MIAMI -- Not only are top high school seniors from Florida and Georgia playing for pride this weekend at the States Play Tournament at Marlins Park, but in addition and perhaps even more importantly they are getting a good look from several pro scouts in attendance.
Willie Romay, Boston Red Sox area scouting supervisor for Florida, is grateful for the opportunity to see these talented players, who were selected by MLB and USA Baseball, with several selected following participation in other joint MLB/USA Baseball development-focused events, such as the Breakthrough Series, Hank Aaron Invitational, the DREAM Series, and the Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP) League.
“Anytime that we get a chance to see young people at different sites competing against really good competition, it gives us a chance to see how well they handle that,” said Romay. “Every day is a different day. You see them on multiple days; you see how they handle themselves. That’s what is beneficial to us going forward.”
Florida took the first two games of the three-game series, winning 7-2 over Georgia on Saturday after notching a 1-0 shutout win in the opener on Friday. Jordan Carrion, a Florida commit, and Yohandy Morales, committed to Miami, collected two hits each on Saturday to lead the way for Florida.
Carrion drove in a run and scored twice while Morales drove in two runs and scored another. Mac Guscette also delivered two hits, drove in a run and scored another, while Sammy Infante also added a RBI single.
Florida starting pitcher Carlos Rodriguez worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit while striking out five. He walked one.
Thomas Harber, a Georgia commit, drove in a run for Georgia
Attendance at the three-game rivalry series at Marlins Park is complimentary to the public. The Saturday game was streamed live on MLB.com. The series concludes with an 11 a.m. ET matinee on Sunday.
A combined total of 43 college recruits participated on the Florida and Georgia teams. More than 20 players were drafted from the inaugural event last year in Arlington between Texas and California.
So what are the scouts looking for in a high school player?
“All these tournaments throughout the year -- there are a lot of them these days -- you see kids and how they handle being in different environments," Romay said. "Playing in a big league ballpark like today, it’s beautiful. Some of these kids have never had this opportunity. So just seeing how they handle themselves in a big league ballpark, how they handle that type of challenge, is really important going forward when it comes to the development.”
Romay said he looks for players who have the potential for improvement.
“Looking for kids who have potential to get even better,” Romay said. “Sometimes you see kids that might be maxed with [their] development -- he’s at a point right now where he’s not going to get better. Sometimes you see a kid who has room to grow; he could still add more weight to his body. He could still get bigger. He could still get stronger.
“Those are the kids that you see are going to have a future in the game. You like to see kids that still have room to grow.”
Velocity is a buzz word among young talent, but Romay points out that speed is only part of the equation.
“Velocity is good because you want to see arm strength,” Romay said. “You want to see where they are at this point at their age. But I still feel what’s most important is command and control. You can throw as hard as you can, but if you can’t throw strikes, then what good is that arm strength?
“You want to put it all together. When you have a kid that can throw for velocity and he can throw strikes and he can command the ball where he wants to, then you’ve got something special who's going to have success at every level.”
So while velocity remains an important statistic in the makeup of a young pitcher, Romay said he looks for the more complete competitor on the mound.
“Can he throw strikes and does he have multiple pitches, not just one?” Romay said. “He can throw his curveball, he can throw his changeup? Now you’re talking about a more complete pitcher. That’s what we look for.”
So while earning those bragging rights has its motivation, the continued development of these high school seniors is the bigger goal.
“A lot of these kids I actually saw them at the PDP, which was an event out of USA Baseball and MLB put together, so I saw some of these kids for three weeks down in IMG Academy when they were training,” Romay said. “You could see them getting better, learning, implementing what coaches are giving them and then putting them to use in the field.
“So you see that growth. Some of these kids I haven’t seen in a month and now I’m seeing them again. I can see they’re maturing and improved. It’s always great to see that when kids continue to improve, they learn, and they are able to make the adjustments needed.”