Scouts in Florida are excited about the high school prospects for 2002. But if the Team One Florida Tryout was any indication, the 2003 draft will make a nice encore.
The Tryout took place at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, December 15th-16th. We were able to watch first-hand some of the best underclassmen in Florida and Georgia.
This year’s group was unusually strong with outfielders. #1 Prospect Lastings Milledge leads a septet of outfielders in the Top-20, all of whom have the potential to become high draft picks in 18 months.
Catching was strong as well. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Austin Pride are rare, athletic, 6-4 catchers who cracked the Top-10. Several other catchers not on the list also have draft potential.
Usually, righthanded pitchers dominate, but only one made the Top-10, with four in the Top-20.
The middle infield talent was also impressive. Coral Park High School actually produced an unprecedented three shortstops who made the Top-20.
Overall, the talent level was very comparable to the best Florida Tryouts in the past and determining the top prospects was a difficult endeavor. I did not feel comfortable stopping at a Top-10 as I usually do for this event, so I went up to a Top-20.
It’s never easy to project high school juniors after watching them in December, as quite a bit will change over the next year-and-a-half and many of these players will look completely different when in mid-season form.
Nevertheless, this is my Top-20 Prospects list with a brief bio after each player. Only 2003-graduating players are included.
1. Lastings Milledge, OF, Northside Christian HS 6-1, 185 R/R
Milledge is the runaway early favorite as the best prospect in the 2003 class. He has tools across the board, including some of the best bat-speed I’ve seen in a high school player, even as a junior in December. He just needs to adjust better to breaking balls and pitches on the outer-half. Milledge has power, speed, and stalwart outfield skills. In a strong group of Floridians, he’s the #1 prospect by a longshot.
2. Robert Valido, SS, Coral Park HS 6-1, 175 R/R
Valido has pure shortstop tools defensively and a quick, line-drive bat from the right side. He also ran a 6.83 60 yd on a slow turf. Athletic shortstops are hard to find in America, and those who have the potential to hit are precious. Valido is silky smooth in most everything, but needs to shorten up his transfers in the field. He should be among the best shortstops in the country for 2003.
3. Ryan Harvey, OF, Dunedin HS 6-5, 191 R/R
Harvey has a package similar to two outfielders who figure prominently in the 2002 draft: Steven Doetsch (a HS teammate) and Jeff Francoeur. He has good size with a body that is far from maturity, a major league rightfielder’s arm, "plus" speed (6.87 60 yd), and the chance to hit for a lot of power. Harvey needs to speed up his trigger and his bat-speed, but that can come with repetitions and mid-season form.
4. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Royal Palm Beach HS 6-4, 190 S/R
Saltalamacchia is a switch-hitting catcher with raw bat-speed and power from both sides of the plate, plus a major league catcher’s arm. He’s still raw in all facets, but the body and athletic package is intriguing. Improvement of his receiving skills and throwing mechanics are in order, but he hasn’t been a catcher very long. He may also need to shorten up a little at the plate from the right side.
5. Scott Maine, LHP, Palm Beach Gardens HS 6-3, 170 L/L
Lefties with tall, immature bodies who generate 88-90 MPH fastballs will catch attention from scouts quickly. Maine has a lot more development to go and could become a power pitcher as he matures. His arm-action and delivery are sound, and he shows the makings of good off-speed.
6. Eric Renfroe, OF, Tattnall Square Academy, GA 6-1, 185 L/R
The lone Georgian on this list, Renfroe is a pure lefthanded hitter who hits line-drives like tee-shots with tremendous back-spin. His bat-speed is nearing MLB quality already, and his angular frame will get a lot stronger down the road to help him hit for power. Renfroe also ran a 6.84 60 yd and might have enough range to project as a centerfielder. He’ll need to improve his arm-strength to make it average, but other than that, there’s a very solid package.
7. Jacob Stevens, LHP, Cape Coral HS 6-3, 209 L/L
Stevens is a big, strong lefty who has a lot of arm-strength. He showed consistent 89-91 MPH and there’s surely more when he’s in mid-season shape. He also showed an ability to spin an assortment of pitches, including a curveball, slider, and change-up. There isn’t much physical projection with Stevens, but if he can master his off-speed, he can make himself into an early-round prospect.
8. Nolan Mulligan, RHP, Chaminade Madonna HS 6-4, 175 R/R
Mulligan has the framework for a premium draft. His body and his arm-action are very projectable, and he already shows consistent 88-89 MPH on his fastball. At times, his curve will drop impressively and it has the makings of a "plus" pitch. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine him making significant progress before June, 2003.
9. Austin Pride, C, Lake Mary HS 6-4, 200 R/R
Austin Pride shows a startling amount of athleticism and he will give Saltalamacchia a run for his money as the state’s best catcher in 2003. He is coming along as a receiver and has a strong arm with good feet. In the workout, he registered some pop-times under 1.9. Pride has power potential at the plate and good hitting actions, but needs to generate more charge out of his trigger.
10. Sean Rodriguez, SS/OF, Coral Park HS 6-0, 175 R/R
It’s unfair that one high school can have Valido (#1), Guillermo Martinez (#15) and Sean Rodriguez as middle infielders, but that’s what Coral Park HS has. I have no idea what they’ll do with them. Rodriguez has a shortstop’s hands, agility, arm, and actions, and can also play a top-flight center or rightfield. He is an aggressive hitter, who really attacks the ball. The only thing Rodriguez doesn’t do well is run, but he shows plenty of defensive agility.
11. O.D. Gonzalez, OF, American HS 6-0, 165 R/R
Gonzalez doesn’t have the size and brute strength of some of the other outfielders listed, but there’s a lot of loose athleticism and extremely quick hands at the plate. Gonzalez can fight off anything and has the potential to hit for average at a high level. He showed above-average speed (6.87 60 yd on slow turf) and an arm that could easily become MLB rightfield caliber with a better crow-hop. Gonzalez will be interesting to watch as he gets stronger and fills out a very slender frame.
12. Peter Taraskevich, RHP, American Heritage HS 6-1, 180 S/L
Taraskevich wowed the audience with his switch-pitching, showing low-80s velocity from the left side. But as a righthanded pitcher, he’s a definite pro prospect. Taraskevich threw a sinking 88-89 MPH fastball out of a three-quarter release, with the makings of a good curveball. He has a strong build and an aggressive approach.
13. Tony Portugal, RHP, Northeast HS 6-2, 195 R/R
Portugal listed himself as an outfielder, but to me he has much more potential on the mound. He showed some of the best arm-strength in Orlando, throwing 89-90 MPH consistently with live action. His size and arm-action will also attract scouts. He just needs to perfect an off-speed complement. As a hitter, Portugal has power potential.
14. Justin Ferreira, OF, Stoneman Douglas HS 6-1, 170 R/R
Ferreira shows some real steady tools across the board, and has a body that is far from maturity. He might have the speed (6.93 60 yd) and range to stay in center field, plus a rightfielder’s arm. Ferreira swings the bat with juice and if he can iron out his hitch, there’s an upside as a hitter, too.
15. Guillermo Martinez, SS/2B, Coral Park HS 6-0, 166 S/R
Martinez has pro potential, but may only be the third best middle infielder on his high school team. Martinez doesn’t quite have a shortstop’s arm, but his hands and range will play well at second. He’s a switch-hitter who generates surprising bat-speed and pop for his size; his bat will only get stronger as he fills out. Martinez also runs well (6.95 60 yd, slow turf).
16. Cory Wells, OF, Plant City HS 6-0, 180 R/R
Wells is a pure centerfielder who gets good jumps and closes the gap. He ran a 6.97 60 yd on the slow turf, but shows much better speed on a baseball field. Wells’ arm is also an asset. The potential is there to become a line-drive hitter; Wells has a level stroke with a quiet lower body and good hitting actions. He just needs a little quicker trigger and more charge. His frame is broad-shouldered and projectable.
17. Steve Porter, LHP, West Orange HS 6-4, 195 L/L
There’s a lot of projection with Porter, who has a prototypical pitcher’s body and workable arm-action. He showed a consistent 86 MPH fastball with the makings of a big league slider (81 MPH). Porter’s fastball has an effective run or tail, depending on how he holds it.
18. Ryan Colton, OF, Bishop Moore HS 6-3, 180 R/L
Colton listed himself as a primary pitcher, but I definitely think he has more pro upside in the outfield. His left arm is quite an asset in right field and I project it to get better as he physically matures and stretches it out. There’s a lot of athleticism in all of his actions, and Colton can generate bat-speed from the right side; he might be a switch-hitting candidate, given he is left-dominant. Colton’s a projection, but maturity and repetitions can take him a ways.
19. Dave Cash, SS, Sickles HS 6-2, 160 S/R
Cash showed pop from both sides of the plate and is an aggressive hitter. He also has the agility, hands, and arm to make a very good third or second baseman if not shortstop. There is still a lot of projection left, but I see him as a solid all-around 3B in time. Cash is the son of the former major leaguer by the same name.
20. Justin Valdes, RHP, Leto HS 6-1, 160 R/R
There’s a lot of projection to Valdes, but he already has a good idea of what he’s doing. Valdes showed command of a mid-80s fastball, a two-plane curveball, and a running change-up. His off-speed ranked among the best in Orlando last weekend and I think he will add more firepower as he physically matures. He doesn’t have an ideal pitcher’s frame, and will have to prove that he can handle the load.