The whole state is having a down across the board, but the Tampa area prep talent isn't bad this year. With SS Oscar Mercado (FSU signee), 3B Tucker Neuhaus (Louisville signee), RHP Nick Eicholtz (Alabama signee) and RHP Tyler Danish (Florida signee) all top three round prospects along with OF Cord Sandberg (Mississippi State signee), who's in that talent group, but located an hour south in Bradenton. I covered Mercado in part one and Sandberg in part two but here's notes on the rest of the group.
- Neuhaus has the advantage of mystery right now, something I'll write about more later in the week. The Wharton HS third baseman was a name area scouts knew but hadn't done a lot of work on until last October's Diamond Club showcase of the top prep prospects in Florida. He put on a show in BP and hit a homer on the first night in front of triple digits of scouts. This spring, he came out of the chute fast with his season debut coming in a tournament as the late game on the same field as Mercado's season debut. That made it easy for scouts to double up and it was another another heavily-attended game where Neuhaus hit well. He played a few more games this spring before the injuries hit.
Neuhaus missed time with an illness, a groundball to the head and two different quad strains. He's only played a few games for his high school team this year and is currently getting back up to speed, but won't play another high school game this season. He has over ten private workouts scheduled with clubs and should be the main focus of scouts at the pre-draft version of Diamond Club, the Sebring All-Star event.
Neuhaus has mystery on his side because he's shown his tools, he's shown they play in games but he's shown nothing more. It's enough that scouts know he's a legitimate first round talent if he did this over a whole season, but they've never seen him fail, so some scouts will assume he is that guy in lieu of certainty either way. If Neuhaus can replicate his Diamond Club performance in Sebring—above average raw power with some projection, some feel to hit and an ability to stick at third base—then goes off in a private pre-draft workout while clubs are in their draft meetings, the recency and lack of negatives will be hard to ignore.
Area scouts have only seen Neuhaus a handful of times this spring, some seeing only one game. While most players are scouted much more often, upside is more tantalizing than certainty at times in the draft. Fans and scouts alike tend to remember pleasant surprises (Mike Trout) and forget the unpleasant ones (countless) in an industry focused on upside and best case scenarios. The Cardinals, Mets and Rangers have shown the most interest and it'll be hard to see Neuhaus slipping out of the second round.
- Another Tampa-area kid with top two round momentum is Cambridge Christian HS righty Nick Eicholtz. At Diamond Club, he was 87-89 with a lively cutter and a curveball that flashed average, but his lanky 6'4 frame and clean arm action made him a guy scouts wanted to keep tabs on. Early this spring, he started delivering on some of his projection, sitting 89-91 with a potential above average hybrid breaking ball in front of 40-50 scouts in February (video of that outing). I saw him last Friday and the stuff was similar but improved: mostly 90-91, hitting 92 with a cleaner breaking true curveball that flashed plus and a changeup that will be usable. Eicholtz still screams projection, does it easy and has some feel, but he's still growing into his body and faces very poor competition. He's gone from a pure projection bet to a top-5 round type to a guy that has a good chance to sneak into the second round. The Cubs and Braves have been among the teams showing a lot of attention, but some area scouts asked me not to hype him too much, as he's flown under the radar media-wise. Eicholtz seems like the favorite prospect of a number of area scouts that hope he'll slide to them in the 3rd or 4th round; that's looking less likely now.
- The last player in this group and by far the hardest to evaluate is Durant HS righty Tyler Danish. Danish is a well-known kid that is smallish (6'0, 175 pounds), has a higher effort delivery but also has shockingly good command and looks the same every time out. He throws from a low three-quarters slot with an arm-heavy delivery and a short stride. His arm action is clean but his quick, short delivery makes it very hard for his arm to catch up with his body. This isn't just a delivery that makes mechanics nerds cringe; it looks like a below average command reliever all the way. Danish's low arm slot creates heavy two-seam life on his 90-93 sinker that hits 94 mph and he varies the speed and tilt on his slurve that he spots amazingly well and is often an above average pitch. Danish has been working this spring on integrating a changeup into his repertoire with mixed results. There's an average pitch in there somewhere but his delivery can make it hard to consistently deliver a finesse pitch. Finesse isn't a huge part of Danish's games with power sinkers and sliders pounding the zone and an intense bulldog approach that even transfers over to an aggressive base running mentality. This spring I saw Danish dive into first base on a close play after laying down a sac bunt. When scouts pay a little more than I think they will, it's usually for a kid they 100% believe in the makeup of and Danish fits the bill.
It's going to be hard for a club to get a whole room behind throwing a lot of money at a prep kid with a rough delivery that likely ends up as a reliever. Danish seems like a guy bound to dominate for three years in multiple roles for the Gators, but I could see a team ponying up 3rd or 4th round money ($350K - $500K) and that may be enough to buy him away from Gainesville. The Blue Jays are among the teams that have shown interest.