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Elliott on Baseball
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

JAYS TAKE AIM AT COWBOY

OKLAHOMA ST. THIRD BASEMAN IS ALSO THEIR QUARTERBACK

The composite sketch of the unknown Blue Jays draft choice today would be:

A college player with either a high on-base percentage as a position player or an impressive walk-to-strikeout ratio for a pitcher.

The annual two-day Major League Baseball draft of high schoolers and collegians begins this afternoon via conference call. The 50-round draft concludes tomorrow afternoon.

The hot pick for the Jays seems to be third baseman Josh Fields, of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Fields started at quarterback as well for the Cowboys.

By selecting Fields it would go against general manager J.P. Ricciardi's desire of wanting to select people used to playing baseball's summer grind. Fields didn't do that opting for football workouts.

However, Fields has decided not to play football as a senior and Oklahoma State head coach Les Miles is looking for another quarterback. Fields is hitting .362, with 10 homers, 47 RBIs and a .465 on-base percentage.

Since the Jays pre-draft goal is pitching, pitching, pitching we think the Jays will take 6-foot-5 lefty Dave Purcey, of the Oklahoma Sooners.

Purcey is 9-5 with a 3.11 earned run average with 54 walks and 130 strikeouts in 118 2/3 innings.

However, nothing is certain when you pick 16th, so if Purcey is gone -- the Arizona Diamondbacks are interested --the Jays might chose 5-foot-10 outfielder Danny Putnam from Stanford.

The Jays, who also have a compensation pick for the loss of free-agent Kelvim Escobar, and may use it to take right-hander Matt Fox of Central Florida 1.99 13-2 in 16 games 104 innings, 70 hits 32 walks and 119 strikeouts.

They have a good feel for Fox since his batterymate is Drew Butera, son of Jays advance scout Sal Butera. Fox is 14-2 with a 1.85 ERA, striking out 125 and walking 32 in 111 2/3 innings.

This week on MLB.com, Ricciardi rated his first draft in 2002, graded an A minus by Baseball America, as a C-minus.

This, despite the fact that 2002 grads shortstop Russ Adams, their No. 1 pick, is at triple-A Syracuse and righty David Bush, their No. 2, was the opening day starter. Fourth-rounder Adam Peterson has 11 saves at double-A New Hampshire.

A month ago, Long Beach State's Jered Weaver was everyone's pick to go first overall. Now, it looks as if San Diego Padres general manager Kevin Towers will take California high schooler Matt Bush. Weaver's salary demands may have scared off the Padres.

The New York Mets are said to have lost interest because of the poor way his older brother Jeff handled pitching in New York.

So, on we go with our 16th annual projected first round. We've had some bad years and some good years: shortstop Russ Adams (2002), outfielder Gabe Gross (2001), shortstop Felipe Lopez (1998), Vernon Wells (1997), reliever Billy Koch (1996), Roy Halladay (1995), Chris Carpenter (1993), Shannon Stewart (1992), Shawn Green (1991) and righty Steve Karsay (1990) all went to the Jays as predicted.

As the legendary scout Ellis Clary used to say: "The only teams the draft has not made to look utterly foolish are expansion teams ... and they'll get their chance."

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ONTARIO INFIELDER HEADS LOCAL LIST

THERE ARE always unanswered questions on the eve of the draft. And there are more this June, what with the U.S. Congress in March placing a cap on work visas.

The area's top player most likely to be picked, according to a scout, is Waterloo infielder Steve Hornostaj of the Ontario Blue Jays.

There is not a clear-cut, head-and-shoulders choice for the top local as in some years: A.J. Wideman (2003), Scott Thorman (2000) and Lee Delfino (1998).

CLUSTER OF LOCALS

Hornostaj leads a cluster of locals expected to be drafted between the 10th and 15th rounds, including teammate Clay Caulfield, Toronto righty Kris Drabowiecki, Toronto outfielder Tim Smith, Burlington righty Tom Boleska and Richmond Hill catcher Joel Collins, all of Team Ontario.

The top Canadians who could go in the first five rounds are lefty Philippe-Alexandre Valiquette of St. Laurent, Que., and righty Mike Saunders of Victoria, B.C.

"With the visa situation, you can't be sure what will happen," Hornostaj said. "A couple of teams told me they would proceed as normal."

Canadians can be drafted, signed to 2005 contracts and go to instructional league in the fall, where they don't receive pay cheques. Major League Baseball is working to obtain an exemption for its minor-leaguers.

Hornostaj has spoken to scouts from the Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins and San Francisco Giants. Giants scout Steve Arnieri signed Hornostaj's older brother, Aaron, who is with single-A San Jose.

"It's been easier for me since my brother went through this," said Steve Hornostaj, who returned from Team Canada's Dominican Republic tour against minor-leaguers to play for Danny Bleiwas' Jays.

Will Hornostaj sign or attend school?

"I want to play professional baseball," he said. "I could go to junior college first and then sign or sign right away."

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MOCK DRAFT

1. San Diego: SS Matt Bush, El Cajon, Calif. (HS).

2. Detroit: RHP Justin Verlander, Old Dominion.

3. Mets: RHP Philip Humber, Rice University.

4. Tampa Bay: RHP Jeff Niemann, Rice.

5. Milwaukee: RHP Mark Rogers, Orr's Island, Me. (HS).

6. Cleveland: LHP Jeremy Sowers, Vanderbilt University.

7. Cincinnati: RHP Homer Bailey, La Grange, Tx. (HS).

8. Baltimore: SS Stephen Drew, Florida State.

9. Colorado: RHP Thomas Diamond, New Orleans.

10. Texas: RHP Wade Townsend, Rice.

11. Pittsburgh: OF B.J. Szymanski, Princeton.

12. Anaheim: OF Richie Robnett, Fresno State.

13. Montreal: C Neil Walker, Gibsonia, Pa. (HS).

14. Kansas City: RHP Eric Hurley, Jacksonville, Fla. (HS).

15. Arizona: 3B Josh Fields, Oklahoma State.

16. TORONTO: LHP David Purcey, Oklahoma University.

17. Dodgers: RHP Jared Weaver, Long Beach State.

18. White Sox: RHP Philip Hughes, Santa Ana, Calif. (HS).

19. St. Louis: LHP Zack Jackson, Texas A&M University.

20. Minnesota: LHP Glen Perkins, U of Minnesota.

21. Philadelphia: RHP Justin Orenduff, Va. Comm. U.

22. Minnesota: RHP Jay Rainville, Pawtucket, R.I. (HS).

23. Yankees: SS Chris Nelson, Decatur, Ga. (HS).

24. Oakland: OF Danny Putnam, Stanford University.

25. Minnesota: 1B Mike Ferris, University of Miami (Ohio).

26. Oakland: RHP Chris Lambert, Boston College.

27. Florida: LHP Gio Gonzalez, Miami (HS).

28. Dodgers: RHP Houston Street, Texas.

29. Kansas City: OF Greg Golson, Austin, Tex. (HS).

30. Texas: C Landon Powell, South Carolina University.

COMPENSATION PICKS

22. Twins have M's pick for free-agent signing of Eddie Guardado; 23. Yankees, from Astros, Andy Pettitte; 24. A's, from Red Sox for Keith Foulke; 25. Twins, from Cubs for LaTroy Hawkins; 28. Dodgers, from Yankees for Paul Quantrill; 29. Royals, from Giants for Michael Tucker; 30. Rangers, from Braves for John Thomson.