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Arizona League Players to Watch in 2006: Top Draft Picks
The 2006 Arizona League opening day rosters include three first-round draft picks from this year's draft--Brandon Morrows (Mariners), Jeremy Jeffress (Brewers) and Hank Conger (Angels). Here are brief profiles of the three first rounders:
Brandon Morrow, Peoria Mariners. If you want to see Morrow, the fifth player selected in this year’s draft, you should move quickly. The University of California right-handed pitcher is on the Peoria Mariners’ opening day roster but it is not likely he will spend much time in the Arizona League. According to press reports, the Mariners are being “cautious” as Morrow gets into “game-ready shape” and he will report to Class-A Inland Empire (California League) once he is ready. Baseball America described Morrow as “a scout’s dream.” He throws hard (96-98 mph), has a clean delivery, and has average to above average secondary pitches.
Jeremy Jeffress, Maryvale Brewers. The Brewers selected Jeffress, an 18-year-old pitcher out of South Boston, Virginia, with the 16th overall pick in this year’s draft. Jeffress is a power pitcher who regularly throws in the mid-90s. In his senior year at Halifax County High School, Jeffress posted a 9-1 record with a 0.44 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 64 innings.
Hank Conger Tempe Angels. Catcher Hank Conger was the 25th player selected in this year’s draft. The 18-year-old catcher from Huntington Beach High School is a switch-hitter with well above-average power. This past season, he connected for 11 home runs in 78 at bats. Conger played for the Huntington Beach Little League team that came within one win of the 2000 Little League World Series.
There is also a supplemental first round pick--outfielder Kyler Burke of the Peoria Padres. The San Diego Padres drafted outfielder Burke with the 35th overall pick. Burke, a product of Ooltewah High School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was scouted both as a hitter and pitcher. According to mlb.com, Burke is “a toolsy outfielder” with all five tools “particularly power.” In his senior high school year, the 18-year-old batted .459 with 20 home runs in 111 at bats.
In addition, two second round picks from 2006 and another from last year populate this year's AzL squads.
Kansas City selected shortstop Jason Taylor as the first player selected in the second round (45th overall) in the 2006 draft. Taylor, who batted .455 with 26 stolen bases during his senior year at Kellam High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia, had accepted a scholarship to Clemson University. A surprise second round pick, Taylor received a reported bonus of $750,000 to sign with the Royals.
Brent Brewer was Milwaukee’s second round pick (60th overall) in this year’s draft. Brewer is a speedy shortstop from Sandy Hill High School in Tyrone, Georgia. The 18-year-old, who had committed to play football at Florida State, has above-average power and extraordinary speed.
←Royals shortstop Jeff Bianchi is returning for a second AzL campaign. Bianchi, the Kansas City Royals’ second round pick in 2005, was one of the league’s top players when he debuted in the Arizona League last year. In 28 games, he batted .408 with six home runs and 30 RBIs. Bianchi is back with the Surprise Royals to fully recover from some nagging injuries. Bianchi’s Arizona stay in 2006 will also likely be short.
There are also two 2006 third round picks on Arizona League opening rosters The Mariners selected LHP Tony Butler from Oak Creek High School in Oak Creek, Wisconsin with the 81st overall pick. Cedric Hunter, an outfielder from Martin Luther King High School in Decatur, Georgia, was drafted by the Padres with the 93rd overall pick.