Marietta, GA - Since both Micah Posey and I live in Florida, we didn’t want to spend too much time watching teams from our home state. But in the end, FTB Mizuno just kept winning until they got to the championship final. We were “forced” to watch them and they might have had more prospects than anybody in Marietta. I also ended up with 2 ½ games of the Diamond Devils Blue squad, a team made up mostly of South Carolina players who ended up beating FTB Mizuno 2-1 to take the WWBA 17U Championship on Monday.
The last game was a beauty, a pitching duel that ended on a wild pickoff throw in the bottom of the 7th inning. Aside from that, it was very well-played and there were tons of prospects on the field.
FTB Mizuno features two fine prospects from Orlando Hagerty High School in catcher Tyler Marlette and outfielder Jeff Driskell. The 5’10”, 185 lb Marlette has tools across the board for a catcher including a fluid, powerful righthanded stroke and the potential to become an above-average defensive backstop and thrower. Aside from the errant pickoff attempt, Marlette played very well behind the plate and he hit a mammoth home run to left field in the semifinal game.
I have to rank Marlette among the very best catchers in this class because I think he has the upside to get better. An easy swing tends to get stronger with age! I saw another very good catcher on Sunday named Cameron Gallagher, who hails from Manheim Township High School in Pennsylvania. Gallagher played for the Mid-Atlantic Rookies and at about 6’2”, 220 lbs, can really put a charge into the ball from the right side. He’s not quite as nimble behind the plate as Marlette; he will need to work hard to become an average major league receiver, but the arm is there and the bat is close. Gallagher was the DH in the game I saw in Marietta.
Going back to the Hagerty duo, Jeff Driskell is a very intriguing outfielder. He’s powerfully built with a large 6’3”, 230 lb frame possessing a plus major league outfield arm and plus-plus speed. It doesn’t look like he’s moving so fast, but I got him home-to-first at 4.1 seconds from the right side. Driskell has some stiffness in his swing and I haven’t seen him drive a ball hard, but he does have an advanced approach. Driskell battles on every pitch and works the count. He finds a way to make contact even if it isn’t hard.
Driskell has already verbally committed to play both baseball and football at the University of Florida and is ranked as the nation’s #1 quarterback prospect by Rivals.com He’s intriguing in baseball, but if he ends up asking for first-round money (or more) to bypass UF, Driskell will have to show an even better bat next spring.
The Diamond Devils club that defeated Marlette’s and Driskell’s team for the ring threw a powerful righthanded pitcher the day before in Taylor Guerrieri. Guerrieri is a righthander from North August High School in South Carolina and he has a very quick arm. The 6’1”, 185 lb Guerrieri threw 90-93 MPH over the three innings I watched and had good depth on a low-80s slider. He isn’t particularly loose or athletic and Guerrieri does throw a little bit across his body. He also had a tough outing, struggling with his control, and unable to get on a fast tempo. His arm-action is long, but okay, and his delivery will also be all right. Guerrieri has early-round potential despite the rough outing.
The pitcher who started the championship game for the Diamond Devils Blue is a real sleeper for me. Righty Patrick Andrews (Hilton Head Christian HS) spun a brilliant game, throwing mostly in the mid-high-80s with a nearly-average major league curveball. He threw a low-80s breaking ball (slider) as well. What impressed me most was how well he pitched out of trouble and how good his command was for his curve. He struck out a number of good FTB Mizuno hitters by putting the curve right where he wanted. Andrews looks about 6’5”, 200 lbs (though he’s listed 6’3”, 180) and has some looseness to his arm and body. The delivery isn’t repeatable yet, but I think he’s growing into it and he still threw strikes despite the drift. Seeing that he has the finesse aspects of pitching down pretty well, Andrews could turn into a high draft as his tall frame fills out.
Diamond Devils Blue outfielder Shon Carson (Lake City HS, SC) didn’t have a big championship game, but he showed plenty in the other playoff battles. Carson is real intriguing to me because he has plus-plus speed and knows how to use it. I got him at a blazing 3.53 seconds going to first on a drag bunt from the right side. At 5’8” and about 190 lbs. Carson can also whip the bat around and hit hard line-drives. His arm is playable and has a chance to become average. Carson’s biggest holes are hitting the curveball and judging fly balls, which may be a result of him playing more infield than outfield in the past. Scouts will also be concerned about his projectability as his body is already very developed and likely maxed out.
Like Driskell, Carson has major football options. Rivals.com ranks him the 26th best running back in the nation and claims he’s already been offered by ten premium D1 programs.
With the 17U Championship in the books, the 16U version begins Tuesday morning. I’ll be in attendance the first 2 ½ days, check back for reports on some of the best prospects for the 2012 and 2013 drafts.