In what has become a nearly annual rite of spring, scouts are bemoaning the lack of quality up-the-middle players in the Draft.
Olympia High (Orlando, Fla.) shortstop Nick Gordon gets universal love, though he's the only prepster who's a lock to go in the first round and remain in the middle of the diamond. On the college side, scouts wonder whether San Francisco's Bradley Zimmer can stay in center field and whether North Carolina State shortstop Trea Turner will hit enough. Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost is more solid across the board than a standout with any particular tool.
Milton Ramos may not quite go in the first round, but there's no doubt about his ability to play shortstop. He's the consensus best defensive player in the 2014 Draft, college or high school. The 6-foot-2, 165-pounder has classic infield actions, good range to both sides, soft hands and a strong, accurate arm.
"There aren't many shortstops with his ability," a scouting director said. "He has a little bit better pure defensive ability than Gordon. The bat to me is why there's a question. He's a shortstop who's a plus defender, but you've got to love the bat enough to take him in the comp or second round."
The scouting director and a senior scouting official both compared Ramos to Oscar Mercado, who signed for $1.5 million last year as a Cardinals second-round pick out of Gaither High (Tampa, Fla). Both scouts gave Ramos the advantage offensively and defensively. Like Mercado, Ramos was born in Colombia before moving to Florida as a youngster.
Ramos shows some pop during batting practice, but he'll need to get stronger and make more consistent contact to hold his own at the plate in the big leagues. There's also some concern that he has played for three different schools in the last three years, winding up at American Heritage School (Plantation, Fla.) for his senior season. Nevertheless, the Florida Atlantic recruit's defensive wizardry ensures that he won't get past the second round, and it might even sneak Ramos into the first.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.