2005 Draft Scouting Reports: Florida
By John Manuel
June 2, 2005
|THIS YEAR'S CROP
||One for the books
||Solid, not spectacular
||Not up to par
||Nothing to see here
Veterans of the Florida scene can’t remember a worse year for the
state in recent draft history. Yes, the Sunshine State should still see
four players go in the first 50 picks, but that’s below-average
for the state. Since 2000 Florida has averaged five first-rounders a year,
including the sandwich round. Worse than the top-of-the-line talent is
the depth, particularly at the state’s major colleges. Florida State
might not produce a draft pick in the first 10 rounds, and scouts considered
Miami’s talent ordinary by its lofty standards. The state’s
high school ranks also were having a down year, with few players other
than lanky lefthander Michael Kirkman stepping forward this spring to
improve their draft stock.
(National ranking in parentheses)
|Potential First-Round Picks
|1. Andrew McCutchen (11), of, Fort Meade HS
2. Ryan Braun (14), 3b, Miami
3. Chris Volstad (16), rhp, Palm Beach Gardens HS
4. Cesar Carrillo (21), rhp, Miami
5. Tyler Herron (47), rhp, Wellington HS
|Potential Second-Fifth Round Picks
6. David Adams (67), ss, 3b/ss, Grandview Prep, Margate
7. Drew Thompson (71), ss, Jupiter Community HS, Tequesta
8. Michael Kirkman (93), lhp, Columbia HS, Lake City, Fla.
9. Alan Horne (111), rhp, Florida
10. Josh Bell (116), 3b, Santaluces HS, Lantana
11. Mike Billek (125), rhp, Central Florida
12. Chris Dominguez (134), 3b/rhp, Gulliver Prep, Miami
13. Duente Heath (146), rhp, Lake City CC
14. Carlton Smith (151), rhp, Okaloosa-Walton CC
15. Tommy Mendoza (158), rhp, Monsignor Pace HS, Miami
16. Jordan Schafer (167), lhp/of, Winter Haven HS
17. Drew Butera (180), c, Central Florida
18. Yuniel Escobar (188), ss, No school, Miami
|Others Of Note
| 19. Sean Garceau, rhp, Royal Palm Beach HS
20. Ralph Henriquez, c, Key West HS
21. Bobby Mosebach, rhp/of, Hillsborough JC
22. Bradley Clark, rhp, Sickles HS, Tampa
23. Paco Figueroa, if/of, Miami
24. Dennis Raben, 1b, Hollywood Hills, Hollywood
25. Brian Peacock, c, Manatee CC
26. Yahmed Yema, of, Florida International
27. Matt Joyce, of, Florida Southern
28. Jeff Corsaletti, of, Florida
29. Shane Funk, rhp, Arnold HS, Panama City Beach
30. Jeff Baisley, 3b, South Florida
31. John-Michael Howell, 1b/3b, Central Florida
32. Geoff Strickland, 3b, Florida Southern
33. Michael Saunders, 3b, Tallahassee CC
34. Matt Gamel, 3b, Chipola JC
35. Neal Frontz, rhp, Jacksonville
36. David DiNatale, of, Stoneman Douglas HS, Parkland
37. R.J. Anderson, of, Armwood HS, Seffner
38. Kurt Lipton, of, Pinecrest Prep, Boca Raton
39. Justin Tordi, ss, Florida
40. Mark Sauls, rhp, Florida State
41. Brendan Katin, of, Miami
42. Barret Browning, lhp, Florida State
43. Caleb Graham, rhp, Gaither HS, Lutz
44. Luke Greinke, ss, Dr. Phillips HS, Orlando
45. Chris Salberg, lhp, Florida Atlantic
46. Todd Redmond, rhp, St. Petersburg JC
47. Michael Dubee, rhp, Okaloosa-Walton CC
48. David Asher, lhp, Florida International
49. Mike Allen, rhp, Arlington Country Day HS, Jacksonville
50. Jamile Weeks, ss, Lake Brantley HS, Altamonte Springs
51. Chas Spottswood, rhp, Key West HS
52. Chadd Hartman, of, Olympia HS, Windemere
53. Danny Lima, ss, Florida Christian HS, Miami
54. Albert Laboy, of, Boynton Beach HS, Boca Raton
55. Jesse Litsch, rhp, South Florida CC
56. Logan Williamson, lhp, Pensacola JC
57. Dee Brown, of, Central Florida
58. Justin Byler, c, Gulf Coast CC
59. Brandon Camardese, lhp, Miami
60. Danny Figueroa, of, Miami
61. Jeff Howell, c, Florida Southern
62. Kevin Lynch, rhp, Florida State
63. Alex Fonseca, ss, Florida Atlantic
64. Brian Baisley, c, South Florida
65. Trent Kline, c, St. Petersburg JC
1. ANDREW McCUTCHEN, of (National rank: 11)
School: Fort Meade (Fla.) HS
Hometown: Fort Meade, Fla.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 170. Birthdate: Oct. 10, 1986.
College Commitment: Florida.
Scouting Report: McCutchen’s star has risen all spring, and he could go in the first 15 picks. Like Volstad, he was an AFLAC All-American last summer, and while he struggled with Team USA in the World Junior Championship, he has followed up with a stellar senior season. McCutchen’s game isn’t all about tools, though his tools are plus across the board. That starts with the most important tool: the bat. McCutchen has quick hands and a compact swing, producing surprising raw power for his size and giving him the bat speed to lash line drives to all fields. His athletic ability, speed and frame earn comparisons to Mets prospect Lastings Milledge, but he’s more polished at the plate, earning 60 and 70 grades from scouts (on the 20-80 scouting scale) with 50 raw power. A former state champion in track as a relay runner, McCutchen has well-above-average speed and should have no trouble playing center field. The biggest question about him is his size and a perceived lack of durability, as some scouts wonder if he can maintain his bat speed over a 140-game professional schedule.
2. RYAN BRAUN, 3b (National rank: 14)
Hometown: Granada Hills, Calif.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Birthdate: Nov. 17, 1983.
Previously Drafted: Royals 2002 (31).
Scouting Report: Braun’s track record and athletic body give him a chance to be drafted in the first 10 selections. If he’s drafted that high, it will be because a team believes in his bat. He has hit ever since he joined Miami’s lineup as a freshman in 2003, when he broke Pat Burrell’s record for RBIs by a Hurricanes frosh. Braun struggled with a rib-cage strain in 2004, missing 18 games in the spring and not playing up to expectations in the Cape Cod League. He has powered Miami to another top 10 ranking in 2005, however, leading the team in home runs, stolen bases and RBIs, and he ranked among the top 10 in the country in on-base plus slugging percentage and RBIs. Braun has a hitch in his swing and a high, unconventional finish, but his hands are quick enough to make it work, and he’s athletic enough to repeat his stroke and drive pitches to all parts of the field. His future position will be the main source of concern for pro teams. He came to college as a shortstop and now plays third, but he has struggled with errors at both spots. Some scouts doubt his infield actions and footwork and say he'll have to move to an outfield corner, where his plus arm and speed could allow him to be an above-average defender in time.
3. CHRIS VOLSTAD, rhp (National rank: 16)
School: Palm Beach Gardens HS
Hometown: Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-7. Wt.: 195. Birthdate: Sep. 23, 1986.
College Commitment: Miami.
Scouting Report: Volstad has the highest ceiling of any player in the Florida draft class, as he’s a long, lanky pitcher with good stuff now and plenty of projection for down the road. He hasn’t pitched consistently well enough this spring to garner much support for being the first Floridian drafted, however, and might end up fourth on the list. Volstad kept himself as a potential first-rounder by winning a duel with Tyler Herron of nearby Wellington High and showing the ability to reach 94 mph with his fastball. Volstad pitches more consistently in the 88-92 range. He repeats his delivery well enough that scouts see him sitting at 94 regularly as he gains strength and experience. He throws strikes with the fastball and has done so right out of the gate this spring. Scouts disagree on how many balls he threw in his first start, ranging between zero and four over the first five innings. He uses his height well to get a good downward angle to the plate, giving his fastball late life. His secondary pitches are solid for a prep pitcher, particularly his changeup. Volstad’s breaking ball is his third pitch, though it’s serviceable, and scouts consider his makeup a plus. Some question his consistency in terms of focus and killer instinct, but he has time to develop both.
4. CESAR CARRILLO, rhp (National rank: 21)
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 177. Birthdate: April 29, 1984.
Previously Drafted: Royals 2002 (33).
Scouting Report: Carrillo projected as a possible early draft pick coming out of high school in 2002, but his commitment to Miami and a bout with biceps tendinitis scared off scouts. The Hurricanes are overjoyed he made it to school. He had won 24 straight decisions, two off the NCAA Division I record tied just two years ago by Wake Forest’s Kyle Sleeth, and had not lost in two seasons at Miami (the Canes were 34-0 when he started). He did not play his freshman year as a partial qualifier academically because of an ACT flap. While the year off the field didn’t help him get much bigger—scouts say he’s closer to 6-foot-2 and 165 pounds than his listed size—he matured and harnessed a power repertoire. Carrillo throws his fastball anywhere from 90-95 mph (touching 96-97), depending on the need, and he has shown scouts the ability to maintain his velocity deep into games. His fastball has excellent sink and life down in the zone from a three-quarters arm slot, and he went more than 80 innings between home runs allowed this spring. His curveball and changeup both can be plus pitches, though he pitches off his fastball so much that he tends to lose the feel for them at times. He’s athletic and quick-armed and should always have good command. Carrillo’s stuff won’t get much better, but it’s plenty good now, making him a candidate to move quickly through the minors.
5. TYLER HERRON, rhp (National rank: 47)
School: Wellington (Fla.) High
Hometown: Wellington, Fla.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 187. Birthdate: Aug. 5, 1986.
College Commitment: Clemson.
Scouting Report: Herron has emerged as the second-best prep pitcher in Florida, gaining momentum after a pair of spirited duels with Chris Volstad. He’s the latest pitching product out of Wellington High, which produced Pirates first-round picks in consecutive years in Bobby Bradley (1999) and Sean Burnett (2000). He was primarily a shortstop for much of his high school career, but a broken finger prompted him to log more time on the mound as a junior, and his loose arm, above-average velocity and plus-plus breaking ball have cemented his future as a pitcher. Athletic and projectable, Herron has enough stuff to go in the first two rounds of the draft. His curveball at times has earned 70 grades from scouts on the 20-80 scale. Herron draws comparisons to Mike Mussina from scouts who really like him. Less lofty comparisons are to 2004 Mets third-round pick Gaby Hernandez, also a South Florida product. Herron has touched 94 mph with his fastball and pitches comfortably at 90-91 while showing enough of a changeup to encourage scouts. He also impresses observers with his intense competitiveness and killer instinct.
6. DAVID ADAMS, ss/3b (National rank: 67)
School: Grandview Prep.
Hometown: Margate, Fla.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185. Birthdate: May 15, 1987.
College Commitment: Virginia.
Scouting Report: Adams is frequently compared with Drew Thompson, though they are quite different players. Thompson has a livelier body and is a better runner with a much better chance to play up the middle. Adams profiles better as a third baseman in pro ball due to his below-average speed and range. His average arm should be playable at third. That profile carries with it a desire for power, and while scouts realize not every third baseman hits like Scott Rolen, it’s difficult to know how much power Adams will show. He plays against weak competition, and scouts cut him some slack after he joined the baseball team late after playing basketball in the winter. He was excellent with wood bats last summer on the showcase circuit, using a balanced swing and trusting his quick hands to turn on pitches. He has good bat speed, centers the ball well and makes consistent, hard contact, but he will have to get stronger to hit for more power. Adams is an excellent student who could take over at third base for Ryan Zimmerman at Virginia after the Cavaliers star is drafted in the first half of the first round this year.
7. DREW THOMPSON, ss (National rank: 71)
School: Jupiter Community HS.
Hometown: Tequesta, Fla.
B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 165. Birthdate: Nov. 7, 1986.
College Commitment: Florida.
Scouting Report: Thompson is one of several sons of big leaguers available in this year’s draft; his father Robbie played second base for the Giants for 11 seasons and now works in the Indians front office. Drew is a lefthanded hitter but a similar player in some ways. His father’s best tool was his bat (he hit 119 home runs), and Thompson has the advanced approach and hitting instincts of someone who grew up around the game. He has a compact lefthanded swing that sprays line drives to all fields. He has solid hands and an average arm, probably good enough to be a college shortstop, but pro scouts believe he fits the profile of an offensive second baseman, once he fills out physically and begins to hit for more power. Thompson’s father is a Gators alumnus, and scouts believe Drew would have to be drafted higher than the third round to get him to sign.
8. MICHAEL KIRKMAN, lhp (National rank: 93)
School: Columbia HS.
Hometown: Lake City, Fla.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 185. Birthdate: Sept. 18, 1986.
College Commitment: Lake City (Fla.) CC.
Scouting Report: In a spring of players either stagnating or going backward in Florida, Kirkman was a breath of fresh air for scouts, getting better and getter with each outing. A lanky, projectable lefthander, Kirkman shot up draft boards and passed several pitchers to be considered the third-best hurler in Florida’s prep ranks, after Chris Volstad and Tyler Herron of Palm Beach County. Kirkman has arm strength and arm speed, helping him generate a fastball that sits in the 88-92 mph range and an average slider. Both pitches have natural run and sink, and he competes well—all traits scouts consider hard to teach. He’s also gotten bigger and stronger while staying coordinated, helping him increase the velocity on his fastball from the low 80s as a sophomore to his present velocity, and scouts believe he has more to come. Kirkman was at the East Coast Showcase last summer and also was invited to pitch for an all-star travel team put together by scouts that played in Australia last winter, so he’s not coming out of nowhere. His junior-college commitment doesn’t mean he'll be a cheap sign. In a lean year in Florida, though, he was seen repeatedly and figures to be drafted in the first three rounds.
9. ALAN HORNE, RHP (National Rank: 111)
Hometown: Marianna, Fla.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 195. Birthdate: Jan. 5, 1983.
Previously Drafted: Angels 2004 (30).
If Horne wants to play pro ball, the time is now. He’s lived a baseball lifetime since he played with Angels prospect Jeff Mathis back in high school. Horne was a first-round pick in 2001 but didn’t sign with the Indians, attending Mississippi instead. After a solid freshman year, Horne hurt his elbow early in his sophomore year and had Tommy John surgery, taking a medical redshirt. He then transferred in December 2003 to Chipola (Fla.) Junior College, where his father had played and where he had known the coach, Jeff Johnson, since he was young. Johnson helped Horne develop a cut fastball that he could throw consistently for strikes, a pitch he honed at Florida after he transferred. Horne turned down six-figure offers from the Angels to go to Florida and was throwing better and better as the spring progressed, sitting in the 88-93 mph range with his fastball. He’s also learned to compete better and has improved his approach to pitching. Still, Horne doesn’t pound the strike zone and can run up high pitch counts, making him more of a back-of-the-rotation starter.
10. JOSH BELL, 3b (National rank: 116)
School: Santaluces HS.
Hometown: Lantana, Fla.
B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 205. Birthdate: Nov. 13, 1986.
College Commitment: Florida Atlantic.
Scouting Report: At the outset of the season, Bell was considered one of the country’s most intriguing prospects. He made a name for himself last summer at the East Coast Showcase, where he displayed plus raw power and ranked as one of the event’s top 10 prospects. But he never looked comfortable at the plate this spring. His approach changed from game to game and he homered just twice in 106 at-bats. Bell has much more power than his stats indicate. When he widens his stance and remains balanced, his swing from both sides of the plate generates good leverage and he hits to all fields with loft. He doesn’t figure to hit for a high average, but his plus power tool might entice a team to draft him in the first five rounds. He played shortstop in high school, but his speed and range profile better at third base. Scouts were disappointed that he had not improved his body during the offseason, as his lower half hinders his mobility. He has plenty of arm and his hands are adequate. Consensus suggests he’s ready to begin his pro career.
11. MIKE BILLEK, rhp (National Rank: 125)
School: Central Florida.
Hometown: Palm Harbor, Fla.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 235. Birthdate: March 4, 1984.
Previously Drafted: Never.
Scouting Report: Billek seemed poised for a storybook 2005 season. He came to Central Florida highly recruited and got plenty of work as a freshman, then went into the doghouse as an overweight sophomore who was suspended for violating team rules. Billek worked hard to get in shape in the Cape Cod League and came back to have a monster fall, hitting 95 mph on radar guns during Central Florida’s fall scouts’ day. He had an inconsistent spring, however, ending up in the Golden Knights bullpen. His problems were caused in part by a nagging hip injury that left him topping out at 92 mph instead of the 95 he showed in the fall. He sat at 88-90 as a starter, and most scouts feel Billek will be better off as a reliever. In that role, he throws his slurvy breaking ball harder and it plays up a grade to average. Billek offers scouts a physical pro body with a relatively fresh arm (fewer than 150 college innings) and above-average arm strength. It should be good enough to push him into the first five or six rounds.
12. CHRIS DOMINGUEZ, 3b/rhp (National rank: 134)
School: Gulliver Prep.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Birthdate: Nov. 22, 1986.
College Commitment: Louisville.
There isn’t a player in this year’s draft class that takes a better batting practice, only to show less in games. A hulking 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, Dominguez has displayed awe-inspiring power in front of throngs of scouts, who walk away scratching their heads as he fails to consistently show it in games. Prior to his senior season, he transferred from Monsignor Pace High to nearby Gulliver Prep, where he played for former Miami pitching coach Lazer Collazo. Collazo persuaded Dominguez to pitch late in the season, though he showed little feel for it and even less interest in making the move. He has plus arm strength and playable hands at third base. His swing is not that long but he swings and misses often, leading some scouts to suggest that he needs to have his eyes examined. Dominguez has good makeup, works hard and could blossom under professional instruction if he chooses to sign for less money than he might have expected to receive as an underclassmen.
13. DUENTE HEATH, rhp (National rank: 146)
School: Lake City CC.
Hometown: Decatur, Ga.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.:
205. Birthdate: Aug. 28, 1985.
Previously Drafted: Devil Rays 2004 (25)
Scouting Report: Heath began the season as the top
junior college player on scouts’ radar in Florida, mostly due
to his excellent size, solid freshman season and then huge fall performance.
He touched 94 mph in the fall and demonstrated an ability to spin a
breaking ball. His strong, mature pro body also attracted interest.
However, he didn’t distinguish himself in the spring, going 4-5,
3.80. Heath struggled to locate his fastball, averaged more than three
walks per nine innings and elevated his fastball too often. He gave
up 27 extra-base hits in 95 innings in a year when junior-college talent
in Florida was considered to be below-average. Perhaps realizing his
draft stock had fallen, Heath made a late commitment to play for Tennessee
next fall. Heath, who didn’t sign with the Devil Rays as a draft-and-follow,
still could be picked in the first five rounds because he’s flashed
the low-90s fastball more consistently than most pitchers in Florida,
and because his slurvy breaking ball has potential.
14. CARLTON SMITH, lhp (National Rank: 151)
School: Okaloosa-Walton (Fla.) CC.
Hometown: Piscataway, N.J.
B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 200. Birthdate: Jan. 23, 1986.
Previously Drafted: Indians 2004 (21).
Scouting Report: Smith was drafted last year by the same organization that recently gave up on his brother, and the Indians signed him just before the closed period. They drafted Corey in the first round in 2000 out of high school and traded him in spring training 2005 to the Padres. Younger brother Carlton has athletic ability and a quick arm but isn’t quite as physical as his brother. Nonetheless he is toolsy, with a 95 mph fastball and hard slider propelling him toward the first five rounds of the draft if he had been available. His changeup is rudimentary, owing in part to inexperience. He was a catcher in high school and didn’t start pitching until his senior year, so he’s just starting to find a feel for pitching. He has an excellent work ethic, which the Indians always praised his brother for as well, and he’s an intense competitor. The Tribe hopes he shows better aptitude than Corey did.
15. TOMMY MENDOZA, rhp (National Rank: 158)
School: Monsignor Pace HS.
B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195. Birthdate: Aug. 18, 1987.
College Commitment: Miami.
Scouting Report: Mendoza is a pure projection pitcher. He was primarily a catcher until his sophomore season and was buried in a high school rotation that included White Sox supplemental first-round pick Gio Gonzalez last year. He pitched in just four high school games entering his senior season, but showed a feel for three pitches as well as enough arm strength to elicit interest in the third to fifth rounds. His fastball was clocked as high as 95 mph in an outing against Chris Dominguez and Gulliver Prep, when he went the distance, striking out 14 in a win. Mendoza’s curveball has potential to be an above-average pitch, although his secondary pitches—his arsenal includes a slider, cutter and changeup--are inconsistent. His control improves when he slows his delivery down, as he tends to rush and get offline. He’s mature; scouts like his makeup and aptitude. Though he’s committed to Miami, he’s considered signable if he goes in the top five rounds. He’ll require at least a year of Rookie ball if he signs.
16. JORDAN SCHAFER, lhp/of (National Rank: 167)
School: Winter Haven HS.
Hometown: Winter Haven, Fla.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 200. Birthdate: Sept. 4, 1986.
College Commitment: Clemson.
Scouting Report: Back in 2000, BA rated Schafer as the nation's top 13 year-old after he had a stellar summer and started at first base for his high school team as a seventh-grader. He was known mostly as a pitcher back then, though scouts are intrigued with both his ability on the mound and in the outfield. He looked good at showcases last summer and fall, but lacked some of the looseness in both his swing and arm stroke this spring, becoming mechanical and stiff. His tools rate average to slightly below across the board, but he’s described as a baseball rat who dives for balls in batting practice and takes swings after most of his teammates have left the park. “Out of all the kids in the area, this guy is going to die before he doesn't make the big leagues,” a scout said. He’s a tireless worker in the weight room and has a defined, mature frame. He pitched in the high-80s this spring with an average breaking ball. His future is probably in the outfield, where his advanced instincts aid his average speed. Some scouts say he could develop into a player in the mold of Mark Kotsay if he maximizes his tools.
17. DREW BUTERA, c (National Rank: 180)
School: Central Florida.
Hometown: Lake Mary, Fla.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 190. Birthdate: Aug. 9, 1983.
Previously Drafted: Twins 2002 (48).
Scouting Report: Butera is one of several Central Florida players with famous fathers. Outfielder Dee Brown, who should be a decent senior sign, is the son of former NFL defensive lineman Jerome, and infielder Chandler Rose’s father is an NFL referee. Butera is following in his dad’s footsteps; his father Sal spent parts of nine seasons in the big leagues in a career that ended in 1988. Sal was known for his defense, and so is his son. While Drew has just average arm strength, he has a quick transfer and one of the most accurate arms in the nation. He threw out 28 of the 58 runners who tried to steal on him this season and helped nurse along a pitching staff decimated by injuries. His catch-and-throw skills should get him to the big leagues as a reserve at the least. While Butera showed some offensive aptitude this season—he set career highs in every category that matters, from walks to batting to home runs—he still has below-average bat speed. His best-case scenario offensively is a .250 hitter with 10 homers, but that would make him a big league starter because his defense is that good.
18. YUNIEL ESCOBAR, ss (National Rank: 188)
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 200. Age: 23.
College Commitment: None.
Scouting Report: Escobar is one of five Cuban defectors who had sought entry into the 2005 draft, ostensibly to get around the visa restrictions that were expected to hamper players from foreign countries. While the visa problems have since been remedied, Escobar and his cohorts are still in the draft, and he was rumored to be one of the players the Red Sox could take among their six selections in the first 59 picks. Scouts said Escobar stood out from the group because of his defensive polish, stature and strength. They said he has the bat speed and the strength in his hands to drive the ball from gap to gap, and they expect him to have enough of an offensive upside to go in the first five rounds pick on the strength of his bat alone. He pushes himself higher with his defensive skills, including a strong arm and plenty of range. Scouts were judging Escobar off games he was playing at Braddock High against recently released players, junior college players and other semi-pros. Escobar also will have to overcome the language and cultural obstacles that have felled other Cuban defectors.
OTHERS TO WATCH
(Numbers in parentheses indicate rank in Florida)
A number of Florida players had relatives who played baseball, in addition to big league sons Thompson and Butera. SS Jamile Weeks (50) got more attention out of Lake Brantley High because of older brother Rickie, who wasn’t drafted out of high school but became the No. 2 overall pick in 2003 after a record-shattering career at Southern. Jamile lacks Rickie’s physical tools and raw speed, but colleges weren’t about to miss out an another late-blooming Weeks, so he is off to Miami after heated recruiting.
Other brother acts include Miami’s Figueroa brothers, Paco (23) and Danny (60). While Danny’s career got off to a faster start, he was sidetracked by injuries, including an elbow problem that has robbed him of arm strength, even after Tommy John surgery. Danny also has had shoulder problems and doesn’t hit with enough authority anymore to be any more than an extra outfielder; he’s still a plus runner. Paco has improved dramatically at the plate over his career. He has good speed (though not his brother’s baserunning instincts) and a decent line-drive swing. He’s played all over the diamond already and profiles as a utilityman.
SS Luke Greinke (44) suffers from comparisons to his brother Zack, a 2002 draftee who already is the Royals’ ace. He resembles his brother offensively without the polish and power Zach had as a third baseman in high school; Luke has some looseness and life in his swing with power potential. He lacks size and strength and would be well served by joining Auburn’s speedy rebuilding under coach Tom Slater.
South Florida 3B Jeff Baisley (30) should be the higher drafted of the Bulls’ Baisley brothers; he’s a better hitter than his brother Brian (64), an experienced catcher who swings and misses too much to be a factor as a hitter professionally. Jeff had ankle problems rob him of some quickness and agility, but he’s a line-drive, gap-to-gap hitter who should be a solid minor league bat. Neither is the prospect that their older brother Brad
was early in his career with the Phillies before injuries sidetracked him.
Cool On Colleges
The state’s college ranks were thin this year, thanks to squads brimming with younger talent. Many of the Florida players drafted early in 2005 will be college seniors signed on the cheap. The Gators posted the Southeastern Conference’s best record in the regular season, and the next Gator drafted after Horne will be a senior, OF Jeff Corsaletti (28), who has a discriminating eye at the plate, savvy on the basepaths and in the field, and enough power to profile as a fourth outfielder. SS Justin Tordi (39), considered a possible top prospect in high school as a member of USA Baseball’s junior national team, looks more like a senior sign due to average tools, fringy range at shortstop and a strong desire to get his degree.
Miami's talent is ordinary this year. In 2001, when the Hurricanes won their last national championship, they had 11 players drafted and 13 signed professional contracts. This year’s club will max out at eight, but just four of those are locks to go on the draft’s first day. Aside from Carrillo and Braun, Miami’s best bets are versatile Paco Figueroa and big-swinging OF Brendan Katin (41). Both are seniors. Katin has caught in his past and has raw power but isn’t selective enough to be a consistent hitter.
As down as Miami’s draft talent is, Florida State’s is worse, and scouts and Atlantic Coast Conference peers praised coach Mike Martin for his team for putting together a strong season even though no Seminole upperclassman figures to be a future big leaguer. The best bet should be LHP Barret Browning (42), who was a sixth-rounder out of high school and a 26th-round pick out of junior college in 2004. He’s been one of the Seminoles’ most consistent starters and best strikeout artist, thanks to a good curveball and a fastball that sits in the 84-88 mph range. It used to touch the low 90s, but scouts haven’t seen that velocity this season. He’s considered more of a senior sign, and the same can be said for RHP Mark Sauls (40), who was a third-round pick in 2002 by the Twins but will go lower this year. Sauls topped out at 92 mph in high school, and this spring scouts said he was bumping 87 mph. They worried about a pronounced wrap in the back of his arm action. Senior RHP Kevin Lynch (62), the Seminoles’ top pitcher at 10-0 out of the bullpen, should be drafted by a stats-oriented club because of his outstanding control. His older brother Matt is a lefthander in the Athletics organization and ranks third all-time at FSU in wins.
Central Florida’s impact in the draft includes Billek and Butera but also senior OF Dee Brown (57), who added power (career-best 18 homers) to his up-and-down career this season. The son of late NFL defensive lineman Jerome Brown
has shown a knack for putting his bat on the ball but lacks offensive refinement or a true home defensively. A better bet to be drafted is 1B/3B John-Michael Howell (31), a redshirt junior with a tragic history. Howell’s mother died during surgery when he was in high school, and his father died while Howell was in college of a heart attack. The tumult in his life has led Howell to three colleges, and he finally started to put all that behind him this season. He led the Golden Knights in hitting and ranked second to Brown with 15 home runs. Howell has legitimate power in his long but strong swing and would go in the first five rounds pick if he had the hands to play third base. Most scouts think he’s better off at first.
Florida International has several interesting players, led by OF Yahmed Yema (26), who has a strong track record. Yema had a storied career at Hialeah High, where he was part of back-to-back state championship teams, and he was MVP of a Perfect Game/World Wood Bat showcase, finishing ahead of a bevy of prominent prospects. He had a rough freshman season at FIU before turning it up the last two years, particularly in 2005 with 14 homers, third-best in the Sun Belt Conference. He makes consistent contact (just 14 strikeouts) and has solid bat speed. Most scouts view him as a tweener, however, because he doesn’t run well enough to play center, and they don’t see him producing enough power at 6-feet, 182 pounds to remain a corner outfielder. Teammate David Asher (48), the team’s top starter at 9-1, 3.26, is a sinker/slider lefthander who touches 90 mph with his fastball and could be a back-of-the-rotation starter if his command were average. He’s considered a safe senior sign.
As with much of the South this spring, Florida had talent but just didn't have depth, and few players improved their stock through the spring. One who did was RHP Sean Garceau (19), who was signed to play with Alabama. The Crimson Tide likes pitchers who throw breaking balls for strikes, and Garceau can do that. If he did it more consistently with a power breaking ball as opposed to the slow curve he favors, he would be a premium pick. He throws his fastball in the 88-91 mph range and has touched 93.
Garceau moved ahead of enigmatic Bradley Clark (22), a tall, projectable righty who had shown well in showcase events. Academic issues kept Clark ineligible for the first three years of his high school career, leaving him less refined than the average prep senior and in need of a lot of seasoning. He didn’t respond well to the pressure of his first season, losing his feel for the easy, fluid arm action he’s shown in the past, losing life on his fastball and leaving it up in the zone too often. Clark is considered an easy sign and has some real advantages. At 6-foot-6, 200 pounds, he has plenty of room to fill out and add velocity to his 88-92 mph fastball, and he throws a slider that can be a very good pitch.
Key West High won its 11th state championship this season, and the Conchs could have two players drafted highly. RHP Chas Spottswood (51), whose family is big in Key West real estate, probably will make good on his college commitment to Florida, where his 93 mph fastball will stand out. C Ralphie Henriquez (20), though, is motivated to play pro ball. His father and coach, Ralph, is a minor league coach in the Braves organization and has worked hard with his son on his catch-and-throw skills, which are solid but need improvement. The younger Henriquez has some power in his swing, but it shows up more in batting practice than it does in games.
RHP Shane Funk (29) had a huge summer on the showcase circuit, but fell back all spring before picking up momentum in mid-May at the Florida high school all-star game in Sebring, getting his velocity to a season-best peak of 93 mph and showing a power curveball. His fastball velocity was solid all spring at 88-92, but he wasn’t throwing his curveball for strikes. He’s capable of throwing harder but needs to add deception or life to his fastball because he was getting hit hard when he was behind in the count all spring. At times, Funk gets too mechanical with his delivery, which can happen for a teenager with a 6-foot-6, 225-pound body.
OF David DiNatale (36) and 1B Dennis
Raben (24) also improved their stock late as the MVPs of an all-star game in South Florida in late May. Raben, a lefthanded slugger, could slide in the draft because of a commitment to Miami. He’s shown looseness in his swing and easy bat speed at times in the past, but he doesn’t get consistent extension to unleash his above-average raw power consistently. DiNatale, who had a productive spring, runs a tick above-average and will have to stay in center field down the line because he’s wiry strong but lacks the power to profile as a corner outfielder.
Jucos Down, Small Schools Worse
Smaller colleges in the state often make a significant contribution to the draft as well, but Florida offered no blockbuster players in either category this year. The top juco players in the state were all pitchers such as Smith, who signed with the Indians.
RHP Duente Heath (13) and RHP/OF Bobby Mosebach (21) both committed to Tennessee. Heath was inconsistent all season with his command, failing to average a strikeout an inning despite a 94 mph fastball and strong, intimidating pro body. Mosebach has similar stuff (though his slider could be better) but was considered less signable after turning down a near-six-figure offer from the Expos last summer.
A juco player who wasn’t under control was Chipola 3B Matt Gamel (34), who proved to be one of the best hitters in the state at any level. A juco all-American, Gamel has a short, quick lefthanded swing that he repeats. He’s also considered a solid defender at third base with good enough hands and arm strength for the position. Committed to Louisiana-Monroe, he should go in the first 10 rounds.
Florida Southern was providing most of Division II punch with three hitters who could be drafted. OF Matt Joyce (27) has a chance to go in the first 10 rounds if he shows power in workouts with clubs because he’s athletic and has a solid arm. His bat has let him down this season, however, with a sub-.300 average and just three home runs. Athletic C Jeff Howell (61) was a sleeper who scouts found when they came in to see Joyce and undersized 3B Geoff Strickland (32), a versatile gamer with a solid line-drive bat. Howell has average arm strength and is a plus runner, but his bat plays best behind the plate.