The first week of the high school season in Mississippi provided scouts with a matchup of two of the three best prep players in the Magnolia State when shortstop Ti’quan Forbes’ Columbia (Miss.) High faced first baseman/catcher Bobby Bradley’s Harrison Central High (Gulfport, Miss.) on Monday.
Mississippi prep players are generally known for having raw elements of their game. Forbes fits that description, while Bradley does not.
A premium athlete, Forbes is a three-sport star whose basketball season ended in the latter half of February. He is also one of the youngest players in the class and won’t be 18 until roughly the end of this minor league season. These factors, coupled with his locale, give Forbes an expansive gap between the player he currently is and the player he projects to be.
“His split as far as present grades to future projection might be as big as any player in the draft,” a National League area scout said. “He could have some 30 present grades but 60 future grades. Everything about his game is projection-based because he flashes you things that you want to see. He is going to get a lot of people excited thinking about what this kid could be in a few years.”
Although scouting opinions differ on his expected position, most evaluators believe he will be able to stay in the middle of the diamond.
“The biggest question with him is ultimately what position is he going to play?” the scout said. “He is playing shortstop now and flashes the signs of being able to play shortstop. He made a couple of tough plays look easy and he had some plays you would like to see a shortstop make that he didn't where he kind of looked like a center fielder. Some people think he is going to be able to play shortstop and some people think he is a center fielder from the get-go. You know with the run grade and athleticism that he can track it down in center field.”
The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Forbes, who has a long-limbed, lean and wiry build with significant room to add strength, is a loose, gliding athlete who moves well with easy actions. He has a loose arm that flashed average and was more consistently fringe-average last summer, although scouts project his arm to be average to above-average. Forbes has a tendency to throw from a lower arm slot, giving his throws tail.
The high-waisted and long-legged Forbes is a long-strider who is a 60 runner and better underway, according to the scout. Throughout the majority of the showcase circuit last summer, Forbes posted run times in the 4.3-second range but blazed times as low as 4.1 earlier in the summer from the right side of the plate. His speed plays taking extra bases on the basepaths.
“His swing doesn't allow for him to get down the line with the type of speed that he shows going from first to third,” a National League crosschecker said. “Once he gets to top speed and opens it up he is every bit of a plus-plus runner around the bases.”
Although the Mississippi commit showed some swing and miss on the showcase circuit, evaluators believe he has a chance to hit.
“He is intriguing at the plate because there is above-average bat speed with below-average strength,” the area scout said. “He is really wiry and there is a really good frame for him to fill out. He has really good bat speed, athleticism and hand-eye coordination.”
His athleticism, bat speed and expected future strength gains give him a chance to hit for power for an up-the-middle player.
If Forbes shows he is able to translate his athleticism to his defense and run times this spring, he will likely be a first-day selection by a team that covets athletes and ceiling.
While Forbes is an up-the-middle player, Bradley is a likely a corner bat, but one that is attempting to move to a premium defensive position by transitioning behind the plate this spring. Bradley mostly played third base and first base on the showcase circuit.
The 6-foot-1, 231-pound Bradley has a strong, husky and durable build with thick, muscular thighs on his large frame, which does not offer much physical projection. Bradley can show average arm strength.
“He was pleasantly surprising behind the plate and threw a guy out, but that is not really part of the equation,” the crosschecker said. “He shows arm strength behind the plate but his catching skills are pretty raw. You can tell he isn't very comfortable. He is a lefthanded corner bat who is probably going to be a first baseman sooner rather than later.”
Bradley, who is also young for the class and will turn 18 one week before the draft, shows the physical attributes to fit a tough profile as a high school first baseman, especially in a draft with many of the top college players at the bottom end of the defensive spectrum.
“He could be an above-average hitter with above-average power if everything comes together,” the crosschecker said. “He could be a profile lefthanded-hitting first base bat if everything comes together.”
Bradley, who has a simple setup at the plate with a short stride and quiet load, has a loose, quick and compact stroke that can create hard contact to all fields. The Louisiana State commit showed feel to hit on the showcase circuit with a disciplined approach and plus raw power.
“He sees a lot of pitches, which is fairly uncommon for a guy with a lot of raw power,” the crosschecker said. “Bradley showed really good plate discipline this summer and his swing has looseness and buggywhip.”
He is a below-average runner. According to scouts, Bradley could factor into the top five rounds and could potentially go higher to a team that values a corner bat with offensive upside.