Aiken looks to end HS drought

"To be honest, I'm a little surprised teams are more comfortable with a college pitcher at No. 1," said A's pitcher Scott Kazmir, who was taken directly out of high school by the New York Mets with the 15th pick of the 2002 draft. "We all know how much they can tax their arms at Division I. You see a lot of guys getting overworked, and that's obviously a major concern."

On Friday, a handful of scouts jammed themselves into the space between the snack shack and the backstop behind home plate at Granite Hills High School in El Cajon, California, to watch Aiken's final start before the draft. The top five teams were represented, and Aiken didn't offer any surprises. He dominated the way they -- and he -- have come to expect.

Asked to make his case for becoming the first high school pitcher to be taken first in 23 years, Aiken said, "I worked harder than everyone. I did everything I could in my power. I love the game. I'm a gamer. I did everything I can to win."

Will it be enough? In the end, will the Astros go the presumably safer route and take North Carolina State left-hander Carlos Rodon, the consensus best player before an inconsistent season lowered his stock ever so slightly?

"It very well could be Aiken this year," the scout said. "He could be the safest high school guy in a while. It could also be Kolek. If you like 6-foot-5, 275 pounds and 100 mph, he's your guy. But Aiken is probably more advanced."

As the scouts elbowed for the minuscule space on Friday at Granite Hills, one scout from a team drafting far below the expected Aiken zone was met with some good-natured, inside-the-establishment razzing.

"What the hell are you doing here?" he was asked.

The scout shrugged and said, "Hey, you never know -- you guys might screw up, and he might fall to us."

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