High-SchoolBaseball: Florida

Brinson has bright future

October, 28, 2011
Lewis Brinson, Under Armour All American Game, East Coast Professional Showcase, University of FloridaBrinson FamilyLewis Brinson played in both the 2011 East Coast Professional Showcase and the 2011 Under Armour Game.
Over the fall and winter months, ESPN High School will be spotlighting players that stood out over the summer baseball seasons, giving you an in-depth look at some of the best prospects of 2011 and beyond.

Raw athletic ability: every college coach dreams to mold it and every scout and front-office member prays to write it on his evaluation sheet. It can’t be taught, and even the most awkward swings or lackluster pitching mechanics will be put to the side – or all together ignored – with the simple thought that you can teach a kid to swing a bat, but you can’t teach a kid to run a 3.7 60-time. It’s a practice that often fails – especially at professional level – but the thought process that’s been in place for some time.

Lewis Brinson has those athletic abilities, so the fact that he knows what he’s doing with the bat and in the field makes him all the more desirable.

“The first thing you notice is his size and the impressive speed and the arm strength, but he’s a baseball player” said an assistant coach in the ACC. “There are some kids with those kind of gifts who just don’t ‘get it’, but (Brinson) isn’t a baseball player because of his gifts, it’s just an awful nice benefit.”

Brinson, a senior at Corals Spring (Tamarac, Fla.), put those gifts on display in 2011, putting up a healthy .423/.623/.873 line on the year with four homers and eleven stolen bases – without being caught – for good measure. Over the summer, Brinson was selected to play in the Under Armour All-American game, and was also selected to participate in the home-run derby. In a competition that featured power hitters like Stryker Trahan, Mikey White and Byron Buxton, Brinson took home the trophy – beating Buxton in the final – and impressing everyone in attendance at Wrigley Field that Saturday.

“I’m not even a tiny bit surprised he won it, but beating a field like this is notable” an NL Central scout said. “It’s not like these balls were just barely getting out of the stadium either, these were deep shots into the left-centerfield. He’s just going to get stronger, and if the swing gets fixed up a bit, we’re talking about a guy with 60-65 power. I think anyone would take that.”

The following month, Brinson once again had scouts talking at the East Coast Pro Showcase in Lakeland, Florida. Brinson posted the fifth fasted sixty time there – 6.60, just .22 seconds behind D.J. Davis – and put on another show in batting practice.

“He was outstanding in Lakeland” an AL front-office member told me. “We had sent a few people down to watch him this spring, and the showcase confirmed what he is: a guy with 70 speed (on the 20-80 scouting scale) with raw power that is only going to get better. Some might say he’s just a workout -warrior, those people don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. I think he’ll go early next June”

That might be bad news to the folks in Gainesville. Brinson is currently committed to the University of Florida, and while the Gators should stay loaded as long as coach Kevin O’Sullivan is there to recruit, Brinson would be a major loss to a program that will lost plenty of talent in the 2012 draft.

“Just a gut feeling, but I think he probably ends up signing” the same NL Central scout told me. “I’ve seen interviews where he’s talked about being excited to sign that big paycheck, and I don’t see him waiting three years.”

Whether he’s headed to the SEC or the minor-leagues, Brinson is a name that must be followed. Just don’t blink, your you might miss him.

Chris Crawford is a regular contributor to Prospect Insider, and founder and executive-editor of MLB Draft Insider. He can be follow on twitter here.

Prep arms the difference in class of 2012?

October, 11, 2011
Lucas Giolito, Area Code Baseball, UCLA, Harvard-Westlake, high school baseball, baseballScott Kurtz/ESPNHSLucas Giolito may be a first round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft.

Next June's draft class does not appear to be as deep as last year's crop. There are fewer blue chip prospects overall and fewer high-ceiling prep pitchers. Or are there?

One thing I have learned in eight years covering the scouting and player development world is that high school players change more between the ages of 16 and 20 than at any other time in their athletics lives. What this could mean is that a second-division talent gets bigger, faster and stronger and hones them into further advanced baseball skills that were not necessarily on display the previous spring or summer.

This is how the class of 2012 could make up some ground on its brethren of previous years, and that burden is likely on the backs of an intriguing crop of prep pitchers. Added velocity, the development of a breaking ball or changeup, significantly improved command or a combination of these attributes can change the profile of a pitching prospect and shoot him up the charts.

Right-handers Lucas Giolito (Harvard-Westlake HS, Calif.), Lucas Sims (Brookwood HS, Ga.) and Lance McCullers, Jr. (Jesuit HS, Fla.) offer big upside and project as first-round selections, but there are several additional prospects that could take a momentous step forward before draft day.

Max Fried, LHP -- Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood, Calif.)
Fried, who transferred from Montclair Prep (Van Nuys, Calif.) to join forces with Giolito, offers a fastball in the 89-92 mph range and a potentially plus curveball and changeup. He stays over the rubber well and is a good athlete, running sub seven-second 60 times over the summer. He's hit 94 on the gun in the past and his 6-foot-4, 175-pound frame offers plenty of projection to suggest he could sit in the 93-96 mph range down the road. Fried is committed to UCLA, but could perform his way into the Top 10 where the bonus money exceeds $2 million.

Taylore Cherry, RHP -- Butler (Vandalia, Ohio)
Cherry checks in at 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds and sits 92-94 mph with his four-seam fastball. The pitch generates sink, as does his plus changeup. He commands his pitches well, including a below-average curveball that tends to flatten out at times. His size may scare off some clubs and it could ultimately dictate his role, but there are no present red flags with his mechanics that would push him to the bullpen. He's committed to North Carolina but there's likely more velocity in the chamber and he may not be able to pass up first-round money.

Walter Weickel, RHP -- Olympia (Orlando, Fla.)
The Orlando product is one of the better athletes in the class, posting times in the 6.6 range in the 60-yard run, in addition to his potential for a top-of-the-rotation arsenal. Weickel pitches at 89-92 mph, but has threatened the mid-90s and with downhill plane. He also employs a below-average change (78-81 mph) and a curveball of varied speeds (69-75 mph) that shows some depth. He offers terrific arm speed which bodes well for the changeup. The University of Miami has received a verbal commitment from Weickel, but he appears to be well on his way to becoming a first-round pick, and a strong spring could land in the top half.

Hunter Virant, LHP -- Camarillo (Camarillo, Calif.)
Virant, like Fried and Giolito, has committed to UCLA but like his potential future college teammates could be a first-round pick come June. The southpaw sits in the 88-91 mph range but has visited the 94 mph neighborhood and offers projectability at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds. He has a good feel for a mid-70s curveball and turns over a changeup for strikes. There is a bit of concern with his arm action -- it's a bit short -- but it's not likely to impact his future role and if it's mended he could add velocity.

Matt Smoral, LHP -- Solon (Solon, Ohio)
Smoral may be the pitching prospect with the most room to climb up the charts thanks to his 6-foot-8, 230-pound frame and low-90s fastball. Scouts believe there is more in the tank in terms of velocity and he also uses a fringe-average slider and is becoming more comfortable with his changeup. Smoral, a North Carolina commit, isn't likely to see Chapel Hill since left-handers with plus heaters and projectable bodies don't last long in the draft. Smoral could land in the top 10.

Giolito has No. 1 stuff, including a fastball that has touched 97 mph and power curveball. He's big and projectable at 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds and has shown an average changeup. The velocity is easy and the delivery is clean. He'a also a UCLA signee, but he could end up as the No. 1 overall pick which means the chances the Bruins get him on campus are somewhere between slim and absolutely not.

Sims, who signed with Clemson, has also touched the mid-90s, but his best pitch may be his 81-83 mph curveball that draws "plus" grades from scouts. He's a first-round talent with a chance at the top 10.

McCullers, the son of former big leaguer Lance McCullers, has hit 99 mph on the radar gun and also offers a hard-breaking curveball with some slider traits. His delivery and lack of a promising third pitch suggest to some talent evaluators that the bullpen is in his future, which very likely keeps him out of the top 10-15 of the draft. He has next spring to change that assessment.

Freddy Avis of Menlo (Palo Alto, Calif.) is also a first-round caliber arm, but his strong commitment to Stanford could prevent a first-round selection. Avis sits in the 90-93 mph range and his smooth and easy delivery bode well for his future. His curveball is among the better offspeed pitches in the prep class and he shows good arm action on a changeup with fading action.

Others: Kayden Porter, RHP (Spanish Fork HS, Utah); Carson Fulmer, RHP (Lakeland HS, Fla.); Tyler Hensly, RHP (Santa Fe HS, Okla.); Cody Poteet, RHP (Christian HS, Calif.); Trevor Megill, RHP (Marina HS, Calif.); Shane Watson, RHP (Lakewood HS, Calif.); Ryan McNeil, RHP (Nipomo HS, Calif.); Felipe Perez, RHP (Fairmont Prep, Calif.); Michael Rucker, RHP (Auburn-Riverside HS, Wash.); Ryan Burr, RHP (Highlands Ranch HS, Colo.).

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. He's served in similar roles for numerous publications since 2003, including the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. You can find Jason's ESPN archives here and follow him on Twitter here.