High-SchoolGeorgia: MLB Draft

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.

No limits for Georgia outfielder Skye Bolt

May, 23, 2012
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Skye Bolt Cliff Welch/Icon SMIHoly Innocents' (Atlanta) senior outfielder Skye Bolt hit .430 this year with 22 doubles, eight homers and 31 RBIs.
Holy Innocents’ (Atlanta) star center fielder Skye Bolt thinks his name is the biggest reason people remember him.

That is kind of true.

Who could forget a name like Skye Bolt?

“I love the name and appreciate it,” said Bolt, who got his name because his dad wanted him to have a name that ‘popped’. “I like to think it definitely helps me in a positive way.”

But if you met Bolt and watched him swing a baseball bat, it would be safe to say you would remember him for bigger reasons.

The sweet-swinging switch hitter is rated the nation’s No. 37 player in the ESPN 100 and he’s a top prospect for this year’s MLB draft. He’s also signed with North Carolina.

With a name like Skye Bolt, he was born to be a ballplayer.

-- Holy Innocents' (Atlanta) baseball coach Dylan Deal
Numerous scouts attended his games this season, in which he hit .430 with 22 doubles, eight homers and 31 RBIs and guided Holy Innocents’ to the second round of the Class A state playoffs.

Bolt has also played in multiple showcase events in his career, including last summer’s Perfect Game All-American Classic.

He said most scouts have told him he could be drafted as early as the second round. Once he is drafted, he will make a decision on whether he heads to college or begins his journey in professional baseball.

“I truly believe one day Skye will play 162 games a year in the pros,” said Holy Innocents’ coach Dylan Deal. “With a name like Skye Bolt, he was born to be a ballplayer on TV.”

But Bolt has had just as big an impact volunteering at the Goshen Valley Boys’ Ranch in Waleska, Ga., roughly 50 miles north of Atlanta. The ranch is a nonprofit that serves young men ages 9-20 in Georgia’s foster care system. The boys who live there come from homes where their parents neglected or abused them. The organization provides them a place to live until a family adopts them.

“Charity work is one of those things that takes me away from baseball and makes me realize that baseball is just a game,” said Bolt. “Sometimes getting too head over heels for baseball can make you forget about the important things, like friends and family.”

Bolt got involved with Goshen largely due to his parents’ influence in charity work and because Goshen’s residential life director, Zach Blend, is his former middle school and junior varsity baseball coach. Bolt’s stepmom, Connie, is also on the board of advisors.

“I cannot think of another young man who has devoted as much time and effort into trying to create a better environment for these kids at the ranch,” Blend said of Bolt. “He has a very busy schedule with baseball and he somehow always finds time for the kids.”

“I am more proud of him as a person than I am of him as an athlete,” said Bolt’s mother, Eva Murray. “A sports career can only take you so far. He won’t always be an athlete. He will always be a great person. He seems to touch people everywhere he goes.”

At the ranch, Bolt plays sports and eats dinner with the kids and visits as much as he can. He donates baseball equipment and teaches them about baseball and other sports.

During Christmas, he spearheaded a toy drive at local high schools to give gifts to the ranch, and during Easter he helped bring in baskets full of candy.

“I love to help because these kids absolutely inspire me,” Bolt said. “They greet you with a smile and they embrace every day like it’s a blessing. I appreciate them so much.”

Blend said the boys look up to Bolt, and not because of what he can do on the field.

“They realize he is very skilled in baseball, but they know him more for the type of guy he is,” Blend said. “They know him more for his kindness and friendship. The way he carries himself is such a positive influence and impact.”

Proof that people will remember Skye Bolt for a lot more than just his unique name.
Kyle Carter BBPerfect Game/OtherKyle Carter is an ace on the mound and packs plenty of power in his bat for No. 21 Columbus.
This story originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of ESPNHS Georgia.

Kyle Carter doesn’t need his Columbus jersey or a Blue Devils jacket to get noticed around Georgia. Winning the Little League World Series at age 12 took care of that long ago.

“I’m a bit of a celebrity,” jokes the senior OF/LHP. “I still get people who come up to me about the World Series. They say, ‘I know it was a long time ago, but you pitched so well.’”

Fast-forward to 2012 and Carter’s name now stirs up discussion about a possible three-peat in Class AAA and his draft prospects in June. His propensity for delivering unforgettable moments on the diamond should give the locals plenty to yak about for years to come.

“He never surprises me; I always knew [his skill] was there,” says senior teammate J.T. Phillips, a two-way star and Georgia commit who has also piqued the interest of pro scouts. “His swing, man, you can’t teach that.”

Carter’s sweet stroke produced a team-record 22 homers and 47 RBIs in 2011, which propelled Columbus to 30 wins and its second straight AAA title. The Georgia recruit also went 9-4 on the bump with a 2.33 ERA and 79 K’s.

But it’s not just Carter’s insane stats that create a paparazzi-like atmosphere whenever the Columbus bus rolls into town. It’s the stages where he accumulates those numbers. During last year’s title run, Carter launched three homers in a second-round playoff win over Ringgold, then followed it up with a three-run shot that helped knot the state final series at a game apiece. He also smacked seven final-round bombs against a stacked field of sluggers to win the sixth annual Power Showcase Home Run Derby at Arizona’s Chase Field in January.

“I like being in big situations,” says Carter. “A lot of people put pressure on themselves in the game. Practice is where you put the pressure on yourself. The game is supposed to be fun.”

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