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Weaver Is No Shoo-In at No. 1

June 07, 2004|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

Long Beach State pitcher Jered Weaver won his first 14 games this season, and his dominance of college baseball drew comparisons to former USC star Mark Prior. It also may be what hurts his status in today's Major League Baseball draft.

At one point this season, Weaver was the favorite to be selected by the San Diego Padres as the No. 1 overall pick. In the last week, the Padres have reportedly turned their focus to Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew, the brother of Atlanta Brave outfielder J.D. Drew.

Weaver, a 6-foot-7 junior, may last more than the first few picks, as he and advisor Scott Boras are reportedly seeking a financial package similar to the $10.5 million Prior received in 2001 after being selected second overall by the Chicago Cubs.

"The Padres are going to go with the best guy," Weaver said before the NCAA baseball playoffs. "If it's Stephen Drew, more power to him. I'm going to get picked somewhere, and I'm going to get to play somewhere."

With a 15-1 record, 1.65 earned-run average and 201 strikeouts in 136 1/3 innings, Weaver is having one of the best seasons in college baseball history. On Saturday, Weaver held Stanford to one earned run and five hits in eight innings of a 7-4 victory in an NCAA regional game.

From a statistical standpoint, Weaver's season is on par with Prior's junior year at USC. John Manuel, who covers the draft for Baseball America magazine, said the comparisons to Prior end there.

"He was considered very, very good coming into the year, and he has performed exceptionally well, but he does it with command and deception, not pure stuff," Manuel said of Weaver. "Guys who dominate with stuff are guys with No. 1 overall talents, like Mark Prior."

Weaver's teammate, junior left-hander Jason Vargas, and Cal State Fullerton catcher Kurt Suzuki are local college players that could go in the first round.

Among Southland high school players, Santa Ana Foothill right-hander Phil Hughes, Villa Park right-hander Mark Trumbo and Encino Crespi shortstop Trevor Plouffe could be early selections.

Plouffe, who signed with USC, worked out Sunday in front of the Dodger brass at Dodger Stadium. He said the draft would be a relief after a month of showing his talents in front of pro scouts.

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