News & Notes: Sarasota Classic, Part I

First off, I’d like to apologize for the infrequent posting the last few days. Frankie and I have made some big plans for players to see and report on, various rankings, and story ideas, and we’re moving in that direction. When it comes to laying the groundwork and going to see players, sometimes the posts will be less frequent, but it should pick back up now.

Yesterday, I headed south to Sarasota to see some of the premium ‘08 and ‘09 draft prospects at the Sarasota Classic. The first day was canceled in the middle of the second wave of games due to rain, but I still got a good look at some top prospects. This post will focus on top ‘08 prospect Braddock (Miami) High SS Harold Martinez. I’ll be back to Sarasota later this week to see the end of the tournament, but will be catching another matchup of top ‘08 lefties in the Tampa-area tonight. Check the first dispatch from Sarasota after the jump…

The day started at 1 pm with a matchip of Miami’s Braddock HS and Naples’ Barron Collier HS. The only legitimate prospect in this game was a big one, the pre-season #7 HS prospect in the nation by Baseball America, Braddock senior SS Harold Martinez. BA’s Jim Callis commented earlier this week that Martinez’s stock is “plummeting.” This would certainly be a good time to take a look at him with 15-20 MLB teams represented in the stands at a high-profile tournament.

I can report that Jim Callis’ information did not disappoint. I’ll have a full Harold Martinez scouting report up later with some video I took, but he looked the part of the “hyped prospect that breaks down a bit under further inspection.” There’s a few of these every year and they all have similar stories. For Martinez, it is that he has a near flawless swing mechanically, but lacks feel for the bat head, fluidity in his swing and in his approach. He looks like he’s trying to swing perfectly, not make solid contact. Scouts were openly joking and betting about which part of the infield he’d flyout to when a sidearming, mid 70’s righty came in to face him in his 2nd at-bat, and when he ripped a fastball foul in his 3rd at-bat almost all of them commented in unison that it was his best contact of the year.

Granted, that was scouts joking, but it really supported what I saw in this short look and what Callis had said earlier in the week. You’d be surprised how often scouts tip what they think about a player with subtle reactions and comments—usually to each other and only when they already know they share similar opinions on the player. And that is exactly the case on Martinez, the type of guy they all have set opinions on already and have watched extensively, together. First-round picks don’t elicit jokes about popping out versus mediocre pitching. Check back tomorrow for the full Harold Martinez report with our draft projection.

The only other notable things about the game, other than it being the longest and most boring game I’ve seen in a long time, was the best hidden ball trick execution I’ve seen in awhile, and easily the best name in the tournament (I checked the program). The game was slow due to incessant pick-off moves (at least 2 per baserunner), pitching changes, deep counts, foul balls, 10 runs in the first 4 innings, visits to the mound…and everything seemed worse with a beating sun and 90 degree weather. I suppose there were worse places in the world to be, though.

That name of the tounament was Collier senior 1B Squeeze Maurer. That sounds like a teammate of Lou Gehrig on the ‘27 Yankees, and Squeeze lived up to that expectation by starting a rundown between 1st and 2nd to allow the runner from 3rd to score before he was the 3rd out. That’s the kind of savvy moves I expect from a guy named Squeeze.

The hidden ball trick occurred when Collier had a runner on second in a tie game with 2 out in the 5th, the Braddock pitcher attempted a pickoff move to 2nd base, the 2nd baseman and shortstop (Martinez) moved to cover, simultaneously dove to catch the ball, the centerfielder and rightfielder ran into the gap to track down the allegedly errant throw, and the leftfielder and third baseman got in position for a play at third. As if that wasn’t enough, the entire Braddock dugout started screaming in about four languages as the players started diving and scattering, and the Collier runner dove back into 2nd, looked at the scene, then took off for 3rd. The Braddock pitcher ran towards him as he left 2nd (if you lost me, the pitcher never threw the ball) and tagged him out to end the inning.

Check back soon for more notes on the tournament, tonight’s Tampa-area HS matchup, and full scouting reports on it all.

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