High-SchoolBaseball: Lewis Brinson

Lance McCullersMike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP ImagesGatorade National Player of the Year Lance McCullers of Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.) slipped to the Astros in the sandwich round likely due to signability concerns.
High school prospects figured heavily into Monday night's MLB draft, with Puerto Rican prep shortstop Carlo Correa going No. 1 overall in a surprise pick by the Houston Astros and Georgia outfielder Byron Buxton going No. 2 to the Minnesota Twins. In all, 35 high schoolers were drafted out of the 60 picks on Day 1.

Correa became the first Puerto Rican player to be picked No. 1 in the MLB draft. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound native of Santa Isabel has a powerful bat and good speed. Given his size and position, some scouts couldn't help but compare him to a young Alex Rodriguez. Buxton also earned some pretty impressive comparisons throughout the draft process, with names like Justin Upton and Andrew McCutchen being thrown around. The 6-1, 175-pound outfielder burst onto the scene with a number of impressive showings last summer and held strong with his performance at Appling County (Baxley, Ga.) this spring.

Correa wasn't the only high schooler from Puerto Rico who heard his name called Monday, as the Twins used the first pick of the sandwich round on lanky right-hander Jose Orlando Berrios and the Los Angeles Dodgers used the 51st pick on Jesmuel Valentin-Diaz, a teammate of Correa's at the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy.

Many had Lance McCullers Jr. from Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.) pegged as a possible top-10 pick, but his slide into the second round was one of the biggest stories of the evening. McCullers, a 6-2, 205-pound right-handed pitcher, ended up being selected 41st overall by the same team that picked Correa -- the Astros. McCullers, the Gatorade National Player of the Year, may have slipped due to high signing bonus demands, and the $1.25 million assigned to the No. 41 pick surely won't be enough to sway him from his commitment to Florida. The Astros, who have $11.2 million to spend total among their first 11 draft picks, will have to do some creative budgeting if they want to sign both Correa and McCullers Jr.

High school teammates factored prominently into Day 1 of the draft. Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.) pitching aces Max Fried and Lucas Giolito were both selected in the first round. Fried, a 6-3, 170-pound left-hander, heard his name called seventh overall by the San Diego Padres. Fried transferred to Harvard-Westlake for his senior year after his old school cut its athletics department, and after a dominant spring it's no surprise he went in the top 10 picks.

Giolito is a different story. Considered the No. 1 prep prospect entering the spring, the 6-6, 230-pound power righty was sidelined a few weeks into the season with a sprained ulnar-collateral ligament in his right elbow. He only recently began throwing again, and draft experts were split as to whether a team would take the risk and select him in Round 1. The answer to that question turned out to be yes, as the Washington Nationals picked him 16th overall. His pick is slotted at $2.1 million, but it may take more than that to sign him away from his commitment to UCLA, especially considering he was at one time projected to earn a signing bonus of at least twice that much.

Olympia (Orlando, Fla.) teammates Jesse Winker and Walker Weickel were both picked in the sandwich round, with Winker going 49th to the Cincinnati Reds and Weickel going 55th to the Padres. Winker, a sweet-swinging outfielder, had seen his stock surge of late. He hit close to .500 in his senior season with an OBP of .649. There was a time earlier this spring when it looked like Weickel was a sure bet to be picked higher than Winker, possibly even in the first half of the first round. But concerns about diminishing velocity pushed Weickel down draft boards.

In addition to Fried and Weickel, the Padres also grabbed prep right-hander Zach Eflin of Hagerty (Oviedo, Fla.) at No. 33. At 6-5 and 205 pounds, Eflin has a frame scouts love to go with a fastball that has been clocked in the mid-90s. A battle with triceps tendinitis earlier this spring may have hurt Eflin's stock slightly, but he could prove to be one of the steals of the draft. It may be a tough task for San Diego to sign all three of these high-upside selections, but inking even two of them would have to be considered a success.

A few other teams also went high school heavy Monday night. The Toronto Blue Jays used four of their five picks on preps, including first-rounder D.J. Davis from Stone County (Wiggins, Miss.) at No. 17. The Rangers grabbed a trio of prep prospects, with Lewis Brinson of Coral Springs (Fla.) leading the way at No. 29. The Chicago White Sox were doing flips over their draft, as they snagged Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas) outfielder/pitcher Courtney Hawkins 13th overall (he celebrated by doing a back flip live on TV). With their only other pick of the evening, they grabbed Keon Barnum of King (Tampa, Fla.) -- arguably the high schooler with the best raw power in the draft.

Stray observations

--Solon (Ohio) lefty Matt Smoral had injury issues his senior year — he missed most of the season with a stress fracture in his foot. When healthy, he was considered a potential top 10 talent. Toronto selected him with the No. 50 pick.

--Joey Gallo seems like a perfect fit for the Texas Rangers at No. 39 with his power. Gallo hit .509 with 21 homers and 80 RBIs in his final season at Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas).

--Parkview (Lilburn, Ga.) star Matt Olson played his best ball toward the end of the season in leading the Panthers to their second straight state title. Perhaps that played a role in him landing with Oakland at No. 47.

--Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.) third baseman Mitch Nay saw his numbers drop this season as he saw fewer good pitches to hit. But there’s no doubt the Blue Jays got a tremendous talent at No. 58 — Nay still impressed enough to earn Gatorade State Player of the Year honors this season.

MLB Draft Stock Watch: A final look

June, 1, 2012
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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.

Buxton headlines star-studded OF list

February, 24, 2012
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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
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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.

Brinson has bright future

October, 28, 2011
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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.

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