Scouting Reports: Florida
Only a year after Florida's amateur talent was near an all-time best, talent in the state has fallen off considerably. Just 16 players from the state
rank among Baseball America's Top 200 Prospects, two fewer than made the cut
in 2005, a year that was considered the worst of the decade
in terms of draft-eligible talent.
Florida first baseman Matt LaPorta's resurgence after a poor showing in 2006 and Florida
State second baseman Tony Thomas' rise were
two of the few bright spots for the state's four-year college
crop. After LaPorta, Thomas and Stetson righthander Corey Kluber, the
four-year college talent is barely worth mentioning. Of the state's top
20 prospects, just four are college players.
|*****||One for the
|**||Not up to
|*||Nothing to see
"The colleges are definitely way down," said a longtime area scout based in the state. "It's the worst I've seen in years."
"Thomas has been a nice surprise at FSU, but after him their best
players are underclassmen," said a scout with an American League club.
"Miami is young, but there's going to be plenty to see (there) next
year, and UF has really struggled."
The high school class is better, but its strength lies in its depth,
with an appealing collection of players with second- to fifth-round
talent, as opposed to impact potential. Like Thomas on the college
side, the emergence of Tampa's Nevin Griffith provided a boost to the
prep class. The projectable righthander showed better velocity, an
improved delivery and secondary pitches, and his showdowns with
crosstown rival Michael Burgess were easily the highlights of the
spring, drawing dozens of scouts and hundreds of fans.
The catch with the high school players will be signability. If
their bonus demands don't match their perceived value, the
number of high school players signed out of the Sunshine State could
approach an all-time low. "If they're realistic about signing and not everyone
comes out thinking they're a top two- or three-round guy, then you've
got a pretty good crop, and that's what we're dealing with," another area scout said. "If not, it
could be pretty thin real quick."
Signability is the major reason Matt Latos is still an amateur.
Following his senior season at Coconut Creek (Fla.) High in 2006,
Latos' request of a seven-figure bonus caused him to fall to the 11th
round, and he headed off to junior college under control to the Padres. He's easily the state's best juco prospect this year, and his
supporting cast of junior college prospects is better than the crop of
four-year college players, but generally underwhelming.
|National Top 200 Prospects|
1. Matt LaPorta, 1b, Florida
2. Michael Main, rhp/of, Deland (Fla.) HS
3. Michael Burgess, of, Hillsborough HS, Tampa
4. Matt Latos, rhp, Broward (Fla.) CC (CONTROL: Padres)
5. Drew Cumberland, ss, Pace HS, Milton, Fla.
6. Yasmani Grandal, c, Miami Springs (Fla.) HS
7. Nevin Griffith, rhp, Middleton HS, Tampa
8. John Tolisano, 2b/of, Estero (Fla.) HS
9. Corey Kluber, rhp, Stetson
10. Jonathan Bachanov, rhp, University HS, Orlando
11. Danny Rams, c/1b, Gulliver Prep, Miami
12. Tony Thomas, 2b, Florida State
13. Denny Almonte, of, Florida Christian HS, Miami
14. Jonathan Holt, rhp, Tampa
15. Tommy Toledo, rhp, Alonso HS, Tampa
16. Daniel Elorriaga-Matra, c, Douglas HS, Parkland, Fla.
17. John Gast, lhp, Lake Brantley HS, Altamonte Springs, Fla.
18. Timothy Sexton, rhp, Miami-Dade (Fla.) CC
19. Jeff Schaus, of, Barron Collier HS, Naples, Fla.
20. Sean Koecheler, rhp, Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) HS
21. Bo Greenwell, of, Riverdale HS, Fort Myers, Fla.
22. James McOwen, of, Florida International
23. Scott Maine, lhp, Miami
24. Nathan Striz, rhp, Santa Fe Catholic HS, Lakeland, Fla.
25. Sergio Morales, of, Broward (Fla.) CC (SIGNED: White Sox)
26. Jovan Rosa, 3b, Lake City (Fla.) CC (SIGNED: Cubs)
27. Brad Peacock, rhp, Palm Beach (Fla.) CC (CONTROL: Nationals)
28. Mike McGee, rhp, Port St. Lucie (Fla.) HS
29. Chris Salberg, lhp, Florida Atlantic (CONTROL: Orioles)
30. Mickey Storey, rhp, Florida Atlantic
31. Austin Garrett, lhp, Pensacola (Fla.) CC
32. Robert Bryson, rhp, Seminole CC (CONTROL: Brewers)
33. Hunter Ovens, Cardinal Mooney HS, Sarasota, Fla.
34. Luke Green, rhp, Chipola (Fla.) JC (CONTROL: Angels)
35. Bryan Augenstein, rhp, Florida
36. Ryan Acosta, rhp, Clearwater (Fla.) Central Catholic HS
37. Chris Jones, lhp, Gaither HS, Tampa
38. Evan Chambers, of, Lakeland (Fla.) HS
39. Chris Hernandez, Monsignor Pace HS, Opa Locka, Fla.
40. Tim Bascom, rhp, No School
41. Craig Gullickson, lhp, Palm Beach Gardens HS, Wellington, Fla.
42. Robert Leffler, rhp, Tampa
43. Anthony Rizzo, 1b, Douglas HS, Parkland, Fla.
44. Enrique Garcia, rhp, Miami
45. Scott Robinson, of, Okaloosa-Walton (Fla.) CC (SIGNED: Rockies)
46. Johnny Williams, rhp, Tampa
47. Michael Davitt, rhp, Okaloosa-Walton (Fla.) CC (SIGNED: Angels)
48. Dan Thomas, rhp, South Florida
49. Caleb Gindel, lhp/of, Pace HS, Milton, Fla.
50. Walter Diaz, ss, South Florida
51. Danny Gil, rhp, Miami
52. Derek Stultz, rhp, Wharton HS, Tampa
53. Joey Manning, of, Bartow (Fla.) HS
54. Chris Turner, of, Brandon (Fla.) HS
55. D'Marcus Ingram, of, Pensacola (Fla.) CC (CONTROL: Cardinals)
56. Steve Vento, rhp, Palm Beach (Fla.) CC (CONTROL: Twins)
57. Bryan Henry, rhp, Florida State
58. Manny Miguelez, lhp, Miami
59. Matt Davis, rhp, Jacksonville
60. Mark Peterson, lhp, Lincoln Park Academy, Fort Pierce, Fla.
61. Richard Lucas, 3b, Wolfson HS, Jacksonville
62. Andy Polk, Webber International
63. Aaron Tullo, rhp, St. Petersburg (Fla.) JC (CONTROL: Brewers)
64. D.J. Swatscheno, lhp, Flanagan HS, Pembroke Pines, Fla.
65. Iden Nazario, 1b/lhp, Southridge HS, Miami
66. Josh Bowman, rhp, Northeast HS, St. Petersburg, Fla.
67. Glen Johnson, 3b, South Fork HS, Hobe Sound, Fla.
68. Brandon Bonner, rhp, Lakewood HS, St. Petersburg, Fla.
69. Matt Small, rhp, Lake City (Fla.) CC (CONTROL: Braves)
70. Reynaldo Cortilla, rhp, Miami Springs HS
|1. Matt LaPorta, 1b (National rank: 20)|
School: Florida. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 215. Birthdate: 1/1/85.
LaPorta led the nation in home runs as a sophomore in 2005, slugging 26
to set a school record. His power binge continued during that summer,
when he anchored the heart of the order for Team USA's college national
squad. His junior season was another story. He strained an oblique
muscle in February, missed 13 games and never got untracked. The Red
Sox drafted him in the 14th round last June, but he stuck to his bonus
demands, reportedly $1 million, and returned to Gainesville for his
senior season, with outstanding results. His .579 on-base percentage
led the nation, as did his 1.432 on-base plus slugging. He has improved
his approach and kept his hands inside the ball better this year,
making better contact, and his plus-plus raw power remains a
game-changing tool. When he gets his arms extended, he can launch balls
out to all parts of the park. He's a below-average defensive player who
is relegated to first base as a professional, but could be taken in the
top half of the first round this year nonetheless. His adviser is Scott
Boras, which can always be a factor in where a player goes.|
|2. Michael Main, rhp/of (National rank: 23)|
School: Deland (Fla.) HS. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 171. Birthdate: 12/14/88.
Baseball America's top 15-year-old in the nation in 2004, Main looked
like a can't-miss prospect even before he could drive. Tendinitis in
his rotator cuff cost him most of his junior season, but he recovered
to lead DeLand High to the state final four and did so again this year.
He has a lightning-quick arm that generates 97 mph heat, but more
importantly he has learned how to pitch this spring. Even Main's
jaw-dropping velocity wasn't enough to get outs when he got knocked
around in a start at the Aflac Classic and other high-profile events
last summer. This year, he has kept his fastball down in the zone,
where it has lots of late movement. Main shows solid-average command
presently, as well as the ability to spot this two-plane breaking ball
where he wants it. His changeup has above-average run and sink. Main's
slight build and lively repertoire make him comparable to Tim Hudson,
but some teams see him as a safer pick as an outfielder. He's a 70
runner with good bat speed, and has even shown an ability to make
contact from both sides of the plate. He's more likely to be drafted in
the first round as a pitcher, however.|
|3. Michael Burgess, of (National rank: 30)|
School: Hillsborough HS, Tampa. Class: Sr.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 200. Birthdate: 10/20/88.
With huge raw power, inconsistent performance and the legacy of
Hillsborough High (the alma mater of Gary Sheffield, Dwight Gooden and
Elijah Dukes, among other big leaguers) as a backdrop, Burgess has
become one of this draft's most debated prospects. He was a third-team
All-American after batting .512 with 12 home runs as a junior, and the
power translated with a wood bat last summer. Although his bat speed,
strength and leveraged swing remain, Burgess' approach and set-up at
the plate have puzzled scouts this spring, and he hasn't made
consistent hard contact. He seems to lack focus, perhaps due in part to
constant solicitation from hopeful advisers and receiving hitting
lessons from former Georgia Tech star Ty Griffin and big leaguer Derek
Bell. Late in the season, his timing was better and he showed glimpses
of the 40-homer-hittting right fielder he could become. He's an average
defender with a plus arm and below-average speed. Burgess could slip
into the supplemental round, but the team that weighs his history over
his senior year could pop him in the first round.|
|4. Matt Latos, rhp (National rank: 32)|
School: Broward (Fla.) CC. Class: Fr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 210. Birthdate: 12/9/87.
After big bonus demands and makeup questions drove Latos down draft
boards a year ago as a high school senior, he's in the position of
being one of Florida's most electric amateur pitchers two years
running. The Padres drafted the tall, thin Latos in the 11th round last
year and resumed negotiations with him after his junior college season
ended in mid-May. They reportedly had offered him a bonus near $1
million, only to have Latos' adviser ask for as much as $3 million, so
they were not expected to sign him. Telling were the comments of a
scout based in Florida who said, "I hope they sign him so we don't have
to deal with it." His stuff--mid-90s fastball, hard, sharp breaking
ball, solid-average changeup--profiles in the middle of a rotation or
perhaps in a set-up role in the big leagues. His command is at least
average, though he struggles at times to spot his breaking ball. His
arm action is long and he lacks deception. His fastball lacks life when
it's up in the zone. Latos is a premium talent, but if he's adamant
about receiving top-of-the-draft money, he might take a tumble again
|5. Drew Cumberland, ss (National rank: 38)|
School: Pace HS, Milton, Fla. Class: Sr.
B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 170. Birthdate: 1/13/89.
Separating this year's crop of prep middle-infield prospects hasn't
been easy for scouts. Cumberland is one of five high school shortstops
who could be drafted in the supplemental round. He has a slight
advantage because of premium quickness, speed and athleticism. He was
an all-state selection as a defensive back and running back in football
and consistently turns in 4.0-second home-to-first times from the left
side of the plate, making him a 70 runner. His game is similar to that
of Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts. Cumberland is an above-average
hitter who has enough strength and bat speed to drive balls from gap to
gap, though his swing and approach have holes. He's a high-energy
player who makes spectacular plays on defense but botches the routine
ones. His brother Shaun is in the Devil Rays organization, and he's
expected to join him in pro ball soon.|
|6. Yasmani Grandal, c (National rank: 42)|
School: Miami Springs (Fla.) HS. Class: Sr.
B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Birthdate: 11/8/88.
Grandal was born in Cuba and moved to Miami when he was 11, and he
started catching when he was 13 at the encouragement of his stepfather.
He emerged as the country's top prep catching prospect last summer when
he played in the Aflac Classic and committed to Miami. He has since
been surpassed by Devin Mesaraco for top high school catching honors,
and his all-around game is solid but not exceptional. He has soft hands
and receives fine, and he has an above-average arm that produces quick
throws with carry and accuracy. His ability to make contact from both
sides of the plate enhances his value, but his bat speed is
fringe-average. He makes sharper contact and drives the ball much more
consistently from the left side. Grandal has good makeup and instincts,
and should be taken no later than the second round.|
|7. Nevin Griffith, rhp (National rank: 45)|
School: Middleton HS, Tampa. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 180. Birthdate: 3/23/89.
The quintessential projectable high school pitcher, Griffith showed all
the ingredients of a premium prospect as an underclassman and put it
all together this spring. He solidified his status as a high-round pick
by dominating in two showdowns with crosstown rival Michael Burgess and
Hillsborough High, the first of which was the buzz of amateur baseball
for weeks. Griffith is long, lean and athletic with a whippy arm
action. He has improved his balance over the rubber and better
incorporated his lower half in his delivery, and his velocity spiked,
touching 96 mph and humming along at 90-92 with sink on most nights.
His 80-84 mph slider is a plus pitch at times, and he throws a more
traditional curveball as well. He has feel for a changeup that he can
keep down in the zone. Outside of inconsistency and fatigue, there
isn't much to knock on Griffith, who profiles as a
middle-of-the-rotation starter and should be drafted in the
|8. John Tolisano, 2b/of (National rank: 85)|
School: Estero (Fla.) HS. Class: Sr.
B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Birthdate: 10/7/88.
Tolisano's father Michael is a chiropractor who played baseball at
Connecticut before moving to Florida, and his amateur career has been
well documented. He was named Baseball America's top 14-year-old in
2003 when he played on the same AAU national champion team as Michael
Main, and he was considered one of the country's top underclassmen as a
freshman and sophomore. Tolisano's performance fell off last summer,
however, and he enters the draft as something of an enigma. He has a
fair stroke from both sides of the plate, with average bat speed and
solid-average power to all fields. He made better contact late in this
season, but has struggled to square balls up enough that teams
questions his ability to hit for average. He's a 50 runner on the 20-80
scale with flashy actions on defense. He has below-average hands and
poor footwork, and some scouts believe he's best suited for the
outfield. He could be drafted as high as the second round.|
|9. Corey Kluber, rhp (National rank: 87)|
School: Stetson. Class:
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 215. Birthdate: 4/10/86.
As one of former Stetson coach Terry Rooney's final recruits before he
left for Notre Dame (he's now at Louisiana State), Kluber has developed
into a reliable starter. He had a stress fracture in his throwing arm
in high school that required surgery, and he still has a screw in his
arm. But he has been resilient and holds his velocity late in outings.
He pitches at 90-91 mph, touching 94, and his delivery is clean. The
strong-bodied Texan has an intimidating presence on the mound, and he
pounds the zone with four pitches. His slider is the better of his two
breaking balls, and he features an average changeup. He doesn't have a
legitimate put-away pitch and profiles as a back-of-the-rotation
starter who could be drafted as high as the third round.|
|10. Jonathan Bachanov, rhp (National rank: 100)|
School: University HS, Orlando. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Birthdate: 1/30/89.
Aside from Tampa product Nevin Griffith, Bachanov made the biggest
climb among Sunshine State pitchers this spring. At 6-foot-5, 220
pounds, he offers a strong, durable frame. But Bachanov, whose parents
are Russian immigrants, has a max-effort delivery and off-the-field
baggage that leaves some teams wary. University High was his fourth
high school in as many years and Bachanov's Myspace page--complete with
a "countdown 'til I get paid"--was a running joke among scouts this
spring. Despite his blemishes, the big righthander shows glimpses of
greatness, like his 15-strikeout performance against one of the state's
top teams, Winter Springs High, in the 6-A regional quarterfinals in
early May. That night his fastball was up to 95, and he showed an
ability to place his hard breaking ball down in the strike zone. His
control improves when he pitches out of the stretch, and he profiles as
a potential closer who could be drafted as early as the second round.|
|11. Danny Rams, c/1b (National rank: 105)|
School: Gulliver Prep, Miami. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 222. Birthdate: 12/19/88.
Of the players ranked outside the Top 100, Rams possesses the two most
exceptional tools. His raw power grades as a 70 on the 20-80 scale, and
one scout says, "Whatever is the highest grade on your scale, that's
what his arm is." The dilemma in his evaluation, however, is whether
he'll ever get to put those tools to use in professional baseball.
Rams' father Eduardo, a Cuban native, died of a heart attack when Danny
was 14. At 6-foot-2, 226, he's a giant among most players his age, and
his size and lack of flexibility have been the greatest impediments to
his development behind the plate. He receives adequately, but lacks the
lateral movement and footwork to stick behind the plate. He spent some
time in the outfield as a senior, but he might be relegated to first
base in the future. He can launch tape measure blasts and is a
dead-pull hitter. He'll need to refine his approach in order to
maximize his talent, and could be drafted in the top three rounds.|
|12. Tony Thomas, 2b (National rank: 114)|
School: Florida State. Class: Jr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 180. Birthdate: 7/10/86.
Few players experienced such a drastic turnaround in such a short span
as Thomas. He batted .240 and struck out 75 times in 2005, the
second-most strikeouts in Division I, and piled up 66 more as a
sophomore. This year, Thomas led the nation in hits (97) and doubles
(28), ranked second in on-base percentage (.542) and third in average
(.449). He had as many walks as strikeouts (36), and had gone from a
non-prospect to a potential top 100 talent. He opened his stance, which
has allowed him to see pitches a split-second earlier and says that has
been the key to his improvement. His swing plane is flat and his
up-the-middle approach isn't conducive for power, but he has bat speed
and good barrel awareness. Thomas is a below-average defender with a
below-average arm, though he's an average runner. Given his improvement
at the plate, it's conceivable he plays his way into an adequate second
baseman, which would enhance his value.|
|13. Denny Almonte, of (National rank: 141)|
School: Florida Christian HS, Miami. Class: Sr.
B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 173. Birthdate: 9/24/88.
Not to be confused with the infamous Danny, this switch-hitting
Dominican transferred to Florida Christian prior to his senior season.
A toolsy, premium athlete, Almonte made an early push this spring,
flashing plus speed, power and center-field skills to grab lots of
attention. But each time his name comes up, "boom or bust," "Jekyll and
Hyde" and "risk and reward" seem to precede the conversation. At his
best, Almonte flies around the outfield with a quick first step and
good body control. Balls jump off his bat and he drives them out of the
park, evoking Devon White comparisons. He's a 6.8 runner in the 60-yard
dash, and while that tool always shows, there have been games when none
of the others do. He has strong wrists and forearms, but a rigid swing
littered with holes. His swing plane tends to be up the zone rather
than through it from the left side, and he swings and misses often.
Because of some good performances in front of the right audiences,
Almonte could be drafted as high as the supplemental round. Teams less
optimistic about his projection would consider taking him in the fifth.|
|14. Jonathan Holt, rhp (National rank: 148)|
School: Tampa. Class:
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Birthdate: 3/10/86.
Tampa's closer, Holt may have quietly pitched his way into the top
three rounds of the draft. His fastball command is among the best in
the draft. He had not carved out a defined role with Tampa before this
season, but he compiled a 60-4 strikeout-walk ratio and was dependable
out of the bullpen all season. He tops out at 91 mph and pitches at 88,
but his fastball has heavy sink and armside run. He alters his arm
slot, working from a three-quarters release point down to almost
sidearm, but he pounds the outer half of the plate no matter which
angle he throws from. His changeup and slider are fringy pitches,
though his changeup has enough deception to serve as a usable offering
against lefthanded hitters.|
|15. Tommy Toledo, rhp (National rank: 151)|
School: Alonso HS, Tampa. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 165. Birthdate: 12/13/88.
Toledo was long regarded as a high school righthander who was a growth
spurt away from becoming a top prospect, but he enters the draft at
6-foot-3, 165 pounds and more of a third- to fifth-round type. At his
best, Toledo pitches between 90-93 mph with a fastball that shows good
sink and late life. He has drawn comparisons to former Miami
first-rounder Cesar Carillo for his ability to spot his fastball to
both sides of the plate, as well as his rail-thin frame, which doesn't
lend considerable room for growth, making it difficult to project
significant improvement. His slider and changeup are fringe-average
offerings that he shows some feel for. His slingy arm action is tough
to repeat and he tends to drop his elbow, making his slider flatten
out. He's committed to Florida, but there could be a team willing to
pay him slot money in the third or fourth round. If he falls past the
fifth, he'll probably elect to go to school.|
|16. Daniel Elorriaga-Matra, c (National rank: 179)|
School: Douglas HS, Parkland, Fla. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Birthdate: 12/28/88.
Elorriaga-Matra entered his senior season ranked just a notch below
Yasmani Grandal and Danny Rams among Florida's prep catching prospects.
He's athletic and limber, shows plus arm strength from behind the plate
and occasionally drives the ball well from the right side of the plate.
While he has all the tools to become a plus defender, his receiving
technique needs work and his low arm slot becomes a problem when his
throws tail badly to the first-base side of second base. At the plate,
he's spread out in his set-up and has a two-piece swing that's
mechanical and makes it tough to make consistent hard contact. He shows
solid-average power when he squares up balls. Based primarily on his
defensive upside, Elorriaga-Matra should be drafted in the top five
This marks the final year for the draft-and-follow process after
changes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, making this the
last time players will attend a junior college with the comfort of
knowing a professional franchise has a vested
interest in them. There are a wide range of theories on how the rule
change will affect juco programs, but it's safe to assume the Angels,
Braves and Brewers will be three teams that continue to scout junior
Florida area scouts got a good taste of what covering the jucos
ranks might be like--in terms of watching a promising pitcher who was
not under control--by following Miami Dade Community College righthander Timothy Sexton
Because of an unorthodox delivery and long, thin frame, Sexton draws
comparisons to Bronson Arroyo. He transferred from George Washington
after one season, opened plenty of eyes this season and could be
drafted as high as the third round. His delivery is best described as
an exaggerated drop and drive, in which his right knee is almost
completely on the ground before he vaults himself over his front side.
His fastball ranges from 87-91 mph and he can pitch at 88 deep into
games. His fastball has average life with fair downward plane, despite his
delivery. Sexton has feel for his secondary stuff as well, especially
his changeup, which shows occasional plus movement. His slider has
better break that his curve. It's unconventional but effective, as
Sexton is able to show average command and plenty of deception. He has
committed to Coastal Carolina.
Finding players as good as Sexton who were not under control wasn't
easy this year in the Sunshine State. Two of the state's top junior
college position players have already signed with the teams that drafted them
last year. The Cubs signed Jovan Rossa,
even though the sophomore from Lake City Community College didn't perform
as well as he did as a freshman. He has all the makings of a
power-hitting third baseman or right fielder, with plus bat speed and a
knack for driving balls deep to all parts of the park. His feel for
hitting is well-below-average, and he'll be somewhat of a player-development project. He has to learn which pitches to take and which
ones he should unleash his quick swing on. He's played shortstop at
Lake City but is a below-average runner who has plenty of arm strength
for a corner.
Matt Latos' teammate, outfielder Sergio Morales
, earned conference player of the year
honors and has tremendous tools. The White Sox signed him for
approximately $180,000, and he reported to extended spring training
where he should fit right in with other professional players. He has a
quick first step, solid-average bat speed and is a 65 runner on the
Outside of Rossa and Morales, Florida's juco talent was thin
in position players. Pensacola Community College center fielder
has plus speed and a chance to remain in center field.
He has above-average bat speed, but needs to tone down swing. His
throwback approach, with no batting gloves or set stance, endears him
to scouts who recognize his raw ability and appreciate his no-frills
attitude. He was a standout running back in high school in
Arkansas before enrolling at Pensacola. The Cardinals could still
sign him before the draft.
Outfielder Scott Robinson
had interest in attending Duke after he played on the
same high school team as Georgia prep standout Jason Heyward in 2006.
The Blue Devils didn't offer him a substantial scholarship, so instead
the articulate, grounded Robinson--a 4.0 student in high school--went
to Okaloosa-Walton Junior College. He cashed in a strong season for
$105,000 when he signed with the Rockies. He's a
plus runner with plus raw power who might have to move to a corner
outfield spot eventually.
Robinson's teammate, lefthander Austin Garrett
, pitched his way into contention
for a spot in the top eight to 10 rounds. Garrett played football and
baseball growing up in Tennessee, and is the younger brother of M.J.
Garrett, who played football at Vanderbilt but gained national fame
when he appeared on an MTV reality show. Austin was named Panhandle
Conference pitcher of the year after going 9-2, 1.70 with 104
strikeouts in 102 innings. He has committed to College of Charleston,
but because of his advanced feel for pitching he might draw enough
interest to sign as a draft choice this year.
His fastball sits at 86-90 mph, though at times it lacks life, and his
breaking ball is below-average. His changeup could become an average
pitch down the line.
Palm Beach Community College righthanders Brad Peacock
and Steve Vento
under control and showed enough improvement to warrant interest from
the Nationals and Twins, respectively. Peacock, who was taken in the
41st round out of a high school in Palm Beach, where he played
mostly shortstop, is more polished and has better present stuff
than Vento, a 48th-rounder by the Twins last year. Vento's strengths
are Peacock's weaknesses. Vento is big and strong, with a fastball that
has been up to 93 mph, while Peacock needs to gain weight and can't
overpower hitters with his 87-91 mph fastball. Vento moved to the
back of the bullpen after struggling as a starter, and his stuff played
up in a relief role. While Peacock was considered a lock to sign with
Washington, for as much as fifth-round money, Vento--the brother-in-law
of Angels outfielder Tommy Murphy--has committed to Florida Atlantic
and could wind up there. Peacock has usable secondary offerings in his
curveball and changeup, and his fastball shows plus life at times, as
does his changeup.
Two junior college righthanders under control to the Brewers who have
shown some arm strength are Aaron Tullo
and Robert Bryson
. Tullo, a
17th-rounder last year, was still trying to recover the form he showed
in high school before Tommy John surgery derailed his progress. He's
been up to 94 mph this spring, and his delivery is clean and easy.
Bryson, a 31st-rounder out of a Delaware high school, has
touched 96, though his secondary stuff and command are inconsistent.
And it wouldn’t be a draft in Florida without at least one juco success story for longtime Angels scout/minor league
manager Tom Kotchman. Kotchman has been mining the state's juco ranks
for more than a decade, and his name is on the "signed by" line for
multiple major leaguers, including Howie Kendrick. Kotchman pleaded
for Kendrick in the 10th round of the 2002 draft out of St. John's River
Community College, and got him. Don't expect righthander Luke Green
to zip to the
big leagues in three years as Kendrick did, but he flashed an
88-93 mph fastball and his delivery has improved since he had Tommy
John surgery in February 2006. It was a few months before that when
Kotchman stopped by the baseball field on his way to watch his
daughter Krystal play softball at Chipola Junior College. Green was
throwing a bullpen, and showed enough to convince Kotchman he was worth
drafting in the 44th round despite not pitching last year. A former Mr.
Basketball in West Virginia and a 36th-round pick by the Braves out of
high school in 2005, Green is athletic and projectable, and he helped
Chipola earn a berth to the Juco World Series in Grand Junction,
The Angels didn't have to wait as long to sign righthander Michael Davitt
, but he
hasn't put it all together the way scouts expected when he was
coming out of an Alabama high school two years ago. Davitt was
roommates with Robinson at Okaloosa-Walton, and he signed shortly after
Robinson. He has a good arm and a sturdy frame, but he doesn't have
power stuff and he doesn't throw enough strikes to get by on spotting
his pitches.Poor College Performances
It was in junior college that righthander Enrique Garcia's
was at its highest. He has been drafted twice, first by the White Sox in
the 17th round in 2005 after his freshman season at Potomac State
(W.Va.) Junior College, and again last year by the Diamondbacks. He
opted to attend Miami, where his lack of feel for pitching
has been exploited. He looks the part--with a strong, durable, 6-foot-3
frame--but other than arm strength, Garcia doesn't offer much.
His fastball has been up to 92 mph, and he's pitched at 87-90. His
secondary stuff is below-average.
Righthander Danny Gil
and lefthander Manny Miguelez
won't garner any more action than Garcia,
but all three should be drafted in the top 15 rounds. Gil has some
ability to move the ball around the zone and alternate his arm slot,
which creates good deception. His fastball sits near 86-87 mph, and he'll mix
in a splitter and a fringe-average breaking ball.
Still, lefthander Scott Maine
will be the highest-drafted Hurricane. A fourth-year junior
who has never fulfilled his potential, Maine could carve out a niche in pro ball because of his low arm slot and deceiving delivery.
His fastball ranges from 87-92 mph, and he has a slurvy breaking ball as
well as some feel for a changeup. Since being named a third-team BA High
School All-American in 2003, Maine had Tommy John surgery and was
in a serious car accident. He wore a protective mask most of his
sophomore season and pitched fewer than 10 innings before
settling into a regular role as a starter last spring. The Rockies
drafted him last year in the 23rd round, but Maine elected to return to
Injuries and just plain poor performance took a toll on some of the
arms in Florida that had potential to be taken in the top five rounds
at the outset of the season. South Florida righty Dan Thomas
pitched well early this season, including seven one-hit innings with
eight punchouts against Manhattan with more than a dozen scouts in
attendance to see him and Manhattan first baseman Matt Rizzotti.
He went down with a shoulder injury shortly thereafter, and the injury
was diagnosed as fraying in his right labrum. He had surgery in May.
Command has never been his forte, but Thomas showed feel for three
pitches when he was healthy.
Florida Atlantic righthander Mickey Storey
was five starts into his junior season when he went down with an elbow
injury that cost him the rest of the campaign. He pounds the zone with
solid-average stuff and an aggressive mentality, but he has a max-effort
delivery, which might have precipitated his injury. His teammate, lefthander Chris Salberg
, is a 23-year-old, fifth-year senior who's under control to the Orioles. He originally attended Northern Illinois and planned to walk on there, but a coaching change led him to drop athletics altogether. He ended up at Rock Valley (Ill.) Junior College, where he played both baseball and golf, before transferring to Florida Atlantic. He led the Sun Belt Conference with 116 strikeouts this spring with an average fastball at 87-88 mph and improving changeup. But a nasty curveball is his best pitch. A starter in college, he's probably destined for the bullpen in pro ball.
Righthander Bryan Augenstein
regular turn in the Gators rotation each weekend and led the team in
innings (103) and strikeouts (97), but didn't miss many bats and
was generally underwhelming. The regular season came to an
unceremonious end when Augenstein was roughed up for 14 hits and 11
runs (10 earned) against South Carolina. He's big and strong, but
Augenstein's stuff lacks life and his secondary stuff is
fringe-average. A third-team Preseason All-American, if he can
rediscover the life on his high-80s fastball and improve his breaking
ball, he could have value as a middle reliever.
"There are a lot of guys like that, who you liked last summer and fall
but haven't performed that well this spring," an area scout said.
"There just hasn't been a lot to get excited about with colleges down
While scouts were split on the evaluation of outfielder James McOwen
enough teams believe he will make enough contact to
become at least an extra major league outfielder that he could be
drafted as high as the fourth or fifth round. He has an unorthodox
approach and set-up that is comparable to former Miami center fielder
Jon Jay. McOwen, like Jay, is patient at the plate and gets the bat
head to the ball with some authority, showing solid-average raw power.
He uses the entire field effectively. He's an average runner from home
to first but has turned in 6.6-second 60-yard-dash times in the past,
and is better under way. He has an average arm and will have to stay in center field to have much long-term value. He's
lauded for this hard-nosed approach to the game. He reinjured his
shoulder late in the season, though the severity of the injury was
Shortstop Walter Diaz
Miami to South Florida and posted an impressive .448 on-base percentage--and a less impressive .421 slugging percentage. He has average bat
speed, but the ball doesn't jump off his bat as it did when he was in
high school and showed potential to be an offensive threat as a
middle infielder. He's more of a spray-and-run hitter at present,
and he's just a solid-average runner with passable defensive skills at
Florida's lackluster crop of proven pitchers could help righthander Tim Bascom's
shot of being drafted in the top 10 rounds. Drafted last year in the
sixth round by the Padres after his junior season at Central Florida,
Bascom never officially signed, due to an injury, and sought
to return to school as a senior. However, Central Florida declared him
ineligible due to contact with an agent. Bascom has recovered from surgery to repair a torn ACL and meniscus
damage in his right knee and joined an independent league team in
Bradenton three weeks before the draft.
A scout who attended one of Bascom's bullpen sessions this spring said his stuff was similar to what it was last spring before he injured
his knee, but wasn't overwhelming. His fastball sat at 87-90 mph with
some sink, he has a two-seamer at 87-89 and three fringe-average
offspeed pitches in a slider, changeup and curveball.
The crop of college arms was so thin that a converted catcher from Tampa, Robert Leffler
also created interest and could be drafted as high as the eighth
round. In his first year as a pitcher, Leffler has shown enough arm
strength to bump 94 mph, and he's learning how to command an 85-87 mph
slurve. His velocity and control are inconsistent, but his arm works
well and his delivery is clean and on line. Teammate Johnny Williams
has been slowed by tendinitis, but showed an 88-92 mph fastball and solid-average slider before his arm trouble arose.Prep Disappointment
While Dan Thomas' injury was a significant loss to the state's thin crop of college pitchers, John Gast's
loss was a much greater blow to Florida's talent in the high school ranks.
lefty had developed a reputation as a strike-throwing machine, with
solid to plus stuff that he showed pretty much every time out. He
had pitched his way into the top two rounds of the draft before he blew
out his elbow in April. He had Tommy John surgery May 1. His out pitch
is a nasty curveball that he could spot anywhere he wanted, and he had
a tendency to rely on it frequently. Gast was 5-1, 0.58
with 66 strikeouts in 34 innings this season. He has committed to
Florida State but could be drafted in the later rounds if he shows interest in signing, albeit for less money than he would have
received before the injury.Sean Koecheler's
improvement and Bo Greenwell's
emergence helped soften the loss of Gast. Koecheler offers little more
than arm strength at this point, but a 6-foot-4 high school righthander
flashing 94 mph velocity will get play in the fourth to
sixth round, and possibly earlier if a club believes he can
improve his breaking ball and create more movement on his fastball. His
iron-mike arm action prevents him from getting much life on his
fastball and offers no deception, but he has improved the tempo in his
delivery. Occasionally he has flashed usable breaking balls.
Greenwell is the son of former major leaguer Mike, but his best sport
has been football throughout his high school career, and he opted to
skip the showcase circuit. He quietly played his way into
consideration as a first-day draft choice thanks to his solid-average
tool set that plays up because of great instincts and a passion for the
game that endears him to scouts. He's been compared with Mark Kotsay and
has a chance to remain in center field, with 60 speed on the 20-to-80
scale. He had surgery on his left knee as an underclassman. He has committed to Miami on a baseball scholarship.
Fellow Gulf Coast prep outfielder Jeff Schaus
entered his senior season with much more notoriety and
was named most valuable hitter of a World Wood Bat tournament in
Jupiter last fall while playing alongside a handful of
potential first-rounders on the tournament's championship squad. It's
tough to figure out Schaus' profile because he's at his best when
he's slapping line drive to the opposite field and up the middle, but
he doesn't have the speed or range to play center field. At times this
spring he got out of his game and tried to pull the ball for more
power, which elicited a towering shot over the right-field fence at
expansive Terry Park in his last district game of the season, but also
led to less consistent contact. He does a nice job of keeping his hands
inside the ball and he could go to Clemson and develop into an outstanding all-around hitter by the time he's a junior.
Outfielder Chris Turner
potential, but like Schaus was considered a lock to go to college as
soon as he committed to Vanderbilt. He's a 70 runner on the 20-to-80
scale and began to hit the top half of the ball and refine his barrel
awareness this season. In the past he had a loopier swing that
led to too many fly balls. His defense is ahead of his offense, but
even in center field he has considerable room for improvement. Fellow Vandy signee Joey Manning
has more offensive upside and runs well, but has lots of holes in his swing and is considered more of a raw athlete.
If outfielder Evan Chambers
is signable in
the sixth- to eighth-round range, his raw power could warrant a
selection. He's built like Kirby Puckett and has no projection, but
turned around a Michael Main fastball for a long home run last summer
at USA Baseball's Tournament of Stars in Joplin, Mo., that showed some
indication of his juice. He hasn't shown that power consistently this
spring, in part because he has a tendency to flinch at the plate and
has a somewhat grooved swing.Anthony Rizzo
also has plus raw
power, but lacks fluidity in his swing and is relegated to first base
as a professional. He performed well enough on big stages with a wood
bat to be a factor in the fifth round, while some other teams have
expressed no interest in drafting him.Hunter Ovens
began showing his stuff at showcases as young as 15, and because of his mature
body and five-tool potential was pegged as a possible premium outfield
prospect back in 2005. He's committed to Virginia Tech, where he could
see playing time as a linebacker for the Hokies' football team as soon
as his freshman season, and football is his stronger sport. Ovens
began to translate his raw tools into better performance this spring
and was considered signable for as little as $250,000. He has plus bat
speed, plus raw power and a well-above-average arm. He oozes
athleticism, but his swing is stiff and he doesn't have much feel for
hitting or strike-zone awareness. The team that believes it can shape
his raw tools might take a shot at him.
Third baseman Glen Johnson
is the opposite of Ovens. The son of former major leaguer Howard Johnson has fringy
tools across the board, but strong instincts and a gamer attitude that he
comes by honestly. Another son of a major leaguer, lefthander Craig Gullickson
is one more Florida high school product who's best suited for college at
this stage of his career. Bill Gullickson's son has a soft body and a
solid-average fastball with some feel for his secondary pitches. He
pitched well in front of a bevy of scouts as a junior when he matched
up against '06 first-rounder Colton Willems, but his stuff has not
progressed significantly since.
Righthander Ryan Acosta's
father Oscar, who
was a Yankees minor league manager, was killed with another
Yankees official in a car accident in the Dominican Republic last year.
Ryan was lauded for remaining with his high
school team after the accident, and could draw interest from teams that like his potential as a pitcher. He played mostly at
shortstop as an underclassman and is a good athlete with plus arm
strength. His secondary pitches and command are unrefined.Nathan Striz
is more polished
but his best asset is also his right arm. He improved his
body and has slimmed down this spring, and though his delivery isn't
without effort, he can pound the strike zone with a plus fastball,
average changeup and a slider that has hard three-quarter tilt at
times. He consistently runs his fastball up to 92 mph and the pitch has heavy life when it's down in the zone.
Like Ovens, Mike McGee
late push into contention for a spot in the first five rounds of the
draft. He's lean and athletic, and plays a sound shortstop when he's
not pitching. On the mound, McGee sits between 88-92 mph with his
fastball and has plus command. His curveball shows plus movement and
his changeup grades as a future 55 on the 20-to-80 scale.Chris Jones
, Mark Peterson
and D.J. Swatscheno
are three prep lefthanders who saw their draft stock slip because of
injuries. Swatscheno missed more than two months with a 10 percent tear
of a ligament in his elbow. He has a funky delivery and a feel for
three pitches with average velocity, and could develop into a weekend
starter at Miami if he honors his commitment, as expected. Peterson has
plenty of projection, but mechanical flaws hindered his command and
consistency of his three-pitch repertoire.
Jones broke a knuckle on his pitching hand early in the season, but had
returned to the mound. His fastball sits near 87 mph, and he has a
loose arm and creates good life on his changeup with a
three-quarters arm slot.Caleb Gindel
benefited from the
heavy scouting attention Pace High received in the Panhandle because of
teammate Drew Cumberland. Gindel doesn't offer much projection, but his
best tool is arm strength and he can command two pitches from the left
side. He also hits, and has shown raw power and a penchant for
making hard contact. His swing has holes, however, and there were
a couple of teams that might take a chance on his 88-90 mph fastball
and impressive feel for pitching in the seventh to ninth round.
And it wouldn't seem right to have a draft come and go without a member
of Tom Duffin's Monsignor Pace program being called. Last year Chris
Marrero and Adrian Cardenas were taken in the first 40 picks, and this
year Chris Hernandez
as early as the fourth round, based primarily on his pitchability. He
leans on his secondary pitches and doesn't pitch off his
fastball, which sits in the 85-88 mph range. He throws a cutter and a
slider that tend to blend into each other at 79-83 mph. His cutter has
been up to 86 and he likes to run it under the hands of righthanded