Port St. Lucie, FL - PORT ST. LUCIE, FL- Both of Saturday’s Finals ended up with one-sided scores.
The 4A Championship started out close, it was tied at 1-1 until the top of the 6th when Archbishop McCarthy exploded for four runs to put them over. McCarthy ended up taking the crown with a 6-1 victory while Flanagan High School beat American (Hialeah) HS 12-3 in the 6A Final nightcap.
I was enabled a longer look at some of the prospects I watched the day before, most notably 2010 draft-eligibles Nick Castellanos (SS, Archbishop McCarthy) and lefty Daniel Gibson (Tampa Jesuit). Gibson, incidentally, started both state tournament games for the Tigers, going three innings on Friday and five on Saturday.
ONLY IN FLORIDA CAN A HS KID THROW 94-97 MPH AND GET KNOCKED AROUND
When Tampa Jesuit sophomore Lance McCullers came in to pitch in the top of the sixth, he was protecting a 1-1 tie with no outs and runners on first and third. When he warmed up at 92-94 MPH, I couldn’t blame the Archbishop McCarthy hitters if they were intimidated.
His first pitch was 97 MPH and he pretty much lived at 94-96 MPH the entire two-inning outing. But McCullers was all over the place and when he did throw his fastball, Archbishop McCarthy found a way to poke it to the outfield; they weren’t the least bit intimidated. McCullers’ final line was 2 IP, 1H, 3R/1ER, 2BB, and 2K. Bad defense certainly played a part, but McCullers was not the hammer the Tigers were looking for after pitching 13 innings with a 0.00 ERA during the spring.
In most states, a kid throwing 94-97 MPH will dominate without even thinking about it. That’s exactly why I love Florida high school baseball because it seems like every good team down here can hit 95 MPH if it’s “thrown” and not “pitched”. They know how to handle it, even if they can’t pull it. And if you’re struggling with your control, as McCullers was, they can recognize it well enough not to swing.
The 6’0”, 180 lb McCullers has tremendous talent and had any scouts been working the game, they would have drooled over his radar gun readings. But that’s little consolation to young McCullers who surely would have traded a few MPH for a different result! Still, the scout in me looked at his lightning quick arm and athletic delivery and couldn’t help but dream of what he could be in the future. McCullers also showed a big-breaking 81-84 MPH slider. He doesn’t have command of it, but it has the potential to become a plus pitch.
Perhaps his lack of innings this year did him in when he went against a powerful high school team under the brightest spotlight. He’ll definitely grow as a junior and senior.
I racked my brain trying to remember if I’d ever seen a sophomore who threw as hard and as consistently as McCullers, who by the way was playing shortstop the entire game until that point. I couldn’t come up with any. The hardest throwing high school pitcher I’ve ever seen was Jason Neighborgall, a 2002-graduating righty from Durham, North Carolina who threw a complete game with his velocity consistently between 93-97 MPH and touching 98. But Neighborgall was a senior. I had seen him at a showcase as a sophomore and he was 88-92 MPH then, nowhere near what McCullers showed on Saturday.
It’s quite a starting point. It doesn’t guarantee he’s a big leaguer like his father (of the same name), but it will get him long looks for the 2012 Draft and give him a chance at a major league career.
But The Show is no guarantee if he doesn’t develop the pitchability, secondary stuff, and command required to pitch there. Neighborgall, for example, pitched 42 innings in the minors and never got above Single-A. And believe me, people were excited about him in high school! There’s just a lot more to pitching than lighting up radar guns.
DANIEL GIBSON STARTS AGAIN, FACES NICK CASTELLANOS
I was surprised that there was not a scout in the stands (aside from one who was in street clothes, off-duty) to see the Jesuit-McCarthy game because Gibson started for the second day in a row and went against Castellanos.
Gibson threw harder the first inning than Friday, in the 91-94 MPH range. He settled at 89-91 MPH the rest of the start and his curveball was much sharper the whole outing. I labeled him a future “slider guy” the day before, but he showed Saturday that his curve has a chance to become adequate at the big league level. Gibson’s delivery still had the same front-end violence I noted earlier, but he did a better job throwing pitches to his glove-side. He looked more like the potential first-five round pick that he is.
Gibson got pulled for McCullers when he gave up two baserunners to start the sixth. His five inning line was five hits, three runs/earned runs, 3BB, and 9K.
Castellanos went 1-3 with no RBI and was safe on catcher’s interference in his first at-bat. I was quite frustrated because I wanted to see him take some rips. He swung on the first pitch and hit the catcher’s mitt, so the umpire rewarded him first. Castellanos was then erased on a double play.
He had two more at-bats against Gibson. In the second on a 2-1 count, Gibson threw a 92 MPH fastball down in the zone that Castellanos rolled over to ground to third base. The third baseman took too long to get rid of it and Castellanos hustled, beating it out for an infield hit. I timed him at 4.22 seconds, which is very respectable.
In the third at-bat, Gibson threw another low fastball at 91 MPH that Castellanos took the other way and flew out 280 feet to right field. Castellanos made the adjustment, he stopped rolling over the low pitch, but it was hit directly to the rightfielder.
Castellanos’s last at-bat was against McCullers. On a 2-0 count, McCullers fed Castellanos a mid-90s fastball which he rolled over to shortstop for a 6-3 putout.
Defensively, Castellanos made all the routine plays including two pop-ups, a grounder two steps to the hole, and another up the middle. There was one ball hit up the middle in the third inning that he couldn’t get to which I thought an adequate big league shortstop would. As I alluded to in the semifinals, Castellanos doesn’t quite have the feet or quick actions for a big league shortstop, but he reacts well and has plenty of hands to play elsewhere on the infield and do well defensively.
Despite the fact there were no scouts to see him Saturday, he is still very likely a first-rounder, probably in the latter third. This time of year is funny for scouts, they have so many meetings and workouts, you don’t see them at the field no matter how much talent is out there.
McCarthy centerfielder Mike Carballo is another potential draft for 2010. Committed to Georgia Tech, I suspect he’ll end up there as he is a much better college prospect right now than pro, partly due to his 5’9”, 180 lb physique that is lacking in projection. Carballo is an above-average runner with decent outfield instincts (for his age) and a lot of grit. The righthanded swing is stiff by pro standards, but he has a good approach and with aluminum he should be a good bat in the ACC. Carballo would definitely be capable of becoming a good draft 3-4 years later.
In terms of underclassmen, junior Jose Brizuela is an interesting player for the Archbishop McCarthy Mavericks. He’s a third baseman and a righthanded pitcher and has a chance both ways, to be drafted in 2011, and to play in a high-level D1. Brizuela is about 6’0”, 185 lbs, with athletic proportions and good shoulders to grow on. He’s a lefthanded hitter with quick hands and good agility as a third baseman. On the mound, Brizuela throws out of a low three-quarter slot and lived in the 86-90 MPH range from the right side. He showed a slider and a curve and I thought his slider had a chance to become big league caliber.
Tampa Jesuit was senior-dominated amongst their starting lineup. Several are committed to D1 schools, but none project as likely 2010 drafts. McCullers leads an impressive group of younger pitchers, but he’s the only one I got to see in this tournament.
“LITTLE TYRUS” LEADS FLANAGAN TO STATE TITLE
That’s the effect Geoffrey Jimenez has on his team, it’s like all the stories you hear about Ty Cobb coming to life. His intensity is remarkable and no one can get under the opposition’s skin as well as Geoff Jimenez. As good a day as he had on Friday, Jimenez was an even bigger story in Saturday’s 12-3 defeat of American HS.
The diminutive Jimenez went 4-5 with two runs and two runs batted in. His speed, which would grade an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale, completely created the first run.
Leading off the bottom of the first for the Falcons, Jimenez hit a routine chopper to third which he beat out by running a 3.89 second home-to-first. Jimenez took off on the pitch while the next hitter hit one into right. Jimenez never hesitated around second and headed to third, inducing the rightfielder to make a throwing error. Jimenez scored and that incredible display of speed and torment started off a ten-run rally.
American(Hialeah) just couldn’t get the little guy out. The 5’5”, 130 lb righthanded hitter kept his swing short and went with every pitch. And he showed an ability to hit the ball on the ground and exploit his speed, beating out two infield hits. Jimenez could have stolen 3-4 bases easily, but I think Flanagan coach Ray Evans put a lock on the running game once the game turned into a blowout.
Jimenez didn’t have any far-ranging plays to make in center, but I have little doubt he can cover ground. On routine fly balls, Jiminez tracked well and got under with plenty of time to adjust for the lights or the wind. He caught a line-drive hit right at him on Friday that impressed me because it’s a deceivingly difficult play and Jiminez’s body language showed he had it all the way.
If there’s ever a 5’5” outfielder who becomes an NCAA star, I pick this guy when he gets to Florida Atlantic. If I thought Friday was a mirage, Saturday convinced me. Can he play in the big leagues one day? If he keeps persists with that kind of intensity and determination, I wouldn’t doubt him.