LAKELAND, Fla.—Scouts left Lakeland muttering the same words as last year and the year before that. The complaints ran along the lines of, “Nobody knocked me out,” and “Talent is way down this year”.
I may have been overcome by obligatory pessimism myself, but that was before I tried to put together a list of the Top 10 Prospects in attendance at the four-day event.
This is one of the more difficult Top 10s I’ve had to do as there are a number of outstanding prospects left off the list. Knowing how much can change over the course of a spring season, I would not be at all surprised if a player excluded from this list ends up going in the first round next June.
The event was both top-heavy and deep with outfielders, middle infielders and righthanded pitchers. It was much weaker in catching and lefthanded pitching. There were some quality drafts at both of those position, but not many catchers or lefties that I (and the other scouts I conferred with) would put down as an early-round follow going into the fall of their senior year.
In the past, Florida players have dominated this event and the corresponding Top 10 Prospects lists. This year, the Sunshine State is represented by three of the top four, but Georgia may very well have more early-round prep picks next year. The Peach State is absolutely loaded, especially with what we saw at Perfect Game’s National Showcase in Minneapolis in June. Several of the state’s potential early-round prospects were not in attendance at this event but Georgia was still plenty represented.
The accompanying Top 10 is based on the players’ projection in the 2010 draft. Performance at the event was noted, but only as it pertained to the player’s pro prospectus. The rankings take into account my own evaluations and those of Cliff Pastornicky, a fellow Perfect Game scout in attendance at the event. We will follow up in the next few days with reports on more of the premium prospects at the East Coast Showcase.
1. A.J. Cole, RHP, Oviedo (Fla.) HS
Cole, a 6-foot-5, 180-pound righty with a lightning-quick arm, threw 91-95 mph consistently on a downward plane. He has the potential for a plus curveball, as well, and threw the pitch at 78-80 mph. Cole is surprisingly coordinated for his size, and scouts dream of how good his stuff will be when he fills out his lanky frame with another 20-30 pounds. Cole’s changeup and pitchability are in the developmental stages; they don’t need to be refined in high school but will their improvement in pro ball will determine how quickly he gets to the big leagues. Cole has given a verbal commitment to Miami.
2. Yordy Cabrera, 3B/RHP, Lakeland (Fla.) HS.
Nobody at the event had more raw power than the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Cabrera, who hit a series of BP home runs up onto the left-field berm at Joker Marchant Stadium, the long-time spring-training home of the Detroit Tigers. The native Lakelander generates above-average major league bat-speed with a big swing and also possesses a plus arm on the infield (that enables him to throw in the low-90s on the mound). Cabrera shows the actions to become a good defensive third baseman in time. He’s interesting on the mound, with the makings of a good delivery and breaking ball, but most scouts prefer Cabrera as a position player. He also ran the 60-yard dash in 6.75 seconds and was timed to first in 4.19 seconds from the right side. Cabrera’s biggest downfall is that he swings and misses a lot; the strikeouts may be reduced with a more mature approach against pro pitching. Cabrera, the son of Basilio, a minor-league coach for the Tigers, has committed to Miami.
3. Reggie Golden, OF, Wetumpka (Ala.) HS
The powerfully-built Golden can hit the ball a long way, despite his 5-foot, 10-inch stature. His 6.63 second, 60-yard speed and quick first step make him arguably the premier power/speed prospect in the country. Golden generates big league bat-speed already with a short stroke and he has a polished approach despite hailing from a small Alabama town. Golden has a chance to become a plus defensive center fielder with a plus bat. The only drawback is his lack of physical projection. Golden appears close to his physical max, but his present-day tools might be plenty. Golden has verbally committed to Alabama.
4. Karsten Whitson, RHP, Chipley (Fla.) HS.
An athletic righty, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Whitson threw consistently in the low-90s with live, four-seam action. He showed very good command of the vertical zone, throwing strikes up and down whenever he needed. Whitson also possesses the makings of a solid-average to plus curveball; his bender had nearly slider velocity (78-80 mph) and a sharp, downward bite. Whtson’s arm-action is clean and quick. He shows a strong delivery, though a little violence with the finish. Whitson has verbally committed to Florida.
5. DeAndre Smelter, RHP, Tattnall Square Academy, Macon, Ga.
There were a number of physical specimens at the East Coast Showcase, but who would have guessed one would be a pitcher? Smelter is sculpted and rock-hard at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, with a quick arm and a very strong lower-half and core. He easily threw in the low-90s and though he relied heavily on the fastball, Smelter threw a handful of late-breaking sliders with promise. Smelter’s delivery is athletic and well-balanced, his arm loose. He showed good command of the fastball and impressive poise for a high-school kid. Though Smelter didn’t run the 60-yard dash in Lakeland, he has blazed it in 6.5 seconds in the past. Smelter has not yet committed to a college and more likely will sign a football letter of intent in February.
6. Mike Antonio, SS, George Washington HS, Bronx, N.Y.
Lanky and projectable, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Antonio has true baseball actions across the board, and he performed well to boot. He has the arm, balance, and quick feet to play anywhere on the field, including shortstop. He also showed major-league bat-speed and line-drive power, plus the ability to handle the bat and make adjustments to off-speed stuff. Antonio’s free and easy swing will get quicker and stronger as he fills out. He ran a 6.69 in the 60, though he didn’t get out of the box well or show a base-stealing gear on the bases; but those can be refined.
7. Ryan Bolden, OF, Madison Central HS, Madison, Miss.
Bolden’s plus-plus speed (6.4 seconds in the 60) and athletically-proportioned 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame stick out on its own. But Bolden also showed an average major-league arm from the outfield and a good idea on handling the bat. Bolden holds his hands low, but generates major league bat-speed and has quick hands to make adjustments. He showed the ability to hit the ball hard the other way and, in time, should develop over-the-fence power. Scouts envision a multi-dimensional threat. Players with his athletic ability and swing tend to go very high in the draft.
8. Jesse Biddle, LHP, Germantown Friends School, Philadelphia.
The 2010 high-school crop is lean on lefties, but Biddle is one with a chance to go early next June. The large-framed, 6-foot-4, 225-pound lefty has the makings of becoming a workhorse with solid-average or better pitches in both his fastball and his curve. Biddle’s arm is loose and easy, and his delivery strong from start to finish. He began his outing in the low-90s and finished it in the high-80s after three innings. When he learns to maintain arm speed on his curve and change, Biddle will become that much more effective.
9. Justin O’Conner, SS/RHP, Cowan HS, IN
One of the toolsiest prospects in the 2010 draft, O’Conner is blessed with the actions of a true shortstop. His arm, hands, and agility grade out above-average major league right now. Though he didn’t hit big in the games, O’Conner generates plus bat-speed with a compact stroke. He’s a likely two-way player if he ends up in college, with a low-90s fastball and what is potentially a big league curveball on the mound. O’Conner is perhaps the best infielder to come out of Indiana since Scott Rolen.
10. Cam Bedrosian, RHP, East Coweta HS, Senoia, Ga.
Bedrosian’s pure stuff rates among the very best in the country. He relied almost exclusively on a lively 92-94 mph fastball, but Bedrosian also flashed a very sharp curveball that can become a plus big-league pitch. With a strong, athletic delivery, and good arm action, he should still improve despite his mature 6-foot, 205-pound build. The son of a former Cy Young Award-winning closer, the younger Bedrosian shows a similar type of mound presence and demeanor.