Lakeland, Fla. – Toolsy outfielder Roberto Gonzalez was one of the standouts at the Florida Diamond Club, finishing 4 for 7, all singles, to go with a walk.
The lefthanded Gonzalez had one of the best power displays of the event, hitting more batting practice home runs than any other player. He showed above-average raw power to his pull side and hit a few shots onto the structure well beyond the right-field wall at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Gonzalez has tinkered with his stance throughout the summer and is now hitting from a wider base. He has an inconsistent stride that he has significantly shortened, now hitting with a minimal stride. The Diamond Club coaches are scouts who have coverage of each geographic region, and they gave Gonzalez pointers on his hitting.
“They told me to work on my front leg and to stay more consistent with my stride,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez has some length to his load and swing, which he reduced over the summer. He has a gap-to-gap approach, with a swing path geared primarily toward the opposite-field gap.
“I am working on trying to stay the other way and then turn on the inside pitch,” Gonzalez said. “I am looking to be a line-drive guy because I want to show my speed as well.”
Although Gonzalez did not run the 60-yard dash because of a tender hamstring that has been bothering him for a week, Gonzalez has shown plus straight-line speed in the past. Gonzalez ran a 6.59 on the grass at East Coast Pro in August. He has been training with Ernest Wiggins, who was an alternative for the USA 100-meter relay team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Gonzalez has shaved two-tenths of a second off his 60 during his time with Wiggins. Gonzalez posts average times out of the box and has better speed underway.
Gonzalez, who grew up in the Bronx, N.Y., has a plus arm from the outfield. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder has an athletic, lean and wiry build with some present strength and significant room for additional strength gains. One of Gonzalez’s most noticeable physical features is his extremely long arms.
“I started playing basketball my freshman year and I lined up for layup lines and I didn’t even realize that I could dunk,” Gonzalez said. “They used to call me stretch because of my hops and long arms.”
Hitters’ arm length is an interesting topic amongst scouts, as some believe shorter arms allow for a more direct path to the ball, but longer arms do provide additional leverage.
His pure arm strength and long arms have enabled him to touch the low 90s off the mound, but he has only seen minimal time pitching.
Gonzalez, who will be 19 on draft day, attends University High in Orlando, Fla., the school that produced Marlins prospect Justin Nicolino. He was once committed to hometown Central Florida but is currently uncommitted and considering some SEC and PAC-12 schools. Gonzalez will play for the Atlanta Blue Jays at this week’s World Wood Bat Championship in Jupiter, Fla.
— Catcher Jose Lopez (King High, Tampa) made his lone hit of the event count, as the righthanded-hitting Florida International commit hit a grand slam to left field. Lopez has some length to his swing to his uphill swing but has natural strength. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Lopez, an Orlando Scorpion, has a strong build and good athleticism for a catcher. Lopez posted a 2.02 pop time in game action.
— 16-year old junior lefthander Juan Hillman acquitted himself well against older competition. The 6-foot, 180-pound Olympia High, Orlando, product has an athletic build with lean legs and long limbs. Hillman has some deception to his delivery and creates some behind-head deception, sitting 87-89 mph with natural movement to his fastball. The Central Florida commit showed feel for a 71-74 mph curveball that could become an average offering.
— The team from the northern region of the state typically lags behind the other teams from a talent perspective because it draws from Jacksonville and Tallahassee. The other three teams have the benefit of drawing from the three largest cities in the state: Miami (South), Tampa (West) and Orlando (East). According to longtime scouts, this was one of the most talented North teams in years, with a strong group of position players, especially the outfielders, and the top arm at the event, righthander Sean Reid-Foley.
– Outfielder Justin Smith has a well-rounded skill set and is an above-average athlete. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Smith is a physical specimen with a large frame, broad, muscular upper body and powerful build similar to a football player that catches scouts’ eye walking off the proverbial bus. Smith has an above-average arm that profiles in right field. He has consistently posted above-average run times in the 60-yard dash throughout the summer and ran a 6.8 in Lakeland.
The Miami commit has good bat speed and creates loud contact as the ball jumps off his bat. Considering his natural strength and ability to drive the ball, Smith has power potential.
Smith, a pull-oriented hitter, holds his hands close to and nearly above his head. His back elbow is very high and tight. Making consistent hard contact in games will be the key for Smith.
He attends Bartram Trail High, in Jacksonville, which has had one player drafted since it opened in 2000, and will play for on a very talented Marucci Elite team in Jupiter that includes righthanders Alex Lange (Mo.), Keith Weisenberg (Fla.) and Mitch Hart (Calif.).
– Outfielder Austin Murphy, who did not participate in any of the national showcases this summer, had a strong showing despite going 0 for 6 with two strikeouts and a walk. The lefthanded-hitting Murphy, 18, showed a solid stroke with good bat speed, and the ball jumps off his bat. He displayed power potential to his pull side. Murphy has a strong body with a physical lower half at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds.
Murphy ran the 60-yard dash in 6.52 seconds and routinely posted run times in the 4.1-second range. Murphy has a well below-average arm with an unconventional throwing motion.
The uncommitted Murphy attends Episcopal High, Jacksonville, and will play for the Orlando Scorpions.
– Reese Cooley is yet another talented outfielder for the North team. The righthanded-hitting Cooley, who has quick hands, good bat speed and athleticism, had one of the hardest hit line drives of the event. He has a solid, athletic build at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds and has the potential to grow into average or better power. Cooley finished second in the Perfect Game All-American Classic home run derby. Cooley, 17, has posted above-average to plus 60-yard dash times throughout the summer and ran a 6.8 at the Diamond Club. He has an average arm and is committed to Chipola (Fla.) JC. Cooley attends Fleming Island High, Orange Park, Fla., which has never had a player drafted.
– Outfielder Fernando Garcia (Arlington Country Day, Jacksonville) had solid showings in batting practice. Garcia, 18, has some bat speed and a line-drive stoke from a deep hand load. He ran the 60 in 6.76 seconds and has a solid build with further room to fill out at 6-foot-1, 180-pounds. Garcia has a below-average arm and is currently uncommitted.
-Junior infielder Blake Reese (Lincoln High, Tallahassee, Fla.), one of six members of the 2015 class to participate in the event, was a defensive standout. Reese made three of the best plays of the event while playing multiple infield positions: a diving stop to his left, an excellent charge on a slow roller at third base and tracked down a flare over his head a second base. He has natural actions, good body control and defensive instincts to go with sure hands. He ran the 60 in 6.8 seconds and projects to have an average or better arm.
He has a trim, athletic build at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds with room to carry more strength. The uncommitted switch-hitter also showed a line drive stroke, feel for the barrel and gap power.