SARASOTA, FL- Ryan “Scooter” Gennett may have been the most polished hitter at the East Coast Professional Baseball Showcase in Lakeland, Florida last August, at least in my scout book. The lefthanded hitting Sarasota High product showed a very mature approach and an unusual ability for a high school player to load up and hit a breaking ball.
While he’s still a top prospect with a chance to go in the first two rounds, Gennett hasn’t swung the bat quite so well in the early-going of his senior year. I got a look at him in four plate appearances against Plant City HS at home on Wednesday, in a game Sarasota ended up winning 1-0 in eight innings.
The 5-9, 165 Gennett is a high-energy, lived-bodied player. Though he’s small by MLB standards and doesn’t stand out when he walks off the bus, he’s very noticeable once the mitts stop popping.
There was no pregame due to the early evening rain and I didn’t get to see Gennett take batting practice.
In his first at-bat, he took a full count before flying out to center field. In at-bat #2, Gennett hit a lazy foul ball flyout to the leftfielder. The next two appearances he walked. After the first walk, he aggressively took second on a wild pitch where he had to hustle because it barely got past the catcher.
Gennett’s swing didn’t look as free and easy as it did last summer and fall. At that time, he had almost average MLB bat-speed with a quick trigger. Gennett’s hands seemed tied up on Wednesday.
He stands at the plate slightly open from the left side and I noticed he is flaring his back elbow out a little bit more. He has his hands turned more towards each other on the handle and I wonder if this is what’s causing them to tie up. Gennett still takes a nice back-load with his hands as his feet stride forward, but he’s just not whipping the bat through like he used to.
I would be only mildly concerned, because I saw him do it before and surely he can get it back. It’s just one game and all the actions are there to be a good hitter.
Gennett showed some pop in Lakeland, too, despite his size. He reminds me a little bit of a Florida middle infielder in last year’s draft, Flanagan High’s Rolando Gomez who ended up signing with the Los Angeles Angels for essentially 2nd-round money. Gomez is even smaller (5-7) but with a short, quick lefthanded bat and the raw ability to hit it 400-feet with wood. Gennett hits hard line-drives with enough loft for occasional power, but I see him at his upside being a .300+ hitter who uses the field.
I graded Gennett out as a future plus defensive second baseman when I watched him in Lakeland and I maintain that opinion. His arm-strength is short for shortstop at the major league level, but he’ll get rid of it quick and make it work at second. Despite average speed in the 60 yd (7.0), I have gotten solid-average and better on the bases (4.15 home-to-first) and he shows good lateral agility and range defensively. I grade out his hands and his double play pivot to become plus and think he has the body control to finish off difficult plays.
He’s athletic enough where he can probably play anywhere on the diamond, but second base to me is his best spot as a potential major leaguer.
From my glimpses of other top high school middle infielders (David Nick and Gio Mier from California, Nick Franklin from Florida), I still think he’s the best pure hitting prospect despite his recent scuffles. As a scout, you have to look down the road and see what they can become. I also think he has defensive agility and range with any of them, but is perhaps the most likely to move to second early on because of his lack of raw arm-strength.
Incidentally, Sarasota had a 1st-round shortstop last year in Casey Kelly, who went to the Boston Red Sox and also doubles as a righthanded pitcher. I didn’t see Sarasota last year, but that double play combination must have been special to watch.
On Friday, I’ll see four Florida high school players who are potential early-round draft picks. Cardinal Mooney righthander Michael Heller (#35 HS Prospect for 2009 draft) will pitch against Bishop Verot’s slugging third baseman Bobby Borchering (#17) in Sarasota. Later that night, I’ll drive to Charlotte HS where I’ll see their talented 6-4 lefty David Holmberg (#75) pitch against Lakewood Ranch catcher Mike Ohlman (#261). It should make for great blogging, check back with us this weekend!