Main Event

One of the draft’s most intriguing players is Michael Main, and his story has been fascinating to follow.

Main went from arguably the best high school underclassman in America (2004) to an injured junior (February 2006), back to one of the best prospects in the country (June 2006), to an enigmatic thrower who struggled to miss bats (October 2006).

His career has come full circle, and five weeks before the 2007 draft, his stock is again soaring.

Before Main could legally drive 55 mph, he was delivering fastballs at 90 mph. As Baseball America’s top 15-year-old in 2004, the slender righthander/outfielder from Deltona, Fla., helped lead USA Baseball’s youth national team to a second-place finish at the Pan-Am Championship in Mexico. His fastball was clocked as high as 94 even back then. But he could also handle the bat. As a freshman earlier that year at Deland High, Main led his team with a .407 average.

I had the pleasure of presenting Main with an award during the Aflac Classic last summer in August, and I quipped how he still thought of himself as a hitter, but eventually would be known solely for his pitching. But today, even those who are regarded as the most informed opinions in the game–thescouts–can’t seem to make up their mind on where Main’s future lies.

“I think it’s about 50-50,” said a scout based in Florida Monday. “I’m saying just draft him as “athlete” and let your player development department develop him as whatever they want. He moves faster with his arm, and if it doesn’t work out, you can always put him in the outfield.”

It was this time last year when Main gained momentum as a prospect. After tendonitis in his rotator cuff cost him much of his junior season, Main returned to the mound late in the regular season, caught fire and led Deland to Florida’s 6-A semifinals in Sarasota. He touched 97 mph in a playoff game against Oviedo High, and it was evident he was one of the premier players in the ’07 draft class.

Late in the summer and fall, however, he too often watched his mid-90s fastball sail over his shoulder into an alley, as he got hit hard during a couple of heavily-scouted tournaments.

This spring, Main’s command has improved, he’s kept his fastball down in the strike zone, where it has better life and movement, and he has also tightened the spin and command of his breaking ball, which grades as an above-average offering.

The ingredients are there for Main to be drafted in the first round as a righthanded starter, but if he keeps hitting like he has been, there are going to be other teams that prefer to send him out as an outfielder. He has plus-plus speed, a plus-plus arm and after just a couple of months of experimenting with switch-hitting, has become a tough out from the left side of the plate, which just sweetens the temptation to take him as a position player.

“I saw him switch-hit and he about took the pitcher’s head off lefthanded,” a scout said. “He’s four (seconds) flat from the right side (of the batter’s box to first base), flies out in the outfield and he looks like he wants to be out there every day. That’s just one more thing to like about him. Rather than some of the guys that have been so high-profile for so long that act like they’re board, he’s playing every day like he has something left to prove.”