Crème of the Crop
As the Dodgers continued to try to sign their 2005 first-rounder into the following year, baseball was being played. While Hochevar went on to pitch in an independent league in the spring of 2006, a high school lefty in Texas was skyrocketing up draft boards.
Highland Park southpaw Clayton Kershaw had been a fairly well-regarded prep prospect going into his senior season. He had a fastball that ranged from 88-92 mph and a big, lazy curveball. His delivery was unconventional, featuring a pause after his leg lift.
He was seen as being projectable and perhaps a second- or third-rounder. Then Kershaw’s senior season rolled around.
What had been an ordinary fastball shot up into the low-to-mid 90s, and the curveball became an outstanding offering. Evaluators began moving him into the first round, even into the top 10, and one team was seen the favorite to land him: the Detroit Tigers, who picked one spot ahead of the Dodgers.
The Tigers hadn’t shied away from high-ceiling prospects. They took a hard-throwing but wild right-hander in Justin Verlander with the No. 2 pick in 2004 and a raw, five-tool center fielder in Cameron Maybin in 2005.
Both players cost quite a bit of money and Detroit wasn’t afraid to spend whatever it takes to get the player they wanted. Another top lefty in the draft was the University of North Carolina’s Andrew Miller.
The 6’6 sidewinder threw in the mid 90s with a nasty slider. The slider was so good that more than one right-handed batter struck out swinging at the pitch before it hit him in his back leg. Miller was seen as an early contender for the No. 1 pick, but as the draft drew nearer, the future became cloudier for the Tar Heel.
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