While the weather on the East Coast hasn't been pretty as the Draft season has gotten underway, conditions out west have been just fine. Early in the college season, there are often mini-tournaments that provide scouts the ability to see multiple teams in one, warm setting. And while seeing, say, Arizona State, in Tempe, is always nice, it's even better when a cold-weather school gets to come out to a better climate.
While it's been raining and chilly in the Pacific Northwest, for instance, Oregon State spent last weekend in Tempe to play in the Husker Classic. The Beavers are back in Arizona again this weekend to participate in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge. That will give scouts looks at Top 50 talent like Michael Conforto and Dylan Davis under ideal conditions two weeks in a row.
The University of Washington joins OSU from the Pac-12 this weekend, while Nebraska and Indiana will represent the Big Ten. There will be many eyes on Hoosiers catcher Kyle Schwarber, perhaps the best college backstop in this year's class.
It can often be a scramble to get enough good looks at a potential first-round pick who plays home games in a region where it might not warm up for quite some time. There's typically a rush to places like Indiana late in the spring to make sure players such as Schwarber are evaluated fully. Seeing him in Surprise, Ariz., this weekend allows many teams to be ahead of the game early in the season.
"When you have players you have up there pretty high, from the cold weather states, you want to see them as early as you can," one scouting director said. "This is a good chance to see Schwarber and the Oregon State guys. It helps with the depth of your Draft list and gives you a chance to look at the cold-weather guys quickly."
Brutal winter on East Coast leaves scouts scrambling
The amateur baseball season is now underway in full force, with the college season kicking off last weekend. That means amateur scouting departments are going full tilt, knowing there are just 15 weekends before the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.
That might seem like a long time, but considering the number of players to be seen and miles to be logged, it goes by in the blink of an eye. It's important for scouting directors and national scouts to see players early, especially those players considered to be top-of-the-Draft candidates.
The biggest variable in any season, of course, is the weather. The extreme storms that have hit the East Coast in particular so far this year have really wreaked havoc with plans to see top guys early. Many scouts went to Greenville, N.C., last Friday to see Jeff Hoffman, currently No. 2 on the Draft Top 50 list. Normally, North Carolina isn't such a bad place to go early in the season.
Hoffman's stuff was reportedly good, but his line (6 2/3 innings, four hits, four runs -- three earned -- two walks, six strikeouts) was just so-so. The fact it was cold and windy might have had something to do with it. No. 1 prospect Carlos Rodon was supposed to head out west with his NC State team, but that got canceled. Instead, he threw at home in cold weather Sunday.
"It didn't sound ideal," one national scout said of Hoffman's outing. "It was hard to watch. Rodon, the day before, they were shoveling snow off the field."
Several scouts thought they were planning well, heading to the West Coast where they could see Rodon, in good weather, face UC-Santa Barbara. Weather scrapped those travel plans, leaving some to scramble.
"When they didn't come, I just stayed out West," one scouting director said. "We have work to do on other picks. I have plenty of time left to see those guys."
"I had it set up to see Rodon on the West Coast," the national scout echoed. "When NC State canceled, it threw a wrench in that."
Many will try again this weekend, though the forecast once again doesn't look promising. While the temperatures have climbed in Raleigh, N.C., thunderstorms and wind look as if they could disrupt Rodon's start Friday against Appalachian State. Hoffman and East Carolina are slated to face top-ranked Virginia (and Draft prospect Derek Fisher). That would be a fantastic early matchup, but the same rain is headed to Charlottesville, N.C., as well.
"When you see a forecast like that, you can see chaos coming on, you try not to lean into that punch," the scouting director said. "It's difficult. You go to such lengths to get the game in and get there and see the guy. If the results are head-scratching, you wonder how much the weather is a variable. While you want to get in early, there's a lot of spring left, sometimes it's easy to forget that. Once you get about a month in, you just have to go where you want to go, weather be damned."
"I'm supposed to be flying [to North Carolina], and it doesn't sound like it's going to happen," the national scout said. "I think it's one of those years where you're battling the weather and hopefully you get lucky. You hope the weather breaks, more for the kids than you, scouting. You'd like to see them all have an equal chance."
Florida has bumper crop of talent
Areas where baseball can be played year-round typically are expected to have a good amount of high-level Draft talent every year. Florida often leads the way in terms of potential first-rounders.
That wasn't the case in 2013. While there were two college players from the state -- Chris Anderson from Jacksonville University and the University of Florida's Jonathon Crawford -- taken in the first round, Christian Arroyo was the lone high schooler from the Sunshine State to go in the top 33 picks. In contrast, the 2012 Draft's first round saw seven total Floridians, six from high school, selected.
If the early returns are any indication, the 2014 Draft should return Florida to its rightful place. There are five Florida-based players on the current Top 50 and a slew more right behind them. While Florida State's Luke Weaver, who faces Georgia on Friday, is the lone top collegian, it's the high school crop that has the scouting industry buzzing.
"It seems like every time I talk to our East Coast guy or one of our national guys they start a conversation with, 'I saw a guy in Florida last night and you have to see him,'" one scouting director said. "The stuff our guys have seen, it sounds like high school-wise, it's not even close."
No. 8 prospect Touki Toussaint has thrown well, though he's more of the raw, high-ceiling, high-reward type. Sean Reid-Foley (No. 31) has impressed over his first two outings, and one team that picks fairly high in the first round, and then again in the second, already feels as if he won't make it to that second selection.
Nick Gordon, son of former big leaguer Tom "Flash" Gordon and brother of Dee, is the top position player in the state. Gordon is actually a two-way player with some ability on the mound, but most teams prefer him as a shortstop (so does Gordon). Ranked No. 12 on the Top 50, he's gotten off to a good start and answered some questions about his physicality.
"I think he's a little stronger; it looks like he's added strength over the winter," a scouting director said. "I think most teams like him better as a player. The further he gets away from pitching, the more he's going to improve. I think he drove the ball a little bit better, and he has everyday tools as a shortstop."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.