MIAMI, FL- I just returned home from an excellent doubleheader of high school baseball. Florida Christian High School is hosting the Adidas Baseball Bash which featured the two fine games on Thursday. The 4:00 affair was Gulliver Prep against American High School and at 7:00, Florida Christian hosted Bishop Verot.
At least fifty scouts were in attendance and Bishop Verot third baseman Bobby Borchering was the highest ranked prospect competing. We have the 6-3, 210 switch-hitter ranked 29th overall for the 2009 Draft, which projects him for the end of the first round based on talent alone.
Borchering is one of the nation’s best high school hitting prospects. At a sculpted 6-3 with a Mickey Mantle crewcut, sloped shoulders, and Chipper Jones eye-black, Borchering looks great in a uniform.
There is some length to his swing from both sides of the plate, but he already possesses near-MLB bat-speed that projects to plus in the future. Borchering starts with a good bat-angle, has a nice load, and takes a powerful rip with good extension. From a square stance on both sides, he’s well balanced to hit balls on the outer half but will have to adjust to good breaking balls inside.
Unfortunately for scouts, he went 0-2 with a walk, a strikeout, and a groundout to third. (The walk and strikeout were against prospect righty Felix Roque of Florida Christian, see below.) Aside from taking batting practice in the cage, scouts didn’t get to see him square balls up. But that is exactly what scouts are paid for; to see what a player is capable of becoming, not to judge him simply on a given day’s performance.
Borchering is not nearly as gifted defensively, but I do think he has a chance to become a solid defensive major league third baseman. Borchering has average arm-strength now that projects to 60. His feet work well and his hands are okay. His actions are long, however. He has a long release and he takes big strides to the ball, which is not the prototype for third base. Good major league third baseman are reactionary and they tend to have short, quick steps, and they get rid of the ball in hurry. Borchering is smooth, but not quick. Still, I believe he can make it work.
He has played some catcher in the fall, but his long release hinders him there as well. The outfield and first base are other options in the future.
Borchering also showed tentativeness on defense today. He made two throwing errors where he just seemed to hang on to the ball too long and pulled the first baseman off the bag. These are things that can be worked on and improved.
I can still see Borchering in the late first round or sandwich area. There’s a lot to dream on, he has the upside of a middle-order hitting third baseman.
THE DUELING SHORTSTOP PROSPECTS OF AMERICAN AND GULLIVER: SWEENEY AND PEREZ
While Borchering was the headliner for the event, there was plenty of other draftable talent. The first game matched opposing shortstop prospects in American’s Darnell Sweeney and Gulliver’s Stephen Perez (PGX-#147).
Both are switch-hitters who play the same position, but they are contrasting in styles.
Sweeney has fluid, athletic actions, and a loose 6-0, 160 body. He’s long and slender with lots of fast twitches going after a ground ball. I believe he has a chance to play shortstop all the way up. Though his arm-strength is shy of major league average, Sweeney has a very short release. His agility is solid and his hands work well. Sweeney is very quick turning the double play, which is fun to watch.
He lacks physical strength on his small, wiry frame, and Sweeney doesn’t generate much raw power or bat-speed at the plate right now. But he takes a smooth swing from both sides of the dish and gets good extension on his swing. With projected strength gains, he has the chance to become an average hitter with occasional hitter.
Today, he made a few routine plays and went hitless in three at-bats, twice righthanded against Gulliver starter Steven Rodriguez and once as a lefthanded hitter. Sweeney struck out on a curveball in the first inning that he just went around.
Sweeney has committed to Central Florida and his signability remains to be seen, but I believe he’s a first-ten round prospect and possibly first five.
We have Stephen Perez (committed to Miami) ranked in the first-five rounds and he still looks the part. He’s a little bit shorter but more solidly built than Sweeney (5-10, 170). Though his actions aren’t nearly as graceful, they are fairly smooth and he also makes quick glove-to-hand transfers. I believe Perez can be a good shortstop for a high-D1 college but he’s a second or third baseman ideally by the time he gets into the high minors.
Perez only hit lefthanded today and he showed he can handle the bat a little bit. He generates 40 bat-speed now and it projects for average. I also see future average power. In his first at-bat, Perez hit a 360-foot homerun to center field off of American righty Ricky Claudio. Overall he went 2-3 with a walk and a safe on error. So he was on base in all four at-bats.
Incidentally, the pitching matchup was interesting as well. Both Gulliver lefty Steven Rodriguez (#43) and American righty Ricky Claudio (#81) are ranked among our preseason top Florida high school prospects and Rodriguez has committed to Florida.
Rodriguez is a big-bodied 6-2, 210 mid-80s lefty who mixes in a slow curveball and a straight change. He’ll get some passing interest in the draft this year, but none of his pitches project as plus by major league standards. Only the change-up is easy for me to project to average. His pitchability should make him effective in the SEC for Florida. Rodriguez pitched a sharp five innings for the win.
(He’s also the first high school pitcher I’ve watched in many years who wears glasses on the mound. With his powder blue Gulliver uniform, I was reminded of the old Royals lefty Paul Splittorf!)
Claudio struggled mightily, unable to get out of the second inning. Claudio was the one you would have picked out of the bullpen to be the prospect; he has a quick arm and a fair amount of athleticism in his delivery, plus a broad-shouldered 6-1, 200 frame. Claudio threw his two-seamer 87-90 MPH with solid movement, but he was up in the zone and elite Miami high school lineups are not fazed by 87-90 MPH like hitters around most of the country. Claudio had no command of his fastball or his curveball, which showed good spin at times but was also up in the hitting zone. His change-up graded out to a 40/50 for me, his best pitch in the present.
I wouldn’t turn away from him completely as a prospect, because there are some big league ingredients but it’s going to take a lot of work and time.
FLORIDA CHRISTIAN RHP FELIX ROQUE, C DANNY CANELA, AND LF ALEX MARRERO SHOW PROMISE
Righty Felix Roque (ranked #137 overall preseason for the 2009 draft) pitched five very sharp innings of one-hit ball to get the win for Florida Christian. The only hit was a broken bat squibbler. (Yes, he cracked an aluminum bat.) The North Carolina State-bound righty is getting attention from pro scouts as well and could end up a first-five round pick.
Roque throws out of a low three-quarter slot at 88-92 MPH in the early innings with plus run-and-sink action. His slider and change-up both grade out as 40 pitches that could end up major league average down the road.
The question with Roque is durability in the long run. Despite standing a sturdy 6-4, 200, Roque has a high-effort delivery and arm-action. He’s a slinger, using little of his lower body or core muscles to pitch a baseball. Roque lands largely upright, which causes some backwards strain on his shoulder and elbow. For me, he’s a deadringer to become a short reliever at NCSU and I think he would be a very good one.
His catcher, Danny Canela, is also bound for NC State and he should help them quickly. The 5-10, 200 lefthanded hitting backstop (#75 Florida HS prospect) would be an early draft pick if his body looked like Joe Mauer’s more than Yadi Molina’s. And the Molina comparison is a good one because I see the same cocksure attitude, quick feet, and short release. Canela handled the difficult-to-catch Roque very well and he couldn’t wait to pick off dazed baserunners. His arm-strength grades out as major league average, but the plus feet and plus release will make him an above-average thrower. (He was throwing 1.9s between innings , 1.6s on pickoffs, and 2.2 on abad pitch to handle where he successfully threw out the attempted basestealer.)
Canela showed some juice in his left bat as well. He turns hard on the ball and is short to contact with near-MLB bat-speed and line-drive power. He didn’t face much more than an 80 MPH fastball, but he showed me an aggressive hitter’s demeanor. Canela got one hit, a hard double off the short right field fence.
If he’s overlooked for the pro draft because of his body (which is overly fleshy around the hips and mid-section), Canela projects for me as an impact player in the ACC. Keep an eye on him at NCSU. He can easily turn into a plus defensive catcher with a solid bat, despite his body. If he’s all that, he’ll also be a high draft out of college.
Florida Christian’s Alex Marrero (#97 FL HS prospect) also showed a quick lefthanded bat, though not to Canela’s (or Borchering’s) level. The 5-10, 175 L/L leftfielder went 1-2 with an opposite field line-drive single and a walk. I did not see a fly ball hit his way, but he has enough agility (and 40 speed) to be okay. He showed a below-average but playable arm (35/45) that was enhanced by a good crow-hop and easy accuracy.
Marrero is a sleeper; I think he has a chance to become a solid hitter but his peripheral tools are below-average and he lacks a projectable body. He’s still one to watch in the long run
The Scouting Trail will take me all over the state of Florida this weekend. I will blog from Bradenton tomorrow night after watching the loaded University of Indiana Hoosiers play West Virginia. They boast several prospects but none more exciting than catcher Josh Phegley whom we’ve projected as a potential first-rounder. Check back this weekend!