Last time I wrote about a number of players that stood outat the Florida Diamond Club Showcase, and today I will continue with my analysis with a brief rundown on a handful of players from Arlington Country Day. ACD is a high school that has long been associated with dominance in basketball and baseball, as Javier Baez (currently Chicago Cubs top prospect and 2011 1st round pick) and a handful of other talents have provided the program with some serious buzz in the Southeast. Of the following four players, three call Puerto Rico their home (as did Baez), and some within the high school athletics industry have questioned the legitimacy of such schools and whether or not they should be able to allowed to compete for state championships. Indeed, ACD was fined by the Florida High School Athletic Association for recruitment violations and in 2010 the school announced its intention to withdraw from the organization. Regardless of one’s personal beliefs about the intersection of education and athletics in high school and the circumstances of ACD’s roster compilation, there is no doubt that Brian Navaretto, Iramis Olivecia, Bernardo Bonifcacio, and Blake Hennessey will make some serious noise (be it in the collegiate or professional ranks) over the next few years.
2013 C/1B/OF Brian Navaretto: 6-3, 220, R/R; currently uncommitted.
First here is what the fine folks over at Baseball Prospectus had to say about Navaretto in their rundown of a handful of players they say at the WWBA in Jupiter last weekend:
Outstanding catching prospect with impressive energy and tools. First guy out, first guy in dugout. Showed 60+ arm with accuracy and loved to use it. Great frame (6'3" 200 lbs). Quick bat. Aggressive with intangibles.–Dan Evans
And now for my humble synopsis:
Great frame, athletic and well-proportioned body. Large forearms, broad shoulders, tapered waist and well-developed lower-half; basically everything you look for physically in a prospect. He utilizes his strong forearms and wrists and upper-body strength to create easy plus bat speed and leverage. At times, Navaretto’s swing showed some length as he appeared enamored with his power (wanted to put on a show in BP for scouts?). In game action Navarreto showed an innate ability to barrel balls and create loud contact, including a ground-rule double. Navaretto oozes confidence and plays with swagger. He was not overwhelmed by the showcase and the attention it garnered—he thrives on the big stage and the competition. Constantly upbeat, energetic, and plays with a smile. From what I can recall, nobody at the FLDCS tested his arm during the two games he played, but in IF/OF he showed off a very strong arm, turning in 1.76, 1.83, 1.84 pop times and athleticism/agility that should allow him a chance to stay behind the dish. Unfortunately, I was too focused on catching a glimpse of everybody at the tournament, and fulfilling my duties for Baseball America that I was not able to get a good read on his receiving skills. I had hoped to get another look at Navaretto at the WWBA, but I was only able to catch one of his team’s (East Cobb Baseball) games and he was sitting the bench (as he had caught earlier in the day). From what I heard, scouts were impressed with Navaretto’s arm strength and athleticism but questions still remained about his catching future, although former Dodger’s GM Dan Evans seemed pretty convinced in the quote listed above. If Navaretto is able to confirm that he has the potential to stick behind the plate, he has an outside shot of being a late first-round or supplemental first-round pick, but organizations are generally hesitant to select high-school catchers unless they are sure they can handle the defensive responsibilities. As such, Navaretto currently projects to be a second to fourth round selection (according to former colleague and all-around good dude Nathan Rode, whom you can follow on Twitter @BAHighSchool).
2013 OF Iramis Olivecia: 5-9, 170, R/R; currently uncommitted. Although all players who participated in the FLDCS were invited by various area scouts, Olivecia was relatively unknown to many scouts in attendance. Nonetheless, Olivecia performed well enough to make sure those covering Northern Florida pay attention this spring. Olivecia features a small, compact frame, as he listed at 5-9, 170. A classic quick-twitch athlete, Olivecia’s performance in IF/OF and game action highlighted his athleticism and loose movements. At the plate, he was balanced throughout time in batter’s box and consistently turned in solid, if not spectacular rounds of BP. He immdediately turned heads in game action, however, as the Puerto Rican native bit a two-run HR to left center field off RHP Nick Eicholtz in his first AB of the weekend. Although he didn’t record another hit in that game, he did sting a single in his second game and showed an ability to work the count. Overall, the bat looks promising and the approach generally sound—although it was still tough to get a solid read as he went up against a relatively mediocre group of pitchers in the second game. In the field, Olivecia played predominately in the corner outfield positions, as CF was ceded to either Josh Greene or Matthew Railey (observations forthcoming), and I cannot rememeber his arm being tested in game action. However, in IF/OF, Olivecia flashed solid-average arm strength although his consistency and mechanics were quite inconsistent. Overall, Olivecia is an intriguing prospect—despite his small stature he showed some in-game pop and a balanced approach in the batter’s box. While his movements and actions were athletic and loose, Olivecia remains a bit raw and he turned in a disappointing 4.5 home-first split on a ground ball to second base (although he did slow down towards the end). I’m not sure where he ends up come next summer, but I think he definitely opened a few eyes at the FLDCS.
2013 INF Blake Hennessey: 6-1, 175, R/R, Oklahoma State commit. Hennessey was listed as a middle infielder on the roster, but he played the majority of the weekend at the hot corner. Regardless, the ACD product features a projectable and athletic frame. He flashed a strong, accurate arm that should allow him to stay on the left side of the diamond if he is forced to move off shortstop down the road. He made some solid defensive plays in game action, specifically on relay throws from the outfield—he gunned down a couple of runners trying to take an extra base on balls hit into the gaps. At the plate, Hennessey generates some solid power and leverage, but he had a tendency to get sloppy with hands as he dropped them during his trigger/load phase. As such, his swing got long and loopy, he struggled to maintain a consistent swing path, and he had some contact issues (3K during the weekend). However, when his hands were correct, Hennessey was able to make some solid contact and hit with authority. Since Hennessey’s time at SS was limited throughout the weekend, it would be foolish to discuss his defensive capabilities at length, but the fact that he was not given the opportunity to start may indicate that scouts prefer him at 3B. At present, Hennessey probably does not have the power of an ideal third baseman, but he has the frame to carry more mass, so teams may be willing to take him later in the draft and try to pry him away from his OK State commitment.
2013 OF Bernardo Bonifacio : 5-9, 200, R/R, Bethune Cookman commit. Bonifcacio, the final member of ACD’s Puerto Rican triumvirate was listed as a CF on the roster, but the thickly built outfielder spent all weekend in either corner. Bonifacio is probably maxed out physically, but despite his thick build the youngster is still a plus-runner, turning in a 4.2 from the RH side. Like Olivecia, I cannot remember Bonifacio’s arm being tested in game action, but in IF/OF he flashed solid-average to plus arm strength with some consistency issues in his mechanics, rhythm, and accuracy. At the plate, Bonifacio’s had a few issues as his hands and hips were not always working together. As a result he frequently hit with only his upper body. Regardless, his swing path was relatively sound and consistent and his raw strength impressive enough to suffice at the amateur level. As he climbs the ladder Bonifacio will have to adjust and clean up his hands/hips in order to thrive and hit consistently, but the tools are in place. His ceiling is not nearly as high as Navaretto’s, and he will most likely lose a step or two as he gets older, but Bonifacio boasts a plus arm, good athleticism, and juice in the bat, so he is an intriguing prospect nonetheless.
I’m excited to have stumbled upon these amateur talents and I’m looking forward to seeing them play for ACD this spring.
Next up I’ll be focusing on a handful of players, including a few from from Tallahassee’s North Florida Christian (like 2014 stud Matthew Railey).