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Pitchers make area a target

Scouts high on locals in draft

Lawrence Academy’s Tyler Beede has a baseball pedigree, has the size scouts like, and a couple of outstanding pitches. Lawrence Academy’s Tyler Beede has a baseball pedigree, has the size scouts like, and a couple of outstanding pitches. (Photo Courtesy Lawrence Academy)
By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / June 6, 2011

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GROTON — The small set of bleachers — high-school issue — was full, the radar guns poised, as Tyler Beede took the mound. It was his last high school start, his final chance to impress the scouts and cross-checkers and assistant general managers who had made the trek to Lawrence Academy over the past year-plus to see a pitcher likely to be chosen in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft.

His grandmother, standing on a driveway up the hill from the field, could barely watch. She would wander away, then come back to watch, her nerves fraying as her grandson pitched against Buckingham, Browne & Nichols.

It wasn’t his best performance, the rust of rained-out games and pushed-back starts showing, but the righthander earned the win, the scouts packed up, and his grandmother got her chance to celebrate. All that was left was to wait, to figure out his future, to see where all the work and all the success and all those fastballs would land him in the draft, set to begin today.

And it’s not only Beede, who pitched for Auburn High School before going to Lawrence Academy, and who could be the first high school player from the state to be taken in the first round since Peabody’s Jeff Allison in 2003. In a rare year for Massachusetts amateurs, there are a half-dozen players who could be chosen early in the draft, with a significant number of pitching prospects in a state that rarely produces many.

“I think with all the high school arms that were in the Boston area this spring, boy, that’s got to be like once in a generation,’’ said a longtime American League area scout. “I can’t remember that concentration of pitching talent in Massachusetts in a long time.

“It is historic, if you will. There’s going to be a long time before there’s going to be that many guys to see in the area.’’

The best are Beede, along with righthanders John Magliozzi from the Dexter School and Milton, Pat Connaughton from St. John’s Prep and Arlington, Adam Ravenelle from Lincoln-Sudbury High School, and possibly John Gorman (who also plays third base) from Catholic Memorial and Norwood.

“You salivate for kids like this because this is where baseball’s gone in the Northeast,’’ Lawrence Academy coach Chris Margraf said. “And this is the best draft class I think we’ve seen in a long, long time.’’

It’s led by Beede, who has the pedigree (his father, Walter, played baseball professionally), the size (he’s 6 feet 4 inches, 200 pounds), and the talent (fastball in the mid-90s, curveball, changeup). ESPN’s Keith Law has Beede being taken by the Rays at No. 32 in the first round in his mock draft, but the Red Sox, who have the No. 26 pick, have some interest, with amateur scouting coordinator Jared Banner having seen every one of Beede’s starts this season.

“I think he’s as tough as any 18-year-old, and I think he acts like he’s about 26 or 27,’’ said Margraf, who compared Beede with major league pitcher Chris Carpenter. “I think that’s why a lot of these major league teams are very interested in such a young player. It’s because physically he’s got the gifts . . . but I think it’s really his mental approach.’’

Much of the talent in Massachusetts this season is coming out of the Independent School League, where those players have been able to face a higher caliber of competition than say, Beede would have at Auburn. It has prepared them for whatever will come next, whether it’s professional ball or college, with Beede and Ravenelle having committed to Vanderbilt, Magliozzi to Florida, and Connaughton to Notre Dame.

“It’s kind of been tough actually because you have so much competition,’’ said Magliozzi. “But it’s just a dream come true having so much talent in the Northeast, all of us being looked at as draft picks this year. Just going to be very excited to see what happens [today].’’

And while there are negatives to playing in the Boston area, with fewer games and weather issues and fewer potential prospects to compete against, there are also positives. There are reasons for scouts to focus on Massachusetts, something they’ve been doing this year more than ever, because of the abundance of arms in the state.

“Guys up here are late bloomers,’’ the scout said. “You go down South, you go to Florida, you go to California, you’re essentially seeing what they are. But up here, kids are so much more projectable because they’re late bloomers. They don’t play as much, and I think there’s more upside. A lot of times those kids don’t realize that upside until they’re in college.

“So when you look at some of these Northeast kids that don’t have anywhere near the experience or the repetitions or the innings, there’s a lot more to dream about.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmalieBenjamin.

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