As clubs continue to gather intel on the scouting trail I keep running into area scouts and regional crosscheckers that disagree on the top prospects. These conflicting reports are what make mock drafts -- something we'll delve into in the coming weeks -- so difficult to put together, especially this early in the spring.
One thing we can do, however, is debate the possibilities.
Who is the top prep prospect in California?
Like always, the southern hemisphere dominates the class, with California, Texas and Florida supplying a large number of potential first-day candidates and many of the in-between states filling in the gaps. It's a down year for California in terms of prep stars, but there's depth and most of it is on the mound.
The top spot is currently a tossup between Edison High School's Henry Owens and Bishop O'Dowd's Joe Ross. Also in the conversation belongs Alhambra's Robert Stephenson, but it depends on which club is asked. One area scout calls Owens"very projectable" and adds that "he has 'now stuff' and an improved delivery." One scouting supervisor says "I saw both Owens and Ross within two weeks of each other and to be honest, I can't say (which is the better prospect)."
Power bat Travis Harrison is also in the mix but one crosschecker of an American League club suggests the pitchers have the edge, though he would not comment on specific players directly."I really do like what the arms bring to the table," he said."It's tough to pass on the upside."
The 6-foot-5 Owens has lived in the 88-92 mph range this season, touching 93, though there are starts where area scouts are getting most reading in the upper-80s. But it's easy velocity and the curveball teases of a plus offering. The fastball should tick up a notch or two once he fills out his 190-pound frame, and there's plenty of time for that to take care of itself.
Ross lacks the projection of Owens but is comfortably in the 90-92 mph range most starts, and has hit the mid-90s on occasion."I've seen the curveball dominate," said one AL scout."It's a sharp breaker that even when his release point is late fools hitters. The bats don't react well to it at all."
Can anyone catch Francisco Lindor as Florida's best?
Francisco Lindor (Montverde Academy) had three more hits Thursday night and is hitting what seems like 1.000 for the season, but the question is: Can the switch-hitting shortstop be caught?
Lindor ranked at No. 8 in the latest Future Fifty and isn't likely to fall any once his season ends next week. Can any of the other several prospects in the Sunshine State jump him in the draft? That seems highly unlikely, but right-hander Jose Fernandez at Alonso High School in Tampa may have the best chance. Boca Raton High School right-hander Michael Kelly, Miami-Dade centerfielder Brian Goodwin and Bishop Verot's Hudson Boyd could threaten the first round, but only Fernandez has the kind of velocity and projection to potentially crack the top 20.
The downside to the Cuban defector is that he's about a year older than the rest of the prep seniors, and there are always concerns about proper documentation, so it's not out of the question that he's even older than that. But he's 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, showing maturity and a polished overall approach on the mound.
But despite all there is to like, the answer to the question is"no." Lindor isn't likely to fall behind another Florida prospect come draft day, unless a club reaches for a slot sign.
What is UCLA's Trevor Bauer?
Bauer has impressive numbers, even more so than his teammate Gerrit Cole who is a consensus top-two prospect in the entire class. When Keith Law scouted Bauer four weeks ago, the right-hander displayed below average fastball command, to put it nicely, a plus curveball and delivery concerns. His style is unorthodox, and that concerns scouts, and at least one assistant scouting director.
"It's difficult to determine whether or not mechanics like that can be adjusted to fit what he's trying to do out there, and that's got to be about throwing strikes. His release (point) is inconsistent and I've seen him at times where I know what's coming depending on how far he leans toward first base during the delivery."
The effort in the delivery is a ding on his resume, too, as is the workload he's taken on this season, surpassing 120 pitches five times this season and in each of his past four outings. Bauer appears to be a pitcher with No. 1 or No. 2 stuff but with all the factors that play against him in terms of command and consistency, may have more problems reaching his full potential than the other college arms that will be considered in the first round.