SANFORD- Fla.- A pair of Seminole State College (Sanford, Fla.) righthanders, Jake Cosart and Gianni Zayas, could factor into the early rounds of the 2014 draft after migrating south from rival ACC schools based in “The Triangle” area following their freshman seasons.
Cosart, the younger brother of Astros righthander Jarred Cosart, went undrafted out of Clear Creek High in League City, Texas in 2012, but showed a very strong arm from the outfield, athleticism and potential on the mound. He committed to Duke as a two-way player but left the baseball program before playing in a game as a freshman. His brother Jarred is teammates and friends with Astros lefthander Brett Oberholtzer, who was drafted out of Seminole State in the 2008 fourth round.
“Oberholtzer came and lived with me and my family before spring training because he is from Delaware,” Seminole State pitching coach Jon Updike said. “That is where we really got first introduced to Jake through his family and with his brother, Jarred, and then we built the relationship.”
Out of high school, Cosart, who threw 98 mph from the outfield at Perfect Game National, was a rail-thin 6-foot-1, 145 pounds. His fastball sat in the mid-to-upper 80s. Throughout the fall, Cosart has thrown in the mid-90s with a very quick arm, sitting 93-96 mph during a two-inning stint in an October scrimmage. Cosart touched 98 this fall, according to Seminole State head coach Mike Nicholson, and will focus exclusively on pitching going forward.
Cosart has very long arms and has begun to fill in his frame, currently weighing 180 pounds with room for additional strength gains.
Although his breaking ball has been inconsistent, understandably so given his inexperience on the mound, his 72-74 mph curveball flashed above-average or better potential at its best and well below-average at its worst. The offering has considerable depth with 11-5 tilt. His fastball-breaking ball velocity separation was more than 20 mph at times, and it can lack power. But it is a promising offering that will likely improve considerably. Coaches and scouts believe that he will eventually add a slider that could become a plus pitch given his hand speed.
The 19-year-old Cosart is largely a two-pitch pitcher presently, but he has the raw elements to develop a promising third offering.
“His changeup has a chance to be a real pitch in the future.” Updike said. “It is a show-me pitch now. With the hand speed he has now it could be a real pitch going forward.”
His delivery has improved exponentially since high school, especially in just the last few months when he has focused solely on pitching. Cosart’s delivery had a lot of effort, stabbing arm action and a large coil after release. His arm action is now more loose and fluid, his stride has lengthened and his landing has softened.
“He has great athleticism and great hand speed,” Updike said. “It is just getting him to where he can be comfortable and repeat, and then he will start to repeat shapes and locations. He is picking up on it pretty quickly. It's a matter of getting his body coordinated and working down the slope. He battles the same things that many pitchers battle—popping too soon. It is more just simplification and allowing the athlete to work and the arm to work.”
Cosart, who can run the 60-yard dash in less than 6.6 seconds according to coaches, has the athleticism to make further improvements with his delivery, which still has elements that could be cleaned up, as he still has a slight head snap and will occasionally coil after his follow through.
“He realizes that as he physically matures he can reach those top velocities without giving max effort like in high school, when he was 30-40 pounds lighter,” Nicholson said.
The third Cosart brother, Jansen, is a third baseman at Seminole State. The youngest Cosart is a 5-foot-11, 170-pound switch-hitter who graduated high school in 2013.
“We are really pleased with how well Jansen has played as a freshman,” Nicholson said. “He stands in the box well and has turned around his brother a few times in intrasquad games. He has been a steady force for us at third base.”
Righthander Gianni Zayas, who went to high school in New Jersey, attended North Carolina State, where he threw two innings as a freshman.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Zayas, who has a solid, well-developed build with a strong lower half, sits 91-93 mph and touches 94 with his fastball.
“He has a chance to be a true four-pitch guy,” Updike said. “He has a good, solid fastball and he has movement with a four and two-seamer.”
His 77-80 mph curveball with 11-5 tilt showed plus potential, to go with a slider. Developing his low-80s changeup, which he throws from a lower arm slot, has been a key development for Zayas.
“We went a split-change grip with pressure on the ring finger just so he could have the idea of a different grip in his hand while he accelerates,” Updike said. “He did that for two or three weeks and it started to show. In the last few weeks he has went back to a traditional changeup grip but the idea of the straight changeup has taken hold. It is starting to develop.”
Zayas, who walked 18 in 24 innings in the Atlantic Summer College League, will also look to improve his control.
These two hurlers will be priority viewing for Florida scouts next spring. Seminole State has a strong track record in the draft (especially pitchers), having produced five big leaguers since the 2006 draft. Seminole State’s pitching alumni include a pair of All-Star hurlers, Ryan Franklin and Bobby Thigpen, as well as Robert Person. It has also produced single-digit round selections in the last two drafts, 2013 Angels righthander Garrett Nuss (seventh) and 2012 Marlins righthander Daniel Oliver (eighth).