High-SchoolGeorgia: Hunter Virant
June, 8, 2012
By Jon Mahoney | ESPN.com
Dustin Snipes/ESPNHSJameis Winston of Hueytown (Ala.) was drafted in the 15th round by the Texas Rangers. The nation's No. 1 quarterback is expected to play both football and baseball at Florida State.The first day of the 2012 MLB draft had a definite high school feel to it with 35 prep prospects getting drafted on Monday, highlighted by Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa going No. 1 overall to Houston and Appling County (Baxley, Ga.) outfielder Byron Buxton following at No. 2 to Minnesota.
But while the first day of the draft was filled with plenty of star power, the last two days featured plenty of intriguing high school storylines. Here were the best of the bunch.
Can I Graduate?
Providence (Charlotte, N.C.) senior right-hander Ty Buttrey created quite a stir when his family revealed he wouldn’t be able to walk with his graduating class. The mix-up occurred when Buttrey, a fourth-round pick of the Boston Red Sox and the No. 25 player in the ESPN 100, skipped graduation rehearsal to negotiate a deal with an MLB team because no cell phones were permitted at the rehearsal.
Apparently, though, it was all a miscommunication, as Buttrey was ultimately allowed by his high school principal to walk with his class, according to WBTV News in Charlotte.
There were plenty of questions of how far Jameis Winston of Hueytown (Ala.) and Anthony Alford of Petal (Miss.) would fall in the draft because of their football commitments.
Winston, who’s rated the nation’s No. 1 quarterback in the ESPN 150, signed with Florida State is expected to play both football and baseball there. He’s rated the nation’s No. 71 baseball player in the ESPN 100.
Alford, the nation’s No. 95 football recruit in the ESPN 150 and No. 29 baseball prospect in the ESPN 100, signed with Southern Mississippi.
Winston, an outfielder and right-handed pitcher, was drafted in the 15th round by Texas, while Alford was selected in the third round by Toronto.
The Rangers told ESPN Dallas they were hopeful Winston would choose to play for them in the offseason once Florida State’s football season was over, like Russell Wilson did at NC State and Kyle Parker did at Clemson.
Meanwhile, Grant (Sacramento, Calif.) senior Shaq Thompson, a Washington football recruit rated the nation’s No. 3 safety in the ESPN 150, was drafted in the 18th round by the Boston Red Sox. What’s intriguing about that is Thompson didn’t even play baseball his junior year and played sparingly as a sophomore. But Thompson told The Sacramento Bee he plans on signing with the Red Sox, though he’ll still honor his commitment to the Huskies.
Where’s Kyle Carter?
Columbus (Ga.) senior outfielder/left-handed pitcher Kyle Carter enjoyed a phenomenal 2012 campaign, hitting 14 homers and going 12-2 on the bump with a 0.98 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 86 innings to help the Blue Devils to their third straight state title and 12th overall. Columbus is No. 2 in the POWERADE FAB 50.
With a season like that, the Georgia recruit figured he’d go in the first few rounds. But after 40 rounds, he didn’t get drafted at all.
Carter told the Ledger-Enquirer that after he wasn’t drafted in the second round, he told teams he was heading to Georgia.
Another player who fell for what is believed to be signability issues is Camarillo (Calif.) left-hander Hunter Virant, who lasted until the 11th round, when he was selected by Houston. Virant is a UCLA commitment.
When asked about UCLA or the Astros, Virant told the Ventura County Star, "The Astros still need to put together some money, so you never know. Right now the only sure thing is UCLA. But it's a win-win no matter what happens with those options."
Injuries and Arm Trouble
A few top prospects fell in the draft due to injury issues, most notably Bishop Amat (La Puente, Calif.) infielder Rio Ruiz. Once considered a potential first-round pick, Ruiz had a blood clot removed from his clavicle this spring and missed most of his senior season. A USC commit, Ruiz was selected in the fourth round by Houston.
Meanwhile, Bolles School (Jacksonville, Fla.) right-hander Hayden Hurst, who had Tommy John surgery as an eighth-grader, lasted until the 17th round, where he was selected by Pittsburgh.
While we're on the topic of arms, the three pitchers we featured last week in our article on high pitch counts — Emerson Gibbs of Jesuit (New Orleans), Mitch Sewald of Archbishop Rummel (Metairie, La.) and Willie Nastasi of Barnstable (Mass.) — weren't drafted at all. Gibbs and Sewald combined to throw 347 pitches in a game this April, while Nastasi tossed 155 pitches of his own in one start.
No word whether those high pitch counts scared off teams, but they couldn't have helped.
No Pressure, Kid
There are a lot of expectations heaped on sons of big leaguers. Now imagine you got drafted by the team your dad starred for.
That's what Ryan Ripken is facing. The Gilman (Baltimore) first baseman and South Carolina recruit was drafted in the 20th round by the Baltimore Orioles, the same squad his dad, Cal Jr., delivered a Hall of Fame career for. Ryan hit .377 and was 4-1 as a pitcher this year for Gilman.
Meanwhile, Tate Matheny, the son of St. Louis manager Mike Matheny, was drafted by the Cardinals in the 23rd round. The senior center fielder and Missouri State recruit hit .610 with 11 homers, 51 RBIs and 25 stolen bases this season for Westminster Christian (Town & Country, Mo.), leading the team to a second straight state title.
March, 16, 2012
By Jason A. Churchill | ESPN.com
Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP ImagesHamilton (Chandler, Ariz.) senior third baseman Mitch Nay has seen his MLB draft stock rise thanks to a strong start to the 2012 season.Jason A. Churchill, who covers the MLB draft for ESPN Insider, looks at the high school senior baseball prospects who’ve either helped or hurt their draft stock early in the 2012 season.
The Class of 2012 high school baseball class is one of great promise. While it might lack polish at the top, it offers a lot of projectable, star-level athletes with high ceilings. This class, however, won’t sort itself out until late April and May. From our rough sketch of the top 20 high school prospects that was compiled during the preseason (see below), we’ll look at who’s improving their stock and who’s fading in the early going.
Preseason Top 20
1. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
2. Byron Buxton, OF, Appling County (Baxley, Ga.)
3. Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico Academy (Gurabo, Puerto Rico)
4. Walker Weickel, RHP, Olympia (Orlando, Fla.)
5. Max Fried, LHP, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
6. Matt Smoral, LHP, Solon (Ohio)
7. Stryker Trahan, C, Acadiana (Lafayette, La.)
8. Joey Gallo, 1B, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
9. Gavin Cecchini, SS, Barbe (Lake Charles, La.)
10. David Dahl, OF, Oak Mountain (Birmingham, Ala.)
11. Lucas Sims, RHP, Brookwood (Snellville, Ga.)
12. Hunter Virant, LHP, Camarillo (Calif.)
13. Rio Ruiz, 3B, Bishop Amat (La Puente, Calif.)
14. Zach Eflin, RHP, Hagerty (Oviedo, Fla.)
15. Clint Coulter, C, Union (Camas, Wash.)
16. Courtney Hawkins, OF, Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas)
17. Addison Russell, SS, Pace (Fla.)
18. Carson Kelly, 3B, Westview (Portland, Ore.)
19. Tanner Rahier, SS, Palm Desert (Calif.)
20. Corey Seager, 3B, Northwest Cabarrus (Concord, N.C.)
Mitch Nay, 3B/OF, Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.)
Nay, Arizona's top prep prospect, has a shot to shoot up the charts with more performances like this week's outing when he went deep to right-center -- the opposite field for Nay, who’s a right-handed batter -- for a three-run homer.
Ty Buttrey, RHP, Providence (Charlotte, N.C.)
Buttrey touched 95 mph on the radar gun last week and sat firmly in the low-90s. He fanned 12 in 5.2 innings in one start and offers projection at 6-foot-6 and just over 200 pounds. He’s committed to Arkansas, but he could move up into first-day consideration.
In his latest start, Eflin, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound Central Florida commit, tossed six hitless frames and struck out 12. He has 29 strikeouts in 15 innings on the season, using a 90-94 mph fastball and a potentially plus curveball. He has yet to allow an earned run.
Weickel, already a potential top 10 pick and a Miami commit, whiffed 10 in his start last week and has scouts drooling over what might be in a few years. "Sometimes I get lost and imagine him four years down the line," said an area scout. "He could be an absolute horse. The sky's the limit."
Keon Barnum, 1B, King (Tampa, Fla.)
Barnum is hitting for average and power early on, but is not showing a consistent ability to recognize and adjust to the breaking ball. Since he's already 19, Barnum has less developmental time ahead of him than most prep draft prospects and is limited to first base defensively, so he has to show even better at the plate than if he offered defensive value. He does possess plus bat speed and the ball jumps off his barrel, but he's slumped a bit early this season.
Lance McCullers Jr., RHP, Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.)
While McCullers started this year 4-0, he lands on the Stock Down list because scouts hoped to see improvements in some key areas that have not yet been displayed. He's still inconsistent with his command and there are issues with his delivery, including a lot of effort, and the buzz is that he's headed for the bullpen as a professional.
After faring very well in his first few outings and impressing over the summer, fall and early winter, Fried has looked very pedestrian of late. He's sat 89-92 mph with his fastball and has not commanded his arsenal well in his last two starts, getting touched up in both. It's far too early to suggest this will ultimately impact his draft stock, but the trend isn't rosy.
Giolito lands here based solely on his elbow injury. It's been described as a UCL sprain -- I coined it a potential "UCLA sprain" for its impact on Giolito's decision to sign a pro deal or head to UCLA next fall -- but sprains too often turn up as tears, which generally require Tommy John surgery. The right-hander is my No. 1 overall prospect, prep or college, and will remain at the top of the prep list until more is known of his condition.
If Giolito returns and shows he's 100 percent, he's still likely to be selected in the top 5-10 picks, if not the top three.
On top of Giolito's injury, there have been two others that may weaken the prep class and drop the stock of the player in question. Albuquerque Academy (Albuquerque, N.M.) catcher/infielder Alex Bregman broke the tip of his middle finger and is expected to miss the rest of the season. Showing the toughness clubs want to see, Bregman hurt the finger in pre-game yet played and had two hits.
Ringgold (Ga.) left-hander Matthew Crownover, the nation’s No. 8 lefty, recently had Tommy John surgery and will miss the rest of the season. He wasn't considered a first-round talent, but he has touched 95 mph and had a shot to sneak into the top 100 despite his lack of ideal height at 6-0. He's likely headed for Clemson and will be draft eligible in 2015.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP Images, Scott Kurtz/ESPNHS(From left to right) Byron Buxton, Lucas Giolito and Joey Gallo are the three top preseason candidates for The Diamond Gem, the title bestowed upon the nation's most outstanding baseball player based on on-field performance.
With spring right around the corner, ESPNHS has begun 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.
So to kick it off, we give you our preseason Starting Nine. Leading the way is Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.) senior Lucas Giolito, the nation’s top right-handed pitcher who dominated opposing hitters last season and has looked very much like an early first-round pick in the early going this year.
The Starting Nine: Preseason
1. Lucas Giolito, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
Why he’s here: The nation’s top right-hander, Giolito went 9-0 last year with a 1.00 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 70.1 innings. He also pitched four complete games, three of which were shutouts.
2. Joey Gallo, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
Why he’s here: The top player on the top team in the POWERADE FAB 50, Gallo hit .471 last year with 25 homers and 78 RBIs while leading Gorman to its sixth straight state title. He also was 3-1 on the bump with a 1.12 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 18.2 innings.
3. Byron Buxton, Appling County (Baxley, Ga.)
Why he’s here: The nation’s top outfielder and potential top 10 pick in June’s MLB draft flirted with the .600 mark last season (he finished hitting .594) and clubbed 10 homers while driving in 48 runs.
4. Lance McCullers Jr., Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.)
Why he’s here: The hard-throwing right-hander (he’s hit 100 mph on the radar gun) went 5-2 with a 1.71 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 45 innings last season for the Class 4A state runner-up. He also hit .422 with seven homers and 24 RBIs.
5. Kayden Porter, Spanish Fork (Utah)
Why he’s here: Porter picked up ESPNHS National Junior of the Year honors last year after leading Spanish Fork to its third straight state title. He went 9-1 with 85 strikeouts in 59 innings and hit .570 with 14 homers and 50 RBIs.
6. Gavin Cecchini, Barbe (Lake Charles, La.)
Why he’s here: Leader of Louisiana powerhouse picked up Gatorade State Player of the Year honors last season after hitting .548 with 10 homers, 41 RBIs and 32 stolen bases.
7. Max Fried, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
Why he’s here: The nation’s top lefty, Fried went 7-3 with a 1.31 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 69.2 innings at Montclair Prep (Van Nuys, Calif.). He transferred to Harvard-Westlake after Montclair Prep cut its athletics program.
8. Kyle Carter, Columbus (Ga.)
Why he’s here: Carter, who starred on the Columbus team that won the 2006 Little League World Series, set a single-season school record with 22 homers last season to help Columbus earn its second straight state title and 11th overall. He also hit .467 with 47 RBIs and went 9-4 on the mound with a 2.33 ERA.
9. Courtney Hawkins, Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas)
Why he’s here: The leader of the No. 4 team in the POWERADE FAB 50, Hawkins led Carroll to a state title as a sophomore and the state semifinals last season. As a junior, he hit .410 with 15 homers, 49 RBIs and 22 stolen bases and was 10-2 with a 2.35 ERA and 81 strikeouts.
Another 25 players we’re tracking to begin the 2012 season
OF Albert Almora, Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.), Sr.
RHP Freddy Avis, Menlo School (Atherton, Calif.), Sr.
1B Keon Barnum, King (Tampa, Fla.), Sr.
RHP Ryan Burr, Highlands Ranch (Colo.), Sr.
C Zach Collins, American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.), Jr.
C Clint Coulter, Union (Camas, Wash.), Sr.
OF David Dahl, Oak Mountain (Birmingham, Ala.), Sr.
RHP Ty Hensley, Santa Fe (Edmond, Okla.), Sr.
3B/RHP Carson Kelly, Westview (Portland, Ore.), Sr.
LHP Nathan Kirby, James River (Midlothian, Va.), Sr.
C Jeremy Martinez, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), Jr.
C/SS/RHP Wyatt Mathisen, Calallen (Corpus Christi, Texas), Sr.
OF/RHP Ty Moore, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), Sr.
3B/OF Mitch Nay, Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.), Sr.
1B/RHP Matt Olson, Parkview (Lilburn, Ga.), Sr.
3B Rio Ruiz, Bishop Amat (La Puente, Calif.), Sr.
SS Addison Russell, Pace (Fla.), Sr.
RHP Lucas Sims, Brookwood (Snellville, Ga.), Sr.
LHP Matt Smoral, Solon (Ohio), Sr.
1B/RHP Jake Thompson, Rockwall-Heath (Heath, Texas), Sr.
RHP/OF Keegan Thompson, Cullman (Ala.), Jr.
C Stryker Trahan, Acadiana (Lafayette, La.), Sr.
LHP Hunter Virant, Camarillo (Calif.), Sr.
RHP Walker Weickel, Olympia (Orlando, Fla.), Sr.
OF/LHP Jesse Winker, Olympia (Orlando, Fla.), Sr.