With 19 players listed about Baseball America's Top 200 Draft Prospects, it's a strong year for high school players in the state of Florida. So, when nearly all of them converge to a small city in Central Florida for a postseason all-star tournament, it's a must-see event for scouts considering the first-year player draft is less than two weeks away. They showed up in droves. Nearly 100 scouts attended the event, including scouting directors for at least 10 teams.
That's what happened May 28-30 in Sebring, Fla. for the 31st-annual Florida Athletic Coaches Association Baseball Classic. The yearly event features four teams of the best seniors in the state, divided by region. Most of the players have been scouted all spring and, in most cases, last summer and fall on the showcase circuit as well. It's always said that the first impression is the most important. But in scouting, sometimes the last impression is the most important, and with less than two weeks until draft day, these players had one final shot to show what they can do. Two days of games followd an initial workout day, and this year's players followed in the footsteps of players like Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Gary Sheffield, Rafael Palmeiro, Dwight Gooden, Prince Fielder and Zack Greinke, among others.
"Events like this are extremely helpful because you can see all the top prospects in this year's draft on the field at one time, competing against one another," a National League area scout said. "The truly talented players will rise to the occasion and stand out above the rest."
We've been running a regular Draft Tracker feature, spotlighting three players each week whose draft stock is improving and three are slipping. Here are the players that helped or hurt their draft positioning in Sebring last weekend.
Bobby Borchering, 3b, Bishop Verot HS, Fort Myers, Fla.
Borchering looked like a man among boys at the event. In his batting practice session on the first day, he hit several balls out of the yard from both sides of the plate. He backed up that performance by hitting a home run in his team's first game on May 29. While he'll be given every chance to remain at the hot corner, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Borchering will likely have to move to first base at some point as a professional, but the bat will play there.
"You look at Borchering and he stands out in a lot of aspects," an American League scout said. "First off, he looks like a major leaguer and he's able to incorporate tools and abilities into that frame. You toss in the power and the stick he has—he drives the ball out of the park pretty easily—and it's pretty impressive. He's a heck of a player and he's a great kid too. Whoever drafts him, it's all about the stick and he'll become the 40 home run bat everyone thinks he'll be. There are guys in the big leagues right now—everyday guys—that wish they had that kind of size and strength. He's been blessed by somebody upstairs and hopefully he'll go out there and have a great career for 10 or 15 years."
Nick Franklin, ss, Lake Brantley HS, Altamonte Springs, Fla.
Franklin stole the show during Saturday's game, helping his East squad take home their first Baseball Classic championship since 1990—before he was born. Franklin went 3-for-4 on the day with two singles, a double and two walks. His double in the ninth inning was a line drive down the right-field line that was one of the most well-struck balls this side of Borchering's home run the previous day. It could have been a triple if there wasn't a runner in front of him that was held up from scoring another run. Franklin is a switch-hitter and has a short, compact swing that allows him to consistently get the barrel on the ball. He has the athleticism to remain at shortstop as a pro. He's an Auburn recruit that comes from a baseball family, as his older brother Clint is a relief pitcher for the Florida Gators.
"He's a guy who's progressively improved over the spring," the AL scout said. "He went into the spring with an idea where he may go and every month that's gone by, he's climbing the board and climbing the board. To go out and have the approach and performance against guys that he's going to be playing against in the minor leagues, for me, that boy raised his stock to where I don't think there's a chance he gets out of the second round. He showed he can hit with wood and against good competition. I call him a switch-hitting Michael Young."
Brian Johnson, lhp, Cocoa Beach (Fla.) HS
Johnson is a 6-foot-4 220-pound lefthander that was one of the only pitchers at the even that came better than advertised. He had a great season, going 5-1 with a 0.76 ERA and 102 strikeouts over just 55 innings, earning a spot on the East team roster. Johnson ranked as the No. 198 prospect in our Top 200, but may have improved his stock with his performance at the event. Normally sitting in the 85-89 mph range this spring, Johnson was 89-91 in Sebring and he touched 92.
"He had a little quiet spring," the AL scout said. "He started off okay, but kind of backed up as the spring went on. It was good to see him pull out the velocity and the pitchability he did and he threw some good breaking balls for strikes. He showed the arm strength, the ability to leverage the ball and throw strikes and then he backed it up with a pretty good curveball. There were rumors that he was ready to go to Florida, but I think he might have piqued enough interest that that may change. We'll see here in a week and a half."
Scooter Gennett, ss, Sarasota (Fla.) HS
Like you may expect from a kid with the nickname "Scooter"—his real first name is Ryan—Gennett is an undersized middle infielder. Listed at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, he's a gritty, grinder type that always has a dirty uniform. He has talent, but sometimes tries to be too flashy or do too much at the plate. His swing is long and slow with wood and he struggled to get balls out of the infield during the event's batting practice session.
"He's a fantastic high school player," the AL scout said. "I think he's going to be a very good college player, but he's probably better off going to school. He has a ways to go with the bat and in our game he probably lacks the size and range to go out there and project as a major league shortstop. He's probably more of a second baseman or a utility guy and going to college might do him some good. He needs some time, he's not ready. Good pitching will own this kid and when that happens early, sometimes you lose them mentally forever."
Austin Maddox, c, Eagle's View Academy, Jacksonville, Fla.
After making his private school's varsity team as a sixth-grader, Maddox has been on scouts' radar for a long time. He played well in showcases last summer and fall, but hasn't held up under the scrutiny of his senior season. Although he has above-average raw power, he doesn't face good pitching and scouts see problems with his swing mechanics. He also has a great arm, touching 96 mph off the mound, but there is concern over whether or not he'll be able to remain at catcher long-term. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Maddox has actually lost weight this spring, but still looks a little doughy and has difficulty moving around behind the plate. If he can't catch, he'd likely be limited to first base, which would sap a lot of his draft value.
"He's gone backwards in a lot of eyes," the AL scout said. "There's some stiffness to his swing and it's a lengthy swing. Big, tall guys that have long arms and have long swings, it opens up a myriad of holes. He's going to struggle and a catcher should have solid-average if not plus pitch recognition and I think he struggles a little bit with that, which is a concern. He'll hit a mistake a ton, but if a guy can go out there and locate and command pitches, he struggles against those guys, even if they'll never see the light of day in pro ball, let along D-I college ball."
Pitching In General
The aforementioned Johnson pitched well and lefthander Patrick Schuster—he of the four-consecutive no-hitters this season for Mitchell HS in New Port Richey—looked good, but most of the big-name pitchers were underwhelming to the nearly 100 scouts in attendance. Many of the pitchers were either a couple weeks removed from their regular season or had pitched recently in state playoff games, but generally you see guys get excited with all the radar guns pointing toward the mound and try to light it up for an inning or two. That wasn't the case this year. Forest HS righthander Keyvius Sampson touched 95-96 mph this season, but was 88-92 over his two innings of work. Port Charlotte lefthander David Holmberg was 87-88 mph this spring, touching 90, but sat 84-87 at the event and got roughed up in his second inning. Cardinal Mooney HS righthander Michael Heller's velocity wasn't down—it was in the 88-92 mph range he sat for most of the spring—but his delivery was so slow and deliberate that both Franklin and Lake Region outfielder Ronnie Richardson stole second and third base off of him.