Newly Draft-Eligible Player In Unique Situation
There seems to be a rise in recent years of high school underclassmen prospects that are very advanced in talent (Bryce Harper) or age (Drew Ward) changing their draft class to have the opportunity to turn pro a year earlier. This year, Virginia prep RHP Jacob Bukauskas classified up with the intent to get to North Carolina early, not with an eye to turning pro (as current Gator C Taylor Gushue did three years ago), but Bukauskas' velo jumped 4-5 ticks this spring and he's now seen as a top 2 round prospect that will likely turn pro now, due to a possible seven figure bonus.
These reclassifications are logical given the better information players are receiving from scouts, recruiters, advisors and the media, who are all learning about players earlier than ever. The newest entrant into this reclassification trend is Parkview HS (GA) junior 1B Isiah Gilliam, as he was declared eligible for the 2014 MLB Draft late last week. Gilliam's story, however, is more complicated than those cases mentioned above.
Scouts are still learning the full picture as some are still unclear on the specifics. As I and multiple sources understand the situation, Giliam enrolled in a high school as a freshman in 2010, left the school at some point, then enrolled in a different high school in 2011 as a freshman, essentially being held back his freshman year in high school. Since no other notable draft prospects had been held back while in high school before, a quirk in the draft eligibility rules that hadn't been widely discussed is now front and center.
MLB rules basically state that Gilliam's draft eligibility clock started in 2010 when he enrolled in the first school, so he should be eligible for the 2014 draft using the duration of time in high school as a guide. However, the rules also state that a player is eligible when he graduates high school, so he could also be interpreted to be eligible for the 2015 draft. This confusion is why MLB was asked to clarify Gilliam's situation. MLB ruled that Gilliam is eligible for the 2014 draft and won't be able to return for his senior year at Parkview if the paperwork to make him 2014 eligible gets finalized, likely in about a week.
Gilliam's Draft Stock
Gilliam is on the prospect radar (I ranked him #59 on my prep juniors list) and will be seen a lot in the coming months as Parkview is a powerhouse program in the talent-rich Atlanta-area. Parkview senior LHP Mac Marshall (LSU commit) is a potential 1st rounder this year and the school has had sandwich picks in the past two years (Orioles CF Josh Hart last year and A's 1B Matt Olson in 2012) along with other notable players like White Sox minor league OF Brandon Jacobs, White Sox IF Jeff Keppinger and former Royals RF Jeff Francoeur, among others.
Parkview will be at this week's NHSI tournament in Cary, NC at the USA Baseball complex. This event will be heavily scouted, with all 30 MLB teams expected to be in attendance, most of those teams with multiple scouts covering the event and with at least half of the scouting directors expected to attend. Clubs like to have at least a full year of scouting looks on potential draftees, so it's fortunate for Gilliam that right after clubs were notified about his status, they'll get to have multiple scouts see him in four games against premium competition.
Gilliam is a 6'3/215 switch hitter that fits on a corner, and likely first base as a pro. He's got a loose swing with above average bat speed and average power potential. The belief in the scouting community is that Gilliam could work his way into the top 5 rounds this year, but clubs will be playing catchup to get get comfortable to spend a high pick and/or signing bonus on him.
Gilliam hasn't been hard to see the past year, but scouts had enough players to see from his area, so they didn't focus on evaluating Gilliam. Scouts expect him to either return for his senior year at Parkview or get his GED and go the Juco route for the 2015 draft, when he would probably be in line for a bigger bonus than he would be this year. Gilliam is young for the 2014 draft class, turning 18 a month after the draft and isn't currently committed to a college.
Florida Prep Talent Draws Big Time Heat
I had heard some buzz early in the spring that Jacksonville-area prep RHP Sean Reid-Foley (Florida State commit) was trending up. Multiple scouts told me Reid-Foley had been showing the same plus fastball-slider combo he had flashed over the summer, but with improved command and now working in his solid-average changeup more regularly en route to dominating high school hitters. The belief from these scouts was Reid-Foley had jumped from a late first round to sandwich round prospect to a guy that wouldn't get out of the top 20 picks.
I went to see Reid-Foley in a 10 AM start during a spring break tournament last Thursday and he was sloppy for the first two innings, but recovered and flashed that sharpness I had seen before in the 3rd-5th innings. Off of just this look, he was basically the same pitcher I had seen over the summer, but scouts assured me this was his only outing all spring that wasn't dominant and that the time of day may have contributed to his struggles.
I also mentioned that last Tuesday when I saw Orlando-area prep SS Nick Gordon (Florida State commit), that two teams with top 10 picks were three deep with high level decision makers at Gordon's game, with one of those clubs' GM in attendance. There were other high level scouts in attendance, but this further backed up the spring buzz that Gordon would go in the top 10 picks.
When I saw Miami-area prep RHP Touki Toussaint (Vanderbilt commit) a few weeks ago, I referenced how many high level scouts were there and south Florida scouts have been telling me the parade of decision makers hasn't slowed down all spring. The belief is Toussaint is in the same general range as Reid-Foley, if not even higher: likely not getting out of the top 20 picks, due to flashing more consistency and the same plus stuff from the summer.
What Does This Mean?
It's not uncommon for Florida to have elite prep talent or for high-level scouts to be flocking to see them in droves. It is notable that Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos was spotted in the last few weeks scouting all three of these players and that none of them are local to the Jays spring training home in Dunedin.
The Jays have the 9th and 11th picks this year, with the 11th pick as compensation for not signing California prep RHP Phil Bickford at 10th overall last year. Scouts are pretty confident that the Jays can get a player better than Bickford at #11, as the prep pitching class specifically is very deep.
I'm told multiple teams in the top 15 have been rolling deep at Gordon's other games and I'm told there's a third team in the top 10 that has been seriously targeting Reid-Foley. That team was three deep at the Reid-Foley start that I was at last week, including their scouting director. Multiple other teams picking in the top 15 have been running their top scouts around Florida to get looks at all three players.
It's still early in draft season and scouting which scouts are at a game isn't normally very fruitful this early in the spring: many scouts are getting their compulsory early looks at potential targets for high picks. That said, it is instructive this early to scout the size of the crowd over multiple games and teams that keep sending their top scouts to see certain players. I've heard many team/player connections that weren't strong enough to report, but when GMs and other decision makers keep showing up, it tells us where the industry has a player evaluated and which teams are taking the longest looks at them.
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