut.

``It’s kind of confusing because there’s a lot of players to consider this year, not just one or two,″ Kansas City scouting director Terry Wetzel said. ``When that happens, you have a trickle-down effect. We’re picking fourth and we really have no idea what the teams are doing ahead of us.″

Florida was followed by Minnesota, the Chicago Cubs, Kansas City and Montreal.

``Usually in a normal draft, you have 10 or 12 guys you know are going to go first in some type of order,″ Baltimore scouting director Tony DeMacio said. ``This year, you’ll probably get the same type of guy at 20 as you’ll get at No. 10.″

Early favorites to be selected No. 1, such as California third baseman Xavier Nady and Arizona right-hander Ben Diggins, struggled at times.

``I think that clouded things for everybody,″ DeMacio said.

Meanwhile, high school players such as Gonzalez, right-hander Matt Harrington and catcher Ben Heard soared up teams’ charts.

``In ’93, we picked fifth and knew Alex Rodriguez was going to be the No. 1 pick,″ Wetzel said. ``When Ken Griffey Jr. came out in `87, you knew he was No. 1. Even last year, you knew Josh Hamilton and Josh Beckett would be the top two. It’s not like that this year.″

The Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, citing unidentified sources, reported Sunday that Gonzalez agreed to a $3 million signing bonus with the Marlins.

Gonzalez, from Eastlake High School in California, has a smooth left-handed stroke. He hit .645 with 13 home runs and 34 RBIs this season.

Harrington, from Palmdale High School in California, has a fastball that routinely hits 95-97 mph.

It was believed the Marlins would shy away, anticipating Harrington will seek a signing bonus similar to the $3.6 million deal Beckett signed with them as the No. 2 pick.

Heard might be the best defensive catcher available, but some teams were concerned by the Rancho Bernardo High School star’s hitting abilities.

Jason Stokes, a first baseman from Coppell High School in Texas, shortstop David Espinosa from Gulliver Prep in Florida and Luis Montanez, a shortstop from Coral Park High School in Miami, also were expected to be among the first players selected.

Nady, a standout with California and Team USA, broke several school and Pac-10 records. He played third base, second base and shortstop for the Golden Bears and might be the first college position player chosen.

Diggins was still high on many teams’ lists despite showing signs of tiring down the stretch. The 6-foot-7 draft-eligible sophomore is a hard thrower who was drafted two years ago as a hitter.

Right-handers Chris Bootcheck of Auburn, Beau Hale of Texas and Aaron Heilman of Notre Dame were expected to be first-rounders, as well as a trio of Stanford players _ right-handers Justin Wayne and Jason Young and outfielder Joe Borchard.

Bobby Hill, drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the supplemental round last year, was again eligible for the draft after the sides could not reach a contract agreement. The former Miami shortstop, whose situation is similar to J.D. Drew’s two years ago, has been playing in the independent Atlantic League.

``There are certainly future major leaguers in this draft,″ said Gary LaRocque, director of amateur scouting for the New York Mets. ``You have to go after the best available ballplayer and you can’t ever get away from evaluating a player’s tools. Guys win because they have the combination of baseball instincts and the tools.″

Atlanta had four of the first 51 picks, while Oakland and Arizona didn’t pick until the second round. Seattle had to wait until the fourth round _ at No. 116 _ to make a pick.

``We just don’t think that it’s a really deep draft,″ DeMacio said. ``Not that there aren’t some nice players, but we don’t think the depth of the draft is going to be that great.″

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