It's early, but here are a few players that have stood out so far this spring. . .
Roberto Padilla, lhp, San Jose State
Some may think that Padilla put himself on the map last weekend when he beat Trevor Bauer and UCLA, the No. 2 team in the country at the time. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound lefthander pitched a complete game against the Bruins, allowing three runs on five hits with five strikeouts and four walks, earning Western Athletic Conference pitcher of the week honors.
But he really put himself on the map last year at Ohlone (Calif.) JC by leading the state with 15 wins, helping the team win a state championship and earning the state's pitcher of the year award.
"He kind of put himself on the map at Ohlone Junior College and scout-wise, they kind of know who he is and wanted to see if he could do it at the higher level," San Jose State pitching coach Tom Kunis said. "And he went out and kind of did what he's been doing. I wish I could say I've helped tailor it, but the kid's just a talent."
Kunis hasn't worked with Padilla long, but he was the coach that saw something in him at Logan High in Union City, Calif. Kunis was the coach that recruited Padilla to Ohlone before joining the staff at San Jose State.
While awards don't interest scouts, Padilla's stuff matches his accolades.
"He's got a good, moving fastball," Kunis said. "He's typically 87-89 (mph), but he'll touch 90-91. But it's three pitches for strikes. He throws two variations of a curve, he has a hard slurve and then one of those get-ya-over breakers and has good command of them. And, most impressively, when he has his changeup on, he's really, really tough. He really commands both sides of the plate, so it's a pretty good package."
In addition to the stuff, Padilla has some of the intangibles scouts look for in young pitchers.
"Confidence comes with the territory of success," Kunis said. "He's had some success and he's done it now at the junior college and the Division-I level. So, the way he goes about his competing is very confident. The thing that attracted me to him in the first place is he's just so competitive. He doesn't like losing—he's just a winner. The kid has all the ingredients there and has the confidence to know he can do it at this level and he enjoys the challenge."
Javier Baez, inf/c, Arlington Country Day School, Jacksonville
The Feb. 17 game between Baez' Arlington Country Day and Francisco Lindor's Montverde Academy had about 150 scouts in attendance. That should come as no surprise considering Lindor is the top amateur shortstop and Baez ranked 14th on Baseball America's preseason ranking of the Top 100 high school players.
While Baez got some buzz when he got behind the plate a little bit at the World Wood Bat World Championships in Jupiter, Fla. this fall, it appears that he'll mostly be playing shortstop for his high school team this spring, unless maybe scouts start requesting to see him at catcher. But, they might not have to make that request, according to one scouting director in attendance.
"I hadn't seen Baez play shortstop," the scouting director said. "I had seen Lindor play it a little, not a lot. And I guess when I saw them they were in Florida at the Jupiter thing and Lindor was playing short. They were on the same team and so Baez played some third and second and caught a little bit, so it was good to see him play shortstop. I guess I was a little surprised that, from what I'd heard—that there was a real good gap between the two, with Lindor being way ahead of Baez—and I came out of there with a different impression than that. I thought the gap was way closer and I'm not so sure I didn't like Baez better. He's a pretty interesting kid. He was fine at short. His actions were impressive, the arm was plenty, his feet worked good, his balance was good. If I had any criticism at all of him, it was a tiny bit too much flashiness. He likes himself a lot, which is fine I guess as long as he's a good teammate and stuff. He was pretty good."
Taylor Guerrieri, rhp, Spring Valley HS, Columbia, S.C.
Guerrieri is the high school player that's made the most noise so far this spring. He came into the season ranked as Baseball America's No. 23 prospect, but reports of him touching 97 mph this spring are giving him some early helium.
"His body got stronger and he's throwing good," a National League area scout said. "He pitched at 93-94 (mph), but he's touched 97 and he's got a frontline starter's arsenal at his age."
The last high school pitcher to be taken in the first round out of South Carolina was Jacob Shumate, a righthander picked by the Braves in 1994. (Shumate is now a prep coach in Hartsville, S.C., and mentored Astros prospect Jordan Lyles, a supplemental first-rounder in 2008.) Guerrieri, a South Carolina commit, could be next in line if he continues to pitch like he has early in the season.
Dillon Thomas, of, Westbury Christian HS, Houston
Thomas did not play at any of the major showcases this summer, but will get plenty of attention this spring because he's teammates with lefthander Cody Glenn, who ranked No. 69 on Baseball America's preseason High School Top 100.
Thomas is a physical outfielder that stands 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds. He is committed to Texas A&M.
"He has strength, he's a strong kid with some raw power and he's left-left, so that's a bonus," a National League area scout said. "He's an athlete, so I think he's a guy that, if he continues to put up some numbers and get stronger and things like that, he's got a chance. I don't know how high of a pick he'll be, but if the right guys see him on the right day, it'll definitely help."
Because he bats and throws lefthanded, Thomas will be limited to the outfield or first base. The scout said that Thomas is an average athlete for a corner outfielder, but he's a below-average runner and doesn't have the arm strength scouts like to see from right fielders, so he's likely limited to left field or first base. In that case, scouts will really have to buy into the bat, and Thomas has some mechanical adjustments he needs to make to make the most out of his tools.
"The approach can be improved, just as far as the mechanics are concerned. He dives into the ball a little bit and I think that hinders his swing to some degree," the scout said. "But if you can make some mechanical adjustments to his approach, I think that would improve his ability to make consistent contact. He's not one of those hitters that squares everything up, but when he gets ahold of it, he's got some raw power . . . he's definitely stronger than most high school kids."
Robichaux is the latest to emerge in what's lining up to be a very good year for Louisiana prep pitchers. Robichaux didn't pitch at any of the major showcases this summer, so he was a little under the radar, nationally, but put himself on the map with his showing at a recent workout.
"It's better than it was in Jupiter," a National League area scout said. "He was 90-93, sitting 91-92 and he's got that hard curveball, so it's interesting."
At 6-foot-5 and 180 pounds, Robichaux has a long and lean frame with physical projection remaining. He also has the advantage of having grown up around the game, because his father, Tony, is the all-time winningest coach at Louisiana-Lafayette, where Austin is committed.