Jupiter, FL - The top is dominated by pitchers, but in the end we chose a shortstop for our #1 ranking.
Francisco Lindor (Montverde Academy, FL) was never a stranger to scouts in Florida, but after beginning the summer as a slick-fielding slap hitter, Linder ended it as a multi-dimensional threat. He headlines the Prospect Wire Top-100 High School prospect list (seniors only).
Even veteran scouts are hard-pressed to recall a smoother and more athletic high school shortstop. Lindor glides to the ball, has a plus-plus arm, and exceptionally quick hands. When the 5’11”, 170 lb switch-hitter won the AFLAC Home Run Derby, nobody in Florida could believe it until he came back east and the local scouts could see it for themselves.
History has been kinder to the first-drafted high school shortstop than it has to the prep pitcher. Underlying the success rate is the fact that they’re the best athletes who can move to other positions and the ones who go early have good bats, too. Lindor certainly fits the mold completely.
Lefty Daniel Norris (Science Hill HS, TN) stands out amongst his position and would probably have been our #1 at the beginning of the summer. He’s still every bit the prospect and should fly off the board fast in June.
Our #3 is right-handed pitcher Archie Bradley (Broken Arrow HS, OK) who has the size (6’4”, 225 lbs), presence, and power arm to be a very early pick and eventually a big winner at the major league level. Bradley is quite advanced already despite splitting considerable developmental time with football. Bradley has committed to play both sports at Oklahoma which means any big league team who drafts him can spread the bonus out over five years. There are a number of other prep righties ranked right behind Bradley with nearly as much ceiling.
Two outfielders out of completely different molds have made our Top-10 and are thus potential 1st-round picks. Billy Flamion (#7) is a pure left-handed hitting machine from northern California (Modesto Catholic Central HS) while the 6’3” Bubba Starling (#8)is a more projectable run-and-throw athlete from Kansas (Gardner-Edgerton HS) who plans to double as a quarterback for Nebraska if he doesn’t sign.
North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts Having Big Years
Georgia was the unquestioned story of the 2010 Draft as they ended up with five 1st-round preps and many other similar talents who dropped because of signability.
While none are quite as loaded as Georgia was in 2010, North Carolina (5), Oklahoma (4), and Massachusetts (4) are considerably stronger than normal for 2011.
North Carolina has depth as well, with a number of players who just missed our Top-100 and also have early-round possibilities. Oklahoma is buoyed by the #3 (Bradley) and #5 (Dylan Bundy) less than thirty miles apart. Massachusetts brings a strong group of right-handed pitchers.
It’s not to call Georgia a non-factor, they do have six Top-100 prospects and many more on the fringes. But area scouts of the Peach State have gotten so accustomed to recent bounties that they see the 2011 group as a letdown.
Another state that has emerged in recent years is Indiana, which puts three players on the list in 2011. By comparison, Michigan (0), Illinois (2), and Ohio (1), Indiana’s three much larger populated neighbors, combine for just as many Top-100 players as the Hoosier State alone.
While Florida (11), California (11), and Texas (10) are again the leaders, it should be noted that the talent is more spread out among the fifty states than in the past. The Big-3 combine for 32% of the list, but in a typical year it is over 40%. This should be viewed as a positive development for the game as certain areas have improved considerably as talent producers.
How Deep Do the Top-100 HS Prospects Go in the Draft?
In the 2010 Draft, there were 101 high school players taken in the first eight rounds. While we used that as a guideline, it really isn’t that simple.
Major League Baseball’s attempts to take “signability” out of the equation by clamping down on bonuses and suggesting “slot” payouts was a complete failure in 2010. If we generously consider $100,000 to be 8th-round money, there were 55 more high school players who signed for that or more taken after the 8th round (according to the Baseball America draft database). There were also numerous other high school players who were offered more but declined a pro contract. In that sense, we can say that at least 156 high school players were deemed to be first-8 round talents by the draft.
Of course, our Top-100 represents our best estimation in October, but there are thirty different informed opinions sitting in big league chairs and much will change over the next eight months as far as both talent and signability. If we end up with 50 of these players taken in the first eight rounds, it will be a major accomplishment for us.
Will a High School Player Go 1/1?
The Pittsburgh Pirates will pick first overall in 2011 followed by the Seattle Mariners. If forced to make a call right now, it would seem that the #1 pick is more likely to come out of college. Rice University has a third baseman named Anthony Rendon who should be the best pure hitter in the draft. Farther north in the state, Texas Christian sophomore-eligible lefty Matt Purke is also a candidate to go 1/1 after turning down over-slot 1st-round overtures from the Rangers out of high school.
The biggest advantage Rendon and Purke have over their prep counterparts is simply that they are more advanced, closer to the big leagues, and much safer picks.
We believe Francisco Lindor would have the best chance among the preps to go 1/1 but it’s still a long shot in light of the collegiate options.
There does seem to be the potential for more 1st-round high school picks than years past. In the early going, the college ranks don’t appear that deep. In 2010, there were 17 preps out of 32 true first-round picks and another 11 selected among the 18 in the first-sandwich round. Look for at least that number in 2011.
Seeing how the bonus money has spiraled out of control despite Major League Baseball’s 2007 institution of the mid-August signing deadline, I would expect only more of the same in 2011. Don’t be surprised when many of our Top-100 players fall out of the first-8 rounds, but end up getting the money anyway.