- I've covered almost all of the top prep prospects in the state in the last few weeks, with Eustis HS (Clemson signee) C Chris Okey covered in the NHSI articles. The other standout catcher in the state is Arlington Country Day HS catcher Brian Navarreto, who recently committed very late in the process to local Jacksonville University. Navarreto is a big-framed catcher at 6'3, 220 pounds that one scout compared physically to Charles Johnson. Navarreto's calling card is average raw power with some projection remaining and a big plus arm that is capable of putting up pop times in the low 1.8s in showcase settings. The problem is that his frame can get in the way of allowing those big tools showing up consistently in games. Navarreto is a good athlete but is a little rough mechanically behind the plate with inconsistent footwork but with the raw quickness and hands to stick behind the plate with some instruction. His arm was muted the day I saw him earlier in the spring with his release and first step out of his crouch all out of sorts, giving him an average at best arm and little consistency. Navarreto excels at giving his pitchers a big target and moves well laterally for his size, with above average blocking ability.
If you've read my stuff at all this draft season you know that when I mention a guy is 6'3 or taller, his long limbs usually cause problems making contact, particularly at 18 years old, unless he's an insane athlete. Navarreto isn't that insane athlete and his swing can get long at times. The power is real and there's some feel to hit with a swing that's mostly mechanically sound but the projection is as a power/power low-end everyday catcher that will has plenty of things to work on. Catching is always at a premium even in a draft rich with it like this year, so I can't see Navarreto getting much past the late second round or possibly the top of the third round.
- The last of the possible top few round prep prospects in the state is yet another Gator signee, Rockledge HS 3B John Sternagel. Sternagel has less of a chance than most of the Gators' loaded signing class of getting on campus as he has tools that belong in the top two rounds. Sternagel, like Navarreto, is another big guy at 6'3, 195 pounds that is a surprisingly good athlete for his size and that lets him profile at a position (third base) where his bat will be an asset. Sternagel has the same average raw power that Navarreto possesses but Sternagel also has an advanced ability to hit that is his calling card. He missed time early in the season with a hip injury and I haven't seen him yet this spring, but scouts relay that he looks basically the same as over the summer: a big third baseman with a good glove and excellent bat that you want a little more power out of but still comfortably profiles as an everyday guy.
Sternagel and Navarreto's draft stock is in the same range as solid second round prospects and they're both well-known players that scouts have seen a lot and trust the tools. More exciting upside plays will go in front of him in the draft, but Sternagel is one of the better bets to hit in the whole prep class and that combined with his ability to play on the dirt could allow him to work his way in the sandwich round with the right team in an unsettled draft with clubs searching for certainty.
- A handful of other prospects are making some noise and have a chance to get in the top five rounds, but are more college types for scouts right now. IMG Academy righty Brett Hanewich is a solid two-way prospect that scouts prefer on the mound with an average fastball that hits 93 mph and a breaking ball that comes and goes. The signability sounds like it'll be a problem and he'd be a real asset at Stanford as a possible weekend guy that can also hit and field well at third base. Jensen Beach HS righty Taylor Blatch is committed to Florida State and while the profile of short righty won't let him go high, he has a solid chance to go in the third to fifth rounds if he's signable, with indications that he will be. At 5'11, 170 pounds, Blatch is very athletic and will flash three average pitches average or better, hitting 95 mph this spring and with a sharp breaking ball that's above average when it's right. Palm Beach Central HS RF/1B Ian Hagenmiller and Venice HS RF/1B Nick Longhi have similarities, with Longhi owning the advanced bat and Hagenmiller flashing 55 raw power to his pull side, but both are limited profile future first baseman. Longhi signed with LSU and Hagenmiller with Palm Beach CC and both fit in the fourth to seventh round range where signability will dictate their draft position.
Three prospects from the Tampa area that are all committed to the Gators look like college fits, with varying chances to end up going pro. Plant HS 3B Pete Alonso is similar to a right-handed hitting version of current Astros' farmhand Preston Tucker, who went both to Florida and Plant HS. Alonso can play 3B if needed in college but is more of a corner bat that should eventually end up at 1B but doesn't have the power to profile as a top few round prospect. Hernando HS SS Christian Arroyo is a second baseman long-term with below average raw power and limited lateral quickness but hits everywhere he goes and could be a three or four year starter in Gainesville with the ability to play many positions. King HS righty Brett Morales came out of the chute with a lot of heat in to see him hit 94 regularly and show an improved changeup that was above average at times. The problem was his curveball that has flashed 55 or 60 potential was suddenly nowhere to be found and his command didn't progress at all while his thick 6'0 frame doesn't offer any projection. There are rumors of a big price tag, so it looks likely Morales gets to campus, but he'll need to make some adjustments to be a contributor as a freshman in the SEC.
- The last couple prep prospects garnering some attention from scouts include UCF signee and Boone HS lefty Ian McKinney, a smaller finesse lefty with a three pitch mix, fastball that has touched 90 mph and above average changeup that could fit in the fourth or fifth round if he's signable. Forest HS CF Josh Greene is a late-developing speed demon that opened eyes at the Diamond Club showcase last October. Greene is committed to High Point and the Cleveland Indians are very interested. Springstead HS 1B Brandon Brosher is committed to Oral Roberts and was a two-way prospect that looked like a college guy at Diamond Club, but has attracted attention from a few clubs, including the Rays, as he's developed into a big slugging 1B with a number of bombs this spring.