High-SchoolBaseball: Jesmuel Valentine-Diaz
March, 2, 2012
By Jason A. Churchill | ESPN.com
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesPuerto Rico Baseball Academy (Gurabo, Puerto Rico) shortstop Carlos Correa is projected to be a top-10 pick in June's MLB draft.Each week since early February, we’ve been taking a look at the elite Class of 2012 high school baseball prospects by ranking the Top 10 players at each position. This week, we unveil our final set of rankings with the Top 10 middle infielders, which is led by Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Gurabo, Puerto Rico) shortstop Carlos Correa. The Miami commit is projected to be a top-10 pick in June’s MLB draft.
Note: The rankings below are partially based on each player's chance of remaining at a middle infield position well into professional baseball.
1. Carlos Correa, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Gurabo, Puerto Rico)
Correa's physical tools suggest he has a bright future at the plate and is top-10-pick material in June's draft. If the 6-foot-4, 190-pounder can stick at shortstop he could be a star, but he possesses the raw power to take his game to third base, if necessary. He has the hands, arm strength, foot speed and agility to play the position, but he could outgrow it in the long term. Correa is committed to Miami.
2. Gavin Cecchini, Barbe (Lake Charles, La.)
Cecchini is a gamer with plus makeup and good athleticism and has a chance to stick at shortstop as a result. His arm is good enough and he's accurate, and there's some pop in the bat thanks to sound mechanics and a solid hit tool. Cecchini is committed to Ole Miss.
3. Addison Russell, Pace (Fla.)
Russell looks more like a third baseman than a shortstop, and his power follows suit. But he moves his feet well and has terrific hands, so there's a chance for him to stick at short in pro ball as long as he remains in top condition. Auburn will miss out on a premium recruit if Russell signs a pro deal this summer.
4. C.J. Hinojosa, Klein Collins (Spring, Texas)
Hinojosa has the arm and hands to play shortstop, and would likely do so if he heads to Austin to play for the Longhorns -- something he nearly did as an early enrollee -- but his thicker build may push him to second base or the hot corner down the line. He squares up fastballs regularly and is considered a tough sign due to his college commitment.
5. Jesmuel Valentine-Diaz, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Gurabo, Puerto Rico)
Valentine-Diaz is a switch-hitter with a traditional split; he's stronger from his natural right side in terms of consistency and contact, but there's a little more pop from the left side. He doesn't stride, which can be good and bad. He's quick in the field and on the bases and could earn his way into consideration as a second- or third-round pick. He'll be LSU's starting shortstop in 2013 if he passes on the pro game for now, and he could use that time in school to get stronger.
6. Brandon Lopez, American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.)
Lopez is a bit raw in some areas, but once he defines his future -- he's also a right-handed pitcher who has touched the low-90s -- his game may round into shape. He has good hands and a quick bat at the plate and despite a stiff front arm his swing finishes quick and with good plane producing line drives and hefty fly balls. He tends to over-stride a bit, but that's generally an easy fix.
7. Tanner Rahier, Palm Desert (Calif.)
Rahier brings athleticism, strength and good defensive mechanics to the table, but most scouts bet on him ending up at third base as he matures physically -- he's already over 200 pounds and stands 6-foot-2. He has a plus arm and above-average power potential that he could take to the University of San Diego next fall. If Rahier was a better bet to stick at shortstop, he'd rank higher here because he has a better bat than the three prospects ranked ahead of him.
8. Avery Romero, Pedro Menendez (St. Augustine, Fla.)
Like many prep shortstops, Romero may have to move to second or third base, but the tools are there for his bat to play anywhere. He has a strong arm and average speed, but his hands are soft and his release is quick, though he drops his arm angle a little more than scouts prefer.
9. Richie Martin, Bloomingdale (Valrico, Fla.)
Martin, a Florida signee, gets the most out of his 5-foot-10, 170-pound frame, but could stand to get stronger. He's good with the glove and his release is quick, but a move to second base due to long-term arm strength may be necessary.
10. Tim Lopes, Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.)
Lopes possesses good instincts on defense and his approach to the game suggests he's a high-makeup talent whose tools will play up as a result. He's not likely long for shortstop but handles the bat well and makes consistent contact.
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 email@example.com.