Borchering, Franklin, Johnson among Florida prospects on the rise
Bobby Borchering is a corner infielder with power who projects as a first-rounder
One scout calls shortstop Nick Franklin "a switch-hitting Michael Young"
Most big-name pitchers were underwhelming at last weekend's all-star event
SEBRING, Fla. -- With 19 players listed among Baseball America's Top 200 Draft Prospects, it's a strong year for high school players in the state of Florida. So when nearly all of them converge on a small city in Central Florida for a postseason all-star tournament -- and the first-year player draft is less than two weeks away -- it's a must-see event for scouts. Thus nearly 100 scouts attended last weekend's 31st annual Florida Athletic Coaches Association Baseball Classic, including scouting directors for at least 10 major league teams.
The annual three-day event features four teams of the best seniors in the state, divided by region. Most of the players have been scouted all spring and, in most cases, last summer and fall on the showcase circuit. It's always said that the first impression is the most important; but in scouting, sometimes the last impression is the most important. And with the June 9-11 draft looming, these players had one final shot to show what they can do. Two days of games followed an initial workout day, and this year's Florida phenoms followed in the footsteps of players such as Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Gary Sheffield, Rafael Palmeiro, Dwight Gooden, Prince Fielder and Zack Greinke.
"Events like this are extremely helpful because you can see all the top prospects in this year's draft on the field at one time, competing against one another," a National League area scout said. "The truly talented players will rise to the occasion and stand out above the rest."
At BaseballAmerica.com this year we've been running a Draft Tracker, spotlighting three players each week whose draft stock is improving and three whose stock is slipping. Here are the Florida prospects that helped -- or hurt -- their draft positioning in Sebring last weekend.
Bobby Borchering; 3B; Bishop Verot HS; Fort Myers, Fla.
Borchering, regarded as a first-round talent, looked like a man among boys at the event. In his batting practice session on the first day he hit several balls out of the yard from both sides of the plate. He backed up that performance by hitting a home run in his team's first game on Friday. While he'll be given every chance to remain at the hot corner, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Borchering will likely have to move to first base at some point as a professional, but his bat will play there.
"He stands out in a lot of aspects," an American League scout said. "First off, he looks like a major leaguer and he's able to incorporate tools and abilities into that frame. You toss in the power and the stick he has -- he drives the ball out of the park pretty easily -- and it's pretty impressive. He's a heck of a player and he's a great kid too. Whoever drafts him, it's all about the stick, and he'll become the 40-home run bat everyone thinks he'll be. There are guys in the big leagues right now -- everyday guys -- that wish they had that kind of size and strength. He's been blessed by somebody upstairs and hopefully he'll go out there and have a great career for 10 or 15 years."
Nick Franklin; SS; Lake Brantley HS; Altamonte Springs, Fla.
Franklin stole the show during Saturday's game, helping his East squad take home its first Baseball Classic championship since 1990 -- before he was born. Franklin went 3 for 4 on the day with two singles, a double and two walks. His double in the ninth inning was a line drive down the right-field line that was one of the most well-struck balls this side of Borchering's home run the previous day. It could have been a triple if there hadn't been a runner in front of him that was held up from scoring. Franklin is a switch-hitter and has a short, compact swing that allows him to consistently get the barrel on the ball. He also has the athleticism to remain at shortstop as a pro. He's an Auburn recruit that comes from a baseball family (his older brother Clint is a relief pitcher for the Florida Gators).
"He's a guy who's progressively improved over the spring," the AL scout said. "He went into the spring with an idea where he may go, and every month that's gone by he's climbing the board and climbing the board. To go out and have the approach and performance against guys that he's going to be playing against in the minor leagues, for me, that boy raised his stock to where I don't think there's a chance he gets out of the second round. He showed he can hit with wood and against good competition. I call him a switch-hitting Michael Young."
Brian Johnson; LHP; Cocoa Beach (Fla.) HS
Johnson, a 6-4, 220-pound left-hander, was one of the few pitchers at the event that performed better than advertised. He had a great season, going 5-1 with an 0.76 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 55 innings and earning a spot on the East roster. Johnson ranked as the No. 198 prospect in BA's Top 200, but improved his stock at the event; normally sitting in the 85-89 mph range this spring, he was 89-91 in Sebring and he touched 92.
"He had a little quiet spring," the AL scout said. "He started off OK but kind of backed up as the spring went on. It was good to see him pull out the velocity and the pitchability he did, and he threw some good breaking balls for strikes. He showed the arm strength, the ability to leverage the ball and throw strikes, and then he backed it up with a pretty good curveball. There were rumors that he was ready to go to [the University of] Florida, but I think he might have piqued enough interest that that may change. We'll see in a week and a half."
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