My trip to Miami was focused on three events: Miami/Virginia Tech series, Selective Recruiting's spring break high school tournament and getting a first look at Shake Shack.
As I've mentioned before on Twitter, the Hurricanes program has been down recently and has reached a nadir this season. Scouts say the biggest reason is the cost of tuition, which had been going up during the recession and prices most kids out given that college baseball teams hand out partial scholarships. A state school in a talent-rich state with tuition-paying programs and recent success like the Florida Gators have all kinds of advantages, including many key players that aren't on scholarship at all.
As for the actual players, Miami doesn't have much in the way of draft-eligible talent. Junior RHP Javi Salas is an unspectacular back of the rotation type with solid-average stuff and the next best prospect is either pitchabilty sophomore lefty Andrew Suarez of freshman SS Brandon Lopez, who needs to put on 15-20 pounds to reach his early-round potential.
Things were much more positive for Virginia Tech, with the big attraction for scouts being junior 3B Chad Pinder. After talking to scouts that have seen him earlier in the year when he was on a tear, I didn't get a great look at him. He had a middling performance, was off-balance and seemed agitated all weekend. That said, Pinder brings a loose swing with some bat speed, fringy current power and solid defense with a projectable frame at third base that could work at second base in the short term. He likely goes somewhere in the 2nd round to early third round depending on how he finishes the season.
There were some other notable players for Virginia Tech but no one with early round potential. After one at bat, left fielder Tyler Horan reminded me strongly of Yankees farmhand 1B Kyle Roller and one scout said that was dead on. Both are big, stiff lefty hitters with some power but not enough bat control or flexibility to hit for average. Both should be upper minors fill sluggers with a chance for a cup of coffee.
I didn't see Friday starter LHP Eddie Campbell but was told he's a 4th-7th round option as a smaller lefty that likely ends up in relief but has been up to 94 in the past and brings solid-average stuff in a three pitch mix.
The other part of the trip was spent Monday seeing three high school games, the first of which featured Mater Academy. Mater had #6 overall pick Albert Almora last year and this year's top prospect is Miami commit CF WIllie Abreu. Abreu has a lot of similarities to Andre Ethier, as an athletic type left/left right fielder with some power and athleticism. Abreu has average raw power and some projection to his 6'3, 200-pound frame. His above average arm and fringy speed put him in right field professionally and his bat will have to really come through to get him in the upper rounds. Abreu was underwhelming on the showcase circuit at the plate and faced very poor pitching in the game I attended. The scouting audience was nowhere near a heavy as it was for last year's tournament opener, which featured first rounders Almora, Lewis Brinson and Nick Travieso in back-to-back-to-back games and attracted hundreds of scouts. Abreu may sneak into the late 2nd round for a team that likes his potential but is more of a third to fourth round pick for most teams, feeling he may end up in a fourth outfielder profile if the bat isn't a 6
Zack Collins is the headliner for powerhouse American Heritage, who has produced Eric Hosmer and Deven Marrero in recent years. Collins is listed and plays catcher now but won't be one for long professionally. He is a first baseman and should be fine defensively, but that puts a lot of pressure on his bat. Collins has a maxed-out 6'2, 205 frame and 55 raw power to all field from a lively left-handed swing with a late hand pump like Josh Hamilton. Collins has louder hitting tools than Abreu, but also was a little short on performance over the summer and some scouts are worried he peaked as a prep junior. Collins' stock is similar to Abreu in that he could work his way into the late second round but a high school first baseman without plus power is a really though profile that likely slides the Miami signee into the third round.
For my third game of the day, I drove to Fort Myers to see pop-up guy LHP Sean Brady, a Florida signee. Brady was 86-89 as a pitchability lefty over the summer with average off-speed stuff but jumped to 89-91 hitting 93 early this spring with a tighter breaking ball. I was surprised to hear this given Brady doesn't have the projection normally present for a spring velo tick, standing 5'11 and 180 pounds, but he is a solid athlete with a clean arm action and delivery. He was 88-90 hitting 92 the night I saw him and struck out 15 primarily with his slider/curveball which started to run together, ranging from 72-81 mph and flashed above average potential. He didn't throw but a few changeups, though the pitch was average to above on the showcase circuit, as he didn't want to speed up the bats of lesser prep hitters. Brady is working his way up the board with three solid-average pitches and solid-average command with a chance for a little more. It's a 4th starter profile most likely, but it's closer to maturity that most prep arms and Brady could also find himself going off the board in round three.