Florida All-Star Game Talent Disappoints
SEBRING, Fla.—Each year, a gathering of one of the country's best collections of high school talent always seems to offer awesome highlights, not to mention some moving and shaking among the country's top draft prospects.
Fireman's Field in Sebring, Fla., has been the host of the Florida Athletic Coaches Association All-Star Baseball Classic for almost 30 years, and because scouts and coaches select the teams and the event is reserved for seniors, and held less than two weeks before the draft, it has become an unofficial Florida draft combine of sorts. This year, the state was deep in second-tier talent, but the high-end talent never seemed to surface among Florida's crop of high school prospects.
That sentiment was pervasive after three days of workouts and games came to a close in Sebring.
"Every year, I'm telling you, you come in here and the guys who are throwing 88-91 all spring come in and get on the big mound and know they've got one or two innings to blow it out and at least one or two of them will show you some (9)6s and 7s," said a veteran area scout based in Florida. "We didn't see any of that here this year. In fact, I think we saw guys throw slower than they had this spring."
Indeed, the only awe-inspiring pitching matchup occurred during the first two innings of the second of four games, when Nevin Griffith (Middleton High, Tampa) and Michael Main (Deland, Fla., High) squared off. While Main was able to run his fastball up to 96 mph, Griffith, who had been up to 95 during the season, pitched at 91, and neither pitcher made a demonstrative statement in respect to his draft stock.
Griffith, the East's ace, needed just 23 pitches to carve up the West lineup, and while he has a live arm and should be taken in the top 50 picks this year, he lacks polish, and doesn't fit into the category of the premium pitching prospect the Sunshine State typically produces.
Main entered the event as the state's best high school prospect, and given his pedigree and recent performance in Florida's 6-A playoffs (he threw a complete game with 10 strikeouts and hit the go-ahead home run in a state semifinals win over two-time defending 6-A champion Flanagan High of Pembroke Pines), the FACA all-star game was expected to be merely Main's own personal curtain call.
Instead, one of his teammates from his days in AAU ball as a 12-year-old, East shortstop John Tolisano, stole the stage.
Main fell into trouble with his fastball command, walking in a run in the second inning before hanging a 2-0 slider that Tolisano (Estero High) deposited over the right-field fence for a grand slam.
"I was sitting fastball and just tried to stay back," said Tolisano, who, along with Main, has been considered one of the state's best prospects for years. "It's nice. Hitting one off a high-profile guy like that is definitely something that feels good."
While the event has always served as a venue for the state's top players to showcase their skills one last time before the draft, it also has become the perfect setting for those players who have been tucked away in Florida's small, backwater towns to make their mark.
A trio of righthanders took advantage of the fact that more than 75 scouts showed up to attend the event, and perhaps played their way into the top five rounds of the draft. Port St. Lucie High's Mike McGee, Merritt Island's Taylor Jordan and Wharton High's Derrick Stultz didn't enter the event with the highly decorated reputation of Main and Griffith, but they left with the satisfaction of knowing their names were on the map, if they weren't already.
McGee is undersized, listed generously at 6 feet, 185 pounds, but he's athletic and showed good mound presence. His fastball touched 90 mph and he dropped in a nice 76 mph curveball that he seemed comfortable throwing in all counts and could spot down in the strike zone, showing the makings of two plus pitches and feel for the craft.
His size and price tag could keep him from being drafted in the top three rounds, but the all-star game in Sebring has been the site where many pitchers showed their potential as college prospects as well as their pro potential. If McGee gets to Florida State, he might be the piece FSU coach Mike Martin has needed to get the Seminoles over the hump and finally leave the College World Series with more than a parting gift.
Jordan is bigger and has more projection, though his arm action isn't as clean. His fastball was up to 92 and he worked an easy, efficient pair of innings in relief on the event's first day.
Stultz had to wait until the second day to take the mound, and although he struggled with his command in the second inning, he, too, flashed an above-average fastball and enough physical attributes to pique the interest of some of the scouts in attendance.
This event also provided a prime opportunity for players such as Michael Burgess (Hillsborough High, Tampa), Drew Cumberland (Pace High, Milton), Bo Greenwell (Riverdale High, Fort Myers) and Sean Koecheler (Palm Beach Gardens High) to validate their reputations as potential high-round picks.
While Cumberland had to pull himself out of the event because of a nagging hamstring injury that has again cropped up at an inopportune time, none of the foursome was able to separate himself from the pack.
Greenwell is the son of former Red Sox outfielder Mike, and was a name that many scouts were whispering late in the season as a potential sleeper who could warrant a spot in the top five rounds. He had been known primarily as a football player in high school, but had shown enough ability with the bat to earn a spot on the West roster of the all-star tournament.
Greenwell struggled to make contact, and departed as a player most scouts were content to watch head off to Miami, where he has committed.
Burgess received numerous accolades last summer and fall when he mashed his way into consideration of the country's best power prospects. But his lackluster season carried over into the all-star event, as he struck out twice in the opener and again in the second game before connecting on a high fly ball that cleared the fence in right field, but wasn't hit as well as the scorched balls he connected with last summer.
Koecheler's arm strength compelled scouts to invite him to Sebring, but his lone outing was uninspiring, as his fastball-curve repertoire lacked life and, combined with some of his mechanical flaws, led most scouts to lose interest in pursuing him inside the top three to four rounds.