Pautz, Quinlan lead list of U prospects

Sarah Mitchell

The result of months of searching through high schools and colleges across the nation will come to light starting today. Major League teams are trusting their scouts have found a treasure — the most talented baseball player.
The Philadelphia Phillies have the best chance of finding gold as they hold the No. 1 pick in the amateur draft, a three-day event which begins today.
Baseball America Magazine projects Miami third baseman Pat Burrell as the top pick, while Michigan State pitcher Mark Mulder ranks close behind.
After that, the draft order possibilities are endless. Baseball America predicts another left-handed pitcher, Arizona State’s Ryan Mills, as the third pick and Sean Burroughs of Wilson High in Long Beach, Calif., as the fourth.
Adding to this mess of assumptions is J.D. Drew. He was drafted second overall by the Phillies last year, but failed to settle with Philadelphia after the team would not meet his $11 million contract demand.
The outfielder, who is in his second season the with St. Paul Saints of the Northern League, re-enters the draft this year. It’s possible the Phillies will draft Drew again, but they would need his permission.
After Mulder, the names of Big Ten players in the early rounds will be scant. Penn State pitcher Nate Bump is likely to be next chosen. Baseball America projects him to go in the second round as the 43rd selection.
Junior Brad Pautz is the Gophers bullpen’s top Major League hopeful. But the prospect might know less about the draft than an average fan.
“Is that tomorrow?” Pautz jokingly said on the eve of the draft.
Pautz was 6-3 this past season. The Reedsville, Wis., native’s season-ending career ERA was 3.65, as he struck out 42 batters while walking 21.
The right-hander has what it takes to be noticed by the scouts, namely a good fastball. When Pautz took the mound this season, scouts in attendance grabbed a seat behind home plate and with radar guns in hand, watching Pautz hurl pitches more than 90 mph.
Instead of playing ball this summer, Pautz plans to throw on the side and build up the strength of his arm in hopes of registering faster speeds on the radar gun.
“We think he’s valuable,” said Twins scouting director Mike Radcliff. “He’s pitched as a starter and in relief.”
Pautz has had the attention of scouts since his high school days. He was drafted out of high school by the Milwaukee Brewers, but passed up the opportunity for an education and experience. The pitcher said his return to Minnesota next year is dependent upon the offer he receives from the team that drafts him.
Louisville Slugger third-team All-American and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association second-team All-American Robb Quinlan is also a talked-about prospect from the Gophers.
The junior first baseman was drafted as a high school senior by the then-California Angels in the 33rd round, but opted not to follow the path of his older brother Tom, who is playing in Oklahoma City as a part of the Texas Rangers organization.
Quinlan acquired the most honors of any Gopher this season, being named Big Ten Player of the Week twice and National Player of the Week, while leading Minnesota with a .408 batting average. The Maplewood, Minn., native’s .790 slugging percentage received a major boost from his school record-setting single-season home run count of 24.
But for being the Gophers’ top prospect, the outlook is uncertain for Quinlan. His name seems foreign to some scouts. Comments such as, “Who? The clumsy-looking first baseman?” and “If he’s drafted, it won’t be by us,” left scouts’ lips during the Big Ten season.
Still, Quinlan is on the Twins’ draft board. Radcliff noted that Quinlan has played several positions in the field, which could help or hurt him depending on the situation he’s drafted into.
“He had a good year,” Radcliff said. “He has good power.”
Not far behind Quinlan in the home run count stands another major league prospect. Right fielder Craig Selander took the ball deep 22 times during the 1998 season, finishing with a .372 batting average.
The junior, who did not know much about the technicalities of the draft, could leave a void in Minnesota’s outfield next season, but indicated he would stay for his senior year.
“I want to,” Selander said of whether he will come back for his final season.
Senior Mark Groebner, who Radcliff said would likely get drafted in one of the later rounds, caps off the list of Gophers’ prospects. In his first year as a starter, the left fielder led the Big Ten with 28 stolen bases. His speed and .370 batting average might make him valuable to some team late in the draft.
Groebner, who starts student-teaching next fall, might have to delay his career plans if drafted, even though the chance of making it big right away is slim.
Once signed, the odds of going straight to the top level are against the league’s newest candidates. Since the draft’s founding in 1965, only 17 players have skipped playing in the minors. The last player to do so was John Olerud for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1989. Olerud is now the New York Mets’ starting first baseman.
But stats like that might not prevent Groebner from pursuing a dream of many youngsters.
“If he’s offered something, I think he will go through with it,” Groebner’s mom, Jeanie, said. “It’s a once in a lifetime chance.”