Baseball: MLB Draft preview

Courtesy USC Athletics

USC junior first baseman Ricky Oropesa, a Rancho Cucamonga native, is expected to go in the first few rounds of this week's MLB draft after leading the Trojans in batting average, homers and RBIs in 2011.

Six Trojans are expected to hear their names called at some point in this week's MLB draft, which begins Monday at 4 p.m. PT: first baseman Ricky Oropesa, outfielder Alex Sherrod, catcher Kevin Roundtree and right-handed pitchers Austin Wood, Andrew Triggs and Logan Odom. Here's a look at each of the six players, complete with brief scouting reports and potential landing spots in the draft:

  • Ricky Oropesa, junior first baseman (Projected round: 2)

Oropesa is the Trojans' top prospect. Deemed a potential first-rounder entering the season, he ultimately disappointed major-league scouts with his less-than-stellar output this season, but a lot of that can be attributed to a lack of protection around him in USC's lineup. And he still finished with a respectable .322 batting average, seven home runs and 44 RBI. The book on Oropesa is simple: the pure power in his pretty left-handed stroke is nearly unrivaled among college hitters, but he's still vulnerable against curveballs and left-handed pitchers of all kinds. He got in much better shape throughout his three years at USC, but, even now, his 6-3, 230-pound frame likely won't allow him to play anything but first base at the major-league level, limiting his draft potential. He's considered very likely to sign with whatever MLB team drafts him.

  • Austin Wood, junior right-hander (Projected round: 3-4)

Wood is the Trojans' most intriguing prospect. He throws hard, he has a nice delivery and he has alternative pitches that are effective enough to convince MLB teams he can be a big-league pitcher. But can he post the numbers indicating such? He hasn't yet in college, at least during the regular season. Wood posted a 6.35 ERA as a freshman at Florida State, a 4.81 ERA as a sophomore at a Florida junior college and a 5.61 ERA as a junior at USC. Those numbers are average, if not below average, but Wood also played in the Cape Cod Baseball League in the summer of 2010 and absolutely lit up the competition as the best-performing pitcher there, posting a 0.74 ERA in six starts. He was drafted in the fourth round last year out of JC and offered above-slot money, but he declined it to come to USC. It will be interesting to see if he again declines and comes back to school for his senior year.

  • Andrew Triggs, redshirt junior right-hander (Projected round: 10-15)

Triggs still retains a tiny bit of leverage as a redshirt junior, having already graduated from USC last month but possessing the ability to come back for another season with the Trojans if he so desires, that because of an elbow injury that caused him to miss the 2008 season. He was drafted last year in the 24th round by the Cleveland Indians but chose not to sign, returning to school and posting a 5-4 record and 3.67 ERA. The earned-run average was the best of USC's three starters, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 3-to-1 was the best of any USC pitcher who logged more than 25 innings. He's a sinker-ball type pitcher, one who thrives on locating his spots, but he also makes some sense as a relief prospect for the next level. In tough circumstances, Triggs showed the ability to motor his fastball in the low 90's consistently.

  • Junior outfielder Alex Sherrod (Projected round: 15-20)

Sherrod is talented -- very, very talented. He can hit for power and contact, possesses a solid throwing arm from the outfield corners and can also run, to boot. He hasn't stayed completely healthy at USC, though, and that's cause for concern. A good senior year in 2012 as USC's premier hitter could easily vault him into the top five rounds of the draft, but, in order to do that, he'll have to decline an offer from an MLB organization this summer after his likely selection this week. Sherrod has hit over .300 each of the last two seasons for the Trojans.

  • Junior catcher Kevin Roundtree (Projected round: 30-40)

Roundtree has made a lot of improvements to his game since arriving at USC a wiry freshman in the fall of 2008, and his defensive prowess behind the plate is where his future in baseball lies. Coupled with his capable hitting (.308 in 2011), it's easy to see an MLB team taking Roundtree with the hope of eventually developing him into a defensive-specialist backstop at the next level. He has little to no power at the plate, though, so if he ends up staying that will probably be a major focus of his in the 2012 season. He also had an inordinately small amount of RBIs (11) despite tying for the most at-bats on the team with 208, meaning he didn't consistently come through with runners in scoring position.

  • Senior pitcher Logan Odom (Projected round: 40-50)

Odom nearly halved his ERA this year, posting a 3.96 ERA after struggling to a 7.01 in his first year with USC in 2010. He's tall and possesses the size scouts love to see in right-handed pitchers -- 6-6 and 240 pounds -- but has very little experience as a pitcher, having only converted to the spot at Western Nevada Community College in 2008. His arm angle isn't what you'd usually expect from a pitcher of his stature, but it allows him to be deceptive in getting the ball to the plate. Opposing batters hit just a paltry .234 against him. Odom has no leverage as a graduating senior, so he'll sign with any team that drafts him.

Senior infielder Joe De Pinto, junior right-hander Ben Mount and junior pitcher/first baseman Brandon Garcia are also draft candidates, as well as injured junior right-hander Chad Smith, who was on his way to a high selection before suffering a season-ending elbow injury in April and corresponding Tommy John surgery. A number of USC signees are expected to be drafted, including Huntington Beach Edison shortstop Christian Lopes, Palm Desert first baseman Ryan Garvey, Tustin third baseman Travis Harrison and Gilbert (Ariz.) left-hander Stephen Tarpley. Any high school player drafted by an MLB organization has until mid-August to decide whether to sign with the team or enroll at school for the fall semester.