Draft Tracker: April 18
Here are scouting reports with four more players generating draft buzz this spring. For previous installments of this year's Draft Tracker, click here, here and here.
Anthony Alford, of, Petal (Miss.) HS
In 2011, Senquez Golson highlighted a strong year for Mississippi high school players from the draft. A two-sport athlete, Golson wasn't the top prospect out of the state's prep ranks, or its highest-drafted. But like other single-digit picks in shortstop Connor Barron (Marlins, third round) and Brandon Woodruff (Rangers, fifth), Golson didn't sign. He spurned the Red Sox, who offered him more than $1 million at last August's signing deadline, to play football and baseball at Mississippi.
Golson played as a freshman cornerback in the fall and was 11-for-54 (.204) as a part-time starter so far for the Rebels' baseball team this spring.
The next Senquez Golson could be Alford, a two-sport athlete, who has committed to Southern Mississippi for both baseball and football. He's teammates in baseball with Garren Berry, son of USM baseball coach Scott Berry. And the Golden Eagles have a new football coach, Ellis Johnson, who has hired Alford's prep football coach onto the Southern Miss staff. So scouts aren't sure just how committed Alford is to turning to professional baseball right out of high school, or what it will take to buy him away from college sports.
"Nobody knows if he wants to play," said a scout with a National League organization. "You visit with him and talk to him and you come away and you're still not sure. But he definitely has tools."
Alford, big and fast at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, was the Magnolia State's football player of the year for several outlets and chose Southern Miss over such football powers as Louisiana State and Nebraska. He threw for more than 1,900 yards and ran for more than 1,500 as a senior, but he's just as if not more intriguing on the diamond, where he's a 70 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale with power potential, too. He's hitting .478 with three home runs this spring and hit safely in the team's first 22 games before going 0-for-2 on Saturday.
But no Mississippi high school draft pick signed in 2011, and Alford has the strong college option to put his draft stock up in the air as well.
"He's a toolsy athlete who runs and has strength," the scout said. "He's just such a physical specimen. He's got the tools to get us all interested."
Corey Black, rhp, Faulkner
Black spent his first two college years playing for Tony Gwynn at San Diego State. As a freshman, he got into 14 games, going 2-2, 7.04 with 27 walks and 50 strikeouts over 47 innings. His sophomore year was better, as he went 4-5, 3.56 with 42 walks and 78 strikeouts over 73 innings.
But Black transferred to NAIA Faulkner for his draft year. The San Diego State coaches asked Black to leave, he said.
"They thought I was a cancer on the team," Black recently told the Montgomery Advertiser. "Some of their coaches said I wasn't good for the program there."
Black has been the Eagles' ace this season. He's 9-1, 0.96 over 11 games with 26 walks and 72 strikeouts over 65 innings. Black, who stands 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, is young for a college junior and won't turn 21 until August. Despite his success as a starter, Black profiles as a bullpen arm in pro ball.
"He's got a big fastball," a National League area scout said. "He's pumped it up to 97 and he sits 94-96. His secondary stuff is just OK. For me, he has a 40 slider right now, but it has a chance to be average. The changeup will be fringy, so the secondary stuff is the only thing he's lacking."
Black's profile in some ways resembles that of Indians righthander Austin Adams, drafted out of Faulkner as a senior in the fifth round in 2009. He has more experience as a pitcher than Adams, who was a converted shortstop with a sturdier body and better durability, and should be drafted in about the same round.
Tyler Gonzales, rhp/ss, Madison HS, San Antonio
Gonzales, a Texas recruit, also plays shortstop and some teams like him better as a position player, but most believe his future is on the mound. In his last April 9 start against Roosevelt (San Antonio) High, Gonzales struck out 18 batters in a three-hit shutout.
He mostly sat in the 90-92 mph range over the summer but has bumped his velocity up a notch this spring.
"His stuff has been pretty good," a National League area scout said. "I've seen him anywhere from 90-95 a couple different times and I've heard he's been up to 96. He has good life on the fastball, like he's always had, but his command has kind of come and gone a little bit, but the last time was pretty good—he threw a lot of strikes."
In addition to his fastball, Gonzales mainly throws a mid-80s slider, but also mixes in an occasional curveball and changeup.
"The slider's been a definite out pitch," the scout said. "He's mostly used the fastball-slider combo this spring and they've both been pretty good. They've both been plus at time and he's shown pretty good stuff."
Gonzales has a little effort in his delivery and his pitches also have good life—both of which are factors contributing to his command being off and on. He's not super physical at 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds, so his future may be in the bullpen, but he could go as high as the second round in June.
Gonzales' uncle, Jimmy, is a crosschecker for the Nationals. Tyler is old for his class, having already turned 19 in January. So, if he does wind up at Texas he'll be draft-eligible again as a sophomore.
Seth Willoughby, rhp, Xavier
Willoughby has been the Muskateers' shortstop/second baseman and closer for the past two years, but this year the junior broke his hamate bone in his left wrist, so he wasn't able to hit anymore. The injury may have been a blessing in disguise, as it allowed Willoughby to focus more on his role as closer, and he's taken things to another level this year.
So far Willoughby is 1-1, 1.38 with 17 hits, 11 walks and 30 strikeouts over 26 innings. He's holding batters to a .185 average and set a Xavier record with his 24th career save on April 17 against Ohio State, though he walked two in a scoreless inning of work.
"He's really surprised a lot of people," an American League area scout said. "He comes in one day and it's 94-95 with a legit 90 mph cutter that is nasty. It's legit. And he can come back-to-back days with the same stuff."
Willoughby, wiry and fairly athletic at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, has maintained the same plus stuff throughout the season, so now scouts in the area are scrambling to try and get him seen by their crosscheckers and scouting directors, which isn't an easy task because he's a reliever at a mid-major program. There's no guarantee when he'll pitch and it's difficult to match him up against another prospect.
Contributing: John Manuel