Even by the high standards of Florida high school baseball, where there is so much talent that the top players inevitably face each other occasionally, Friday's contest between American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) and Archbishop McCarthy (Southwest Ranches, Fla.) is eye-catching.
Both teams are ranked in the top 10 of Perfect Game's latest national high school Top 50 rankings and both feature several players expected to be selected in the First-Year Player Draft this June.
Scouts believe Archbishop McCarthy left-hander Brian Gonzalez is the best prospect on either team and will get the start Friday. A Miami recruit, his fastball peaks at 91 mph and he also throws a good curveball and changeup.
Gonzalez will be opposed by right-hander Louis Beck, a Villanova recruit. American Heritage also features senior outfielder Magglio Ordonez, Jr., and Brandon Vicens, a Florida Atlantic recruit.
The teams will meet again March 21 and are expected to contend for the state championship later this spring.
Top prospect Zimmer fights through tough schedule
The college baseball season started less than a month ago and the University of San Francisco has already played traditional powerhouses Cal State Fullerton and Stanford, as well as Kansas State, the reigning Big 12 champions. According to boydsworld.com, the Dons have played the sixth strongest schedule in the country so far.
The Dons have held their own against the tough competition, putting together a 5-6 record to begin the season. But it won't get any easier this weekend, as San Francisco will face Arkansas, Cal and Tulane in the Cal Baseball Classic.
Outfielder Bradley Zimmer said the Dons have embraced the schedule.
"Obviously, it's a good confidence builder for our team," Zimmer said. "We just go out there treat it like any other game and prepare like we're going to win."
The tough early-season slate hasn't hurt Zimmer at the plate. The junior, ranked No. 19 on MLB.com's Top 50 Draft prospects list, has started the season strong. He has posted a .420/.453/.640 slash line to go with four stolen bases in 11 games.
Friday afternoon's matchup with Arkansas will give Zimmer a chance to face junior left-hander Jalen Beeks. He has a solid three-pitch mix and enters the game having allowed just one run in 17 2/3 innings this season. Though he might profile better as a reliever as a professional, he is a potential early-round selection.
After spending last summer with Team USA and weathering the early-season tests this spring, facing an SEC team doesn't faze Zimmer. He said he is looking forward to the challenge this weekend will present, but he isn't focused on San Francisco's opponents.
"It's just another nameless opponent," Zimmer said. "That's the way I see it and I know my teammates see it that way, too. We just have to attack them, and hopefully the end result will end up well."
Zimmer is taking a similar approach with the First-Year Player Draft. After watching his brother Kyle navigate the process two years ago en route to getting selected fifth overall by the Royals, he is well prepared for the his own evaluations.
"It's kind of common knowledge between my brother and myself that if I go out with a good mindset and play [the] USF brand of baseball, that stuff will take care of itself," Zimmer said.
Foley, Skoglund meet up for pitchers' duel
For the second time already this season, Central Michigan right-hander Jordan Foley finds himself in the middle of a notable pitching matchup when he faces Central Florida left-hander Eric Skoglund on Friday night in Orlando.
Foley made his Opening Day start against UNLV right-hander Erick Fedde, who is expected to be a first-round pick. Skoglund isn't that well regarded, but he entered the season with some buzz as a top-10 rounds pick and has pitched well in his first three starts. Listed at 6-foot-6, Skoglund attacks hitters with a low-90s fastball and a solid slider. He has limited opposing hitters to a .195 batting average, though he hasn't missed many bats, striking out just 11 batters in 21 2/3 innings.
After proving he could compete against top competition last summer in the Cape Cod League, Foley entered the season as a potential top-three rounds pick. He acquitted himself well in front of the many scouts at his Opening Day start and enters Friday with a 2.79 ERA and a 17-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 19 1/3innings.
Foley throws his fastball sits in the low- to mid-90s, mixing it with a sharp slider and changeup. He is working on a splitter, but he doesn't command it well yet and hasn't thrown it often this spring. It looked like a wipeout pitch last fall, and scouts who saw him came away impressed with his four-pitch power arsenal.
"After seeing him in the fall, you think to yourself, 'This guy doesn't get out of the top two rounds,'" one scout said. "How he does this spring will determine where he goes, but his ceiling is the top five rounds."