The jury has been out in force for months, major league scouts canvassing diamonds, scrutinizing and analyzing the best college and high school baseball players.
Judgment day is Tuesday, when the amateur draft begins its three-day divvying up of the top talent.
Most wanted from the area is Jon Garland, a 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher from Kennedy High projected to be one of the top 10 picks. Garland has exceptional command of his 93 mph fastball and a hard slider, and he also possesses a quality scouts hold in equally high regard: signability.
Although he has a scholarship to USC, Garland has made it known he wants to sign.
"Garland hasn't hooked up with one of the agents who are driving signing bonuses out of sight, and that's in his favor," one scout said. "He is giving every indication he will sign."
Five other area players are projected to be taken anywhere from late in the first round through the second round. Between the first and second rounds are 21 so-called sandwich picks awarded to teams as compensation for signing free agents.
* Jeff Weaver, a 6-3 Fresno State right-hander, has gone from riding the bench at Simi Valley High three years ago to being one of the most sought-after pitchers in the draft. Many scouts believe that Weaver, a workhorse who had 10 complete games and led the nation with 181 strikeouts, will rise rapidly through the minor leagues.
* Randy Wolf, a 6-1 Pepperdine left-hander, has put together three excellent college seasons after being named City Section player of the year in 1993 and '94 for El Camino Real High. Wolf, whose earned-run average of 1.79 was second in the nation, possesses the rare combination of good stuff and great competitive desire necessary to make the big leagues.
* Sean Douglass, a 6-5 right-hander from Antelope Valley High, ranks below only Garland among area high school players. He throws over 90 mph and several scouts see lots of room for improvement. Douglass has rough edges, but that's what the minor leagues are for.
* Adam Kennedy, a 6-1 shortstop from Cal State Northridge who bats left-handed, led the nation in hits two years in a row. He has good power for a middle infielder--51 homers in three years--and scouts love his mental makeup.
* Jim Parque, a 5-10 left-handed pitcher from UCLA, has surprised scouts since he excelled as a 5-2 sophomore at Crescenta Valley High. He pitched well for the U.S. Olympic team last summer and led the Bruins into the College World Series by posting a 12-2 record.
Other college players from area high schools expected to be drafted are Stanford catcher Jon Schaeffer (Harvard-Westlake), UNLV third baseman Ryan Hankins (Simi Valley) and Nevada-Reno third baseman Andy Dominique (Alemany).
From Northridge, outfielder Jose Miranda, who hit 25 home runs and batted .402; and left-hander Nathan Rice, who did not sign after being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 34th round, should be middle-round selections.
From Pepperdine, outfielder Mark Lopez (Chatsworth), who blossomed his senior year by hitting .340, and 6-6 right-handed pitcher Andy Shibilo are expected to be picked.
From Cal Lutheran, left-handed pitcher Richard Bell and catcher Tom McGee, both seniors, should be lower-round choices.
Most of the top high school players from the area have made college commitments, making it difficult to predict if and when they will be drafted. A major league team will take a player only if it is reasonably certain the player will sign.
Joe Borchard, a switch-hitting outfielder from Camarillo High, is the best prospect among area position players. But his football scholarship to Stanford must be weighed by any team thinking of drafting him.
The same goes for Bill Scott, a slugging outfielder from Alemany, and Cody Joyce, a speedy outfielder from Hart. Both have scholarships to attend UCLA, Scott for baseball and Joyce for football.
A pitcher making a strong late-season impression with scouts is 6-7 right-hander Mike Schultz of Cleveland, a 17-year-old who has not made a college commitment.
Other high school players who scouts have watched with interest include:
Pitchers: Hart left-hander Bobby Graves, Quartz Hill right-hander Mark Madsen, Channel Islands left-hander Charles Merricks, Royal right-hander Matt Rainer, Newbury Park right-hander Chris Thogerson, Burroughs right-hander Wes Hutchison, Crespi right-hander Brian Felten, Moorpark left-hander Justin Ames, Alemany right-hander Jason Westemeir and Antelope Valley left-hander Jeremy Holiday.
Catchers: Westlake's Chris Parker, Chatsworth's David Sark, Chaminade's Ryan Hamill, Calabasas' Josh Goldfield, Buena's Rick Helland.
Infielders: Camarillo's Andy Kroneberger, Royal's Matt Pesso, Canyon's Chris Coash, Hart's Eric Horvat, Kilpatrick's Ronnie Martinez.
Outfielders: Glendale's Fernando Rios, Calabasas' Brian Fatur, Notre Dame's Jorge Piedra, Simi Valley's David Krewson.
Few players from area junior colleges have generated interest from scouts. Topping a short list is Canyons right-hander Brock Benson, whose velocity increased enough late in the season that he should be drafted.
Players drafted last season who elected to attend junior college are eligible to sign before Tuesday with the team that drafted them. Glendale catcher Jesse Daggett can sign with Pittsburgh, Ventura pitcher Jeremy Pierce can sign with Seattle and Oxnard shortstop Brent Egan can sign with Philadelphia.