St. Petersburg, FL - Lefty Daniel Norris (Science Hill HS, TN), ranked #1 in the spring by PGCrosschecker, finally made his appearance on the very last game of the National Showcase on Sunday. Whether he ends up the first high school player taken next June, I can’t say, but Norris is an impressive arm who clearly has first round talent.
Pitching the third and fourth innings, the medium-framed 6’1”, 180 lb lefty showed a loose arm and a very athletic delivery. Norris does well to exploit his lower half and has a smooth rotation and strong kick online to home plate. Unlike most long-armers, Norris seems to hide the ball well and hitters had a hard time picking up his 92-94 MPH fastball. Norris threw it easily and I can see 92-94 as his comfort velocity when he’s 25 and throwing 200+ innings a year.
Norris’s curveball was major league average at times, with a sharp downward break in the mid-70s. His change is in the early stages of development and Norris just needs to throw it more. Overall, his command is good for his age and should project to major league caliber for his fastball and curve in the long haul.
While I don’t believe the pitching was as good overall this year as last, Norris is better than any lefty was at the Metrodome event in 2009. Jesse Biddle was the best last year, in my opinion, and he went 27th overall to the Phillies in the first round. Though Norris lacks the physicality of Biddle and other 1st-round prep lefties in years past, his stuff and his athleticism give him an edge.
Norris was definitely the treat for the last two days of the event and he’s a strong candidate for Top Prospect. I can’t come up with a major league dead-ringer to compare him to, but I think his style is a little bit like Scott Kazmir of the Los Angeles Angels. Norris doesn’t look like him, but I see a similar athleticism, velocity, and breaking ball at the same age.
I mentioned in the first article how Perfect Game’s 2009 National produced 19 first round and first-round supplemental picks in the 2010 Draft. That encompassed 19 of the first 52 overall and it’s hard for me to see this group doing the same. There just didn’t seem to be as many standout players in the outfield and on the mound as there were last year, though the catching and lefthanded pitching group is a little better for 2011. I don’t know if this reflects the nation’s high school talent base for 2011 or if there are still a number of outstanding prospects who are just lurking out in the woods.
One outfielder who has gotten attention from Florida scouts is Hagerty High’s Jeff Driskel. The 6’4”, 225 lb Driskel showed not only a powerful, projectable body, but also a solid-average arm (projecting to plus) and plus speed. The physical specimen is also rated the #1 “pro-style” quarterback in the country by Rivals.com and has already signed a football scholarship to Florida with intentions of playing both sports.
As impressive as his body and peripheral tools are, Driskel’s bat is a big question mark for pro scouts. Though he’s shown a good approach and really battles his at-bats, Driskel has a rough swing that lacks extension and off-the-bat power. He’s still going to get long looks and because of his run-and-throw abilities, scouts will be patient with the bat.
One of the most intriguing pitchers was the 6’8”, 240 lb Hawtin Buchanan from Biloxi HS in Mississippi. Already signed with Mississippi, Buchanan is unusually coordinated for such a big kid and has both a good delivery and a loose arm. He can repeat his slots. Sunday, Buchanan threw 88-90 MPH with four-seam action on his fastball. Buchanan’s curve has a slow spin right now, but I think his over-the-top slot will eventually allow him to put a harder snap on it. Buchanan is a kid who might look a whole lot different come spring, it’s not hard to see him throwing in the mid-90s one day.
In terms of workout tools, there were few if any who showed better than Tyler Greene from Roswell High School in suburban Atlanta. Greene, who has committed to Georgia, showed raw power in batting practice and a strong arm in pregame; both tools project to above average as the 6’2”, 175 shortstop fills out. Greene also ran a blazing laser-timed 6.37 60 yard-dash.
The tools don’t quite play out as well in game action, but they are an indication of his upside. Greene’s home-to-first times were right around average (4.3) on my watch and his lateral agility at short was a little below by major league standards. Greene has an uppercut in his swing that leaves him vulnerable low in the zone against big league-type stuff. He’s not a finished product (who is in high school?), but he’ll get long looks and could become an early pick next June.
Lufkin (TX) High’s Chris McFarland rivals Greene on tools aside from his arm, which is below-average right now. McFarland’s speed seems more field-friendly; he ran a 6.54 laser-timed 60 yard-dash and matched it with a home-to-first time of 3.96 seconds on a “jail break”. His quick hands generate bat-speed and McFarland also showed some bat-head manipulation ability at the plate. I graded out his range, hands, and actions as major league shortstop quality, though his arm speaks more for second base. The outfield is another attractive option.
One of the very best pure hitters at the event was a young man who listed himself only as a lefthanded pitcher in the program. But Billy Flamion from Central Catholic HS in Modesto, California, rates as an even better hitter than hurler for me.
Flamion showed a short stroke with big league bat-speed from the left side during batting practice, then proved he could make adjustments and smoke hits to all fields during the game. Flamion can hit an 88-90 MPH fastball with wood so easily now that I think he’ll one day crush the mid-90s heaters as well. At 5’11”, 175 lbs (by my eye), Flamion doesn’t have a big frame to project on but he will get stronger. He showed about average speed and outfield agility and an arm that projects to average. Flamion threw high-80s on the mound with everything working, including a curve that could become big league average down the line. He’s a two-way player at just about any D1 program, but I feel he’s a better pro prospect as an outfielder right now. Lefthanded pitchers are hard to come by, but so are pure hitters who might be able to move quick!
The four day event has now come to a completion, but our coverage will continue with rankings of the PG National’s Top Prospects. Check back for more over the next few days.
And then on Wednesday, I’ll be in Cary, North Carolina to watch the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars, featuring even more 2011 draft-eligible prospects. Many of the same players here in St. Petersburg will also make the trip, allowing me an even longer look at the nation’s premier prospects.