TALLAHASSEE, FL- I first scouted D’Vontray Richardson on February 2nd, 2007, in his opening series as a Seminole freshman. Florida State was hosting Tennessee on a chilly weekend in Tallahassee, where it actually hailed for a few minutes during one of the games.
I’d heard the buzz that Richardson was attending FSU on a football scholarship and was a high school teammate and good friend of superstar catcher Buster Posey.
Long-time scout and former Negro League legend Buck O’Neill used to speak of “the sound”. The sound he heard when Babe Ruth and Josh Gibson hit a baseball, and how it was both unique and beautiful.
In the aluminum era, auditory impressions have become impure but there’s something to be said for the visual; how a ball jumps off a bat. And during that afternoon’s batting practice session, Richardson sent off a series of scalding line-drives with backspin that carried it into the gaps. It looked different from every other hitter, and there were some high draft picks taking BP that day including Posey and Tennessee catcher J.P. Arencibia. Knowing he was only a freshman, Richardson was an immediate mental note for the 2009 draft.
When I got a closer look at his sculpted 6-1, 190 (at that time) frame, timed him as a plus runner, and graded his arm out as solid average, it was clear that Richardson was a ballplayer of unusual ability.
He struggled during his freshman year with his outfield routes and also early on as a hitter. But Richardson made strides and wound up hitting a very respectable .351-2-20 in 131 AB. It seemed he was on his way to starting as a sophomore and vaulting to a high draft pick as a junior.
But he’s taken something other than a straight path since freshman year. Richardson ended up skipping baseball his sophomore year for reported academic issues. Last fall, he served as the Seminoles’ “change of pace” quarterback, which their website distinguishes from a mere back-up. Richardson appeared in ten games, largely in running situations, and he ended up their third leading rusher with 288 yards on the year.
Richardson has come back to baseball this spring. I watched him on Sunday against Boston College and though he remains crude at the plate, the ability is still tremendous and I’m forced to draw just one conclusion.
D’Vo needs to quit football.
This is a rare talent in my eyes, someone who has a chance to become an all-around star. A young man who has played little baseball compared to the other prospects and should make great strides when he gets his repetitions. I take nothing away from his football abilities of which I’m oblivious, but I feel strongly that his upside in baseball is of a major league all-star.
This is after watching him go 0-3 with a hits-batsmen and a strikeout against Boston College on Sunday. D’Vo has a no-stride swing with minimal load, which mechanically makes it difficult to wait on breaking balls. He looked bad on a few, but he also hit a hard groundout to second in his first at-bat off of a Mike Dennhardt curve; Richardson somehow kept his hands back despite the no-load/no-stride approach. I took home that he can learn to hit off-speed pitches in the minors.
As far as a short stroke, bat-speed (60), raw power (50+), and line-drive power (65), Richardson has it all and I think with a little mechanical tweaking in pro baseball, he’ll make consistent contact with wood and become a plus bat with wood.
Defensively, Richardson took good routes on Sunday, going to the right field line to cut off a double and also making a fine throw to nab a runner at the plate. I can project him for 60 range and a 60 arm, which makes him a plus defender anywhere in the outfield when he hits his prime.
Richardson’s home-to-first times were 4.37 and 4.26. I believe he is a good bit faster than those times indicate; he was noticeably slow recovering from his swing and getting out of the box. Richardson has not been a basestealer at FSU and he will surely need to be tutored on the art in order to exploit the value of his speed.
Is there risk involved with drafting him high? Only in the sense that he’s not likely to be polished up by June, but with a few hundred at-bats in the minors he should catch up. D’Vo plays with an intensity and instinct that proves to me he’s much more than a kid who looks good in a uniform.
It’ll be very interesting to see where he goes in the draft and how eager he is to play pro baseball in lieu of furthering his two-sport college experience. I consider Richardson a sleeper and will not for one be surprised if he ends up going very early. For my money, he is by good margin the most talented college outfielder available in the draft. University of Florida’s two-sport rightfielder Riley Cooper is faster with more range and three more inches in height, but he doesn’t have Richardson’s bat or arm. Notre Dame’s A.J. Pollock is a steady player but without any game-breaking tools.
While Richardson is not even close to being the best college outfielder today, he’s clearly the one with the most upside and scouting is all about projection.
OTHER ‘NOLES NOTES: Righthanded closer Jimmy Marshall came in for two-thirds of an inning and was horribly wild. The solidly built 6-0, 210 Marshall showed a 90-92 MPH fastball (with both four and two-seam action) plus a big curveball, but he simply wasn’t sharp. One of his thrown curves looked MLB-average, but all of the others hung up in the zone. The senior is a likely draft, but to go high and climb the pro ladder he’ll clearly need to locate much better than he did on Sunday. Marshall is a fast worker with good arm-action and a repeatable delivery, so I can see him being a completely different guy in another appearance…. We have two FSU sophomores aside from Richardson (#96) ranked among the Top-100 sophs in the nation, and I was able to see them both. Centerfielder Tyler Holt (#95) has solid-average range for the position and he made a nice catch going over his head towards the center field wall. Without getting a good look at his arm, it appears to be below-average (on relays) and there are questions for me if his swing will translate to wood. The 6-0, 190 righthanded hitter doesn’t generate a lot of bat-speed and he has a heavy stride that puts him off-balance. Nevertheless, he is off to a torrid start (.510-1-8 in 49 AB). Lefthanded pitcher John Gast (#17) started the game but was forced out after 3.1 innings. Gast wasn’t sharp Sunday, throwing mid-80s with a high-60s curveball. He’s a strong-bodied 6-2, 216 kid who clearly has potential and I’m sure we’ll see better stuff and results in the future. Holt and Gast will be eligible for the 2010 draft…. An FSU junior who has intrigued me is a smooth-swinging lefty named Ohmed Danesh. Danesh is undersized at a small-framed 6-0, 190, but solidly built with the sloped shoulders reminiscent of many a good hitter. Danesh has a quiet lower-half and 40/50 bat-speed. With his balance and overall sound approach, I can see his potential to hit for average in the big leagues even if he’s been only mildly successful thus far in the ACC. In left field, Danesh is a well below-average thrower who’ll have to work hard to become an adequate defender. This spring, he’s hitting .378-2-10 in 37 AB.