The 2002 Draft just ended 12 days ago, but scouts are already back on the road looking for 2003. The Perfect Game National Showcase was in St. Petersburg, Florida, this weekend at Tropicana Field, the home of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
In this early peak at the top 2003 High School Prospects, a familiar face is #1. Lastings Milledge was also the top prospect at the Team One Florida Tryouts in December and has been listed as the outstanding underclassman in several events before that.
There was an awful lot of talent behind him and picking a Top-10 was difficult. There are three athletic shortstops on the list and three polished righthanded pitchers. There are also three multi-dimensional outfielders including Milledge, and a switch-hitting catcher with a lot of upside.
The Top-10 includes only 2003 draft-eligible players and in the case of the #2 prospect Eduard Rodriguez, international prospects who are eligible to sign this summer.
The Top-10 is purely based on my opinion and on my observations. I did miss Sunday, so it’s entirely possible I did not see a pitcher who may have cracked my Top-10, or perhaps my opinion would have been swayed on a hitter or two.
And for one more disclaimer: these are my opinions of these players as pro prospects.
1. Lastings Milledge, OF, No HS (FL) 6-0, 180 R/R
It’s hardly a surprise at this point. Milledge has uncommon tools across the board for a high school outfielder, perhaps none more impressive than his bat-speed. It’s the best I’ve seen in high school and well above-average by MLB standards already. Milledge has legitimate 6.5 60 yd speed, a rightfielder’s arm, and athleticism in every aspect. There isn’t a whole lot of physical projection with his body, but not much is needed.
2. Eduard Rodriguez, RHP, (Dominican Republic) 6-3, 170 R/R
If Rodriguez was in an American high school, he’d be a surefire first five-overall pick in the 2003 Draft with a shot to go #1 overall. He doesn’t turn 18 until October and figures to attract a bidding war. Rodriguez has beautiful arm-action and an athletic delivery; in combination with a lanky frame, I expect his already major league stuff to become even better. Rodriguez showed the makings of a knockout slider and curveball. His live arm is such that he can develop just about anything. Rodriguez threw 91 MPH consistently in the first inning, then was in the high-80’s after, so he’s not a pure power pitcher yet. But he has the stuff and command to move through the minors quickly.
3. Jeff Allison, RHP, Peabody (MA) HS 6-2, 195 R/R
Allison threw consistently in the 90-92 MPH range, and touched 94-95. He has a very athletic delivery and is mechanically sound. Allison also showed a very sharp downer curveball thrown hard at 78-80 MPH. High school pitchers in the first round are notorious risks, but the two nearly “plus” pitches makes him tempting for 2003.
4. Chad Billingsley, RHP, Defiance (OH) HS 6-2, 200 R/R
Billingsley ranks right up with Allison behind Rodriguez in present-day stuff. He threw in the low-90s and could make his fastball move a lot of ways. It was the best fastball in the Trop this weekend. He also showed at times a big league slider at 79-80 MPH, though he did slip on a few. Billingsley’s body is not quite as projectable at a thick 6-2, 200, but all he needs to do is learn how to use what he has against higher competition and develop a strong #3 pitch.
5. Phil Stringer, SS, Klein Oak (TX) HS 5-9, 170 R/R
Stringer is a pure shortstop with 6.6 60 yd speed and above-average range already. He can scoot to any direction and has the hands to make the picks. His quick hands are also an asset at the plate, where he can generate MLB bat-speed despite a lack of size. Stringer may not project a whole lot because of his stature, but the physical tools are already there. He’ll need to wait better on high-caliber breaking balls.
6. Sean Rodriguez, SS/OF, Coral Park (FL) HS 6-0, 175 R/R
There’s only one thing Rodriguez doesn’t show you in a showcase; a good 60 yd time. Though he has very good feet for shortstop and “plus” range in the outfield, his 60 yd times are usually 7.0-7.2. For scouts stuck on that number, he may fall, but he has plenty of baseball agility and exceptional body control. Rodriguez can go to the hole, keep his balance, and throw hitters out as well as anyone in this class. Rodriguez’s arm is a “plus” tool in right or center field. He also generates a lot of bat-speed and has line-drive power off-the-bat. Rodriguez has a chance to be a multi-tool shortstop.
7. Ryan Harvey, OF, Dunedin (FL) HS 6-4, 180 R/R
Harvey has five-tool potential. He runs a legitimate 6.7 60 yd at a reedy-thin 6-4, and has an above-average MLB rightfielder’s arm right now. With some work on his reads, he’ll have above-average range. There is some raw power and bat-speed from the right side and Harvey just needs to shorten his stroke and quicken his trigger to make it work with wood.
8. Chris Lubanski, OF, Kennedy-Kenrick (PA) HS 6-3, 180 L/L
Lubanski has the very unusual combination of a sweet lefthanded swing and blazing speed. A long-strider, Lubanski ran a 6.35 60 yd, the fastest time this weekend. He’s not quite as fast down the line (4.0), but still well above-average. Lubanski’s bat has a lot of potential, though it’s apparent he hasn’t faced a lot of elite pitching. He needs to adjust to pitches on the outer half and to wait better on breaking balls, but the tools are there to become a very good hitter. Lubanski’s arm has also improved greatly and is nearing playability for a MLB left or centerfielder.
9. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Royal Palm Beach (FL) HS 6-3, 190 S/R
For pure potential, Saltalamacchia has as much as any catcher I’ve seen at this age. His arm is very strong and he can generate bat-speed and pop from both sides of the plate, with switch-blade hips. He is raw, though he’s improved as a receiver. Salt is capable of greatly bettering the 1.9 practice pop-times I got this weekend. His body will get stronger and should help him quicken his hitting trigger(s), which will be needed with wood against pro pitching.
10. Robert Valido, SS, Coral Park (FL) HS 6-0, 175 R/R
Valido goes to the same HS as both Sean Rodriguez and Guillermo Martinez, another pro shortstop prospect who was at the Trop this weekend. Valido is ultra-smooth at shortstop and has the tools to stay there. He also has a strong bat, with quick hands, and near-MLB bat-speed. He’ll need to tone down his swing to make consistent contact with wood in pro ball. His speed is “only” about average at a 6.9 60 yd, but like Rodriguez, he’s much more agile defensively.