Play justifying hype of Severna Park pair

Baseball: Several scouts and coaches think Derek Dixon and Josh Banks, who each have earned college scholarships, could make the leap to the professional level.

March 20, 2000|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

The phrase "pro prospect" is too often bandied about in high school baseball circles. It's a label realistically attached only to a small few.

Severna Park has two seniors who might be for real in returning All-County outfielder Derek Dixon and second-team All-County pitcher Josh Banks.

"They're both great kids and hard workers," said Severna Park's first-year coach Jim McCandless, who considers both to be pro prospects.

"Derek is the fastest player I've ever coached and should be a dominant hitter, and Josh should be a dominant pitcher for us."

Dixon appears to be the better and more well known of the two while Banks is a late bloomer.

Each has a Division I college scholarship to fall back on if pro opportunities are to be put on the back burner.

Dixon, a 5-foot-10 and 185-pound switch-hitter who throws right-handed and runs very well, has a scholarship to UNC-Charlotte and has the tools to play right away.

In his junior season, Dixon, who has a 2.8 grade-point average and 950 SAT score, batted .377 with seven homers, 29 RBIs, three doubles, two triples and 13 stolen bases from the cleanup position.

Banks, a 6-3, 185-pound right-hander who has command of three pitches (fastball, curve and slider), received a scholarship to Florida International University in Miami.

Last season, Banks, who has a 3.0 GPA and 1,040 SAT, was 5-2 with 50 strikeouts and only eight walks in 44 innings with a 3.98 ERA.

The two played on the Oriolelanders' fall showcase team run by Baltimore Orioles part-time scout Dean Albany.

"Derek has power from both sides of the plate, can run and has a great arm," Albany said.

"Josh had a great fall for us and is developing into an outstanding pitcher."

Playing in national tournaments every summer since age 14 with the Maryland Orioles coached by Albany, Dixon said he has "gotten a lot of looks." The exposure has put Dixon on the lists of most area scouts as a "must see" this prep season.

McCandless has seen plenty of Banks, who has pitched for the Severna Park legion team run by McCandless.

"He has really improved over the last year and has put 4 to 5 miles per hour on his fastball. With the three pitches he has -- and he's working on his change -- he has the tools to succeed at Division I."

Banks' pitches have been clocked between 83-87 mph, numbers which could go up as he matures. Several scouts feel that Banks needs to pitch in college and get stronger.

Banks' size is reminiscent of former Old Mill All-Metro pitcher Dennis Wiseman, who also pitched at Florida International.

"They [Florida International] saw me pitching for Dean in a fall tournament in Wilmington [N.C.] and made me an offer," said Banks, who met Wiseman on his visit to the Florida school.

Wiseman, a 1985 graduate, set most of the major pitching records for the Golden Panthers before signing with the St. Louis Cardinals and making it as high as Triple-A.

"Josh definitely reminds us of Denny [Wiseman] and has the same kind of potential at this stage," said Florida International pitching coach Marc Calvi.

Arm strength also is one of Dixon's top qualities. McCandless said he has "a bazooka for an arm," and Albany said Dixon's arm is "big league, what scouts look for."

Bernie Walter of Arundel, who has coached his share of pro prospects including major-league pitcher Denny Neagle, is impressed with Dixon.

"He's strong as an ox and is one of the best high school players in the area," said Walter of Dixon, who was an All-County running back in football and also played point guard for the basketball team.

"Dixon is absolutely draftable and has all the tools to be an outstanding college player."

While most of the attention will center on Banks and Dixon when the Falcons play, McCandless feels that Kevin Wells and Jason Carl give him the "solid pitching staff" it takes to be a contender in the Class 4A East region.

"Wells has good arm strength, and Carl, who did not pitch in high school last year but did for our legion team, could be a Division I pitcher," McCandless said.

While most of the county teams appear to be thin on quality pitching, the Falcons are not. The team with the potential to rival them in pitching depth may be Walter's Arundel Wildcats.

For the first time in recent memory, Walter does not have a senior-dominated team and his pitching staff is loaded with promising juniors and a freshman.

Chip Ziegler, a second team All-County outfielder who hit .390 with five doubles and 13 runs, is the Cats' top returning hurler.

Walter expects JV grads Bart Maxwell and Jason Ford, the only left-hander, and freshman Joe Frykman to contribute.

"We're going to be a little better than people might expect," Walter said.

"We don't have the big names like some others, but they may be big names by the end."

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