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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners too.

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May 1, 2009 11:21 AM

More Mariners' draft talk, and an intriguing new name: Tanner Scheppers

Posted by Larry Stone

With USC shortstop Grant Green -- ranked as the No. 2 prospect by Baseball America, right behind St. Stephen Strasburg; well, actually, far behind St. Stephen -- in Seattle this weekend with his Trojans to play a three-game series against the Huskies, it's a good time for more draft talk.

In February, BA wrote of Green: "Five-tool shortstop drew comparisons to Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitzki in the Cape Cod League last summer."

But now, apparently, Green's stock is down. He's still a possibility for the No. 2 pick behind Strasburg, but he hasn't had a dominant season for USC. I had an informative talk today with Conor Glassey, who used to write for USS Mariner but now is one of the draft gurus at Baseball America. He told me that there is now some question among major-league teams about whether Green can be a shortstop at the next level. He might have to move to third base, or be what Conor called "a Kinsler-like second baseman." As anything but a shortstop, it's hard to justify the No. 2 overall pick on Green.

Then there's University of North Carolina's Dustin Ackley, regarded by most people as the best bat in the draft, a lefty hitter with power. He's a very solid choice at No. 2 overall -- provided he's a center fielder. But Ackley has played almost exclusively at first base so far for UNC. He's not nearly as valuable as a 1B as he would be at CF. Ackley had Tommy John elbow surgery last summer, so there that to worry about. Teams hope he'll be used more in CF in the final weeks of the collegiate season.

Conor said that he doesn't yet have a feel for the Mariners' choice at No. 2 (he, too, believes there's very little chance that Strasburg doesn't go to Washington). He named as possibilities Green, Ackley, North Carolina pitcher Alex White, RHP Aaron Crow (drafted but not signed last year by the Nationals), or high school pitcher Tyler Matzek.

One other intriguing name that has suddenly been thrown into the mix by at least one analyst is Tanner Scheppers, a right-handed pitcher. Last year, Scheppers was regarded as one of the top pitchers in the country for Fresno State, forecast as a Top 5 pick. But he hurt his shoulder and had to shut down his season (Fresno State won the NCAA title without him). Pittsburgh drafted him in the second round, but couldn't sign him, so now Scheppers is back in the draft.

Writing for pgcrosscheckers.com, Allan Simpson (the co-founder of Baseball America, and one of the best-connected draft followers around) speculates that Scheppers may end up on the Mariners' radar. He writes: "Though they would understandably like the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Strasburg to fall into their laps, the Mariners may end up getting the next best thing to Strasburg in this draft -- a big power pticher who wasn't really on the radar as a potential No. 2 pick entering the 2009 season."

Simpson notes that last year for Fresno State, Scheppers was dominant "with a fastball that peaked at 99 mph and a knee-buckling power curveball.'' Now he has signed with the independent St. Paul Saints, and will make his first start May 4 against Fargo-Moorhead. Scheppers has also been working out for scouts at Golden West College in Southern California. Simpson writes that Scheppers has been so impressive in those workouts that "in the minds of some teams he has vaulted past every player in the 2009 draft -- with Strasburg being the notable exception. Scheppers' fastball has been clocked up to 97-98 mph and scouts who have seen him say his power breaking ball has been the equal of Strasburg.''

I ran Scheppers' name past Glassey, and he doesn't see any way he's taken as high as No. 2 because of the health concerns. As Simpson writes, "The trick now for Scheppers will be to take his stuff into game competition...He'll also have to withstand the inevitable medical scrutiny on his shoulder that the Mariners (and other teams) will insist on to assure there is no lingering effects from the shoulder issues that killed his draft hopes a year ago."

It's a new element to consider. I'll be watching to see how Scheppers does for St. Paul. Crow is pitching in the same league for Fort Worth.

Here's how pgcrosscheckers.com rates the top 10 prospects:

1. Stephen Strasburg, RHP, San Diego State
2. Tanner Scheppers, RHP, St. Paul Saints
3. Donavan Tate, RHP, Cartersville (Ga.) HS
4. Kyle Gibson, RHP, Missouri
5. Alex White, RHP, North Carolina
6. Grant Green, SS, USC
7. Dustin Ackley, 1B/OF, North Carolina
8. Matthew Purke, LHP, Klein HS, Spring, Texas
9. Aaron Crow, RHP, Forth Worth Cats
10. Tyler Matzek, LHP, Capistrano Valley HS, Mission Viejo, CA

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