July 2, 2004
Two years ago, Arizona State signed 10 of Baseball America’s preseason top 100 high school prospects.
This year ASU got four — and none were first-round draft picks. That 2002 group had three players taken among the first seven selections in the first round.
The difference reflects a modification in recruiting, coach Pat Murphy said.
"The thing is, Arizona State can get in the door of the kids that are also thinking about high-profile pro baseball. But we can never hold them," Murphy said. "So we’ve set our sights a little more on the college player. That high-profile guy never comes to school. And if he does, he comes with a little bitterness he usually can’t play through."
The first of ASU’s recruits this year to be drafted was left-handed pitcher Drew Bowman, who was taken in the 21st round by Milwaukee.
Last year, one of ASU’s signees was a second-round pick.
Infielder Andrew Romine and infielder-pitcher Seth Garrison were top 100 prospects who made it clear they were going to college, and thus dropped. The small number of draftees continues a trend that began last year.
"We’ve learned that because it’s so difficult to go to Omaha because of how the West is treated, how the process is now, and with so much parity, we decided we want to recruit Arizona first," Murphy said. "We want players who want to play for the Sun Devils and play for the national championship.
"That eliminates some guys because they want to develop their own careers. They have their own agents. They have their own hitting instructors. Guys that don’t want to be part of the team concept."
ASU did lose its top pitching prospect, junior college left-hander Ryan Mattheus, who just beat the deadline and signed with Colorado before the draft. The Rockies held his rights from last year’s draft.
Murphy said he expects ace Jason Urquidez and slugger Jeff Larish, both of whom were drafted, to return.
Urquidez is trying to bulk up from 165 to 185 pounds this summer. He faded at the end of the season.
"It’s not just pitching. It’s pitching that can pitch deep into a game against quality teams at the end of the year," Murphy said of what’s required to get to the College World Series. "Urquidez got us deep at the front of the year. You have to develop (postseason stamina). He’s on a tremendous conditioning program. He’ll be back with a little more confidence, and settled in."
The Los Angeles Dodgers had signed 13 of their top 14 prospects two weeks after the draft. The lone unsigned player was Larish, who wants far more money than a 13throunder commands.
Larish is currently recovering from wrist surgery last week.
"As far as what I hear, all systems are go for him coming back," Murphy said. "I’m sure he has something to prove health-wise. He went through a great learning experience."
EXTRA BASES: With the NCAA allowing baseball players to transfer with immediate eligibility, Murphy expects several players seeking more playing time to leave. "We’ll have some defections, especially with the chances of Larish and Urquidez coming back," he said. On the flip side, ASU may get its own transfers. In the past two years, three of ASU’s top six starting pitchers began their careers at other Division I schools.