WINTER HAVEN, FL- I stopped over at the Florida junior college championship, more formally known as the 2009 FCCAA Gulf District Baseball Tournament. The eight top teams from Florida were present and there were a good number of both scouts and prospects.
I was able to lay eyes on four in particular who have early-round potential in June.
On Sunday (May 10th), I watched Miami-Dade take on Palm Beach. Miami-Dade featured shortstop Mycal Jones, rightfielder Jabari Blash, and righthanded pitcher Rey Cotilla. Palm Beach JC has one prospect whom we’ve rated in the top-five rounds, but lefty Mike Rayl had already pitched on Friday.
On Monday May 11th, I was able to see a few innings of centerfielder Keon Broxton for Santa Fe JC in their game against Palm Beach.
JONES, BLASH, COTILLA AT MIAMI-DADE
Mycal Jones is one of the spring’s biggest movers. I blogged on him earlier after an April 22nd game, he’s a speedy 5-9, 160 shortstop who has put up huge numbers (.446-12-48 in 177 AB) and played good defense. At age 22 and having not played in 2008, the University of North Florida transfer has question marks but teams are looking at him in the first three rounds. It’s very likely he goes first two.
Jones had a much better game on Monday than he did in April. He went 3-4 with two walks, two doubles and a homerun. All three hits were hard to the opposite field.
What Jones has going for him as a very good approach and the ability to make adjustments. From a previous batting practice, I graded his raw and line-drive power well below-average, but in the game he squares it up and goes with the pitch.
He also made several impressive plays going up the middle on defense. Jones charges the ball well, has a short release, and average arm-strength. With his body control, I believe he’ll make a lot of the tough plays at shortstop. Though he was errorless in the two games I’ve watched, Jones has made a good number of errors (12) during the season, despite playing the outfield for much of that time.
I still didn’t get a good running time (4.6 on a turn was his best), but from watching his stride Jones appears a solid 60 runner. With plus speed, the potential to play shortstop, and the chance to become a solid hitter, Jones won’t last long despite his advanced age.
Jabari Blash is intriguing because he’s 6-5, 218, has solid-average speed, and a solid-average arm. At the plate, he was getting under balls all day. Blash has length and uppercut to his swing which opens up a lot of holes. But he’s getting early attention as scouts dream upon the upside of the freshman from the Virgin Islands. I can see him going in the first ten rounds, maybe 6th-10th.
Rey Cotilla came in to the ninth with a 10-10 game. The 6-3, 205 sophomore righty is post-Tommy John surgery from two years ago. He had a big freshman year in 2008 and was a 32nd round pick of the Kansas City Royals.
I watched him pitch a couple times as a freshman and saw a fiery righty who threw mostly 88-90 MPH with a slippery slider. What impressed me most was the way he attacked hitters. I recall a slugfest where he came in and pitched 5-6 innings of shutout relief to keep his team in the game against Palm Beach in 2008.
Cotilla came in throwing 90-93 MPH with good running action. He breezed through the first two hitters throwing all fastballs aside from a single 80 MPH slider that hung up in the zone.
The third hitter hit a walk-off homerun to eliminate Miami-Dade. It was off a 92 MPH fastball that was at the waist and over the middle of the plate.
Cotilla throws with a lot of effort. He has a long arm-stroke and it’s stiff coming forward. One scout I spoke with referred to him as “leading with his elbow”. Cotilla falls off the mound and lacks balance in his delivery, which usually affects command.
He throws harder in short relief and that may be his position in pro ball. Cotilla only threw 16.2 innings for the Sharks this year, giving up just seven hits while striking out 21 and walking three. His record was 3-0 and his ERA 2.70. Cotilla has a chance to go inside the first ten rounds despite the minimal work as a sophomore.
Keon Broxton was originally signed to go to Florida Atlantic and play both baseball and football, but ended up focusing on the diamond for Santa Fe. Broxton has had a good season (.312-3-19, 10 SB in 112 AB) but six teammates with 100+ at-bats have hit for a higher average.
But pro scouts are looking at tools and projection and that’s what Broxton has. The 6-3, 185 Lakeland High School product has a long, lean, wiry frame, with a small waist and no thickness. There’s enough width to his shoulders to believe he’ll get a lot stronger and weigh as much as 210 when he’s physically mature.
Broxton grades out as both a 55 thrower and runner and I can see him becoming plus (60) at both by the time he’s mature. It’s not typical to project an increase in speed for a 19 year-old, but Broxton has the easy strides and still-developing lower-half to make me think he will get faster.
Defensively, Broxton has a slow jump and first step off the bat. Once he gets going, he’s fine. Broxton takes direct routes and has plus agility going after fly balls. If he can figure out the reactions part of it, he’ll become a plus range major league centerfielder.
The bat is certainly a question mark. Broxton has made progress, but there’s length to his swing and a tendency to try to pull everything. His bat-speed is below-average and projects to average. In the two-at-bats that I saw, Broxton went 1-2. In his first at-bat, he swung at the first pitch and grounded out to shortstop with a home-to-first time of 4.27 seconds. Broxton came up again in the third inning and with a full count, hit a ground ball single up the middle on an 82 MPH fastball.
I could see the crudeness in his approach. Broxton gets out on his front foot and looks to pull every pitch. And he took a hanging curveball in his second at-bat that I thought he should have crushed, on a 3-1 count nonetheless.
I believe somebody will take a shot at Broxton in the first ten rounds. He has a chance to become an average big league hitter, but it will take five years of hard work and coaching to bring it out. Since Broxton has good peripheral tools, they will have more patience with him.