Port St. Lucie, FL - PORT ST. LUCIE, FL- The Class 1A Championship turned into a blowout as Trinity Christian-Deltona defeated Trinity Christian-Lake Worth 9-3 in the first game of the day. The nightcap Class 4A Final was a thriller, with Bolles coming out on top of Gulliver Prep 4-3 on a walk-off double. I saw only one pro scout the entire day and there wasn’t a likely high 2010 pick on the field. But there was a senior for Trinity Christian-Deltona who impressed me thoroughly the last two days and whom I’m grading out as a high sleeper draft after college.
Shortstop Chino Vega put on a defensive display of the likes I have never seen in high school. The 5’8”, 155 lb. Vega made every routine play and a number of acrobatic ones. He made two difficult plays going into the hole, including one with the bases loaded and two outs today where he threw all the way across the diamond off-balance. He showed an ability to range far up the middle on three occasions and handled a slow roller with aplomb yesterday.
I’ve seen a handful of high school shortstops with better defensive tools. Tim Beckham comes to mind, the Tampa Bay Rays’ first overall pick in 2008. So does another Devil Ray draft, B.J. Upton from 2002. They had tremendous athletic ability, arm-strength, and quickness. Beckham has the fastest hands I’ve ever seen on a prep infielder. But none of them field as well as Vega at the time. They weren’t as polished and they couldn’t finish the plays he could. Another shortstop, Manny Machado from Brito Miami Private, is likely going in the first five picks in 2010 and Vega made at least two plays that I don’t believe Machado could have.
Everyone loves a shortstop with lightning tools, but it doesn’t guarantee they become good shortstops. As we all know, B.J. Upton is now a centerfielder and the jury is still out on Beckham who is still erratic.
And Vega’s defensive tools are very, very good, even if they aren’t exceptional. Vega has the quick feet and reactions to eventually have at least solid-average range for the position at the big league level. His hands and arm grade out as future “plus” to me, especially with his short release. His instincts are also exceptional for his age, Vega has the awareness of a big league shortstop.
On one grounder with a runner on second, he immediately turned his body to field it and throw, nailing the runner going to third. It seemed they kept hitting the ball to Vega and he kept coming through. It wasn’t until the sixth inning of the championship game today that Vega finally made an error, booting a ball he ranged well up the middle to get to. On the very next hitter, he made a nice play to start a double play and erase the runner.
Believe it or not, Vega has yet to commit to a school, but I suspect he’ll end up at a D1 and do very well from the beginning. The bat is not nearly as superlative, but Vega can generate bat-speed and use his hands enough that I think he can hit for some average all the way up. He has a confidence about him at the plate, as he does in the field, and a good eye. Vega went 2-4 on Thursday in the Final. I couldn’t get a good time on him (he kept rounding the bag), but I believe he’ll be a plus runner in the shorter distances and a potential basestealer at the highest level.
Keep an eye on him, wherever he ends up! He’s my pick for “most overlooked” Florida prep prospect for the 2010 Draft and it was a thrill to watch him play in these last two very important games of his high school career.
BOLLES SOPHOMORE HAYDEN HURST PITCHES AGAINST GULLIVER JUNIOR LEFTY CHRIS DIAZ IN 3A
The 3A Final was a showcase for a number of underclass players beginning with the pitching matchup. Sophomore Hayden Hurst is a two-way prospect who stands about 6’4”, 200 lbs and has the kind of physical projection scouts dream about. At this point, I rate him higher as a hitter, but his size and his arm-action make him worth a follow on the mound. Hurst threw mostly in the 84-88 MPH range and struggled to get depth on his curveball, but pitched 4.1 solid innings by competing well.
Junior Chris Diaz (I mistakenly listed him as a sophomore yesterday) is a 5’11”, 175 lb lefty with very good movement on his fastball. I thought it was a cutter, but he kept throwing it and someone told me it was just natural movement. Diaz was 85-86 MPH in the early innings and then dropped quite a bit by the sixth, pitching at 79-81 MPH. The slider, curveball, and change-up all have a chance to become average MLB pitches one day and he really showed good pitchability. Diaz has already verbally committed to Miami.
Gulliver sophomore centerfielder Ricky Eusebio showed a lot more bat and defense in the Final than he did in the semifinal. He hit a couple of balls hard and also showed he could bunt over the weekend. Eusebio went 1-3 today and was able to pull an 88 MPH fastball for a double in the first inning. He rounded first base in 4.42 seconds and showed above-average MLB speed on the basepaths. Also committed to Miami, the slender 5’8”, 155 lb Eusebio doesn’t have quite the size or projectable outfield body scouts usually draft early, but he’s still a strong follow.
The Class 6A and 4A semifinals will be played on Friday. There will be a lot more scouts as Archbishop McCarthy shortstop Nick Castellanos headlines a handful of 2010 draft prospects who’ll be in action. Check back for Anup Sinha’s report.