Big League Bound

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Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor

With the Major League Baseball Draft set to begin tonight in Secaucus, NJ, here's a preview of where some of USC baseball's names to know might land over the next few days:

Ricky Oropesa - 1B

Oropesa-FiredUp.jpgScouting Report: Statistically speaking, Oropesa's 2011 season (.322 batting average with seven home runs and 44 RBIs) in cardinal and gold was not the finest of his college career, but at six-foot-three, 230 pounds, there is no denying that he has a pro-ready body and a bat to go with it. 

While the Herculian power USC fans became accustomed to was in slight decline this past season, Oropesa's combined 33 home runs his freshman and sophomore years were by no means an aberration. When it comes to the junior slugger, numbers don't tell the whole story as opposing managers and pitchers approached the 2010 Baseball America second team All-American very cautiously in 2011.

In addition to the power hitter type frame he has worked tirelessly on during his time as a Trojan, Oropesa (tied for 5th all-time on USC's home run list) possesses very quick hands and raw natural power to all fields regardless of whether he is using a metal or wood bat- as he displayed leading the Cape Cod League last summer with seven long balls.

Add to the mix a very strong throwing arm and a glove which will only continue to get better, and it's hard not to get exited about what the future holds for the blue-collar Oropesa.

Assets: Pole-to-pole power, capitalizes on mistake pitches, plus arm as a first baseman or as a potential corner outfielder, work ethic

Needs to improve on: Hitting for contact on breaking balls, plate presence against left-handed pitchers, softening up his feet on defense

Thoughts from Coach Cruz: "No matter what anyone says he has some of the top power in the country with the bat. People can't ignore that. Not to mention, he has one of the best arms in the country. He has the ability to become a Gold Glove first baseman at the next level."

Projection: Look for him to be selected early this week, likely between the sandwich round and the 3rd round.

Alex Sherrod - OF

Alex-Sherrod.jpgScouting Report: In just three years, Sherrod has been a model of consistency and growth as an everyday player in USC's outfield. The 2011 season was no exception for the native of Marietta, GA.

At the dish, Sherrod's poise and uncanny bat speed led to career highs this year in batting average (.318), home runs (6), runs (28), RBIs (35) and slugging percentage (.486).

Defensively through his first three seasons, Sherrod has just one career error to go along with an astounding 15 outfield assists.

Assets: Bat-speed generated power, plus arm and terrific range in the outfield

Needs to work on: Hitting the ball to all fields and speed on the basepaths 

Thoughts from Coach Cruz: "It's not like he is the greatest runner, it's not like he has all of these great tools. But he is just very serviceable. And that has made him a huge part of our team."

Projection: Sherrod's junior season put him on the map amongst MLB scouts, but don't expect him to be chosen until Wednesday. He could be selected anywhere from rounds in the mid-30s to the mid-40s- an indication that maybe another year at USC would do wonders for his stock.

Andrew Triggs - RHP

Andrew-Triggs.jpgScouting Report: Heading into 2011, the major question mark surrounding Triggs was whether or not he could stay healthy for the entirety of his junior season. After a rotator cuff injury on his right shoulder claimed the final two months of his 2010 campaign, the right-hander decided to return to school despite being chosen in the 24th round by the Cleveland Indians last summer.

In 14 starts this season, he put to rest any fears about a bum shoulder. Pitching in arguably the toughest conference in collegiate baseball, Triggs excelled to the tune of a 5-4 record with a 3.97 ERA and three complete games.

While USC's fourth-year captain also had Tommy John surgery during his high school career, you wouldn't know it from the movement on his sinking fastball which tops out at 94-95 MPH- drawing comparisons to the one thrown by former Cy Young winner Brandon Webb. He combines that with a plus slider that tends to hover in the mid-80s.

Assets: Two plus pitches (sinker and slider), experience in pressure-filled situations and command of both sides of the plate

Needs to work on: Composure on the mound is an area he can improve on at the next level.

Thoughts from Coach Cruz: "He always came in and answered the bell. To pitch in the Pac-10 on Friday isn't an easy feat. You are throwing against potential first-rounders and really good pitchers all year. I think he is going to be one of the sleepers in the draft, and rise up quickly through the minor leagues."

Projection: The Indians drafted Triggs in the 24th round last year despite health concerns. Now that he has clearly shown that days of the injury bug are long behind him, look for Triggs' stock to rise somewhere between the 14th and 18th rounds.

Austin Wood - RHP

Austin Wood 4.jpgScouting Report: Although he spent only one season in a Trojan uniform (transferred from St. Petersburg Community College), Wood illustrated why Baseball America ranked him as the eight best junior college player in the country in 2010. At six-foot-four, 220 pounds, Wood has a power arm to match his imposing frame, throwing his fastball anywhere from 92-98 MPH to go with a mid-80s changeup and a 75-79 MPH sweeping slider.

Although he went just 5-7 with a 5.61 ERA in 2011, Wood's work against wood bats in the 2010 Cape Cod Summer League (3-0, 0.59 ERA and an All-Star Game appearance) will surely ease scouts' minds when it comes to any perceived shortcomings he had this past season at USC.

Assets: Major league-ready body, prior success against wood bats and a strong four-seam fastball

Needs to work on: Consistency with the fastball on the inner and outer half of the plate, developing his secondary pitches (changeup, curveball and slider)

Thoughts from Coach Cruz: "He has a very magnetic personality. I thought his personality really helped to change the culture of our team this past year. Not to mention having a guy like that go out there every Saturday like we did, you always knew you had a real good to chance to win."

Projection: Last summer, Wood was drafted in the 4th round by the Tampa Bay Rays. Look for his draft stock to stay about same, as he could go anywhere from the 4th to 7th rounds.

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