UCLA Baseball MLB Draft Preview

UCLA signee and likely first round draft pick Max Stassi via www.maxpreps.com

Today is Day 1 of the 2009 MLB Draft. The first, second and third rounds (along with the corresponding compensation rounds) take place today, beginning at 3 pm PDT on MLB Network. Rounds 4-30 are tomorrow with the final 20 rounds on Thursday. While the draft will not give the Bruins any finality with regards to their 2010 roster, it is a start and will give UCLA an idea as to who they may and may wear the blue and gold in 2010. The final day for players to sign with the clubs that drafted him is August 15 August 17 (because August 15 falls on a Saturday this year, the deadline for drafted players to sign with pro clubs has been moved back) so we'll know the Bruin roster then, but tomorrow starts the process of who will stay, who will go and who might never make it to Westwood.

Current Bruins

Cody Decker, 1B- Decker is a senior and out of eligibility so he won't return in 2010 regardless of his professional status, but as someone who was fully commited to the program for four years, worked his tail off, was always approachable off the field and whose family was fantastic to the program and those around it, Decker is someone everyone is pulling for. Decker batted .322 in his senior year with a Pac-10 best 21 homers and team-best 55 runs with 53 RBI. Decker's hard work paid off in full, especially defensively, where he turned himself from a guy without a position when he got to UCLA into a solid defensive first baseman. Decker's high strikeout rate has raised a lot of questions as to whether or not he'll be able to hit professional pitching and he's still not a great defender so many pro scouts aren't very high on him. Don't expect him to be drafted high, but someone will take him and he'll have his chance.

Casey Haerther, 1B/3B- Haerther was the Bruins' top hitter a sophomore in 2008 and again in 2009 until he got hurt and Decker caught fire. Despite missing a couple weeks with a broken toe and playing through the injury for the rest of the year, Haerther batted .305 with nine homers. Haerther, who played first base exclusively as a freshman and sophomore, spent some time at third during his junior year. If he can get a scout to buy into his ability to play the hot corner, it will go a long ways to getting a team to take a shot on him much higher than expected. His brother Casey is in the St. Louis Cardinals organization and was a 34th round pick by the Padres out of high school. Odds are that Haerther leaves and will likely sign early, taking some of the suspense out of the process.

Blair Dunlap, CF- Dunlap is an outstanding athlete who is still refining his baseball skills. As a redshirt junior in 2009, Dunlap batted .301 with 45 runs, a team-leading 17 doubles, seven homers and 39 RBI. He was also the Bruins' only major stolen base threat, swiping 15 bags. Adding to his offensive numbers, Dunlap played sensational defense and routinely covered huge chunks of ground in the gaps to run down fly balls. Dunlap has shown an ability to perform when the pressure is on as well, earning All-Regional honors in the two postseasons he played in. He also performed in the classroom, earning All-Academic honors twice

Gavin Brooks, LHP- Brooks will undoubtedly be the most intriguing Bruin in the draft. Brooks was one of the region's top high school pitchers are a junior and sure-fire high draft pick as a junior, but he missed his entire senior season due to injury and ended up at UCLA. As a freshman, Brooks set a number of UCLA freshman records and was unhittable down the stretch, registering three consecutive complete games, the final two in the postseason. Because of his finish, Brooks entered his sophomore year with high expectations, but little injuries bothered him all year and he was never consistent or better than mediocre. In his junior year, Brooks imploded early on, was banished from the rotation and was written off by many. Brooks rebounded though to establish himself as a solid closer with nine saves glimpses of the outstanding stuff that wowed scouts as a freshman. Brooks will likely go fairly high in the draft and get a solid sum of money as a signing bonus, but he could come back and really improve his stock if he can show some consistency. I don't think he'll return, but he's one of the few juniors who could really boost his stock with a good senior year.

Charles Brewer, RHP- Brewer has been the picture of inconsistency since joining the Bruins. An 18th round pick by the Angels out of high school, Brewer was highly touted and extremely talented. He's shown why some had such high expectations of him as a Bruin, like his stretch as a junior when he gave up three runs or less in six of seven starts. The same was true in the summer of 2007 when he went to the Cape Cod League and registered a 1.94 ERA while throwing the second-most innings on the team. Even with that type of talent, Brewer compiled a 4.88 ERA in three years at UCLA and allowed opposing batters to hit .291. Brewer could return for his senior year and try to find the consistency to match his talent or he could get to the pros and try to prove himself there. This one could go either way.

Gabe Cohen, OF- Cohen was a Freshman All-American, then took a major, major tumble. After hitting .345 with 10 home runs as a freshman, Cohen dropped all the way to .204 as a sophomore and while he jumped to .274 as a junior, he was not a regular starter in his last two years at UCLA. Cohen has a plus arm in the outfield and covers enough ground to play either corner outfield position. Cohen still has flashes of the outstandin bat speed and power that made scouts giggle like little girls as a freshman, but he's not going to go overly high in the draft. If he wants to get the biggest signing bonus possible then he should return to school and look to put up numbers like he did as a freshman, but the safer play may be to take what he can get as a lower pick and go work on his swing in the minors.

LHP Brendan Lafferty, 2B Eddie Murray, C Gino Aielli and RHP Jason Novak are seniors who will give pro ball a shot, while juniors RHP Garett Claypool and OF Justin Uribe could also take their chances, but both are expected to return.

Signees

Max Stassi, C- The Yuba City HS backstop has the bloodlines, the stats and the tools. Really, there isn't much that Stassi doesn't have. He's an extremely advanced hitter who can flat out stroke the ball. Unfortunately for UCLA, he won't ever be a Bruin. Stassi will likely be a first round pick and considering that last year Gerrit Cole became the first top round pick since 2002 to attend college, you shouldn't count on UCLA getting two in as many years.

Trayce Thompson, OF- Considering his father, Mychal, had a long NBA career and his two oldr brothers are playing D-1 colege basketball, it's safe to say he has the bloodlines. Thompson has incredible physical tools at 6'4'', 200 lbs. and is extremely projectable. His power potential, bad speed, arm strength and speed are all impressive and are all reasons why he could go on Day 1 of the draft. Thompson has only committed himself to baseball for one year though after splitting time with basketball so his instincts and feel are underdeveloped, meaning a team would draft him for his projectability. Thompson has the skills to dominate college baseball in the future and play his way into the first round, but does he take that chance or get what he can now and start developing in the pros?

David Nick, SS- A shortstop who will likely be a second baseman in the pros, Nick is a very good athlete with great hands at the plate. He can do a bit of everything, if not anything exceptionally. He can run a bit, throw a bit and has pretty good power for a middle infielder. If he has a clear strength, it's his amazingly quick hands at the plate that allow him to square the ball up consistently. Indications are that Nick will sign and go pro, but the thought of him at UCLA is awfully exciting.

Scott Griggs, RHP- Here's a guy with a live arm who actually looks like he'll make it to campus. Griggs has a fastball that sits in the low-90's, but touches 95 and an excellent curveball to boot. Scouts worry about Griggs' command though and because of that, he looks likely to drop some in the draft. He seems committed to attending college and will likely have to go in the top three rounds to skip college. With it looking like he'll fall out of those top three rounds, Griggs has a decent chance of being a Bruin next year.

RHP Allen Aguilar, OF Beau Amaral, UTL Trevor Brown, OF Jeff Gelalich, C Tyler Heineman, OF/LHP Dennis Holt, OF Cody Keefer and INF Cody Regis comprise the rest of the UCLA signees. All are expected to make it campus, but you never know what could happen.

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