By Brian Goins
Dating all the way back to a midweek win versus Florida Gulf Coast on March 26th, Miami has gone on to put together the nation's longest winning streak of 13 games heading into Saturday's home series against a Notre Dame squad that is (3-15) in ACC play. But amidst all the surrounding noise and national attention coming out of Coral Gables, MLB scouts and teams are taking strong notice in Miami's potential prospects as they prepare their final player evaluations before the upcoming MLB first-year player draft less than two months away (June 5-7).
Last year, the Hurricanes were shutout in the first ten rounds of the 2013 Draft, having one of its worst showings in recent team history. However, coming down to the wire, the Hurricanes should expect multiple players – both from their roster and from their incoming recruiting class – to get selected within the first two draft days. Here's an in-depth look at who will be targeted come early June.
2014 TEAM ROSTER
The one-two-three punch of Chris Diaz, Andrew Suarez, and Bryan Radziewski are one of the best in all of college baseball this season. And the primary reason for that is because all three starters came into the fall with significant improvements to their velocity. Getting 3-4 mph bumps in their draft year is almost never heard of. And it's leaving some scouts wondering how this truly happened, having to see for themselves.
1. Andrew Suarez, LHP, junior - 2nd-3rd round
The lefthander was a premium pitching prospect coming out of high school, topping 92 mph, and being selected by the Blue Jays' with their ninth-round pick of the 2011 Draft. But a shoulder injury sustained in high school eventually required labrum surgery when he got to Miami, causing him to miss nearly all of the 2012 season. When he returned in 2013, he was solid in his 15 starts, posting a 3.95 ERA. But his velocity never reached the 90mph threshold of the past, causing his draft status to plummet. That is until this past fall.
Suarez has shocked his coaches and scouts after coming into the fall throwing 91-95 mph heaters. So much so, his own pitching coach says he's never seen a player take such a great stride in one off-season. And why would he? At 6-foot, 205 pounds, Suarez isn't built like a big league workhorse. But this season, he's shown enough potential to scouts who have begun to leap Suarez all the way into the first two-rounds for the 2014 Draft.
He's impressed scouts by holding his 91-94 mph velocity into seven-plus innings, sprinkling into the 95's throughout games. His fastball has solid life - mostly due to the sinking motion to his arm side in his simple, yet reliable delivery. His slider (82-84 mph) and curveball (79-92mph) are both above average pitches and have similar 11-to-5 tilts. Scouts like that he hides the ball behind his body well and is able to get a high 3/4 slot without tilting his torso, but would prefer if his front side step could be a little more firmer by not locking his knee as much. Still, it's been working well enough for him this year as he's totaling: (64.1 IP, 11 BB, 48 K, and 2.66 ERA).
According to Baseball America, he is currently ranked No. 23 on their College Top 100 prospects list - making him one of the biggest climbs of this year and a potential 3rd/4th starter.
2. Bryan Radziewski, LHP, redshirt junior - 5th round
At 5-foot-10, 205-pounds, the redshirt junior has undergone a difficult road now competing in his third season on the Hurricanes' rotation. After a successful freshman year in 2011, Radziewski suffered a partial tear in the labrum to his left shoulder early in 2012, causing him to miss the remainder of the season for the Hurricanes. Despite his serious injury, Radziewski came back more dominant than ever before, going 9-3 with a 1.78 ERA the following spring - striking out 109, while walking only 30 in 91 innings. This season, Radziewski has increased his velocity from 88 to 91-92 mph, raising his draft status after putting on ten pounds to his once 5'10/195 frame. His 77-81 mph slurve is still an above average pitch that he commands well for punch outs, while his 80-81 mph changeup is still a bit of a work in progress. Tag that along with his two-seamer, slider, and cutter, and you can see why he's excelled this season: currently fifth in the ACC in strikeouts (61 K's).
3. Chris Diaz, LHP, junior - 6th round
The last of the trio who's been infected with the velocity outbreak is junior lefthander, Chris Diaz. Diaz is a strike-thrower with a sneaky fastball that sits in the low 90's. He's increased his velocity from 85-88 mph last year to an 88-92mph range. And his best secondary offering is his low 80s changeup, which he compliments with his slider. Diaz's rise in his draft status is largely credited to his remarkable increases in both strikeout and walk ratios. He is striking out 8.2 per-nine against 3.4 walks per-nine. He's currently slotted to fall into the sixth round, but keep in mind that college juniors often don't sign if selected in this range, rather opting to play out all four years of eligibility unless they're offered top five round money. So unless otherwise, expect Diaz to finish his senior year in Miami.
4. Javi Salas, RHP, senior - 6th-8th round
The senior reliever is another notable arm in the Miami pitching artillery who served as a spot starter last season. He throws at a consistent 88-90mph with a heavy sinker and a solid-to-average slider. This season, he's put together a remarkable campaign (33.1 IP, 4 BB, 26 K, and 2.70 ERA), and should potentially find himself selected somewhere in between the sixth to eight round of the draft.
5. Dale Carey, CF, senior - 8th-10th round
After slumping throughout the 2013 season, falling to career lows of .192/.283/.274, Carey has regrouped himself to career highs in his batting line of .302/.399/.592.
The 6'2/200 centerfielder has been a fixture in the Hurricanes lineup since his freshman year. Drafted in the 21st round by the Pittsburgh Pirates back in 2010, Carey offers some potential as a projectable 6'2 centerfielder with plus speed, an average arm and some feel to hit. While he's still prone to striking out, he's cut back considerably this year with only 27 SO in 149 AB's.
But perhaps his biggest upgrade has been his showcasing of power this season, hitting 11 doubles and five homeruns (second most on the team). He's also contributed 10 steals and has played web gem defense in center. At the moment, Carey ranks among the league leaders in doubles, homeruns, slugging percentage, and stolen bases in the ACC during conference play. And as shown below, Carey is capable of impacting a game in a number of big ways.
CLASS OF 2014 RECRUITS:
The Hurricanes are hoping to come into the 2015 season with the nation's sixth ranked recruiting class. But unlike other college sports, collegiate baseball teams must cross their fingers until July passes by when the signing deadline to ink amateur ballplayers comes around. Till then, those recruits who remain unsigned to contracts are eligible to set foot onto campus up until their junior seasons. And for the Hurricanes, this year's class is no exception.
1. Carl Chester, CF, Lake Brantley HS (FL) - 2nd-4th Round
The No. 36 ranked prospect and No. 15 H.S. prep player of this year's draft class is a product of the loaded-Orlando area prep class that will most surely be scouted intensely all throughout this spring. Chester's a plus speed runner with an advanced right-handed bat and a good feel for defense in center field. His approach at the plate emphasizes contact, but over the past several months scouts have noticed that his swing has been getting a little long, which has been a cause for concern along with his average throwing arm.
Chester, who was once a guarantee to head straight in the Minor Leagues, is now standing on a tight rope for the next two months, as teams are going to be reluctant to draft and give big money to sign a player who they figure will have to adjust several aspects to his game. The sense is, Chester might drop into the fourth round and it will ultimately come down to whether he's content with taking a roughly $500,000 contract offer, or if he would rather try and double that by staying three years in college when he's re-eligible for the draft again.
Either way, Chester possesses a wide range of talent for a H.S. prep player. He's been graded as a runner between 65-70 on the 20-80 scale, and is projected to hit double digit homeruns when he matures. Chester's comparison is to that of last year's 25th overall pick, Oakland's Texas prep centerfielder, Billy McKinney.
2. Justin Smith, RF, Bartram Trail HS (FL) - 3rd-4th round
At 6'2/205 lbs, Smith has been receiving buzz from Florida scouts who see him as a "toolsy centerfielder with a big bat." He has plus size, and is a solid athlete with above average speed and a chance to hit for raw power with his plus bat speed. However, he's received some concerns from scouts that have noticed his swings sometimes look just a little odd, and that it has affected his ability to hit in games when compared to his batting practices.
Nevertheless, that hasn't really dropped his draft position as he is still considered a 3rd or 4th round selection. Smith's player comparison is similar to former prospect, Louisiana prep right fielder, Justin Williams. Although, scouts believe that Smith has a "better bat path" to his swing than Williams' does.
3. John Jones, C, Orangewood Christian HS (FL) - 6th-8th Round
Once again, another top H.S. prep player produced out of Orlando, Jones, is a very solid catching prospect with medium athletic build and good present strength. He's a switch-hitter who can add some pop to his swing and provides solid contact ability from both sides of the plate. Behind the plate, he's a solid receiver with an average arm due to a slightly slow release, but possesses enough skills to catch long-term. Projected to fall somewhere into the 6th-8th round, scouts see Jones as a very talented high school ballplayer who most likely won't be able to attain a big enough signing bonus to keep him away from Miami. If he's able to get onto campus, expect Jones to split some time with junior Garrett Kennedy and make an impact right away.
Scout Video: John Jones
4. Jesse Lepore, RHP, Trinity Catholic HS (FL) - 6th-8th round
At 6'4/195 from Ocala, FL, Lepore possesses an ideal pitcher's frame, but comes with a funky mechanic to his delivery that contributes to inconsistency in his control. But when he does have good command, Lepore can hit the lower 90's on the radar, mixed on top with an above average curveball and a solid changeup. Although, when he's more inconsistent with his delivery, his outings have been subpar and his velocity tends to drop down into the 87-89mph range. Which Lepore scouts see in spring will likely determine whether he gets to campus or not.
Scout Video: Jesse Lepore
5. Keven Pimentel, RHP, Shoreham-Wading River HS (NY) - 6th-8th round
Another ideal pitching frame, this time at 6'3/215, Pimentel offers both a balanced mix of high velocity with a solid delivery. He can top the radar gun at 94 mph - sometimes even 96mph - and mixes it in with an average curveball and a serviceable changeup. With a good spring, he could find himself selected in the 6th-8th round range.
Scout Video: Keven Pimentel
It will be expected to see whether Miami will be able to keep all five of their highly-touted recruits come the Friday, July 11 signing day deadline. Last season, two signees were taken in the fourth and fifth rounds. Centerfielder Matt McPhearson was taken 120th overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks, while pitcher J.D. Underwood was selected 154th by the Los Angeles Dodgers, respectfully.
OF Ryan Alvarez 6-1 185 Miami, FL/Columbus
C Nick Bottari 6-2 205 Wading River, NY/Monteverde Academy
OF Carl Chester 6-0 170 Longwood, FL/Lake Brantley HS
1B Peter Crocitto 6-0 190 Palm City, FL/South Fork HS
1B/LHP Brian Gonzales 6-3 230 Miramar, FL/Archbishop McCarthy
C John Jones 6-0 190 Orlando, FL/East River HS
RHP Jesse Lepore 6-4 190 Bevery Hills, FL/Trinity Catholic
LHP/1B Michael Mediavilla 6-4 230 Hialeah, FL/Mater Academy
RHP Devin Meyer 6-2 180 Coral Springs, FL/Coral Springs Christian
SS Kirvin Moesqui 5-10 175 Deerfield Beach, FL/Highlands Christian Academy
RHP Keven Pimentel 6-2 215 Wading River, NY/Monteverde Academy
OF Justin Smith 6-2 205 St Johns, FL/Bartram Trail HS
LHP Luke Spangler 6-0 160 Cape Coral, FL/Cape Coral HS