Here's part two of my notes from talking to scouts on the road about amateur players in Florida. Part one is here if you missed it.
- Florida is a pretty easy state to scout if you have a good list, with year-round playing and lots of showcases, travel teams, tournaments and events in the offseason. Some of the area scouts weren't joking in late February when they said that they had already seen all the players in their area and were starting to double back, at a time when many states were still covered in snow. That said, one player still poses problems for scouts: the multi-sport athlete. It's hard to get a feel for these players, as they're never as polished as their peers but normally have more athleticism and upside. You can't take these players' performances as seriously since they have limited baseball experience, so when a big athlete is also a football player, scouts can get a little out over their skis. I've seen a number of times when scouts admit after the fact that they fell too much in love with a player's makeup, thought there wasn't anything he couldn't work ethic his way out of and realized they'd overdrafted the player when the tools didn't improve. All of those factors come into play for Mississippi State dual-sport signee from Manatee HS, outfielder Cord Sandberg.
Sandberg is a dual-threat QB for one of the top teams in the country that came one game short of winning a state title this year. He's committed to the Bulldogs to play two sports and while scouts knew him and had seen him play, he only went to one major event over the summer. Sandberg was a priority for scouts to bear down on in game situations early this spring and they came away a little underwhelmed with his bat. Scouts on the low end say he doesn't have any 55 tools on the 20-80 scale but concede there could be five 50 tools, still a rare combo. Scouts on the high end emphasize the gritty football makeup, limited baseball experience and athletic 6'3, 215 pound frame. I have him in the third round (along with a number of clubs) as a raw athlete that's likely a left fielder and doesn't have a great profile—think a slower twitch Austin Meadows. That said, it only takes one team and the consensus seems to be a team in the second round will bite, with the Phillies mentioned most often. Philadelphia's history of taking dual-sport, less-refined athletes is long and Sandberg's high school is under an hour from their spring training home in Clearwater. It's still a little early for signability to be clear, but the indication is that Sandberg wants to play baseball and Philly's pick in the 2nd round (53rd overall) could be a good fit for his talent and signability, but bad news for Mississippi State.
- Another football player giving some scouts headaches is Edgewater HS center fielder J.B. Woodman, an Ole Miss signee. Woodman was just another guy for me over the summer: a 6'2, 190 lefty bat that was a 55 runner and could hit in games, but only had 40 power and his swing was a little uphill. A couple scouts I talked to still have that as the evaluation and think he's a college type but more than a few others teams are taking a closer look. Multiple crosscheckers have asked me what I think about Woodman as they're coming in for a look on a player their area scouts are telling them is a dual-sport athlete that wasn't himself in fall showcases during football and is finding his stride now. I'll be seeing him again before the draft, but the buzz is that the bat continues to impress, the swing flaws are fixable, there might be some more power to squeeze out of that frame and he could be an everyday center fielder. The buzz is that signability will be an issue and some teams are already moving on while others, with the Rays mentioned most often, are sending in some scouting heat with the sandwich round being a high water mark and the second round looking more likely.
- Speaking of taking a step forward, Ida S. Baker HS lefty Sean Brady was a generic pitchability guy working 86-89 over the summer but had a velo bump this spring. The Florida signee has been sitting 89-91 and hitting 93 pretty regularly while a parade of crosscheckers and a handful of directors came in to see him in the early going. The new velo came as a surprise to some scouts, as Brady is a pretty maxed out 5'11, 185 pounds, but if scouts could tell the future they wouldn't be driving all over creation to watch 17 year olds. Brady's slurve and changeup will consistently show solid-average and both could be above average with adjustments. His pitchability from when his stuff was below average is still present, so the #3/4 starter ceiling now has Brady in play in the top five rounds. Somewhere in the 3rd round seems most likely and scouts have mentioned Colorado as a possible landing spot.
- Nearby in Fort Myers, Florida Gulf Coast got tons of national attention recently for its basketball team but the baseball team has been known to scouts for years. White Sox lefty Chris Sale is an alum and in February, the Eagles broke into the top 25 after sweeping the Gators in Gainesville. It isn't just a gritty underdog team, as there are four players that could be drafted pretty high in 2013. Sean Dwyer is the weakest of the group, as a corner lefty bat with some feel and some pop. Friday starter RHP Ricky Knapp has been up to 94 but mostly works 88-92 with average stuff and a finesse approach. The two breakout talents have been LHP Brandon Bixler and RHP Harrison Cooney. Bixler missed a few weeks in the middle of the season but has some of the best stuff in the state, hitting 93 from the left side with a plus changeup and an average breaking ball. Cooney is the relief ace, working 92-94 and hitting 96 mph with an above average breaking ball. Bixler has a chance to sneak into the late 2nd round with stuff similar to Brady but less negotiating leverage while Cooney is a relief fit in the 4th to 6th rounds.
- Gators RHP Karsten Whitson has had a lot of problems the past two seasons with injuries, inconsistency and limited innings. After going unsigned as the 9th overall pick in the 2010 draft, Whitson had a standout freshman year for the Gators before his current troubles. He'll be out for the season with a shoulder injury, will take a redshirt and return as a junior in 2014, but may begin throwing again before the draft. Depending on the timetable, Whitson could be a summer follow pick and a few teams have been keeping close tabs on his recovery. If a team finds itself in a situation like the Pirates last spring with Mark Appel, he could be a backup plan if there is a high-dollar game of chicken with another player. As recently as fall scout day in November, Whitson sat 92-95 in a two-inning outing and an above average to plus slider and changeup, reminiscent of his high school promise.