Opening night in Gainesville featured impressive performances
from two potential future first rounders -- Mike Zunino (c, Univ. of Florida, 2012 draft class) and Michael
Lorenzen (of, Calif. St. Univ. - Fullerton, 2013 draft class). Both Zunino and Lorenzen have the chance to
develop into impact Major League bats with strong defensive value up the middle.
Zunino started his day with
a strong a showing in BP, showing some pop to all fields and consistently barreling the ball. He is a vocal player
that demonstrates comfort in a leadership roll both on the field and in the dugout. In-game, the talented backstop
showcased solid receiving skills and adequate lateral actions. In his one catch-and-throw test, he broke off a 1.86 pop
to second, easily gunning down Fullerton’s Austin Kingsolver (of, 2012 draft class). Zunino
struggled with the advanced secondaries coming out of the hand of junior righty Dylan Floro (2012 draft
class), striking out twice and grounding out to third before breaking through with a single off freshman reliever Koby
Guana (2014 draft class) in the 7th. Overall, it was an uneven offensive performance, though previous looks at
Zunino indicate that this was more a case of him running into good sequences from Floro, rather than an ingrained difficulty
with off-speed offerings.
Lorenzen had a more inauspicious pre-game, but was arguably the best player on the
field once 7:05p struck. Lorenzen is a long and athletic player with good speed, a plus to plus-plus arm and emerging
power at the plate. He showed an inconsistent BP, but drove the gaps a handful of times and demonstrated an easy swing
with good extension. As a draft-eligible high school senior in 2010, Lorenzen had five tools on display periodically,
and those tools have manifested with more consistency over the past eighteen months. In-game, Lorenzen squared Hudson
Randall (rhp, 2012 draft class) and Steven Rodriguez (rhp, 2012 draft class) in each of his four
at bats, including a long double off of the left field wall and a frozen rope to center field. Defensively, his first
step was quick, and his routes were generally pure with excellent closing capability. He went back and to his right twice,
covering a large swath of outfield in route to tracking down well struck balls.
Both Zunino and Lorenzen
could be top ten picks in their respective drafts, with Lorenzen possessing the slightly higher ceiling as a legit five-tool
talent. DSS rated Zunino the 84th best draft prospect in 2009; Lorenzen was rated the 73rd best draft prospect in 2010. More notes
Brian Johnson (lhp/1b, Univ. of Florida) put on a display
in batting practice, sending numerous balls off and over the scoreboard in right field. He squared multiple balls over the
weekend, including a couple of hard it liners on opening night (click here for video) Johnson has impact upside both at the plate and on the bump, but is a slightly better prospect as a pitcher. While
he possesses incredible raw power and solid barrel control, he is a little clunky in the infield. On a limited pitch count
on Sunday, Johnson went four innings pitched, allowing just two hits, one walk and no runs while striking out five.
Preston Tucker (of,
Univ. of Florida) and Nolan Fontana (ss, Univ. of Florida) were their typical selves this weekend.
Fontana is a sure-handed defender at the six-spot whose range and arm are just within the margin. He has an advanced approach
at the plate but limited pop in his stick (click here for video). Tucker is a terrific college player that may be a tweener as a pro, with a left field profile and 5/5 offensive profile
(click here for video).
Hudson Randall lacked his usual precision,
but was otherwise what everyone has come to expect -- below average velocity and a good four-pitch mix to keep hitters off
balance (click here for video). He was routinely 85-88 mph with his heater, showing solid bore and 74-76 mph with an 11-to-5 curve showing average depth.
His slider was flatter than usual, coming in at 80-83 mph with inconsistent bite, but his change flashed above-average with
some fade, generally coming in at 79-81 mph. Randall likely tops out as a back-end starter as a pro, and probably fits a little
better as a swing man or middle reliever.
threw well in relief, bumping 93 mph with his four-seem, but relying more heavily on a two-seam and a slight cut fastball,
each in the 86-88 mph range. His slider was 83-84 with solid bite down in the zone. Rodriguez profiles as a future
middle-reliever that is difficult to square when he keeps his three-way fastball down. He fools around with some pre-pitch
funk to keep hitters off-balance, including exaggerated breathing, decoy leg kicks and periodic shoulder shrugs.
Dylan Floro (rhp, Calif. St. Univ. - Fullerton) was
generally 86-88 mph with his fastball, keeping Florida off-balance with his command and a plus change-up with late tumble.
He likely profiles as a middle-reliever or swingman with #4 upside (albeit with a slim margin for error).
Austin Maddox (1b/rhp, Univ. of Florida) struggled to adjust to the BBCOR bats
last year, but looked a little more comfortable this weekend. Maddox has plus to plus-plus raw power (click here for video), geared primarily to pull, but has not been able to repeat his 6'o'clock displays once the light comes on.
While his offensive profile continues to raise questions, he is emerging as a potential 1st round talent on the mound in the
form of a power reliever. On Saturday he threw four innings of one hit relief, striking out three and clocking in the
low- to mid-90s with his fastball and low- to mid-80s with a wipeout slider.
Daniel Pigott (of, Univ. of Florida) and Tyler Thompson (of, Univ. of Florida)
each showed good gloves and solid routes in left and center field, respectively -- Thompson in particular. Pigott could
get a shot in center field as a pro, and profiles much better there, offensively.
Freshman Taylor Gushue (c, Univ. of Florida) enrolled early with the Gators,
earning the opening day DH start rather than suiting-up for his senior year at Calvary Christian HS (Clearwater, Fla.).
Gushue looked far from overmatched at the collegiate level, showing easy plus power in BP (click here for video) prior to sending the first pitch he saw at the college level over the left field wall. Gushue is the heir apparent
to current backstop Mike Zunino, and will be draft eligible again in 2014 as a young 20-year old (December birthday).
Two more freshman, Joshua Tobias (inf, Univ.
of Florida) and Casey Turgeon (inf, Univ. of Florida) cracked the opening day line-up, along with Gushue.
Tobias has tightened-up his physique since draft day 2011 and is showing a slightly more compact swing from the right side
with natural loft. A middle-infielder in high school, Tobias projects to grow into a full time third baseman, though
his agility could give him a chance as an offensive second baseman if he can maintain the quickness in his feet. Turgeon
profiles as a solid college middle infielder, but may lack the physicality to project as a Major League regular down the line.
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Michael Lorenzen (photo by Nick J. Faleris) is one of the top 2013 draft-eligible talents