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1. This list took me a really long time to put together because Florida State has a ton of mid-round draft candidates who are really, really hard to separate. It also took me a long time to complete because I kept getting sucked in to reading the commentary at the many devoted Florida State baseball websites out there. I’ve admitted my lack of knowledge about the actual ins and outs of college baseball already – embarrassing admission, but it would take me a minute to remember what two teams played for the championship last year – but I had no idea that so many fans see the Florida State program as one settling into second-tier baseball school status. Recruiting has slipped in the past few seasons and the star quality players that once beat a path to Tallahassee are now finding homes elsewhere. I think getting a pair of potential plus bats on campus in consecutive years (Jayce Boyd last year, Eric Arce this year) is noteworthy, but on the whole there does seem to be a pretty big gap between upperclassmen and underclassmen talent. Any Florida State fans out there able to confirm or deny any of what I’ve read?
2. How did Tyler Holt fall to the tenth round last year?
3. I’ve always considered this site to be somewhat unique in the way player statistics drive the way college prospects are evaluated. I wish I was motivated and/or smart enough to make a little table, but here’s the gist of the stats/scouting Punnett square that I consider every time I think about a college player:
- Good Numbers + Good Scouting Reports = BUY
- Good Numbers + Questionable Scouting Reports = HOLD
- Lackluster Numbers + Good Scouting Reports = HOLD
- Lackluster Numbers + Questionable Scouting Reports = SELL
Players that fall under the first or last categories above are easy to sort out. Anthony Rendon is really, really good and, though I suppose there is some sport in figuring out how good “really, really good” actually is, there isn’t much debate about players in this category beyond that. Prospects in the last category don’t really exist, at least not in a world where we are being picky about using the word “prospect” to describe them; these college players are better at baseball than 99% of the general population, but aren’t talented enough to even get mentioned by anybody outside of their immediate family. Players in the middle two categories are where guys like me earn our imaginary internet cash money. Typically, I’m more willing to give the players in group two the benefit of the doubt over group three, but there is no hard and fast rule. It all comes down to the scouting reports, really; where they are coming from, whether or not they are firsthand accounts, the particular tools being praised or knocked, reasons for the players better/worse than expected output, the list could go on forever. For example, let’s say there is a player at State University that you happen to see play and fall in love with. You are convinced he has what it takes to be a pro, but his numbers don’t match up with what you’ve witnessed in front of you. That’s great! Sure, our eyes fool us plenty and sometimes we only see what we want to see, but the opposite is absolutely true as well. It’s not quite scouts vs stats, but more like projection vs production. I’m straying too far from where I want to go with Florida State now, so I’ll close with what I hope is one last succinct thought: just because Player X has hit better than Player Y as an amateur doesn’t mean that he’ll continue to do so, or even get the chance to do so, as a professional.
When making any kind of ranking or list, I almost always start by leaning towards production, but ultimately wind up working my way back towards favoring upside projection. The reason why I bothered to rehash this tired “debate” in the first place is to say that Florida State has a ton of fascinating production vs projection draft battles currently on the roster. I guess that what happens when you rely so heavily on junior college transfers like they do. SR RHP Daniel Bennett has been counted on in many big spots (10.40 K/9; 3.22 BB/9; 3.49 FIP; 36.1 IP) as the Seminoles primary non-closer relief pitcher. Versatile JR LHP Brian Busch has always gotten good results (8.65 K/9; 3.62 BB/9; 4.40 FIP; 77 IP) when called on. SR RHP Tyler Everett offers more (8.32 K/9; 4.26 BB/9; 3.37 FIP; 44.1 IP) of the same. Last year alone, that veteran trio pitched over 150 effective major college innings. Production! Then you have three new Seminoles with a combined total of zero innings pitched for Florida State: JR LHP Connor Nolan, JR RHP Adam Simmons, and JR RHP Gary Merians. To claim any of the three “untested” pitchers should rank over any arm in the more established trio would be a pretty clear win for projection over production, right?
Nolan intrigues the heck out of me. His fastball sits in the upper-80s, touching 91. His slider is a potential plus pitch. He also throws a curveball for strikes. Equipped with a three-pitch mix of his own (low-90s fastball and a good changeup/slider combo) Simmons isn’t too far behind. Merians has been on the radar since his high school days and more recently his stay in junior college. He has the plus arm strength that teams covet in potential back of the bullpen arms. Projection! Meanwhile, Bennett’s biggest strength is his deceptive sidearm delivery, Everett is a pitchability guy all the way, and Busch’s decent curve grades out as his only present above-average offspeed offering. I currently have them ranked, in order: Nolan, Bennett, Simmons, Merians, Busch, and Everett. I think all six players have a reasonable shot to be drafted this June, with Busch, second to last on my personal list despite his likely status as Florida State’s Saturday starter, probably the safest bet once you take everything into account.
Early 2011 Draft Guesses
The biggest sure thing on Florida State’s roster heading into 2011 is JR LHP Sean Gilmartin, a four-pitch Friday night starter that I can’t help but consistently underrate. Even though he has a very good mid-70s changeup and an above-average low-70s curveball, his inconsistent fastball, both in terms of velocity (sits mid- to upper-80s, peaks at 91-92) and command, worries me against professional hitters. Does a so-so fastball really undo the positives that three other potentially average or better (his low-80s slider isn’t great presently, but has the upside as a usable fourth pitch) secondary pitches bring to the table? As a guy who championed the pre-velocity spike Mike Minor, I’m inclined to say no, yet my instincts keep me away from endorsing Gilmartin as a potential top three round prospect. JR RHP Hunter Scantling’s quick report from last year holds up pretty well today: Scantling is huge (6-8, 270 pounds) and athletic, but his stuff still doesn’t quite match his imposing frame. That could change in a hurry, but for now he’s still sitting in the same upper-80s with iffy breaking stuff that he was at back in high school. It’ll be interesting to see if he’ll get more consistent innings as a starter or if Florida State opts to keep him coming out of the bullpen in 2011.Since then, his fastball has upped a bit in velocity (peaking 91) and his slider has markedly improved. The lack of an effective third pitch ought to keep him in the bullpen for now. Those are the only two locks to get drafted on the pitching side, in my view. The six pitchers mentioned above (Nolan, Bennett, Simmons, Busch, and Everett) all will be in the draft mix, but a lot will come down to their usage this spring. Believing that, I’d say Busch is the most likely of the sextet to go after Gilmartin and Scantling, but don’t rule out a name like Merians or Nolan jumping all the way up and becoming the second or third Seminole pitcher drafted.
The hitters are a lot more difficult to judge. There could be as many as ten Florida State position players selected in this year’s draft, a crazy number for any college team but even crazier for a good but not great college team. SR OF/RHP Mike McGee is a lock to get redrafted, but it’s not yet known if teams will ultimately prefer him in the outfield (like I do) or on the mound (like in last year’s draft). Either way, he’s one of the country’s best college players and a lot of fun to watch play. JR 2B Sherman Johnson is a huge personal favorite because of his outstanding plate discipline and above-average defensive tools. A second Seminole infielder, SR 3B Stuart Tapley, could hear his name crackled over the speaker phone; he’s got the skill set that could work as a four-corners bench bat as a professional. Florida State’s senior catchers – Parker Brunelle and Rafael Lopez – have both played below expectations in Tallahassee, but each player has shown flashes of their high level prep ability at times. Instinctually, I prefer Brunelle to Lopez, but both guys have strong points (Brunelle: athleticism and defense; Lopez: quick bat and strong arm) in their favor. In addition to McGee, the Seminoles return two additional outfielders with a chance to get taken in the draft. JR OF Taiwan Easterling reportedly scared off a team interested in drafting him in the fourth last year because of his extravagant bonus demands. If that story is true, one can only imagine what kind of attention the super toolsy former football player could draw with a big spring on the diamond. As is, the plus runner is almost a complete tools gamble. On the opposite end of the spectrum we have JR OF James Ramsey. Ramsey’s only above-average tool is his bat, but his prowess at the plate (.307/.453/.560; 51 BB/41 K; 218 AB) isn’t so great that teams will see much value in this limited to leftfield prospect. I suppose the direct comparison of Easterling and Ramsey is yet another example of projection over production, huh? I’ve left off, for now, talented junior college transfer Taed Moses and JR UTIL Jack Posey. Moses has gotten lots of positive buzz since enrolling at FSU; unfortunately, that’s the limit on what I know about him to this point. Posey is a super duper darkhorse prospect who might get overlooked by some who see him simply as Buster’s younger brother. Posey could get drafted late in 2011 by, say, the defending World Series Champions for that reason alone, but he’s actually a skilled ballplayer in his own right who hasn’t had the chance to show his abilities because of injury.