Florida high schools grade A+ in Draft class
Ten prep stars from state taken in opening four rounds, including three in the first
NEW YORK -- The Florida high school ranks have long been a fertile ground for Major League scouts. They produced top overall picks Chipper Jones and Alex Rodriguez, as well as 24 first-rounders in the last 10 years.
Those ranks grew Thursday when Olympia High School shortstop Nick Gordon (fifth overall to the Twins), Coral Springs Christian right-hander Touki Toussaint (16th overall to the D-backs) and The First Academy left-hander Foster Griffin (28th overall to the Royals) were selected in the first round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. The state continued to produce as the Draft moved into its second day Friday and, in all, 10 Florida high schoolers were picked in the first four rounds this year.
Gordon said the concentration of talent "made every single player that was around our area better. Just playing against those guys that are top notch, you've got to step your game up and you've got to keep working, 'cause if you're slacking you know those guys are going to stick it to you."
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
More Florida prep stars could be selected in the third and final day of the Draft, with live streaming coverage on MLB.com beginning at 1 p.m. ET.
This week's results affirmed what scouts had believed all spring: This was a resurgent year for Florida's high school ranks. A year ago, just one Florida high schooler was selected in the first round and six went in the top four rounds.
The state didn't stay down for long, however. Gordon and Toussaint quickly captured the attention of scouts on the showcase circuit last year and entered the spring as two of the top players in the country.
Along the way, they became friends, drawn together by their similar appearance. Gordon said they had repeatedly heard they looked alive and made a point to meet each other when they were at a tournament together in 2012.
"When we met, our moms got us mixed up and we were like, 'Do we really look that much alike?' " Gordon said. "Ever since then we've had such a big bond. I call him almost every single day, Facetime him, all that stuff and ask him how the work's going. That's one of my best friends, we've got so much alike."
Griffin, meanwhile, climbed into the first round with a strong showing this spring. He helped The First Academy to the championship in the National High School Invitational at the USA Baseball Complex in Cary, N.C. The tournament field brought together some of the best high school teams and prospects in the country, including Toussaint.
With so many prospects in the state this year, the state tournament naturally featured a large pool of talent. The final four in Class 3A (the state's third-smallest division) alone had four players selected in the first 109 picks.
Led by outfielder Matthew Railey and left-hander Carson Sands, North Florida Christian Academy won the Class 3A state championship, beating Toussaint's Coral Springs Christian Academy in the semifinals and second baseman Forrest Wall's Orangewood Christian Academy in the final. Wall was drafted 35th overall Thursday night by the Rockies. Railey was picked in the third round Friday by the D-backs and the Cubs grabbed Sands 20 picks later.
Sands said the exposure brought by playing with so many talented players was helpful.
"For sure, it's always good to face more competitive baseball players," Sands said. "You learn things from new players and new friends. Winning the state championship definitely helps your Draft stock, of course."
North Florida Christian is one of just two high schools in the country to have multiple players drafted so far this year. The other, American Heritage High School, is also in Florida. It had a pair of middle infielders selected Friday with Milton Ramos going to the Mets in the third round and the Anfernee Seymour headed to the Marlins.
While the class of 2014 will soon sign professional contracts or move on to college, Florida's class of 2015 appears to be another impressive grouping. Sands' younger brother, Cole, picked up the win in the state championship game and will have a chance to follow in his brother's footprints. Scouts will again flock to Olympia High School next spring, this time for right-hander Juan Hillman, instead of Gordon. And Sands and Gordon both praised Lake Mary High School shortstop Brendan Rodgers' ability.
"Those guys are amazing and they're going to make a big impact on the league one day," Gordon said.
If players such as Cole Sands and Hillman do make it to the big leagues, they might find a few familiar faces there as well.