Summer Collegiate : : Story
Thursday, September 19, 2013

Florida League prospect reports

Allan Simpson        
Photo: Aldrin Capulong

Official League Website:
2013 Summer Collegiate Top Prospect coverage
Florida Collegiate League Top Prospect list (free)

The Florida Collegiate League was impacted as much as any by the well-documented wild fluctuation in offensive production that highlighted the last two seasons in a dozen summer leagues around the country. From a league-wide total of 57 home runs in 2011, the FCL witnessed a quantum leap to 158 in 2012, only for the number of long balls to come crashing right back down again this summer to 56.

All forms of offense throughout the league took a predictable dip, with league-wide batting averages dropping from .263 in 2012 to .241 this season. With one notable exception, no teams or players were immune from the dramatic downturn, which stemmed primarily from a tightening of quality-control standards in the Diamond baseball used by the FCL and other summer leagues that experienced a similar wild ride.

The exception was Sanford River Rats shortstop Tyler Palmer, who was a one-man wrecking force in the league this summer. He finished four points shy of winning the league batting title, otherwise would have scored a near clean sweep in leading the league in every meaningful offensive category. Perhaps most significant against the backdrop of the league’s precipitous decline in home run production, he went deep nine times, not only tying the league single-season record but topping the total of the co-leaders from last year’s aberration season.

Palmer, not surprisingly, was a relatively easy choice as both the FCL’s most valuable player and top prospect this season, but his story is much more than just hitting home runs and winning awards. It has a decided human-interest twist to it with all the adversity he has overcome in the last two years to not only play this summer, but thrive in the process—all stemming from severe nerve damage done to his hand from a freak accident in 2011.


Year League Established:
States Represented in League: Florida
No. of Teams in League: 6
Regular-Season Champion: Winter Park Diamond Dawgs (27-13; 30-13 overall).
Post-Season Champion: Winter Park Diamond Dawgs.
Teams, Perfect Game Summer 50/Final Ranking: No. 12 Winter Park Diamond Dawgs; No. 40 Leesburg Lightning
No. 1 Prospect, 2012 (per PG CrossChecker): Nick Gonzalez, lhp, Sanford River Rats (South Florida; Giants/29th round, 2013 draft)
First 2012 Player Selected, 2013 Draft: Aaron Slegers, rhp, Orlando Freedom (Indiana; Twins/5th round)

Most Valuable Player:
Tyler Palmer, ss/of, Sanford River Rats (Seminole State, Fla., CC)
Most Outstanding Pitcher: Emilio Ogando, lhp, Winter Park Diamond Dawgs (St. Thomas, Fla.)
Top Prospect (as selected by league): Tyler Palmer, ss/of, Sanford River Rats (Seminole State, Fla., CC)

BATTING LEADERS (League games only)

Batting Average:
A,C. Carter, c, Winter Park Diamond Dawgs (.354)
Slugging Percentage: Tyler Palmer, ss/of, Sanford River Rats (.643)
On-Base Average: Tyler Nesloney, of, Leesburg Lightning (.465)
Home Runs: Tyler Palmer, ss, Sanford River Rats (9)
RBI: Tyler Palmer, ss, Sanford River Rats (32)
Stolen Bases: Tyler Palmer, ss, Sanford River Rats (24)

PITCHING LEADERS (League games only)

Emilio Ogando, lhp, Winter Park Diamond Dawgs (7)
ERA: Emilio Ogando, lhp, Winter Park Diamond Dawgs (0.63)
Saves: John Glick, rhp, Winter Park Diamond Dawgs (8)
Strikeouts: John Sever, lhp, Sanford River Rats (52)


Best Athlete:
Rock Rucker, lhp/of, Sanford River Rats
Best Hitter: Tyler Palmer, ss/of, Sanford River Rats
Best Power: Tyler Palmer, ss/of, Sanford River Rats
Fastest Base Runner: Orlando Rivera, 2b, Winter Park Diamond Dawgs
Best Defensive Player: Daniel Sweet, of, Winter Park Diamond Dawgs
Best Velocity: Arturo Martoral, rhp, Sanford River Rats
Best Breaking Ball: Emilio Ogando, lhp, Winter Park Diamond Dawgs
Best Command: Emilio Ogando, lhp, Winter Park Diamond Dawgs


1. TYLER PALMER, ss/of, Sanford River Rats (Seminole State, Fla., CC/RS-SO in 2014)
Palmer dominated the FCL this summer like no player in league history, topping the six-team circuit in runs scored (35), hits (49), doubles (10), homers (9), RBI (32), stolen bases (24) and slugging (.642), and would have won the league Triple Crown had he gotten just one more hit. As it was, he finished second in the batting race, .354 to .350. Palmer’s success was remarkable in its own right, but all the more compelling because he missed the 2013 college season while undergoing his third surgery after sustaining major never damage two summers ago when he severely cut his right hand on broken glass in a freak accident. He was fortunate not to have bled to death. The ill-timed injury occurred just days before he was set to sign a reported $600,000 bonus contract with the Florida Marlins as the team’s fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft out of a Georgia high school. There were significant doubts at the time that the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Palmer would ever play again, and outside of one season at Oakton (Ill.) Community College in the spring of 2012, where his ability to throw a ball was seriously compromised, he didn’t—until his breakout summer in the FCL. Even though the feeling in his hand had not fully returned, despite significant rehabilitation since his surgery early this year, Palmer turned the league on its ear, dominating with both his bat and his feet. He spent most of the season at second base, though also saw time at shortstop and third base, and the most obvious aspect of his game that was impacted by his injury was on the transfer of ball from glove to hand, though that normal simple step became much easier through the course of the season. Once a strong-armed shortstop, capable of gunning balls across the diamond in the mid-90s, Palmer can no longer reach that velocity, but his throws were clocked as high as the mid- to high-80s late in the summer. Ultimately, Palmer will likely end up in center field, where his superior athleticism and speed will be significant assets, even if his arm strength may never be what it once was. Palmer’s ability to swing the bat was largely uncompromised, and balls jumped off his bat with a different sound than anyone else in the league. A complete pull hitter to begin the season, he was driving balls to all parts of the field at the end. His ability to hit with power was all the more remarkable as he wasn’t able to fully extend his fingers and open his right hand in June; by end of season, he was able to do so as the nerves continued to re-generate. It’s unclear how Palmer’s injury might impact, or even compromise his chances of playing at the professional level, especially if his hand doesn’t fully heal, but he’ll spend the 2014 season at Seminole State Junior College as a third-year sophomore, and scouts will have plenty of opportunity to gauge the state of his game next spring.

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