Draft 2006: Matt Antonelli a Hot Commodity

Antonelli will be a first round pick

There are not many sure things when it comes down to the 2006 draft. However, one thing is certain. Many clubs are high on Matt Antonelli, and he will be snatched up in the first round. Where exactly he ends up is a mystery. Antonelli could go as high as six and as low as twenty-seven, which raises the question, why are so many clubs interested in Antonelli?

Matt Antonelli was gathered with his Wake Forest teammates Monday afternoon, and was waiting to see if his collegiate playing career would continue this season. At 1:00 p.m. it was clear that it wouldn't. Wake Forest, who was on the bubble to make the 64-team NCAA tournament, was left out of the field after a 33-22 season (16-13 in the ACC).

Antonelli will now begin to focus on the 2006 draft, and his first decision is expected this week after receiving an invitation to work out for multiple clubs. The problem however is all the workouts are scheduled for June 1, and Antonelli needs to decide how it will work out. One of the teams that have extended an invitation are the New York Yankees, who select 21st in the first round. Whether or not Antonelli visits Yankee Stadium for the workout is not known.

However, it's unlikely that Antonelli is still on the draft board by the time the Yankees select on June 6. At this stage in the process, Antonelli will likely be snatched up very early in the draft.

The Tigers, Giants, Blue Jays and Padres all pick before the Yankees and all of the four teams have scouted Antonelli heavily this spring and have interest in drafting the junior. The Tigers hold the sixth pick in the upcoming draft, and would have the first chance of grabbing the Wake Forest product. It's unlikely that the Tigers will end up selecting Antonelli, however, the fact that they are pursuing him speaks highly about his talents. The Giants were high on Antonelli last month, and still are, however, recent rumblings from the Bay suggest they will go a different route and select a pitcher.

Next up would be the Blue Jays, and that has been the club mostly associated with Antonelli, and why not. Antonelli is athletic, has a good eye at the plate, and fits perfectly into the philosophy of the Jays. Many scouts are also comparing him to Aaron Hill, a player that was recently drafted in the first round by the Jays, and General Manager J.P. Ricciardi.

"He can hit for average, has some power, and is your perfect leadoff hitter with the plate awareness he possesses," said one scout. "He doesn't ooze with tools, but he performs well in many – if not all aspects of the game."

"He will make contact often, and not only can hit to all fields, but he can hit to all fields with power," a Carolina based scout said."

On the defensive side scouts believe Antonelli's athletic ability enables him to play many positions on the diamond. The Dodgers, in the 19th round of the 2003 draft, selected Antonelli as a shortstop out of high school and at the time many expected him to move to center field or third base. The Massachusetts native did not sign, and attended Wake Forest, subsequently moving to third base. Now, scouts believe Antonelli will play third base, second base or center field in the majors.

"He just began showing power this spring, and whether or not he hits for enough power to play third is the question many have," the scout said when asked why Antonelli would be moved from third base. "His defense has improved this year and is considered above-average. He has shown the arm strength to play third base."

"If a club decides to move him from third it would be because they have a better offensive option there."

Antonelli finished this season starting a team-high 55 games, and batted .333 while hitting 11 home runs and driving in 38 runs. He also stole 15 bases in 18 attempts, and finished fourth in the ACC with 64 runs scored, fifth in doubles with 18, and ninth in walks with 38.

Most clubs that have been associated with drafting Antonelli are expected to draft him as a third baseman, and start him out at third base after he signs.

"His power is still developing," said one Scouting Director. "His defense at third is terrific. If he gets moved, it will not be because of defensive reasons."

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