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Thursday, December 29, 2011
McCullers Jr. is top Florida diamond star

By Jason A. Churchill

Avery Romero
Pedro Menendez (St. Augustine, Fla.) senior infielder and Florida recruit Avery Romero hit .458 and stole 13 bases as a junior.

Last June, the state of Florida's prep stars populated 10 of the first 90 selections in the draft, including three of the top 14 and two in the top 10. The Sunshine State is always a hotbed for baseball prospects, and the class of 2012 is likely to produce another strong set of talents littering the early rounds.

Here's a look at the Top 10 Florida high school prospects from the Class of 2012.

1. Lance McCullers Jr., RHP, Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.)

The son of former MLB pitcher Lance McCullers Sr., McCullers has potential as a power bat, but his fastball has sniffed triple digits and he’s flashed an above-average breaking ball. Scouts are split on his future as the spring nears, but he’s a surefire first-round arm — and could break into the top 10 — for clubs that view him as a long-term starter. The Florida commit struck out 79 in 52 innings last year while hitting .422 with seven homers and 24 RBIs.

2. Walker Weickel, RHP, Olympia (Orlando, Fla.)

At 6-foot-6, Weickel is a projectable arm who has shown a consistent low-90s fastball with good downhill plane. He's displayed depth with a slow curveball and a change that lacks sink but brings deception due to his arm speed. Weickel, a Miami commit, has first-round abilities and shouldn't stay on the board long come June.

3. Keon Barnum, 1B, King (Tampa, Fla.)

Barnum has plus raw power and a major-league frame at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds. He's a decent athlete but profiles best at first base, which will limit his value come draft day. But a better year hitting to all fields and making contact could put him into the top 30. Barnum, a Miami recruit, batted .491 last year with six homers and 27 RBIs.

4. Jesse Winker, OF, Olympia (Orlando, Fla.)

Winker's strengths include above-average arm strength and good bat speed. Walker Weickel’s high school teammate runs well and shows good instincts in center field. But if his projected power develops, he could move to a corner, where he may be a plus defender long term. The left-handed hitting Winker, if he doesn't sign a pro deal next summer, is headed to Gainesville to play for the Gators.

5. Lewis Brinson, OF, Coral Springs (Fla.)

Brinson brings mixed reviews at this stage of the evaluation process, displaying plus athleticism and five-tool potential. At 6-foot-4, he may ultimately outgrow center field, but his arm should fit in right, provided his raw power plays in pro ball, too. Brinson has been timed in the 60 at 6.5 seconds, which is among the fastest in the entire draft class.

6. Albert Almora, OF, Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.)

Almora brings plenty of upside to the table, including plus speed and a plus throwing arm. He’s committed to Miami, but his strong, quick wrists and a consistent swing may be too much to pass up on draft day. He runs good routes in the outfield and may be able to handle center in the big leagues. Almora was named tournament MVP after leading the USA Baseball 18U National Team to a gold medal this fall in the COPABE 18U/AAA Pan American Championships.

7. Avery Romero, 2B/SS, Pedro Menendez (St. Augustine, Fla.)

Generally speaking, scouts believe Romero has to move off shortstop as a pro, likely sliding to third base where his plus arm and sound fundamentals should play well. His hit tool is his calling card at present and more power should develop as he improves his plate skills. Romero, a potential top 50 selection, is also committed to the University of Florida. He hit .458 last year with five homers, 18 RBIs and 13 stolen bases.

8. Addison Russell, SS, Pace (Fla.)

Like Romero, Russell appears to be a candidate to move to third base at the next levels, and there's enough arm strength and athleticism to warrant a shot in the outfield if necessary. He possesses well above-average bat speed that may turn into enticing power come draft day. Russell, who signed on to play at Auburn, starred with Almora on the USA Baseball National Team that won the Pan Am title.

9. Adrian Marin, SS, Gulliver Prep (Pinecrest, Fla.)

Marin is a plus runner with some quick-twitch actions that suggest he's got more pop in his bat than his 170-pound frame would otherwise suggest. He’s drawn comparisons to former first-round pick and Florida product Nick Franklin along the way. Marin has a good shot to stick at shortstop and if a club believes he will mature physically and hit enough, he could be a top 50 pick. If he doesn’t like his draft position, he's got a full ride to Miami waiting for him.

10. Hayden Hurst, RHP, Bolles (Jacksonville, Fla.)

Hurst had plenty of competition for the No. 10 spot, mainly from All Saints’ (Winter Haven, Fla.) right-hander Carson Fulmer. Hurst wins out due to the vast concerns that Fulmer's delivery will relegate him to relief work down the line. Hurst has touched 94 mph in the past and is projectable at 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds. There's life and sink to the heater and he also offers a developing curveball. Hurst is committed to Florida State, but he has a chance to go early enough on Day 2 to warrant signing a pro contract.

On the Brink

David Thompson, 3B, Westminster Christian (Palmetto Bay, Fla.)
Tomas Nido, C, Orangewood Christian (Maitland, Fla.)
Nick Basto, SS, Archbishop McCarthy (Southwest Ranches, Fla.)
Brandon Lopez, 2B, Miramar (Fla.)
Zach Eflin, RHP, Hagerty (Oviedo, Fla.)
Carson Fulmer, RHP, All Saints’ Academy (Winter Haven, Fla.)
Alfredo Escalara, 3B, IMG Baseball Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)
Marcus Brakeman, RHP, Shorecrest Prep (St. Petersburg, Fla.)
Max Foody, LHP, IMG Baseball Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)

Jason A. Churchill covers scouting, player development and the MLB Draft for ESPN Insider, as well as Prospect Insider, where he's the founder and executive editor. You can follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider and email him at churchill@prospectinsider.com.