Baseball Scout Day Observations

The testament to what Kevin O'Sullivan has built at Florida was sitting in the stands Wednesday afternoon. There were 45-50 pro baseball scouts sitting in the stands of McKethan Stadium watching a team stacked with draft eligible prospects.

Hudson Randall started on the mound for one team and didn't disappoint. It was actually a different outing for Randall. He only struck out 73 hitters in 124.1 innings last season, but he struck out four in 2.1 innings of work in front of scouts today. It was much of the same that helped Randall earn Second Team All-SEC last season. He pounded the corners of the strike zone with all of his pitches. Scouts were raving about his ability to put the ball wherever he wanted, as one even said, ‘this kid hasn't thrown a ball over the heart of the plate all day.'

As usual, Randall didn't light up the radar gun, as his fastball sat at 87-88 mph. His breaking ball was 80-82 for most of the day, while he mixed in a few changeups in the upper 70s. Randall has eaten left-handed hitters up with his newly found cutter, and he did it again on Thursday. The cutter sat at 82-83 mph, and earned plenty of swings and misses.

Randall's sequence to shortstop Nolan Fontana showed the kind of pitcher he is. He got strike one with a changeup that had Fontana's timing off and came back for strike two with the cutter on a check swing from Fontana. Randall then perfectly located a changeup away from Fontana that was bounced to first base. He struck out Tyler Thompson twice, getting strike three during the first at-bat with an 88 mph fastball on the outside corner. Thompson swung and missed at strike three during the second at-bat after seeing a cutter in on his hands.

Brian Johnson hasn't thrown much this season, but two of his three outings have come with plenty of scouts in the stands. He gave up two hits, both coming to Daniel Pigott. The first one was blooped into left field and wasn't hit hard.

Johnson didn't throw many changeups on Wednesday. His fastball was 89-91 mph, while his slider was 79-81. He threw a few curveballs, including one that struck out Cody Dent to end his outing. He started the curveball at Dent's helmet and it fell over the inside part of the plate for a strike 75 mph. It was a 3-2 pitch, so it shows how much confidence Johnson has in it.

Austin Maddox made a positive impression with the scouts Wednesday by popping Mike Zunino's catcher's mitt with every fastball. Maddox's fastball was 92-94. He mixed in a handful of changeups at 80-81 mph, but the slider served as his knockout pitch at 80-82 mph.

Maddox changed the grip on his slider to tighten it up some and be able to control the pitch better. It's easy to see that the adjustment worked. The slider has some more tilt to it than it did last year. He's going to have a monster junior year.

Draft eligible freshman John Magliozzi started out slow by allowing a single and walk to open his outing, but he got better as the two innings went on. His fastball was 89-91, which was down from the readings I saw on him a few weeks ago. The story is going to be really simple for Magliozzi this season. If he throws doesn't walk hitters, he'll be very valuable to this team and could be lights out as the midweek starter. When his control dips, he gets himself in trouble.

His curveball wasn't as sharp as earlier points in the fall, but he made it work. His changeup will still be the go-to off-speed pitch.

I've seen close to 15 scrimmages this fall, and I feel confident in saying the most dominant player on the field has been left-hander Steven Rodriguez. He has been unhittable this fall. After striking out the first eight hitters he faced this fall, he only allowed one ball to be hit out of the infield in the eight hitters he faced on Wednesday.

His four-seam fastball is 90-91, but it's the cutter at 85-87 that is breaking wood bats at an impressive pace this fall. When he needs a pitch that is slower than those two, he flashes a slider at 79-82 mph.

Whenever Rodriguez doesn't get a pitch called a strike that he thinks the umpire missed, he'll break out a few sentences in quick Spanish that no one can understand. It's always entertaining for the team and everyone in the stadium, including the scouts who were also laughing Wednesday.

Greg Larson had two hiccups in his outing, and Zunino caused both. The catcher doubled off the left field wall in his first at-bat against Larson, and he launched an opposite field home run off the right field scoreboard in his second at-bat.

Larson's fastball was 89-91, while he mixed in a slider at 82-83.

I continue to believe it would be a surprise if freshman Josh Tobias weren't in the starting lineup on opening day. He hasn't swung the bat as well as I expected this fall, but his defense is impressive. When you watch him take ground balls or throw, it looks awkward. However, he makes it work.

He made three plays at third base, where I would guess he will start this year, that had scouts scribbling furiously about. He started a double play at third base where it looked like he fielded the ball and threw in the same, fluid motion. He's going to be an impressive player. He robbed Brian Johnson in the last inning, as Tobias cleanly picked a one-hop ground ball and threw across to first for an easy out.

Scouts timed Austin Maddox at 4.70 getting to first base on a ground ball. He isn't a plus runner by any stretch of the imagination, but scouts were saying that it looked like he is moving better this fall.


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