High-SchoolBaseball: Albert Almora

MLB Draft Stock Watch: A final look

June, 1, 2012
6/01/12
10:15
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Carlos CorreaCal Sport Media via AP ImagesPuerto Rico Baseball Academy (Gurabo, Puerto Rico) shortstop Carlos Correa has seen his stock rise heading into Monday's MLB draft.
Each Friday since the beginning of May, Jason A. Churchill, who covers the MLB draft for ESPN Insider, has looked at the high school prospects whose stock is up and whose stock is down for the draft. Here's his final stock watch heading into the draft, which begins on June 4.

The 2012 MLB draft begins on Monday, so there’s little time, if any at all, for the top high school prospects to impress scouts.

But over the past week, a few elite players, including Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton, have managed to improve their already high draft stock with impressive workouts and performances.

Here’s a look at the players who’ve improved their stock and whose stock is down heading into Monday.

STOCK UP

Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Gurabo, Puerto Rico)
Correa's stock can't get much higher, but he's been mighty impressive in workouts for a handful of clubs selecting in the Top 10, including the Houston Astros, who own the No. 1 overall pick. Correa's chances to stick at shortstop aren't great -- one crosschecker opined those chances at "maybe 10 percent at best" -- but his bat is expected to play at third base, thanks to plus raw power and good all-around hitting skills. It's not out of the question that Correa is the top pick.

Tanner Rahier, SS, Palm Desert (Calif.)
Rahier showed up on the Stock Down list earlier this spring, but more clubs are showing optimism on his chances to remain at shortstop, which boosts his overall value. He has some pop, but his ability to square up the fastball and make consistent contact -- along with that shot to stay at shortstop -- could mean a first-round bonus for Rahier. Third base would likely be the next move should he outgrow short, but there has also been mention of the outfield, where his athleticism would play well and his arm strength would remain an asset.

Byron Buxton, OF, Appling County (Baxley, Ga.)
Like Correa, the two-sport star has been impressive in workouts and there is some buzz that the evaluations of Buxton by the top three clubs -- Houston, Minnesota and Seattle -- have soared since. There now appears to be zero chance Buxton gets past Seattle and a decent chance he goes No. 1 overall to the Astros.

STOCK DOWN

Lewis Brinson, OF, Coral Springs (Fla.)
Brinson is projectable, athletic and signable, but fellow prep outfielders David Dahl and Anthony Alford appear to have passed him up on several draft boards this spring. A few college outfielders are getting some additional attention, which also hurts Brinson's stock. Of course, a club looking to save a little bonus pool money could tab Brinson in the top 40 and spend the savings on other picks.

Cody Poteet, RHP, Christian High School (El Cajon, Calif.)
Poteet, listed at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, may be falling victim to the projectable arms ranked in the sandwich round through round 3, including California prepsters Shane Watson and Kyle Twomey, as well as Paul Blackburn and Ryan Burr. Poteet is still a lock to go in the top three rounds, unless his commitment to UCLA grows as the selections in the top 50 continue without his name being called.

Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
Giolito started throwing and word is he's working out for clubs, but he's not expected to throw from a mound until well after the draft, which robs clubs the chance to see him in full action. Some teams drafting high don't appear willing to take the risk, but Giolito remains a signable talent with as much upside as any player in the entire class, college or high school, pitcher or hitter. It simply seems that he will not be a top-three pick, and perhaps not even in the 8-10 range.

HOLDING

Albert Almora, OF, Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.)
Gavin Cecchini, SS, Barbe (Lake Charles, La.)
Max Fried, LHP, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
Courtney Hawkins, OF, Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas)
Addison Russell, SS, Pace (Fla.)
Lucas Sims, RHP, Brookwood (Snellville, Ga.)
Stryker Trahan, C, Acadiana (Lafayette, La.)

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.

The Starting Nine: May 10th Edition

May, 10, 2012
5/10/12
11:17
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Ty HensleyScott Kurtz/ESPNHSSanta Fe (Edmond, Okla.) senior standout Ty Hensley has dominated on both the mound and at the plate to move into The Starting Nine.
ESPNHS continues its search for the nation’s top high school baseball player, regardless of school year and based solely on on-field performance. Every two weeks, we’ll rank the nine players in order in The Starting Nine. And at the end of the season, whoever is in the top spot will be crowned The Diamond Gem, our award given to the nation’s most outstanding player.

Another installment of The Starting Nine means more of Byron Buxton and Lance McCullers Jr. leading the way. But with postseason play underway in most states, it’s a chance for some of the other players to make their move up in the group.

One player has already done that. Stuck in the On Deck spot in recent weeks, Santa Fe (Okla.) star Ty Hensley makes the jump into The Starting Nine after starring on the mound and at the plate. Taking his spot in the On Deck circle is a familiar face — Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) third baseman Joey Gallo, who started the year No. 2 in The Starting Nine before falling out after struggling early in the season.

The Starting Nine — May 10th Edition

Through games of May 6

1. Byron Buxton, Appling County (Baxley, Ga.)
OF/RHP, Senior

Previous spot: No. 1
What he’s done: Buxton, No. 2 in the ESPN 100 and is No. 1 in Keith Law's Top 100 for the 2012 draft, continues to rake at the dish, hitting .545 with a .649 on-base percentage, 51 runs scored, 15 doubles, three triples, two homers and 22 RBIs. He’s fanned only three times in 88 at-bats and is 31-of-32 in stolen base attempts (he was thrown out trying to steal third. His pitching has been just as vital to the success of Appling County (27-1). Buxton is 6-0 with a 1.66 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 46.1 innings.

2. Lance McCullers Jr., Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.)
RHP/SS
Previous spot:
No. 2
What he’s done: McCullers gave up his first earned run of the season in POWERADE FAB 50 No. 2 Jesuit’s 9-2 win over Robinson (Tampa, Fla.) in the Class 5A, District 11 championship. He followed by fanning 13 in a win over Bayshore (Bradenton, Fla.) in the regional quarterfinals. McCullers is 12-0 with a 0.11 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 65.1 innings. He’s hitting .277 with two homers and 20 RBIs.

3. Wyatt Mathisen, Calallen (Corpus Christi, Texas)
C/SS/RHP, Senior
Previous Spot:
No. 3
What he’s done: Mathisen continues to be a star at both the plate and on the mound for the FAB 50 No. 4 Wildcats. He’s hitting .453 with three homers and 38 RBIs and is 10-0 on the bump with 85 strikeouts in 65 innings. In a 5-0 win over Hidalgo (Texas) in the Class 4A bi-district round of the state playoffs, Mathisen went the distance and was 2-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs.

4. Kyle Carter, Columbus (Ga.)
OF/LHP, Senior
Previous spot:
No. 4
What he’s done: Carter has been equally strong at the plate and on the mound for the Blue Devils (25-3), who are No. 18 in the FAB 50. He’s hitting .370 with 14 homers and 28 RBIs and is 8-2 with a 0.72 ERA on the hill.

5. Gavin Cecchini, Barbe (Lake Charles, La.)
SS, Senior
Previous Spot:
No. 5
What he’s done: Cecchini is playing his best ball with Barbe now in the state tournament, hitting .406 with a .521 on-base percentage, seven homers, five doubles and 32 RBIs. He’s also been a terror on the basepaths — he’s a perfect 29-for-29.

6. Walker Weickel, Olympia (Orlando, Fla.)
RHP, Senior
Previous spot:
No. 6
What he’s done: Weickel was dominant in helping FAB 50 No. 1 win Olympia to a 10-0 win over Boone (Orlando, Fla.) in the Class 8A regional quarterfinals. The Miami recruit allowed only two hits and fanned six in six innings, while teammate Jesse Winker, who could find himself in The Starting Nine soon, went 2-for-3 with a homer and four RBIs. Weickel is 12-0 with a 1.06 ERA and 87 strikeouts and has also hit six homers.

7. Courtney Hawkins, Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas)
RHP/OF
Previous spot: No. 7
What he’s done:
Hawkins has helped Carroll get back into the top 10 of the FAB 50. He’s hitting .457 with 10 home runs and 36 RBIs and 16 stolen bases and is 3-1 on the mound with a 0.83 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 25.1 innings.

8. Max Fried, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
LHP, Senior
Previous spot:
No. 8
What he’s done: Fried, No. 5 on Law's Top 100, ran his record to 7-2 with a 2.25 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 59 innings. Opponents are hitting just .186 off the lefty, who's also excelled at the plate, batting .438 with a .510 on-base percentage.

9. Ty Hensley, Santa Fe (Edmond, Okla.)
RHP, Senior
Previous spot:
On Deck
What he’s done: Hensley has powered Santa Fe to the Class 6A state tournament and the squad is set to take on Stillwater (Okla.) in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Rated No. 35 in the ESPN 100, Hensley is 9-0 on the mound with a 1.59 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 48.1 innings. He’s also hitting .461 with 10 doubles, 10 home runs 42 RBIs.

Dropped Out

No. 9 Albert Almora, Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.)
OF, Senior

Almora had a phenomenal regular season, hitting .603 with six homers, 34 RBIs, 42 runs scored and 27 stolen bases. But a shocking loss to Hialeah-Miami Lakes (Hialeah, Fla.) in the Class 8A district playoffs ended the season of Mater Academy, which failed to qualify for the regional tournament. Meanwhile, the rest of The Starting Nine was still in postseason play through Sunday.

On Deck

Joey Gallo, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
3B/RHP, Senior
What he’s done:
Gallo was hitting .382 with two homers and 19 RBIs following the National High School Invitational in March and fell out of the rankings. He’s been on a tear since and is now hitting .561 with a .660 on-base percentage, 14 homers and 62 RBIs. In a game against Clark (Las Vegas), Gallo went 5-for-5 with four homers and eight RBIs. He also tossed a no-hitter with nine strikeouts in a win over No. 50 Gloucester Catholic (Gloucester, N.J.) in the championship game of the Easter Classic.

The Starting Nine: April 26th Edition

April, 26, 2012
4/26/12
10:09
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Gavin CecchiniMike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP ImagesBarbe (Lake Charles, La.) senior shortstop Gavin Cecchini is rated the No. 8 prosect in the ESPN 100.
ESPNHS continues its search for the nation’s top high school baseball player, regardless of school year and based solely on on-field performance. Every two weeks, we’ll rank the nine players in order in The Starting Nine. And at the end of the season, whoever is in the top spot will be crowned The Diamond Gem, our award given to the nation’s most outstanding player.

The top three remain intact in this edition of The Starting Nine, but Kyle Carter of Columbus (Ga.) made the move to the No. 4 spot thanks to his continued two-way dominance. With double digits in home runs and an ERA under 1.00 for the No. 6 team in the POWERADE FAB 50, Carter is closing in on the top of the list.

Three Florida players reached impressive milestones by the end of their regular seasons. Lance McCullers Jr. of Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.) finished the regular season without allowing an earned run in 52.1 innings of work. Walker Weickel of Olympia (Orlando, Fla.) finished the regular season 10-0 on the mound (as did his teammate Michael Hennessey). Albert Almora of Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.) finished the regular season with a batting average over .600 at an impressive .603.

The Starting Nine — April 26th Edition

Through games of April 22

1. Byron Buxton, Appling County (Baxley, Ga.)
OF/RHP, Senior
Previous spot: 1
What he’s done: Buxton is hitting .566 and getting on base at a .663 clip for the 23-1 Pirates. He has added 14 doubles, 46 runs scored and 18 RBIs from the leadoff spot while also stealing 28 bags. On the mound, Buxton is 6-0 with a 1.97 ERA and 78 punchouts in 39 innings.

2. Lance McCullers Jr., Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.)
RHP/SS
Previous spot: 2
What he’s done: McCullers finished the regular season without giving up an earned run, allowing just 14 hits in 52.1 innings while striking out 97. At the dish, he's hitting .273 with 18 RBIs for the No. 2 team in the POWERADE FAB 50.

3. Wyatt Mathisen, Calallen (Corpus Christi, Texas)
C/SS/RHP, Senior
Previous Spot: 3
What he’s done: Mathisen is hitting a cool .449 with 32 RBIs for the No. 7 team in the FAB 50. He's also 8-0 as a pitcher with a 0.81 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 52 innings.

4. Kyle Carter, Columbus (Ga.)
OF/LHP, Senior
Previous spot: 6
What he’s done: The top player on the No. 6 team in the FAB 50, Carter has launched 11 long balls and totaled 26 RBIs. On the bump, the southpaw is 7-1 with a 0.89 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 45 innings.

5. Gavin Cecchini, Barbe (Lake Charles, La.)
SS, Senior
Previous Spot: 5
What he’s done: Cecchini is hitting .395 with a .514 OBP. He's also cracked six home runs and driven in 27 runs, all while using a wooden bat. On the basepaths, he's 25-for-25 in stolen base attempts.

6. Walker Weickel, Olympia (Orlando, Fla.)
RHP, Senior
Previous spot: 7
What he’s done: Weickel is 10-0 for the No. 1 team in the land, posting a 1.47 ERA and 72 K's in 55 innings. He's also chipping in at the dish with a .322 average, six bombs and 23 RBIs.

7. Courtney Hawkins, Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas)
RHP/OF
Previous spot: 4
What he’s done: Hawkins and the Tigers lost a 7-1 decision to Mathisen's Wildcats last week. Hawkins pitched 4.1 innings with 3 strikeouts and two earned runs allowed in that contest. For the season he's 3-1 on the mound with a 0.83 ERA and 44 K's in 25.1 innings. He's also hitting .461 with eight homers and 33 RBIs.

8. Max Fried, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
LHP/OF, Senior
Previous spot: 8
What he’s done: Fried keeps getting stronger on the mound, with a 6-1 record and 83 strikeouts in 50.1 innings. Opposing batters are hitting just .162 against him. On offense he's hitting .446 with five doubles, 18 RBIs and 12 steals.

9. Albert Almora, Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.)
OF, Senior
Previous spot: 9
What he’s done: Almora finished the regular season with a .603 batting average, six home runs, 34 RBIs and 42 runs scored. He also added 27 stolen bases.

On Deck

Ty Hensley, Santa Fe (Edmond, Okla.)
RHP, Senior
What he’s done: Hensley is firing on all cylinders at the plate and on the mound, but with no one dropping out in this edition he remains in the On Deck spot. Hensley is 7-0 with a 1.40 ERA and 79 K's in 40 innings and he's also hitting .408 with eight homers.

The Starting Nine: April 12th Edition

April, 12, 2012
4/12/12
11:34
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Max Fried NHSIAndrew Craft/ESPNHSHarvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.) left-hander Max Fried has helped the Wolverines keep pace among the nation's top teams despite the loss of star right-hander Lucas Giolito.
ESPNHS continues its search for the nation’s top high school baseball player, regardless of school year and based solely on on-field performance. Every two weeks, we’ll rank the nine players in order in The Starting Nine. And at the end of the season, whoever is in the top spot will be crowned The Diamond Gem, our award given to the nation’s most outstanding player.

It’s shaping up to be a two-horse race in The Starting Nine with Byron Buxton and Lance McCullers Jr. separating themselves from the rest of the pack as the regular season comes down to the wire. Buxton, who remained No. 1 in Keith Law’s updated Future 50 this week, holds a slight lead over McCullers thanks to his all-around play.

While Buxton and McCullers have held strong in the top two spots, the rest of The Starting Nine has been anything but stable. Three new players have joined the bunch, led by Calallen senior catcher/right-handed pitcher Wyatt Mathisen, who jumps all the way up to the No. 3 spot thanks to his play for the Wildcats, who are 22-0 and No. 2 in the POWERADE FAB 50.

The Starting Nine — April 12th Edition

Through games of April 8

1. Byron Buxton, Appling County (Baxley, Ga.)
OF/RHP, Senior
Previous spot:
No. 1
What he’s done: The sign of an elite player is adjusting to what’s thrown to him. In Buxton’s case, he still hasn’t seen a pitch he could go yard with. The No. 2 player in the ESPN 100 is still batting .519 with 10 doubles and three triples. He’s also walked 16 times, striking out only once, and is a perfect 18-for-18 on stolen-base attempts. On the mound, he’s been exceptional, going 6-0 with a 1.65 ERA and 67 strikeouts with just nine walks in 34 innings. His play has helped Appling County to an 18-0 mark.

2. Lance McCullers Jr., Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.)
RHP/SS
Previous spot:
No. 2
What he’s done: McCullers has been downright filthy on the mound this season, so much so that he nearly bumped Buxton out of the top spot. He’s still hasn’t given up a run, a span that’s now reached 42.1 innings. He’s 8-0, holding opponents to a ridiculously low .069 batting average and has struck out 79. Jesuit is also No. 3 in this week’s FAB 50. The only thing keeping McCullers from overtaking Buxton at this point is that Buxton has been the better all-around player — McCullers is hitting .279 with two homers and 13 RBIs.

3. Wyatt Mathisen, Calallen (Corpus Christi, Texas)
C/SS/RHP, Senior
Previous Spot:
On Deck
What he’s done: Mathisen makes the big jump from On Deck to the three-hole in The Starting Nine based on his play at the plate and on the mound for Calallen (22-0), which is No. 2 in the FAB 50. Mathisen is hitting .460 with a .584 OBP and 26 RBIs and is 6-0 on the mound with a 1.00 ERA, 64 strikeouts and only nine walks in 42 innings.

4. Courtney Hawkins, Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas)
RHP/OF
Previous spot:
No. 4
What he’s done: Hawkins has been doing it all for Carroll, which is No. 13 in the FAB 50. He’s hitting .441 with a .582 OBP, seven homers and 26 RBIs. He’s 2-0 on the mound with a 0.44 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 16 innings.

5. Gavin Cecchini, Barbe (Lake Charles, La.)
SS, Senior
Previous Spot:
No. 6
What he’s done: Cecchini has improved at the plate the past two weeks, raising his average from .378 to .409. He boasts a .541 OBP, 28 runs scored, four homers and 19 RBIs and is 22-for-22 in stolen base attempts. He has also only committed one error for Barbe, which is 22-6.

6. Kyle Carter, Columbus (Ga.)
OF/LHP, Senior
Previous spot:
No. 7
What he’s done: Carter continues to produce on both the mound and at the plate for Columbus, which is No. 8 in the FAB 50. He’s hitting .354 with eight homers and 17 RBIs and is 5-1 with a 0.95 ERA, two saves and 46 strikeouts in 37 innings.

7. Walker Weickel, Olympia (Orlando, Fla.)
RHP, Senior
Previous spot:
NR
What he’s done: The No. 3 player in the ESPN 100, Weickel has powered Olympia’s surprising run to the No. 1 spot in the FAB 50. He’s 8-0 with a 1.24 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 45 innings. He’s also shown some pop at the plate by clubbing six homers.

8. Max Fried, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
LHP, Senior
Previous spot:
No. 9
What he’s done: Harvard-Westlake has surprised many by staying among the top teams in the nation despite the loss of ESPN 100 No. 1 prospect Lucas Giolito. The Wolverines are No. 7 in the FAB 50 and were the runner-up at the USA Baseball National High School Invitational thanks in large part to Fried, who’s No. 4 in the ESPN 100. He’s 3-1 with a 2.65 ERA and has fanned 54 in 31.2 innings. He’s also been solid at the dish, hitting .434 with a homer and 15 RBIs.

9. Albert Almora, Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.)
OF, Senior
Previous spot:
NR
What he’s done:Almora recently moved up to the No. 3 high school prospect in Keith Law's Future 50, and he makes his debut in The Starting Nine as well. He's raking at the dish to the tune of a .603 average, a .671 OBP, five home runs and 28 RBI. He's also added 14 steals.

On Deck

Ty Hensley, Santa Fe (Edmond, Okla.)
RHP, Senior
What he’s done:
The No. 35 player in the ESPN 100 is 5-0 on the mound with a 1.87 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 30 innings. He’s also hitting .439 with eight homers and 26 RBIs.

Dropped Out

No. 3 Joey Gallo, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
1B/3B/RHP, Senior
What’s he’s done:
This isn’t a knock on Gallo’s talent — he’s clearly one of the top hitters in the nation. But he’s struggled in the past couple of weeks and is hitting .382 with two homers and 19 RBIs. Bishop Gorman also dropped two games at the USA Baseball National High School Invitational, though the Gaels are still No. 12 in the FAB 50.

No. 5 David Dahl, Oak Mountain (Birmingham, Ala.)
OF, Senior
What he’s done:
Dahl is hitting .392 with a .529 OBP, two homers, 12 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. But his team is hovering around the .500 mark with a 15-14 record.

No. 8 Kayden Porter, Spanish Fork (Utah)
RHP/OF, Senior
What he’s done:
Porter has blasted four homers, hit seven doubles and is 2-0 on the mound for FAB 50 No. 25 Spanish Fork. But the Dons have since fallen to No. 2 in Utah behind FAB No. 22 Bingham (South Jordan, Utah) and Porter has been matched both at the plate and on the mound by senior teammate Hayden Nielsen.

Buxton headlines star-studded OF list

February, 24, 2012
2/24/12
9:20
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Byron BuxtonMike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP ImagesAppling County (Baxley, Ga.) senior Byron Buxton is the nation's top outfielder and a potential top-five pick in June's draft.

Each week from now until early March, we’ll take a look at the elite Class of 2012 high school baseball prospects by ranking our Top 10 players by position. This week, we unveil our list of the Top 10 outfielders led by Appling County (Baxley, Ga.) standout Byron Buxton.

Last season, Buxton established himself as one of the nation’s top overall prospects by hitting .594 with 10 homers and 48 RBIs. And this week, he was named by Keith Law as the No. 1 prospect for this year's MLB draft.

1. Byron Buxton, Appling County (Baxley, Ga.)
Buxton is a two-sport star with plus speed and a steady setup and swing at the plate. He has the athleticism to play center field but scouts tend to believe he'll settle in right in a similar manner as Arizona Diamondbacks star Justin Upton. Buxton hits the low-90s off the mound, but his future is as an everyday talent, and he may hit for plus power down the road. He could be a top-five pick, but if he prefers college, the University of Georgia will welcome him with open arms.

2. David Dahl, Oak Mountain (Birmingham, Ala.)
Dahl is a multi-talented athlete, but his best asset may be his eye for the strike zone. He can throw and run, projects to hit for average and power and should get on base with regularity. He's likely to end up in right field but could play some center early in his career. Dahl is an Auburn commit, but is a good bet for the first round and is a possible top-10 pick.

3. Albert Almora, Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.)
Almora , a Miami commit, may be the best prep center fielder in the class and projects to hit for average with a chance to add 10 to 15 home runs. He's a 55 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale and has tremendous instincts in the field and on the bases. Almora performs well in showcases and big games, which could get him selected in the top 20.

4. Courtney Hawkins, Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas)
Hawkins, also a right-handed pitcher, is an enticing talent with plus power that he put on display at the Area Code Games, where he was one of just two players to leave the yard. Blair Field is rather cavernous, making the feat that much more impressive. He improved from the end of the spring into the showcase circuit, but scouts do show concern about his defensive instincts and how he handles soft stuff at the plate. Hawkins should hear his name called on Day 2, if not late on Day 1.

5. Lewis Brinson, Coral Springs (Fla.)
Brinson is quite the athlete, grading out above average across the board, including a 55 run grade and throwing arm. He has legit power that plays now, but he's raw in terms of plate discipline and pitch recognition. Florida could get a terrific corner outfielder with a bright future if Brinson passes on pro ball for the college game. Such a decision could put him in the first round conversation in 2015.

6. Billy “Nick” Williams, Ball (Galveston, Texas)
Williams could fit anywhere on this list and the argument for such a ranking would be legitimate and justified. He lacks polish and has big problems with offspeed stuff, which means his draft stock is based largely on his physical tools. He's a 70 runner with good raw power, but his mechanics at the plate need work and his defensive instincts are below average. If he maximizes his potential, he's a future star. Williams may benefit greatly from three years at the University of Texas.

7. Skye Bolt, Holy Innocents’ Episcopal (Atlanta)
Bolt has a chance to move up this list with some fundamental changes this spring. He's projectable at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, is a 60 runner and thrower and can handle center field. The switch hitter's swing (he’s better from the right side) mechanics are poor — he was mostly upper body in 2011 — but that’s not irreparable and big power could come as a result. If he spurns North Carolina and signs, he might be a sleeper to keep an eye on.

8. Jesse Winker, Olympia (Orlando, Fla.)
Winker is known for his sound swing and big power, but he may have to convert to first base down the line, erasing some of his value. He doesn’t run or throw all that well, but is a good worker who sets an example for teammates on and off the field. Winker is committed to Florida.

9. Rhett Wiseman, Buckingham Browne & Nichols (Cambridge, Mass.)
Wiseman brings a little of everything to the ballpark, including good feet, wrist strength and good bat speed. His swing is a mess, however, which keeps his stock down. He's a decent defender but lacks polish and does not make plays instinctually, but he's always played multiple sports, somewhat explaining the lack of natural baseball skills. He's a Vanderbilt commit, so he's not going to be easy to sign, and frankly he could use the time to develop anyway.

10. Anthony Alford, Petal (Miss.)
Alford may take his game to the gridiron — he's committed to Southern Mississippi to play quarterback as well as baseball — but he's a physical specimen at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds to go with above-average speed. He may have to play left in pro ball, and is still unrefined at the plate, but there's plenty to like athletically.

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.

McCullers Jr. is top Florida diamond star

December, 29, 2011
12/29/11
7:53
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Avery RomeroScott Kurtz/ESPNHSPedro 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.

Team USA reflects on winning gold

December, 6, 2011
12/06/11
9:59
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USA Baseball 18U National TeamCourtesy of El UniversalThe USA Baseball 18U National Team outscored its nine opponents 88-8 en route to a gold medal at the Pan American Championships.
Gavin Cecchini didn’t mind the elbow to the face or three 180-pounders on his back. Carson Kelly wasn’t afraid of the bodies colliding on top of him or the headlocks that followed.

The USA Baseball 18U National Team teammates will never forget this dog pile.

“When I look back 10 years from now I will remember the dog pile more than anything,” said Cecchini, a senior at Barbe (Lake Charles, La.). “It was the best feeling. There is nothing like winning a gold medal.”

The 20-plus person tower in the infield featured some of the best prep baseball players in the United States, and it capped a week where Team USA dominated the field at the COPABE 18U/AAA Pan American Championships in Cartagena, Colombia.

The exclamation point was a 12-2 win over Canada in the gold-medal game last week to complete a perfect 9-0 record in the tournament that featured teams from all over the world.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Kelly, a senior at Westview (Portland, Ore.). “Every moment was incredible. It will be something I talk about for the rest of my life. I will remember it all.”

It won’t be hard to forget for the players and coaches who wore red, white and blue. Just check the box scores.

The American’s outscored their opponents 88-8, beating four of them by way of the mercy rule. On offense they combined to hit .353, and the pitching staff finished with a 1.00 ERA.

Between the chalk, they stole 45 bases, while defensively they only committed two errors.

“We absolutely demolished teams down there,” said Cecchini, an Ole Miss signee. “To tell you the truth, I thought the games would be much closer. But our hitters were awesome and our pitchers were unbelievable.”

Kelly was one of those pitchers. The Oregon signee earned the win on the mound in the gold-medal game and also had the ball when USA beat host country Colombia in front of a national TV audience and a sold out stadium of more than 13,0000 fans.

“It was a blessing for me and very exciting for me to get to pitch in those two games,” he said. “It’s not very often you get to represent your country. So I wanted to make sure we came out on top.”

Offensively, the Americans were paced by Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.) senior outfielder Albert Almora, who was named the tournament’s MVP. The Miami recruit and Team USA veteran hit .421 and led the team in extra-base hits (6) and RBI (11).

Cecchini was named to the all-tournament team along with Olympia (Orlando, Fla.) senior pitcher Jesse Winker, Albuquerque Academy (Albuquerque, N.M.) third baseman Alex Bregman and Pace (Pace, Fla.) senior shortstop Addison Russell.

“Everyone on are team was not good — they were great,” Kelly said. “I said to myself, ‘Wow, these guys know how to play baseball.’”

Team USA manager and three-time World Series champion Scott Brosius said he was impressed with the focus and talent level of his team, which consisted of many projected first-round MLB draft picks.

“It was definitely exciting to watch this group,” he said. “We hadn’t played a lot together, so we had a few question marks heading in. So to come in and win gold in a dominating fashion felt real rewarding.”

Away from the diamond, Team USA didn’t have it as easy. Cecchini said fans “were brutal” and felt that “everyone was against us and tried to throw us off our game.” When Team USA arrived in Colombia, they were given a different schedule that included an 8 a.m. game 12 hours after arriving in South America.

“That was just the first of many curveballs we were thrown,” Brosius said. “But we prepared to expect the unexpected, so we just rolled with what was thrown at us.”

The Americans were the only team who did not have a day off, Cecchini said. Plus, Team USA had to play four morning games in a row, where in some cases they were waking up at 6 a.m. to make hour-long bus trips.

“They tried everything to take us away from our game,” Cecchini said. “Cold showers, wet clothes, dirty water. They tried to mess with Team USA. We got the last laugh.”

And a memorable dog pile.

Team USA wins Pan Am Championship

November, 30, 2011
11/30/11
12:30
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Pace (Pace, Fla.) senior infielder Addison Russell blasted a grand slam as the USA Baseball 18U National Team exploded for seven first-inning runs en route to a 12-2 win over Canada on Sunday in the championship game of the COPABE 18U/AAA Pan American Championships in Cartagena, Colombia.

Westview (Portland, Ore.) senior right-hander Carson Kelly tossed six innings of four-hit ball and fanned five to earn the win, his second of the tournament.

Meanwhile, Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.) senior outfielder Albert Almora was named tournament MVP after batting .421 with 11 RBI in nine games, all of which Team USA won.

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