Aiken duo leads area draft prospects

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Although the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft doesn’t boast a deep class, it remains a strong class for the Augusta area.

South Aiken’s Taylor Widener and USC Aiken’s Taylor Grover highlight a group that could produce a handful of draft picks.

Widener, a heavily-scouted, two-way player for the Thoroughbreds, is committed to South Carolina. However, he is expected to go in the top 10 rounds, possibly as early as the fourth round on Day 2, which begins at 1 p.m. Friday, just seven hours before his graduation ceremony.

“I’m excited and ready to see what happens,” Widener said. “I’ve had a few phone calls and talked to a few guys, but I’m not getting a lot of phone calls until graduation night. That’s when they’ll start coming in.”

Widener said if he signs, he will likely become a hitter as a professional. A scouting report from Perfect Game, where he attended its 2012 National Showcase in Minneapolis, says Widener has good bat speed and pull contact from the left side of the plate.

If Widener elects to play for the Gamecocks, he will likely be a two-way player. He has been clocked at 92 miles per hour by Perfect Game, including a good slider and feel for a changeup.

“When he first came into the program, he was a pretty good player; he was strong,” South Aiken head coach Bob Polewski said. “Through the years, he’s started getting bigger, stronger, which has helped his game. The last couple years, his velocity has been increasing. He’s a natural hitter, has lefty power, and that also increased.”

Grover became an ace reliever for USC Aiken, allowing just three earned runs in 29 1/3 innings in his junior year this season. He struck out 37 and was named a Division II Third-Team All-American.

Grover, a Midland Valley product, throws hard from a 6-foot-3 frame. He could go as early as the top 10 rounds.

According to sources, others from the area who have experienced some level of interest include USC Aiken pitchers Zach Hayden and Derek Beasley, and catcher/outfielder Josh Miller.

Georgia has become a hotbed for baseball talent, especially in the Atlanta area. This year’s state class boasts two potential top 10 overall picks down the road from each other.

Loganville’s Clint Frazier and Grayson’s Austin Meadows, their high schools separated by only five miles, are two outfielders expected to go within the first 15 picks during Day 1 on Thursday night. Frazier is a smaller center fielder with a shock of red hair and elite bat speed. Meadows is a big center fielder with five-tool ability.

Considered the top South Carolina prospect is Lexington catcher Nick Ciuffo, who is the highest-projected player to have made an appearance in the Augusta area, visiting North Augusta, South Aiken and Aiken. His Lexington team beat Widener’s South Aiken team in the Lower State Championship and eventually won a state title. Ciuffo is expected to go in the first round.

ON TV

WHAT: MLB First-Year Player Draft

WHEN: Today-Saturday

TIME/TV: First and second rounds, 7 p.m. today (MLB Network and MLB.com); Rounds 3-10, 12:30 p.m. Thursday (MLB.com); Rounds 11-40 1 p.m. Friday (MLB.com)


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