Carlos Correa has always been a well-thought-of prospect. But with his performance lately, particularly at the Excellence Tournament in Puerto Rico last week, he's moved into elite territory.
Correa should become the highest-drafted Puerto Rican high school player ever come June 4, with his name being mentioned frequently in conversations about the top five to 10 picks. He's currently No. 5 on MLB.com's Top 100 Draft prospects.
Correa had performed well last fall, and he stood out during January's Perfect Game World Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla. But because of where he lives, many of the decision-makers for each organization hadn't seen the talented shortstop since then. But they were there in force last week, and he didn't disappoint.
"He's doing it on a big stage," said one scout who saw him play at the Excellence Tournament. "All the big boys were down there. [Scouting] directors were at the event."
Correa hit a pair of home runs with all of those eyes on him and he has left no doubt about his ability to hit quality fastballs. He's shown at these events that he can turn and drive even above-average velocity.
When a player is mentioned in this stratosphere, there's going to be a good amount of nitpicking. With Correa, it's been about his ability to recognize breaking balls. That's often a skill that players Correa's age struggle with. The scout above isn't too worried, pointing out that outside of fellow Puerto Rican J.O. Berrios, who has his own share of helium and is usually on Correa's team at events, Correa's not going to see quality breaking stuff.
Lead balloon update
When the 2012 college season kicked off, many eyes were on Georgia Southern, where Friday starter Chris Beck appeared to be a definite first-round candidate.
He has the stuff to be a starting pitcher at the next level, with three Major League average-or-better pitches. As a result, he's listed at No. 25 on the Top 100. But that's already down from where he was in the fall Top 50 (No. 8) due to what most have called a lackluster spring, especially of late.
"Sometimes a guy like that is seen early good, seen in the middle good, then he tails off late," a scout said. "Chris Beck was supposed to be someone. He was a big name out of the summer. Now you don't even hear his name."
Beck threw very well in the Cape Cod League, putting him in position to solidify his stock as a first-round type with a strong junior season. He broke out of the gate well enough, allowing just three earned runs and striking out 13 over 13 innings in his first two starts.
Beck has been up and down lately. Last Friday, he gave up 10 hits and five runs over six innings. Two weeks ago, he was better, as he gave up just four hits and four unearned runs. But the start before that one, Beck was touched for 12 hits and seven runs (four earned) in eight innings, though he did strike out 11.
The culprit, it seems, is a flat fastball.
"At times, he looks like just another right-hander," the scout said. "A guy who could be a No. 5 starter, maybe."
On the shelf
There might not be a more closely watched right elbow in the coming weeks than Lucas Giolito's.
The season began with Giolito as the top high school arm in the Draft, and arguably the top talent in the class. There was some talk of him being a serious candidate to become the first prep right-hander to ever be taken No. 1 overall.
That came crashing to a halt when he was sidelined with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament, forcing him to miss nearly all of his senior season.
Now, slowly, Giolito is on his way back, though how far back remains to be seen. The big right-hander, who hit triple digits with his fastball early in the year, was cleared to begin throwing last week. He did throw from 30-50 feet on flat ground recently -- basically just playing catch.
The goal, it seems, is to get Giolito up to speed so he can throw from a mound in front of scouts at least two weeks before the Draft. Two weeks prior to the Draft is two weeks from now -- Monday, May 21. Whether Giolito can achieve that goal is up in the air.
It will depend on the health of his arm, and Giolito has told scouts he won't do it if he doesn't feel his arm is 100 percent. Without being able to see him throw, especially with little medical information available about his elbow, it's hard to determine how teams will be able to make an informed decision about this talented pitcher. This will remain a very interesting storyline to watch right up through the Draft.
Week in review
Some notes from around the amateur scene in the past week:
Potential No. 1 pick candidate Mark Appel (No. 2 in the Top 100), who's been a bit inconsistent this season, has turned in back-to-back solid outings for Stanford. Two starts ago, he beat UCLA on the road, allowing just one run on eight hits, walking none and striking out 10 over seven innings. Last Friday, he went seven again, allowing two runs on nine hits, walking none and striking out four against Oregon State. Scouts liked what they saw, as his velocity was up to 95 mph and sitting consistently in the 92-93 mph range. Appel also threw his hard breaking ball for strikes.
Giolito's Harvard-Westlake teammate Max Fried (No. 7) did not throw particularly well in his start on Tuesday. He was only at around 86-88 mph for the first few innings, according to scouts in attendance, though he did finish up strong, topping out at 92-93 mph late in the game. He'll get one more regular-season start on Tuesday to show scouts that last week was an aberration.
Sleeper of the week: Mitch Haniger, Cal Poly
In a year in which quality college bats are hard to come by, Haniger keeps adding to his resume as one to watch. Last weekend at UC-Davis, the Cal Poly center fielder went 5-for-12 with a double, two homers and five RBIs. The right-handed hitter is hitting .345 on the year, with 10 homers and 50 RBIs in 45 games.