Lance McCullers Jr. has the name. Walker Weickel has the USA Baseball pedigree and 6-foot-6 frame.
But this spring, Oviedo's Zach Eflin and Southwest Ranches' Nick Travieso have had the biggest arms in Florida's high school ranks. The two prep righthanders have thrown up to 96-97 mph this spring, thrusting them toward the front of the state's prep draft ranks.
Eflin, who pitches for Hagerty High and is committed to Central Florida, hasn't pitched of late due to an arm injury. Scouts are hearing triceps tendinitis, though some wonder if the problem is more serious. To quell such doubts, Eflin—a 6-foot-5, 200-pounder whose fastball sits in the 90-94 mph range—will try to pitch next week if Hagerty wins its first playoff game on Thursday. Otherwise, Eflin is expected to pitch in the Florida state high school all-star game in Sebring, Fla., at the end of May.
Eflin's coach, Jared Goodwin, said Eflin threw a bullpen this week and had no pain the next day. He also said an MRI on his elbow came back clean. But Goodwin had labrum surgery himself and plans to err on the side of caution, saying, "The next three weeks are not the most important games this guy will pitch in his life, no matter how much we all want to win. We have to keep that in mind."
All four players' high schools are starting playoff action this week, with Weickel's Olympia High (coached by ex-big league pitcher Randy O'Neal) carrying a 27-0 record. Weickel hasn't had a huge spring, with his velocity infrequently reaching the 90-93 mph range he showed last summer during the Tournament of Stars and other showcase events. He's had a late growth spurt push him up to 6-foot-6 this spring, and the Miami recruit is still catching up, according to some scouts, still gaining body control and working through a bit of a dead-arm period. He remains a consensus first-rounder based on his size, track record and flashes of three average-to-plus pitches in his fastball, curveball and changeup.
Travieso threw a no-hitter in mid-April and has shown Eflin-like velocity, touching 96-97 mph at times and sitting in the 90-93 range with good life down in the zone. He's cleaned up his delivery since last summer and moved into sandwich round consideration.
McCullers, though, has the highest profile of the group as the son of an ex-big leaguer of the same name. McCullers also matured quickly and was at the front of the 2012 class back in 2010, after his sophomore year in high school. He has made strides since then, including this spring, assuming more of a starting pitching role for Tampa's Jesuit High, which has helped him get innings and helped him learn to pitch with less effort. As one evaluator put it, "He's doing it a little easier this year, and he's throwing more strikes, especially with his breaking ball."
Still, McCullers is a 6-foot, thick righthander with explosiveness and effort in the delivery. His command wavered a bit recently, including a five-walk start in which he gave up his first earned run of the season. He still projects as a reliever for most scouts, earning comparisons to Pirates farmhand Stetson Allie, which makes it hard to gauge where he'll go in the draft's first round. If he somehow tumbles due to signability issues, he could play as a two-way talent at Florida.
"I still think someone's lying in the weeds on (him)," one American League scout said.
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