CARY, N.C. -- Right-hander Eric Cerantola has some of the best pure stuff in this year's college pitching crop. But he also has such difficulty harnessing it that Mississippi State trusted him with just 5 2/3 innings in the last three months and left him off its College World Series roster.
The first-ever MLB Draft Combine is a perfect venue for prospects like Cerantola who have something to prove with the Draft a little more than two weeks away. One of the main events on Thursday was an afternoon of pro-style workouts at the USA Baseball National Training Complex and he easily stood out among the 13 pitchers who took part in five-minute sessions on the mound.
Cerantola displayed the best fastball velocity among that group, averaging 95 mph and hitting 96 four times. The other dozen pitchers produced just two 96s, one each by right-handers Mason Erla (Michigan State) and Tyler Mattison (Bryant). Cerantola also showed off the highest spin rates of the afternoon, peaking at 3,116 rpm with an 83 mph breaking ball.
He had even better stuff during fall practice at Mississippi State, potentially setting the stage for going in the first round this July. But Cerantola couldn't build off that momentum, pitching his way out of the rotation a month into the season. He has some stiffness in his delivery that makes it tough for him to locate his pitches where he wants.
Florida State outfielder Elijah Cabell, another college prospect with impressive raw power who has difficulty getting the most out of it, also impressed during the afternoon workout. Scouts have marveled at his ability to crush baseballs, yet worried about his ability to make contact going back to his high school days, and he put on the biggest show in batting practice among the 37 hitters who participated.
Cabell was the lone player to hit three homers and had the two longest measured blasts at 414 and 416 feet. He also hit the two hardest balls of the day, with exit velocities of 112 and 113 mph.
Cabell smashed 15 homers this spring for the Seminoles and has 29 in three seasons, and he also has a strong arm and fits the right-field profile. But he's also a career .245 hitter with a 40 percent strikeout rate, and he'll have to curb his swing-and-miss tendencies to reach the big leagues.
Other hitters who impressed with their power during batting practice included Florida International outfielder Justin Farmer, Cambridge (Mass.) Rindge and Latin School outfielder Jackson Linn, Damien HS (La Verne, Calif.) first baseman Kaden Moeller and Wake Forest first baseman Bobby Seymour.