Scout's Notebook: Florida Jucos

Kiley shares notes on the top junior college players in Florida in what looks like a deep crop.

This is a companion piece to the free breakdown of the 2014 MLB Draft crop by tiers, along with the top 53 college notebook and additional college notes. Click on each player's name to see previous content, including more video and scouting reports. Also see my comprehensive breakdown of the Phillies-Wetzler siuation, Rankings Index and July 2nd Index for previous similar articles along with my twitter feed for up to date news and analysis.

Chipola JC is a perennial Juco power based in the panhandle and their top prospects this year is LHP Michael Mader, who is committed to Florida State. I saw him and most of the Juco players below at a preseason tourney in Clearwater/St. Pete a few weeks ago. A source at the game told me Mader is committed to education and won't be a typical easy Juco sign, likely looking for top 3 rounds money; he has that kind of talent but didn't put it all together in his season debut

Mader sat 88-90 mph with above average sink, though I was told he's been as high as 89-93 in fall outings with his sinker. He left the pitch up a little bit early and got hit around, but settled down and did a nice job repeating his delivery and keeping the ball down in the zone consistently. Mader's best weapon was a 77-79 mph changeup that he also left up a bit early, but flashed above average to plus potential when he stayed on top and located it down in the zone. I didn't want to write off his breaking ball with his arm speed down a tick from the fall (forgivable in a season debut), but his 74-76 mph curveball was a little soft and fringy at best this time out.

The upside here is a 3/4 starter lefty with solid-average command, three average or better pitches and a potential out-pitch changeup, though that's more than what I saw here. I should be able to see Mader again later in the season, but the guy I saw first time out was a 4th-5th round type; if he ends up being as good as scouts are telling me, there's a chance he sneaks into the 2nd round.

The other premium arm scouts were telling me to check out was Miami Dade JC lefty Kyle Carter. Carter is well known even to Florida scouts; he was a Little League World Series hero for the Columbus, GA team, he was a buzz prospect as early as his high school freshman (one scout said he saw Carter his 2 HR as a freshman against future first rounder Donavan Tate) and was a top 5 round two-way prospect committed to Georgia out of high school. Makeup and consistency issues cropped up, he ended up at Miami-Dade JC as a freshman and was hurt much of the year, was mostly a hitter and didn't do much. Over the fall, he was up to 95 mph with command, the MLB Scouting Bureau dropped a big number on him and scouts were lining up to see his season debut, but had no idea what to expect.

Carter was a pleasant surprise and will rival Mader for the top Juco lefty in Florida (Seminole JC righty Jake Cosart likely will go ahead of both). Carter sat 90-92 for three innings, then was down to 89-91 mph in the 4th inning before exiting the game. He's a big, athletic kid with a fluid delivery that projects for average or better command, though his long arm path is a little worrisome in that regard. Carter's 77-79 slurve was inconsistent but flashed above average repeatedly once he settled down while his 76-80 mph changeup was at least solid-average in limited use and looked like it would be an above-average pitch with some work as well.

With a deep and not that positive history for southeastern scouts, Carter will need to keep proving it, particularly since he was primarily seen at a hitter until this year (though he always pitched). If the off-the-field elements have been corrected and he keeps showing three above average pitches with command, he also has an upside to sneak into the second round, and probably won't get out of the 5th round unless he implodes.

Other top prospects at the event that I scouted included Palm Beach JC catcher Michael Barash (big 6'1/205 catcher with a chance to stick defensively and some raw power), State College JC Dustin Hagy (6'6 righty was mostly 85-89, hit 91 but hit 95 mph in high school), St. Pete JC righty Robbie Coursel (solid RHP draft: 88-90, solid-average slider) and Broward JC LHP Brandon Diaz (lively, above average stuff from the left side but well below average command) and RHP/C Ronnie Healy (above average arm strength translates to mid-90's fastball but little else). State College JC had one of the deeper teams at the event and was ranked the #1 Juco team in the country by Perfect Game in the preseason, though they will be without Clemson transfer and Oklahoma Stat commit 2B Kevin Bradley most of the year due to a shoulder injury; I had him as a 5th round prospect due to above average bat speed from the left side and some experience at 2B and C.

Chipola had the deepest roster, led by Mader and C Ian Rice (Houston commit) who should find a home in the top 10 rounds as a catcher that can stick with a line drive stroke; he profiles as a backup. Former Gators RHP Tucker Simpson (6'6/225 monster's arm speed has dipped to 86-88 mph), former Vanderbilt commit LF Jason Sierra (solid swing, some raw power), former Florida State commit RHP M.T. Minacci (two-way guy is in the 90's with hard breaking ball), current Florida commit RHP Taylor Lewis (85-87 mph sidearmer with three pitches) and the former high school teammate of Angels top prospect 3B Kaleb Cowart, RHP Palmer Betts (87-89 mph with some projection, potential above average cutter and curveball).

Some of the top Juco players in the state didn't play in the tournament, and the top two (righties Jake Cosart and Gianni Zayas, whom I scouted this fall) were set to play until Seminole JC pulled out of the tourney after Friday's games were cancelled due to weather. I project Cosart in the 2nd round (and he made the back end of my Draft top 53) and Zayas in the 3rd round, part of the state's deep Juco pitching ranks. Gulf Coast JC righty Matt Foster (90-94, likely reliever, good breaking ball), Indian River JC 1B Ryan Ripken (son of Cal, big long 1B with power), and Polk State JC's CF Daniel Sweet (5 average or better tools, raw at the plate) and C Casey Schroeder (all-around backstop that can rival Rice and Barash for tops in the state) are the other top Juco prospects in the state that weren't at the event.


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