Kissimmee, FL - Evaluation day FTB Mizuno's 2013 tryouts weren't like most tryouts across the country for several reasons.
First, they're held at the Houston Astros spring training facility in Kissimmee, Fl. The facilities are in great condition and it's mid November. Second, there were nearly 30 colleges and several professional scouts in attendance. Third, it was run like a professional workout with everything timed out perfectly on two separate fields. And last, there were nearly 300 players from several states trying to impress the FTB Mizuno staff and make one of the 2013 teams.
Speaking of FTB's staff, Jesse Winker, the Cincinnati Reds supplemental first round pick in this past June's draft and a former FTB player was there working with players all day. Several former FTB players are now staff members and it didn't take long to realize that they are a family and not a staff.
The day started out with the college coaches speaking to the players about hitting, defense, and academics. The ratio of players to college coaches was about 10-1, which allowed the players to get more one-on-one attention from the coaches during positional drills.
After the players finished positional drills they moved to the next field for batting practice and fielding workouts. I had a front row seat for bp and the infield/outfield workouts and stayed there for about the next 7 hours. Before the first bp group stepped into the batting cage, I turned around to see the entire first base dugout packed with college coaches.
There were several players trying out that were 2012/2013 graduates that hadn't comitted to a college yet, but for the most part the grad year's ranged from 2014's to 2017's. Some of the players were returning FTB players, but most were players new to the program trying to catch the staff's attention to make one of the FTB teams for the summer of 2013.
There were plenty of player's that had great bp sessions, but a handful really caught my eye. In baseball, there are players that take bp and you can actually hear the difference that separates them from the rest. You don't need to watch where the ball goes, just listen. There was a handful of players that you could hear and see the difference in their bp sessions compared to other players. Some players showed quick bats, consistent hard contact, and a God-given ability to hit a baseball.
Several player's stood out during the infield-outfield part of the workouts, showing athleticism, arm strength, and range. Defense in baseball is underrated in my opinion. For instance, 20 year's ago a shortstop that played spectacular defense could hit .250 with no power. Ozzie Smith, a first ballot Hall of Famer hit over .280 only 6 times in his 19 year career which led to a .262 career avg. with 28 career home runs. Now, only 5 of the 15 shortstops that had 500 or more at bats in the major's hit below .262 and they averaged 13.4 home runs. With that said, I think defense is still a valued commodity in baseball. Out of the top 10 defensive teams in MLB this past season, 5 made the playoffs.
After the players had a chance to showcase their talent's during bp and infield/outfield they had a chance to showcase another God-given talent, speed. Several player's ran sub 7.0 times and showed explosiveness off the line on what was considered a slow track. Like defense, speed in my opinion is underrated in baseball. Speed can be a two-way talent, it can steal bases, put pressure on defenses, and be a distraction offensively. Defensively, speed can save runs by taking away hits in the gaps or down the lines and prevent baserunner's from advancing if an outfielder get's to a ball quickly. With PED's becoming a thing of the past, speed and defense will become more and more of a priority every year, like they were when Ozzie Smith played in the 80's.
The day of workouts and individual evaluations gave way to several games that ended the night in Kissimmee. The game's were my first chance to see the pitcher's and they didn't disappoint. Several were mid 80's or better showing arm strength, good secondary pitches, and a competitive nature on the mound.
By the time I left the park it was 9pm. I couldn't imagine a better way to spend 12 hours on a Saturday in November than watching great players giving everything they had in an effort to make an FTB Mizuno team. It was a well run evaluation day and I wanted to personally thank the FTB staff for inviting Prospect Wire out to cover their tryouts.
Check out my next article for the tryout's top prospect's, best 60 times, and best velocities.