Draft : : State Preview
Wednesday, April 18, 2012

State Preview: Florida

David Rawnsley        

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Perfect Game will be providing a detailed overview of each state in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, as well as Canada and Puerto Rico. These overviews will list the state's strengths, weaknesses and the players with the best tools, as well as providing scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players as ranked in Perfect Game's state-by-state scouting lists.

Contributing: Allan Simpson/Ben Collman

Florida State-by-State List
2011 Florida Overview

Florida Overview

It’s been a banner spring for prospects in Florida, and area scouts are back to their habit of complaining about not being able to see all the talent sufficiently in the four months leading up to the draft. That’s not a complaint that is likely to bring much sympathy from scouts in other parts of the country, but it boils down to a numbers game that will leave scouts with widely-differing opinions on many top- and mid-range prospects.

The driving force behind all the talent has been unusual quality and depth in the state’s Division I college programs. Florida and Florida State have both been ranked No. 1 nationally this spring, while Miami and Central Florida have made their presence known by cracking the Top 10. Stetson, Florida Atlantic and South Florida are also at or near the top of their conferences, while Jacksonville and Florida International have not lived up to pre-season expectations but have multiple pro prospects. 

Not only are these programs winning games on the field, they’ve achieved success with players that have the scouting community excited, something that hasn’t always been the case across in the past. The Florida Gators alone could have as many as four players picked among the first 50 selections, with national player-of-the-year candidate Michael Zunino a strong consideration to be picked in the top 5 overall.

For all the talent in the college ranks, the Florida prep class may be even stronger as it is represented by seven Perfect Game All-Americans: outfielders Albert Almora and Jesse Winker, first baseman Keon Barnum, shortstop Addison Russell, and righthanders Lance McCullers, Walker Weickel and Carson Fulmer. All have had productive senior seasons and have been joined by at least four other prep standouts who could find themselves among the players picked on the first day (the first round and supplemental first round, encompassing 60 selections). Righthanders Zach Eflin and Nick Travieso have been especially impressive this spring and could end up challenging each other to become the first pitcher selected from the state, under some draft scenarios.

As with the state’s top college programs, Florida high schools also dominate the national rankings with four teams among the top six schools at one point. Tampa Jesuit High, led by McCullers, held down the top spot in mid-April with Orlando’s undefeated Olympia High, led by Weickel and Winker, ranking third.

The talent in the usually-rich Florida junior-college ranks is considered subpar this spring after an outstanding 2011 class featured first-round picks Cory Spangenberg (Indian River CC, 10th pick) and Brian Goodwin (Miami-Dade CC, 34th overall), and nine other picks in the first 10 rounds. Hard-throwing Palm Beach State righthander Brandon Welch and Chipola outfielder Andrew Toles, a University of Tennessee transfer and former fourth-round pick, are the only sure-fire Top 5-round picks this year.

Florida in a nutshell:

STRENGTH: Depth of premium prospects, quality of college closers.
WEAKNESS: Junior-college class, lefthanded pitching.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 5

BEST COLLEGE TEAMS: Florida / Florida State.

PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Avery Romero, c/ss, Pedro Menendez HS, St. Augustine.
Romero was somewhat underappreciated by scouts at the start of his senior year, but he was regarded as a middle infielder with 7.4 speed in the 60. Moreover, he had a strong academic record and looked like a very strong bet to take his elite-level bat to the University of Florida. But Romero has been unexpectedly receptive to a conversion to catcher, something scouts were wishing would happen for a long time. His physical tools and approach to the game are seen as ideal for the position, and his offensive potential as a catcher is off the charts. The team that has confidence in him in his new position could easily make him a first-round pick.

WILD CARD: College seniors James Ramsey, of, Florida State; and Peter O’Brien, c, Miami. The new draft rules regarding signing bonuses have been the talk of the industry this spring, and there is much speculation about which demographic may be impacted the greatest. College seniors are perceived as the logical targets and may fly off draft boards with regularity in the first 10 rounds as teams look for ways to save money, to potentially use it on other selections who have more leverage in their negotiations. Ramsey and O’Brien are the two most highly-regarded seniors in the country and could find themselves in demand as early as the supplemental first round.

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Florida Connection: Deven Marrero, ss, Arizona State U. (Attended high school in Davie).
Top 2013 Prospect: Karsten Whitson, rhp, University of Florida.
Top 2014 Prospect: Nicholas Gordon, rhp/if, Olympia HS, Windermere.


Highest Pick, Draft History:
Chipper Jones, ss, The Bolles School, Jacksonville (1990, Braves/1st round, 1st pick); Alex Rodriguez, ss, Westminster Christian HS, Miami (1993, Mariners/1st round, 1st pick); Paul Wilson, rhp, Florida State University (1994, Mets/1st round, 1st pick); Pat Burrell, 1b, University of Miami (Phillies, 1998/1st round, 1st pick).
2006 Draft: Chris Marrero, 3b, Monsignor Pace HS, Hialeah (Nationals/1st round, 15th pick).
2007 Draft: Matt LaPorta, 1b, University of Florida (Brewers/1st round, 7th pick).
2008 Draft: Eric Hosmer, 1b, American Heritage HS, Plantation (Royals/1st round, 3rd pick).
2009 Draft: Bobby Borchering, 3b, Bishop Verot HS, Fort Myers (Diamondbacks/1st round, 16th pick).
2010 Draft: Manny Machado, ss, Miami Brito HS (Orioles/1st round, 3rd pick).
2011 Draft: Francisco Lindor, ss, Montverde Academy (Indians/1st round, 8th pick).


College Players Drafted/Signed:

Junior College Players Drafted/Signed: 28/20.
High School Players Drafted/Signed: 57/20.


Best Athlete:
Albert Almora, of, Mater Academy, Hialeah.
Best Hitter: Michael Zunino, c, University of Florida.
Best Power: Adam Brett Walker, 1b, Jacksonville, University.
Best Speed: Lewis Brinson, of, Coral Springs HS, Margate.
Best Defender: Nolan Fontana, ss, University of Florida.
Best Velocity: Lance McCullers, rhp, Tampa Jesuit HS.
Best Breaking Stuff: Lance McCullers, rhp, Tampa Jesuit HS.
Best Pitchability: Joe Rogers, lhp, University of Central Florida.


GROUP ONE (Projected ELITE-Round Draft / Rounds 1-3)

1. MICHAEL ZUNINO, c, University of Florida (Jr.)
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Zunino has done everything expected of him this season, and more, and is a favorite for any player-of-the-year awards if he continues at his present offensive pace (.338-10-39, 1.076 OPS). If anything, his defense has improved over 2011 and he even calls most of his own pitches, a rarity in college baseball. Current San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey went fifth overall in the 2008 draft, and there is no reason why Zunino should go any later.

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