All-American Duo Powers West Boca
Greene, Kelly provide double the attraction
It's rare for a high school team to have one premium draft talent. When a team has two, it not only helps push them up Baseball America's team rankings, it brings scouts out by the dozen.
That's just what's happening at West Boca High in Boca Raton, Fla. The Bulls are led by shortstop Tyler Greene, a Baseball America preseason first-team All-American and righthander Mike Kelly, a third-team All-American. The team went 7-2 over the first month of play, with 20-to-40 scouts typically behind home plate for each game.
Greene and Kelly feed off the energy and off of each other.
"It's something special to see those two on the field," West Boca head coach Nick Siano said. "Because they have all the tools it takes to play at this level and the next level. It brings each other's level up because they're competitors. It brings the best out, not only in our team, but in those two guys."
Back In Boca
Greene returns to West Boca, where he played his sophomore year. He spent last year at Roswell (Ga.) High, after his family moved there for his father's job.
"My dad had to switch jobs—he's in the mortgage business and that went down big time, so we had to move from Florida to Georgia for his business because it's better up there," Greene said. "Plus, I knew I was going to play for East Cobb that summer, and they didn't want me living up there by myself. So, when we moved back down here, we knew we were coming right back to West Boca where I knew all the kids from sophomore year."
Even though Greene is back at West Boca, he's not going through the same things as his teammates. Greene is home-schooled and takes all of his classes online.
"I really just did that so I could train all day for baseball," Greene said. "So I just go out there and run, hit the gym and hit before coming to practice, so I get better everyday. . . God gave me a lot of tools and I'm just trying to polish them up and get ready for the draft."
Greene, who is committed to Georgia, spent the fall working out side-by-side with Texas cornerback Curtis Brown and Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams as they prepared for the NFL Combine. Greene added about 10 pounds of muscle and worked on getting faster and more explosive.
Despite being basically enrolled in Draft Prep 101, Greene is still a bit of an enigma to scouts. It's easy to fall in love with his textbook physique and his obvious collection of tools. He's an above-average runner with a strong arm and tantalizing power, but those tools don't always translate over to games.
"I think he's one of those kids where all the glaring tools are there, but he might just work on the showcase stuff," an American League area scout said. "He might not work on his plate approach or the mental aspect of it, he might just work on the sexy things."
This summer on the showcase circuit, Greene had trouble hitting quality pitching because he was pulling off balls and losing his front side. He's staying more in-line this spring and has excellent bat speed with nice leverage to his swing, but there are still adjustments that need to be made.
"I think he has a tendency to rush and not get started early enough," the scout said. "There's a lot of movement right before pitch recognition. If you watch 10 at-bats of him, six of them he'll have a 2-0 or 2-1 fastball that he'll just miss. There's just so much stuff going on late where it's not set when he's ready to get going and he just misses stuff a lot. You watch other guys hit at the high school level with those types of tools and they don't miss pitches. They ambush the fastball in 2-0 counts. This kid doesn't really have that aspect yet."
When things get tough, Greene has someone special to turn to for advice. His brother, Chase, was drafted in the 16th round by the Mets out of West Boca in 2009.
"He's taught me so many different things—just once you get in the system, how hard it's going to be and all the work you have to do and everything like that," Greene said. "It's definitely a blessing having someone in the family going through it and has gone through it, so you know what to do when you get there."
Sink And Slide
Kelly has taken a more traditional route to get his name on the prospect radar. In 2008, he was on the USA Baseball 16U gold-medal team. He's been at West Boca his entire high school career and actually goes to classes there. Sometimes during those classes, Kelly will find time to give Greene a hard time about his unique routine.
"I'll be in school going through my classes and I'll text him and he's still sleeping at 10:30," Kelly said. "It's not fair! I'm getting in at 7:30 and he's still asleep, it's rough. He made the smart decision there. He knows what he's doing."
When he's not in class, he's been schooling opponents on the mound. Kelly, a Florida recruit, throws a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a curveball and the occasional changeup. At 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds, he has one of the best frames in this year's draft.
"You look at him and he's a monster," the scout said. "For Mike, putting it together is what's going to separate him in the next month. He just needs to get his timing together because he'll throw harder out of the stretch than he will in the windup, which is not typical."
Kelly's fastball sits in the 90-91 mph range, but gets as high as 94.
Kelly is beginning to use his height to his advantage—something he wasn't always doing last summer. He's keeping the ball down in the strike zone, but will elevate it to get a hitter to chase for a strikeout.
"One of the things he was working on was getting more angle on the ball," the scout said. "He had a real soft front side before, which is the worst thing you can do for a 6-5 guy because you want to use your height and your angle. He was kind of pitching underneath it, but now he's staying a little taller and getting over the top more.
With Kelly's lower arm slot, the scout thinks he'd be better off throwing a slider, rather than the curveball he currently throws.
"I think he has a chance to be a Rick Porcello-type—sink it and slide it," the scout said. "He doesn't pitch with a lot of intent, but he gets good movement, he'll pitch down in the zone and he'll get ground balls."
Kelly trusts his stuff and likes inducing those ground balls, especially with Greene playing behind him.
"I know if there's a ground ball to shortstop, the kid's out," Kelly said. "He gets everything—he has so much range, so I love him out there."
It's unlikely Kelly and Greene will play together after this season, but for now they're just soaking it all in and gunning for a title.
"They're best of friends and they always want to one-up each other," Siano said. "If we play the way we can every game, we'll be something special at the end."