State Report: Florida
|THIS YEAR'S CROP
||One for the books
||Solid, not spectacular
||Not up to par
||Nothing to see here
Florida has produced four No. 1 overall picks in draft history, all of them from 1990-98. Two, Chipper Jones ('90) and Alex Rodriguez ('93), were high school products, while Paul Wilson (Florida State, '94) and Pat Burrell (Miami, '98) were products of the state's premier college baseball programs. Florida also regularly produces top-flight draft picks, though the Gators really haven't kept pace with the Hurricanes and Seminoles. Matt LaPorta (Brewers, 2007) was Florida's first first-round pick since 1993, while Florida State had seven in that span and Miami six, including three last season.
That could be changing. The Gators will make a bigger impact in this year's draft than either of their rivals. Florida has a potential first-rounder in righthander Billy Bullock, and some clubs still like outfielder Matt den Dekker in the first three rounds thanks to his speed and athleticism. The Gators also have a recruiting class for the ages, and coach Kevin O'Sullivan will have to do some juggling if even half the members of this class show up for school. The class includes eight of the state's top prospects (all of whom rank in Baseball America's predraft Top 200), including corner infielder Bobby Borchering, the consensus top prospect in the state. Any who wind up on campus could become premium draft picks after playing for O'Sullivan, who already had piloted Florida to a super regional berth in his second season.
Scouts continue to be impressed with the depth of the state's class, especially in terms of hitters. The lack of impact college hitters and an underwhelming finish by most of the state's top prep pitchers tempered some of the initial enthusiasm for the state's draft class, though.
|NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS
1. Bobby Borchering, 3b, Bishop Verot HS, Fort Myers (National Rank: 16)
2. LeVon Washington, of, Gainesville HS (National Rank: 29)
3. Mychal Givens, ss/rhp, Plant HS, Tampa (National Rank: 46)
4. Keyvius Sampson, rhp, Forest HS, Ocala (National Rank: 47)
5. Nick Franklin, ss, Lake Brantley HS, Altamonte Springs (National Rank: 48)
6. Billy Bullock, rhp, Florida (National Rank: 66)
7. Dane Williams, rhp, Archbishop McCarthy HS, Southwest Ranches, Fla. (National Rank: 68)
8. Steven Baron, c, Ferguson HS, Miami (National Rank: 75)
9. Ryan Jackson, ss, Miami
10. Austin Maddox, c, Eagle's View Academy, Jacksonville (National Rank: 81)
11. Matt den Dekker, of, Florida (National Rank: 94)
12. J.R. Murphy, c, Pendleton School, Bradenton (National Rank: 95)
13. Robbie Shields, ss, Florida Southern (National Rank: 111)
14. David Holmberg, lhp, Port Charlotte HS (National Rank: 114)
15. Reggie Williams Jr., of, Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate HS, Tampa (National Rank: 119)
16. Jabari Blash, of, Miami Dade JC (National Rank: 121)
17. Stephen Perez, ss, Gulliver Prep, Miami (National Rank: 122)
18. Deven Marrero, ss, American Heritage HS, Plantation (National Rank: 123)
19. Michael Heller, rhp/ss, Cardinal Mooney HS, Sarasota (National Rank: 129)
20. Mycal Jones, ss, Miami Dade JC (National Rank: 143)
21. Scooter Gennett, ss/2b, Sarasota HS (National Rank: 154)
22. Kyle Bellamy, rhp, Miami (National Rank: 162)
23. Michael Zunino, c, Mariner HS, Cape Coral (National Rank: 163)
24. Patrick Schuster, lhp, Mitchell HS, New Port Richey (National Rank: 164)
25. Michael Ohlman, c, Lakewood Ranch HS, Bradenton (National Rank: 165)
26. Evan Chambers, of, Hillsborough CC (National Rank: 181)
27. Brian Johnson, lhp, Cocoa Beach HS (National Rank: 198)
28. Patrick Corbin, lhp, Chipola JC
29. Tyler Townsend, of/1b, Florida International
30. Michael Rayl, lhp, Palm Beach CC
31. Reynaldo Cotilla, rhp, Miami Dade JC
32. Daniel Webb, rhp, Northwest Florida State JC
33. Avery Barnes, of, Florida
34. Scott Lawson, 2b, Miami
35. Jayce Boyd, of, Tate HS, Pensacola
35. Jason Hagerty, 1b/c, Miami
36. Carson Andrew, rhp, Jacksonville
37. Robbie Donovan, rhp, Stetson
38. Hiram Burgos, rhp, Bethune-Cookman
39. D'Vontrey Richardson, of, Florida State
40. David Buchanan, rhp, Chipola JC
41. Stephen Cardullo, ss, Florida State
42. Chris Herrmann, of/1b, Miami
43. Garrett Bush, rhp/c, Stanton Prep, Jacksonville
44. Mark Bourgeois, of, Chipola JC
45. Ronnie Richardson, if/of, Lake Region HS, Eagle Lake
46. David Richardson, of/rhp, Hillsborough HS, Tampa
47. J.D. Martinez, of, Nova Southeastern
48. Jeremy Gillian, c/3b, Jacksonville
49. Andrew Morris, rhp, Gulf Coast CC
50. Yan Gomes, 3b/c, Barry
51. Miles Mikolas, rhp, Nova Southeastern
52. Riley Cooper, of, Florida
53. Blaze Tart, rhp, Pendleton Academy, Bradenton
54. Kelvin Clark, of, Manatee JC
55. Chris Palaez, of, Florida International
56. Michael Heckroth, rhp, Lincoln HS, Tallahassee
57. Mike Mooney, ss/2b, Florida
58. C.J. Lauriello, of, Bethune-Cookman
59. Logan Dodds, lhp, Miami Dade JC
60. Stephen Locke, lhp, Florida
61. Brandon McArthur, 1b/3b, Florida
62. Jason Stidham, 3b, Florida State
63. Alex Koronis, rhp, Tampa
64. Keon Broxton, of, Santa Fe CC
65. Alex Pepe, lhp, Florida Atlantic
66. Felix Roque, rhp, Florida Christian HS, Maimi
67. Joe Lovecchio, rhp, Seabreeze HS, Daytona Beach
68. Joey Rapp, of, Chipola JC
69. Cameron Greathouse, lhp, Gulf Coast JC
70. Danny Keefe, rhp, Tampa
71. Jonathan Rodriguez, 3b/c, Manatee JC
72. Jonathan Griffin, 1b, Manatee JC
73. Casey Frawley, 2b/ss, Stetson
74. Eric Thomas, rhp, Bethune-Cookman
75. Danny Lima, 2b, Barry
76. Eric Whaley, rhp, Cardinal Gibbons HS, Pompano Beach
77. Shane Brown, 2b/3b, Central Florida
78. Jacob Johnson, rhp, Trinity Christian HS, Lake Worth
79. Teddy Foster, c, Florida
80. Austin Hudson, rhp, Central Florida
BOBBY BORCHERING, 3B, BISHOP VEROT HS, FORT MYERS
As loaded as Florida's high school ranks are in 2009—and several scouts have called it a historically deep year—Borchering established himself early as the state's best bet for a first-round selection, and he hasn't let up. He has excellent size at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, and projects as a power-hitting corner infielder. While projecting high school hitters is one of the toughest jobs in scouting, evaluators regard Borchering as one of the safer prep bats in the draft. He has good hands, present strength and excellent bat speed, giving him the ability to hit both for average and for power. He went on a power binge this spring, lifting Bishop Verot from a poor start with seven home runs in a nine-game span. Borchering's bat already was going to get him drafted high, and his improved defense has moved him into first-round consideration. At times last summer he appeared destined to move to first base, and some scouts still see that as his best fit. He has improved his agility and first-step quickness this season, however, and has retained athleticism while filling out physically. He'll never be a graceful or above-average defender, but he has arm strength and soft-enough hands to play third at an average level if he keeps working at it. Borchering's Florida commitment isn't expected to dissuade him from signing in the first 50 picks.
LeVON WASHINGTON, OF, GAINESVILLE HS
Washington attends the same high school that Marlins lefthander Andrew Miller did, but he's about as different a player as he can be. Washington's arm strength might be at the other end of the scale from Miller's, as he's recovering from rotator cuff surgery, and some scouts say his arm is below the 20 at the bottom of the 20-80 scouting scale. His arm and offensive package have drawn comparisons to Johnny Damon, another central Florida prep product. Like Damon, Washington can hit, and he was moving up draft boards thanks to his blazing speed and consistent spring. A 6.2-second runner over 60 yards at showcases, Washington has played mostly infield but doesn't have the arm for it, and most scouts see him as an outfielder thanks to his easy speed. Washington has bat speed at the plate, giving him solid pop, though not true power, and he has shown signs of developing a good pro approach. Washington, who spent three years in Guam when his father was assigned there while in the military, could move as high as the supplemental first round despite his arm.
MYCHAL GIVENS, SS/RHP, PLANT HS, TAMPA
Givens started making noise as a prospect after his freshman season in high school, and he hasn't stopped. A veteran of the Aflac and Under Armour games from last summer, Givens has been evaluated at a national level repeatedly. Over time, he has evolved as a prospect, going from hitter to pitcher and back again. He has a strong, athletic body and physical frame, with elite tools including one of the best arms in the draft. He's reached 97 mph off the mound in short bursts and still shows above-average velocity from a low arm slot, pitching Plant High deep into the state playoffs. While some scouts do like him better on the mound, most see him as a reliever and see more value as a position player. He has strength and good hands that should allow him to hit for power down the line, though his swing will need tweaking. Defensively, Givens isn't smooth at short but has first-step quickness and plenty of arm. His Oklahoma State commitment isn't considered a significant impediment to him signing in the first three rounds.
KEYVIUS SAMPSON, RHP, FOREST HS, OCALA
Florida State's top recruit, Sampson would bring the Seminoles a dynamic arm the program has lacked in recent years, if he gets to school. That's not likely, as his lithe, athletic frame and power arm have attracted scouts' interest for the last two years. Sampson has overcome off-field problems (see story, Page 22) including the death of his mother, to become one of the top arms in the state of Florida, which will be the top producer of talent in this year's draft after California. He reminds some scouts of Edwin Jackson as an African-American pitcher with athleticism and a quick arm that produces above-average velocity. He's touched 95-96 as the season has gone on, showing stronger stuff to go with a power breaking ball. He's shown feel for a changeup as well and has good present control and projects to have average future command thanks to his athleticism. He tends to vary his arm slot more than he should depending on the pitch and needs to become more consistent to make projections of average command come through. Clubs that believe in the arm and athleticism won't let him get through the first two rounds. Sampson didn't show quite as electric stuff at the Florida high-school all-star game in Sebring, which might have given his draft stock a hit.
NICK FRANKLIN, SS, LAKE BRANTLEY HS, ALTAMONTE SPRINGS
An Auburn recruit, Franklin is the latest in a line of Lake Brantley High baseball stars that has included Jason Varitek, Felipe Lopez and brothers Rickie and Jemile Weeks. Franklin, who helped lead last year's team to a state 6-A title, has surpassed them all in terms of performance, hitting 10 homers this spring to lead Lake Brantley back to the state playoffs. A switch-hitter, Franklin has shown bat speed to catch up to good fastballs and uses the whole field. Scouts don't expect him to hit for even average power with wood, but he should have enough strength in his wiry frame to keep pitchers honest. Scouts have made comparisons to players such as Aaron Hill or Lopez offensively, though he has less power. He's an above-average runner with fast-twitch athleticism and the ability to stay at shortstop as a pro, which makes him likely to go out in the first two rounds. Franklin has infield actions, solid footwork that needs polish and more than enough arm strength for shortstop, as it grades above-average. Franklin's makeup resembles Hill's more than Lopez's, which is a strong positive. Franklin also was one of the top performers in front of nearly 100 scouts at the Florida high school all-star game and could be a late riser, working into the back half of the first round.
BILLY BULLOCK, RHP, FLORIDA
A 20th-round pick out of high school, Bullock has been a similar pitcher in college to what he was as a prep. For most of his career, he didn't maximize the leverage his 6-foot-6 frame provides, and his velocity was inconsistent, whether he was starting (as he did once this spring, at Arkansas) or in a relief role. However, Bullock has taken off in a relief role and become the top draft-eligible bullpen arm in the Southeastern Conference. Bullock was at his best when Florida swept Georgia in Athens, hitting 97 mph several times with his fastball. He also held his velocity in pitching in all three games of that series. While scouts have considered him a tease due to his inconsistency, Bullock has pitched more consistently as a closer. His breaking ball has evolved from a curveball to a slider, and at times it reaches 83 mph with tilt. Bullock still tends to leave his fastball up at times, leading to five home runs allowed in 40 innings, and could pitch downhill more frequently with refinements to his delivery. Despite lashing ability for a changeup in the past, Bullock seems to have taken to the closer role, emphasizing power over touch.
DANE WILLIAMS, RHP, ARCHBISHOP McCARTHY HS, SOUTHWEST RANCHES
Williams has shown electric stuff to rival any prep pitcher in the country—in short bursts. He also has shown that he is recovered from a torn left ACL that he injured last fall, and his North Carolina State commitment didn't look like it would keep him from being perhaps the first Florida prep pitcher drafted. Williams had an electric debut in his first outing coming back from his knee injury in March, sitting in the 94-96 mph range for one inning, then flashing a power slider up to 83 mph to go with it. He's got a pro body at 6-foot-6 and has improved the life and velocity on his stuff since dropping his arm slot from straight over the top to a high three-quarters delivery. Williams settled into the low 90s when he started, losing velocity on his slider as well, but showed a little armside sink on the fastball at lower speeds. His biggest question marks revolve around his command of the fastball and ability to develop a changeup, which he hasn't needed as a prep. Williams was closing strong, throwing a no-hitter in the 4-A regional finals to help Archbishop McCarthy reach the state final four for the first time.
STEVEN BARON, C, FERGUSON HS, MIAMI
Baron is the centerpiece of Duke's recruiting efforts and has strong academic motivation. He always was considered a defense-first catcher, and that's still the case, but he has made significant progress offensively, pushing him toward the front of a crowded, competitive Florida prep catcher crop. Defensively, Baron stands out, with some scouts rating his arm a 70 on the 20-80 scale. He's an above-average defender with a smooth transfer and good footwork. Baron made strides tightening up his body and getting in better shape from fall to the spring, and scouts noticed. He has holes in his swing and doesn't project to hit for a high average, but a .250-hitting Baron could hit 15 home runs. At worst, Baron's defense should get him to the majors, but to buy him out of Duke, a team will have to believe Baron has enough offensive upside to become a regular.
RYAN JACKSON, SS, MIAMI
Jackson developed into one of the draft's bigger enigmas as the year progressed. As a sophomore, he was a premium defender and .360 hitter toward the bottom of a loaded Miami lineup. He helped the Hurricanes reach the College World Series, then joined USA Baseball's college national team for the summer. Scouts have questioned Jackson's bat since he was in high school; he wasn't drafted as a prep and scouts have seen his bat go backward this spring. Jackson was dropped from high in the Miami order to the bottom before moving back up as the draft approached. He's a below-average runner with below-average raw power, and virtually all his value is in his glove. Despite his lack of speed, Jackson plays shortstop with grace, showing good hands, a strong arm, outstanding instincts and smooth actions. Jackson's glove is good enough to make him a regular if he can hit .250 with wood, but he was barely hitting .250 with metal, making it difficult to peg his draft position.
AUSTIN MADDOX, C, EAGLE'S VIEW ACADEMY, JACKSONVILLE
Having made the varsity as a sixth-grader at his private school, Maddox has been a high-profile player for much of his prep career, helping Eagle's View to a pair of state 1-A championships. He took a star turn with USA Baseball's 18U team, hitting .367 with a team-best six extra-base hits, including one of the team's two home runs. He hasn't held up as well under the scrutiny this spring. He's among the nation's most physical players, strong and built like an ox at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, with two premium tools near the top of the scale. His raw power and arm both rate near 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He's strong and has a leveraged swing that allows him to drive the ball for home run power to all fields. He has reached 96 mph as a pitcher, though he's more of a prospect at the plate. His arm stroke has gotten longer, making him less accurate as a catcher and hampering his pitching. Maddox faces weak competition and hadn't dominated as hoped this spring. More telling, he has not shown enough athleticism, making some scouts wonder how long he'll remain behind the plate. If the Florida recruit is not a catcher, he likely will be limited to first base, where the offensive demands are much more significant. Maddox continued backing up with a less-than-inspired showing in Sebring at the high-school all-star game, and it was harder to find scouts that like him in the first three rounds.
MATT DEN DEKKER, OF, FLORIDA
Den Dekker was recruited as a pitcher and hitter at Florida—in fact, Florida's official website still lists him as a pitcher—and he has a strong throwing arm that helps make him one of college baseball's better defenders in center field. He has easy plus range, tracks balls well and plays hard. A preseason second-team All-American, den Dekker played for USA Baseball's college national team last summer, hitting just .229 with one homer, and his offensive production has faltered this spring as well, making his draft position murky. Scouts still like his swing and struggle to explain his difficult season, as he was hitting .305 and slugging just .435 through 49 games. Den Dekker has solid raw power and the bat speed and strength to drive the ball consistently but still seems to fight his swing, which lacks fluidity. He's a plus runner and excellent basestealer, converting 34 of his last 35 attempts. Teams that believe in the bat could take den Dekker off the board by the sandwich round, but that was looking less likely as his batting average slumped under .300 late in the season.
J.R. MURPHY, C, PENDLETON SCHOOL, BRADENTON
The scouting consensus seemed to be that Murphy had risen to the top of the pile of Florida prep catchers by the end of the season, after an amazing spring playing for the IMG Academy in Bradenton. Murphy hit .627 with 11 home runs in 102 at-bats, rapping 34 extra-base hits overall and striking out just four times. That built off a strong summer and fall performance, as Murphy starred for the Florida Bombers during Connie Mack play and the World Wood Bat tournament in Jupiter, Fla., in October 2008. Murphy's bat attracts most of the attention, as he has a short, sharp righthanded swing that generates good bat speed and plate coverage. Scouts grade his hit tool ahead of his power, though he's expected to produce average power with wood. He's also athletic, having made a shift from outfield (and occasionally third base) to catcher. He's shown he's more than capable of handling catcher, showing plus arm strength, solid receiving ability and a quick transfer. The Miami recruit has intelligence and makeup needed for the position, as well, and had hit his way into supplemental round consideration.
ROBBIE SHIELDS, SS, FLORIDA SOUTHERN
Shields wasn't highly recruited despite a strong senior season in high school, when he hit 18 homers for Pasco High. He wound up at Division II Florida Southern and was having a solid college career, hitting .348 as a sophomore with nine home runs. Still, he was not a well-known commodity before he went to the Cape Cod League. In a short stint with Cotuit, he burst on the scene as a potential first-round pick. Ten games into his stint there, he was hitting .429 with two home runs, but a hurt his right wrist sliding head-first into third base. He wound up staying for five more games before shutting down his summer with what proved to be a hairline fracture and some ligament damage. Shields has had plenty of scrutiny this season as the top talent in the competitive Sunshine State Conference and has had some draftitis, as he had just five homers after hitting 17 in his first two seasons. Shields showed early-round tools with strength in his hands, average speed and middle-infield actions, but he's more likely an offensive second baseman or perhaps a third baseman in the David Bell mode rather than a true shortstop. His modest spring performance likely drops him into the third-round range, but he still has a shot to challenge the second-round record set by Moccasins alumni Lance Niekro (1999) and Brett Tomko (1995).
DAVID HOLMBERG, LHP, PORT CHARLOTTE HS
Florida's recruiting class includes the nation's top two prep lefties in Holmberg, who led the state in strikeouts as a junior, and Patrick Schuster, who threw four no-hitters this spring. Holmberg is teammates with Ricky Knapp, the son of Tigers pitching coach Rick Knapp, and the elder Knapp has helped Holmberg along the way with everything from conditioning drills to advice on the draft process. Thanks to his size and pro approach, Holmberg surpasses Schuster as the better pro prospect thanks. He's all of 6-foot-4 if not a bit taller and has a big frame, easily capable of carrying 225 pounds or so. His fastball has improved over the past year, sitting at 87-88 mph and at times hitting 90. His secondary stuff is his current calling card, and depending on the day he showed both a plus changeup and a curveball with 12-to-6 break and depth. Some scouts even like his slider better than his curveball, but the key is he throws all four for strikes. Holmberg was considered a difficult sign thanks to his Florida commitment, strong academic background and lack of present fastball velocity. However, he has the talent to go in the first five rounds to a team that believes his fastball will become an average-to-plus pitch.
REGGIE WILLIAMS JR., OF, BROOKS-DEBARTOLO COLLEGIATE HS, TAMPA
Williams' father Reggie spent parts of four seasons in the major leagues with the Angels and Dodgers and played pro ball until 2001. The younger Williams has been a baseball enigma in some ways, as he didn't play high school baseball as a sophomore and junior. Instead, he focused on playing for his father's travel team, the Tampa-based Dawg Pound. This spring, he and his brother Jadamion (J.D.), a top 2010 prospect, suited up for Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate HS, a first-year charter school program in North Tampa founded by NFL linebacker Derrick Brooks and NFL ownership family the DeBartolos, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers. No matter where he played Williams' speed and bloodlines attracted interest, as he committed to Miami. Long and athletic at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, Williams is a switch-hitter with speed, rating as a 70 runner on the 20-80 scale for most scouts. He's shown some 80 times as well such as running a 6.2-second 60, according to his high school coach, and 3.9-second times to first base. He led the state of Florida with 59 steals this spring in just 20 games while hitting .604. Williams' bat will be the question, as he's drawn some Gary Matthews Jr. comparisons both physically and in terms of his future potential. He hasn't shown much present power despite being an older prep senior (he'll turn 20 in the fall) as he hit only one home run this spring. The Yankees and Blue Jays worked Williams out this spring, and he even got hitting tips from Toronto manager Cito Gaston. Williams didn't show up in Sebring, much to the disappointment of scouts on hand.
JABARI BLASH, OF, MIAMI DADE JC
Blash played some high school baseball in the Virgin Islands, enough to try to use baseball to go to college in the U.S. mainland. He attended Alcorn State for a year but wasn't academically eligible, due to transcript issues. He redshirted that season, then wound up transferring to Miami-Dade JC, where he didn't even earn a starting job when the season started. He's quite raw and has holes in his swing, owing in part to his large 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame. He also has big-time tools, and several observers called him Florida's best five-tool prospect. Blash has plus raw power, with 10 homers in just 102 at-bats this season, and above-average speed (he runs the 60 in 6.7 seconds) and throwing arm (it's a right field arm, if not the cannon reported earlier this spring). Some scouts dream on Blash's frame and see a future Jermaine Dye, who also was a JC player.
STEPHEN PEREZ, SS, GULLIVER PREP, MIAMI
Perez is signed to play for the Miami Hurricanes, where his high school coach, Javy Rodriguez, starred for several seasons, starting for the 2001 national championship team. Perez has a better body than Rodriguez and seems to have picked up some of his coach's savvy. He's more frequently compared to Deven Marrero, his Florida prep contemporary. Perez has more present hitting ability, showing off his surprising pop last summer during the home run derby prior to the Under Armour/Baseball Factor all-star game. Perez also has some juice from both sides of the plate, as he's quick to the ball, balanced in his stance and athletic. Perez has a 60 arm that should be sufficient for shortstop. The only negatives for the 5-foot-10, 165-pounder are his lack of physical projection and big man's hitting approach. At times Perez too much power for his own good, as he fares better when he uses the whole field. He's a fringe-average runner, and while his arm profiles at shortstop, his range fits better at second. Those doubts and his Miami commitment were clouding his signability as May drew to a close.
DEVEN MARRERO, SS, AMERICAN HERITAGE HS, PLANTATION
Scouts have seen plenty of Marrero over the years, from his freshman year in high school, when his brother Chris became the Nationals' second-round pick, to last year, when American Heritage produced first-rounder Eric Hosmer (Royals), catcher Adrian Nieto (Nationals, fifth round) and righthander Juan Carlos Sulbaran (Reds, 30th, $500,000). Marrero has carved out a bit of his own nichr this spring, showing improved strength to go with his excellent defensive skills and leading Heritage to a state runner-up finish. He's a more well-rounded player than his brother, who moved down the defensive spectrum quickly. Marrero started slowly this spring but picked up his offense as the season went along. Present hitting ability is his biggest question, as his swing has some length to it. His swing also has leverage, though; while scouts project him to hit for power down the line, he's short in that department now, and he's only an average runner. Defensively, he has a plus arm, smooth footwork and above-average hands. He should have no trouble staying at shortstop, as he plays the game smoothly. He's a baseball player in the best sense, even closing for American Heritage when needed. Marrero's slow start cooled some of the ardor for him in the scouting community, and word in the South Florida area is that he intended to honor his commitment to Arizona State, where he was expected to start from day one.
MICHAEL HELLER, RHP, CARDINAL MOONEY HS, SARASOTA
Florida signed Heller—one of four Aflac All-Americans in the recruiting class, joining Austin Maddox, LeVon Washington and Michael Zunino—as an infielder/righthander, and his power and balanced swing would make him an effective two-way player in college. Pro scouts like him for his arm, though, which plays at shortstop but plays much better on the mound. Heller has one of the best arms in Florida, and he's perhaps the best combination of athleticism and arm strength among the Florida prep crop this year, exceeded perhaps only by Keyvius Sampson. Heller often sat in the 88-92 mph range with his fastball this spring, but at other times he showed exceptional stuff, with some reports he was hitting 97 mph and regular readings of 94-95 early. Heller has projection in his frame, so those radar-gun readings should become more consistent in the future. He uses a high three-quarters slot to throw an average curveball and nascent changeup. Heller's secondary pitches need work, both in terms of command and sharpness. So does his deliberate delivery, which was exposed in Sebring by opposing basestealers. Some scouts have concern that he has something of a head whack in his delivery that may be difficult to smooth out. It might take first three-round money to buy Heller out of his Gators commitment, as both his brothers went to school in Gainesville, as does his older brother.
MYCAL JONES, SS, MIAMI DADE JC
Jones will be 22 by draft day, making him unusual for a junior-college player. But he has pro tools, and that combined with his polish should make him one of the country's first junior-college players selected. He spent two years at North Florida, being named to the Atlantic Sun Conference's all-freshman team as a redshirt in 2007 before being academically ineligible in 2008. Jones then transferred to Miami-Dade and was the conference player of the year as a fourth-year sophomore. His speed and defense will immediately play in pro ball; while he has 70 raw speed with 6.4-second 60 times, Jones' speed doesn't play offensively because he has more of an uppercut, power-oriented swing. He's athletic and has infield actions. Scouts are mixed on whether his average throwing arm will be enough for shortstop, and some question his range as well. He has enough strength and bat speed to hit for average as a pro, even if he doesn't maintain the power he has flashed with metal bats (he hit .447 with 13 homers this spring). Most scouts conservatively see Jones as a future utility infielder with possible Chone Figgins upside, but he could wind up an everyday shortstop. Teams that see him that way could take him as high as the fourth round.
SCOOTER GENNETT, SS, SARASOTA HS
Sarasota High has produced 10 players drafted in the first five rounds over the last 20 years, and Gennett—whose real first-name is Ryan—should be the 11th. He helped the Sailors win a state title when he was a freshman in 2006. He isn't a conventional prospect in some ways but he has one of the more advanced bats in the draft, high school or college. He showed a strong, quick swing and advanced approach last summer, particularly impressing at the East Coast Showcase. He profiles as an offensive second baseman, while Florida State intends for him to start at shortstop as a freshman. He's a grinder with surprising power and bat speed for his size (a listed 5-foot-10, 170 pounds), and though he can be streaky, his bat is his best tool. He's a better runner on the field than in showcase events, but he's closer to average than above-average in that department. Defensively he gets the most of his ability, with his range and arm better suited for the right side of the infield than the left. He's agile, though, and a solid athlete. Gennett would be a crucial get for Florida State, if he gets there. Most scouts consider him a third-to-fifth round talent, though he was backing up late, including a poor performance with the bat in Sebring at the state prep all-star game.
KYLE BELLAMY, RHP, MIAMI
Bellamy was a first-team all-conference choice in the Atlantic Coast Conference and was a key reason that Miami—unranked in the preseason—overachieved and finished in the ACC's top five teams. The Hurricanes have a long history of tremendous relievers, dating back to the Ron Fraser era (Rick Raether was the MOP of the 1985 College World Series) and enhanced during Jim Morris' Miami tenure, from Danny Graves and Jay Tessmer to George Huguet and 2008 first-rounder Carlos Gutierrez. Bellamy could work out better than Tessmer and Huguet thanks to a heavy, sinking fastball that is his trademark. When he's fresh, Bellamy works at 88-91 mph; he loses velocity when he works on back-to-back days, sometimes dipping into the 84-87 range. Bellamy's success as a pro will hinge on improved fastball command and improved consistency with his frisbee slider, which lacks depth and power.
MICHAEL ZUNINO, C, MARINER HS, CAPE CORAL
Zunino was yet another option for scouts trolling Florida looking for prep catchers. One didn't have to go far, as his father Greg is a California alum and has scouted for the 22 years, currently working for the Reds. Zunino's a solid athlete and average present runner (4.3 seconds to first base from the right side), whose calling card is his raw power. Zunino can put on a show in batting practice, and the last two seasons, he's carried it over into games. He broke his own school record of 10, set in 2008, this spring with 11 home runs, leading Mariner High to back-to-back district titles. A solidly built 6-foot, 185-pound righthanded hitter, Zunino has committed to Florida as part of the Gators' immense, impressive recruiting class. He has improved his chances of being bought out of school by making significant strides defensively. Whereas last summer he was not a clean receiver and dropped a lot of balls, he showed improvement in the fall and has the potential to be an average defender, with above-average raw arm strength. He has some baseball savvy from his upbringing that makes him even more attractive.
PATRICK SCHUSTER, LHP, MITCHELL HS, NEW PORT RICHEY
Schuster became the nation's best-known amateur this spring, even surpassing Stephen Strasburg, as he compiled a four-start streak of no-hitters. His attempt for a fifth straight game, a state playoff matchup was picked up by a local cable broadcaster, and his innings were shown on ESPN News. Schuster lost his bid and the game in front of a slew of fans, scouts and media, but his pitching ability was evident even in the loss. Schuster accomplished his no-hitter with the help of a funky delivery that delivers three average pitches. His fastball sat in the 86-91 mph range during the spring, as he threw both his two-seamer and four-seamer for strikes. His four-seamer seemed to get on hitters quickly due to his deception. His slider and curveball helped him miss plenty of bats en route to his no-hitter, and his slider is the better pitch, coming from his low three-quarters arm slot. Schuster's slight frame lends little future projection, and scouts agreed he might even lose some deception as he fills out physically. His pitchability gives him a chance to be a future back-end starter, and some scouts profile him more as a reliever. He's part of Florida's tremendous recruiting class and was expected to head to college unless a team meets his second-round bonus demands.
MICHAEL OHLMAN, C, LAKEWOOD RANCH HS, BRADENTON
Yet another prep catcher from Florida, Ohlman started to get national attention last fall playing for North Carolina's "Dirtbags" travel team, which featured Tar Heel State prep stars Brian Goodwin and Wil Myers. Ohlman showed premium power potential in the summer and fall and was snapped up in the early signing period by Miami. He's tall for a catcher at 6-foot-4, and his slender 200-pound body doesn't seem suited to the position for the long-term, scouts worry. But he has shown excellent athletic ability, and he should be able to remain a catcher at least through college. He has excellent arm strength, but his receiving skills are less advanced than his Florida prep rivals. He has improved his skills behind the plate but has a long way to go in terms of blocking, framing pitches and learning other nuances behind the plate. He's tall so he has some holes in his swing but has a good feel for hitting and hand-eye coordination. His best tool is his raw power, which might be sufficient for a move to a corner. Ohlman should be athletic enough to give outfield a try if catching doesn't take. He could go in the fourth-to-sixth round range.
EVAN CHAMBERS, OF, HILLSBOROUGH CC
Originally committed to Florida after prepping in the Lakeland, Fla., area, Chambers wound up at Hillsborough CC after getting just eight at-bats in 2008 for the Gators. At 5-foot-9, 215 pounds, he has been getting compared to Kirby Puckett and Kevin Mitchell since his high school days for his short, thick, strong body. He's athletic and an above-average runner, which explains in part why he was a 19th-round pick of the Rockies out of high school in 2007. Chambers' thick frame helps him generate surprising raw power, which played with wood last summer, when he hit seven homers in the New England Collegiate League with Keene (N.H.). His speed helps him play a passable center field, and his arm is below-average but good enough for center. The whole question with Chambers is how he'll hit as a pro, as he has bat speed and has shown the ability to hit good velocity. He also has a choppy swing and some issues with pitch recognition. Scouts that think Chambers will learn to lay off breaking balls out of the dirt could push for him in the first five rounds, leaving those who doubt his bat—and have him turned in as a sixth-to-10th rounder—missing their chance.
BRIAN JOHNSON, LHP, COCOA BEACH HS
Scouts often lump Johnson and David Holmberg into similar discussions because both are lefthanded, big-bodied Florida Gators recruits. Johnson, whose sister Brooke plays softball for the Gators, had a dominating prep season, posting a near-2.000 OPS as a hitter for Cocoa Beach High while going 5-1, 0.76 with 102 strikeouts in just 55 innings on the mound. Johnson is big-bodied and physical at a listed 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, though many scouts consider him a bit shorter and heavier than his listed weight. While he lacks much in the way of projection, he could improve the quality of his stuff as he improves his conditioning. However, his present stuff is pretty strong. His fastball grades out as fringe-average for a lefthander, in the 85-89 mph range, and he's touched some 90s. He throws both a curveball and a changeup, and his curve is his most advanced pitch. It's a 12-to-6 breaker that works as a strikeout pitch when it's thrown with some power in the mid-70s. It could be a plus pitch down the line. Johnson's velocity wasn't consistently strong this spring, and he's not exactly a fast-twitch, quick-armed pitcher. He profiles more as a back-of-the-rotation innings-eater. Johnson also put out word that he anticipates going to college unless he's blown away financially. He's a top 200 talent but may not be drafted until late due to his signability. Scouts were impressed with Johnson in Sebring, which may make them more likely to make a run.
Down Year In Four-Year Colleges
The strength of the Florida college class is hitters, though none stands out enough to go in the first two rounds. In fact, the top position players for the draft at Florida (Matt den Dekker) and Miami (Ryan Jackson) backed up this spring, and both have better defensive tools than offensive ones. Both teams will send other players into the draft, with Miami contributing juco transfers Chris Herrmann
and Scott Lawson
, potentially both in the first 10 rounds. Herrmann was a 10th-rounder out of Alvin (Texas) JC last year, when he played some catcher. He didn't catch this year and projects as a corner infielder or left fielder, but defense isn't his best trait. He's a solid hitter with a short swing, patient approach and good strength. Lawson, a 40th-round pick out of Grayson (Texas) JC last year, has gap power, similar patience and better defensive tools, though he's just average at second base. First baseman/catcher Jason Hagerty
also could go in the first 10 rounds thanks to his average to plus power and ability to catch as well as play first base; he draws some comparisons to Greg Colbrunn.
Among hitters who improved their cause this spring, the fastest riser was Florida International's Tyler Townsend
, who had a monstrous performance, batting .434/.512/.858 with 24 home runs and 77 RBIs. He hit with wood last summer in an MVP performance in the Valley League, and FIU coach Turtle Thomas compares him favorably to Brad Hawpe, whom he coached at Louisiana State. Scouts agree that Townsend has a smooth lefthanded swing that should translate to wood. The debate comes in whether Townsend can hold down right field, as Hawpe has as a pro. More likely, Townsend will be a fringy left fielder or first baseman, as he's a below-average runner with average arm strength. Teams looking for college hitters with a track record of performance could take Townsend in the first five rounds.
Florida's greater talent is concentrated in its underclassmen, but the Gators have other candidates who should go in the sixth to 10th round. Senior outfielder Avery Barnes
is gritty, runs well and has enough arm to fill in on the corners. He's not a classic center fielder but could play there. He resembles Indians outfielder Ben Francisco across the board and should be a solid senior sign. Middle infielder Mike Mooney
has little power and is an average runner and defender. He profiles as a second baseman and likely fits better as a senior sign. Florida's most complicated case is outfielder Riley Cooper
, a premium athlete with tremendous speed who doubles as a wide receiver on the football team. He made little contact this spring with the bat, striking out 41 times in 89 at-bats. Cooper plans to play for Cotuit in the Cape Cod League this summer, rather than attend summer school like most football players do, so he's likely to be a summer follow.
Florida State's top prospect also is a football guy in D'vontrey Richardson
, who has been an option quarterback and moved to defense in football. Richardson plays a bit more than Cooper and has raw tools. He's a plus-plus runner who missed time with nagging injuries this spring. Scouts would love to see him concentrate on baseball to see if he can make adjustments at the plate and show some aptitude. He did that as a freshman, hitting .351 in 131 at-bats. Then he didn't play in 2008 to concentrate on football. Richardson could go in the first 10 rounds to a team that has lots of history with him, such as the Nationals, who drafted him out of high school (2006, 35th round).
A safer bet with a much lower ceiling is grinder shortstop Stephen Cardullo
, who moved from third base to shortstop and became a dynamic college player. His tools grade out as fringe-average to average across the board. He's a patient hitter with gap power and baserunning smarts. He fits better at second base or as a utility player in pro ball.
The top college pitchers in the state are not at the traditional powers. Bethune-Cookman ace Hiram Burgos
has been a steady three-pitch righthander with three average pitches for three seasons for the Wildcats and improved his stock with a shutout win at Miami this spring. He touches 92 mph with his fastball and competes. The same can be said for Jacksonville righthander Carson Andrew
, who tops out at 92 mph and missed time this spring with a muscle strain in his right shoulder. He threw well against Kyle Heckathorn and Kennesaw State in front of a slew of scouts to boost his draft stock and was expected to ride his pitchability to being picked in the first 10 rounds.
Stetson righty Robbie Donovan
has a better body than either of them and has run his fastball up to 94 mph at times. The 6-foot-5 righty sits in the same average range, though, at 88-91, and spots his fringy changeup and curve. He hasn't had the quality results of Andrew and Burgos due to his lack of movement on his fastball and inconsistent command. His best performance came in front of scouts in fall ball, when he touched 94 despite a hamstring pull. Another college righty to watch is Nova Southeastern's Miles Mikolas
, who like Donovan has a good pro body and has touched above-average velocity with his fastball. He had some helium thanks to his pro body, and has similar secondary stuff to Donovan.
Junior Colleges Offer Arms
Pitching is scarce in Florida in both the four-year colleges and prep ranks, but not at the junior college level. There's real depth, with the biggest name being righthander Daniel Webb
. He performed well in showcases and entered 2008 as one of the nation's top prep arms, but he hasn't been able to build on that in the last two years. He hasn't shown he can consistently get hitters out, either at the Kentucky high school level or in Florida's juco ranks. He looked ordinary at Northwest Florida State JC (formerly Okaloosa-Walton) despite having a big-time arm. He doesn't repeat his delivery and doesn't throw enough strikes with his 88-92 mph fastball, which touches 94. The pitch shows less movement than it did on the showcase circuit in 2007. He improved the movement on his slurvy breaking ball and throws his changeup more often than he did in high school, so he has made some progress. He struggles with his command and rarely throws the breaker for strikes. An unsigned 12th-rounder last year, Webb may go in about the same range this year. No one expects him back at Northwest Florida State, but scouts didn't have a good read on his signability. If he doesn't sign, he's likely to look for a different junior college.
Lefthander Patrick Corbin
attracted much less fanfare out of high school and went to Mohawk Valley (N.Y.) JC in 2008 to play baseball and basketball. He transferred to Chipola for 2009 and emerged as the state's top juco pitching prospect. He has a lean 6-foot-3, 170-pound frame with plenty of projection and a solid-average fastball, touching 92 mph and sitting in the upper 80s. His changeup has made real progress, as has his fastball command. He already had a feel for spinning a breaking ball, which is how he struck out 86 in 74 innings.
Teammate David Buchanan
, a righthander, has a much bigger arm, running his four-seam fastball up to 96 mph and sitting at 90-94. He lacks control due to a poor delivery, but his arm works well and he has athleticism so he could smooth things out. At times his curveball gives him a second plus pitch. He works hard but has to learn to get people out, rather than pitching for the radar gun and scouts.
Rivaling Corbin as the state's top pitching prospect, lefthander Michael Rayl
has similar size at 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, and at times has similar velocity at 89-91 mph. Some scouts didn't see him throw that hard this spring, as he dipped into the mid-80s. He's more savvy and experienced than Corbin, showing good pitchability despite a modest curveball and changeup. His arm works well and he's yet another member of Florida's amazing recruiting class.
Like Buchanan, righthander Reynaldo Cotilla
has big size at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, and a big arm. He's run his fastball up to 95-96 mph this spring as a closer, getting back to the velocity he showed in high school before Tommy John surgery. Cotilla threw strikes coming back from the surgery and was explosive in a closer role, but he threw just 17 innings as he missed time with a tender arm. He's a North Carolina State signee. Miami Dade JC could wind up with more than five players drafted, including outfielder Chris Palaez
, an average to plus runner who shows a solid bat, and lefthander Logan Dodds
, who has an upper-80s fastball and mid-70s curveball. Both are Florida International signees.
Gulf Coast CC had two pitchers to watch, led by freshman righthander Andrew Morris
, an Alabama native who showed an 88-91 mph fastball and a good splitter before wearing down late in the season. He was the Panhandle Conference player of the year. Teammate Cameron Gatehouse
, a lefty, also lost velocity as the season went on but has bumped the low 90s at his best.
Chipola also has a solid hitting option for scouts in outfielder Marc Bourgeois
, who resembles fellow Canadian and Chipola alum Rene Tosoni, now in the Twins system. Bourgeois has a smooth lefthanded swing as pure as Tosoni's, with more raw power. He also has impressive speed and instincts, leading the team with 11 homers and 22 steals in 23 attempts.
Cleaning Up The Preps
The state's prep ranks were much deeper in hitters than in pitchers, with less consensus among scouts on who the best prospects are. Some teams will like Garrett Bush
enough to sign him away from an Auburn commitment. A catcher for his high school team, Bush emerged the last two years as a closer as well and has shown an electric arm, reaching 95 mph and at times flashing good sink and a breaking ball. Most teams consider him too tall to catch as a pro anyway at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds, and he's got more of a pitcher's body. Bush's velocity was inconsistent, but scouts love his arm strength.
Another late pop-up was UNC Wilmington recruit Blaze Tart
, a righthander originally from Durham, N.C., who attended the Pendleton Academy in Bradenton with J.R. Murphy. He benefited by performing well in front of scouts who came in to see his catcher. Tart is more of a projection pick, sitting 88-90 mph with his fastball and showing the hand speed to spin a curve. He's still catching up to his 6-foot-4 frame, and most scouts consider him a better bet after three college seasons.
Athletic Ronnie Richardson
, an alumnus of USA Baseball's youth national team, checks in at 5-foot-6, 170 pounds and has explosive speed, rating a 70 on the 20-80 scale. He plays with energy and has some strength, but it's hard to imagine he'll ever hit for much power. Richardson has played all over the field and probably fits best at second base as a pro, as he has arm strength and quick hands. At times he takes giant hacks at the plate, and he's a tough player to project because he's so short. He's a Central Florida recruit but is considered signable, which could vault him into the first five rounds.
Ronnie is not to be confused with David Richardson
, an outfielder/righthander from the Tampa area who hasn't hit as much as he probably needed to to be a single-digit draft pick. He has solid tools, with arm strength (he reaches the upper 80s off the mound), bat speed and good makeup. He's headed to Hillsborough CC and will try to improve his stock by hitting offspeed pitching.